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01.31.19

Fake Software Patents, Patent Trolls and Assault on Generic Medicine in Europe

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:55 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Now that the European Patent Convention is effectively abolished (EPO President António Campinos does not obey it) the future is grim

EPO escalation

Summary: The state of the European patent system is starting to resemble that of the United States about a decade ago; the status quo is seriously detrimental to all except lawyers and aggressors (at the expense of public health, science and technology)

THE escalation or the escalating severity of EPO problems isn’t too hard to see; without any sense of shame, for instance, the patent microcosm is promoting illegal software patents (not allowed in Europe) in private (echo chamber event where no dissenting views are permitted/invited). As revealed in their tweets (with photos): “Huge thank you to @Copytwilight, Ana Andrijevic, @MichelJaccard, @bastianbest and @PHeckeler for sharing their views this afternoon at the “AI & Intellectual Property” track @appliedmldays.”

Watchtroll, similarly, promotes software patents ‘dressed up’ as “AI” and even as "Blockchain". “Techniques for Patenting Blockchain in Europe, the United States, China and Japan” is the latest output from this site, which acts more or less as a front for patent trolls.

“This system is systematically discriminatory (against the small).”Europe has attracted quite an influx of such trolls, as measured by the number of cases filed, especially in Germany.

“Trolls in Dusseldorf, the Eastern District of Europe. At least VW is a large company, they can afford litigation, which is not the case for most of us, small companies,” Benjamin Henrion wrote, citing a report from Mathieu Klos about the patent trolls infestation in Europe. The gist of it:

Germany’s largest carmaker Volkswagen faces the next lawsuit from an non-practicing [troll] entity. Dutch company Innovative Foundry Technologies filed an infringement suit against VW, Ford and Texas Instuments at the Regional Court Düsseldorf before Christmas. The patent covers a special chip manufactured by Texas Instruments that VW and Ford install in the infotainment modules of their cars.

There probably would be out-of-court settlements if the targeted companies were smaller. This system is systematically discriminatory (against the small). As we noted earlier this month (see “The EPO’s Low Patent Quality Can Kill the European Software Industry and Kill People Too” and what we wrote yesterday about cancer patients), poor people literally die because of patents like these. Yesterday Selin Sinem Erciyas (Gün + Partners) wrote in IAM (blog of patent trolls) about a Turkish generic company coming under attack from likely bogus European Patents granted by examiners under pressure and in a rush. Now they’re reassessing (belatedly). In her own words:

A Turkish generic company filed an invalidation action against a leading US pharmaceutical originator company in Turkey and requested the invalidation of its patent – a Turkish validation of a European patent granted by the EPO. The opposition proceedings were still pending before the EPO at the filing date of the invalidation action in Turkey. The patent owner subsequently requested a delay of the national proceedings, stating that the patent claims could still be amended during the opposition and appeal proceedings before the EPO.

Well, opposition and appeal proceedings can be slow and overburdened. The number of pending appeals, for example, is said to have skyrocketed to around 10,000. This is insane. Team Battistelli planned to just get rid of these appeal proceedings, replacing the Boards of Appeal (BoA) with the UPC. Tom Lorkin of Dehns (Team UPC) has just remarked on the dependent and afraid BoA trying to determine patent scope while illicitly ruled and intimidated by abusive EPO management, even in gross defiance of the EPC that governs this entire framework. Lorkin mentions T990/96 and T1085/13, which can in turn relate to medicine, too. To quote:

In what may come as a welcome departure from existing practice, an EPO board of appeal in decision T1085/13 has clarified the conditions under which patents can be granted for known compounds at higher grades of purity.

A leading case concerning purity of materials has been T990/96 where it was held that a document disclosing a compound for the first time ordinarily makes the compound available in all desired grades of purity. EPO practice has been to view the earlier disclosure as novelty destroying to a later claim in which the same compound is claimed at a higher purity. To take an example, a document discloses a new dye, which is manufactured in 90% purity. The position based on T990/96 is to assume that that dye can be purified to all levels of purity by conventional methods and so is made available to the public in all desired grades of purity. Consequently, a later application claiming that dye in 95+% purity would lack novelty over the earlier disclosure.

This EPO board of appeal is certainly aware that it enjoys no independence from the rogue management of the Office; so what can be made of its decisions? The EPO boards of appeal generally complain about this repeatedly.

“Who benefit from this? Certainly not Europe.”What we’re seeing more evidence of, over time, is the impact of the Battistelli era; patent trolls, software patents, invalidation of European Patents in courts and lack of access to life-saving medicine. Who benefit from this? Certainly not Europe.

President Campinos Maintains Battistelli’s Abusive Sanctions, EPO Staff Increasingly Losing Faith and Hope in Him

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:47 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The more things change…

The Clintons, Battistelli and Campinos

Summary: Elisabeth Hardon, Laurent Prunier, Aurélien Pétiaud, and Michael Lund named as examples of EPO injustice; nothing is being done to actually rectify injustice, abuse and corruption (never mind technical problems, e.g. those associated with deterioration of patent quality), so one must conclude that Battistelli and Campinos are “birds of a feather”

THE EPO no longer speaks about patent quality; instead it speaks of “quality of patent services” or something along those lines (that typically means just speed); these semantic tricks are intentional. As some EPO observers have already pointed out, the Office uses equally misleading terms to allude to injustice and corruption (terms like “climate”, “social” and other euphemistic nonsense). This is so typical of the new President. It’s an exercise in PR, nothing else…

“Both insiders and outsiders are coming to grips with the fact that nothing has really changed.”Thankfully, fewer people can still be fooled by this. Both insiders and outsiders are coming to grips with the fact that nothing has really changed.

The latest comments about the European Patent Office (EPO) over in Kluwer Patent Blog (some were mentioned here earlier this week) are revealing. Staff already knows who or what kind of President it’s deal with: Another Battistelli, not an alternative to Battistelli. They break the law routinely and nobody stops them looting the organisation (its budget) because there’s no real oversight. They’re above the law.

Some people wonder why we keep stock of these comments, sometimes even exhaustively. Seeing the level of censorship at sites like Kluwer Patent Blog and IP Kat (it even zapped an entire comments thread — about 40 comments about the incoming President), it’s all about preservation of voices. “Well done Roy,” one reader told us yesterday, “excellent article! By the way, here is another one from IPPro Patents, published this morning.”

EPO insiders habitually get in touch and they want to be heard; they can only be heard anonymously (for fear of punishment) and sites/blogs like Kluwer Patent Blog and IP Kat have made it no secret that they censor comments (they even censored some of mine!). Sometimes the comments get deleted even after they’re published (i.e. it’s not a simple matter of “moderation”). The above-mentioned article comes from “IPPro Magazine” and the latter part of this article, linked to by SUEPO yesterday, explains just how much of a failure the new EPO President António Campinos really is. The corruption and abuse persist. And software patents are being granted in Europe along with other patents banned by courts, the law, EPC etc. Here’s what the staff committee says: (it’s not allowed to speak to staff directly, as Campinos announced new oppressive rules that severely limit communications)

The CSC explained it was interested to hear from other stakeholders and asked to be informed of their contributions to the consultation. It requested that Campinos discuss the input and ideas of the new management team with the CSC, as it would be “in the best interest of the office if staff could also support the strategic plan that will be presented to the administrative council”.

Alongside the open letter, the CSC also sent Campinos its contribution to the strategic plan of the EPO.

The contribution focuses on policies that will be “good for the office and staff from all perspectives”, with a view to restoring the rule of law inside the EPO, contribute to a discussion on the European Patent Organisation’s governance and improve the EPO’s “currently damaged reputation”.

In its contribution, the CSC gave its own analysis of the current situation at the EPO. It said that Campinos has been “mandated to restore social dialogue” at the office and that his “statements of intent and his hands-on approach to addressing problems are promising”, but to date, “little has concretely changed in the office’s way of addressing the concerns of staff on the social front”.

The CSC said its goal is to re-establish the reputation of the EPO as an attractive employer and patent granting authority that is reliably able to consistently deliver patents with a high presumption of validity.

It explained: “Reaching this goal will allow the office to reach comprehensive long-term sustainability—that is, not only financially, but also with regard for the human component.”

“The greatest asset of the EPO is its staff. It is not enough for management to just acknowledge this; they must live it, and not manage solely by judging staff members by unrealistic and inflationary performance targets.”

“Staff members need working conditions allowing them to respect the provisions of the European Patent Convention.”

The CSC continued: “Staff must be motivated by positive measures encouraging them to work at, perform well at, develop at, and stay at the EPO. Staff should not be persecuted, threatened and put under continuous pressure and/or treated under the ‘challenging people’ doctrine.”

“Staff representation is ready to work together with EPO administration in addressing the issues as set out in this paper and to ensure that any further reforms to our working conditions are done in the interest of staff and office alike and are legally sound.”

“Concerned observer,” who habitually leaves comments critical of EPO management, has meanwhile left the following comment:

I find it astonishing that the Member States appear to be more concerned about upholding the EPO’s immunity than they are about the fact that the EPO’s employees are being deprived of fundamental rights afforded to them under EU law.

More astonishing still are the difficulties in identifying a legal mechanism by which the fundamental rights of EPO employees can be upheld. Whilst the complaint of SUEPO to the ECtHR should have succeeded in this aim, it seems that this went nowhere (though there is precious little information on that case, the comments of ECHR President Guido Raimondi indicate that at least he views the immunity of international organisations as being more important than the fundamental human rights of those working for such organisations).

Then there is the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU… and this is where things get a little weird. Despite defining FUNDAMENTAL rights, the Charter apparently applies to Member States “only when they are implementing EU law”. That obviously makes things a little tricky when the provisions concerned are national (or, in the case of the EPO, international) laws that do not obviously “read on to” a provision of EU law.

So it seems that, because both the Dutch Supreme Court and the ECtHR appear to prioritize immunity of an international organisation above even fundamental human rights, there is a “loophole” in the legal system in Europe that is being actively defended by the Member States but that is providing the management of organisations such as the EPO with carte blanche to disregard not only the letter but also the spirit all EU and national laws, no matter how fundamental or important. Worse still, in the case of the EPO, even clear breaches of the EPO’s own statute either go unpunished by the AC or are retroactively “rubber stamped”.

I agree with you that this situation is unlikely to change for as long as that lucrative stream of renewal fees keeps flowing to the Member States. Those that effectively provide the funds that keep this all going (ie the EPO staff, who grant the patents that lead to the fees, and the general public, who pay increased prices as a result of more patents of dubious validity being granted) either have no say in the matter or are oblivious to what is going on. With this in mind, it is no wonder that international organisations such as the EPO have been acting in ways that markedly depart from the ideals to which one might hope they would aspire. The absence of any effective legal remedies makes it perfectly possible, perhaps even likely, that international organisations will be captured by “bad actors” that seek only to line their own pockets and that get away with doing so by effectively stuffing the mouths of their overseers with gold. There are simply no disincentives to acting in this way, and no real legal consequences even if one is caught doing so.

So far, so depressing. However, there is one option that might be worth exploring, namely identifying a provision of EU law that “reads on to” activities of the EPO and that might provide a “hook” for national courts to establish whether those activities comply with EU law in the light of (eg Articles 28, 30 and/or 47 of) the CFREU. I, for one, would be very interested to see how the courts would deal with such a case. This is not least because of the obligation under Article 267 TFEU to refer questions regarding the interpretation of EU laws to the Court of Justice … which might just have something to say about Member States of the EU signing up to international organisations that do not comply with even the most basic of provisions of EU law.

The same person later added:

Upon reflection, I should perhaps not be so surprised that the Supreme Court of the Netherlands (a country which benefits financially from hosting many international organisations that rely upon privileges and immunities) and the President of the ECtHR (which is itself an international organisation affording priviliges and immunities, particularly to its President) prize so highly the immunities afforded to international organisations.

Nevertheless, I still find it extremely disturbing how such important judicial bodies, which are supposed to apply the law in an impartial and objective manner, can seemingly allow naked self-interest to sway their views … and to such an extent that the conclusions at which they arrive are manifestly flawed / illogical.

It is of course important to respect judicial decisions, even if one violently disagrees with the court’s conclusions. However, it would take an awful lot to persuade me that there is any semblance of logic in the Dutch Supreme Court’s conclusion that the AT ILO (which only accepts complaints from individuals negatively affected by decisions already in force) provides an adequate remedy for those seeking to rely upon their right to COLLECTIVE bargaining. By the same logic, the availability of medical assistance would be an adequate replacement for a bullet-proof vest!

“Worried about the future,” a less familiar pseudonym (perhaps an EPO insider), said this, asking openly some questions addressed at Campinos:

Please let us not forget the several staff reps and union officials, who had the guts to stand in front Battistelli and his acolytes who violated the rule of law and were abusively sanctioned by Battistelli and not released by Mr Campinos so far

– Mrs Elisabeth Hardon -dismissed – from Munich
– Mr Laurent Prunier – dismissed – from The Hague
– Mr Aurélien Pétiaud – downgraded – from Munich
– Mr Michael Lund – downgraded – from The Hague

https://www.unionsyndicale.eu/usf-lettre-damnistie-oeb/

Everyone would like to believe that you are better than your predecessor Mr Campinos but then why did you not act to redress their situation?

Why Mr Campinos did you keep all top managers responsible for the social mess at their positions where they continue to do damages to both individuals and the EPO as a whole?

Also why did you Mr Campinos keep a career which puts staff under unhealthy pressure whilst contributing directly to demotivate staff and lower the quality of the work done?

Why are you simply doing nothing since your arrival Mr Campinos or worse: why are you (secretly) planning new deteriorations of the work package soon (e.g. deteriorated salary adjustment method, deteriorated pension system etc etc ) without consulting the staff reps and unions ?

This is something we have not heard about (that last bit/paragraph/sentence). If anyone can send us information related to that, we’ll gladly have it published (while securing source identity, as usual). It certainly seems like Campinos is just quietly and ‘politely’ straining the staff even more than Battistelli did. The only difference is the attitude. What will be the final straw? A very high proportion of the staff will be forced to retire very early and even the pension conditions are being rewritten ‘in vitro’, so to speak. They experiment with people and many die or commit suicide. At first, back when Team Battistelli illegally brought firearms and thugs to the Office, corrupt Battistelli went as far as to sanction/steal Elisabeth Hardon’s pension.

01.30.19

Links 30/1/2019: Alpine 3.9.0 and Slax 9.7.0 Released

Posted in News Roundup at 12:30 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Desktop

    • System76 unveils ‘Darter Pro’ Linux laptop with choice of Ubuntu or Pop!_OS

      When people come to me for advice on buying a computer that comes with a Linux-based operating system pre-installed, my first suggestion is always System76. While other companies, such as Dell, also make great laptops running Ubuntu, for instance, System76 stands above the rest by also offering its own operating system — Pop!_OS (which is based on Ubuntu). In other words, System76 has better control over the overall customer experience. Not to mention, its contributions to both the Linux and open source communities are invaluable.

      Today, the company unveils its latest laptop, and it looks like a winner. The 15.6-inch “Darter Pro,” as it is called, is thin, but not overly so — it still has USB-A ports (thankfully). The computer is quite modern, however, as it also has a USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 port.

    • System76 Refreshes Their “Darter Pro” Linux Laptop to Offer Better Battery Life

      Dubbed to be System76′s “most portable machine,” the refreshed Darter Pro laptop comes with a larger battery, which means that customers should expect to see an increase of the work time with a few hours compared to the older model. System76 claims the new Darter Pro laptop will last a full workday without being charged, saying the battery lasted about 7 hours during their internal tests.

    • New System76 Darter Pro Coming Soon With Intel 8th Gen CPUs, 1080p Display
  • Server

    • Trying to log into Office 365 right now? It’s a coin flip, says Microsoft: Service goes TITSUP as Azure portal wobbles

      The day of week ends in “day” so, of course, Microsoft’s Office 365 has fallen over, and Azure portal is having a wobble, too.

      Right now, if you’re trying to login afresh into Microsoft 365, there is a 50-50 chance it will work. The outage appears to be worldwide, and Australia and New Zealand may as well give up, according to the latest Downdetector outage map. They are hardest hit right now as it’s their working morning.

    • 7 pieces of contrarian DevOps advice

      The road to DevOps failure is often paved with good intentions in the form of well-meaning advice that just doesn’t work. It’s the advice that sounds good in theory; in fact, it may even be advice that is hard to argue, like “silos are bad” and “automation is good.” But when put into practice, it simply falls short on delivering the outcomes DevOps teams want.

      Unintentionally bad advice could shoulder part of the blame in organizations that are struggling to scale their DevOps practices. The 2018 State of DevOps report noted that many teams that have been at DevOps for eight or nine years still feel like they are at the beginning of their journey.

    • Red Hat Summit 2018 rewind

      It’s hard to break down what makes Red Hat Summit the premier open source technology event but we’re going to give it a shot. Let’s start by looking at Red Hat Summit 2018.

      By the numbers, last year’s Red Hat Summit saw 315 breakout sessions and labs, 283 5k fun run participants, 125 sponsors, 110 customer speakers, 29 keynoters, a 20 percent increase in attendees, six middle-school age girls from our CO.LAB program on the mainstage, five Red Hat Innovation Award winners, two Women in Open Source Award winners and one Grammy Award-winning rock band.

    • Curse you choices! Kubernetes or Application Servers? (Part 3)

      This is the finale of a series on whether Kubernetes is the new Application Server. In this part I discuss the choice between Kubernetes, a traditional application server, and alternatives. Such alternatives can be referred to as “Just enough Application Server”, like Thorntail. There are several articles on Thorntail (previously known as Wildfly Swarm) on the Red Hat Developer blog. A good introduction to Thorntail is in the 2.2 product announcement.

