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Links 15/12/2018: Cockpit 184, Vivaldi 2.2, Krita 4.1.7 Released

Posted in News Roundup at 7:51 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



  • Cumulus Linux, NetQ available for Lenovo RackSwitch

    Cumulus Networks has made its Linux-based network operating system available for Lenovo’s ThinkSystem top-of-rack switches. Cumulus also introduced this week a version of its network troubleshooting software, called NetQ, for the open hardware.

  • Desktop

    • Slimbook & Kubuntu – Combat Report 3

      And we’re done. I am not sure what kind of message you’re getting – or you think you’re supposed to be getting from my articles. Overall, I am quite pleased with my Slimbook & Kubuntu experience. But if I had to choose, I wouldn’t abandon my Windows. I simply cannot. The games, the office stuff, even simple image manipulation and text editing. All these are currently not the killer features of any which Linux desktop.

      That said, Kubuntu purrs nicely. Runs fast and true, and there are no crashes or errors. The desktop is extremely flexible and extensible, it’s pleasing to use, and I’m having fun discovering things, even if they sometimes turn out to be bugs or annoyances. In general, it’s the application side that needs to be refined, and then, the system can just become a background for you to be productive and enjoy yourselves. Until the next report.

    • Windows 10 can carry on slurping even when you’re sure you yelled STOP!

      A feature introduced in the April 2018 Update of Windows 10 may have set off a privacy landmine within the bowels of Redmond as users have discovered that their data was still flowing into the intestines of the Windows giant, even with the thing apparently turned off.

      In what is likely to be more cock-up than conspiracy, it appears that Microsoft is continuing to collect data on recent user activities even when the user has explicitly said NO, DAMMIT!

  • Server

    • Arista Extends Its Reach Into Containers

      Networking in containerized environments is really hard to do with a traditional network stack. Virtual machines seem complex, according to many engineers I know, but as the Canadian rock band Bachman-Turner Overdrive used to sing “B-b-b-baby, you ain’t seen n-n-nothin yet,” as containers take complexity to the next level.

      Containers are unlike anything network professionals have dealt with before. They are highly dynamic, are spun up and down very quickly and often run for just a few seconds. Traditional networking can be used for VMs and physical workloads, which aren’t very agile and take a long time to boot. But the dynamic nature of containers makes visibility, connectivity and security much more difficult, as services need to be invoked as soon as the container is spun up and then turned off when the container is shut down. If a live container loses connectivity, bad things happen, so ensuring the network is there and rock solid is critical.

    • Arista Networks Showcases Any Cloud Networking at KubeCon NA 2018
    • KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Videos Now Online

      This week’s KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America 2018 in Seattle was the biggest ever! This sold-out event featured four days of information on Kubernetes, Prometheus, Envoy, OpenTracing, Fluentd, gRPC, containerd, and rkt, along with many other exciting projects and topics.

    • How Epic Games Uses Kubernetes to Power Fortnite Application Servers

      “This is my first time in the gaming industry, I didn’t know what to expect when I joined, but it turns out that scaling a video game is just like scaling any other successful product,” Sharpe said. “Modern game development is actually a whole lot of microservices and other types of technology that are used outside of the gaming industry.”

      Sharpe said that Epic Games is already heavily invested in AWS (Amazon Web Services) and has been using Docker containers. He added that moving to Kubernetes is a natural evolution of Epic Games’ work, which is all about trying to improve developers lives.

    • DevOps lessons: 4 aspects of healthy experiments

      Fast iteration is all the rage. And it’s not just DevOps and software.

      It’s even made its way into distilling bourbon. When Bryan Davis of Lost Spirits distillery talked about accelerated bourbon aging in a recent Gastropod podcast, I expected the win would be about reducing costs; it’s expensive to keep bourbon aging for a decade or more! But no. It’s more about tweaking variables over the course of days, rather than years. “I would never have been able to build up the business to the point where I could take all the failed batches and throw them away. And so what the technology really did for me was make it possible for me to compete,” Davis says.

    • 6 best practices for highly available Kubernetes clusters

      Everyone running a Kubernetes cluster in production wants it to be reliable. Many administrators implement a multi-master setup, but often this isn’t enough to consider a cluster highly available.

      A highly available microservice requires that the system gracefully handle the failures of its components. If one part of the system fails in any way, the system can recover without significant downtime.

      So how exactly can you achieve a highly available, highly reliable, and multi-master Kubernetes cluster? One way is to run a regional Kubernetes cluster on the Google Kubernetes Engine, a managed version of Kubernetes hosted on the Google Cloud Platform.

    • Tigera Looks To Improve Cloud-Native Kubernetes Networking

      The new funding was led by Insight Venture Partners, with participation from existing investors Madrona, NEA, and Wing. Total funding to date for Tigera stands at $53 million. The new fund raise is the second such event for the company in 2018, with a $10 million raise announced back in January. EnterpriseNetworkingPlanethas been following Tigera since the company was first announced in May 2016 at the CoreOS Fest event in Berlin, Germany.

      “Kubernetes is gaining momentum within every progressive enterprise,” Ratan Tipirneni president and CEO of Tigera, stated in a media advisory. “These businesses cannot get their applications to production without strong security controls and the ability to prove compliance.”

      “As a result, we are being pulled into several hundred projects and will use this funding to meet that demand,” Tipirneni added.

    • Changes to OpenShift Online Starter Tier

      For some time now, we have offered our OpenShift Online service in a few service tiers. This hosted service has been available since 2011, and to date, well over 4 million applications have been launched on OpenShift Online. One of the key features of this hosted form of Red Hat OpenShift has been our Starter tier, where we have provided free access to our award-winning platform for learning and experimenting.

      This service has helped many users kick the tires on OpenShift, and to build their own proof of concepts, or to port a single application to measure the experience. We’re happy that we have been able to enable so many newcomers to our platform with this free service.

      We have listened to our users, and we’re happy to announce that we will be increasing the resources of this free service by double. Due to the popularity of our platform, we will be introducing time limits on the Starter platform to allow more users to take advantage of this useful resource.

    • VMware Paid $550M for Heptio to Boost Its Kubernetes Portfolio

      VMware paid $550 million for its recently closed acquisition of 2-year-old Kubernetes-focused startup Heptio. That amount was a substantial premium over what Heptio had raised from investors and other similar deals in the Kubernetes space.

    • KubeCon 2018 Bits

      This week KubeCon took place in Seattle, offering over 8,000 attendees (2,000 on the waiting list didn’t make it) an updated vision on Kubernetes as well as the projects under development and consideration. Thus far three projects have graduated (Kubernetes, Prometheus and Envoy) a dozen or so are incubating and many more are hopeful within the Sandbox. Over 125 event sponsors wanted to be sure the attendees understood their view and involvement in these projects, most of them going way beyond simply offering Kubernetes distributions. Security was a hot topic as well as management and deployment of these projects.

    • The co-founder of $725 million cloud startup Mesosphere is stepping aside as CEO to make way for a Symantec veteran

      Earlier this year, cloud startup Mesosphere raised $125 million, bringing its total funding to just shy of $250 million. That deal valued Mesosphere at $725 million, according to Bloomberg, up from $600 million in 2016.

      Now, Mesosphere co-founder Florian Leibert is following through on his previously-announced intention to step aside as CEO, to take a new role focused on strategy and working with customers. Replacing him will be Mike Fey, most recently president and COO of Symantec, in a move that the company says will help it achieve the next stage of growth by going after larger customers.

    • Kubernetes vendors target container security, operations and management

      If you were kicking the tires on Kubernetes and other cloud/container services, you found may have found nirvana at this week’s KubeCon + CloudNativeCon 2018 where all manner of new operational software and support from VMware, Arista and others were on display.

      To access the growing popularity of cloud, Kubernetes and containers, the Cloud Foundry Foundation released the results of a new survey that found among other things that 45 percent of companies are doing at least some cloud-native app development, and 40 percent are doing some re-architecting/refactoring of their legacy apps.

    • Istio service mesh tradeoffs prompt caution among IT pros

      Some Kubernetes proponents said they believe Istio service mesh is as important to cloud-native infrastructure as container orchestration, but most enterprise IT shops aren’t ready to dive in just yet.

      Service mesh, a term coined by the makers of Linkerd in 2016, refers to a microservices networking architecture that consists of a centralized control plane and a pool of sidecar containers deployed in each container cluster pod. The sidecars’ proximity to microservices workloads creates detailed visibility into application performance and intricate segmentation of networks for container security. Istio is also backed by IBM and Google, and therefore has the attention of the Kubernetes community, especially since the project reached version 1.0 in July 2018.

      Google and IBM subsidiary Red Hat promoted Istio management products and services at KubeCon here this week, while the project generated buzz in the halls among conference attendees. In the right hands, service mesh can be a vital tool for microservices management, but it comes with daunting complexity for IT pros already challenged to learn container orchestration.

    • ​What is the Kubernetes hybrid cloud and why it matters

      Over 8,000 people are at KubeCon in Seattle. Every major tech company and businesses I’ve never even heard of are here and trumpeting their Kubenetes distros — about 80 of them. IBM recently bought Red Hat for a cool $34-billion. I, and others, think they did it to get Red Hat’s Kubernetes expertise. Why? To answer this question we need to look into the hybrid-cloud model.

    • Google Adds Istio and Knative Support to GKE Cloud Service

      As part of an effort to make it easier for IT organizations to embrace multiple computing frameworks in the cloud, Google this week at the KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America 2018 conference announced it has made available beta instances of version 1.0 of the Istio service mesh on Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE).

      At the same time, Google also revealed it will support version 0.2 of Knative, a set of middleware that makes it easier to invoke multiple serverless computing frameworks from within Kubernetes. Knative is an open source project started by Google.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

    • LHS Episode #263: Better Than Brexit

      Welcome to Episode 263 of Linux in the Ham Shack. In this episode, the hosts touch on a wide range of amateur radio and computing topics including net neutrality, satellite launches, CWops Awards, AI6TK, alternatives to Adobe Creative Cloud in the open-source world and much more. Thank you for being a listener of our show!

    • Ubuntu Podcast S11E40 – North Dallas Forty

      This week we’ve been playing on the Nintendo Switch. We review our tech highlights from 2018 and go over our 2018 predictions, just to see how wrong we really were. We also have some Webby love and go over your feedback.

    • Full Circle Weekly News #116
    • Full Circle Weekly News #117
    • Testing REST APIs with Docker containers and pytest

      Let’s say you’ve got a web application you need to test.
      It has a REST API that you want to use for testing.

      Can you use Python for this testing even if the application is written in some other language? Of course.
      Can you use pytest? duh. yes. what else?
      What if you want to spin up docker instances, get your app running in that, and run your tests against that environment?
      How would you use pytest to do that?
      Well, there, I’m not exactly sure. But I know someone who does.

  • Kernel Space

    • Energy Model Management Framework Queued For Linux 4.21

      A new framework queued for introduction with the Linux 4.21 kernel is the ARM-developed Energy Model Management Framework.

      With different hardware and drivers exposing the processor/system energy consumption in different manners, the Energy Model Management Framework tries to provide a standardized way of accessing the power values for each performance domain in a system. This can help kernel drivers/schedulers and other code that could make smarter decisions based upon current energy use be able to do so via this standardized framework for acquiring the power information on capable systems.

    • ARM’s AArch64 Adding Pointer Authentication Support To The Linux 4.21 Kernel

      The 64-bit ARM architecture code (a.k.a ARM64 / AArch64) with the Linux 4.21 kernel is seeing pointer authentication added as a new security feature.

      Pointer authentication can be supported by ARMv8.3 hardware and newer to allow for signing and authenticating of pointers against secret keys. The purpose of this pointer authentication is to mitigate ROP attacks and other potential buffer-overrun-style attacks. This ARM64_PTR_AUTH functionality will enable pointer authentication for all user-space processes and the presence of supported hardware is determined at run-time. ARM developers have been working on the plumbing for this Linux kernel support for it the past year.

    • ASUS is releasing encrypted kernel sources for the ZenFone Max Pro M1, Max Pro M2 and Max M2
    • Linux Foundation

      • Uber brings Horovod project for distributed deep learning to Linux Foundation

        Uber today brought Horovod, a framework for distributed training across multiple machines, to open source initiative LF Deep Learning Foundation. Uber has used Horovod to support self-driving vehicles, fraud detection, and trip forecasting. Contributors to the project include Amazon, IBM, Intel, and Nvidia.

        In addition to Uber, Alibaba, Amazon, and Nvidia also use Horovod.

        The Horovod project can be used with popular frameworks like TensorFlow, Keras, and PyTorch.

      • LF Deep Learning Welcomes Horovod Distributed Training Framework as Newest Project

        The LF Deep Learning Foundation, a community umbrella project of The Linux Foundation that supports and sustains open source innovation in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning, announces the Horovod project, started by Uber, as its newest project. Horovod, a distributed training framework for TensorFlow, Keras and PyTorch, improves speed, scale and resource allocation in machine learning training activities.

        “The LF Deep Learning Foundation is focused on building an ecosystem of AI, deep learning and machine learning projects. Today’s announcement of Uber’s contribution of the Horovod project represents significant progress toward achieving this vision,” said Ibrahim Haddad, Linux Foundation Director of Research. “This project has proven highly effective in training machine learning models quickly and efficiently, and we look forward to working to further grow the Horovod community and encourage adoption of this exciting project.”

      • ONAP Myths Debunked

        The Linux Foundation’s Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) is well into its third 6-month release (Casablanca came out in Dec ’18), and while the project has evolved since it’s first release, there is still some confusion about what it is and how it’s architected. This blogs takes a closer look at ONAP, under-the-hood, to clarify how it works.

        To start, it is important to consider what functionality ONAP includes. I call ONAP a MANO++, where ONAP includes the NFVO and VNFM layers as described by ETSI, but goes beyond by including service assurance/automation and a unified design tool. ONAP does not include the NFVI/VIM or the NFV cloud layer. In other words, ONAP doesn’t really care whether the NFV cloud is OpenStack, Kubernetes or Microsoft Azure. Nor does ONAP include VNFs. VNFs come from third-party companies or open source projects but have VNF guidelines and onboarding SDKs that ease the deployment. In other words, ONAP is a modular platform for complete Network Automation.

    • Graphics Stack and AMD

      • Mesa 19.0 RADV Vulkan Driver Gets New Fixes To Help DXVK Gaming

        Samuel Pitoiset of Valve’s Linux graphics driver team has landed some fresh patches in Mesa 19.0 (and also marked for back-porting to the stable branch) to help out the DXVK gaming experience for Windows games using Direct3D 11 that are re-mapped to run on top of the Vulkan graphics API.

      • Mesa 18.2.7 Released With Several RADV Driver Fixes, Variety Of Other Updates

        For those not yet prepared to move over to the Mesa 18.3 series, Mesa 18.2.7 is out today with the latest batch of fixes.

      • AMD Squeezes In Some Final AMDGPU Changes To DRM-Next For Linux 4.21

        Complementing all of the AMDGPU feature work already staged for the upcoming Linux 4.21 kernel, another (small) batch of material was sent out on Wednesday.

        This latest AMDGPU material for Linux 4.21 includes PowerPlay updates for newer Polaris parts, a cursor plane update fast path, enabling GPU reset by default for Sea Islands (GCN 1.1) graphics cards, and various fixes.

      • AMD Adding STIBP “Always-On Preferred Mode” To Linux

        Initially during the Linux 4.20 kernel merge window with the STIBP addition for cross-hyperthread Spectre V2 mitigation it was turned on by default for all processes. But that turned out to have a sizable performance hit so the behavior was changed to only turn it on for processes under SECCOMP or when requested via the PRCTL interface. However, AMD is landing a patch that for select CPUs will have an always-on mode as evidently that’s preferred for some AMD processors.

      • Radeon Software for Linux 18.50 Released – Just One Listed Change

        The Radeon Software for Linux 18.50 driver release (a.k.a. “AMDGPU-PRO” 18.50) is now officially available

        We were expecting the 18.50 driver update following Thursday’s Radeon Software Adrenalin 2019 Edition driver for Windows having debuted. The 18.50 driver release has since been made available via the AMD web-site.

      • Radeon ROCm 1.9.1 vs. NVIDIA OpenCL Linux Plus RTX 2080 TensorFlow Benchmarks

        Following the GeForce RTX 2080 Linux gaming benchmarks last week with now having that non-Ti variant, I carried out some fresh GPU compute benchmarks of the higher-end NVIDIA GeForce and AMD Radeon graphics cards. Here’s a look at the OpenCL performance between the competing vendors plus some fresh CUDA benchmarks as well as NVIDIA GPU Cloud TensorFlow Docker benchmarks.

      • Radeon Software Adrenalin 2019 Rolls Out While Linux Users Should Have AMDGPU-PRO 18.50

        AMD today released their Radeon Software Adrenalin 2019 Edition geared for Windows gamers while Linux users should have AMDGPU-PRO 18.50 available shortly for those wanting to use this hybrid Vulkan/OpenGL driver component that does also feature the AMDGPU-Open components too in their stable but dated composition.

        The 2019 Adrenalin Edition for Windows brings performance improvements for select Windows titles, new advisors to help configure games and settings, improved fan control, WattMan improvements, game streaming improvements, and more.

      • Vulkan Memory Allocator 2.2 Released Along With RGP 1.4

        In addition to AMD’s year-end Radeon driver updates issued today, their GPUOpen crew has also carried out some new open-source software releases.

        Vulkan Memory Allocator 2.2 is available for helping Vulkan game/app developers better manage their vRAM behavior. The VMA 2.2 release brings full-fledged memory defragmentation support, a buddy algorithm for custom pools, new functions around sparse memory handling, and other fixes and optimizations.

      • Khronos Seeking Feedback On KTX2 Specification For Storing Textures For OpenGL/Vulkan

        The Khronos Group is looking for feedback on its KTX2 specification that is used for storing textures for OpenGL (including GLES) and Vulkan while being a simple format and an extension of the original KTX with improvements for Vulkan and other graphics APIs.

    • Benchmarks

      • A Look At The Clear Linux Performance Over The Course Of 2018

        With the end of the year quickly approaching, it’s time for our annual look at how the Linux performance has evolved over the past year from graphics drivers to distributions. This year was a particularly volatile year for Linux performance due to Spectre and Meltdown mitigations, some of which have at least partially recovered thanks to continued optimizations landing in subsequent kernel releases. But on the plus side, new releases of Python, PHP, GCC 8, and other new software releases have helped out the performance. For kicking off our year-end benchmark comparisons, first up is a look at how Intel’s performance-optimized Clear Linux distribution evolved this year.

        For getting a look at the performance, on four different systems (two Xeon boxes, a Core i5, and Core i7 systems), the performance was compared from Clear Linux at the end of 2017 to the current rolling-release state as of this week.

      • FreeBSD ZFS vs. Linux EXT4/Btrfs RAID With Twenty SSDs

        With FreeBSD 12.0 running great on the Dell PowerEdge R7425 server with dual AMD EPYC 7601 processors, I couldn’t resist using the twenty Samsung SSDs in that 2U server for running some fresh FreeBSD ZFS RAID benchmarks as well as some reference figures from Ubuntu Linux with the native Btrfs RAID capabilities and then using EXT4 atop MD-RAID.

  • Applications

    • 4 Unique Terminal Emulators for Linux

      Let’s face it, if you’re a Linux administrator, you’re going to work with the command line. To do that, you’ll be using a terminal emulator. Most likely, your distribution of choice came pre-installed with a default terminal emulator that gets the job done. But this is Linux, so you have a wealth of choices to pick from, and that ideology holds true for terminal emulators as well. In fact, if you open up your distribution’s GUI package manager (or search from the command line), you’ll find a trove of possible options. Of those, many are pretty straightforward tools; however, some are truly unique.

    • PDFArranger: Merge, Split, Rotate, Crop Or Rearrange PDF Documents (PDF-Shuffler Fork)

      PDFArranger is an application for merging or splitting PDF files, as well as rotating, cropping and rearranging PDF document pages, using a simple graphical user interface.

      The tool, which is a graphical front-end for PyPDF2, is a fork of PDF-Shuffler that aims to “make the project a bit more active”. It runs on Linux, but there’s also experimental Windows support.

    • Best Free Linux Application Launchers

      We’ve recently expressed our opinion on the Linux desktop scene with Best Linux Desktop Environments: Strong and Stable, and our follow-up article Linux Desktop Environments: Pantheon, Trinity, LXDE. These desktop environments provide good application launchers. But there’s still a place for a different approach, using a standalone application launcher.

      Application launchers play an integral part in making the Linux desktop a more productive environment to work and play. They represent small utilities which offers the desktop user a convenient access point for application software and can make a real boost to users’ efficiency.

      An application launcher helps to reduce start up times for applications by indexing shortcuts in the menu. Furthermore, this type of software allows users to search for documents and other files quicker by indexing different file formats. This makes them useful for launching almost anything on a computer including multimedia files, games, and the internet. Application launchers often support plug-ins, adding to their versatility.

    • FOSS Project Spotlight: Appaserver

      Assume you are tasked to write a browser-based, MySQL user interface for the table called CITY. CITY has two columns. The column names are city_name and state_code—each combined are the primary key.

    • Cockpit 184

      Cockpit is the modern Linux admin interface. We release regularly. Here are the release notes from version 184.

    • Video: Using Cockpit for KVM Virtual Machine Management

      Cockpit has been in development for a few years now and it appears it is going to be default in the upcoming RHEL8 release. I’ve recently started using it for managing and accessing KVM virtual machines via the cockpit-machines package. I made a short screencast showing the basics.

    • Proprietary

      • Fixing Broken Dropbox Sync Support

        Dropbox have reduced the number of file systems they support. We knew this was coming for a while, but it’s a pain if you don’t use one of the supported filesystems.

        Recently I re-installed my Ubuntu 18.04 laptop and chose XFS rather than the default ext4 partition type when installing. That’s the reason the error is appearing for me.

        I do also use NextCloud and Syncthing for syncing files, but some of the people I work with only use Dropbox, and forcing them to change is tricky.

      • Opera launches a cryptocurrency wallet in its Android browser [Ed: Would you trust a proprietary Chinese browser with your cryptocurrency wallet? On a platform with (intentional) back doors?]