    • Finding equilibrium in post-Kubernetes open-source computing

      Open source has long been the man behind the curtain in web-based computing. But with the meteoric rise of Kubernetes, the popular container orchestration system, the once-exclusive community has amassed a sizeable new membership.

      As Kubernetes is leveraged as the foundation for an increasing number of critical enterprise technologies and enables the new industry standard of hybrid cloud, open-source participants are reckoning with both the challenge and opportunity of working within a new collaborative digital economy.

      “The scale is coming from real adoption and businesses that are moving their applications into the cloud,” said Liz Rice (pictured), technology evangelist at Aqua Security Software Ltd. and program co-chair at KubeCon + CloudNativeCon. “The end users who want to be part of the community actually want to contribute to the community.”

    • The road to Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 Beta

      Now that Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 Beta is out in the wild, I wanted to describe the process that got us here. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 Beta is the culmination of several years of feature development by Red Hat engineers and many others, in open source communities that we refer to collectively as “upstream.”

      In these upstream software projects, contributions from our hardware and software partners, community members, and even our customers are designed, developed and refined. Work from the Linux kernel, the GNOME community, and thousands of individual projects are then integrated in the Fedora distribution as a release such as Fedora 28, from which we branch to form the base of Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

      All along this path, Red Hat engineers work closely in these upstream communities and Fedora, and must represent what is best for both our customers, our partners, and for the upstream project itself. It’s a delicate balance, which is one reason why we are very proud of the talent and integrity of our engineering teams.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

  • Kernel Space

    • Why Linux Is Spelled Incorrectly

      You ever see an injustice in the world—one so strong, so overwhelming—that, try as you might, you just can’t ignore it? A crime that dominates your consciousness beyond all others? That drives you, even in the face of certain defeat, to action?

      Mine is…Linux.

      Not the existence of Linux. Linux is amazing. Linux powers the world. Linux is, as the kids say, totally tubular.

      It’s the name. It’s the name that makes me Hulk out. Specifically, it’s that confounded “X”. It just plain should not be there.

      Linux should be spelled L-I-N-U-C-S. Linucs.

      Seriously.

    • HMM Gets New Features/Improvements, Nouveau Support Aligned For Linux 5.1

      Jerome Glisse of Red Hat has spent the past few years devoted to Heterogeneous Memory Management (HMM) that continues stepping towards taking on bigger roles within the Linux kernel. With the upcoming Linux 5.1 kernel cycle there are slated to be more additions to this code, which is the backbone of allowing the mirroring of process address spaces, system memory to be transparently used by any device process, and other functionality for GPU computing and other modern PCIe devices.

      The latest HMM additions are supporting hugetlbfs (huge pages) and DAX mirroring (mirror a file on a DAX-backed file-system) along with some API improvements. This latest work is part of a broader effort for adding RDMA ODP (On-Demand Paging) support to Heterogeneous Memory Management. However, that the ODP HMM support isn’t expected to be merged until the Linux 5.2~5.3 kernel.

    • Linux Kernel Seeing Thunderbolt Improvements That Will Help Older Apple Hardware

      A set of 28 patches posted today by Intel Linux developer Mika Westerberg would improve the kernel’s Thunderbolt software connection manager and particularly help older Apple hardware.

      The Thunderbolt software connection manager is used by systems with Light Ridge, Cactus Ridge, and Falcon Ridge Thunderbolt controllers for creating PCI Express tunnels when a device is connected. At present this software connection manager for these older Thunderbolt controllers on various Apple devices only supports creating a single PCI Express tunnel, but with these new patches there is full PCIe daisy chain support up to six devices. Additionally, tunneling is introduced for DisplayPort and P2P networking capabilities.

    • Linux Foundation

      • Hyperledger Kicks Off the New Year with Eight New Members

        Hyperledger, an open source collaborative effort created to advance cross-industry blockchain technologies, begins 2019 by announcing it has added eight new members to the consortium. In addition, Hyperledger has delivered some key technology updates and now has a total of 12 projects.

        Hyperledger is a multi-venture, multi-stakeholder effort that includes various enterprise blockchain and distributed ledger technologies. Recent project updates include the release of Fabric v1.4 LTS, the first long term support version of the framework, as well as the addition of two new projects Hyperledger Ursa and Hyperledger Grid. Grid uses shared, reusable tools to accelerate the development of ledger-based solutions for cross-industry supply chain applications. Additionally, a detailed case study on Circulor’s Hyperledger Fabric-based production system for tracing tantalum mining in Rwanda adds to growing list of resources for guiding enterprise blockchain adoption.

        “We wrapped up 2018 with a successful and exciting Hyperledger Global Forum,” said Brian Behlendorf, Executive Director, Hyperledger. “This first worldwide meeting of the Hyperledger community underscored the growing pace of development and deployment of blockchain in general and our tools and technologies in particular. We are seeing more signs of this accelerating pace of maturation and adoption here in early 2019. We welcome these newest members and look forward to their help in driving this growth.”

    • Graphics Stack

      • Open-Source NVIDIA X.Org Driver Updated With DP MST, DRI3 Improvements

        Longtime open-source NVIDIA “Nouveau” developer Ilia Mirkin has released xf86-video-nouveau 1.0.16 as the latest version of this X.Org DDX driver.

        New xf86-video-nouveau releases are far and few in between due to all of the “magic” happening within the DRM/KMS kernel driver or Gallium3D on the 3D user-space side, but today’s Nouveau DDX release does have some key improvements and additions.

      • Intel’s Linux Driver Stack Continues Getting Plumbed For FP16 Visuals / Wide Color Gamut

        Among the recent projects by Intel’s open-source graphics driver crew for Linux has been supporting FP16 visuals for handling wide color gamut with a focus on Android support in particular. A big set of Mesa patches for this effort have now been posted.

        Some FP16 visuals patches were posted earlier this month for Mesa while on Monday a set of 13 more patches were published. These Mesa patches go along with yet-to-hit-mainline DRM driver patches for supporting the necessary formats as well as patches for Wayland/Weston to handle FP16 visuals.

      • Initial Allwinner H6 Video Decode Support Posted For The Cedrus VPU Driver

        Patches were posted on Monday wiring up support for the Allwinner H6 SoC within the Cedrus VPU driver for open-source video decode support.

        The Cedrus video decode driver was initially merged into the staging area with Linux 4.20, but has continued advancing since. After picking up H5 and A64 SoC support in the Linux 5.0 kernel, the latest target is on getting the H6 working.

      • RADV Lands Last Minute Improvements In Mesa 19.0, Introduces VK_EXT_memory_priority

        Mesa 19.0 is due to enter its feature freeze today, but the “RADV” Radeon Vulkan driver is seeing some last minute enhancements for this next quarterly feature release.

        First off, RADV now supports the VK_EXT_memory_priority extension that was introduced earlier this month in Vulkan 1.1.97 as a means of supporting a priority value at memory allocation time so apps/games could let the driver know what are higher priority allocations to try to keep those to device-local memory, etc.

    • Benchmarks

      • NVIDIA vs. Radeon Linux 5.0 + Mesa 19.0 Drivers – 14-Way Gaming GPU Comparison

        As is always the case at Phoronix ahead of any major graphics card launch, it means re-testing the collection of past graphics cards for comparison in order to have the newest data on the entire line-up with the very latest GPU drivers, operating system updates, and any game updates. For those curious what the very latest Linux gaming performance is looking like at the end of January, here are benchmarks of the NVIDIA Pascal and Turing graphics cards on their 415.27 latest driver release up against the Linux 5.0 Git kernel paired with the near-feature-frozen Mesa 19.0 built with the AMDGPU LLVM 9.0 back-end. These 14 graphics cards on the latest software stack was put through more than three dozen gaming tests.

  • Applications

    • Free Video Cutter LosslessCut Adds Multiple Cut Points, Video Merging Feature

      LosslessCut is a easy to use, ultra fast tool for lossless video (and audio) cutting, available for Windows, macOS and Linux.

      The tool is design to allow its users to quickly cut large video files taken with a video camera, GoPro, drone, etc., without losing any quality, while also making this process extremely easy.

      LosslessCut is based on Chromium, using the HTML5 video player for its playback functionality. For video processing, the application does an almost direct data copy (using FFmpeg), so it’s extremely fast.

      Since the HTML5 video player has limited codecs support, some files may need to be remuxed / encoded to a friendly format / codec. This can be done directly from LosslessCut, via the File menu. The following formats / codecs should work directly in LosslessCut: MP4, MOV, WebM, MKV, OGG, WAV, MP3, AAC, H264, Theora, VP8, and VP9.

    • HPLIP 3.19.1 Released with New Printers / Distro’s Support

      HPLIP 3.19.1, HP developed Linux drivers for HP inkjet and laser based printers, was released one day ago with new devices and Linux Distros support.

    • Olive is a new Open Source Video Editor Aiming to Take On Biggies Like Final Cut Pro

      Olive is a cross-platform, free and open source video editor in development and it aims to compete with the likes of Final Cut Pro.

    • marK – Starting the Development of a General Purpose Tool for Data Annotation

      In the end of October, I have decided to make a simple tool to help me with some annotation procedures in two projects that I am involved into. These projects are related to Computer Vision and Artificial Intelligence applications. So I decided to evolve this idea, aiming to make this simple tool become a more complex application. It is called marK and will help people in the process of data annotation, specially with large datasets and multiple types of data such as images and texts.

    • Sparky Tube

      Sparky Tube downloads a video file from a web site and converts it to MP3 and MP4 output file.

    • Crow Translate – free desktop translation software

      Google Translate is a free multilingual machine translation service developed by Google, to translate text. It’s a popular service. We use Google Translate to offer translations on LinuxLinks (see the right hand column of every page).

      Crow Translate uses this API, along with similar APIs provided by Yandex and Bing. Crow Translate bills itself as a cross-platform, lightweight, translator supporting 117 different languages.

      It sports both a command-line interface and a graphical user interface. The software is written in C++ and uses the Qt cross-platform application framework and widget toolkit.

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Games

      • Eagle Island looks like a truly wonderful platformer which involves falconry

        Yes, falconry. In Eagle Island it seems you won’t be punching or kicking your way through it, you will be throwing your bird friends in the face of your enemies and it looks delightful.

        It’s actually one I completely missed from Kickstarter, which was fully funded back in May of 2017. Catching up with the developer recently, I asked about Linux support for it and they said pretty clearly that they “currently have the alpha running smoothly in Ubuntu and intend to have the full version ready for the launch date”. However, they did mention due to Linux being a little trickier for them it could see a small delay but hopefully not.

      • Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition is going to get some fancy shaders

        Beamdog aren’t stopping with the updates to Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition, with some graphical improvements on the way. While it’s a good game, with tons of content to play through for RPG fans one thing about it is clear, graphically it does show its age.

        Announcing what’s to come on Twitter, they said they’ve been working on a new “shader pipeline” that will “eventually debut in the new renderer”. When probed a little further by me, they confirmed it will work across platforms (like Linux—just so we’re sure). You can see more information on it here, while it’s a demo right now it should make the game look quite a bit more modern when officially added in.

      • The peaceful building RPG ‘Littlewood’ now has a Linux demo, lots of stretch goals hit

        Littlewood, a peaceful town-building RPG from developer Sean Young now has a Linux demo available. I’ve spent a few hours playing and it’s really quite sweet.

        It’s hit will over thirty thousand dollars in funding, which means it’s completely smashed through a bunch of stretch goals and so it should get some interesting additional content. This includes new NPCs, new buildings, a card game, more character customisation and plenty more.

      • GOG have given the DOSBox treatment to Superhero League of Hoboken

        Superhero League of Hoboken, another classic game has been packaged up nicely by GOG with Superhero League of Hoboken.

        Originally released back in 1994, it gained some reasonably positive press at the time. The Linux build comes pre-packaged with DOSBox like a lot of classic games. So for those who missed out on it at the time, here’s your chance with a no-fuss option.

      • Godhood from Abbey Games will have you create your own religion, now on Kickstarter

        Abbey Games (Reus and Renowned Explorers) have now officially put up the Kickstarter for their new god-game Godhood and it does sound very interesting.

        Their previous games both support Linux and so it’s really pleasing to see them firmly commit to a Linux version, especially as it looks like my type of game. While it has the usual elements you would expect, with certain things outside of your control as you try to direct people with God Commandments it will also mix in some turn-based RPG combat. The combat, again, is not something you will directly control either, so I’m pretty curious about that too.

      • Sounds like the randomised dungeon feature for Albion Online is going to be great

        Albion Online, the MMO from Sandbox Interactive is set to get a fair bit more interesting with the Oberon update due out this Spring.

        We’ve mentioned it briefly before here on GOL, that the developers are going to be making some small steps towards a more interesting PvE experience. This is good, because the heavy PvP focus of the game right now put me off quite quickly.

      • Vigil: The Longest Night, a 2D action platformer that looks seriously good will support Linux

        Vigil: The Longest Night is a recent discovery that captured my interest instantly with the visual style and it’s coming to Linux.

      • gamingdirectional: Create the game background Part 2

        Hello and welcome back to part two of this chapter. In this chapter, we will finish up the background rendering process for our new pygame project. If you have missed out the first part of the tutorial then you can read it here. OK let us continue… In part one we have created two new classes, in this part, we will find out how to use them.

      • Unique steampunk survival game Volcanoids has erupted into Early Access

        If, like me, you grew tired of many survival games doing a lot of the same thing you will want to take a look at Volcanoids.

      • 5 of the Best Games on Ubuntu Snap Store

        There are plenty of great games for Linux, but it’s not always easy actually getting them to run. Package management systems like apt have made things easier, but not all games are available this way. Fortunately, Snap has come along as an easy way to run almost anything, including games, without hassle.

        Snap is Ubuntu’s solution to cramming everything an app needs to run into a single package. This isn’t the only software of its type, but since it is developed by Canonical, it’s the default on Ubuntu. Getting started is easy: just search for Snap Store in the Software Center and click install.

      • Create the game background part 1

        Hello, and welcome back, starting from today I will definitely use my time effectively which means less Youtubed and Googled around so I can concentrate most of the time on writing article, creating the game and managing my own shoe selling’s business. This year is make money online and offline year for me, wasting time on Youtube or surfing around must be stopped so those time can be used to do more meaningful stuff. Alright, so much for that let us get into the business.

        As the title has suggested, in this chapter we will create the game’s background for our new pygame project. As I have mentioned before we are creating a maze game project so you can expect something new as compared to the previous project. Before we start let us look at our strategy to create the background object first.

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • Get started with Budgie Desktop, a Linux environment

      There seems to be a mad rush at the beginning of every year to find ways to be more productive. New Year’s resolutions, the itch to start the year off right, and of course, an “out with the old, in with the new” attitude all contribute to this. And the usual round of recommendations is heavily biased towards closed source and proprietary software. It doesn’t have to be that way.

      Here’s the 18th of my picks for 19 new (or new-to-you) open source tools to help you be more productive in 2019.

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Building and Distributing Kdenlive on Windows and Mac

        “Porting” Kdenlive to other platforms has been in the works for years now: old Qt4 version was in MacPorts, and we started looking at Windows version with our GSoC student back in Spring 2016. We anticipated we wouldn’t have much to change in the code, as Kdenlive relies on the portable Qt5/KF5 combo, and MLT, which is already embedded in Shotcut cross-platform editor.

        At that time, KDE didn’t have Windows & Mac build servers yet, and I had no Windows machine available. I thought it would be more efficient to use the Linux machines. Moreover, the young Craft lacked multimedia libraries (audio and video codecs, effects), while MXE cross-build system had several ready. I liked MXE’s use of GNU Make to resolve build dependencies, it’s automated version update, simple build option overrides… So we went for it and built all the stack up to our final application!

        The main difficulty has been deployment: build ends with several executables (kdenlive, melt used for rendering, ffmpeg for transcoding, dbus-daemon for notifications…), shared libraries, plugins (qt’s, mlt’s, frei0r’s…), data files… and it didn’t work out of the box! Finding a layout to please all these required several trials and tweaks, and that step didn’t allow for direct testing while developing & recompiling.

        At least with this work we could share Windows binaries, published in 2016 under “alpha” preview state, which rapidly found users despite of several shortcomings… And the situation remained so during more than a year, during which updates didn’t concern platform specific bugs.

      • Come Home to KDE at FOSDEM 2019

        This year we are jam-packing it with interesting stuff. The first thing you’ll see as you arrive is Krita’s demo. Wolthera van Hövell, a talented artist that regularly contributes to Krita, will be painting live at the booth, demonstrating all the new features on a large screen for everybody to enjoy. Then on Sunday, Camille Moulin will be demonstrating how to edit video using Kdenlive.

      • KDE Bugsquad – Back in 2019! Ark/Kcalc/Spectacle Bug Day on February 12th, 2019

        I hope everyone has had an enjoyable holiday season! The KDE Bugsquad is back in 2019, almost 50 members strong! How awesome is that? We have 11 months left in 2019, and will be continuing our every-other-week schedule as last year, with one event on a Tuesday, one on Saturday, with one project per month. Hopefully that provides you some opportunities to fit it into your schedule.

        Our first project this year will actually be a variety pack of smaller projects, each with less bugs than the usual targets. I wanted to start out with some easier ones, while still targeting some important utilities most KDE users use. So, without further delay:

  • Distributions

    • Linux Distro Spotlight: What I Love About elementary OS

      Welcome back to “What I Love About X Linux Distro,” a series that shines the spotlight on whatever Linux OS I’ve been tinkering with recently, and the features that distinguish it from the pack. It debuted with Ubuntu Budgie, but it won’t come as a surprise that this time around I’m focusing on elementary OS 5.

      Each article in this series will capture what I love most about a particular distro, and then you’ll hear directly from one of its team members about why they love working on the project. Let’s go!

    • Reviews

      • Exploring elementary OS

        Elementary OS is an elegant Linux with a long-term vision and a focus on good design.