        Web browser Opera has launched a built-in cryptocurrency wallet on its Android app, the company announced today at a blockchain event in London. The wallet will first support ethereum, with support for other coins likely to come later. Ether investors using Opera would potentially be able to more easily access their tokens using the feature.

      • Latest Vivaldi Update Adds Pop Out Video, Tab Sessions + More

        A new version of the Vivaldi web browser has been released — and it’s even more customisable than before!

        The Vivaldi 2.2 update adds a “pop out” video player feature (just like the picture-in-picture feature available in Chrome), introduces new ways to manage tabs, and — at long last! — gives you control over which buttons appear in the main browser toolbar.

      • Vivaldi 2.2 Introduces Picture-in-Picture, Smarter Tab Management and Navigation

        Vivaldi Technologies have launched today Vivaldi 2.2, the second incremental update to the 2.x series of the Chromium-based web browser dedicated to power users and computer enthusiasts.

        Launching only one and a half months after Vivaldi 2.1, which brought support for the AV1 next-generation video codec and a smarter Quick Commands feature, today’s Vivaldi 2.2 update introduces even more goodies to make you consider Vivaldi as your default web browser, introducing Picture-in-Picture (PiP), more customizable toolbars, and smarter tab management.

      • Vivaldi 2.2: Focus on details
      • Vivaldi Browser 2.2 Released with More Configurable Toolbars

        Vivaldi web browser released version 2.2 yesterday with more tabs management functionality, more configurable toolbars, and other new features.

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Wine or Emulation

      • Wine Announcement

        The Wine development release 4.0-rc2 is now available.

        What’s new in this release (see below for details):
        – Bug fixes only, we are in code freeze.

      • Just when you think you can stop drinking, Wine 4.0 has another release candidate available

        Just before the weekend hits you in the face like a bad hangover when you realise it’s Monday already, there’s another bottle of Wine ready for you.

        Of course, we’re not talking about the tasty liquid! Put down the glass, it’s the other kind of Wine. The one used to run your fancy Windows programs and games on Linux. Doing their usual thing, developer Alexandre Julliard announced that the Wine 4.0 Release Candidate 2 is officially out the door today.

        While this release is nothing spectacular it is an important one, the more bugs they’re able to tick off the list the better the 4.0 release will be for more people to use it.

    • Games

      • Feral Interactive Set to Bring DiRT 4 to Linux and MacOS

        The long-running DiRT franchise has been one of Codemasters’ claims to fame – and with its roots in the legendary Colin McCrae Rally games, it has seen quite a few changes over the years. It began as a racing festival-filled extravaganza that showcased a lot of features that weren’t commonplace in its infancy – like a team-based approach that allowed everyone on your team to succeed with strong racing skills and track positions. The fourth entry takes away the festival theming, but makes teamwork stronger than ever before and the game as a whole has more quality of life improvements. A redone HUD makes navigation a breeze while re-recording the dialogue for your co-driver makes for easier navigation from the cockpit when you don’t want to have a HUD blocking your view.

      • 10 Best Native Linux Games

        Whether you want something free to play or you’re looking for invest in a long term favorite, there are plenty of amazing options on Linux. Many of Linux’s best titles are actually the best in their genre. This is especially true with some eSports games. Plenty of big names from other platforms have been ported over to Linux recently too, allowing for a ton of choice. That said, these games stand out above the rest.

      • Discord announce a 90/10 revenue split, Discord Store will support Linux

        You will be forgiven for not paying much attention to the Discord Store, since it doesn’t currently support Linux. It seems that is going to change and they’ve announce a pretty small cut compared to the competition.

        Firstly, today the Discord team announced in a new blog post that starting in 2019 they will only take a 10% cut from developers. Considering Valve still take 30% unless you earn a lot of money and even the Epic Store will take 12% that might help quite a bit. Not only that, Discord do have a pretty large pull considering they’re already the go-to application for a lot of people to chat, even game developers and publishers have moved over in large numbers to have their community on Discord. I wouldn’t underestimate them if they keep pushing it.

      • Discord Steps Up to Epic and Steam Game Stores with a 90/10 Developer Split

        Recently Fortnite publisher Epic made a splash in the world of PC gaming by introducing its own game store, with a competitive 88% share of profits going to developers. Now Discord is going one better with an even more generous split.

        Discord is best known as a game-focused chat and VOIP app, but the company has been selling indie games on its own digital storefront for a few months as well. The company announced today on its blog that, beginning next year, the store will give a full 90% of the price of games directly to developers. That beats Steam’s 70/30 split by a huge margin and steals the thunder from Epic, which has been wooing independent and mid-sized developers to its newer store at a steady pace.

      • Metropolisim aims to be the deepest city-building simulation experience ever, will have Linux support

        Metropolisim from developer Halfway Decent Games is releasing next year, with a pretty bold aim to be the deepest city-building simulation experience ever.

      • Monster Prom, the dating sim that won me over is now available on GOG

        Visual novels and dating sims aren’t something I’m usually into, however Monster Prom is actually funny and worth playing and it’s now available on GOG.

        I know we have a number of GOG fans here, so hopefully this will be interesting for you. As always, we try to treat all stores equally with release info.

      • Kingdom Two Crowns will be coming to Linux after all with the Quality of Life update

        Kingdom Two Crowns, the third in the Kingdom series released recently for Windows and Mac. It looked like we weren’t getting it, but it’s now confirmed to be coming.

        In their new roadmap post on Reddit and Steam, under the “QoL #01 Update” (Quality of Life Update) they noted that they will add “Add SteamOS (Linux) Support”. This update is due out sometime early next year.

        This is really nice news, it’s good to know they didn’t give up on supporting Linux after all.

      • Steam Link for the Raspberry Pi is now officially available

        After a rather short beta period, the Steam Link application for the Raspberry Pi is now officially out.

      • Valve’s Steam Link For Raspberry Pi Now Available

        After being announced last week, Valve’s Steam Link application for the Raspberry Pi is now officially available.

        This app runs on the Raspberry Pi 3B and 3B+ with using the standard Raspbian “Stretch” operating system stack. This app provides similar functionality to the low-cost Steam Link dedicated device that’s been available the past few years for allowing in-home streaming of games on Steam from your personal PC(s) to living room / HTPC type setups using Steam Link.

      • Valve in it for the ‘long haul’ with Artifact, first update out and a progression system due soon

        Artifact, the big new card game from Valve isn’t doing so well but Valve won’t be giving up any time soon. The first major update is out, with a progression system due soon.

        At release, it had around sixty thousand people playing and that very quickly dropped down hard. Harder than I expected, a lot worse than Valve probably thought it would too.

      • Bearded Giant Games open their own store with a ‘Linux First Initiative’

        Bearded Giant Games, developer of Ebony Spire Heresy have announced their new online store along with a ‘Linux First Initiative’.

        I know what you’re thinking already “not another store”, but fear not. For now, it’s mainly going to be a place for them to sell their games directly. Speaking about it in a blog post, they mentioned how they hate having to check over multiple forums, channels, emails and so on to stay up to date and they wish “to spend more time giving love to my projects instead of updating 4 different distribution channels, translating pages, writing different press releases and making separate builds”—can’t argue against that.

      • The Forgotten Sanctum, the final DLC for Pillars of Eternity II is out along with a patch

        Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire expansions come to a close with the release of The Forgotten Sanctum along with a major update now out.

      • Pre-order Meeple Station for instant beta access, what the developers say is like Rimworld in space

        Meeple Station, the space station building sim that the developers say is like Rimworld in space can now be pre-ordered with instant beta access. While we don’t like the idea of pre-orders, getting access to the beta right away is a decent way to do it.

        Sadly, their Kickstarter campaign actually failed which I didn’t notice. Making sure that wasn’t the end of it, the developer Vox Games decided to go the Early Access route. They weren’t left out in the cold of space though, as they also recently announced that Indie DB will be publishing their game. Under the label of Modularity, this will be the first title published by Indie DB.

      • Heroes of Newerth drops support for Linux and Mac

        Heroes of Newerth, the MOBA originally from S2 Games which is now handled by Frostburn Studios has dropped Linux and Mac support.


        I’ll be honest here, I couldn’t care less about it personally. The last time i tried it, it was the single most toxic experience I’ve ever had in an online game. I’ve played a lot of online games and even so it was still at a level I had not seen before. I tried to go back to it a few times, never with a happy ending. Still, sad for any remaining Linux (and Mac) fans of the game.

        Looking over some statistics, it’s not popular with viewers either. Around 180 on Twitch compared with nearly 100K for League of Legends and over 50K for Dota 2.

      • Unity 2018.3 With HDR Render Pipeline Preview, Updated PhysX & More

        Unity Tech is ending out the year with their Unity 2018.3 game engine update that brings a number of new features and improvements to its many supported platforms.

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Krita 4.1.7 Released

        Today we’re releasing Krita 4.1.7, another bug fix release in the Krita 4.1 series.

        The most important fix is a weird one: it might help your wifi connection. The problem is that we started building a widget that would show you the news feed from krita.org. The widget isn’t active, and doesn’t make any kind of network connection… But Qt’s network manager class still checks your wifi settings all the time. See these bugs: https://bugreports.qt.io/browse/QTBUG-46015 and https://bugreports.qt.io/browse/QTBUG-40332.

        Apart from that, we’ve worked around a bug in Qt 5.12 that would cause an instant crash when using a tablet. Our own builds do not use that version of Qt, so the Windows builds, macOS build and the Linux appimage are fine, but users of rolling Linux releases like Arch would suffer from this issue.

      • KDE Applications Updated to 18.12, Over 140 Bugfixes

        KDE has just announced the release of KDE Applications 18.12, which is a massive update. Over 140 bugfixes have been implemented in many of the apps, as well as a number of overall improvements.

        This is fresh on the heels of KDE Frameworks also being updated to 5.53.0 just a few days ago. It seems the KDE developers are quite busy bringing us early Christmas gifts!

      • Epic Games’ Free Cross-Platform Service Coming in 2019, Harness Announces New 24-7 Service Guard, Vivaldi Version 2.2 Released, KDE Applications 18.2 Are Out and Valve’s Steam Link App for RPi Officially Available

        KDE Applications 18.12 are out. This release resolves more than 140 issues and features several improvements including practical file management with Dolphin, Okular enhancements, full support for emojis in Konsole, usability improvements for everyone and more. See the full list of changes here.

      • Kdenlive 18.12 release and some news

        After the bug squashing day an interested developer joined the the team and is fixing MOVIT (GPU effects) support. We are very happy to see more people interested in contributing code to the project.

      • Achievement of the Week

        This week I gave KDE Frameworks a web page after only 4 years of us trying to promote it as the best thing ever since cabogganing without one. I also updated the theme on the KDE Applications 18.12 announcement to this millennium and even made the images in it have a fancy popup effect using the latest in JQuery Bootstrap CSS. But my proudest contribution is making the screenshot for the new release of Konsole showing how it can now display all the cat emojis plus one for a poodle.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • Nightly GNOME Apps and New Adwaita GTK Theme Run Through

        In this video, we are quickly looking at Nightly GNOME Apps and a sneak peek at New Adwaita GTK Theme.

      • Emmanuele Bassi: And I’m home

        Of course I couldn’t stay home playing video games, recording podcasts, and building gunplas forever, and so I had to figure out where to go to work next, as I do enjoy being able to have a roof above my head, as well as buying food and stuff. By a crazy random happenstance, the GNOME Foundation announced that, thanks to a generous anonymous donation, it would start hiring staff, and that one of the open positions was for a GTK developer. I decided to apply, as, let’s be honest, it’s basically the dream job for me. I’ve been contributing to GNOME components for about 15 years, and to GTK for 12; and while I’ve been paid to contribute to some GNOME-related projects over the years, it was always as part of non-GNOME related work.

        The hiring process was really thorough, but in the end I managed to land the most amazing job I could possibly hope for.

      • Opera Launches Built-in Cryptocurrency Wallet for Android, ManagedKube Partners with Google Cloud to Provide a Monitoring App for Kubernetes Cluster Costs, QEMU 3.1 Released, IoT DevCon Call for Presentations and GNOME 3.31.3 Is Out

        GNOME 3.31.3 is out, and this will be the last snapshot of 2018. Note that this is development code meant for testing and hacking purposes. For a list of changes, go here, and the source packages are here.

      • Firmware Attestation

        When fwupd writes firmware to devices, it often writes it, then does a verify pass. This is to read back the firmware to check that it was written correctly. For some devices we can do one better, and read the firmware hash and compare it against a previously cached value, or match it against the version published by the LVFS. This means we can detect some unintentional corruption or malicious firmware running on devices, on the assumption that the bad firmware isn’t just faking the requested checksum. Still, better than nothing.

        Any processor better than the most basic PIC or Arduino (e.g. even a tiny $5 ARM core) is capable of doing public/private key firmware signing. This would use standard crypto using X.509 keys or GPG to ensure the device only runs signed firmware. This protects against both accidental bitflips and also naughty behaviour, and is unofficial industry recommended practice for firmware updates. Older generations of the Logitech Unifying hardware were unsigned, and this made the MouseJack hack almost trivial to deploy on an unmodified dongle. Newer Unifying hardware requires a firmware image signed by Logitech, which makes deploying unofficial or modified firmware almost impossible.

      • Robert Ancell: Interesting things about the GIF image format
      • GIFs in GNOME
      • About ncurses Colors

        These colors go back to CGA, IBM’s Color/Graphics Adapter from the earlier PC-compatible computers. This was a step up from the plain monochrome displays; as the name implies, monochrome could display only black or white. CGA could display a limited range of colors.

        CGA supports mixing red (R), green (G) and blue (B) colors. In its simplest form, RGB is either “on” or “off”. In this case, you can mix the RGB colors in 2x2x2=8 ways. Table 1 shows the binary and decimal representations of RGB.

  • Distributions

    • New Releases

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • First year of SUSE Graduate Program saw their students graduate in South Africa

        Yesterday at an event held at Bryanston Country Club the SUSE graduate programme saw their 2018 students graduate. I am very proud and happy that the first year of the programme has seen tremendous success with a 90% pass rate, with 50% of graduates already being employed and commitment to place the remaining graduates by early 2019.

      • SAP HANA Cost-optimized – An alternative Route is available

        Sometimes the direct way could end up in dead end. In such cases an alternative route is needed to come to the desired destination. What does that mean for my SAP HANA cost optimized scenario? Where is the possible dead end? In some installations we have seen that the SAPDatabase resource agent using the SAPHOSTAGENT framework could be lead into configuration problems according to database users, database permissions and user secure store keys. But we have an alternative to control SAP HANA much more easy and independent from such database related objects. It’s the well known SAPInstance resource agent. It could be used for SAP HANA Scale-Up systems, which could completely be started and stopped with HDB start and HDB stop. Internally HDB uses sapcontrol to start and stop the database and that is exactly what SAPInstance is doing for application servers.

      • SUSE YES Certification for SUSE Linux Enterprise 12 SP4 now available

        With the official release of SUSE Linux Enterprise 12 SP4, the SUSE Partner Engineering team also announces the availability of the YES Certification Kit version 8.2 for system certification. This new System Certification Kit (SCK) adds support for SLE 12 SP4 including XEN and KVM Virtualization.

    • Fedora

      • Best of 2018: Fedora as your Linux desktop

        Gaming on your Linux desktop, trying alternative desktop environments, and tweaking little details such as your boot screen. Yes, it’s been a whole year again! What a great time to look back at the most popular articles on the Fedora Magazine written by our awesome contributors.

        Let’s dive into the first article of the “best of 2018” series — this time focused on Fedora Workstation and how you like to use it on your Linux desktop.

      • Fedora Developers Are Trying To Figure Out The Best Linux I/O Scheduler

        Fedora developers are working on trying to figure out the best default behavior moving forward for their I/O scheduler selection.

        With the multi-queue I/O queuing mechanism (BLK-MQ) stabilizing and ready to be the default with the legacy I/O code potentially being removed in a coming kernel release, Fedora developers and users are trying to figure out what is the best I/O scheduler to use as the default for their distribution.

      • Fedora 29 Impressions, Installation Process, and Overview
      • Fedora Community Blog: FPgM report: 2018-50
    • Debian Family

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • The OSD and user freedom

    The relationship between open source and free software is fraught with people arguing about meanings and value. In spite of all the things we’ve built up around open source and free software, they reduce down to both being about software freedom.

    Open source is about software freedom. It has been the case since “open source” was created.

    In 1986 the Four Freedoms of Free Software (4Fs) were written. In 1998 Netscape set its source code free. Later that year a group of people got together and Christine Peterson suggested that, to avoid ambiguity, there was a “need for a better name” than free software. She suggested open source after open source intelligence. The name stuck and 20 years later we argue about whether software freedom matters to open source, because too many global users of the term have forgotten (or never knew) that some people just wanted another way to say software that ensures the 4Fs.

    Once there was a term, the term needed a formal definition: how to we describe what open source is? That’s where the Open Source Definition (OSD) comes in.

    The OSD is a set of ten points that describe what an open source license looks like. The OSD came from the Debian Free Software Guidelines. The DFSG themselves were created to “determine if a work is free” and ought to be considered a way of describing the 4Fs.

  • We need Sustainable Free and Open Source Communities

    The short version: we should stop focusing on how to protect the revenue models of open source companies, and instead focus on how to create sustainable communities. Both because it leads to better software, but also because it’s better for business.

    Today I’m launching the Sustainable Free and Open Source Communities (SFOSC) project. It’s a place to discuss what the principles are that lead to sustainable communities, to develop clear social contracts communities can use, and educate Open Source companies on which business models can create true communities. I also wrote a short book on why I think this is important, and the research that went in to the development of the principles themselves.

  • How I Quit Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Amazon

    It was just before closing time at a Verizon store in Bushwick, New York last May when I burst through the door, sweaty and exasperated. I had just sprinted—okay I walked, but briskly—from another Verizon outlet a few blocks away in the hopes I’d make it before they closed shop for the night. I was looking for a SIM card that would fit a refurbished 2012 Samsung Galaxy S3 that I had recently purchased on eBay, but the previous three Verizon stores I visited didn’t have any chips that would fit such an old model.

    When I explained my predicament to the salesperson, he laughed in my face.

    “You want to switch from you current phone to an… S3?” he asked incredulously.

    I explained my situation. I was about to embark on a month without intentionally using any services or products produced by the so-called “Big Five” tech companies: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. At that point I had found adequate, open source replacements for most of the services offered by these companies, but ditching the Android OS, which is developed by Google, was proving difficult.

    Most of the tech I use on a day-to-day basis is pretty utilitarian. At the time I was using a cheap ASUS laptop at work and a homebrew PC at my apartment. My phone was a Verizon-specific version of the Samsung Galaxy J3, a 2016 model that cost a little over $100 new. They weren’t fancy, but they’ve reliably met most of my needs for years.

    For the past week and a half I had spent most of my evenings trying to port an independent mobile OS called Sailfish onto my phone without any luck. As it turned out, Verizon had locked the bootloader on my phone model, which is so obscure that no one in the vibrant Android hacking community had dedicated much time to figuring out a workaround. If I wanted to use Sailfish, I was going to have to get a different phone.

  • The Last Independent Mobile OS

    The year was 2010 and the future of mobile computing was looking bright. The iPhone was barely three years old, Google’s Android had yet to swallow the smartphone market whole, and half a dozen alternative mobile operating systems—many of which were devoutly open source—were preparing for launch. Eight years on, you probably haven’t even heard of most of these alternative mobile operating systems, much less use them. Today, Android and iOS dominate the global smartphone market and account for 99.9 percent of mobile operating systems. Even Microsoft and Blackberry, longtime players in the mobile space with massive revenue streams, have all but left the space.

    Then there’s Jolla, the small Finnish tech company behind Sailfish OS, which it bills as the “last independent alternative mobile operating system.” Jolla has had to walk itself back from the edge of destruction several times over the course of its seven year existence, and each time it has emerged battered, but more determined than ever to carve out a spot in the world for a truly independent, open source mobile operating system.

    After years of failed product launches, lackluster user growth, and supply chain fiascoes, it’s only been in the last few months that things finally seem to be turning to Jolla’s favor. Over the past two years the company has rode the wave of anti-Google sentiment outside the US and inked deals with large foreign companies that want to turn Sailfish into a household name. Despite the recent success, Jolla is far from being a major player in the mobile market. And yet it also still exists, which is more than can be said of every other would-be alternative mobile OS company.

  • #RecruitmentFocus: Open source skills in high demand

    The unemployment rate in South Africa rose to 27.5% in the third quarter of 2018, while the demand for skills remains high – leaving an industry conundrum that is yet to be solved. According to SUSE, partnerships that focus on upskilling graduates and providing real-work skills, as well as placement opportunities – could be exactly what the industry in looking for.

  • Stable: not moving vs. not breaking

    There are two terms that brings a heavy controversy in the Open Source world: support and stable. Both of them have their roots in the “old days” of Open Source, where its commercial impact was low and very few companies made business with it.

    You probably have read a lot about maintenance vs support. This controversy is older. I first heard of it in the context of Linux based distributions. Commercial distribution had to put effort in differentiating among the two because in Open SOurce they were used indistictly but not in business. But this post is about the adjectivet stable…

  • Events

    • All Things Open 2018 – How To Jump Start a Career in Open Source (video)

      Last October I was in Raleigh, North Carolina speaking at All Things Open. I gave a lightning talk on how to jump start a career in open source, in just 6 minutes.

      The topic is near and dear to my heart, so as a lightning talk it was fun to promote the full session I gave earlier this Summer in one of the most amazing venues I’ve ever spoken at.

      The talk includes links to the recording of that venue and the complete story I told. After the talk I posted the slides, but we’ve been waiting on the video recording of the session and it’s arrived!

    • Seven Remarkable Takeaways From Massive Kubernetes Conference

      The 8,000 attendees attending the Cloud Native Computing Foundation’s(CNCF) KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Kubernetes conference this week in Seattle demonstrated the exponential growth in interest in this complex, technical combination of open source technologies.

      I attend many technology conferences, most recently a blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), and Internet of things conference (see my article from that event). Compared to blockchain in particular as well as AI, my first KubeCon takeaway is that Kubernetes actually works. …

      For my seventh takeaway, I saved the most remarkable for last: women are leading the Kubernetes charge. Yes, you read that right. While the audience at KubeCon was perhaps 90% male, the keynote speakers were more than half female.

    • The State of Enterprise Open Source in 2018

      It would have been difficult to predict the magnitude of open source’s role in today’s platforms and the explosion of choice on offer in today’s computing world thanks to its massive adoption. On the industry side, IBM’s purchase of Linux giant Red Hat this year for an astounding $34 billion has come as an even bigger surprise.

      The state of open source in 2018, and especially, the IBM’s Red Hat purchase, were discussed in this podcast with Rachel Stephens, an analyst with of RedMonk, and Michael Coté, director, marketing, at Pivotal Software, hosted by Libby Clark, editorial director, and Alex Williams, founder and editor-in-chief, of The New Stack.

    • Top Five Reasons Why Kubernetes Is Changing the Cloud Landscape

      In recent years, the Kubernetes container orchestration system has received more than its fair share of hype as the next big trend in IT.

      That hype was pervasive across the show floor and packed session rooms of the KubeCon + CloudNativeCon NA 2018 conference that concluded on Dec. 13 here. More than 8,000 attendees and 187 vendor exhibitors gathered to talk about and show off the latest Kubernetes technologies (for more information on some of the news from event, check out the eWEEK Data Points announcement wrap-up article). But why is Kubernetes technology so popular, and does it have practical utility beyond the hype?

      That’s the question that Google engineer and conference co-chair Janet Kuo answered during her keynote on the final day of KubeCon.

  • Web Browsers

    • Chrome

      • Chrome 73 Reportedly Introducing Tab Grouping Feature

        Google is gearing up to make some notable changes to its popular web browser, Chrome, with the latest Chrome 73 update. Last week, Google released the Chrome 71 Update which added dark mode feature, but macOS users missed out on the feature. Recently, it was revealed that Google is reportedly working on Chrome 73, which would bring the dark mode feature for macOS users as well.

        Today, a new feature was leaked in a code change request. “A recent code change suggests that users will be able to organize Chrome tabs into different groups, possibly to improve productivity by grouping tabs belonging to one task or a project in one set.”, as Wccftech reports. Although there is little clarity about the feature’s exact description, this likely seems like the upcoming feature in Windows, ie, ability to group together different applications in one window to improve accessibility as well as productivity.

      • Chrome OS 71 rolling out w/ ‘Better Together’ Android integration, Linux updates, more

        Following a Google Material Theme update in September and a complete launcher redesign aimed at tablets and other touchscreen devices, Chrome OS 71 is rolling out today. A big focus of this update is improving the experience of owning a Chromebook and an Android device.

    • Mozilla

      • Rust and WebAssembly in 2019

        Compiling Rust to WebAssembly should be the best choice for fast, reliable code for the Web. Additionally, the same way that Rust integrates with C calling conventions and libraries on native targets, Rust should also integrate with JavaScript and HTML5 on the Web. These are the Rust and WebAssembly domain working group’s core values.

        In 2018, we made it possible to surgically replace performance-sensitive JavaScript with Rust-generated WebAssembly.

      • rust for cortex-m7 baremetal
      • WebRender newsletter #33

        Yes indeed. In order for picture caching to work across displaylists we must be able to detect what did not change after a new displaylist arrives. The interning mechanism introduced by Glenn in #3075 gives us this ability in addition to other goodies such as de-duplication of interned resources and less CPU-GPU data transfer.

      • MDN Changelog for November 2018

        Potato London started work on this shortly after one-time payments launched. We kicked it off with a design meeting where we determined the features that could be delivered in 4 weeks. Potato and MDN worked closely to remove blockers, review code (in over 25 pull requests), and get it into the staging environment for testing. Thanks to everyone’s hard work, we launched a high-quality feature on schedule.

        We’ve learned a lot from these payment experiments, and we’ll continue to find ways to maintain MDN’s growth in 2019.

      • K Lars Lohn: Things Gateway – a Virtual Weather Station

        Today, I’m going to talk about creating a Virtual Weather Station using the Things Gateway from Mozilla and a developer account from Weather Underground. The two combined enable home automation control from weather events like temperature, wind, and precipitation.

      • Taskgraph Like a Pro

        Have you ever needed to inspect the taskgraph locally? Did you have a bad time? Learn how to inspect the taskgraph like a PRO. For the impatient skip to the installation instructions below.

      • Firefox 65 Beta 6 Testday, December 21th

        We are happy to let you know that Friday, December 21th, we are organizing Firefox 65 Beta 6 Testday. We’ll be focusing our testing on: <notificationbox> and <notification> changes and UpdateDirectory.

        Check out the detailed instructions via this etherpad.

  • Solaris

    • Cameron Kaiser: A thank you to Ginn Chen, whom Larry Ellison screwed

      Periodically I refresh my machines by dusting them off and plugging them in and running them for a while to keep the disks spinnin’ and the caps chargin’. Today was the day to refurbish my Sun Ultra-3, the only laptop Sun ever “made” (they actually rebadged the SPARCle and later the crotchburner 1.2GHz Tadpole Viper, which is the one I have). Since its last refresh the IDPROM had died, as they do when they run out of battery, resetting the MAC address to zeroes and erasing the license for the 802.11b which I never used anyway. But, after fixing the clock to prevent GNOME from puking on the abnormal date, it booted and I figured I’d update Firefox since it still had 38.4 on it. Ginn Chen, first at Sun and later at Oracle, regularly issued builds of Firefox which ran very nicely on SPARC Solaris 10. Near as I can determine, Oracle has never offered a build of any Firefox post-Rust even to the paying customers they’re bleeding dry, but I figured I should be able to find the last ESR of 52 and install that. (Amusingly this relic can run a Firefox in some respects more current than TenFourFox, which is an evolved and patched Firefox 45.)

  • LibreOffice

    • Open Document Editors DevRoom at FOSDEM 2019: Call for Papers

      FOSDEM is one of the largest gatherings of Free Software contributors in the world and takes place each year in Brussels (Belgium) at the ULB Campus Solbosch. In 2019, it will be held on Saturday February 2, and Sunday February 3.

      The Open Document Editors DevRoom is scheduled for Saturday, February 2 (from 10:30AM to 7:00PM, room UB2.147).

      We are inviting proposals for talks about Open Document Editors or the ODF standard document format, on topics such as code, localization, QA, UX, tools, extensions and adoption-related cases. Please keep in mind that product pitches are not allowed at FOSDEM.

    • Special Characters: The Final Touch

      Last year we revised the workflow to insert special characters. Based on a design proposal the dialog was reimplemented in a Google Summer of Code project by Akshay Deep. The new dialog allows to easily browse through the list and to search for glyphs contained in the selected font. It also introduced Favorites (a user collection of glyphs that are used frequently) and a list of Recently Used glyphs. But some pieces got more or less intentionally lost and some parts of the redesign might have room for improvements. So here is an idea for the final touch.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD

    • FreeBSD 12.0 Stable Version Released!

      The FreeBSD team has announced the release of the first stable version of its 12 series. The FreeBSD 12.0 release comes in with some major software updates.


    • GDB Picks Up Support For OpenRISC Linux Debugging

      The GNU Debugger (GDB) now has support for OpenRISC Linux debugging.

      Should you be interested in OpenRISC as this alternative to RISC-V as an open-source RISC-based CPU instruction set, there is initial support for Linux debugging Linux user-space debugging and core dump analysis to complement its previous bare metal debugging support. This capability is loosely based on GDB’s existing RISC-V and NIOS2 support.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Data

      • Protecting the world’s oceans with open data science

        For environmental scientists, researching a single ecosystem or organism can be a daunting task. The amount of data and literature to comb through (or create) is often overwhelming.

        So how, then, can environmental scientists approach studying the health of the world’s oceans? What ocean health means is a big question in itself—oceans span millions of square miles, are home to countless species, and border hundreds of countries and territories, each of which has its own unique marine policies and practices.

        But no matter how daunting this task may seem, it’s a necessary and vital one. So in 2012, the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) and Conservation International publicly launched the Ocean Health Index (OHI), an ambitious initiative to measure the benefits that oceans provide to people, including clean water, coastal protections, and biodiversity. The idea was to create an annual assessment to document major oceanic changes and trends, and in turn, use those findings to craft better marine policy around the world.

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • RISC-V Will Stop Hackers Dead From Getting Into Your Computer

        The greatest hardware hacks of all time were simply the result of finding software keys in memory. The AACS encryption debacle — the 09 F9 key that allowed us to decrypt HD DVDs — was the result of encryption keys just sitting in main memory, where it could be read by any other program. DeCSS, the hack that gave us all access to DVDs was again the result of encryption keys sitting out in the open.

        Because encryption doesn’t work if your keys are just sitting out in the open, system designers have come up with ingenious solutions to prevent evil hackers form accessing these keys. One of the best solutions is the hardware enclave, a tiny bit of silicon that protects keys and other bits of information. Apple has an entire line of chips, Intel has hardware extensions, and all of these are black box solutions. They do work, but we have no idea if there are any vulnerabilities. If you can’t study it, it’s just an article of faith that these hardware enclaves will keep working.

        Now, there might be another option. RISC-V researchers are busy creating an Open Source hardware enclave. This is an Open Source project to build secure hardware enclaves to store cryptographic keys and other secret information, and they’re doing it in a way that can be accessed and studied. Trust but verify, yes, and that’s why this is the most innovative hardware development in the last decade.

  • Programming/Development

    • Qt 3D Studio 2.2 Released

      We are happy to announce that Qt 3D Studio 2.2 has been released. Qt 3D Studio is a design tool for creating 3D user interfaces and adding 3D content into Qt based applications. With Qt 3D Studio you can easily define the 3D content look & feel, animations and user interface states. Please refer to earlier blog posts and documentation for more details on Qt 3D Studio.

    • Qt 3D Studio 2.2 Released With New Material System, Stereoscopic Rendering Preview

      Released just one week after Qt 5.12 LTS, The Qt Company on Thursday published Qt 3D Studio 2.2 as the newest version of this development environment for designing 3D user interfaces and adding 3D content to Qt5 programs.

    • What’s new with the Wayland platform plugin in Qt 5.12?

      Wayland is a display server protocol used on modern Linux systems, the Qt Wayland platform plugin lets Qt applications run on Wayland display servers (compositors).

      Continuing the trend from the Qt 5.11 release, the Qt 5.12 release contains a substantial amount of improvements.

    • Building Red Hat Mobile Applications on your own hardware

      Before getting started, it’s important to be aware of the versions of the tools, frameworks, and SDKs that the Build Farm uses to build mobile applications. This information can be found on the Red Hat Mobile Application Platform Supported Configurations page. This guide will call out the specific versions in each section and also note where you need to confirm versions for your specific project and/or requirements.

    • Tips for using Flood Element for performance testing

      In case you missed it, there’s a new performance test tool on the block: Flood Element. It’s a scalable, browser-based tool that allows you to write scripts in JavaScript that interact with web pages like a real user would.

      Browser Level Users is a newer approach to load testing that overcomes many of the common challenges we hear about traditional methods of testing.

    • Integration of external application details (Part 3)

      In Part 2 of this series, we took a high-level view of the common architectural elements that determine how your integration becomes the key to transforming your customer experience.

      I laid out how I’ve approached the use case and how I’ve used successful customer portfolio solutions as the basis for researching a generic architectural blueprint. The only thing left to cover was the order in which you’ll be led through the blueprint details.

      This article takes you deeper to cover details pertaining to the specific elements (mobile and web application deployments) of the generic architectural overview.

    • How To Do Just About Anything With Python Lists
    • The tools of libfprint

      libfprint, the fingerprint reader driver library, is nearing a 1.0 release.

      Since the last time I reported on the status of the library, we’ve made some headway modernising the library, using a variety of different tools. Let’s go through them and how they were used.

    • libchirp or Software is infinite
    • Introduction to Web Scraping with Python
    • Python Data Visualization 2018: Where Do We Go From Here?
    • Django Tutorial Adventure Part 2


  • Science

    • A War on Science, Morals and Law

      A new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists accuses Trump’s Interior Department of “relentless attacks on science ranging from suppressing and sidelining the work of the department’s scientists to systematically refusing to act on climate change.”

      To put it mildly, this is concerning.

      The Union of Concerned Scientists is an advocacy group whose words are chosen to advance their viewpoint. They refer often to “science,” which we assume to be non ideological, universal, and true. In this sense, science is the highest guiding principle that all should follow, as it is in the best interest of our nation and planet.

      In practice, the power dynamics and other social divisions within our society don’t go away when one does “science.”

    • What Happened to 2018 As The Year of the Teacher?

      Starting in West Virginia, we staged half-a-dozen walkouts in red states across the country demanding a better investment in children’s educations and often getting it.

      Then we took that momentum and stormed our state capitals and Washington, DC, with thousands of grassroots campaigns that translated into seats in government.

      It was so effective and unprecedented that the story began circulating that 2018 would be known as “The Year of the Teacher.”

      And then, just as suddenly, the story stopped.

    • Trump administration ban on NIH use of fetal tissue should worry all scientists

      Throughout history, politicians have restricted or outright banned certain areas of scientific or medical research based on moral or ethical grounds. In some cases, these measures were justified and prevented unethical human or animal research. In others, the bans could be seen as misguided and delaying medical advances.

      The use of human fetal tissue for research purposes has been highly contentious and tightly regulated, given that access to this tissue is directly associated with a woman’s right to choose an abortion since the tissue is procured from human fetuses. In 1993, Congress approved the use of federal funds for fetal tissue research. Recently, prompted by anti-abortion groups and supported by 85 Republican members of Congress, the Trump administration banned the acquisition of human fetal tissue for research conducted by scientists employed by the National Institutes of Health. In addition, several states, including Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Oklahoma, have banned the use of human fetal tissue in research at the state level.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • The Impossibility of Bipartisan Healthcare Compromise

      If there’s one thing political centrists claim to value, it’s compromise. It’s “the way Washington is supposed to work,” writes Third Way’s Bill Schneider. “Centrists, or moderates, are really people who are willing to compromise,” The Moderate Voice’s Robert Levine tells Vice.

      What does this mean when it comes to health care and the developing lefty push for Medicare-for-all? The fresh new centrist health-care organization, the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future (PAHCF), says it is a “diverse, patient-focused coalition committed to pragmatic solutions to strengthen our nation’s health-care system.” In keeping with the moderate #brand, PAHCF may not support Medicare-for-all. But perhaps they might support a quarter-measure compromise, like allowing people under 65 to buy into Medicare?

      Haha, of course not. Their offer is this: nothing.

      Valuing compromise in itself in politics is actually a rather strange notion. It would make a lot more sense to determine the optimal policy structure through some kind of moral reasoning, and then work to obtain an outcome as close as possible to that. Compromise is necessary because of the anachronistic (and visibly malfunctioning) American constitutional system, but it is only good insofar as it avoids a breakdown of democratic functioning that would be even worse.

    • How the Heart Can Heal the Brain

      Few things are more heartbreaking than when the trust of a child has been broken. It’s a betrayal of the unspoken compact between a defenseless creature and its caretaker: I’m trusting you with my life. As someone with two small young ones of my own, reading through the truly horrific stories of neglect, abuse and violence inflicted on children and infants in “The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog and Other Stories From a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook: What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing,” by Dr. Bruce D. Perry and Maia Szalavitz, was an absolutely brutal endeavor. Passages sickened me enough that at times, I had to put the book down. The vivid depictions of trauma and their damaging effects made this a truly difficult read. The scenarios that Perry and Szalavitz impart are filled not just with parental mistakes made out of ignorance or circumstances beyond control, but deliberate acts against the helpless committed by the very people who should be protecting them.

      Perry and Szalavitz’s book, first released in 2006 and since revised and updated, has become a textbook for therapists and psychologists, but also for anyone who works with or comes in contact with populations who may have suffered trauma. (I also highly recommend it for parents and caregivers who can make it through the tougher parts, because it informs one’s understanding of children beyond the usual how-to-parent fare.) Trauma-aware or trauma-informed care is a now part of the common vernacular across education, mental health, juvenile justice and child welfare, thanks in large part to Perry’s work.

    • Borrowing From Big Tobacco’s Playbook, Johnson & Johnson Knew About Asbestos in Baby Powder for Decades: Reuters

      Asbestos, “the name given to six minerals that occur naturally in the environment as bundles of fibers,” has been used in North America’s automotive, construction, and shipbuilding industries since the late 1800s, according to the National Cancer Institute. The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that “all types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs).”

      Because asbestos sometimes occurs in the earth along with talc, contamination is possible. Reuters—along with attorneys for more than 11,000 plaintiffs currently suing Johnson & Johnson, claiming the company’s products caused their cancer—examined memos, internal reports, and other confidential documents as well as deposition and trial testimony.

    • Chicago Psychiatric Hospital Will Remain Open for Now

      A Chicago psychiatric hospital just two days from losing federal funding, potentially forcing it to shut down, will remain open for now, following a judge’s ruling Thursday.

      Federal officials had told Aurora Chicago Lakeshore Hospital they would terminate its Medicare agreement on Saturday after a November inspection found the hospital could not ensure its patients were free from sexual and physical abuse and did not have adequate policies and procedures in place to investigate abuse allegations.

      Officials learned of the allegations from separate investigations by ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune.

    • “Landmark” Maternal Health Legislation Clears Major Hurdle

      Congress moved a big step closer on Tuesday toward addressing one of the most fundamental problems underlying the maternal mortality crisis in the United States: the shortage of reliable data about what kills American mothers.

      The House of Representatives unanimously approved H.R. 1318, the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act, to help states improve how they track and investigate deaths of expectant and new mothers.

      The bipartisan bill authorizes $12 million a year in new funds for five years — an unprecedented level of federal support — for states to create review committees tasked with identifying maternal deaths, analyzing the factors that contributed to those deaths and translating the lessons into policy changes. Roughly two-thirds of states have such panels, but the legislation specifically allocates federal funds for the first time and sets out guidelines they must meet to receive those grants.

      “We’re going to investigate every single [death] because these moms are worth it,” Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., the lead sponsor, testified at a hearing in September. Lisa Hollier, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, called the legislation a “landmark.”

    • An Unsigned Letter Alleged Mistakes During Heart Transplants at St. Luke’s. Now a Widow Is Suing.

      After her husband’s failed heart transplant at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center last year, Judy Kveton received an anonymous letter that left her in tears. It claimed that the physician who performed her husband’s surgery was allowed to continue operating even though he’d had “mishap, after mishap,” and despite warnings to hospital administrators that “he was not competent.”

      Now, nearly two years after David Kveton’s death, his widow and adult children are citing the unsigned letter, an expert review of medical records and an investigation by ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle in a lawsuit against the hospital and its affiliated medical school.

      In the complaint, filed late last month in Harris County District Court, Judy Kveton alleges that her 64-year-old husband died as a result of mistakes by Baylor College of Medicine doctors and St. Luke’s nurses during and after his transplant in January 2017.

      It asserts that hospital leaders should not have allowed the surgeon to continue operating after receiving complaints about his performance. And it accuses the hospital of fraudulently marketing its heart transplant program, exaggerating the quality of its outcomes and “luring” patients “into a deadly situation.”

    • America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment

      The first word that came to mind after watching “That Way Madness Lies”, Sandra Luckow’s documentary about her older brother’s Duanne’s wildly destructive tendencies brought on by paranoid schizophrenia, was courageous. As a film professor at Yale, Columbia and Barnard with a long career in filmmaking, Luckow could have made any number of films that would have been less painful and confessional. However, she surely must have understood that this was not just a bit of family history that would draw an audience in the same way a roadside accident draws the stares from bypassing cars. Its broader interest is in showing the terrible lack of institutional support for families that have to cope with a walking time-bomb like Duanne Luckow. While it is beyond the scope of this article, I can say that I have seen such problems up-close and can empathize deeply with what Sandra Luckow had to endure.

      As American as apple pie, the Luckows hailed from Portland, Oregon where her father operated an antique car repair shop. Mechanically gifted, he built a tiny helicopter that he flew for pleasure. Showing the same aptitude as his father, Duanne soon became his partner. In addition to his talent for repairing cars, Duanne also became an avid home movie buff, varying between the typical vacation fare and ambitious works depicting himself as a James Bond type super-spy. He also was an accomplished still photographer who managed to entice young women into cheesecake type shoots that oddly enough substituted for any real intimacy. Looking back at this and other eccentricities, Sandra wonders whether the family might have sought professional help early on. Obviously, those eccentricities were normal enough in a country that is a breeding ground for maladjustment.

      When Duanne reached his forties, the warning signs grew more pronounced. Still addicted to amateur film-making, we see him chatting away in iPhone selfies that are like the heat lightning that precedes a violent thunderstorm. Side by side, we see film clips made by Sandra whose professional path was first inspired by her older brother’s hobby. Put together, they constitute a novelistic character study that prepares you for his eventual descent into hell.

    • After Years in Institutions, a Road Home Paved With Hunger, Violence and Death

      IN SEPTEMBER 2016, Nestor Bunch lay in a hospital bed in the intensive care unit at Long Island Jewish Hospital. One machine kept him breathing; another fed him through a tube. With the color drained from his face and a sheet drawn to his throat, he looked dead.
      His doctors suspected an assault. Bunch, 54, had been hit hard enough to break three ribs. Skeletal muscle tissue was jostled loose into his bloodstream, causing his brain to seize and kidneys to fail. For the people who knew Bunch best — his therapists, his social workers, his family — the scene was as unsurprising as it was painful.
      Diagnosed with schizophrenia, Bunch had spent most of his life under some form of supervision, whether in a group home or psychiatric hospital. He was prone to hallucinations so vivid, he taught himself to distinguish the real from the imagined by reading the reactions of those around him, as if asking, “Did you see that?”

    • Living Near Oil and Gas Wells Linked to Increase in Cardiovascular Disease

      People who live near oil and gas operations are more likely to have early indicators of cardiovascular disease than those who don’t, according to a recent study.

      Cardiovascular disease resulted in 900,000 deaths in 2016, and is the leading cause of mortality in the U.S. and more than 17.4 million Americans now live within one mile of an active oil and gas well.