        “Good design makes a product useful,” said the legendary industrial designer Dieter Rams. I couldn’t agree more. My productivity is directly proportional to how well designed the tool is. I care about the UI elements – fonts, icons, the spacing between elements, and so on.

        Unfortunately, when it comes to Linux on the desktop, the design is often an afterthought. Most projects don’t have a UI designer on the team (some projects are a one-man army). As a result, what you get is all too often a patchwork that stitches disconnected components together.

    • New Releases

      • Alpine 3.9.0 released

        We are pleased to announce the release of Alpine Linux 3.9.0, the first in the v3.9 stable series.

      • Alpine Linux 3.9 Released with ARMv7 Support, Switches from LibreSSL to OpenSSL

        After no less than five release candidates, the Alpine Linux 3.9 operating system is now ready for mass deployments as the development team lead by Natanael Copa announced the final release.

        Alpine Linux 3.9 comes six months after the 3.8 series to add new features and more enhancements to the musl/BusyBox-based security-oriented GNU/Linux distribution. Highlights of this release include support for ARMv7 architectures, the replace of LibreSSL with OpenSSL, and better support for the GRUB bootloader.

        “GRUB users should check if their config is generated correctly and have emergency boot media prepared,” reads the release announcement, which also notes the fact that the “moodloop” option for specifying when a SquashFS file system gets mounted to /.modloop is now signed in Alpine Linux 3.9.

      • Alpine 3.9 Brings ARMv7 Support, Switches Back To OpenSSL, Improves GRUB
      • Releasing Slax 9.7.0

        Good news, a new and improved version of Slax has been just released as Slax 9.7.0.

      • Slax Linux 9.7 Improves Compatibility with New USB Devices, Is Now Even Smaller

        Probably the biggest change of the Slax 9.7 release is that the tiny GNU/Linux distribution is now even smaller as the developer managed to compress the SquashFS filesystem using 1MB blocks instead of the older 512K block size, which is still supported for compatibility with old modules. Due to this small change, the ISO image is now with 10MB smaller than previous releases.

        Another interesting change implemented in Slax 9.7 is an updated “slax activate” command that’s now capable of copying modules to your computer’s RAM only if required, which means that Slax will no longer copy all activated modules, including those downloaded from Internet and stored in user’s Home directory, to RAM or to the USB flash drive when powers up.

      • Slax 9.7.0 Released With This Desktop Linux Distribution Down To 255MB

        In addition to Alpine 3.9.0 seeing the light of day on Tuesday, another lightweight Linux distribution out with a new release is Slax 9.7.0.

        Slax is the long-time Linux distribution long focused on delivering a small footprint that originally was based on Slackware but when work on the project restarted in 2017 shifted to using a Debian base and for its desktop also transitioned from KDE to Fluxbox+Compton.

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • Using the latest 389-ds on OpenSUSE

        Thanks to some help from my friend who works on OBS, I’ve finally got a good package in review for submission to tumbleweed. However, if you are impatient and want to use the “latest” and greatest 389-ds version on OpenSUSE (docker anyone?).

    • Fedora

      • 5 quick tips for Fedora Workstation users

        Whether you are a new or long time Fedora Workstation user, you might be looking for some quick tips to customize, tweak or enhance your desktop experience. In this article, we’ll round up five tips to help you get more out of your Fedora Workstation.

      • Flatpak 1.2 Brings Improved Command Line Interface experience | What’s New

        Late in December 2018, Flatpak developer “Matthias Clasen” has announced some of the new features and functionalities that we would expect on the upcoming release of Flatpak. Let’s check the recent changes on Flatpak 1.2.

        Flatpak is package management solution with the advantage of using “Sandbox” technology to create isolated environments for installed applications. Flatpak supports many Linux distributions such as Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Red hat, Arch, Open SUSE, Raspian and more.

      • F29-20190129 updated isos Released

        The Fedora Respins SIG is pleased to announce the latest release of Updated F29-20190129 Live ISOs, carrying the 4.20.4-200 kernel.

        This set of updated isos will save considerable amounts of updates after install. ((for new installs.)(New installs of Workstation have 1.2GB of updates)).

      • Fedora Community Blog: Call for Projects and Mentors – GSoC 2019
    • Debian Family

      • Reproducible Builds: Weekly report #196

        There was considerable progress towards making the Debian Installer images reproducible with a number of rounds of code review, a subsequent merge of Chris Lamb’s merge request and the closing of the corresponding bug report for the time being, pending further testing.

      • Derivatives

        • Tails 3.12 Anonymous OS Is Out with Linux 4.19, Tor Browser 8.0.5, and USB Image

          Tails 3.12 is a stable release that comes as an incremental update to the previous version, Tails 3.10, adding numerous many updated components from the upstream Debian repositories, security vulnerabilities, as well as other exciting changes. But the biggest news is that Tails can now be downloaded as a USB image along the standard ISO image.

          “In short, instead of downloading an ISO image (a format originally designed for CDs), you now download Tails as a USB image: an image of the data as it needs to be written to the USB stick,” reads today’s announcement. “We are still providing ISO images for people using DVDs or virtual machines. The methods for upgrading Tails remain the same.”

        • DebEX Budgie 190128 Run Through

          Today we are looking at DebEX Linux 190128 the Budgie edition.

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Canonical Releases Snapcraft 3.1 Snap Creator Tool with Various Improvements

            Snapcraft 3.1 is now available as a minor update to the Snapcraft 3.x series, adding build environment improvements to allow you to be once again able to clean parts using the “base” keyword while running the “snapcraft clean < part-name >” command, and offering you a more intuitive cleaning of steps from specific parts.

            The “cmake” and “rust” plugins have been updated as well in Snapcraft 3.1. While the “cmake” plugin gets two new features to allow you to package more applications in the Snap universal binary format, such as KDE apps, the “rust” plugin was revamped to work better with the non-legacy rustup tool.

          • Ubuntu 18.04 needs patching

            Ubuntu is a very popular Linux distribution for servers, clouds, and the desktop. So, when parent company Canonical announces it is moving Ubuntu 18.04, the latest long term support (LTS) edition, to a new Linux kernel, it’s time to pay attention and patch.

            This kernel, 4.15.0-44.47, contains 11 security fixes and other minor improvements.

            The most significant of these are four problems with Linux’s implementation of the ext4 filesystem. Ext4 is the most commonly used Linux filesystem, and it’s the Ubuntu Linux family’s default file system.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Kodi 18 is here!

    After another long gestation… the Kodi team is very pleased to announce the immediate availability of Kodi 18.0 “Leia” for all supported platforms (UWP for Windows Store and Xbox is working its way through the system as I type, so will be available shortly…). While we were planning to move more to a “release early, release often” model, this has some significant changes that really needed to be tested and bedded in before we launched it, so it did take a little longer than we’d hoped. It was, though, a worthwhile wait.

  • Kodi 18.0 Released! How to Install it in Ubuntu 18.04/16.04

    Kodi media center, formerly known as XBMC, released the new stable 18.0 “Leia” a day ago. Here’s how to install it in Ubuntu 16.04, Ubuntu 18.04, Linux Mint 18.x, 19.x, and higher.

    Kodi 18.0 is a big release with almost 10,000 commits, 3000 pull-requests.

  • Thunderbird 60.5.0 Released, System76 Introduces New “Darter Pro” Linux Laptop, Kodi 18.0 “Leia” Now Available, Slax 9.7.0 Is Out and Systemd Vulnerabilities Proof of Concept Published

    Kodi 18.0 “Leia” is now available for all supported platforms. This is a major release, reflecting nearly 10,000 commits, 9,000 changed files and half a million lines of code added. This new release features support for gaming emulators, ROMs and controls; DRM decryption support; significant improvements to the music library; live TV improvements; and much more. See the changelog for more details, and go here to download.

    Slax 9.7.0 was released yesterday. You can download it for free or purchase a USB drive with Slax pre-installed from slax.org. New to this version: usb-modeswitch was added, the slax activate command now copies module to RAM only if necessary, and now Slax is even smaller—255MB compared to 265MB previously.

  • Kodi 18 Leia Released: Best New Features Of The Latest Kodi

    After a long wait of two years, XBMC-owned Kodi open source media player has finally released its Kodi 18 Leia with a host of important and new features and improvements over the previous version.

    Kodi 18 Leia was in beta for a long period of time, and the cord cutters were desperately waiting for the latest version of the media player. As the organization itself describes the long period as “another long gestation,” Kodi 18 is finally here and accompanies some of the features that would open up the new possibilities of playing content on Kodi.

  • Kodi 18 “Leia” Released with Support for Gaming Emulators, DRM Support, and More

    Dubbed “Leia” to honor the late Carrie Fisher, the Star Wars actress who played the iconic character Leia Princess in the acclaimed franchise, Kodi 18 is a major release that comes almost two years after the Kodi 17 “Krypton” series with numerous new features, improvements, and other noteworthy changes.

  • Kodi 18.0 Released With Reworked Wayland Platform, Retroplayer Gaming Support

    Kodi 18.0 “Leia” is now available as one of the biggest releases ever for this open-source, cross-platform multimedia/HTPC software.

    Kodi 18 has been in the works for two years now and comes with some gaming integration via RetroPlayer to enjoy some emulated console games within the HTPC software, completely reworked Wayland support, improved live TV capabilities, Google Assistant support, usability enhancements, better stability, DRM content support, better Blu-ray support, and quite a lot of other improvements throughout.

  • 5 social media alternatives to protect your privacy

    Social media isn’t what it used to be—especially since we started paying attention to the privacy implications of using the major platforms. After Facebook leaked around 87,000 users information in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and another 6.8 million users’ data in September 2018 when a third-party app gained access to user photos, the already growing #DeleteFacebook movement exploded. I am part of it; I’d had enough, and I knew if I wanted to protect my personal data, I would not be able to exist on Facebook any longer. Other people are doing the same with Twitter because it seems like bots have taken over.

    How though—in a world centered around social media, and especially Facebook (which also owns WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram)—do you replace these services and remain in contact with friends and family?

    Thankfully, there are open source, privacy-focused alternatives. In exploring them, I sought to separate the promising from the fringe and find the ones that were usable, fun, and easy to convince friends and family to join.

  • Before You Sign

    The first thing to know is that the noncompete clause in your contract might not be enforceable in your jurisdiction. (Check into this – don’t take my word for it!) It is also a good idea to stop and consider who you are bargaining with. A big company like IBM or Oracle probably has a standard contract, hammered out by a team of lawyers and tailored precisely to the company’s needs, and it will be difficult to get them to make a lot of changes just for little ol’ you (although you could always try). A smaller company, however, might be using a boilerplate contract, with a few customizations by a local attorney, and they might be more flexible about changing the terms.

    Some employers might balk at striking out the noncompete clause completely, but you might be able to talk them into reducing the duration or scope. For instance, if a clause tells me I can’t go work for another magazine, I might be able to negotiate a refinement that specifies I won’t work for another Linux magazine, and the employer might decide that their interests are adequately protected.

  • FOSS goals for 2019

    With the advent of 2019, Maddog makes a wish list and some resolutions for both himself and the FOSS community.

    I am writing this article on Christmas Eve of 2018. While (due to the workings of a print magazine) you may not see it for a while, I am going to use this as a combination of a 2019 Christmas wish list and some 2018 New Year’s resolutions for myself and (hopefully) some resolutions for the free software community.

    My Christmas wish list for next year is simple. I hope to have FOSS even more dominant in the world of computing than it is today.

  • Web Browsers

    • Microsoft decides Internet Explorer 10 has had its fun: Termination set for January 2020

      Microsoft has warned that it isn’t only Windows 7 for the chop in 2020. Unloved Internet Explorer 10 will be joining it. Finally.

      Internet Explorer 10 first appeared back in 2012 and in 2016 Microsoft made a concerted effort to kill the thing by focusing its support efforts on Internet Explorer 11. Anything not Edge-related or without “11″ after it would no longer be supported.

      However, not every operating system was capable of actually running Internet Explorer 11 and Microsoft infamously restricted its Edge browser to Windows 10 (and later iOS and Android). Notable exceptions to the IE10 crackdown were Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8 Embedded.

    • Chrome

      • Chrome 72 Has Some Wayland Improvements, Eyes Deprecating FTP

        In addition to Mozilla releasing Firefox 65, the release calendars also aligned today with Google introducing the Chrome 72 web browser.

        Chrome 72 is a notable update in that it deprecates TLS 1.0/1.1 while eyeing FTP deprecation in the future, offers up some Wayland improvements, crash reports support within Chrome’s Reporting API, user activation API additions, and other changes.

      • Google Releases Chrome 72 for Linux, Windows, and Mac, Download Now

        After announcing the release of Chrome 72 for Android, Google promoted today the Chrome 72 web browser to the stable channel for Linux, Windows, and Mac computers too.

        Google is introducing the Chrome 72 web browser for desktop platforms, including Linux, Mac, and Windows, a release that promises to add yet another layer of stability and security improvements in an attempt to offer you a better and more secure browsing experience whenever you’re using Google Chrome.

    • Mozilla

      • Reps OKRs – First half of the year 2019
      • Firefox 65: WebP support, Flexbox Inspector, new tooling & platform updates

        Well now, there’s no better way to usher out the first month of the year than with a great new Firefox release. It’s winter for many of us, but that means more at-home time to install Firefox version 65, and check out some of the great new browser and web platform features we’ve included within. Unless you’d rather be donning your heavy coat and heading outside to grit the driveway, that is (or going to the beach, in the case of some of our Australian chums).

      • Mozilla Introduces Firefox 65 for Improved Privacy Controls, New Version Automatically Blocks Slow-Loading Website Trackers

        Mozilla has been working on updating its browser to give more control to its users. As a result of it, Mozilla Firefox 65 has been officially launched today for Windows, Linux, Mac, and Android platform. The new release of the browser will help with content blocking controls, WebP image support, AV1 support on Windows, and other bug fixes and improvement.

        Mozilla Firefox 65 is now available for download on Firefox.com for desktop users. People who are already using the Mozilla browser will be able to upgrade to the new version automatically. Firefox 65 rollout for Android users has started slowly and users will be able to download the app or update it once the complete rollout process takes place.

      • Mozilla Thunderbird 60.5.0 Now Available for Download

        Mozilla Thunderbird 60.5.0 is now available for download with a series of major improvements, including support for WeTransfer file sharing service.

        In case you’re wondering why would anyone use a third-party file sharing service in Thunderbird, it’s all because this way you can send large attachments without worrying about storage space.

      • [Mozilla] Online content regulation in Europe: a paradigm for the future #1

        Lawmakers in the European Union are today focused on regulating online content, and compelling online services to make greater efforts to reduce the illegal and harmful activity on their services. As we’ve blogged previously, many of the present EU initiatives – while well-intentioned – are falling far short of what is required in this space, and pose real threats to users rights online and the decentralised open internet. Ahead of the May 2019 elections, we’ll be taking a close look at the current state of content regulation in the EU, and advancing a vision for a more sustainable paradigm that adequately addresses lawmakers’ concerns within a rights- and ecosystem-protective framework.

        Concerns about illegal and harmful content online, and the role of online services in tackling it, is a policy issue that is driving the day in jurisdictions around the world. Whether it’s in India, the United States, or the European Union itself, lawmakers are grappling with what is ultimately a really hard problem – removing ‘bad’ content at scale without impacting ‘good’ content, and in ways that work for different types of internet services and that don’t radically change the open character of the internet. Regrettably, despite the fact that many great minds in government, academia, and civil society are working on this hard problem, online content regulation remains stuck in a paradigm that undermines users’ rights and the health of the internet ecosystem, without really improving users’ internet experience.

      • Firefox 65 for Android Improves Security and Performance, Adds Faster Scrolling

        With the release of the Firefox 65 web browser today, Mozilla begin the rollout of its latest and most advanced web browser to all supported platforms, including Android, Linux, macOS, and Windows.

        We already talked about the new features available on the desktop (Linux, Mac, and Windows) here and here, so now it’s time to take a look at the enhancements implemented by Mozilla in Firefox for Android as the Firefox 65 release promises improved performance and web compatibility, as well as better security.

  • Databases

    • 3 Most Popular NoSQL Databases To Start In Cloud

      The path of the Cloud generally starts in migrations to infrastructure platforms as a Service (IaaS); where we make a virtual mirror of our physical structure on which we deploy our applications.
      The next step comes when we recognize that the true value and productivity of the Cloud is in the Platform as a Service (PaaS), and we face new challenges in the form of software transformation and reconstruction in the search for the optimal cost/benefit ratio.

      And one of the initial decisions that have more impact is to adopt the storage of our information in Databases as a Service by selecting which one to use in our software; being the NoSQL solutions, an affordable first step, of remarkable simplicity, powerful and of contained cost.

  • LibreOffice

    • LibreOffice 6.2 Slated for Release on February 7, Will Introduce a New Tabbed UI

      So the big news we want to share with you today is the LibreOffice 6.2 office suite will be officially released in about a week from the moment of writing this article, on Thursday, February 7, 2019. It will be available for all supported platforms, including Linux, Mac, and Windows.

      As expected, we’ll have a detailed story prepared on the LibreOffice 6.2 launch day to tell you all about its new features and improves, but, as a sneak peek, we’d like to inform you now that the upcoming release brings a new tabbed UI called Notebookbar, which you can see in action in the video and screenshot gallery below.

    • The saga begins …

      As you might have seen, we have now run four C++ sessions to get started with C++ and LibreOffice development. The origin of this actually happened already at the last LibreOffice Hackfest in Munich where Izabela, Mike, Anxhelo and me conspired on the idea. We also started to recruit LibreOffice developers as mentors right there and Xisco joined us soon.