      The small pilot study, which was published in the journal Environmental Research on December 6, found that those who live in areas with more intense oil and gas development, including fracking, showed more early signs of cardiovascular disease including high blood pressure, changes in the stiffness of blood vessels, and markers of inflammation.

      Researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health examined 97 relatively healthy adults living in an area of Northeastern Colorado with pockets of dense oil and gas activity, including extensive truck traffic, pipelines, and both fracking and traditional well pads.

      “To date most of the research on the health impacts of oil and gas development has used data from existing health registries,” lead author and assistant research professor at the Colorado School of Public Health Lisa McKenzie told EHN. “For this study, we actually went out and took direct measurements from people, which meant we knew a lot more about them.”

    • The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug

      The drumbeat for ketamine as a way to halt the rising suicide rate is upon us, as the New York Times has now joined the chorus. This is encouraging news unless of course you recall a couple of things: how recent enthusiasm from the medical-industrial complex for increased opioid use for pain resulted in the current opioid epidemic; and how the NYT has joined other notorious choruses such as Ahmed Chalabi’s one that sang about WMDs in Iraq.

      On November 30, 2018, the NYT published a lengthy op-ed “Can We Stop Suicides?” in which Moises Velasquez-Manoff offers this solution: “an old anesthetic called ketamine that, at low doses, can halt suicidal thoughts almost immediately.”

      Similarly, in July 2017, Time magazine (“New Hope for Depression”) announced: “The biggest development has been the rediscovery of a promising, yet fraught, drug called ketamine. It’s best known as a psychedelic club drug that makes people hallucinate, but it may also have the ability to ease depression— and fast.”

      Drug companies are pushing for Food and Drug Administration approval of their ketamine-based products for depression. Ketamine, although not currently FDA approved for depression, can be prescribed “off-label” for it. Ketamine is most commonly classified as a “dissociative anesthetic,” and its adverse effects include numbness, depression, amnesia, hallucinations, and potentially fatal respiratory problems. Termed “Special K” on the streets, at high doses, ketamine users experience an effect referred to as “K-Hole,” an out-of-body experience. Since the ketamine user can find it difficult to move, it has been used as a date-rape drug.

  • Security

    • Thoughts on bootstrapping GHC

      I am returning from the reproducible builds summit 2018 in Paris. The latest hottest thing within the reproducible-builds project seems to be bootstrapping: How can we build a whole operating system from just and only source code, using very little, or even no, binary seeds or auto-generated files. This is actually concern that is somewhat orthogonal to reproducibility: Bootstrappable builds help me in trusting programs that I built, while reproducible builds help me in trusting programs that others built.

      And while they make good progress bootstrapping a full system from just a C compiler written in Scheme, and a Scheme interpreter written in C, that can build each other (Janneke’s mes project), and there are plans to build that on top of stage0, which starts with a 280 bytes of binary, the situation looks pretty bad when it comes to Haskell.

    • No, You Don’t Need Antivirus on a Chromebook
    • Security updates for Friday
    • Inception Attackers Target Europe with Year-old Office Vulnerability
    • Brute Force Attacks Conducted by Cyber Actors
    • IBM protects your cloud container data running under Kubernetes with encryption

      Protecting your stored data on the cloud is a concern, but it’s easy enough with encryption. Thanks to SSL, it’s simple to protect data in motion on the network. But protecting your data when it’s being used on the cloud is not so simple. Enter IBM, which, in partnership with Fortanix, is now providing data-in-use protection for your container workloads running on the IBM Cloud Kubernetes Service with IBM Cloud Data Shield.

      Jason McGee, IBM Cloud Platform VP and CTO, explained the process at KubeCon in Seattle: Data Shield uses Intel Software Guard Extensions (SGX) technology to run code and data in CPU-hardened Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) or enclave. This is a trusted area of memory, where critical aspects of the application functionality are protected by encryption. This helps keep both your code and data private and shielded from would-be hackers.

    • GNOME Security Internship – The Beginning
    • GNOME Security Internship – Update 1
    • Kubernetes Security Authentication Moving Forward With SIG-Auth

      The basic units of organization within the Kubernetes community are the Special Interest Groups that help define and implement new features and capabilities. For security, one of the primary SIGs within Kubernetes is SIG-Auth.

      Kubernetes is a widely used container orchestration platform that is supported on all the major public cloud providers and is also deployed on-premises. In a session at the KubeCon + CloudNativeCon NA 2018 here, the leaders of SIG-Auth outlined how the group works and what the current and future priorities are for the Kubernetes project.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • ‘Historic Victory’ as Senate Votes to End U.S. Involvement in ‘Unauthorized War’ in Yemen

      After defeating two last-minute amendments by ultra-hawkish Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) that would have completely gutted the measure, the Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly passed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) resolution to end U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia’s years-long assault on Yemen by a bipartisan vote of 56-41.

      The vote—which marks the first time the Senate has passed a War Powers resolution—was applauded by anti-war groups as an important first step toward ending America’s complicity in the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

    • BREAKING: Senate Votes to End US Role in Yemen War

      In a resounding rebuke to the Pentagon, President Trump and the Saudi crown, the Senate voted 56-41 on Thursday to end United States participation in the Saudi-led war in Yemen, where an estimated 14 million people are on the brink of starvation. It’s the first time in history that the Senate has approved a resolution under the War Powers Act to withdraw US forces from foreign hostilities.

      The vote is a major victory for peace activists who have lobbied Congress to curb US support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen since the war escalated in 2015. However, it may not be enough to stop the US participation in the conflict, at least not right away. Republican House leaders doomed the war powers resolution in the lower chamber, and activists are pushing Democrats to move quickly when they assume the House majority in January.

    • Ceasefire is Reached, While US House Undermines Efforts to End Complicity in War

      While progressive U.S. lawmakers’ efforts to take meaningful action to end American involvement in the Saudi-led assault on Yemen were stymied this week, human rights groups expressed relief that progress was made across the Atlantic in United Nations-led peace talks in Sweden, with both sides of the conflict in Yemen agreeing to an immediate ceasefire in the port city of Hodeidah.

      The city, which has been controlled by the Houthis since October 2014, has been the site of numerous bombings since the Saudi-led coalition began its offensive in June. The ceasefire will bring reprieve not only to the two million Yemenis who live in the city, but for two-thirds of the country’s population, who rely on Hodeidah as the key entry point for food, medical supplies, and other aid. All troops from both sides of the conflict are now scheduled to withdraw from the city within 21 days, with further peace talks planned for late January.

      The International Rescue Committee (IRC), whose humanitarian workers have been struggling to provide aid in the country, noted that the ceasefire “will have a tangible impact on the crisis in Yemen” and the 14 million Yemenis facing famine. As of November, according to Save the Children, an estimated 85,000 children in the country had starved to death.

    • Bomb Threat Hoax Emails Spark Nationwide Evacuations at Offices, Hospitals, News Outlets, and Schools

      The FBI said in a statement, “We are aware of the recent bomb threats made in cities around the country, and we remain in touch with our law enforcement partners to provide assistance. As always, we encourage the public to remain vigilant and to promptly report suspicious activities which could represent a threat to public safety.”

    • George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy

      The story was almost over even before it had fully begun. When Keith Jackson, a black eighteen-year-old from Anacostia, heard where the men wanted to do the deal, he grew skeptical. “Where the fuck is the White House?” he asked. Yet the buyers persisted. They got Jackson to Lafayette Park on September 1, 1989, purchasing three ounces of the drug off him for $2,400. “This is crack cocaine,” President Bush told the nation evenings later, flashing the bag the teen sold, “seized a few days ago by drug enforcement agents in a park just across the street from the White House.”

      Only the bag was part of a set-up. Presidential aides, vacationing at Bush’s Kennebunkport compound, dreamed up the plan. Buying crack near the White House would show how bad the drug problem was, would justify Bush’s escalating Drug War. But DEA agents failed to find dealers lurking in Lafayette Park. So they focused on Jackson some distance from downtown.

      Ensnaring the young man was not easy. “We had to manipulate him to get him down there,” one agent admitted. Jackson was soon deemed guilty—hearing the verdict, he wept so violently “federal marshals subdued him with a straitjacket”—and serving a ten-year prison term. President Bush was unmoved. He felt no weight of responsibility for the teen’s fate. And he never wept, as far as we know. But the story, Bush’s and ours, would go on by God’s grace.

      Through the following years, President Bush would frequently prove, nearly daily, that his ruining Jackson was no accident. In a sense, the rest of his presidency was a perennial effort to prove his callousness, to intensify human suffering. There were always more armies to fund, more countries to bomb, more lives to terminate. And what a headlong race he made of it all. He never slowed down.

    • Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid

      Long ago, US foreign aid programs honored the principle that humanitarian aid should be treated separately from economic and military assistance to governments. Public Law 480 (popularized as “Food for Peace”), which began under President Eisenhower in the 1960s and expanded under President Kennedy, was mainly intended (in Kennedy’s words) to “narrow the gap between abundance here at home and near starvation abroad.” It was a simple and ethical goal, though it applied only to “friendly” countries and therefore had the secondary aim, as Kennedy admitted, to be a barrier against communism.

      The original humane goal has now vanished, and the secondary political aim has taken its place. The Trump administration is explicitly using humanitarian aid as another weapon to sanction adversaries. North Korea is the prime example. After decades providing humanitarian aid by private citizens and NGOs, Americans will no longer be able to send or deliver it: the decision includes denial of permission to travel to North Korea to deliver aid. Programs that made perceptible contributions to economic development and health care in North Korea, and built trust, will now be grounded.

      The American Friends Service Committee, Nautilus Institute, Mercy Corps, Northwest Medical Teams, and other well-established NGOs are among the affected organizations.

    • Inside the controversial operation that allegedly tricked veterans into lobbying for Saudi Arabia

      A firm that was part of a controversial foreign influence operation that allegedly ensnared veterans into lobbying on behalf of Saudi Arabia unwittingly in 2017 has again reared its head, filing what appears to be its first supplemental statement on record with the U.S. Department of Justice.

      Capitol Media Group first came under fire after veterans who were brought to Washington, DC, to lobby for changes to the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) — legislation that enabled 9/11 lawsuits against the government of Saudi Arabia — claimed they did not know their trip had been organized and financed by the Government of Saudi Arabia.

      Unlike some other firms implicated in the scandal that have continued to make headlines, Capitol Media Group operated under the radar with little media exposure and even less disclosure to federal regulators charged with oversight of foreign influence operations.

      In fact, Capitol Media Group did not even register as a foreign agent of Saudi Arabia until March 31, 2017 — months later than required under the Foreign Agents Registration (FARA), the law which governs most disclosure requirements for foreign lobbying, trade promotion and other influence operations. That registration came just two days after 9/11 families and survivors filed a complaint with DOJ alleging “potential widespread criminal violations” by Saudi lobbyists and foreign agents who took part in allegedly exploiting U.S. military veterans to push for an amendment of JASTA that would restrict Americans from suing foreign governments for terrorist attacks unless they “knowingly engage with a terrorist organization directly or indirectly, including financing.”

      The impetus for that registration, according to Scott Wheeler — Capitol Media Group’s owner and the executive director of the National Republican Trust PAC — was because “we found that the company we had contracted with had received Saudi money.”

      In its initial registration statement, Capitol Media Group reported being paid $365,000 from the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia to organize veterans’ trips at a base fee of $30,000 each plus expenses to lobby against JASTA.

    • Senate Fingers Saudi Bin Salman as Murderer, Demands End of Yemen War

      Seven Republicans joined the Democrats in the Senate in voting for resolutions that 1) assigned the blame for the murder of the dissident Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi to Saudi crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman and 2) invoked the War Powers Act of 1973 in calling for an end to US military involvement in the Saudi-led war on Yemen.

      Neither house of the US Congress is typically very eager to get involved in foreign policy, which congressional representatives and senators typically leave to the president. (The Senate Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and the House counterpart are exceptions, but their deliberations seldom go to the whole Congress). How deep our current political crisis is under the beleaguered Trump presidency can be estimated by the mere fact that the Senate invoked the War Powers Resolution for the first time since it was enacted under Nixon in 1973.

      First, Joint Resolution 69 asked for a diplomatic solution to the Yemen war, given that “nearly 12,000,000 people are suffering from “severe hunger,” according to the United Nations’ World Food Programme.”

    • William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate

      In the incessant self-praise of the US imperial project, kept safe in a state of permanently enforced amnesia, occasional writings prod and puncture. Mark Twain expressed an ashamed horror at the treatment of the Philippines; Ulysses Grant, despite being a victorious general of the Union forces in the Civil War and US president, could reflect that his country might, someday, face its comeuppance from those whose lands had been pinched.

      In the garrison state that emerged during the Cold War, the New Left provided antidotes of varying strength to the illusion of a good, faultless America, even if much of this was confined to university campuses. Mainstream newspaper channels remained sovereign and aloof from such debates, even if the Vietnam War did, eventually, bite.

      The late William Blum, former computer programmer in the US State Department and initial enthusiast for US moral crusades, gave us various exemplars of this counter-insurgent scholarship. His compilation of foreign policy ills in Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, was written with the US as sole surveyor of the land, all powerful and dangerously uncontained. To reach that point, it mobilised such familiar instruments of influence as the National Endowment for Democracy and the School of the Americas, a learning ground for the torturers and assassins who would ply their despoiling trade in Latin America. The imperium developed an unrivalled military, infatuated with armaments, to deal with its enemies. Forget the canard, insists Blum, of humanitarian intervention, as it was espoused to justify NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999.

    • The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported

      The number of people killed by the violence in Yemen has for the first time risen above 3,000 dead in a single month, bringing the total number of fatalities to over 60,000 since the start of 2016. The figure is six times greater than the out-of-date figure of 10,000 dead often cited in the media and by politicians.

      “We have recorded 3,068 people killed in November, bringing the total number of Yemenis who have died in the violence to 60,223 since January 2016,” says Andrea Carboni, a researcher on Yemen for the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), formerly based at Sussex University, that studies conflicts and seeks to establish the real casualty level.

      The figures do not include the Yemenis who have died through starvation or malnutrition – the country is on the brink of famine, according to the UN – or from illnesses caused by the war such as cholera.

    • After Senate’s Passage of War Powers Resolution, Sanders Tees Up Pressure on House to End US Involvement in Yemen

      Pleading for a swift end to the nation’s complicity “in the worst humanitarian disaster on Earth,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Friday urged people to put pressure on House Speaker Paul Ryan and his fellow Republicans to pass the resolution to end U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia’s years-long assault on Yemen.

      Sanders’s call, made in an email to supporters, comes a day after the Senate passed his War Powers resolution, also sponsored by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), to do just that. “A bipartisan majority spoke with one voice that the status quo is over and we will no longer accept the war crimes being committed in our name,” said Murphy, welcoming the vote.

      “Here is the truth: by continuing to back Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen with weapons, aerial refueling, and targeting assistance,” Sanders writes, “the United States has been complicit in the worst humanitarian disaster on Earth—a war which no one can seriously claim is actually making us safer.”

      But there’s barrier to getting the bill to President Donald Trump to sign, Sanders notes. The U.S. House on Wednesday tucked a provision in to the Farm Bill to effectively prevent a vote on Yemen. “So either something has to change, or the new Congress under [presumptive House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi’s leadership will have to take it up again in early 2019. Meanwhile, many Yemeni children and families will die,” Sanders writes.

      “My hope is that if we can put enough pressure on Paul Ryan and the Republicans in Congress, something can change,” he continues.

    • A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad

      One of the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize 2018 is Nadia Murad, an Iraqi Yazidi activist, for her effort “to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.”

      The Norwegian Nobel Committee underscored, “This year marks a decade since the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1820 (2008), which determined that the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict constitutes both a war crime and a threat to international peace and security. This is also set out in the Rome Statute of 1998, which governs the work of the International Criminal Court. … A more peaceful world can only be achieved if women and their fundamental rights and security are recognized and protected in war.”

      Ever since ISIL laid siege to a large portion of Iraq in 2014, Yazidi women have borne the brunt of the violence in that country. Hapless women have been negotiating with members of ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), both materially and sexually. Unfortunately, the innate conservatism of Arab and South Asian societies prevents them from overtly describing and condemning sexual exploitation. Yazidi women are further dehumanized because of the self-denigration that accompanies physical defilement. The law of the jungle which prevails in those areas leaves no scope for rehabilitation of the victims of violence. The brutalization of the culture has been rendered more lethal by the socialization of boys and men into the militarized ISIS culture. Within such a masculinist discourse, the rigidly entrenched hierarchical relationship between men and women is inextricably linked with sexualized violence.

    • Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens

      Chances are that George W. Bush didn’t need to be tutored on how to pronounce Osama bin Laden’s name, after the president was informed about the events of 9/11 while reading the story about that goat to grade-schoolers in Sarasota, Florida. The Bin Ladens and the Bushes go way back.

      Exactly how far back remains a matter of conjecture. But, like many ultra-rich Saudis, the Bin Laden brood has always had a thing for Texas. The patriarch of the Bin Laden clan, Mohammed Bin Laden, the son of a Yemeni bricklayer who moved to Saudi Arabia and struck it rich in the construction business, flew frequently to Dallas to seal deals with his associates in the oil industry, often in his private jet. There’s much speculation, though no hard proof, that Mohammed knew George Bush the First and his cohort of oil, banking and political cronies in the Lone Star state.

      Mohammed died in a plane crash in Saudi Arabia. One of his elder sons, Salem, died near Houston when his ultra-light airplane got snagged in power lines. Of all the Bin Ladens, it was Salem who enjoyed the closest relationship with the Bush tribe. The connection was a Houston wheeler-dealer named James Bath, who haunted the darker back corridors of the Bush-Reagan years, amid the fragrance of scandals from Iran/contra to BCCI to the Silverado Savings and Loan debacle to Iranian weapon mogul Adnan Khashoggi.

    • The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions

      Remarks in Albuquerque, New Mexico, December 12, 2018
      Video is uploading now, at airplane internet speed, to Youtube.com/WorldBeyondWar

      There’s action happening now in the U.S. Senate on ending U.S. participation in the war on Yemen. There’s a big loophole in the bill. There’s the matter of selling Saudi Arabia its weapons. There’s the House of Misrepresentatives to worry about. There’s the veto threat. There’s the question of getting compliance out of a president you’ve pretty well promised never to impeach, at least not for any of dozens of documented offenses unrelated to Russia. All that being said, the current action is a very good thing, and New Mexico’s senators have thus far been on the right side of it.

      If the U.S. Congress were to stand up to a president on one war, people might raise the question of every other war. If the U.S. were to stand up to Saudi Arabia, not by giving it weapons and military assistance and protection from international law while asking it gently to mend its ways, but by refusing to be its partner in crime, somebody might ask why the same couldn’t be tried with Israel or Bahrain or Egypt, and so on.

    • ‘The Pentagon Has Steadfastly Stonewalled Against Making Its Budget Auditable’ – CounterSpin interview with Dave Lindorff on Pentagon budget fraud

      Janine Jackson: For those of us who remember the $640 toilet seat, the unbelievable absurdity of Pentagon spending has long been—while unbelievably absurd—taken for granted: The Department of Defense spends billions and billions on we know not what, year after year, tra-la. Elite media reported that Congress passed a $700 billion Pentagon bill—more than Trump even asked for—and that was a blip, unchallenged, although the same press corps, faced with a proposal for healthcare, see themselves in the business of grilling proponents on how on Earth they would pay for it. Pentagon spending is untethered, unaccountable. And no one complains too loudly, because “national security”—magic words that shut down any critical conversation.

    • Bitcoin Scammers Send Fake Bomb Threats Worldwide Causing Panic

      In an attempt to extort money, spammers are sending threatening emails to schools, business, and government offices in different countries like US, Canada, and New Zealand.

      They are demanding Bitcoin in exchange for not setting off a supposed bomb.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Julian Assange facing embassy exit and uncertain fate

      WikiLeaks founder and transparency activist Julian Assange is locked in a legal battle with Ecuador over the new stringent conditions imposed in October on his embassy stay. This week, he has threatened to take his case to the International Court of Justice if a second appeal against the Ecuadorian government fails.

      The new rules by the Ecuadorian Embassy have resulted in the tightening of privileges he is allowed and put financial demands on his remaining in the building. It also introduced the option for Quito to expel the Australian if he breaks the new rules.

      Assange sought to challenge the new house rules in court in November, saying they violated his fundamental rights, but judges ruled against him. He has appealed the decision and should receive a verdict on in eight days.


      As a result of Ecuador’s change of heart, the relationship between Assange and his hosts has soured, but the WikiLeaks founder is still reluctant to leave.

      Venezuela-based Latin American broadcaster Telesur reported on Wednesday that Assange had claimed to be under surveillance within the embassy, an accusation he made to reporters in a video conference. Assange accused the FBI of running an operation to pressure Quito to end his political asylum deal and extradite him to the United States.

      Assange claimed that his surveillance information was being sent directly to the FBI. He also criticized Ecuadorian authorities, saying that officials at the embassy had made “pejorative and threatening comments” about him and that his work as a journalist had been questioned.

    • Julian Assange Is a Tzaddik and Deserves Freedom

      Julian Assange published the reality of the DNC primary. The fix was in from the beginning; this isn’t the way the world should work and only a Tzaddik can illuminate the truth within a sea of lies. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been hidden from public view, although Assange has shed light upon those conflicts. Whether it’s bank fraud or governments like Saudi Arabia funding terrorists, Wikileaks has told the truth.

    • Democrats write Pompeo seeking ‘imperative’ end to Julian Assange impasse

      Six leading Democrats signed a letter released Wednesday seeking details on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent meeting with Ecuador’s foreign minister with respect to the situation surrounding WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.
      “We write to request that the State Department immediately brief Congress on your November 26 meeting with Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Jose Valencia,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter dated Tuesday. “While the State Department has been unwilling to confirm the details publicly, we remain deeply interested in knowing whether you discussed the future of Julian Assange’s presence in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in your meeting with Foreign Minister Valencia.”
      “While we understand that Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno inherited from his predecessor the challenges posed by Julian Assange’s presence at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, it is imperative that this situation be resolved swiftly. We trust that you will remain in close contact with Foreign Minister Valencia on this matter,” they added

    • Accused WikiLeaks source granted access to classified case material with caveats

      Joshua Schulte, a former CIA employee charged in connection with leaking classified hacking tools to WikiLeaks, will be shackled and subjected to strip searches if he wishes to view classified material related to the government’s case against him, a court ordered Thursday.
      The conditions appear in a protective order requested by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, where the former CIA computer engineer is being held awaiting trial for espionage.
      The government has prepared a sensitive compartmented information facility, or SCIF, in which Mr. Schulte and his attorney can visit to review classified information concerning his case, prosecutors wrote in a filing proposing the protective order.