      As the lectures discuss the basics of data structures and C++ I started to create some patches against LibreOffice to show how to start with simple things in the LibreOffice build based on the examples from the lecture, but in the environment of LibreOffice and with some of its framework and conventions…

    • LibreOffice monthly recap: January 2019
  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • Funding

    • How a fiscal sponsor can help your open source project grow

      The short explanation of fiscal sponsorship is “someone else manages the accounting, finances, and taxes,” but it’s much more than that. A fiscal sponsor is a registered nonprofit. Projects that sign on with a fiscal sponsor benefit from that nonprofit status. For instance, if the project wishes to start receiving monetary donations, depending upon the tax laws, those donations can be tax-deductible.

  • Licensing/Legal

    • OSI weighs in on open-source licensing conflict

      The problem these open-source businesses are finding is that technology giants and cloud providers are taking advantage of their work for monetary gain without contributing back to these projects. However, the issue with creating and applying new licenses or clauses to existing open-source licenses is that it the projects become technically no longer open source, unless the licenses are approved by the Open Source Initiative (OSI), an organization dedicated to promoting and protecting open-source software, projects and communities.

  • Programming/Development

    • The DSF Welcomes Mariusz Felisiak as its Newest Fellow

      On December 21, 2018, the DSF made a call for Django Fellow applicants. On behalf of the Django Software Foundation, the DSF Fellowship Committee is pleased to announce Mariusz Felisiak as the newest Django Fellow. Mariusz is replacing Tim Graham who recently announced his retirement as a Django Fellow after four years of service.

      Mariusz has been designing and implementing Python/Django applications for the past 11 years. He is an active Django Core Team Member, focusing on the ORM and Oracle back-end along with triaging tickets, reviewing pull requests and backporting changes. In addition, he has contributed to more than a dozen open-source projects and is a coach for Django Girls Heidelberg.

    • JavaScript Dethrones Java As Most Popular Programming Language

      A survey conducted by HackerRank, a popular competitive programming platform, found JavaScript to be the most popular programming language for 2018.

      The survey was taken by 71,000 developers across the world in which 73% claimed to be proficient in JavaScript. The scripting language has thus replaced Java which took the top spot last year.

    • Webs Assemble! | Coder Radio 342

      Apple wades into controversy after filing some Swift-related patents and we explore WebAssembly and its implications for the open web.

      Plus the latest on Mike’s road to Rust, some great feedback, and more!

    • Using Python to Connect Function Compute to SQL Server
    • Installing a Dependency Library for Function Compute
    • Python 201 and Python RegEx Bundle
    • wxPython Applications Book Table of Contents Update
    • More About Angle Brackets in Bash
    • Qt Virtual Tech Summit Registration is Open!

      Did you miss Qt World Summit 2018? Fear not. On 12-14 February, the Qt Virtual Tech Summit and Qt experts will be sharing insights in a free online event to equip you with the tools and skills you need to build connected devices, UIs, and applications in 2019 and beyond.

    • PyCoder’s Weekly: Issue #353 (Jan. 29, 2019)
    • This Week in Rust 271
    • Salsa: Incremental recompilation

      So for the last couple of months or so, I’ve been hacking in my spare time on this library named salsa, along with a number of awesome other folks. Salsa basically extracts the incremental recompilation techniques that we built for rustc into a general-purpose framework that can be used by other programs. Salsa is developing quickly: with the publishing of v0.10.0, we saw a big step up in the overall ergonomics, and I think the current interface is starting to feel very nice.

    • Python “for” Loops (Definite Iteration)

      This tutorial will show you how to perform definite iteration with a Python for loop.

    • Stationary Data Tests for Time Series Forecasting

      I wasn’t planning on making a ‘part 2’ to the Forecasting Time Series Data using Autoregression post from last week, but I really wanted to show how to use more advanced tests to check for stationary data. Additionally, I wanted to use a new dataset that I ran across on Kaggle for energy consumption at an hourly level (find the dataset here). For this example, I’m going to be using the DEOK_hourly dataset (i’ve added it to my git repo here). You can follow along with the jupyter notebook here.

      In this post, I’m going to follow the same approach that I took in the previous one – using autoregression to forecast time series data after checking to ensure the data is stationary.

    • Introduction to Machine Learning with Python and repl.it

      In this tutorial, we’re going to walk through how to set up a basic Python repl that can learn the difference between two categories of sentences, positive and negative. For example, if you had the sentence “I love it!”, we want to train a machine to know that this sentence is associated with happy and positive emotions. If we have a sentence like “it was really terrible”, we want the machine to label it as a negative or sad sentence.

      The maths, specifically calculus and linear algebra, behind machine learning gets a bit hairy. We’ll be abstracting this away with the Python library scikit-learn, which makes it possible to do advanced machine learning in a few lines of Python.

    • 5 Best Python Frameworks for WebView Testing

      Python has become one of the most widely used programming languages. The reason behind its popularity is that it is extremely easy to use and allows you to create platform independent programs.

      It is a high-level language and has all the important features that make a good programing language. It also supports OOPs, i.e. Object Oriented Programming concepts. The syntax of Python is very different from C or C++ and simpler too. This makes it easy to learn and understand.

    • Python network data visualization

      The Scapy packet manipulation program lets you analyze and manipulate packets to create incident response reports or examine network security.

      Most folks have pulled up Wireshark a time or two to troubleshoot an application or system problem. During forensics, packet captures (PCAPs) are essential. Often you are looking at things like top talkers, ports, bytes, DNS lookups, and so on. Why not automate this process with Python?

    • Return odd or even position from a list of numbers

      Hello and welcome back to one day one answer series. In this chapter, we will need to return the position of either an odd or even number from a list of numbers following the below condition.

      If there is only one odd number in a list of odd-even numbers then return the position of that odd number or else return the position of the even number. The solution for this question is very straight forward, after seeing the below solution do leave your own solution below this post.

    • VkRunner is integrated into VK-GL-CTS and piglit

      VkRunner is a tool written by Neil Roberts, which is very inspired on shader_runner. VkRunner was the result of the Igalia work to enable ARB_gl_spirv extension for Intel’s i965 driver on Mesa, where there was a need to test driver’s code against a good number of shaders to be sure that it was fine.

      VkRunner uses a script language to define the requirements needed to run the test, such as the needed extension and features, the shaders to be run and a series of commands to run it. It will then parse everything and execute the equivalent Vulkan commands to do so under the hood, like shader_runner did for OpenGL in piglit.

Leftovers

  • Article review: “The Hard Truth About Innovative Cultures”

    Psychologically safe but brutally candid. We all fall in love with our ideas, and therefore we all need the occasional round of “frank and open” feedback. If nothing else, we should design our experiments (or, in software, our validation suites) to provide that feedback.

    Collaboration but with individual accountability. Innovation often requires that individuals and teams buck the common wisdom, but common wisdom often carries the day. Therefore, those individuals and teams must remain open to feedback, and accountability is one good way to help them seek out feedback and take that feedback seriously.

    Flat but strong leadership. Most of my innovation has been carried out by very small teams, so this maxim has not been an issue for me. But people wishing to create large but highly innovative teams would do well to read this part of the article very carefully.

    In short, this is a great article, and to the best of my knowledge the first one presenting both the fun and hard-work sides of the process of innovation.

  • Science

  • Health/Nutrition

    • ‘Absolutely Unconscionable’: Trump EPA Refuses to Limit Toxic Chemicals That Contaminate Drinking Water of Millions

      Sources familiar with an unreleased draft plan approved last month by acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler told Politico that the chemicals PFOA and PFOS will remain unregulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, meaning that “utilities will face no federal requirements for testing for and removing the chemicals from drinking water supplies, although several states have pursued or are pursuing their own limits.”

      The chemicals “have been used for decades in products such as Teflon-coated cookware and military firefighting foam, and are present in the bloodstreams of an estimated 98 percent of Americans,” Politico pointed out. That means, given that they have “contaminated groundwater near hundreds of military bases and chemical plants,” any intensive regulation of them would force companies such as 3M as well as the Defense Department to spend billions of dollars on cleanup efforts.

      “If these sources are right, the EPA is essentially telling the more than 110 million Americans whose water is likely contaminated with PFAS: ‘Drink up, folks,’” warned Environmental Working Group senior scientist David Andrews, Ph.D. “The most efficient and equitable way to remove these chemicals from the nation’s drinking water supply is to use the agency’s authority to set legal limits… It’s a national problem, and it needs a national solution.”

    • Trump Failing to Protect Drinking Water by Ignoring Dangerous Chemicals PFOA and PFOS
    • Price-Gouging Drug Company CEOs Must Answer for Their Sky-High Pay

      It’s clear to everyone who cares to look that prescription drug price gouging is literally killing patients. Health care executives — at Big Pharma and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) alike — are moving an inelastic product their customers can’t live without. They know they can charge sick people as much as the government will let them get away with. Sometimes, they press their luck and impose what look very much like coordinated price hikes, practically daring Congress to try to do something about it.

      The drug companies’ wild ride may soon be coming to an end. On Tuesday, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform will hold its first hearing of the new 116th Congress, which Chair Elijah Cummings is using to launch a comprehensive review of pricing practices.

      While Cummings has Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and AbbVie in the room, he might consider asking how they justify their exorbitant executive compensation packages. Shareholders would certainly like to know.

    • Illegal Abortions Exact a High Toll Among African Women

      Njuza called neighbors for help because Nontsikelo was suffering from piercing cramps and heavy bleeding. “I hired a van to take her to a clinic, and by the time we arrived, she was lying in a pool of blood,” Njuza says. Nontsikelo’s condition was so severe she had to be transferred to a hospital 30 miles away. She died during the trip there.

      Njuza knows exactly what killed her daughter. On the way to the clinic, Nontsikelo said she had taken an abortion pill from a man she found on Facebook.

      Nontsikelo was the victim of an unsafe abortion—one performed by an unskilled practitioner or in a substandard medical environment. Her story is a common one in Africa, where more than 4 million unsafe abortions are performed each year. One out of every 150 African women who have an unsafe abortion dies from complications, and countless others come away scarred physically or emotionally.

      As in many other southern African countries, abortion is illegal in Lesotho unless the woman’s health is in danger or the pregnancy is the result of rape. If a woman gets pregnant but can’t care for a child psychologically or financially, she has very little option but to undergo a clandestine abortion that might be life-threatening.

      Changing the law is essential but isn’t a cure-all, as the experience in South Africa shows. In that country (which encircles Lesotho), abortion is allowed by law, but many women can’t access a legal procedure. Several factors stand in the way, including cultural or religious beliefs as well as interference from halfway around the globe. A United States government policy reinstated by President Trump blocks federal funding worldwide to nongovernmental organizations that provide any kind of abortion service including advocacy, referral and counseling.

    • WHO Holds Discussions On Roadmap For Improving Access To Medicines

      Unaffordable prices, unavailable medicines, a rising need for accessible noncommunicable diseases treatments – these set the stage as the World Health Organization Executive Board started discussion today on one of the more contentious issues of the week. For the Board’s approval is in particular a roadmap and action plan including a dual strategy based on safety and efficacy of health products, and their affordability.

      [...]

      The draft roadmap for 2019-2023 also reflects the aims of the 13th WHO General Programme of Work, adopted last May, she said.

      Although progress has been made in access to medicines, it has been very uneven with the poor and vulnerable being “disproportionately affected,” Singh said.

      Health needs are changing and there is a rising need for affordable medicines for noncommunicable diseases. Medicines are often inaccessible, they are very expensive, and are the biggest driver of out-of-pocket expenses, she explained. In some regions, such as South East Asia, it almost accounts for 80 percent of those expenses, she added.

      According to Singh, medicines are also inaccessible because they are in short supply due to problems with production, and weaknesses in global and national supply chains,

      “We have to keep in mind that having better access to medicines and vaccines which are not of good quality is not helpful,” it can also be very harmful, she said, adding “This is why the roadmap being discussed today is extremely important.”

  • Security

    • Under the Magnifying Glass: Kali Linux is the complete toolbox for penetration testing

      Every IT infrastructure offers points of attack that hackers can use to steal and manipulate data. Only one thing can prevent these vulnerabilities from being exploited by unwelcome guests: You need to preempt the hackers and identify and close the gaps. Kali Linux can help.

      To maintain the security of a network, you need to check it continuously for vulnerabilities and other weak points through penetration testing. You have a clear advantage over attackers because you know the critical infrastructure components, the network topology, points of attack, the services and servers executed, and so on. Exploitation tests should look for vulnerabilities in a secure, real environment, so you can shut down any vulnerabilities found – and you need to do this over and over again.

      The variety of IT components dedicated to security does not make selecting a suitable tool any easier, because all possible attack vectors need to be subjected to continuous testing. Kali Linux [1] meets these requirements – and does much more.

    • GNOME Security Internship – Update 4

      After 4 long posts talking about USB devices, lock screen and keyboards are you a bit lost? Are you trying to find an answer to the question: “What will happen when I plug a USB device?”

    • Upgraded system on my server

      I started using that server during my work at Canonical. So it got Ubuntu installed. According to OVH panel it was 13.04 release. Then 13.10, 14.04 and finally 16.04 landed. In pain. Took me two days to get it working again (mail issues).

      At that time I decided that it will not get any Ubuntu update. The plan was to upgrade to proper Debian release. And Buster will get frozen soon…

      One day I took a list of installed packages and started “ubuntu:xenial” container. Test shown will it be big work to do such upgrade. Turned out that not that much.

      Today I saw a post saying that php 7.1 goes into “security fixes only” mode. And I had 7.0 in use… So decided that ok, this is the time.

      [...]

      Why Debian?

      Someone may ask why not Fedora or RHEL or CentOS? I work at Red Hat now, right?

      Yes, I do. But Debian is operating system I know most. It’s tools etc. Also upgrade was possible to do online. Otherwise I would have to start with reinstalation.

      Now I have only one machine running Ubuntu. My wife’s laptop. But it is “no way” zone. It works for her and we have an agreement that I do not touch it. Unless requested.

    • Identity with OpenPGP trust model

      Most of time, you won’t be able to directly verify the identity of everyone you’d like to communicate with. This creates a necessity of obtaining indirect proof of authenticity, and the model normally used for that purpose in OpenPGP is the Web of Trust. I won’t be getting into the fine details — you can find them e.g. in the GNU Privacy Handbook. For our purposes, it suffices to say that in WoT the authenticity of keys you haven’t verified may be assessed by people whose keys you trust already, or people they know, with a limited level of recursion.

      The more key holders you can trust, the more keys you can have verified indirectly and the more likely it is that your future recipient will be in that group. Or that you will be able to get someone from across the world into your WoT by meeting someone residing much closer to yourself. Therefore, you’d naturally want the WoT to grow fast and include more individuals. You’d want to preach OpenPGP onto non-crypto-aware people. However, this comes with inherent danger: can you really trust that they will properly verify the identity of the keys they sign?

      I believe this is the most fundamental issue with WoT model: for it to work outside of small specialized circles, it has to include more and more individuals across the world. But this growth inevitable makes it easier for a malicious third party to find people that can be tricked into certifying keys with forged identities.

    • FaceTime Bug Lets iPhone Users Spy On Others Before They Pick Up Call
    • Save the Dates! Linux Security Summit Events for 2019.
    • Can you trust the personal Internet of Things?
    • Pwn the LIFX Mini white

      In a very short limited amount of time, three vulnerabilities have been discovered:

      Wifi credentials of the user have been recovered (stored in plaintext into the flash memory).

      No security settings. The device is completely open (no secure boot, no debug interface disabled, no flash encryption).

      Root certificate and RSA private key have been extracted.

    • Anyone Can Spy on You With FaceTime, Here’s How to Turn It Off

      A new creepy flaw in Apple’s popular video and audio call app FaceTime allows the caller to listen in on the receiver’s iPhone, even if that person has not picked up the call, according to multiple news reports and users who claims they have experienced the bug.

    • Apple was slow to act on FaceTime bug report, which came from mother of 14 year old who found it
    • Apple Was Slow to Act on FaceTime Bug That Allows Spying on iPhones

      On Jan. 19, Grant Thompson, a 14-year-old in Arizona, made an unexpected discovery: Using FaceTime, Apple’s video chatting software, he could eavesdrop on his friend’s phone before his friend had even answered the call.

      His mother, Michele Thompson, sent a video of the hack to Apple the next day, warning the company of a “major security flaw” that exposed millions of iPhone users to eavesdropping. When she didn’t hear from Apple Support, she exhausted every other avenue she could, including emailing and faxing Apple’s security team, and posting to Twitter and Facebook. On Friday, Apple’s product security team encouraged Ms. Thompson, a lawyer, to set up a developer account to send a formal bug report.

      But it wasn’t until Monday, more than a week after Ms. Thompson first notified Apple of the problem, that Apple raced to disable Group FaceTime and said it was working on a fix. [...]

    • Major iPhone FaceTime bug lets you hear the audio of the person you are calling … before they pick up

      A significant bug has been discovered in FaceTime and is currently spreading virally over social media. The bug lets you call anyone with FaceTime, and immediately hear the audio coming from their phone — before the person on the other end has accepted or rejected the incoming call. Apple says the issue will be addressed in a software update “later this week”. (Update: Apple has taken Group FaceTime offline in an attempt to address the issue in the interim).

    • Exploiting systemd-journald Part 1

      Capsule8 developed a proof-of-concept exploit for the two vulnerabilities in systemd-journald, which were published by Qualys on January 9th.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • The Threat That the US Can’t Ignore: Itself

      That report, the “National Intelligence Strategy,” usually has both a public and classified version. But this year, ODNI elected to create only one public document in an effort, Coats said in remarks announcing the report, to promote transparency about intelligence community activities and goals. While similar in many ways to the Worldwide Threat Assessment ODNI released alongside Tuesday’s Senate hearing, last week’s NIS took more direct aim at the abstract, yet fundamental threat of a shifting geopolitical order.

    • CNN Goes ‘Undercover’ To Manufacture Consent For Coup Attempt In Venezuela

      A CNN “exclusive” report from inside Venezuela aired multiple times on the network on January 28. It is a prime example of how influential media outlets in the U.S. effectively create propaganda for the opposition, which now is receiving funds from President Donald Trump’s administration.