    • Time magazine honors journalists facing repression—but snubs Julian Assange

      Time magazine announced Tuesday that it was giving its “Person of the Year” award to journalists facing violence and repression for their efforts to expose the truth. The four individuals and one organization selected by Time are certainly deserving of public sympathy.
      Wa Lone, 32 years old, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were jailed a year ago in Myanmar (Burma) by the military junta for reporting for Reuters on mass executions of the Rohingya minority in that country.

      Maria Ressa was recently jailed on trumped-up tax charges by the government of Philippines President Duterte because she reported on her website, Rappler, on the murders of thousands of poor residents of working class slums, labeled “drug dealers” by Duterte.

      The Capital Gazette, the local daily newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, was honored after five of its staff were murdered in a mass slaying in June. The gunman was a local resident who sought revenge because the newspaper reported on his prosecution for sexual harassment several years ago.

    • U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Retired Israeli General Over Role in South Sudan’s Civil War

      The United States says it has sanctioned three people over their roles in South Sudan’s civil war, including a retired Israeli major general, Israel Ziv.
      In a statement Friday, the U.S. Treasury said Ziv and South Sudanese businessman Obac William Olawo led entities whose efforts extended the conflict, while South Sudanese official Gregory Vasili took part in “actions that have undermined peace, stability and security.”
      “Ziv used an agricultural company that was nominally present in South Sudan to carry out agricultural and housing projects for the government of South Sudan as a cover for the sale of approximately $150 million worth of weapons to the government, including rifles, grenade launchers and shoulder-fired rockets,” the Treasury said.


      According to the State Department cables released by WikiLeaks, U.S. diplomats reported on Ziv’s negotiations with the governments of Colombia, Peru and Panama, and even tried to undermine, sometimes successfully, dealings with Global CST. The cables appear to show that the hostility was prompted not only by financial interests but by concerns that Ziv’s activities posed a security risk to the United States.

    • The Right to Record Police Doesn’t Disappear When You Put Your Phone in Your Pocket

      In Massachusetts, a federal court affirmed that the First Amendment protects secret recording of police performing their duties in public.
      The First Amendment right to record the police is a critical check and balance for people living in a free, open, and democratic society. It promotes the free discussion of governmental affairs as well as protects the democratic process. And for some communities, it’s a vital tool for uncovering, if not deterring, police misconduct.

      But Boston-based civil rights activists Eric Martin and René Pérez were afraid to record the police. Under a state wiretap law passed in 1968, known as Section 99, it is a crime to secretly record private individuals and government workers, even those on duty like police officers. Since 2011, the Boston Police Department has applied for a criminal complaint against at least nine people for secretly recording police officers performing their duties in public, and the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office has opened numerous case files based on this felony charge as well.

      Because of this fact, although Martin and Pérez often feared for their safety when openly recording police officers in public, they also knew recording secretly could subject them to arrest and prosecution. Caught between safety concerns and fear of punishment, they often chose not to record at all.

    • Watch Latest Julian Assange Vigil Featuring Whistleblower Dan Ellsberg and former US Senator Mike Gravel

      An online vigil for WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange was broadcast live on Consortium News on Friday night. If you missed it, watch the replay here.

    • Julian Assange denounces his illegal detention in Ecuadorian embassy

      WikiLeaks founder and publisher Julian Assange spoke out against the repressive conditions that have been imposed upon him in Ecuador’s London embassy and the ongoing efforts to force him into British and US custody at a court hearing on Wednesday.

      Assange gave evidence from the embassy via video link, in a case brought by WikiLeaks against a “Special Protocol” presented by the South American nation in October. It places further onerous conditions on Assange, following the cutting off of his internet access and other communications, and a ban on all visitors aside from his legal team in March.

      The protocol forbids the WikiLeaks publisher from making any political statements. It requires that he undergo a medical examination every three months. In a bid to exploit Assange’s deteriorating health to force him out of the embassy, it empowers doctors to recommend that he be “evacuated” from the building if he fails the exam. Assange was compelled to undertake the first series of medical tests this week, with doctors selected by WikiLeaks.

    • Australian workers and youth speak out in defence of Julian Assange

      Over the past weeks, Socialist Equality Party (SEP) campaigners have spoken to workers, students and young people about an SEP meeting in Sydney and global Facebook livestream this Sunday in defence of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
      The event is being held amid stepped up attempts by US and British authorities to force Assange out of Ecuador’s London embassy and into their clutches so that he can be prosecuted for WikiLeaks’ role in exposing war crimes, illegal diplomatic intrigues and mass spying.
      The sentiments of ordinary people in support of the courageous journalist and publisher stand in sharp contrast to the collaboration of the Liberal-National Coalition government, the Labor Party and the entire political establishment, including the trade unions and the Greens, with the persecution of Assange.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Climate Change and the Limits of Reason

      Is it too late to avoid a global environmental catastrophe? Does the increasingly worrisome feedback from the planet indicate that something like a chaotic tipping point is already upon us? Facts and reason are slender reeds relative to entrenched opinions and the human capacity for self-delusion. I suspect that neither this article nor others on the topic are likely to change many minds.

      With atmospheric carbon dioxide at its highest levels in three to five million years with no end in its increase in sight, the warming, rising, and acidification of the world’s oceans, the destruction of habitat and the cascading collapse of species and entire ecosystems, some thoughtful people now believe we are near, at, or past a point of no return. The question may not be whether or not we can turn things around, but rather how much time is left before a negative feedback loop from the environment as it was becomes a positive feedback loop for catastrophe. It seems that the answer is probably a few years to a decade or two on the outside, if we are not already there. The mild eleven-thousand year summer—the Holocene—that permitted and nurtured human civilization and allowed our numbers to grow will likely be done-in by our species in the not-too-distant future.

      Humankind is a runaway project. With a world population of more than 7.3 billion, we are a Malthusian plague species. This is not a condemnation or indictment, nor some kind of ironic boast. It is an observable fact. The evidence is now overwhelming that we stand at a crossroads of history and of natural history, of nature and our own nature. The fact that unfolding catastrophic change is literally in the air is undeniable. But before we can devise solutions of mitigation, we have to admit that there is a problem.

    • Permit Hearing for Taiwanese Plastic Plant in Louisiana Turns into a Referendum on Environmental Racism

      “You don’t give a shit about brown and black people,” Louisiana activist Cherri Foytlin told government officials during a heated public permit hearing for a proposed plastics plant in St. James Parish. The parish is a predominately African-American community on the banks of the Mississippi River and has undergone rapid industrialization in recent years.

      “This is a dog-and-pony show and everybody in this room knows it,” she asserted, after the hearing officer cut off the sound system while Foytlin was giving her public comments. The officer, O.C. Smith, attorney for the Louisiana Office of Coastal Management, did this declaring that the hearing was no longer on the record.

    • Is Harvard Profiting From California’s Drought?

      Harvard University has the world’s largest endowment, valued at $39.2 billion in 2018, according to The New York Times. That asset allows the university to take some surprising turns in its investments, including, starting in 2012, buying up vineyards in the drought-stricken region of Paso Robles, Calif., and the increasingly valuable water rights that come with them.

      As The Wall Street Journal reported Monday, Harvard, through its endowment management company, “was acquiring rights to vast sources of water in a region where the earth’s warming is making the resource an ever-more-valuable asset.”

      California’s Central Valley has suffered from a drought since 2011. Farmers in the region have resorted to obtaining water from ancient aquifers, an increasingly scarce resource that is expensive to access. The Journal points out that water has always been scarce in California, but “[c]limate change is making the situation worse, scientists and state officials say.” The region’s groundwater basin, it says, “was once celebrated as one of the largest freshwater aquifers west of the Mississippi River, but the level in certain wells had fallen significantly.”

      To some, it seems that in betting on grapes, the university was also betting against climate change. Either way, the Journal reports, “Harvard’s bet has proven prescient.”

    • ‘Stand With People, Not Polluters’: Sit-In on Last Day of COP24 Highlights #PeoplesDemands for Ambitious Climate Action

      The purpose of the “corporate-captured U.N. climate talks,” as the activists have called them, is to write a rulebook for the 2015 Paris agreement—supported by every nation on Earth except the United States, thanks to President Donald Trump’s vow to withdraw from it. The accord aims to limit global warming within this century to 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels.

      “Governments must take responsibility and provide real leadership to halt climate breakdown. They are failing completely to do so, and their failures are on full display here at COP24,” charges a statement from the sit-in organizers. “Inside these halls, we are calling on the rich polluting countries to stop obstructing progress and to support the just transition we need.”

    • Corporations Given a Platform to Promote Greenwash 31 Times at the UN Climate Talks

      The annual UN climate talks in Katowice, Poland, are drawing to a close. But over the conference’s two weeks, major polluters have been given the platform to promote a climate-friendly image at more than 30 events, new analysis by NGO Climate Tracker reveals.

      Negotiators are in the coal mining town of Katowice, Poland, to try and establish a rulebook to guide countries’ implementation of the landmark Paris climate change agreement. Around 22,000 delegates are present at the conference, known as COP24.

      Companies have taken advantage of having so many climate specialists in one place to promote their climate-friendly activities, even if their business model remains reliant on polluting practices.

      Coal, oil, gas and mining companies have participated in 31 events over the course of the conference, according to Climate Tracker’s analysis: From Latin America’s largest petrochemical company, Braskem, discussing how Brazil would adapt to climate change, to Indonesia’s biggest oil, gas and mining company presenting on the nation’s renewable energy future.

      DeSmog UK previously reported how Polish coal company JSW, which is sponsoring COP24, presented its plan for boosting its coking coal prospects on Tuesday – by renaming the fuel.

      Big oil companies such as BP, Chevron, Rio Tinto, Eni, Total and Shell, have also been seeking to influence the negotiations through trade associations such as the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA). In particular, the fossil fuel companies have been participating in discussions around a carbon market mechanism, known as Article 6, which allows companies and countries to reduce their emissions by buying credits for emissions reduction that is happening elsewhere.

    • COP24 Organizers Accused of Censoring Climate Campaigners While Letting Pro-Fossil Fuel Message Flourish

      The COP24 climate summit, which is supposed to end on Friday, has been accused of being captured by corporate interests, and new reporting further backs up that charge.

      According to Agence France-Presse, United Nations organizers of the event censored references to “fossil fuel corporations” and their “dirty energy” infrastructure in environmental groups’ videos before they were greenlighted to be projected onto massive screens on the walls of the event venue in Katowice, Poland.

      “While we’re being silenced, the same coal, oil, and gas companies responsible for the crisis are allowed to plaster the halls with their logos and propaganda,” Pascoe Sabido, a researcher and campaigner at Corporate Europe Observatory, told AFP.

    • Crimes Against the Earth

      The excavation of more than 600 billion tons of toxic carbon and hydrocarbon geological remains of previous biospheres and their transfer to the atmosphere as carbon gases constitutes nothing less than insanity leading to global suicide. With estimated profitable carbon reserves in excess of 20,000 GtC (Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change”, including oil shale, tar sand, coal seam gas, further emissions would take the atmosphere, oceans and biosphere back to early Eocene (~55-40 million years ago) and Mesozoic-like (pre-65 million years ago) greenhouse atmosphere and acid oceans conditions, during which large parts of the continents were inundated by the oceans. Most likely to survive the extreme transition over a few centuries would be grasses, some insects and perhaps some birds, descendants of the fated dinosaurs. A new evolutionary cycle would commence. Survivors of Homo sapiens may endure in the Arctic.

    • As Grassroots Momentum Surges, Over 300 Local Officials From 40 States Declare Support for Green New Deal

      With support for a Green New Deal growing rapidly at the grassroots, in Congress, and among potential 2020 presidential candidates, over 300 local elected officials from 40 states threw their support behind the bold proposal in an open letter released on Friday, declaring that it is “time to end the era of fossil fuel production and build our clean energy future together.”

      “The most important job of local leaders is to keep their communities safe,” declared Meghan Sahli-Wells, the vice Mayor of Culver City, California and one of the officials who signed the letter. “The only way we can ensure the health and safety of our constituents is to end fossil fuel production in our communities, and transition to a just, clean, sustainable future.”

      By moving boldly and quickly to roll back fossil fuel production as part of a “comprehensive national plan such as a Green New Deal,” the open letter states, “we will create millions of jobs and a cleaner, healthier, more prosperous future for all Americans now and in the future.”

    • Final Dispatch From COP24: What Just Happened?

      That’s probably not the case for hundreds of negotiators who still have a lot to sort out before they can agree on the rules to implement the Paris Agreement, and are likely to work through the night and possibly beyond to do so.

      After two weeks of protesting, lobbying, greenwashing, setbacks and admittedly important progress made on the rulebook for the Paris Agreement, the end of the conference offers a time to reflect.

      I spent two weeks running around the long corridors of the climate conference in Katowice, Poland, striving to make sense of what this was all about.

      As I leave the conference centre one last time, the euphoric momentum that sent shockwaves through the world when the Paris Agreement was reached three years ago has tapered off.

      As things stand, the historic commitment countries made to collectively reduce emissions and tackle the climate crisis seems more vulnerable than ever to political and corporate obstruction.

    • Hundreds of Activists Stage Sit-in Against Big Polluters on Final Day of COP24 U.N. Climate Talks

      Hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the U.N. climate summit in Katowice, Poland, on Friday, demanding bolder action from world leaders on climate change. The action was organized by the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice. Demonstrators filled the staircase inside the conference center holding banners reading “Which side are you on?” and “People Not Polluters” and “System change not climate change.” As protesters marched out of U.N. climate talks, Democracy Now! spoke with Maya Menezes, Canadian climate activist and member of the Canadian Youth Delegation with the climate justice organization The Leap. She is a migrant rights organizer with No One Is Illegal.

    • Quoting Dr. Seuss, Court Throws Out Pipeline Permit and Implores Forest Service to ‘Speak for the Trees’ Instead of Corporate Polluters

      A federal appeals court rebuked the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) for allowing an energy corporation to move ahead with its plan to build a pipeline that would cut across two national forests and the Appalachian Trail—arguing that the agency put two energy companies’ profits ahead of its own stated mission of protecting the nation’s forests.

      The three judges on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the company’s permit to build its 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline in its planned area, starting in West Virginia and crossing through Virginia before terminating in North Carolina. As proposed, the $7 billion pipeline would have cut across the George Washington and Monongahela national forests as well as the historic trail, damaging the habitats of at least four endangered species.

      Quoting Dr. Seuss’s popular 1971 children’s book “The Lorax,” the judges said the USFS had “abdicated its responsibility” by issuing the permit.

      “We trust the United States Forest Service to ‘speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues,’” the court wrote in its opinion.

    • Rename Coal to Save It, Suggests UN Climate Talks Sponsor

      JSW, the coal company sponsoring the UN climate negotiations in Poland, has a plan to revive the coal industry: rename coal.

      Daniel Ozon, CEO of JSW, believes that coking coal has been tainted by association with thermal coal, and that investors are backing away as a result.

      But he thinks a “fancy new name” for coking coal could help.

      Coking coal is used to make steel, while thermal coal is used for power generation. JSW is planning to expand its output of coking coal, while reducing the share of thermal coal in its portfolio.

      But financing is challenging, Ozon admits, thanks to coal’s growing reputation as a dirty and declining industry.

      “We have to rely on external funding on a daily basis. We deal with our shareholders, deal with the banks, with the insurance companies,” he explains in an interview. “A lot of those institutions put coal on the blacklist, and basically we have to explain to them what’s the difference between the steam coal and the coking coal.”

    • The Koch Brothers’ Last Ditch Attempt to Kill the Electric Vehicle Tax Credit

      As Congress debates what, if anything, to do with the federal electric vehicle (EV) tax credit, the oil industry is fighting to kill the popular incentive, which is hitting some key milestones in the program.

      In the final weeks of the current legislative session (and before Democrats retake control of the House), many groups with financial and other ties to Koch Industries are ramping up efforts to fight any expansion of the EV tax credit program, while throwing a Hail Mary attempt to cancel the tax incentive entirely.

    • Extinction Rebellion: UK Protesters Are Supergluing Themselves to Buildings to Fight Climate Crisis

      As protests erupt at the U.N. climate summit in Katowice, Poland, we speak with Liam Geary Baulch, part of the new movement called Extinction Rebellion that began six months ago in the United Kingdom and has now spread to 35 countries. Members are taking extreme action to fight the climate crisis, including supergluing themselves to government buildings, shutting down London Bridge and taking to the streets to sound the alarm about the impending catastrophe of global warming. They are demanding governments commit to legally binding measures to slash consumption and reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025.

  • Finance

    • The Truth About Privatization

      Privatization. Privatization. Privatization. It’s all you hear from Republicans. But what does it actually mean?

      Generations ago, America built an entire national highway system, along with the largest and best public colleges and universities in the world. Also public schools and national parks, majestic bridges, dams that generated electricity for entire regions, public libraries and public research.

      But around 1980, the moneyed interests began pushing to privatize much of this, giving it over to for-profit corporations. Privatization, the argument went, would boost efficiency and reduce taxes.

      The reality has been that privatization too often only boosts corporate bottom lines.

    • A Propagandist of Privatization

      Recently, a champion of capitalism named Alexander Markovsky penned an absurd little column for the website of The Hill, a publication dedicated to covering Capitol Hill and read by hundreds of Congresspeople and their staffs. The column was an argument for the privatization of America’s infrastructure. According to Markovsky, this privatization is the natural evolution of “our economic system” and is inevitable. Therefore, we the people should push it along. One assumes that if we the people are not willing to do so, then Markovsky and the firm he works for, Litwin Management, would be more than happy to undertake that task nonetheless. In this column, Markovsky argues for the privatization of public assets like roads, water systems and other essential elements of the national infrastructure. His argument naturally assumes that we the people believe that profiteers like his company would only have the people’s interests in mind.

    • Britain’s Homeless Crisis

      Under the suffocating shadow of economic austerity, homelessness in Britain is increasing, poverty and inequality deepening. Since the Conservative party came to power via a coalition government in 2010, then as a minority government in 2015, homelessness has risen exponentially.

      Whilst it is impossible to collect precise statistics on homelessness, these widely available figures, which exclude the ‘hidden homeless’, paint a stark picture of the growing crisis: In 2010 1,768 people were recorded as sleeping rough, whilst 48,000 households were living in temporary accommodation. By December 2017, according to A Public Accounts Committee report, there were almost 9,000 rough sleepers, and, The Guardian states, “nearly 76,000 households were living in emergency temporary accommodation such as bed and breakfasts, of which 60,000 were families with children or pregnant mothers” – an increase of 58% on the 2010 figures.

      Whilst someone rough sleeping in a doorway is a loud and painful declaration of homelessness, a person is also regarded as homeless if they are staying with family or friends or ‘sofa surfing’ (the ‘hidden homeless’), as well those living in temporary accommodation provided by a local authority. Councils have a legal duty to house certain people – such as pregnant women, parents with dependent children and people considered vulnerable (single people rarely qualify). If, after investigating a case, the council concludes they do not have a legal duty to provide housing, nothing permanent is offered and the temporary accommodation is withdrawn. The only option then is to find somewhere in the private sector, which is becoming increasingly difficult in many parts of the country, including rural towns as well as London and other major cities. Rents (and deposits) are high and landlords are more and more demanding, refusing to rent to people on state benefits, often asking for a guarantor and only offering Assured Shorthold Tenancies (AST).

    • Gimme Shelter: As Long Beach Luxury Development Booms, The Poor Get Left Behind

      It was a stifling mid-August afternoon when Jennifer learned she had until the end of the year to move out of her cramped studio apartment in the East Village of downtown Long Beach. She suspected the eviction was coming. For the past year, she had been looking for a new place as her landlord slowly remodeled her modest building, the place she’s called home for more than 13 years. He knew she could not pay the increase in rent, so he told her it was time to go. Jennifer, who is in her 50s, qualified for Section 8 low-income housing and searched futilely for an opening in the area. There was nothing she could afford to live in and not a single Section 8 apartment was vacant.

      Five years ago, Jennifer lost mobility in her right leg because of diabetes. Confined to a wheelchair, she still managed to take classes at Cerritos College and work a part-time job. She slogged her way around town on the bus and never complained that her apartment was located up a narrow flight of wooden stairs. She simply collapsed her wheelchair and scooted her rear end up each step to her front door, making the trip more than once if she had groceries or extra bags to bring in. Her daughter used to help with the rent and daily chores, but she left Long Beach three years ago to attend a trade school on the East Coast. “It would have been better to be on the first floor, but I couldn’t afford to move,” Jennifer says. “I’ve been searching for a place to live, a unit that can accommodate my wheelchair and kitties, but I can’t find a single one, anywhere. My landlord sent me listings to Section 8 places, but they are ones I’ve already called about that don’t really exist. I’ll probably end up sleeping in an RV.”

      I’ve known Jennifer for seven years, as well as the building she’s being forced to move out of. The landlords are an older couple who live in a well-to-do area of Long Beach, and according to public documents, they bought the rental building more than 20 years ago. The owners did not respond to several requests to be interviewed, but tenants believe they are nearing retirement age and may sell the apartment complex in the near future.

      Jennifer’s rent of $700 is well below the current market value for the area, which has been rising almost remorselessly for the past four years. Once Jennifer and her two cats are out, her unit’s new cost could exceed $1,200, which is $200 more than her entire monthly budget. She’s in a definite bind, one created by her own misfortune, a housing market gone wild and a city that has virtually no protections for renters.

    • HUD Took Over a Town’s Housing Authority 22 Years Ago. Now the Authority’s Broke and Residents Are Being Pushed Out.