      For the four-minute report, CNN correspondent Nick Paton Walsh went “undercover” amidst what the network described as the “deepening crisis in Venezuela” in order “to capture the desperation gripping the nation.”

      The segment highlighted hyperinflation at grocery chains, Venezuelans lined up in queues for fuel and food, particularly in Caracas, and opposition demonstrations on January 23, when opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself president of the country.

      “This was the day when change was meant to come,” Walsh stated.

      It suggested President Nicolas Maduro’s government has given “handouts” to Venezuelans for years to buy their loyalty, but now “handouts” are no longer enough. Opponents like to equate social programs to “handouts” because corporate elites favor de-nationalization and privatization of services.

    • Our Man From Boeing: Has the Arms Industry Captured Trump’s Pentagon?

      The way personnel spin through Washington’s infamous revolving door between the Pentagon and the arms industry is nothing new. That door, however, is moving ever faster with the appointment of Patrick Shanahan, who spent 30 years at Boeing, the Pentagon’s second largest contractor, as the Trump administration’s acting secretary of defense.

      Shanahan had previously been deputy secretary of defense, a typical position in recent years for someone with a significant arms industry background. William Lynn, President Obama’s first deputy secretary of defense, had been a Raytheon lobbyist. Ashton Carter, his successor, was a consultant for the same company. One of President George W. Bush’s deputies, Gordon England, had been president of the General Dynamics Fort Worth Aircraft Company (later sold to Lockheed Martin).

      But Shanahan is unique. No secretary of defense in recent memory has had such a long career in the arms industry and so little experience in government or the military. For most of that career, in fact, his main focus was winning defense contracts for Boeing, not crafting effective defense policies. While the Pentagon should be focused on protecting the country, the arms industry operates in the pursuit of profit, even when that means selling weapons systems to countries working against American national security interests.

      The closest analogues to Shanahan were Charlie Wilson, head of General Motors, whom President Dwight Eisenhower appointed to lead the Department of Defense (DoD) more than 60 years ago, and John F. Kennedy’s first defense secretary, Robert McNamara, who ran the Ford Motor Company before joining the administration. Eisenhower’s choice of Wilson, whose firm manufactured military vehicles, raised concerns at the time about conflicts of interest — but not in Wilson’s mind. He famously claimed that “for years I thought what was good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa.”

      [...]

      And that’s just one of a slew of major contracts scooped up by Boeing in the past year. Others include a $9.2 billion program for a new training aircraft for the Air Force, an $805 million contract for an aerial refueling drone for the Navy, two new presidential Air Force One planes at a price tag of at least $3.9 billion, and significant new funding for the KC-46 refueling tanker, a troubled plane the Air Force has cleared for full production despite major defects still to be addressed. While there is as yet no evidence that Shanahan himself sought to tip the scales in Boeing’s favor on any of these systems, it doesn’t look good. As defense secretary, he’s bound to be called on to referee major problems that will arise with one or more of these programs, at which point the question of bias towards Boeing will come directly into play.

      Defenders of Shanahan’s appointment to run what is by far the largest department in the federal government suggest that key Boeing decisions won’t even reach his desk. That, however, is a deeply flawed argument for a number of reasons. To start, when making such decisions, lower-level managers will be aware of their boss’s lifetime connection to Boeing — especially since Shanahan has reportedly sung the praises of his former firm at the Pentagon. He has insisted, for example, that the massive F-35 program would have had none of the serious problems now plaguing it had it been run by Boeing.

    • Nuclear Threat Grows as US Prepares to Withdraw From INF Treaty

      With the US poised to begin its withdrawal from the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty on February 2, there’s been an uptick in media focus on arms control and the nuclear weapons, even as the US public remains largely disengaged.

      The INF treaty, signed by the US and Soviet Union in 1987, led to the elimination of nuclear and non-nuclear ground-launched ballistic and cruises missiles with a range of roughly 310 to 3,410 miles (500 to 5,500 km). Since 2013, however, the US has accused Russia of violating the treaty at least 30 times, pointing to Russia’s SSC-8 ground-launched cruise missile as posing “significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security.” Meanwhile, Russia denies violating the INF.

      In December, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued an ultimatum: the US would “suspend [treaty] obligations” in 60 days if Russian compliance could not be verified.

      “Russia’s lawless conduct,” Pompeo warned, “will not be tolerated in the realm of arms control or anywhere else.”

    • Bolton’s Legal Pad Saying “5,000 Troops to Colombia” Intensifies Fears of US Attack on Venezuela

      Intensifying speculation that the Trump administration is serious about its repeated threats of military action against Venezuela if President Nicolas Maduro does not hand over power to a hand-picked member of the nation’s opposition coalition, scrawlings on a notebook held by US National Security Advisor John Bolton at a press conference Monday afternoon contained the words: “5,000 troops to Colombia.”

      The press conference was held to announce new sanctions against Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, including the freezing of billions of dollars in assets, but also came with a fresh warning from Bolton that Trump is serious when he says that “all option are on the table” for the US to get its way in Venezuela.

      The first line of Bolton’s note reads: “Afghanistan->welcome the talks;” a reference to a new framework for peace talks between the US, the Afghan government, and the Taliban reported widely on Monday. While US troops withdrawals are assumed to be part of that, the obvious speculation included the idea that less troops in Afghanistan would allow for redeployment to Latin America. Colombia, a close US ally in the region that shares a large border with Venezuela, has also supported the call for Maduro’s ouster.

    • Your Complete Guide to the N.Y. Times’ Support of U.S.-Backed Coups in Latin America

      On Friday, The New York Times continued its long, predictable tradition of backing U.S. coups in Latin America by publishing an editorial praising Donald Trump’s attempt to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. This will be the 10th such coup the paper has backed since the creation of the CIA over 70 years ago.

      A survey of The New York Times archives shows the Times editorial board has supported 10 out of 12 American-backed coups in Latin America, with two editorials—those involving the 1983 Grenada invasion and the 2009 Honduras coup—ranging from ambiguous to reluctant opposition. The survey can be viewed here.

    • Cronyism and Corruption Gave Us Today’s CIA

      More than three years had passed since the attacks. Two national elections transpired in the interim, a congressional contest in 2002 and a presidential race in 2004. During these campaigns, the voting public were kept in the dark about a number of significant policy changes within the government. Still secret were the domestic electronic surveillance program, the international kidnappings, the secret prisons and torturous interrogations, and the assassinations program. Many significant details had also remained hidden about several agencies’ staggering failures in safeguarding the country before September 11, despite the terror wars dominating the political discussions.

      Eventually, a form of accountability began to take shape, though it was not quite what people like the vocal “Jersey Widows” had in mind. With many of the official avenues for righting the ship exhausted, concerned individuals in Washington began to leak like a sieve. The witch hunt that people like George Tenet had hoped to avoid did happen, but in an entirely cynical way. It would be those seeking to tell the truth who were brought to the stake.

      During this period, those who had been in the orbit of Alec Station began to receive promotions into true power positions. The agency became “The Rodriguez & Haspel Show,” with Jose making a quick leap from CTC director to take over the CIA’s spies division, taking his chief of staff Gina Haspel with him, who would continue her climb from there.1 This would not instill some people at the agency with much confidence.

      Longtime CIA employee Fulton Armstrong explains, “The constant complaint from professionals that are still on the inside is that an entire generation who accepted positions for which they were very generously paid in Afghanistan and Iraq, including do-nothing positions, later inherited the agency and now run the agency. There are a surprising number of graduates of the so-called war on terror, and the Iraq operation, in positions of influence without any background in that region. Institutions always reward these things, and it weakens the institutions.”

      After Alec Station, John Kiriakou had moved on to an assignment that saw him giving a daily 7 a.m. briefing inside the CIA’s seventh-floor executive conference room. One day he noticed Rodriguez’s new chief of staff, Gina Haspel,2 sitting at the side of the room as a note taker. Kiriakou knew of her. In the hallway, they called her “Bloody Gina.”

      During the briefing, he noticed something he felt was odd in her interchanges with her boss Rodriguez. “They had this almost unspoken understanding. She was his right hand. Nothing romantic, but this very strong mutual respect.” He was struck by it because he “never saw Jose show respect to anybody like that.”

      She forcefully took on the role of chief of staff, demanding that people go through her to get to him. Rodriguez’s other allies, including Alfreda Bikowsky, took top spots in the CounterTerrorist Center.3

      Bikowsky’s Alec Station was increasingly focused on the assassinations program and potential expanded use of drone technology. Her former boss, Rich Blee, took over Los Angeles station,4 known as the agency’s West Coast headquarters. Alec Station’s founder, Mike Scheuer, had released a book criticizing American foreign policy. When it became a bestseller, he retired to become a regular pundit on cable news. He was now shaping public opinion from the outside, while many of his own loyalists, once referred to as “the Manson Family,” were now running the larger CIA.

    • New Russian TV channel set to focus exclusively on World War II

      This spring, a new channel is scheduled to be added to Russian cable and satellite television packages. The “Pobeda” (“Victory”) channel will be distributed by the international branch of the state-owned Pervy Kanal (Channel One). Its purpose will be to display films and television shows related to the Second World War. That war is known in Russia by a term that translates roughly as “the Great Patriotic War”; simply saying “the war” in Russian without additional context refers to World War II as well.

      The channel will debut shortly before the 75th anniversary of the Soviet and Allied victory in the Second World War, which will take place in 2020.

    • New report claims to describe inception of private military company allegedly controlled by ‘Putin’s chef’

      The Bell has released an extensive report that aims to document the rise of the private military company (PMC) “Wagner,” in which the caterer and restauranteur Evgeny Prigozhin reportedly plays a leading role. Prigozhin’s ties with the Russian president have earned him the nickname “Putin’s Chef,” and multiple journalists have confirmed that the Wagner PMC has been involved in conflicts from southeast Ukraine to Syria.

      Unnamed sources told The Bell that the idea for a PMC gained steam among Russian military leaders following a private presentation for Russia’s Joint Staff at the 2010 St. Petersburg Economic Forum. Eeben Barlow, a retired officer of the South African Defense Force, allegedly gave the presentation; Barlow founded the South Africa-based PMC Executive Outcomes. The idea of employing veterans in Russia, where military service for men is avoidable but technically mandatory, to create a PMC evidently struck a chord with the Joint Staff. Its members had reportedly been discussing the idea for a year before Barlow’s presentation.

      Despite its popularity in the highest echelons of the Russian military, the idea of a Russian PMC took time to get off the ground, The Bell reported. An initial idea to create small undercover teams of mercenaries for special assignments seemed to reach a dead end due in part to major personnel changes in both the military and the government, including the brief presidency of current Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. However, the broader impetus to create a private military force under Russian control reportedly remained. According to The Bell, when Russia’s Joint Staff set about creating that company, Prigozhin had already made a name for himself as a major state catering contractor. The Joint Staff reportedly asked him to manage the new PMC. In 2013, Prigozhin allegedly began hiring staff for Wagner against his own wishes.

    • Why We Lost the Afghan War (Again)

      December 11, 2001: Three months after 9/11, two months after George W. Bush ordered bombs to begin raining on Kabul, the day The Village Voice published one of my war reports from the front in Afghanistan.

      “We’ve lost this war,” I wrote. To drive my point home, the headline was: “How We Lost Afghanistan.”

      I continued: “So how much will it cost?”

      Seventeen years later, the end of America’s longest war—since history suggests Afghans will keep killing each other long after our departure, it would be more precise to say the end of America’s involvement in Afghanistan—appears to be drawing near. Peace talks between the Trump Administration and the Taliban in Qatar have culminated with an “agreement on principle” whose main U.S. demand is easy for the Taliban to grant. Afghanistan, the Taliban must assure the U.S. and the Afghan puppet regime in Kabul, cannot again become a “platform for international terrorist groups or individuals.” Even according to estimates by the Obama-era CIA, Al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan was more of a coincidence than a fearsome terrorist organization: “about 50 to 100 Qaeda operatives.”

      They could have fit on one bus. For this we fought a war?

      Now we know the price tag of the invasion and long occupation: 2,400-ish U.S. troops killed, 4,000-ish U.S. “civilian contractors” killed, 59,000-ish Afghan soldiers and police killed, 38,000-ish Afghan civilians killed, 42,000 “enemy” Afghan soldiers killed, 50-ish journalists killed, 400-ish NGO workers killed, 20,000-ish U.S. troops wounded. No one counts the other non-fatal casualties. Obviously the non-U.S. death counts are way lowball.

    • Trump’s Coup in Venezuela: The Full Story

      The US-sponsored coup in Venezuela, still ongoing as I write, is the latest chapter in the long and bloody history of US imperialism in Latin America. This basic fact, understood by most across the left of the political spectrum – including even the chattering liberal class which acknowledges this truth only with the passage of time and never in the moment – must undergird any analysis of the situation in Venezuela today. That is to say, the country is being targeted by the Yanqui Empire.

      This point is, or at least should be, indisputable irrespective of one’s opinions of Venezuelan President Maduro, the Socialist Party (PSUV), or the progress of the Bolivarian Revolution. Imperialism, and its neocolonial manifestation in the 21st Century, is there to pick clean the bones of the Bolivarian dream and return Venezuela to the role of subservient asset, an oil-soaked proxy state ruled by a right-wing satrap eager to please the colonial lords of capital.

      But in providing analysis of the situation, the Left must tread carefully with the knowledge that though it may be weak, disorganized, fragmented, and bitterly sectarian, the Left remains the principal vehicle for cogent analysis of imperialism and its machinations. This historic role that the Left has played, from Lenin and Mao to Hobsbawm and Chomsky, is of critical importance as analysis informs discourse which in turn ossifies into historical narrative.

      And with that weighty and historic responsibility, the Left is duty-bound to understand at a deep level what we’re witnessing in Venezuela. Moreover, the Left must beware the pitfalls of shallow, superficial analysis which can lead to poor understanding of material reality, and even poorer anti-imperialist politics.

    • Israeli General Mounts Challenge to Netanyahu by Flaunting Gaza Carnage

      With April’s elections looming, Benjamin Netanyahu has good reason to fear Benny Gantz, his former army chief. Gantz has launched a new party, named Israeli Resilience, just as the net of corruption indictments is closing around the prime minister.

      Already, at this early stage of campaigning, some 31 per cent of the Israeli public prefer Gantz to head the next government over Netanyahu, who is only months away from becoming the longest-serving leader in Israel’s history.

      Gantz is being feted as the new hope, a chance to change direction after a series of governments under Netanyahu’s leadership have over the past decade shifted Israel ever further to the right.

      Like Israel’s former politician generals, from Yitzhak Rabin to Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon, Gantz is being portrayed – and portraying himself – as a battle-hardened warrior, able to make peace from a position of strength.

    • Federal agents arrest Russian senator in connection with 2010 murder investigation

      Federal agents arrested a Russian senator in the middle of the Federation Council’s assembly hall on Wednesday, January 30. Earlier, Rauf Arashukov’s colleagues voted in a closed session to strip him of his legal immunity and sanction his arrest in connection with two murders committed in 2010.

      According to reports in the Russian media, three witnesses have testified that the 32-year-old senator from Karachay-Cherkessia was involved in the killing of a youth activist named Aslan Zhukov and the death of Fral Shebzukhov, an adviser who worked for then Karachay-Cherkessia President Boris Ebzeyev.

    • Trump’s Crusade in Latin America

      What we are witnessing in Venezuela is a Latin America policy that draws from the Cold War and the era of US interventions, when regard for democracy and international law mattered little and anticommunism was the dominant motif. With John Bolton and Mike Pompeo leading the way, the targeting of Venezuela, along with Cuba and Nicaragua, has become an ideological struggle.

      “A sordid cradle of communism,” Bolton calls those countries. Very much in the spirit of George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil,” Bolton contends that “we are also confronted once again with the destructive forces of oppression, socialism and totalitarianism. Under this administration, we will no longer appease dictators and despots near our shores in this hemisphere. We will not reward firing squads, torturers, and murderers … The troika of tyranny in this hemisphere—Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua—has finally met its match.”

      Nicolás Maduro’s government is first on Trump’s hit list.

      For several months in 2017 the administration reportedly held discussions with dissident members of the Venezuelan military and security forces about supporting a coup or even an invasion (Julian Borger in The Guardian, July 5, 2018). In this instance Trump’s advisers consulted US diplomats, and they apparently urged the military not to act against Maduro.

    • Democracy in the Americas: the U.S. Pot and the Venezuelan Kettle

      Venezuela has as much right to call itself a democracy as does the United States. Until that is understood by enough people, the Trump administration will continue to devastate Venezuela’s economy with illegal sanctions and push it towards civil war. People can oppose President Donald Trump’s economic sanctions and incitement of a military coup without acknowledging President Nicolas Maduro’s democratic legitimacy, but by not acknowledging his legitimacy they needlessly weaken their position.

      Millions around the world opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the many years of sanctions that came before that invasion, while also accepting, in that case appropriately, that Saddam Hussein was a monstrous dictator. However, massive global opposition to U.S. aggression in Iraq failed to prevent the war that killed hundreds of thousands of people. The most horrifying thing about Venezuela’s case is that it shows (for at least the third time in this century alone) that democratic legitimacy provides very little defense for a government when the U.S. and its allies decide that it “must go.”

      On May 20 of last year, Maduro received the votes of 6.2 million people, about 31 percent of the eligible voters, about the same percentage that U.S. presidents generally receive (Obama received 31 percent in 2008 and 28 percent in 2012, while Trump received 26 percent in 2016). Four different groups of international observers (reports here, here, here and here) concluded that Maduro’s electoral victory was clean. If you look beyond vague appeals to the authority of establishment groupthink — statements that typically say the election was “widely dismissed as fraudulent” — you’ll find the arguments to support that claim appallingly thin.

    • The War That Didn’t End All Wars

      I reach out to touch the portrait of his youthful face, scarcely wrinkled and smiling. Why did you have to die so young? Tears form—it is almost too much to bear. Almost, no, it is too much to bear. I look down at the floor. A map painted on the floor points me to Amiens. For a moment, I am thrown back one hundred years to the first of the hundred last days of World War I, August 1918. It is uncanny. I am in the Ottawa War Museum exhibition “Victory 1918—the last hundred days.”

      I can hear the ear-crushing roar of guns. I can almost see the muddy, rat-infested trenches and barbwire twisted and gangly. Yes, rats because the troops have no way of getting rid of rotting food. It is taking me into a place of the imagination that I don’t really want to travel. I am afraid of what I might meet. I am afraid I will fall into the darkness of hell where neither God nor hope exists.

      The exhibition has set out a journey through the last hundred days of a war some supposed would end all wars. The narrative of the accomplishments of the four divisions of the battle-hardened Canadian Corps frames the exhibit. That’s the big story, but there are many other stories woven into the larger narrative. For one hundred days, beginning at 5:20 a.m. on August 8th, the Corps battled from Amiens, to the Drocourt-Queant Line, the Canal du Nord, Cambrai and finally Valenciennes. And victory. Most Canadians have not even heard of these names. And perhaps have forgotten that 45,000 soldiers from Canada were killed in these hundred days.

      The “Victory 1918” exhibit is both brilliant and disturbing. It is designed as a kind of maze that hems you in. There is not much room between the walls. It feels claustrophobic. In fact, one can look skyward and see models of bombs filling the ceiling. The sounds of explosions and battlefield screams are constant. One turns a corner and a large screen shows an NFB film of a Canadian tank that appears suddenly out of the smoke and mist as it crushes a German bunker. You are there, and, astonishingly, see a German soldier reach over to see if his comrade is alive. He isn’t. War historians tell us that these oddly shaped World War I tanks often broke down. Armour-piercing rounds of high explosives could penetrate the machine’s steel hull. Tanka crews could be “splashed” by flying metal fragments. Even wearing a leather helmet that looked like a Jacques Plante goalie mask didn’t help much.

    • Does the Super Bowl Feel Too Political? Thank Militarism

      Super Bowl season is like the holidays — a celebration shared by people more accustomed to arguing than sitting down together. As one of the few transpartisan, mass media events left to our tribal culture, the biggest TV night of the year can’t help but channel the political tensions most of us endure all year long.

      This year, pop superstar Rihanna turned town the Super Bowl halftime show, citing the NFL’s crackdown on protests against racial discrimination. For the same reason, comedian Amy Schumer publicly swore off doing any commercials.

      Meanwhile, advertisers fret that running any ads at all could be read as a statement one way or the other. (Last year, Budweiser faced boycott calls for an ad merely mentioning that one of its founders was an immigrant.)

      It’s a normal thing to want a break from arguing. But in a politicized environment, even shutting up is a political act.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Elon Musk’s private jet appears to make frivolous flights, per Washington Post

      Flight data obtained by The Washington Post shows that Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has a private jet that logged about 150,000 miles in 2018. While many billionaires have private jets, Musk’s jet stands out in the number of trips it made and miles it logged, the Post reports.

      Perhaps most egregious, the plane logged a number of 20-mile trips, repositioning from the south side of Los Angeles to the north side. “Tesla said Musk never used the plane to fly between different spots in Los Angeles,” the Post reports. Instead, the jet would make the 20-mile repositioning flights to meet the CEO at a closer airport.

    • Trump Such a Fool on Climate Internet Forced to Ask: How Can ‘Global Waming’ Tweet Not Be a Troll?

      The Midwestern United States is currently enduring life-threatening cold temperatures—which these days all but ensures, as so many climate reporters and experts anticipated, an ignorant and even infuriating tweet from President Donald Trump conflating weather and climate.

      Late Monday, Trump tweeted about the brutal and dangerous wind chills hitting the middle of the country, and even asked global “waming” (sic) to “please come back fast.”

    • New Green Deal and Nuclear Doomsday Clock

      This past week witnessed two significant and connected events. We remembered and celebrated the visionary champion of civil rights, social and economic justice and nuclear disarmament, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr at the outset and finished the week with the unveiling of the Nuclear Doomsday Clock. Dr. King realized the interconnectedness of these issues and that you could not have one without each of the others.

      This week our government is reopening as our Progressive Caucus prepares to do the people’s work proposing a “Green New Deal”, building a carbon free economy while providing social and economic justice to workers in this new economy. Yet, as Dr. King acknowledged in 1959, “What will be the ultimate value of having established social justice in a context where all people, Negro and white, are merely free to face destruction by strontium 90 or atomic war?“ There is no racial, social, economic or environmental justice as long as this threat exists.

    • The Fracking Industry’s Flaring Problem May Be Worse Than We Thought

      In 2018, the oil and gas industry operating in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale burned off record amounts of natural gas, largely obtained via hydraulic fracturing (fracking). This process, known as flaring, costs the industry money — it literally burns one of the products being pumped out of the ground — but more importantly, the resulting release of globe-warming emissions of carbon dioxide and methane spells disaster for the climate.

      And a new analysis of satellite evidence indicates the industry is likely underreporting how much gas it is actually flaring in the Permian Shale, with implications for other oil fields.

    • Found But Lost: Newly Discovered Shark May Be Extinct

      Over the past two decades more than 260 new species of shark have been discovered by researchers around the world, increasing the number of known species by more than 20 percent.

      Now we can add one more to the list. A paper published Jan. 2 in the journal PLOS ONE describes a striking new shark species from the waters off the coasts of Borneo, Thailand and Vietnam. It looks like some similar “whaler shark” species — a genus that also includes the well-known bull shark and blacktip shark — but its teeth, snout, fins and vertebrae are distinctive enough that scientists have declared it to be its own species.

      There’s just one problem: The shark was identified from decades-old museum samples and hasn’t been seen in the wild since the 1930s.

      That’s why the researchers have named the species “lost shark.”

      More formally they’ve dubbed it Carcharhinus obsolerus — the second word in the taxonomic name is Latin for “extinct.”

      [...]

      Meanwhile there’s hope that by formally identifying and naming this species, even decades after its last sighting, it may be “lost” no more.

      That’s happened in the past. “A close relative, the Borneo shark, was once thought to be lost, with no records since 1937,” Kyne points out. “It was rediscovered in 2004 during fish-market surveys. We hope that the lost shark can be re-found in the future, and so we don’t formally consider it to be extinct.”

    • Ignore the Moron: We’re All Gonna Die

      Another helpful antidote to our “virus of stupidity” was this week-end’s first American action by the U.K.-based Extinction Rebellion – “Rebel For Life” – which uses protests and civil disobedience to urge world leaders to address climate change; to date, it has reportedly spawned over 200 global satellite groups. After five weeks of organizing, Extinction Rebellion NYC marked its American debut with a rowdy march down Fifth Avenue that stopped at Trump Tower and featured now-extinct golden toad head gear and the Rev. Billy and his Stop Shopping Choir singing, “There are only so many beautiful days left!” The march culminated in a die-in at Rockefeller Center’s skating rink, with bodies forming the group’s hour-glass logo – a reminder that time is running out.

      Organizers saw the event, dubbed “Rebellion Day 1,” as part of the build-up to an international week of action in April, a sort of American launch for what they hope will be chapters across the country. Ultimately, they hope to “provoke an uprising on a scale that’s never been seen before in the U.S., a national coordinated economic and government disruption” that will continue until leaders address the climate change emergency. “This is not a one-off march,” they say. “We will keep going for as long as we have to.” From one Oregon organizer, “We are all going to die, and we need to shout it from the rooftops.”

    • Pyrenees pipeline veto is setback for gas

      The Pyrenees pipeline veto announced by regulators in France and Spain, rejecting plans to complete a €3 billion (£2.6 bn) gas link between both countries, is being hailed as a major victory by climate change protestors.

      The pipeline, which would have doubled the capacity for transporting natural gas through the mountains on the Franco-Spanish border, was supported by the European Union as a way to reduce its reliance on Russian gas, but the project now appears doomed.

      Campaigners in both countries said it was a defeat for the fossil fuel industry and a major step in preventing the EU from continuing to rely on gas instead of renewables.

      “MidCat”, as the proposed Midi-Catalunya pipeline was known, would have allowed the flow of gas in both directions across the Pyrenees. Significantly, it would have allowed liquefied gas from terminals in Spain to be pumped north to France to replace an estimated 10% of the gas coming south from Russia.

    • Bolsonaro government reveals plan to develop the ‘Unproductive Amazon’

      With Brazil’s Bolsonaro administration not even a month old, the new president’s Chief of Strategic Affairs last week announced plans to build a bridge over the Amazon River in Pará state in order to begin developing what he called an “unproductive, desertlike” region ­– a reference to the Amazon rainforest.

      Maynard Santa Rosa, a retired army general and one of seven military ministers in the new government, said the administration plans major construction projects centered on the Trombetas River, which flows into the Amazon from the north, so as to integrate the region into the “national productive system.”

      The projects to be built include a hydroelectric dam on the Trombetas River, a 1.5 kilometer (0.9 mile) bridge over the Amazon at the small town of Obidos, and an extension of the BR-163 highway from Santarem north to Brazil’s frontier with Surinam, a distance of roughly 480 kilometers (300 miles).

  • Finance

    • Arizona Lawmakers Want to Make It Harder for Teachers to Strike

      An inspiring wave of teacher strikes swept the nation in 2018, including in states where teachers are not technically allowed to engage in labor actions. It looks like #RedForEd is continuing into 2019, with Los Angeles teachers back on the job after hammering out a deal and Denver teachers contemplating a strike of their own.

      But in Arizona, the backlash has arrived — and it could be a warning sign for other organizing teachers in the U.S.

      As public employees, teachers face certain restrictions in some states designed to make it harder to strike. And that has triggered much semantic debate about what constitutes a strike.

      Is it still a strike if it’s a walkout? What about if the protest action targets lawmakers, not their employers and supervisors? In West Virginia, a misleadingly-termed “right to work” state, such actions are unlawful — but that didn’t stop a teacher uprising in early 2018.

    • Women Still Earn a Lot Less Than Men

      A decade ago, on Jan. 29, 2009, newly inaugurated President Barack Obama signed his first bill into law: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.

      It was the latest legislative effort to close the persistently stubborn gap between how much women and men earn. At the time, women made just 77 cents of every dollar men earned – a level that hadn’t improved all that much since the 1990s, according to Census data.

      While existing laws already prohibited gender-based wage discrimination, the Ledbetter Act gave workers more time to sue employers over the issue. And the hope was that it would make a big difference.

    • ‘Greed Has No Limit for GOP’: McConnell Estate Tax Repeal Would Hand Tens of Billions to Walton and Koch Families

      The deeply unpopular Republican tax law already significantly weakened the estate tax by doubling the exemption, allowing couples with up to $22 million to pass on their fortunes tax-free.

      If it passes Congress, the plan introduced by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), John Thune (R-S.D.), and McConnell—and co-sponsored by dozens of Senate Republicans—would accomplish the longstanding GOP goal of completely eliminating the estate tax.

      “Ending the estate tax would give a tax break of up to $63 billion to the Walton family and $39 billion to the Kochs—but $0 to 99.8% of Americans,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) noted in a tweet on Tuesday. “At a time of record inequality, the very last thing we should do is line the pockets of the rich.”

    • Fact check: Is Russia’s Justice Ministry really legalizing bribes as long as bureaucrats find them ‘unavoidable’? Spoiler: No.

      This is how Russian- and English-language headlines have been covering a new proposal from the Russian Justice Ministry that would regulate when citizens would be held responsible for corruption-related violations. News reports have paid particular attention to a line in the bill that says it may be impossible to avoid certain instances of corruption “due to circumstances of insurmountable force.”

    • After the Shutdown, the Lowest Paid Workers Still Won’t Get Back Pay

      President Trump and Congress reached a deal to open the government until Feb. 15 and to give 800,000 federal workers 35 days of missed wages. Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, told CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday that while payroll won’t happen all at once, “We hope that by the end of this week, all of the back pay will be made up and, of course, the next payroll will go out on time.”

      Over half a million federal contractors however—those whose employers have contracts with the federal government but are not directly employed by it—have no such relief.

      As Danielle Paquette reports in The Washington Post, “Unlike the 800,000 career public servants who are slated to receive full back pay over the next week or so, the contractors who clean, guard, cook and shoulder other jobs at federal workplaces aren’t legally guaranteed a single penny.”

    • Historian’s Advice to Davos Elite Worried About Pitchforks: ‘Stop Talking About Philanthropy’ and Start Paying Higher Taxes

      If the world’s richest and most powerful are worried about a so-called popular “backlash” in response to the global economic system they defend—and largely control—Rutger Berman, a Dutch historian and author of the book Utopia for Realists, during a panel last week titled “The Cost of Inequality,” said the pathway is not complicated. “The answer,” he said, “is very simple: Just stop talking about philanthropy, and start talking about taxes.”

      “I mean we can talk for a very long time about all these stupid philanthropy schemes,” Bregman added. “We can invite [U2 frontman] Bono once more. But, come on, we’ve got to be talking about taxes. That’s it. Taxes, taxes, taxes. All the rest is bullshit in my opinion.”

    • Extreme Wealth Threatens Our Very Planet

      That’s the conclusion of another new blockbuster study on climate change, this one from the National Academy of Sciences. Our fossil-fuel industrial economy, the study details, has made for the fastest climate changes our Earth has ever seen.
      “If we think about the future in terms of the past, where we are going is uncharted territory for human society,” notes the study’s lead author, Kevin Burke from the University of Wisconsin.

      “In the roughly 20 to 25 years I have been working in the field,” adds his colleague John Williams, “we have gone from expecting climate change to happen, to detecting the effects, and now we are seeing that it’s causing harm” — as measured in property damage and deaths, in intensified flooding and fires.

      The last time climate on Earth saw nearly as drastic and rapid a climate shift, relates another new study, came some 252 million years ago, and that shift unfolded over the span of a few thousand years. That span of time saw the extinction of 96 percent of the Earth’s ocean species and almost as devastating a loss to terrestrial creatures.
      Other scientific studies over this past year have made similarly alarming observations, and together all these analyses provided an apt backdrop for this past December’s United Nations climate change talks in Poland.

    • How SEIU’s Self-Inflicted Loss Became Labor’s Gain

      SEIU then spent tens of millions of dollars trying to prevent thousands of angry nursing home, hospital, and home care workers from joining the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), a rival union formed by pre-trusteeship UHW activists. More than $10 million was squandered on a single federal court lawsuit that sought $25 million in damages from 28 NUHW founders.

      Stern’s military style take-over of UHW greatly tarnished SEIU’s reputation for being “progressive.” It generated bad press for the entire labor movement because the trusteeship lent credence to anti-union propaganda about “union bosses” running roughshod over the rank-and-file and misusing their dues money.

    • Now That’s What I Call Crypto: 10 Years of The Best of Bitcoin

      On January 3rd, 2009, the Genesis Block was created. This was the first entry on the Bitcoin blockchain. Because of the nature of Bitcoin, all transactions lead back to this block. This is where Bitcoin began, almost exactly ten years ago.

      The Genesis Block was created by Satoshi, a person or persons we know nothing about. In the decade since, we’ve seen the astonishing rise and meteoric descent of Bitcoin, and then it happened again after the bubble was re-inflated.

      Due to the nature of Bitcoins, blockchains, and ledgers, the entire history of Bitcoin has been recorded. Every coin spent and every satoshi scrupled has been recorded for all to see. It’s time for a retrospective, and not just because I wanted to see some art based on the covers of Now That’s What I Call Music albums. No, ten years is a lot of stories to tell.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Episode 13: The History of Government Shutdowns

      This episode of Along the Line analyzes the history and impact of government shutdowns. Starting with their 1980 origin, Nicholas “Dr Dredlocks” Baham and Dr. Nolan Higdon breakdown the destructive past of government shutdowns. ATL’s editor and sound Engineer is Janice Domingo.

    • Trump Says 58,000 Texans Voted Illegally. Here’s What Actually Happened.

      Voter fraud is extremely rare. States using unreliable data to justify purges of eligible voters, unfortunately, is not.
      The president of the United States is once again spreading unsubstantiated claims about rampant voter fraud and undermining faith in the integrity of our democracy. This time, he’s claiming that 95,000 noncitizens were registered to vote in Texas and more than half have actually voted. These numbers, he concluded, are “just the tip of the iceberg.”

      Unsurprisingly, Trump’s tweets are in need of a serious fact-check. Here’s what is actually happening in Texas.

      On Friday, the Texas secretary of state announced that he was sending local election officials a list of registered voters who had been flagged because, at some point, they purportedly had provided a document indicating they were a noncitizen — like a green card or work visa — while obtaining a driver’s license or ID card from the Texas Department of Public Safety. Among the people on the list, about 58,000 people may have cast a ballot in one or more elections from 1996-2018, according to the secretary of state.

    • Episode 14: The Wall and 2019 Government Shutdown

      Nicholas “Dr Dredlocks” Baham and Dr. Nolan Higdon explain the politics of the 2019 government shutdown as well as the racial and political history of the wall. ATL’s editor and sound Engineer is Janice Domingo.

    • The One Wall Trump Doesn’t Like

      The Trump administration continues to push laws and policies that breach the wall separating religion and the government.

      President Trump may be the world’s most renowned fan of building walls, but there’s at least one wall he loathes: the wall of separation between church and state. From the Muslim ban to his so-called “religious freedom” executive order, Trump and his theocratic supporters have pushed laws and policies aimed at demolishing the First Amendment’s protections against government promotion of religion and favoritism of particular faiths. And now, he’s targeting church-state separation in our public schools.