      Twenty-two years ago, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development seized control of the public housing authority in Wellston, one of Missouri’s poorest towns. The authority had been beset by mismanagement, financial problems and unsafe buildings.

      The goal of the federal takeover was to stabilize the authority and then return it to local control.

      That hasn’t happened. Instead, the authority, still under federal control, is broke and its residents are being pushed out. The authority will be shut down on Jan. 1.

    • Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village

      In 2007, when Starbucks took over a cavernous storefront formerly occupied by a children’s clothing store, it resulted in a sprawling interior space with comfortable chairs and sofas niched around the pillars; banquettes lined a wall decorated with local art work, some of the tables and easy chairs facing the bay and park across the street. The effect was upscale almost, and very urban, each seating area affording a measure of privacy in a public space.

      There was plenty of room for everyone. The employees paid little attention to what went on in the customer area. After school let out, teenagers filtered in and settled in a section toward the back, where they hung out with friends and could use the unlocked bathroom.

      As the town’s public toilets had recently been shut down and the library was half a mile away, it was a godsend to have a quasi-public bathroom. And Starbucks was a convenient place to meet up with people or wait for a ride home after getting off the late evening train.

      We locals, the backbone of their business, each had our own customary spot. Ray, who worked at the five-and-ten until it went out of business, sat near the front entrance with her knitting. An elderly man in a wheelchair whiled away morning hours near one of the central pillars, and an unpublished mystery writer, also in a wheelchair, worked in a nook beside another pillar. A neatly dressed man in his early forties–possibly a NY Times editor—sat at his laptop in the same banquette day after day. It was a calming, undemanding place—and anyone might have felt at home.

    • Truckers Spend the Holidays Driving Too Much for Too Little Pay

      Much of America will be engaged in a holiday gift-buying bonanza this month. And whether it’s via online order or plucking wares directly off store shelves, they have truck drivers to thank for the available goods.

      “Black Friday, Cyber Monday, everything you shop for or order online is going to be brought by a truck. Many truck drivers opt to spend the holidays alone to deliver that freight and to make that little bit of extra money,” said Desiree Wood, a driver and president of REAL Women in Trucking, an organization that advocates for better work conditions for drivers. “It means you may be in some strange town you’ve never been in before, and isolated to where you can park, which is usually a truck stop where there isn’t any good food.”

    • The War Against Cash

      In 2014, Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff (winner of the 2011 Deutsche Bank Prize and a former chief economist for the IMF) authored “Costs and Benefits to Phasing Out Paper Currency” in which he wrote “Paper currency facilitates making transactions anonymous, helping conceal activities from the government in a way that might help agents avoid laws, regulations and taxes…. [E]lectronic money, in principle, can be traced by the government.” 78% of U.S. currency in circulation is in $100 bills, and similar high/low denomination ratios are seen in Japan and the EU. That large denomination bills are the preferred currency for much of crime — drug running, money laundering, tax-evasion — has become the prime argument for doing away with them in favor of electronic money. In 2017, Rogoff published a book on his theories, The Curse of Cash. Other prominent economists, e.g. former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, have, likewise, advocated dropping currency. The discussions have generally focused on large denomination bills only, $100, $50, perhaps $20. Still, Rogoff has written flatly that “Currency should be becoming technologically obsolete”.

      Cash is the enemy because privacy is the enemy, and privacy is the enemy because it makes governmental control difficult. But the very philosophy of cashless society, as expressed, is a stand against the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, because it would be well-nigh impossible to find a purer expression of “unreasonable search” than guaranteed governmental availability to all personal financial transactions. Any truly anonymous electronic exchange would be of no value to governmental inspectors, as Rogoff made clear: “[A]nonymous electronic fiat money has all the drawbacks of an anonymous paper currency in facilitating tax evasion and illegal activity.”

    • The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme

      As we head into 2019, leaving the chaos of this year behind, a major question remains unanswered when it comes to the state of Main Street, not just here but across the planet. If the global economy really is booming, as many politicians claim, why are leaders and their parties around the world continuing to get booted out of office in such a sweeping fashion?

      One obvious answer: the post-Great Recession economic “recovery” was largely reserved for the few who could participate in the rising financial markets of those years, not the majority who continued to work longer hours, sometimes at multiple jobs, to stay afloat. In other words, the good times have left out so many people, like those struggling to keep even a few hundred dollars in their bank accounts to cover an emergency or the 80% of American workers who live paycheck to paycheck.

      In today’s global economy, financial security is increasingly the property of the 1%. No surprise, then, that, as a sense of economic instability continued to grow over the past decade, angst turned to anger, a transition that — from the U.S. to the Philippines, Hungary to Brazil, Poland to Mexico — has provoked a plethora of voter upheavals. In the process, a 1930s-style brew of rising nationalism and blaming the “other” — whether that other was an immigrant, a religious group, a country, or the rest of the world — emerged.

    • ‘Good First Step’ as DeVos Forced to Cancel $150M in Student Loan Debt for Thousands Scammed by For-Profit Schools

      After a federal judge struck down billionaire Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ attempt to gut protections for students scammed by for-profit colleges, the Department of Education announced on Thursday that—because of the court mandate—it is canceling $150 million in student loan debt for around 15,000 defrauded borrowers.

      “The Department of Education illegally delayed implementation of the 2016 borrower defense rule, but because our clients in Bauer v. DeVos were willing to fight back, 15,000 students are finally getting the relief they are owed,” said Toby Merrill, director of the Project on Predatory Student Lending, which represented the students leading the legal fight against DeVos.

    • General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers

      There is time to organize resistance. Perhaps that resistance can take the form of a militant demand that these facilities should be condemned by government authority and turned over to the workers whose labor created the wealth and profits that General Motors’ shareholders enjoy. They could then, with government assistance, be retooled and placed under the ownership and control of their workers, organized into democratic cooperatives for that purpose.

      Perhaps the time has come for the nascent movement in the U.S. for genuine socialism – i.e., for democratic workers’ control of the means of production — to use the prospect of closed factories and ruined communities in Lordstown, Ohio, Baltimore, Maryland and Detroit-Hamtramck, Oshawa, and Warren, Michigan, to organize a new manifestation of the Occupy Movement. Only this time, it could be an occupy movement that would go beyond occupying public spaces and start using legal and political mechanisms to “occupy,” own, operate and transform real facilities of production, with a view toward building genuine socialism.

    • No Labels and the ‘Problem Solvers’ are Wolves of Wall Street in Sheep’s Clothing

      Wall Street’s money oozes into many dark crevices in Washington. The financial services industry pumped $2 billion into the 2015-16 election cycle and managed to easily outpace that amount during this year’s midterm election. Other than the aggregate figures, there is much we don’t know about the exact ways this money is used to influence our political systems. But from time to time, we do get a particularly vivid peek into how Wall Street cash distorts debates about policy.

      For years, the group No Labels and its close partner, the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, have quietly promoted policies that are wrapped in the mantle of bipartisanship and pitched as “non-ideological,” while being in the pay of corporate interests. They produce reports, sponsor events, and weigh in on policy on behalf of unnamed corporate donors.

    • Taking French Lessons: The Power of the ‘Yellow Vests’

      The people of France are currently engaged in a major political battle with their government. But those of us on the outside watching the “Yellow Vests” bring their nation to a standstill are also learning a valuable lesson: how to make politicians bend to your will through relentless activism. Within just a few weeks of widespread and continuous protests, French President Emmanuel Macron has given in to several demands, postponing a planned fuel tax hike and offering both tax cuts and a minimum-wage increase.

      Macron even issued a mea culpa in a televised address to the French people—an act that American politicians might find humiliating. “The anger is deeper. I feel it is justified in many ways,” he told them. “It is 40 years of malaise that is resurfacing … no doubt over the past year and a half we have not provided answers.”

    • The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?

      Paris, France, December 2018: A potential worldwide insurgency of the working class starts in France as Yellow Vests occupy the streets.

      “Some 75% of the French back the gilets jaunes. And this support has held up despite the violence.” (Source: La République en Flammes, The Economist, December 8-14, 2018)

      The French Yellow Vests Insurgency may or may not grow into a major threat to the established order; nobody knows for sure how it will play out.

      Nevertheless, the undertone has been obvious for some years. Once the world publicly recognized a division between the 1% and everybody else, the stage was set for flare-ups, like the Yellow Vest Insurgency movement, as tens of thousands of people dressed in bright yellow vests hit the streets.

    • Don’t Trust Your Money to an Online Bank That Isn’t FDIC Insured

      Robinhood, a popular investing app, just announced a checking account with 3% interest, and it’s already in hot water. Robinhood is just the latest app to want your paycheck and all your cash without providing insurance if the company fails.

      FDIC insurance is pretty simple. Bank balances up to $250,000 are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which is backstopped by the US government. The FDIC was created in 1933 during the Great Depression to restore Americans’ faith in the banking system that had just failed. Since then, it has never failed to pay up. Whenever an FDIC-insured bank goes out of business, the FDIC steps in and makes sure you get every last cent of your money. No one has lost a penny of an FDIC insured bank account in 85 years.

      But now some technology startups think they don’t need FDIC insurance on their banking products. After all, what are the odds a startup will go out of business?

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out

      The sovereign power of the people has been excessively delegated to 535 members of Congress. The citizens need to inform and mobilize themselves and hold on to the reins of such sovereign power for a better society. Demanding that Congress uphold its constitutional obligations and not surrender its power to the war-prone, lawless Presidency will resonate with the people.

      Measuring up to this civic yardstick is important for the new members of the House of Representatives and for our democracy. See how they score in the coming months. Urge them to forward these markers of a democratic legislature to the rest of the members of Congress, most of whom are in a rut of comfortable incumbency.

    • William Blum, US Policy Critic Derided by NYT, Dies at 85

      That distinction was achieved by William Blum, historian and critic of US foreign policy. Once a State Department computer programmer who aspired to “take part in the great anti-Communist crusade,” he quit government in 1967 out of disgust with the Vietnam War and became a founding editor of the Washington Free Press, one of the first alternative papers of the New Left. In books like The CIA: A Forgotten History (re-released as Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II) and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, Blum documented the violent and anti-democratic record of the US empire; he was a reference that FAIR frequently turned to when noting what was missing from the corporate media’s version of history.


      Yes, to the Times, the most important thing about Bill Blum’s life is that Osama bin Laden once remarked to Americans, in a tape released from hiding, that Rogue State would be “useful for you to read.”


      It’s not clear how “unpopular” Blum’s views were—in a 2013 YouGov poll, 61 percent agreed with the statement, “In the long run, the United States will be safer from terrorism if it stays out of other countries’ affairs”—but what is certainly “not unique” was the Times‘ attempt to use an obituary to settle ideological scores.

    • The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media

      It’s always good to have our profession honoured, albeit that the living martyrs of journalism should be accompanied by the ghost of another. But the moment I learned of Time magazine’s person of the year front cover – the award going to Jamal Khashoggi and the other “guardians” who have “taken great risks in pursuit of greater truths” – I remembered Spielberg’s movie Bridge of Spies.

      When captured Soviet agent Rudolf Abel’s defence lawyer (Tom Hanks) asks Abel (Mark Rylance) if he is worried, he replies: “Would it help?”

      The right question. Would it make any difference? Is Time’s choice of its 2018 front page going to change anything? Or was it chiefly aimed at Trump? The raving lunatic in the White House was its “person of the year” in 2016, just before he took office. He said he expected the accolade again this year, and indeed he’s the 2018 runner-up. If he had known this, Khashoggi himself would surely turn in his grave – wherever the Saudis eventually reveal it to be.

      But fair enough. Trump is fighting a war against truth, and it’s a noble gesture to whack a crackpot president by honouring those who oppose his kind of mendacity, even unto death. Many believe – as I suspect – that the five staff at the Annapolis newspaper would be alive today if Trump had not already accused us all of being “enemies of the people”. The “enemies” and journalists like Khashoggi, Maria Ressa, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, are – or should be regarded as – “friends of the people”. But they are clearly regarded as enemies by Trumpites and supporters of dictator Duterte and the military masters of Myanmar.

      Of course, I did look at Time’s list of names to see if Yasser Murtaja, the brave Palestinian cameraman shot dead by an Israeli sniper in April, made it to their hall of honour. He was hailed by The Nation magazine. Like Khashoggi, he gave his life for telling – or in his case, filming – the truth, the Palestinian protests at the Gaza border. But maybe he wasn’t filming a truth which Americans or Time magazine are ready to accept, or to talk too much about without becoming “controversial”: the oppression of the people of Gaza. And maybe Murtaja was shot by the wrong people, if you see what I mean.

    • The Public Is Ready to Respond to Attacks on the Mueller Investigation

      Last Friday’s sentencing memos for Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort hit with a bang, and interested press – who have watched the twists and turns of the investigation like a tennis match – wasted no time dissecting the content. However, the engaged public is also watching, and many are ready to take action.

      The rallies that occurred in hundreds of locations across the US when President Trump chose the inappropriate and biased Matthew Whitaker to be his acting attorney general demonstrated the constant attention many Americans are giving to the president’s rule-of-law abuses. Their outrage is only magnified by the revelations of last week.

      The activated network of Americans watching this most closely is organized at TrumpIsNotAboveTheLaw.org, a multi-organization site. They continue to be alerted if Trump crosses more “red lines” in reaction to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s successes. Activists are poised to hold protests in every state and Washington, DC, and have vowed to mobilize if Trump: 1.) pardons Manafort (or any other witness), as Trump has hinted he may; 2.) fires Mueller; or 3.) tries to hold back or undercut the findings of Mueller’s final report.

    • Integrity Initiative: Spanish Cluster Misled UK Parliament Over Assange, Russia

      Research into members of the Integrity Initiative’s Spanish ‘cluster’ has led to some extremely troubling conclusions.
      On December 19 2017, the House of Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee convened its ‘fake news’ inquiry’s first oral evidence session, hearing testimony from a number of witnesses.

      Among them were David Alandete, Editor of El Pais, Francisco de Borja Lasheras, Director of the European Council on Foreign Relation’s Madrid Office, and Mira Milosevich-Juaristi, Senior Fellow for Russia and Euroasia at Elcano Institute.They’d been invited to discuss an alleged Kremlin effort to interfere in the October 2017 Catalan independence referendum via a dastardly nexus of social media, bots, trolls, Sputnik News and RT — and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

      What the trio failed to disclose, and are yet to acknowledge publicly almost a year later, is they are both directly and indirectly connected to the Integrity Initiative — an “information war effort” based in London that has received millions in UK government funds and is subject to more than one official investigation into its activities.

    • Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?

      US president Donald Trump says he’d be “proud” to take the blame or credit for a fake government shutdown. At issue: Whether or not a stopgap federal spending deal forces American taxpayers to fund his border wall fetish (he previously promised us Mexico would pick up the check).

      For me, the situation feels like Christmas come early. I’m generally in favor of government shutdowns — even fake ones in which a few “non-essential” bureaucrats get sent home for a few days then get paid anyway — and 100% opposed to making the “constitution-free zone” near US borders even more like East Germany than it’s already been for decades.

    • Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them

      The government is pushing us ever closer to a constitutional crisis.

      What makes the outlook so much bleaker is the utter ignorance of the American people—and those who represent them—about their freedoms, history, and how the government is supposed to operate.

      As Morris Berman points out in his book Dark Ages America, “70 percent of American adults cannot name their senators or congressmen; more than half don’t know the actual number of senators, and nearly a quarter cannot name a single right guaranteed by the First Amendment. Sixty-three percent cannot name the three branches of government. Other studies reveal that uninformed or undecided voters often vote for the candidate whose name and packaging (e.g., logo) are the most powerful; color is apparently a major factor in their decision.”

      More than government corruption and ineptitude, police brutality, terrorism, gun violence, drugs, illegal immigration or any other so-called “danger” that threatens our nation, civic illiteracy may be what finally pushes us over the edge.

      As Thomas Jefferson warned, no nation can be both ignorant and free.

    • Trump’s Inauguration Paid Trump’s Company — With Ivanka in the Middle

      When it came out this year that President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee raised and spent unprecedented amounts, people wondered where all that money went.

      It turns out one beneficiary was Trump himself.

      The inauguration paid the Trump Organization for rooms, meals and event space at the company’s Washington hotel, according to interviews as well as internal emails and receipts reviewed by WNYC and ProPublica.

      During the planning, Ivanka Trump, the president-elect’s eldest daughter and a senior executive with the Trump Organization, was involved in negotiating the price the hotel charged the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee for venue rentals. A top inaugural planner emailed Ivanka and others at the company to “express my concern” that the hotel was overcharging for its event spaces, worrying of what would happen “when this is audited.”

    • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Signs Sweeping Lame-Duck GOP Bills

      Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a sweeping package of Republican legislation Friday that restricts early voting and weakens the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general, brushing aside complaints that he is enabling a brazen power grab and ignoring the will of voters.

      Signing the bills just 24 days before he leaves office, the Republican governor and one-time presidential candidate downplayed bipartisan criticism that they amount to a power grab that will stain his legacy.

      Just two hours later, a group run by former Democratic U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced it planned legal action to block the limitation on early voting.

      Walker’s action Friday came as Michigan’s Rick Snyder, another Midwestern GOP governor soon to be replaced by a Democrat, signed legislation in a lame-duck session that significantly scales back minimum wage and paid sick leave laws that began as citizen initiatives. Michigan’s Republican legislators also are weighing legislation resembling Wisconsin’s that would strip or dilute the authority of incoming elected Democrats.

      The push in both states mirrors tactics employed by North Carolina Republicans in 2016.

    • ‘A Very Dark Day for Democracy’: Scott Walker Signs Wisconsin GOP’s ‘Legislative Coup’ Into Law

      While Walker attempted to justify his decision to sign the legislation by calling protests against it “hysteria” and presenting a Venn diagram suggesting that Democratic governor-elect Tony Evers will not lose any powers, the details of the bills—compiled by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel—show that Wisconsinites have called the measures a “naked power grab” for a reason.

      Among other sweeping changes, the legislation would drastically roll back Evers’ power to implement new rules and transfer significant power over the state’s legal affairs from the attorney-general’s office to the Republican legislature.

    • Where There’s Smoke, There’s Boehner

      There was a time when, once they left the job, a former cabinet head or member of Congress would find employment back home casting their seeds of knowledge and experience in the local groves of academe. Or return to naps on the cracked leather sofa at his or her old law firm in South Bend or Twin Falls or Toledo.

      But God bless America. Today, unless you’re someone with the current White House on his or her resume or you’re an official discovered to have committed a sin so heinous you not only make the evening news but Access Hollywood and the PBS Newshour, there’s almost always a posh and profitable job waiting in Washington.

      The infamous revolving door, through which vauntingly ambitious men and women spin from business to government and back to business at an increasingly lucrative rate still merrily twirls, despite the bogus promises by Donald Trump to drain the Potomac swamp.

      In twenty years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, lobbying spending has more than doubled from $1.45 billion in 1998 to $3.37 billion in 2017. So far in 2018, the biggest lobby firm, Akin Gump, has pulled in $28 million worth of business from clients that include Amazon, Pfizer, AARP and the Seneca Nation of Indians.

    • Democrats should stop braying about the Trump-Putin conspiracy and focus on the White House’s real crimes

      America’s largest city is abuzz over the latest revelations about Donald Trump’s crimes. I’m here on book tour discussing Iran, but audiences want to know if Trump will be impeached.

      Court documents filed in the case of Trump’s long-time personal lawyer Michael Cohen show The Donald paid off two women with whom he had sexual relations. Prosecutors consider the payments, totaling several hundred thousand dollars, to be illegal campaign contributions because they were explicitly used to prevent scandal during the 2016 presidential race.

      Top Democratic Party leaders admit those payments constitute impeachable offenses, but have so far not called for impeachment. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (Dem-NY), who will head the House Judiciary Committee in January, has become the master of equivocation.

      “Well, they would be impeachable offenses,” he told CNN. “Whether they are important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question.”

    • Loud Noises From A Bonkers Year

      During lo these long 300 years of his reign, Trump has committed crimes against many things: Empathy, decency, integrity, the rule of law, the environment and economy, the concept of orderly reasoned governance and – cue incoherence and racist, shameless, ceaseless lies – language itself. Trump’s twisting and degrading of words, mostly on Twitter/ Fox News, has fostered plenty of commentary – here, here, here. It inspired last year’s “alternative facts” – the government is a well-oiled machine, Mexico’s paying for the wall, Michael Cohen who? – and the succinct summary of his rhetoric: “Blather, rinse repeat.” With eight whoppers a day, it has kept the Washington Post’s tireless fact-checkers busy, moved even mainstream media to finally start calling him out, and, as the net tightens and the self-incriminating spewing on Twitter grows ever more frantic – “WITCH HUNT!” – led many to wonder if he knows he has the right to remain silent, and why he doesn’t.

      It’s thus apt that Rudy Giuliani’s claim “truth isn’t truth,” in an August interview on “Meet the Press,” tops 2018′s Yale Book of Quotations. The list, compiled by Fred Shapiro, a director at Yale’s law library, is “intended to reflect the culture of our time.” Quotes are often “not admirable,” he notes, which may be why this year they’re all by Americans. Some are weighty: Meghan McCain from her father’s eulogy, David Hogg on gun control. But most are fittingly scandalous. Brett Kavanaugh: “I liked beer. I still like beer.” Kanye West: “The mob can’t make me not love him. We are both dragon energy.” And of course Dragon Donnie: “(I am) not smart, but genius…and a very stable genius at that!” Alas, one stellar contender was too recent to make the cut. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, asked last week what she’d like her legacy to be: “To do the best job that I could do to answer questions, to be transparent and honest.” Online, many were skeptical. “And I hope my legacy will be winning Olympic gold in gymnastics,” “And I hope my legacy is that I was a patient and giving unicorn,” and, most succinctly, “Bitch, please.”

    • Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency

      Trump Presidency, the reality show on Lifetime, didn’t raise the same expectations with its first season. Of course, it remained appallingly watchable: cringe TV at its finest. And the second season is ending on a cliffhanger as the revelations from the Mueller investigation have begun to crescendo. It’s still the show that we critics love to hate.