      After Fox News aired a segment on “[b]ringing the Bible back to the classroom” on Monday morning, President Trump tweeted, “Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!”

      But there’s nothing “great” about legislation proposing Bible-study classes in our public schools. Public schools are for education, not religious indoctrination. More often than not, public school Bible classes resemble Sunday school lessons and violate students’ and parents’ First Amendment rights.

    • Episode 15: Nick’s Flix: The Manchurian Candidate

      This episode is a Nick’s Flix, which is where we use film to help us understand contemporaneous issues, examining the 1967 film The Manchurian Candidate. Nicholas “Dr Dredlocks” Baham and Dr. Nolan Higdon use the film to analyze Trump’s behavior in office. ATL’s editor and sound Engineer is Janice Domingo.

    • Bernie’s Likely 2020 Bid Could Transform the Political Landscape

      The likely Bernie Sanders campaign for president offers a boost and a challenge to progressives. From the outset, the campaign’s strength would largely depend on how much synergy develops with social movements on the ground. Much more than the presidency is at stake. A powerful mix of grassroots activism and electoral work could transform the country’s political landscape.

      A 2020 Sanders campaign would mostly pick up where it left off in 2016. Contrary to widespread media spin, the fact that Bernie would be facing dozens of contenders for the Democratic nomination this time doesn’t change the reality of his unique approach to economic power relations. Whether it’s called democratic socialism, progressive populism or something else, that approach sets him apart from the other candidates, even including Elizabeth Warren.

      Sanders has been willing and able to use a national stage for public education and agitation about inherently anti-democratic and destructive aspects of corporate capitalism. That explains why, in political and media realms, so many knives are again being sharpened against him.

      Attacks on Sanders have come from many directions, but they largely spring from his detractors’ zeal to defend corporate power as a driving force that propels and steers the US government as well as the Democratic Party. Efforts to undermine the Sanders 2020 primary campaign would span from mainstream media to liberal and centrist forces aligned with competitors for the Democratic nomination.

    • The Second Implosion of Central America

      Some three decades after the wars of revolution and counterinsurgency came to an end in Central America, the region is once again on the brink of implosion. The Isthmus has been gripped by renewed mass struggle and state repression, the cracking of fragile political systems, unprecedented corruption, drug violence, and the displacement and forced migration of millions of workers and peasants. The backdrop to this second implosion of Central America, reflecting the spiraling crisis of global capitalism itself, is the exhaustion of a new round of capitalist development in recent years to the same drumbeat as the globalization that took place in the wake of the 1980s upheavals.

      Lost in the headlines on Central American refugees fleeing to the United States is both the historical context that has sparked the exodus and the structural transformations through capitalist globalization that has brought the region to where it is today. The mass revolutionary movements of the 1970s and 1980s did manage to dislodge entrenched military-civilian dictatorships and open up political systems to electoral competition, but they were unable to achieve any substantial social justice or democratization of the socioeconomic order.

      Capitalist globalization in the Isthmus in the wake of pacification unleashed a new cycle of modernization and accumulation. It transformed the old oligarchic class structures, generated new transnationally oriented elites and capitalists and high-consumption middle classes even as it displaced millions, aggravated poverty, inequality, and social exclusion, and wreaked havoc on the environment, triggering waves of outmigration and new rounds of mass mobilization among those who stayed behind. Hence the very conditions that gave rise to the conflict in the first place were aggravated by capitalist globalization.

    • GOP Leaders Signal No Taste for Renewing Shutdown Over Wall

      Wary of reigniting a clash that proved damaging to Republicans, congressional GOP leaders signaled Tuesday that they want to de-escalate the battle over President Donald Trump’s border wall and suggested they could be flexible as bargainers seek a bipartisan agreement.

      In what seemed a message aimed at the White House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized the two confrontational tactics that Trump has threatened to employ if negotiators can’t craft a border security accord to his liking. The president has said he’d trigger a fresh shutdown or declare a national emergency on the Southwest boundary, a disputed move that could let him redirect budget funds to building segments of the wall.

      The remarks by McConnell, R-Ky., were noteworthy because the guarded lawmaker seldom volunteers his opinions and reporters had not specifically asked him about a shutdown or a possible emergency declaration. The comments underscored his party’s eagerness to put the 35-day partial federal shutdown behind them and avoid additional jarring clashes, and suggested possible divisions between GOP lawmakers and the White House.

    • Public Workers’ Trump Card

      Air traffic controllers hold the trump card (pardon the expression) in upcoming negotiations between Donald Trump and congressional Democrats over border security.

      That’s because the president and the Republicans know that another shutdown would likely cause a repeat of what happened last Friday, when so many of the nation’s air traffic controllers called in sick that America’s air traffic came to a near standstill. Hours later, Trump agreed to reopen the government without funding for his wall.

      Never underestimate the power of airport delays to arouse the nation. Nancy Pelosi deserves credit for sticking to her guns, but the controllers brought the country to its knees.

    • This Is No Time for Howard Schultz’s Foolishness

      Just what we need, another ego-crazed billionaire with zero experience in government who thinks he is destined to be president. What could go wrong?

      Howard Schultz, the man who put a Starbucks on every corner, said in a “60 Minutes” interview aired Sunday that he is mulling a run for the White House as an independent. Schultz admits he’s “not the smartest person in the room,” but he must be smart enough to know he can’t possibly win.

      He is quite capable of reelecting President Trump, though.

      At present, the specter of a second Trump term looks comfortably remote. The blue wave in the midterm elections and Trump’s cellar-dwelling approval numbers show what the country thinks of him and his corrupt, chaotic, kooky administration. A recent poll shows him trailing any of his likely Democratic opponents. If the election were held next week, I’m pretty confident that Trump would lose to a ham sandwich.

    • Sunrise Movement Vows to Make Sure Kamala Harris’ Green New Deal Support Goes Beyond Embrace of ‘Buzzword’

      A day after the Sunrise Movement displayed a prominent banner at the launch of Sen. Kamala Harris’s (D-Calif.) presidential campaign, urging the senator to back a Green New Deal to shift the U.S. to a 100 percent renewable energy system, Harris announced at a town hall event that she supported the ambitious proposal.

      At the CNN-hosted town hall in Iowa, Harris told the audience, “I support a Green New Deal” to help combat the climate crisis, which she called “an existential threat to our country.”

      “All children need to be able to breathe clean air and drink clean water, and we’ve got to have a commitment to a policy that will allow that to happen for ourselves and our children and our grandchildren,” Harris said. “And right now we don’t.”

      Sunrise Movement founder Varshini Prakash applauded Harris for becoming the fourth Democrat in the 2020 campaign to announce support for the Green New Deal. But as the group did when Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) backed the plan, the Sunrise Movement said it will hold Harris’s feet to the fire on the policy details, including the level of urgency, embodied in the kind of Green New Deal its members are demanding.

      “The Green New Deal would be an unprecedented federal government-led mobilization—on the scale of World War II and the original New Deal—that aims to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by 2030,” Prakash said in a statement. “We’ll continue to push the senator to make sure that the Green New Deal, for her, is more than just a buzzword.”

    • There Are Only Two Democratic Hopefuls Wall Street Fears

      What do Democratic officials as diverse as Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Joe Biden have in common? Each has signaled a desire to run for president in 2020, if not formally announced a decision to do so. And less than two years from their party’s primary, none appear to pose any kind of meaningful threat to Wall Street, even as its wealth and influence have grown in the protracted aftermath of the Great Recession.

      According to new report from Politico, there are only two prospective candidates that the nation’s bankers genuinely fear. “It can’t be Warren, and it can’t be Sanders,” claims one anonymous CEO of a major bank. “It has to be someone centrist and someone who can win.”

      To the surprise of absolutely no one, the report reveals, Wall Street’s ideal candidate is Mike Bloomberg—a former Republican with deep ties to the financial sector and no discernible base. (According to the most recent Morning Consult/Politico data, he’s currently polling at 2 percent among Democratic voters.)

      The industry would likely also be amenable to somebody like former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who made headlines this week when he called Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s proposed tax on the ultra-rich “ridiculous.” Schultz’s ongoing flirtation with a third-party bid has already ignited calls for a Starbucks boycott, and he recently found himself brutally heckled during a promotional event at a Barnes & Noble in Manhattan. (Editor’s note: Schultz has postponed any announcement until at least the summer, and claims he will “only run if he sees a viable path” to victory.)

    • A crowded 2020 presidential primary field calls for ranked choice voting

      With dozens of Democrats lining up to run for President in 2020, now is the time to adopt ranked choice voting in early states to guarantee that primary winners have clear majority support. Greater choices for voters is welcome, but crowded primaries can produce “winners” with less than 25 percent of the vote. Meantime, millions of Democratic voters could fail to elect any delegates at all because their candidate falls below the 15 percent qualifying threshold. Someone could easily win the nomination over the expressed opposition of most primary voters.

      Consider the 2016 Republican primaries, which featured more than a dozen credible candidates. With provocative rhetoric making him the favorite of a passionate minority, Donald Trump captured the nomination despite falling short of a majority in the first 40 primaries and caucuses and polls indicating he would have lost in most early contests in head-to-head races against opponents like Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

    • With Trump Seen as ‘Symptom Not a Cause,’ US Rank Plummets on Global Corruption Index

      The United States earned a score of 71 out of 100 on the watchdog’s 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), knocking it out of the top 20 countries for the first time since 2011.

      Zoe Reiter, Transparency International’s acting representative to the U.S., said in a statement that “a four-point drop in the CPI score is a red flag and comes at a time when the U.S. is experiencing threats to its system of checks and balances, as well as an erosion of ethical norms at the highest levels of power.”

      “This is a red flag because it’s really part of a pattern that we’ve seen since the 2008 global financial crisis of a loss of trust…in our public institutions,” Reiter told Reuters. “People don’t see us as having adequate mechanisms in place to fight corruption and ensure the accountability of our elected officials.”

    • As Harris Says ‘Eliminate’ For-Profit Insurance, Bloomberg Offers Fact-Free Medicare for All Fearmongering

      At a town hall event Monday night, Sen. Kamala Harris’s (D-Calif.) unequivocal statement of support for a Medicare for All system which would do away with the for-profit health insurance industry won applause from the audience and universal healthcare advocates around the country, as the senator and 2020 presidential candidate backed the plan that 70 percent of Americans now support.

      “We need to have Medicare for All, that’s just the bottom line,” Harris told an audience member who asked about the issue, adding that healthcare “should be understood to be something that all people are entitled to so that they can live a productive life, so that they can have dignity.”

    • ‘We Believe in Primaries’: Ocasio-Cortez’s Team Welcomes Any Democrat Who Wants to Challenge Her in 2020

      “We believe in primaries as an idea. We’re not upset by the idea of being primaried. We are not going to go out there being anti-primary—they are good for [the] party,” said Ocasio-Cortez spokesman Corbin Trent. “If voters in the district feel that they can be better represented, that will be their choice on primary day. In the meantime, we’re going to be doing our dead-level best to make sure we are representing the needs and the will of our constituents.”

      Speaking to The Hill after the outlet granted anonymity to levy the criticisms, one House Democrat claimed to have already begun recruiting potential primary challengers to run against Ocasio-Cortez.

      “What I have recommended to the New York delegation is that you find her a primary opponent and make her a one-term congressperson,” the Democrat said.

      The unnamed lawmaker went on to proclaim that “numerous council people and state legislators” have “been waiting 20 years for that seat”—referring to the district Ocasio-Cortez won by upsetting powerful Wall Street Democrat Joe Crowley last year.

    • What’s ‘Ridiculous,’ Says Warren, Is Not Tax on Wealth But Billionaires Like Schultz ‘Who Think They Can Buy the Presidency’

      “What’s ‘ridiculous’ is billionaires who think they can buy the presidency to keep the system rigged for themselves while opportunity slips away for everyone else.”

      That is how Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Tuesday responded to Howard Schultz, the billionaire and former Starbucks CEO considering a 2020 presidential run, after he characterized her proposed wealth tax on the nation’s ultra-rich as “ridiculous” earlier in the day.

      Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Tuesday swiftly rejected criticism of her plan to tax the wealthiest Americans from Howard Schultz, the billionaire and former Starbucks CEO who announced this week that he is exploring a potential presidential run in 2020.

      On NPR’s “Morning Edition,” Schultz called Warren’s Ultra-Millionaire Tax “ridiculous,” and suggested that the plan—which would levy an annual two percent tax on households with more than $50 million and a three percent tax on those with more than $1 billion in assets—is unfair to the .1 percent of Americans whose vast wealth would be targeted.

    • A Theology of Power: Mike Pence and the Dominionists

      Those involved in what’s become a major component of the evangelical right in the United States call themselves “dominionists.” They follow “dominion theology.” Pointing to the Bible, they emphasize that in it God gave humans “dominion” over the natural world and life in it. This, they believe, gives them license to exploit the earth. Further, the “dominionists” have expanded this to justify theocratic rule of society.

      It is an evangelical segment that Donald Trump has sought to attract. They constitute a significant portion of his so-called “base.”

      And, as the just-published book, The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence, by award-winning journalists and authors Michael D’Antonio and Peter Eisner, states: “For most of his life Pence had believed he was guided by God’s plan. He believed that the Lord intended for him to halt the erosion of religious conviction in the United States. And though he avoided stating it himself, many of his evangelical friends vbelieved Pence’s ultimate purpose was to establish a government based on biblical law. That was what they called Christian Dominionism.”

      Thus arises a big wrinkle in the Trump situation. If Trump resigns. is impeached or otherwise is no longer president and Pence replaces him, it could not only be a change of who is on top but a likely push for a different form of United States government.

    • Trump and the Feckless Chairman: Will Congress Hold the Administration Accountable?

      The executive branch has been overrun by individuals who have consistently been allowed to treat the world as their personal playground without any consequences. It is, therefore, unsurprising that last week, two Treasury Department officials declined to make themselves available to speak with the House Committee on Ways and Means.

      It is Chairman Richard Neal’s (D-Mass.) responsibility to ensure that they appear before the committee and address the mounting concerns surrounding the Treasury Department’s involvement in legally questionable maneuvers to lessen costly political backlash to the ongoing shutdown.

      Charles Rettig, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) commissioner, is claiming to be too busy running his unfunded and somewhat dormant agency to show up Jan. 16 to a scheduled meeting with the House Committee on Ways and Means where he was to brief members on the shutdown’s impacts on taxpayers. There is no word yet if Rettig has agreed to a new meeting date.

      Following this cancellation, Chairman Neal, to his credit, did not fold. Instead, he escalated the complaint and announced that the committee would hold a hearing next week on the same topic, this time inviting Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to testify. Mnuchin declined, offering to send deputies instead.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • How Facebook Trains Content Moderators to Put Out ‘PR Fires’ During Elections

      But internal Facebook documents obtained by Motherboard show that beyond protecting democracy, there’s a second, clearly stated reason that Facebook is interested in hardening its platform: protecting its public image. Facebook specifically instructs its content moderators to look out for posts that could cause “PR fires” around “hi-risk events” in the lead-up to elections.

    • Human Rights Groups Plead With The EU Not To Pass Its Awful ‘Terrorist Content’ Regulation

      While so many people have been focused on the disastrous potential of the EU’s Copyright Directive, we’ve been mentioning lately that another EU regulation, coming up right behind it, may be much more dangerous for the internet as we know it. The EU’s Terrorist Content Regulation is shaping up to be a true horror story, as we discussed in a recent podcast on the topic. As covered in that podcast, the EU is barreling forward on that regulation with little concern for the damage it will do (indeed, with little concern for showing any evidence that it’s needed).

      The basic idea behind the regulation is that, apparently, the internet is full of horrible “terrorist content” that is doing real damage (citation needed, but none given), and therefore, any online platform (including small ones) will be required to remove content based on the demands of basically anyone insisting they represent a government or law enforcement authority, within one hour of the report being sent, or the site will face crippling liability. On top of that, the regulation will create incentives for internet platforms to monitor all speech and proactively block lots of speech with little to no recourse. It’s a really, really bad idea, and everyone is so focused elsewhere that there hasn’t been that much public outcry about it.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Hearing Thursday: EFF Tells Court That Clicking on a URL Isn’t Enough Evidence to Justify A Search Warrant

      On Thursday, January 31, at 8:30 am, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will ask a federal appeals court to find that the act of clicking on a URL or weblink isn’t sufficient evidence for law enforcement to get a warrant to search someone’s home.

      The hearing involves a child pornography prosecution in which law enforcement obtained a warrant to search a defendant’s home based on the attempted connection to a URL (or weblink) by an IP address that was mapped to his computer. The URL led to a password-protected file-sharing service portal that the government maintains contained child pornography. The warrant application’s only connection to the defendant’s home was based solely on the attempted URL link, but included no information on how or why the defendant encountered the weblink, if he had any knowledge of what it linked to, or whether he ever accessed or downloaded the password-protected files.

    • A Surveillance Wall Is Not a Good Alternative to a Concrete Wall

      Since even before he took office, President Trump has called for a physical wall along the southern border of the United States. Many different organizations have argued this isn’t a great idea. In response, some Congressional Democrats have suggested turning to surveillance technology to monitor the border instead of a physical barrier.

      Without specific legislative proposals, it’s hard to know what these suggestions actually mean. However, any bill Congress considers related to border security should avoid–at minimum–invasive surveillance technologies like biometric screening and collection, DNA collection, social media snooping, unregulated drones along the border, and automatic license plate readers aimed at interior traffic.

    • Major vulnerability in 5G means that anyone with $500 worth of gear can spy on a wide area’s mobile activity

      IMSI catchers are so easy to build and operate that they have leapt from police agencies to criminals, and foreign and corporate spies, exposing us all to potential surveillance from all quarters.