      But as the second season limps to a close, even the show’s fervent fans have to admit that it didn’t break any new ground this year, except perhaps in the number of taboos smashed. When you get right down to it, nothing really happened in Season 2. It was a non-season that repeated many of the taglines and mini-dramas of the year before. The cast changed, and some new controversies emerged. But honestly, other than the episode on the mid-term elections, Season 2 lacked that essential ingredient: content.

      That doesn’t bode well for Season 3, which debuts in early 2019. Who knows, maybe Trump Presidency will get cancelled halfway through. The rumors, after all, are building.

      Or, to use the classic television trope, the series might jump the shark. For instance, the showrunners might decide to ramp up the trade war with China and trigger a collapse in the global economy. Or maybe they’ll choose to march the country to war with Iran. There’s nothing like patriotic gore to boost the ratings.

      Sure, that’ll make for more compelling television and teach Americans a little more geography. But we viewers around the world would have to pay a steep cost. When reality TV becomes a little too real like that, I just want to put on some comfy slippers, grab a pint of Rocky Road, and change the channel to something frothy and escapist. Give me Glee or give me death!

    • Trump Picks Mick Mulvaney as Next Chief of Staff

      A former Tea Party congressman, Mulvaney was among a faction on the hard right that pushed GOP leaders into a 2013 government shutdown confrontation by insisting on lacing a must-pass spending bill with provisions designed to cripple President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

      The appointment of the affable, fast-talking South Carolinian came just hours after another candidate for the post, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, took himself out of contention for the job. Christie cited family reasons in a statement saying that he was asking Trump to remove him from consideration. He had met with Trump on Thursday to discuss the job, according to a person familiar with the meeting who was not authorized to discuss it publicly.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • The EFF Gift Guide: What’s Creeping Us Out

      EFF doesn’t endorse products. But as Internet-connected products proliferate, ads for them bombard holiday shoppers with promises of a more streamlined life. And they do so without always divulging that they’re tracking you more than a jolly fat man who sees when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake.

      So, we are taking a different approach to the holiday gift guide: highlighting products that raise red flags for us, as privacy-conscious digital advocates. Here are some gifts being pushed this year that, from a privacy or security standpoint, are on our naughty list.

    • Inspector General: FBI Lost Six Months Of Important Text Messages Because Its Retention System Sucks

      It’s great to know the FBI wants encryption broken so it can forensically molest any devices in its possession to find the mother lode of culpatory evidence these devices always contain. (“Always,” you ask? The FBI irritatedly taps the word “always” repeatedly in response.)

      The reason this is such good news is that the FBI can’t even manage to reliably extract content from phones it issues to agents and other personnel. If you can’t expertly handle data migration/storage from phones in your control at all times, how badly are you going to bungle forensic evidence extraction at scale if the government ever green lights encryption backdoors?

      The DOJ Inspector General has just released a report [PDF] detailing its investigation of missing text messages sent by two agents at the center of a Congressional hearing about supposed biased behavior during the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton and Mueller’s investigation of Donald Trump. Agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page exchanged text messages expressing their dislike of Trump and made some comments suggesting they would do something to harm his presidential chances. Critics believed this showed these agents — if not the agency itself — were guided by political bias when investigating Trump’s ties with Russia.

      Maybe there was more to this than there first appeared to be. Thousands of text messages from the agents’ devices went missing — a gap that stretched from December 2016 to May 2017. The Inspector General’s office used forensic tools to recover roughly 19,000 text messages from the two phones. The culprit appears to be standard operating procedure rather than a deliberate attempt to destroy evidence.

    • Google Won’t Sell Its Facial Recognition Tools — For Now

      While talking about AI benefits in a blog post today, Google said that it will not indulge in giving away facial recognition API — not until it has worked, “through important technology and policy questions,” at the very least.

      SVP of Global Affairs, Kent Walker writes “Google Cloud has chosen not to offer general-purpose facial recognition APIs before working through important technology and policy questions.”

    • Facebook Has Another Slip Up, Exposes Millions of Private Photos to Third-Party Devs

      A newly discovered Facebook bug has exposed private photos of nearly 6.8 million users. From September 12th to September 25th, the bug caused some third-party apps to gain access to several private user photos. Today, Facebook announced that they have fixed the bug and detailed the event in a blog post.

      “We believe this may have affected up to 6.8 million users and up to 1,500 apps built by 876 developers,” explains the company. “The only apps affected by this bug were ones that Facebook approved to access the photos API and that individuals had authorized to access their photos.”

    • Facebook Exposed Users’ Private Photos

      Millions of Facebook users’ private photos may have been exposed due to a bug, the social network announced Friday. For 12 days in September, as many as 6.8 million people’s private photos were accessible to third-party apps.

      A bug in Facebook’s photo software authorized as many as 1,500 apps to access photos that users had not shared on their timelines, such as photos posted to Facebook Stories and photos a user uploaded to Facebook and then decided not to post. The social network said it would contact people affected by the bug.

      “We have fixed the issue but, because of this bug, some third-party apps may have had access to a broader set of photos than usual,” wrote Tomer Bar, an engineering director at Facebook. Generally, apps have access to the photos that people have shared on their timelines. Bar added: “We’re sorry this happened.”

    • Facebook Hit By Another Security Breach; 6.8 Million Users’ Photos Exposed

      The bug gave access to timeline photos, Facebook stories, Marketplace photos and even the photos uploaded by users on Facebook that they never intended to share.

    • A Facebook Bug Exposed Photos for Nearly 7 Million Users

      Facebook announced this morning a bug in its Photo API system that potentially exposed photos to third-party app developers—even if you didn’t post the picture. The bug existed from September 13th thru the 25th.

      The nuts and bolts are pretty simple here. Facebook offers APIs to app developers to allow them to build additional tools using Facebook as a foundation. One such tool involves the Photos API, which lets developers request access to users’ photos to provide a variety of utilities. When users grant access to their photos, however, it’s generally restricted to timeline photos.

    • Why Do So Many Apps Ask For Your Location, and Which Ones Really Need It?

      When it comes to smartphone privacy concerns, location data is usually at the top of the list. The thing is, so many apps ask for your location now that we never really stop to think why they ask in the first place.

      A bombshell report was recently published by The New York Times detailing just how much location data apps have on you (it’s more than you might think), and how they use that data to make money from targeted advertisements. This concept is nothing new and is already widely known, but the report goes into much greater detail than what we’ve seen before.

    • Gigi Sohn, Renowned Public Advocate and Net Neutrality Pioneer, Joins EFF’s Board

      EFF is honored to announced that Gigi Sohn, a leading public advocate for the concept that broadband Internet should be open, affordable, and competitive, has joined our board of directors. A lawyer and innovator who has both counseled and stood up to the Federal Communications Commission—albeit not always at the same time—Sohn has fearlessly worked for over 30 years to make U.S. communications networks accessible to all consumers and protective of user privacy.

      Gigi has focused throughout her career on defending competition and innovation policies to advance net neutrality and broadband access and affordability. As counselor to former FCC commissioner Tom Wheeler from 2013 to 2016, Gigi played a big role in the FCC’s adoption of the strongest-ever net neutrality rules, earning recognition in the tech press as one of the “Heroes Who Saved the Internet.”

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Deported for Christmas

      There are two great new Trump initiatives designed to make life in the United States less attractive for immigrants and reduce their number here. One is aimed at those who entered the country seeking asylum, and the other is for those who are already here who came from Vietnam following the end of the Vietnam war, and at some point and at some point during there stay here, encountered the criminal justice system. Each involves indefinite detention.

      The beneficiaries of the first long term detention policy are those enjoying long term detention while awaiting hearings on their claims for asylum. Long term detention is the way to thwart those who want to thwart the Trump by seeking to gain permanent access to our country in defiance of the Trump’s persistent attempts to keep them out. Ansly Damus is a good example of that policy.

      Ansly fled his home country of Haiti in 2014 after a vicious attack on him following a class he had taught in which he named a government official who, he told the class, worked with gangs to terrorize the population. Following the attack, he fled, first to Brazil, but uncomfortable there, left after a few months. In October 2016 he ended up at the California border and sought asylum.

      The officer who interviewed him found he had a significant fear of persecution and he was granted asylum. The government appealed and lost two times. But during the pendency of the appeals, he was held in a cell at ICE’s Geauga County Safety Center. He has been imprisoned therefor more than two years while his appeals have been considered. His petition for habeas corpus was heard on November 28th, and time will tell the outcome of his petition. Meanwhile, he remains incarcerated.

    • Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual

      Hours after almost everything I write (or even think), I come to detest the person who wrote the words. I do not often correct myself explicitly, although I try to overload what I do with the opposite from then on, until a happy liberal medium is struck. But this time I felt truly out of bounds in my criticism of the great Noam Chomsky, a man worthy of admiration and one of America’s greatest heroes.

      Yes, Chomsky may only be second place in American intellectualism, but that by no means makes him worthy of the attacks I put upon him. Originally I had penned a piece that just proclaimed my praise for Mertz. But openly declaring love for someone (let alone another man like Mertz) seemed all too radical for me, even as I pretended to be the most radical person in the room. I therefore buried my love in useless hate and sarcasm that took away from what could have been a pure love ballad for Mr. Mertz.

      First off, let me again proclaim my sincere love for Mertz. I am a heterosexual white male (very boring, especially for 2018). Every woman I have fallen for has driven me mad. One moment I am dreamy and nearly tripping over myself, the next, I am heartbroken and vow to never go near her again. Oddly enough Mertz has the same effect on me. I don’t know how to explain it, but when someone has that sort of effect on you, you must give them credit.


      With that all in mind, why not link the minds of Mertz and Chomsky as compliments, rather than competition. Mertz brings the beer, Chomsky the hot chocolate. Mertz brings the acid, Chomsky brings the sweaters. Or something like that. Obviously I don’t really know what I’m talking about. An image resembling Bound 2 of Chuck and Noam forms in my mind. Two minds on a motorcycle, feeling out each other’s vulnerabilities, the give and take of conversation, the styles bumping up against each other, at first awkwardly, but as each side gives, each side strips down the facade of our neoliberal reality, we find ourselves naked, but not afraid, for the warm touch of another human, that pulse that tells us—this is real, you are here, I am here, we are here—that becomes the only way we know that any of this even matters, it is the only way we can know that any of this will go on. The courage to stand naked, with only your truth in hand, with only who you really are in hand, and knowing at this moment, someone, anyone, will take this person, hear this person, hold this person. One time doing that means more than a million fake moments in our capitalist construct of a reality where we shied ourselves from the vulnerabilities of us and perhaps even more cruelly—of those we love. Mertz. Chomsky. In conversation. Not sure how well that all works on radio, but whatever.

      I find that I am most happy when I find a place for radical compassion in these days. Not as an excuse for hate, but as an panacea to it. We become so blinded by our consumed by our hatred for Trump, that we have no space left to confront the hatred by Trump.

    • Refugee Caravan: Lots of Coverage, Little Context

      The Central American refugee “caravan” came to dominate both the liberal and conservative news cycles during the 2018 midterm elections and beyond, with President Donald Trump’s continual proclamations on the issue making national news, setting the agenda on how the media report it.

    • In Plea Deal, Russian Admits Being a Secret Agent

      A Russian gun-rights activist admitted Thursday that she was a secret agent for the Kremlin who tried to infiltrate conservative U.S. political groups as Donald Trump rose to power.

      Maria Butina, 30, agreed to plead guilty to a conspiracy charge as part of a deal with federal prosecutors.

      “Guilty,” Butina said in a slight accent when asked how she wanted to plead. Dressed in a green jail uniform with her red hair pulled into a long ponytail, Butina spoke softly and mostly kept her eyes on the judge.

    • Argentina, the G20, and the mobilisations against it

      Against the catastrophic summit of the G20 held in Buenos Aires on November 30th and December 1st, the Confluencia Fuera G20 – FMI (Confluence against the G20 and the IMF) organised a week of action to repudiate the presence of the G20 and the IMF in Argentina and create spaces of convergence to continue building grassroots alternatives to neoliberalism.

      An achievement nothing short of inspirational considering the advance of neo-fascism in the continent, the increasing repression and criminalization of social movements, the militarization of territories and the exhaustion of a fragmented Left following Latin America’s progressive cycle.

    • 7-Year-Old Girl Dies of Dehydration, Shock After Border Patrol Arrest

      A 7-year-old girl who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border with her father last week died after being taken into the custody of the U.S. Border Patrol, federal immigration authorities confirmed Thursday.

      The Washington Post reports the girl died of dehydration and shock more than eight hours after she was arrested by agents near Lordsburg, New Mexico. The girl was from Guatemala and was traveling with a group of 163 people who approached agents to turn themselves in on Dec. 6.

      It’s unknown what happened to the girl during the eight hours before she started having seizures and was flown to an El Paso hospital.

      In a statement, Customs and Border Protection said the girl had not eaten or consumed water in several days.

    • ‘Indefensible’: 7-Year-Old Child’s ‘Horrific’ Death in DHS Custody Prompts Outrage

      After crossing the U.S.-Mexico border with her father and 163 other asylum seekers, the child was taken into CBP custody in New Mexico on December 6. She began having seizures hours later, and was taken to a hospital after she was found to have a 105.7 degree temperature. She died 24 hours later at the hospital of dehydration and shock, according to the Washington Post. The Post reported that it wasn’t clear if the girl had been given food and water after being taken into custody.

      The ACLU called the child’s death “indefensible” and urged Americans to stand firmly against the Trump administration’s inhumane immigration policy, which has included the separation of thousands of children from their parents and guardians as well as prolonged detentions for families.

    • America and The Last Ship

      Sometimes, like other people, I like to watch “Trash” TV to relax.

      Recently, I caught season 5 of “The Last Ship” which concerns a US navel ship saving the world (read US interests) in a post-Armageddon world.

      Leaving aside the fact that the show is completely preposterous there is, however, some interesting unintended aspects to it.

      The show is a master display in US nationalist propaganda as is so much other media that stems from US TV networks and Hollywood.

      Its major premise is that the US is untiringly working for the global good at every moment and under any conditions. This is of course laughable if not for the fact that the symbols and images that help construct this concept are still to this day unquestionably believed in by millions of people throughout the world.

      Tellingly, the nightmare scenario which is presented in the series is one of a resurgent Latin America that is politically united and hell bent on challenging American Hegemony and thus US interests. This situation is deemed morally intolerable as well as an existential threat and must be stopped at all costs.

      Interestingly, what is here presented as fantasy is in a deeper sense reality. American interests have thwarted Latin American interests since at least the unilateral proclamation of the Monroe Doctrine. But the show is presented in such a way as to make the question of American Hegemonic repression unseen.

    • Is California About to Execute an Innocent Man?

      Three hours and 42 minutes. That’s how close Kevin Cooper came in 2004 to being murdered by the state, strapped down to a gurney and poisoned via lethal injection. He had been placed in what he calls a “death chamber waiting room” and stripped of all his clothes before he was granted a stay of execution. Five years later, in an unprecedented dissent, five federal judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion that began: “The State of California may be about to execute an innocent man.”

      A rash of evidence would appear to substantiate their claim. In the opinion, Judge William A. Fletcher details multiple Brady disclosures—key information that had been ignored or actively suppressed that would compromise the case against Cooper. Yet thanks to Gov. Jerry Brown’s inaction, he is no closer to getting state-of-the-art DNA testing, despite the calls of California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris. Due to the passage of Prop 66, which dramatically shortens the death penalty appeals process, Cooper’s execution could be expedited without his ever receiving a fair hearing—this is in one of the bluest states in the country.

      “I’ve had years of post-traumatic stress disorder from having survived that near-death experience at the hands of these volunteer executioners, who are paid by the taxpayers of California,” he tells Robert Scheer from death row at San Quentin State Prison. “And what I wanted to say earlier … was this is America. And the death penalty is a part of America; it’s a tradition in America. This crime against humanity is nothing new.”

    • Left-Wing Disaster Relief Efforts Spread Goodwill for Socialism

      Hurricane Michael, the brutal storm that hit the Southeast US in October may have faded from the headlines, but its victims are still dealing with the impact. Eight weeks after the hurricane, hundreds of Florida residents are still living in tents because their homes were destroyed.

      “We are wondering why we feel abandoned — there’s no place to go,” Tammy Nichols, a woman camping out in a Panama City church recently told a local news station.

      Nichols and many other residents have consistently complained that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has not provided enough relief to the region and are worried that the long-term efforts to rebuild the area have largely been abandoned.

    • Paul Rosenberg on GOP Power Grabs, Mariana Viturro on Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

      This week on CounterSpin: You may have heard that in the midterm elections, Republicans in Wisconsin lost the positions of governor and state attorney general, and that their response has been to use their lame duck session to push through legislation to weaken the power of the governor and the attorney general. Outrageous alone, this is not the only instance of the GOP reacting to electoral results they don’t like with overt power grabs that override the express will of voters. These maneuvers define “anti-democratic”—and they rely on a lack of public awareness, abetted by a lack of media sunlight. Hoping to help shed that light is writer and activist Paul Rosenberg; he’s a senior editor for Random Lengths News, as well as a columnist at Al Jazeera English and a contributor at Salon.com. He’ll join us to talk about his recent roundup for Salon of what he calls an anti-democratic “red tide,” and what can be done to stop it.

    • Ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio Claims Three Publications Did $300 Million In Damage To His Pristine Reputation

      Ok, then. If you think the lawsuit itself is a much more buttoned-down affair, then you haven’t read a Larry Klayman complaint before. It starts with the usual stuff establishing standing before getting down to the focus of the complaint. The alleged defamation committed by all three defendants is referring to Joe Arpaio as a “convicted felon” when his only conviction was for a misdemeanor. Rolling Stone issued a correction but the other two defendants haven’t corrected their original misstatements. Hence the lawsuit — Arpaio and Klayman’s public attempt to stick it to the “Left Fake News media.”

      Here’s why Arpaio feels he’s owed $300 million for a couple of standing misstatements.

    • I Witnessed the Horror of Border Militarization, and Vow to Fight It

      I ‘ve just returned from the San Diego-Tijuana border where I had the honor of participating in “Love Knows No Borders” — an interfaith action sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and co-sponsored by a myriad of faith organizations from across the country. As a staffer for AFSC and a member of Jewish Voice for Peace (one of the many co-sponsoring organizations), I took a special pride in this interfaith mobilization, in which more than 400 people from across the country gathered to take a moral stand against our nation’s sacrilegious immigration system. I’m particularly gratified that the extensive media from our action could shine a light on the brutal reality at our increasingly militarized southern border.

      The date of the action (December 10) was symbolically chosen to take place on the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and served as the kick off to a nationwide week of action that will conclude on December 18, International Migrant’s Day. The action set three basic demands before the US government: to respect people’s human right to migrate, to end the militarization of border communities, and to end the detention and deportation of immigrants.

      Over the course of this past weekend, hundreds of participants streamed into San Diego for orientation and training. To conclude our preparation and as a precursor to the upcoming action, an interfaith service was held in the packed sanctuary of University Christian Church. As one of the Jewish leaders of the service, I noted that it was the eighth and final night of Hanukkah and invited the Jewish members of our delegation up to sing the blessings.

    • Agency Policing Tent City for Immigrant Kids Lacks Experience Investigating Sex Crimes Involving Children

      The federal agency responsible for primary policing duties at a controversial tent city housing thousands of immigrant children in Tornillo, Texas, doesn’t have experience investigating child sex offense cases, despite evidence that such assaults are occurring within the nation’s shelter system.

      The tent city, built on a patch of federal land near the border in El Paso County, has been a focal point of criticism and controversy as the number of children housed there has ballooned in recent months to about 2,800.

      Late last month, as part of a larger investigation into child safety at the shelters, the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services warned that the Trump administration had waived FBI fingerprint background checks for employees at the emergency tent shelter and had hired “dangerously” few mental health counselors.

      To handle any potential crimes at the tent city, the government has assigned the largely obscure Federal Protective Service.

      The chief mission of the FPS is to protect federal buildings, such as the Census Bureau and the Social Security Administration, which it mostly does through its force of 13,500 private security guards. The agency also employs 1,000 law enforcement officers, who conduct site assessments, handle bomb threats and investigate any crimes, such as assaults and burglaries, that occur on federal property.

    • Attacks on indigenous rights defenders should not be ignored

      The attempts at political violence that took place before the US elections have almost been forgotten now and the country has moved on to other controversies. The perpetrator of the attempted bombings was caught within a few days. In the wealthiest nations, you see, political threats and violence are addressed and prosecuted.

      In the Middle East, the suspected murder of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate has generated much outrage and Western governments are discussing how to hold the Saudi government accountable while every facet of the story still receives coverage.

      Yet there was very little reporting on the assassination of Julian Carrillo in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, which happened just three weeks after Khashoggi’s murder, and even less focus on the search for his assassins. Carrillo’s people, the Raramuri (or Tarahumara), have been facing increasing threats: from drug cartels, illegal logging and land-grabbing mining operations, along with a climate-change-fueled drought. Carrillo was shot shortly after his community complained to state authorities about a mining concession granted on their lands without consent.

      Similarly, the August murder of Masumbuko Birindwa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), also received scant attention. Birindwa was returning home after negotiating unsuccessfully for the release of four humanitarian workers kidnapped by militia in DRC’s South Kivu province.

    • 6-Year-Old Separated From His Father Tells Judge He Wants to Go Home

      Nearly an hour into Judge Anibal Martinez’s afternoon immigration docket, the bailiff called out Wilder Maldonado’s name. The 6-year-old hadn’t made a fuss about the wait, quietly coloring pictures of animals. Now, he set aside his blue crayon, tiptoed up to the defendant’s table and took a long, deep breath.

      Wilder Hilario Maldonado Cabrera, chubby-cheeked with a toothless grin, has done a lot of waiting. He and his father left grinding poverty El Salvador for the United States in June, but they were caught by Border Patrol agents after they illegally entered the country. The agents then separated the pair — along with nearly 3,000 others — as part of the administration’s zero-tolerance policy. Faced with sweeping condemnations, the administration retreated from the policy and, led by immigrant advocates and lawyers, began putting the families back together. Wilder’s case is one of the last that remains unresolved.

      Since their separation, Wilder has been living in a temporary foster home in San Antonio while his father is held in an immigration detention facility less than an hour’s drive away. Wilder has spent the last six months — one-twelfth of his life — in limbo, waiting for his father’s plea for asylum to work its way through the system and determine whether the two of them could start a new life in the United States, or be sent back to the one they left.

      Part of Wilder’s waiting involved coming to Martinez’s court. Wilder was last here a few weeks ago, right before Thanksgiving. That day, he was striking, wearing a hat stitched with two googly eyes and a red yarn mohawk. This time, he dressed without flourish, in a dark denim jacket with gray sleeves. Last time, he appeared alone, without a lawyer. This time, his father’s lawyer, Thelma O. Garcia, appeared on both the father and son’s behalf.

    • Police Drones Expand as Media Shrink

      The NYPD, the nation’s largest police force, announced this week that they had purchased over a dozen flying robots to fly over Gotham, while promising that the new technology wouldn’t be used for any of the illegal spying shenanigans the police department has been caught up in time and time again. The announcement, however, was awkwardly timed, as the police department had already purchased drones—last December.

      Instead of asking the kinds of questions one might expect for a scandal-plagued agency obtaining expansive new surveillance powers—Why did you wait a year to announce the move? Was the public consulted? Are there oversight mechanisms to guard against misuse?—most media outlets questioned nothing, quoted generously from police officials and (at best) sprinkled in few concerns from legal organizations.

      ABC 7 News (12/5/18) broadcast live coverage of the NYPD press conference, where its viewers were given front-row seats to police officials providing live demos of the drones, including their thermo-imaging video capabilities. While the scene was eerily reminiscent of parts of Paul Verhoeven’s classic 1987 dystopian satire Robocop, media coverage was more casual than spectacular, as it appeared to try to allay the concerns of the public.

    • Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest

      Imagine Western reaction if a British or American citizen had been detained in Russia or China then subjected to months of solitary confinement followed by being put on trial for less than five minutes without legal representation or an interpreter, and finally sentenced to life imprisonment.

      The media in Britain and the US would have gone berserk with self-righteous fury and demanded that drastic and economically draconian measures be taken. The government in London would even have taken time off from their futile Brexit fandangos and demanded an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to condemn the dastardly treatment of an innocent person, and no doubt there would have been US Congress demands for sanctions, along with portentous declarations from politicians and commentators about free speech and violations of human dignity.

      On the other hand, in the case of the torment inflicted on British academic Matthew Hedges in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), followed by his conviction and sentencing on November 21, the UK’s response was mild to the point of being grovelingly placatory. Prime Minister May told Parliament that “We are deeply disappointed and concerned at today’s verdict. We are raising it with the Emirati authorities at the highest level.” The US was totally uncritical, which is not surprising as the official State Department line is “The United States and the UAE enjoy strong bilateral cooperation on a full range of issues including defense, non-proliferation, trade, law enforcement, energy policy, and cultural exchange. The two countries work together to promote peace and security, support economic growth, and improve educational opportunities in the region and around the world. UAE ports host more US Navy ships than anywhere else outside the United States.”

      Certainly, as reported by the BBC, orders were given five days later to release Mr Hedges, because the Emirates “issued a pardon as part of a series of orders on the country’s National Day anniversary”. There was no apology of any sort to the man or his family, and the UAE declared he was “100 percent a secret service operative.”

    • Kansas Supreme Court Says Cops Can Search A House Without A Warrant As Long As They Claim They Smelled Marijuana

      The Kansas Supreme Court has just given cops a pass to treat residents’ homes like cars on public roads. Being in a car greatly diminishes your Fourth Amendment protections and many a warrantless search has been salvaged by an officer (or a dog) testifying they “smelled marijuana” before tearing the car apart.

      Unlike a car on a public road, a person’s home has traditionally been given the utmost in Fourth Amendment protections. The bar to search a home is higher than the bar to search a vehicle. Cops aren’t supposed to be walking up to windows to peek inside. Nor at they supposed to hang out by the door, hoping to catch a whiff of something illegal.

      But that’s exactly what they’ll be able to do now. If they can find a reason to approach someone’s home, all they need to do is declare they smelled marijuana to get past the front door without a warrant. This completely subjective form of “evidence” can be used as probable cause to effect a warrantless search.

    • When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?

      When, in a December 2016 column for The Hill, I accused the New York Times, the venerable “Gray Lady” of American journalism, of violating basic journalistic ethics in its reporting on the arrest of a patently mentally ill man in D.C. — and then, the Washington Post’s media critic Eric Wemple wrote his own column a week later piggybacking on my complaints (“NYT, D.C. corrections department brawl over logistics of Pizzagate”) — I was sure something more would come of it.

      But, because the press, even blue-ribbon progressive newspapers like the Times and the Post, are ultimately more concerned with printing the news — and scooping the competition — than the ethics of how their information is obtained, even when fundamental constitutional rights of the accused are at stake, prospects for reform do not appear promising.

    • Super Injunction Silences News About Vatican Official’s Child Molestation Conviction, And That’s Bullshit

      We’ve written in the past about things like “super injunctions” in the UK and elsewhere that often put a huge and near absolute gag order on writing about a famous person enmeshed in some sort of scandal, and apparently Australia has such a thing as well — and it’s now scaring off tons of publications from writing about the fact that George Pell, the Vatican’s CFO and often called the “3rd most powerful person in the Vatican” was convicted on all charges that he sexually molested choir boys in Australia in the 1990s. However, the press is barred from reporting on it based on one of those gag orders.

    • Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual

      Richard Falk: Actually, my first awareness of Noam Chomsky was in the late 1950s while I was teaching at Ohio State University. I had a smart linguist friend who told me about the revolutionary work of a young scholar at MIT who was completely transforming the field by the work he had done while still a graduate student on ‘structural linguistics’ and ‘generative grammar.’ As I remember our conversation nothing was mentioned about Chomsky’s politics.

      Later on in the early 1960s I continued to hear of Chomsky as the great linguist, but also about Chomsky as the militant anti-Vietnam War activist. We met in the mid-1960s as a result of common interests. We were both deeply involved in opposing escalations of American involvement in Vietnam, and indeed to any involvement at all. At that point Chomsky was strongly supporting draft resistance in addition to speaking at anti-war events. I was mainly engaged during the 1960s in academic debates and teach-ins devoted to questions on the legality of the American role in Vietnam, and after 1965, often focused on the decision by the Lyndon Johnson presidency to extend the war to North Vietnam.

      We interacted quite frequently in this decade, and stayed at each other’s homes in Lexington and Princeton when we spoke in the other’s venue. I remember Chomsky insisting in response to an invitation from the Princeton Philosophy Department that he would only give the series of lectures on linguistics that were requested if they would also arrange parallel formats for him to speak on his political concerns. He apparently frequently made such a condition, and because he was a star attraction, it was almost always accepted.

      I found the Princeton lectures on theoretical tensions within the field of linguistics to be not only abstruse, but also quite memorable from a performance perspective. The first of Chomsky’s linguistic lectures was held in one of the largest auditoriums at Princeton. Before Noam was introduced the hall was filled to capacity in excited anticipation of being enlightened by whatever Chomsky’s had to say. Chomsky’s style and delivery were highly technical, presupposed a fairly sophisticated understanding of the complex issues at stake, and was way above the head of 90% of the audience, including myself.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Big Telecom Wants To Tax Netflix To Pay For Broadband Upgrades ISPs Refuse To Deploy Themselves

      Last year, FCC boss Ajit Pai repeatedly hyped the creation of a new “Broadband Deployment Advisory Council” (BDAC) purportedly tasked with coming up with creative solutions to the nation’s broadband problem(s). Unfortunately, reports just as quickly began to circulate that this panel was little more than a who’s who of entrenched telecom operators with a vested interest in protecting the status quo. The panel has yet to really offer up a meaningful proposal, but it has been rocked by several resignations due to cronyism, and at least one member who was arrested for fraud.


      This mantra was long rooted in telecom envy of Silicon Valley online ad revenues, and a belief by telecom executives that they’re somehow “owed” a cut of those revenues. Over time it evolved into endless claims by telecom sector allies, think tankers, and other cronies that companies like Google and Netflix were somehow getting a “free ride” on incumbent ISP networks, despite having invested billions into their own global transit and network operations. Over time it became a global telecom executive mantra of sorts, even if it never made coherent sense.

      People forget, but it’s this telecom industry attempt to “double dip” that truly launched the modern net neutrality debate just about fifteen years ago. That point has gotten lost as ISP efforts to extract unearned rents have gotten more elaborate over the years, but at its heart the fight has always been about monopoly ISPs trying to offload network construction and operation costs off to somebody else, while already earning fat revenues thanks to limited competition.

    • FCC Does Wireless Carriers Another Favor By Reclassifying Text Messages

      Critics, however, charge that this was another example of the FCC’s motives not being made entirely clear to the public at large.

      As we’ve noted previously, this particular debate over text message classification began some time back, after Verizon decided to ban a pro-choice group named NARAL Pro-Choice America from sending text messages to Verizon Wireless customers that had opted in to receiving them. Ever since then, consumer groups, worried that cellular carriers would use their power as gatekeepers to stifle certain voices, have been urging the FCC to declare text messages a “telecommunications service,” making it illegal for carriers to ban such select SMS services.

    • How We’re Getting Net Neutrality Back

      A year ago today, the Federal Communications Commission under Chairman Ajit Pai made one of the worst, most abnormal decisions in the agency’s history.

      It ignored public consensus and voted to strip away the Commission’s authority to protect internet users from companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon that want to block, throttle or de-prioritize the online content people want to see.

      The Pai FCC justified that decision with the bogus claim that the strong open-internet rules adopted in 2015 were hurting broadband investment and speeds. Powered solely by these lies, Pai ripped up not just the nondiscrimination rights embodied in the Net Neutrality rules, but the entire legal foundation for the FCC to promote broadband deployment, affordability and privacy.

  • DRM

    • Sony Released Its Playstation Classic Console In A Way That Makes It Eminently Hackable

      Gamers of a certain age will be very familiar with the insanity from roughly 2010 that was Sony’s reaction to having its Playstation 3 console hacked to return functionality that Sony initially advertised and then rescinded via a firmware update. While PS3 owners cheered on the hack, as many of them loved the function that Sony took away, Sony instead began a full on legal war with the Geohot, the hobbyist who gave users what they wanted. The whole thing was a complete mess that made Sony look awful and ultimately resulted in the Playstation 4 of course not having the function that users wanted, and the console being much, much more locked down at release.

      I’m going to take a moment again to remind you that this all occurred only roughly 8 years ago. Why? Well, because Sony recently released its Playstation Classic retro console… and apparently made it very, very easy to hack.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Boston Scientific awarded $35m in patent case

      A Delaware jury finds Edwards Lifesciences infringed a transcatheter heart valve technology patent, which was ruled invalid by the PTAB earlier this year

      A District of Delaware jury has awarded Boston Scientific $35 million against Edwards Lifesciences in a case involving multiple patents related to transcatheter heart valve technology.

    • Patent case: Actavis Group PTC EHF v ICOS Corporation, United Kingdom

      The Court of Appeal overturned the Patent Court’s first instance decision concerning the validity of one of ICOS’s patents (licensed to Eli Lilly) covering a 1 to 5mg dosage form of tadalafil (Cialis®) for oral administration up to a maximum of 5mg per day for the treatment of sexual dysfunction.

    • Patent case: Tretkurbeleinheit, Germany

      The FCJ confirmed that a new means of challenge based on the technical content of a document filed for the first time in the course of appeal proceedings is only to be admitted under the provisions of Section 531 paragraph 2 numbers 1 to 3 of the German Code of Civil Procedure, irrespective of whether the document’s effective date and content are undisputed. The same applies to a new means of defense.

    • CJEU’s Advocate General in Abraxis (C-443/17) denies SPCs for new formulations of old drugs and questions Neurim approach

      A quarter-century after supplementary protection certificates (SPCs) were introduced in the European Union, there are still a number of unresolved questions as to which types of products are, in principle, eligible for SPC protection.

      One further important piece in this puzzle will be provided by the CJEU’s forthcoming decision in the pending referral Abraxis Bioscience (C-443/17), which addresses the question whether SPCs can be granted for new formulations of previously approved active ingredients, where the marketing authorization relied upon is the first authorization within the scope of the basic patent. This CJEU decision could significantly enlarge the number of newly approved medicinal products that can benefit from SPC protection.

    • Dutch Court of Appeal Mixes Cocktail of CJEU SPC Case Law

      In a recent decision The Hague Court of Appeal mixes a cocktail of SPC case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union. The ingredients: 1/3 Sanofi, 1/3 Boehringer and 1/3 Gilead and a sniff of Georgetown. Shake well with the skilled person’s common general knowledge and the basic patent’s description (warning: do not add post-published evidence). The result: an obvious combination product and a combination-SPC that should not have been granted after the grant of a mono-SPC for a product that constitutes the subject-matter of the invention covered by the basic patent. The taste: bitter for the SPC holder.

    • EU Committees Amend SPC Manufacturing Waiver, Push Access To Generics, Biosimilars

      The European Parliamentary Committees on Health and Trade have each voted in recent weeks to adopt amendments to the proposed Special Protection Certificate (SPC) manufacturing waiver, an intellectual property exception for the EU generic and biosimilar industry. The amendments include provisions that push the waiver toward increasing EU generic and biosimilar industry competitiveness in EU markets, and improving access for EU patients to affordable medicines. The waiver and amendments still have several hurdles to go, including a vote by the Legal Affairs Committee planned for January.

    • “Biopiracy” On The High Seas? Countries Launch Negotiation Towards A New International Legally Binding Instrument On Marine Genetic Resources In Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction [Ed: They are promoting the propaganda and lie that is "biopiracy". Stop using the term. The only real pirates are those who spread the term "biopiracy."]
    • ITC decides to review initial determination that Intel-powered iPhones infringe one Qualcomm patent

      Yesterday afternoon the United States International Trade Commission (“USITC” or just “ITC”), a U.S. trade agency with quasi-judicial powers, issued a determination to review meanwhile-retired Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Thomas B. Pender’s initial determination according to which Intel-powered iPhones infringe one Qualcomm patent (U.S. Patent No. 9,535,490 on “power[-]saving techniques in computing devices”).

      A headline I read this morning suggested that this is a “second shot” for Qualcomm to prevail, which may be attributable to spin doctoring and is fake news just like a story according to which Apple CEO Tim Cook was preparing a 2020 presidential run (paid for by Qualcomm, presumably in an effort to adversely impact Mr. Cook’s relationship with President Trump). The determination to conduct a review is actually a setback–not progress–for Qualcomm if, which gained nothing whatsoever yesterday if one analyzes carefully what the ITC actually decided and compares it to what it could have decided in the alternative.

      First, as I explained on November 2, a fundamental distinction must be made between an initial determation (ID) on the merits (whether a valid patent is infringed) and a recommended determination (RD) on remedy and bond. The ALJ issues both simultaneously, but the ID (or any given part of it) becomes the final Commission determination if the Commission–the six-member decision-making body at the top of the organization–decides not to review it, while the RD is just what its name says (a recommendation) and the Commission must make a determination on those questions whether or not anyone files a petition (in fact, it’s not even possible to formally “petition” for a “review” of the RD because only decisions, not recommendations, can be “reviewed”; a recommendation can, at best, be adopted).

    • Judge Koh rejects Qualcomm’s bid to introduce new evidence related to Intel’s success with Apple, Qualcomm’s new 5G agreements

      In formal legal terms (FRE 403), Judge Koh concluded that allowing Qualcomm to take and present further evidence would unfairly prejudice the FTC, and that such prejudice would be outweighed by the alleged probative value of anything Qualcomm would inject into the case. In her efforts to balance different considerations, the judge wasn’t persuaded by precedents Qualcomm pointed to, especially not by other cases in which several years had passed between a discovery cutoff date and a trial. She also points to the fact that she actually did allow various out-of-time depositions because of witnesses’s travel and for similar reasons. And she notes that there will always be something that happens post-discovery, so no case can ever go to trial (at least not to one that would be fair to the opposing party) unless courts exercise their discretion at some point to close the door. And in this case, the deluge of motions that Judge Koh faced (her ruling doesn’t say “deluge,” but contains an impressive list) between the cutoff date and the trial doesn’t suggest that the period between the cutoff date and the trial was longer than what the court really needed. While I’ve sometimes had different opinions, especially on economic issues and the (in)validity of patents-in-suit, I can say from my vantage point as a litigation watcher that I’m not aware of any U.S. judge who would be more efficient than her.

    • Trademarks

      • EU General Court Refuses To Allow St. Andrews Links To Trademark ‘St. Andrews’ For All The Things

        For those of us who have fallen in love with the world’s most personally infuriating sport, golf, the name The St. Andrews Links Golf Course is of course quite notable. The famed “Cathedral of Golf” also happens to be located in a town of the same name, St. Andrews in Scotland. St. Andrews is a fairly common term in the naming of locations and famous landmarks. Despite this, The Saint Andrews Links went to the EU’s Intellectual Property Office to request it be granted a trademark for “St. Andrews” in roughly every category, including broadly in apparel and sports goods. When that request was denied in 2016 on grounds that location names have high bars to clear to get trademarks and are therefore relatively rarely granted, St. Andrews Links took its case to Luxembourg on appeal.

    • Copyrights

      • Facing Criticism from All Sides, EU’s Terrible Copyright Amendments Stumble into the New Year

        Today, EU negotiators in Strasbourg struggled to craft the final language of the Copyright in the Single Digital Market Directive, in their last possible meeting for 2019. They failed, thanks in large part to the Directive’s two most controversial clauses: Article 11, which requires paid licenses for linking to news stories while including more than a word or two; and Article 13, which will lead to the creation of error-prone copyright censorship algorithms that will block users from posting anything that has been identified as a copyrighted work — even if that posting is lawful. This means that the Directive will not be completed, as was expected, under Austria’s presidency of the European Union. The negotiations between the European Parliament, representatives of the member states, and the European Commission (called “trilogues”) will continue under the Romanian presidency, in late January.

        The controversy over Article 13 and Article 11 has not diminished since millions of Europeans voiced their opposition to the proposals and their effect on the Internet earlier this year. Even supporters and notional beneficiaries have now grown critical of the proposals. An open letter signed by major rightsholder groups, including movie companies and sports leagues, asks the EU to exempt their products from Article 13 altogether, and suggest it should only apply to the music industry’s works. Meanwhile, the music industry wrote their own open letter, saying that he latest proposed text on Article 13 won’t solve their problems. These rightsholders join the world’s most eminent computer scientists, including the inventors of the Internet and the Web, who denounced the whole approach and warned of the irreparable harm it will do to free expression and the hope of a fair, open Internet. More than four million Europeans have signed a petition opposing Article 13.

        The collective opposition is unsurprising. Months of closed-door negotiations and corporate lobbying have actually made the proposals worse: even less coherent, and more riddled with irreconcilable contradictions. The way that the system apportions liability (with stiff penalties for allowing a user to post something that infringes copyright, and no consequences for censoring legitimate materials) leads inexorably to filters. And as recent experiences with Tumblr’s attempt to filter adult material have shown, algorithms are simply not very good at figuring out when a user has broken a rule, let alone a rule as technical and fact-intensive as copyright.

      • No Agreement Made On EU Copyright Directive, As Recording Industry Freaks Out About Safe Harbors Too

        Today was the latest set of “Trilogue” negotiations for the EU Copyright Directive, between the EU Council, the EU Commission and the EU Parliament. When the trilogues were first scheduled, this was the final negotiation and the plan was to hammer out a final agreement by today. As we’ve been reporting lately, however, it still appeared that there was massive disagreement about what should be in Article 13 (in particular). And so, today’s meetings ended with no deal in place, and a new trilogue negotiation set for January 14th. As MEP Julia Reda reports, most negotiators are still pushing for mandatory upload filters, so there’s still a huge uphill battle ahead — but the more regulators realize how disastrous such a provision would be for the public, the better.

        Also worrisome, Reda notes that after the Parliament rejected Article 13 back in July, MEP Axel Voss agreed to add an exception for small businesses that helped get the proposal approved in September. Yet, in today’s negotiations, he agreed to drop that small business exception, meaning that if you run a small platform that accepts user generated content, you might need to cross the EU off your list of markets should Article 13 pass.

      • Four Million EU Voters Sign Call Against Upload Filters, Protection Of ‘Snippets’

        Ahead of the 5th trilogue meeting on the future copyright regulation between the rapporteurs of the European Parliament, member states and the European Commission on 13 December in Strasbourg, France, copyright activists collected over 4 million signatories to a petition to amend the draft legislation. Meanwhile, a court decision in Germany today puts use of its auxiliary copyright law for press publishers in question.

      • 12 Best Sites To Read Free Books Online And Download Legally In 2019

        There is no friend as loyal as a book — Ernest Hemingway

        Apart from serving as a constant companion in solitude, books serve as food for the mind by stimulating our imagination and creativity. However, buying a new book each time can burn a hole in your pockets. Thankfully we have lots of free books online, ready to be read or downloaded without costing you a dime!

      • German courts cannot apply ancillary copyright law – AG opinion

        A top EU adviser has told the CJEU it should stop German courts from applying the country’s ancillary copyright rules in a case involving Google because the EU Commission was not informed of when the legislation was introduced

        Germany’s new copyright rules cannot be applied by its courts because its government did not tell the EU Commission about the law’s introduction, according to a top EU adviser.

      • Top EU Court’s Advocate General Says German Link Tax Should Not Be Applied — But On A Technicality

        As numerous Techdirt posts have explained, there are two really problematic areas with the EU’s proposed copyright directive. Article 13, which will require pretty much every major online site to filter uploaded content, and Article 11, the so-called “link tax”, more formally known as an “ancillary copyright”. It’s yet another example of the copyright ratchet — the fact that laws governing copyright only ever get stronger, in favor of the industry, never in the other direction, in favor of the public. We know for sure that Article 11 will be a disaster because it’s already been tried twice — in Germany and Spain — and failed both times.

        Despite that fact, the German and Spanish laws are still on the law books in their respective countries. VG Media, the German collective management organization handling copyright on behalf of press publishers and others lost no time in bringing a case against Google. It alleged that the US Internet company had used text excerpts, images and videos from press and media material produced by VG Media’s members without paying a fee.

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