    • Facebook has been paying teens $20 a month for total access to their phone activity

      The Research app requires that users install a custom root certificate, which gives Facebook the ability to see users’ private messages, emails, web searches, and browsing activity. It also asks users to take screenshots of their Amazon order history and send it back to Facebook.

    • Facebook’s “Research” Tool Pays Users To Get Complete Access To Their Data

      Last year in March, it was reported that Facebook pushed its Onavo Protect VPN app to the iOS users. While VPNs are usually used as an extra privacy layer, this tool did the exact opposite — it tracked the users’ activity and collected their data. Later, Apple kicked off the app from App Store as it was violating the company’s terms and conditions.

      Fast forward to 2019. Facebook has been caught using one more desperate tactic to grab as much data as possible. The company has been paying users to install a “Facebook Research” VPN that performs its job similar to Onavo Protect. The company pays the users of ages 13 to 35 up to $20 to install the app.

    • Facebook pays teens to install VPN that spies on them

      Desperate for data on its competitors, Facebook has been secretly paying people to install a “Facebook Research” VPN that lets the company suck in all of a user’s phone and web activity, similar to Facebook’s Onavo Protect app that Apple banned in June and that was removed in August. Facebook sidesteps the App Store and rewards teenagers and adults to download the Research app and give it root access to network traffic in what may be a violation of Apple policy so the social network can decrypt and analyze their phone activity, a TechCrunch investigation confirms.

      Facebook admitted to TechCrunch it was running the Research program to gather data on usage habits, and it has no plans to stop.

    • Senators ask Facebook why it tricked kids into spending parents’ money

      “A new report from the Center for Investigative Reporting shows that your company had a policy of willful blindness toward credit card charges by children—internally referred to as ‘friendly fraud’—in order to boost revenue at the expense of parents,” US Sens. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wrote in a letter to Zuckerberg today. “Notably, Facebook appears to have rejected a plan that would have effectively mitigated this risk and instead doubled down on maximizing revenue.”

      Because parents didn’t know that children would be able to make purchases without additional verification, “many young users incurred several thousands of dollars in charges while playing games like Angry Birds, Petville, Wild Ones, and Barn Buddy,” the senators’ letter said.

    • EU promises it’s watching closely as Facebook’s merger plans emerge

      “The Irish DPC will be very closely scrutinising Facebook’s plans as they develop, particularly in so far as they involve the sharing and merging of personal data between different Facebook companies,” the watchdog said.

    • Encryption law: developer lists economic, practical and ideological concerns

      An Australian software engineer, who works at a health tech start-up that uses encryption to protect patient data, has suggested several changes to the Federal Government’s encryption legislation which was passed in December.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • British Jews Apply for German Nationality as Brexit Looms

      Simon Wallfisch grew up in London as the grandson of an Auschwitz survivor, who had sworn to never return to the country that murdered her parents and 6 million other Jews.

      But more than 70 years after the Holocaust, Brexit has prompted Wallfisch and thousands of other Jews in Britain to apply for German citizenship, which was stripped from their ancestors by the Nazis during the Third Reich.

      “This disaster that we call Brexit has led to me just finding a way to secure my future and my children’s future,” said Wallfisch, 36, a well-known classical singer and cellist who received his German passport in October. “In order to remain European I’ve taken the European citizenship.”

      Britons holding dual citizenship from an EU country like Germany will retain the privilege of free movement and work across the soon-to-be 27-nation bloc.

    • California Cops Continue To Pretend New Public Records Law Allows Them To Erase Years Of Past Misconduct From The Record

      On January 1st, a California law went into effect turning long-shielded police misconduct records into public records. Prior to its enactment, at least one law enforcement agency executed a mass purge of older records, preemptively stunting the law’s effectiveness.

      The law has also faced legal challenges from California police unions and law enforcement agencies seeking a declaration that the law is not retroactive and PDs should only have to release misconduct records created past the date of the law’s effectiveness. The state Supreme Court declined an invitation to review the law, but three police unions in Contra Costa County have managed to secure a temporary restraining order while this aspect of the law is sorted out.

      The law doesn’t contain any language suggesting it does not apply retroactively. But it also doesn’t contain any language specifically stating it applies retroactively and that’s the wedge law enforcement agencies are trying to drive between themselves and their new obligations to the public. But the lawsuits aren’t just coming from the law enforcement side. Agencies are now being sued for failing to turn over documents the new law says the public can obtain.

    • Exclusive: Ex-Harvey Weinstein Employee Breaks Silence on Her Memo That Helped Take Down Movie Mogul

      In her first television interview, we speak with a woman who helped topple Harvey Weinstein and expose his rampant sexual abuse but has remained largely behind the scenes until now. Lauren O’Connor was a literary scout at the Weinstein Company who worked closely with Weinstein. In 2015, she penned an internal memo about her boss that would later become famous. In it, she wrote, “I am a 28 year old woman trying to make a living and a career. Harvey Weinstein is a 64 year old, world famous man and this is his company. The balance of power is me: 0, Harvey Weinstein: 10.” This memo was later leaked and would eventually become the bedrock of the 2017 New York Times investigation that first exposed Weinstein’s decades of abuse. Lauren O’Connor tells her own story for the first time in “Untouchable,” a damning documentary about Weinstein’s abuse of power through the eyes of the women he targeted, that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday.

    • “Untouchable”: Women Testify to Harvey Weinstein’s Decades of Sexual Abuse in Powerful New Film

      As we broadcast from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, we look at a new film that is forcing the movie industry to look closely at itself. It’s about the rise and fall of a movie titan who once used Sundance as a hunting ground: movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of rape, sexual assault or misconduct by more than 75 women. The film “Untouchable” takes on Harvey Weinstein’s decades of predatory behavior and the system that allowed it to happen, through the stories of survivors of his abuse, from his time as a young music promoter in Buffalo in the 1970s all the way until a series of investigations toppled Weinstein in 2017. The stories of accusers, from Gwyneth Paltrow to Salma Hayek to Angelina Jolie, rocked Hollywood, sparking the Me Too movement. More than a year after this public reckoning, Weinstein now faces five charges that could land him in prison for life, including rape and predatory sexual assault. Weinstein has just hired the former lawyers of one of his most public accusers, actor Rose McGowan, who says Weinstein raped her here at Sundance in 1997. His trial is expected to begin in May. Just two years after Harvey Weinstein joined the Women’s March in Park City, “Untouchable” premiered here on Friday. We sat down with the film’s director, Ursula Macfarlane, the day after the premiere.

    • How My High School Destroyed An Immigrant Kid’s Life Because He Drew The School’s Mascot

      Late last year, Pro Publica and the NY Times published an incredible, long and infuriating article, mostly about how a high school in NY destroyed an immigrant student’s life, due to a mixture of moral panics about “MS-13″ gang activity (whipped up by the federal government), over-aggressive policing within schools, and deeply troubling decisions by ICE. The story touches on a number of things that we normally write about — and I’ve been stewing over writing a post for weeks. The topics herein are most frequently covered on this site by Tim Cushing, rather than me. But I took this article, because the high school at the center of the article, Huntington High School in Suffolk County, New York is the high school I attended. It’s the high school I went to for 4 years, and it’s the high school where I gave a speech at graduation on the same football field you can see in one of the photos used to illustrate the story.

      Everything about the article is infuriating in so many ways, that it’s been difficult to figure out where to even start, but if we have to start someplace, let’s start with this: the rise of embedding police into schools — so-called School Resource Officers (SROs), who are employed by the local police, but whose “beat” is a school. Those officers report to the local police department and not the school, and can, and frequently do, have different priorities. We’ve long raised concerns about the increased policing of schools. Traditionally, schools handled their own disciplinary matters directly, within the school, with a focus on what was best for the learning environment of the students. They were not always good at this, but adding in an element where the end result could be criminal charges has always seemed misguided, and none more so than in this particular story and the case of “Alex” in the news story.

    • Russian LGBT Network formally requests federal investigation on Chechnya amid death threats to director

      The Russian LGBT Network has requested that Russia’s federal Investigative Committee look into reports of renewed arrests, torture, and killings of those suspected of being LGBTQ in Chechnya, Mediazona reports. The Network has led efforts to help victims of anti-LGBTQ persecution in Chechnya escape the region for multiple years.

      LGBT Network activists also named one of those arrested in the current crisis. Bekkhan Yusupov reportedly received asylum in France but returned to Chechnya to visit his family. In addition to making Yusupov’s arrest public, the Network made materials available to the Investigative Committee that testified to the killing of a Russian citizen between January 1 and 20 at the hands of law enforcement officers.

    • U.S. Launches Plan for Asylum Seekers to Wait in Mexico

      The Trump administration on Tuesday quietly launched an effort to make asylum seekers wait in Mexico while their cases wind through U.S. immigration courts, despite clear reservations and conflicting messages from the Mexican government.

      The U.S. returned one asylum seeker to Mexico — a 55-year-old Honduran man — on the first day of what would be one of the most dramatic changes to the U.S. immigration system in Donald Trump’s presidency, if the policy survives an anticipated legal challenge. Rodulfo Figueroa, head of Mexico’s immigration agency in Baja California state, said the man requested a ride to a migrant shelter in Tijuana.

      Mexican officials sent mixed signals on the crucial point of whether Mexico would impose limits on accepting families. Tonatiuh Guillen, commissioner of Mexico’s National Immigration Institute, said Mexico would only accept people 18 to 60 years old, which rules out families with young children.

    • Is Anyone Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf of Pennsylvania Avenue Anymore?

      It’s safe to say Washington, D.C., is badly broken. Congress is supposed to be writing, debating and passing federal laws, policies and taxes. The president has the option to veto congressional measures or sign them into law and implement them as written. Instead, we have the absolute spectacle of an out-of-control president stomping around issuing threats and trying to bully congressional leaders over funding for his widely opposed border wall. But unlike his success with those tactics in his first two years with a Republican-dominated Congress, as we just saw when President Trump folded on his wall-funding demand, almost no one is now afraid of the big, bad wolf in the White House.

      Apparently unaware of the meaning of “separate but equal” in regard to our nation’s government, Trump decided to threaten Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi with giving his State of the Union address in the House chambers with or without her permission. Speaker Pelosi — not “Nancy,” as Trump disrespectfully addresses her — had cancelled the president’s speech to Congress while the government remained shuttered.

      Pelosi said she was concerned about security due to the shutdown, which Trump initiated to try and force Congress to give him $5.7 billion for a wall on the southern border.

      Considering the president, virtually all of Congress, the Supreme Court justices, and other high-ranking government officials would all be in one place at one time, her concerns for their security certainly had merit.

    • The United States Is the Most Corrupt Country in the World

      The United States fell 6 places to a ranking of only 22 in Transparency International’s‘s list of countries by corruption. Under Trump, America is not in the top 20 for fair dealing.

      But as I have argued before, the United States is the most corrupt country in the world, and should be ranked 194, not 22. What follows is a much revised version of my popular list.

    • Incompetence Plus Malice Add Up to Trump’s Losing Formula on Immigration

      From the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the immigration issue has defined his political profile. More than anything else, it has opened a window on his authoritarian mind, his disdain for the truth and for democratic institutions. Such contempt has revealed the dangers of Trumpism to much of a nation governed, often imperfectly, by the law. The way immigrants are locked up in detention centers without trial warns us of the possibility of a police state.

      Last week, the president’s braggadocio crumbled in the face of facts and the strategic opposition of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She clearly saw beyond the façade as she took the measure of her opponent.

      Trump’s signature combination of untruthfulness, ignorance and arrogance became evident to the country on Friday when maps appeared on cable television showing planes stacking up at airports, sending passengers into a state of exasperation that transcends partisan politics. Those deficiencies were further exposed when he, while putting an end to the protracted government shutdown, used his concession speech in the White House Rose Garden on Friday to rehash his lying attacks on immigrants.

      Trump repeated his call for a wall, arguing that only a wall would stop the drug dealers and other criminals from coming across the southern border. But he pulled back from the “Build the Wall” promises that stirred nationalistic crowds at his rallies. “We do not need 2,000 miles of concrete wall from sea to shiny [sic] sea—we never did,” he said, insisting that he had never proposed one.

    • Attack on ‘Empire’ Actor Investigated as Possible Hate Crime

      A cast member on the hit television show “Empire” alleged he was physically attacked by men in Chicago who shouted racial and homophobic slurs, police said Tuesday.

      Police did not release the actor’s name but a statement from Fox, which airs “Empire,” identified him as Jussie Smollett, 36. Authorities said they are investigating the alleged attack as a hate crime. Smollett is black and openly gay.

      According to a police statement, the actor was walking near the Chicago River downtown around 2 a.m. Tuesday when he was approached by two men who shouted at him, struck him in the face and poured an “unknown substance” on him before one of them wrapped a rope around his neck.

    • After dramatic closed session, federal agents arrest Russian senator on Senate floor

      On Wednesday, Rauf Arashukov was arrested on the Senate floor of the Federation Council. On the morning of January 30, the parliament’s upper chamber was unexpectedly closed to the public, and Federal Protective Service officers sealed the assembly hall’s entrances and exits. Attorney General Yuri Chaika then addressed the senators. Federal Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin and his deputy director were also in the audience, a source told Interfax. During Chaika’s speech, Arashukov tried to leave the room, but Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko insisted that he stay, according to the news agency TASS. Arashukov’s colleagues then voted to strip him of his legal immunity as a senator and sanctioned his arrest by federal agents. Afterwards, the ruling political party United Russia suspended his membership, pending the results of an investigation.

    • Chesa Boudin: A Radical Child of the Criminal Justice System Seeks to Reform the San Francisco DA’s Office

      The name, Chesa Boudin, may not mean much to San Francisco voters, at least not yet. After all, his campaign for DA has just begun. But to American radicals of at least two generations, his last name rings a lot of bells. His grandfather, Leonard Boudin, a criminal defense lawyer, represented Dashiell Hammett, Paul Robeson, the Cuban government of Fidel Castro, as well as Dr. Spock and Daniel Ellsberg.

      Chesa’s parents, Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, were members of Students for a Democratic Society and the Weather Underground. They were both arrested in the wake of a botched attempt to rob a Brinks armored vehicle in 1981. His mother served time until 2003, when she was released. His father is still in prison.

      In many ways, Chesa is a child of the criminal justice system. Given his background it seems inevitable that he became a lawyer.

      Bernardine Dohrn and Billy Ayres helped raise him in Chicago, along with`their two sons. He calls them his brothers; their parents are also his parents. After college, Chesa worked for the Chavez government in Venezuela, though he was also a critic of Chavez and his government. “Chavez devoted a lot of time and energy to reforming the Constitution so he could stay in office longer, legally,” he told me. “I thought he should have spent more time developing new leadership.”

    • Duke of Hazard: Crashing Ukania

      The song alludes clearly to the bouts of inanity which have plagued Ukania’s aristocracy since times lost in the mists of history.

      Ukania, along with Trumplandia, is one of the world’s major-league laughing stocks— for reasons which don’t need recounting.

      A metaphor for Ukania’s car-crash Brexit history was provided by the queen’s husband, the 97-year-old Duke of Edinburgh (aka Prince Philip), who still drives unaccompanied, this time on the public roads near the royal family’s estate in Sandringham, Norfolk.

      A few days ago, driving his Range Rover outside the royal estate, the long-time racist and anti-immigrant Philip (though he himself is in essence a Greek immigrant) rammed a car carrying two adults and a 9-month-old baby.

    • DA Challenges New Mumia Court Appeal

      When Larry Krasner, Philadelphia’s new purportedly progressive district attorney, took office last January, he vowed to unflinchingly make the office’s goal “seeking justice,” instead of just seeking convictions, as a string of DAs going back to at least Ed Rendell had done.

      Last week, faced with a decision calling for real courage, Krasner flinched.

      In the wake of a Dec. 27 decision by Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Leon Tucker ordering new hearings by the state’s supreme court on four appeals by Pennsylvania’s most famous prison inmate, journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, Krasner had two options. He could let Judge Tucker’s finding stand that the denial of those appeals had been corrupted by the refusal of a former DA, Ron Castille, who had later become a supreme court judge and who refused to recuse himself. Alternatively, he could challenge Judge Tucker’s decision, and argue that it should be overturned.

      Krasner, after discussions with his top aids, decided to appeal, meaning no automatic rearguing of Abu-Jamal’s four denied Supreme Court appeals.

      Krasner’s decision itself was corrupted by the his own closeness to Castille, who as DA from 1986-91 oversaw that office’s legal battles against Abu-Jamal’s appeals of his conviction in the 1981 shooting death of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. Krasner had brought invited Castille, who retired from the state’s supreme court in 2014, to help with transitioning the DA’s office when he first came in, advising the him on staff changes, including which hold-over assistant DAs to fire.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Huawei says US spurned efforts to discuss charges

      Chinese telecommunications equipment provider Huawei Technologies says it sought to discuss the sanctions busting charges brought against it by the US Government, after its chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver on 1 December, but was rejected.

    • Google Takes Its First Steps Toward Killing the URL

      Stark emphasizes that Google isn’t trying to induce chaos by eliminating URLs. Rather, it wants to make it harder for hackers to capitalize on user confusion about the identity of a website. Currently, the endless haze of complicated URLs gives attackers cover for effective scams. They can create a malicious link that seems to lead to a legitimate site, but actually automatically redirects victims to a phishing page. Or they can design malicious pages with URLs that look similar to real ones, hoping victims won’t notice that they’re on G00gle rather than Google. With so many URL shenanigans to combat, the Chrome team is already at work on two projects aimed at bringing users some clarity.

    • These Wireless Location Data Scandals Are Going To Be A Very Big Problem For Ajit Pai

      It took the press the better part of a decade to finally realize that cellular carriers have been routinely hoovering up and selling your daily location data to every nitwit on the planet with zero meaningful ethical guidelines or oversight. And while this stuff is certainly nothing new, the recent Motherboard report showing how cavalierly your private data is bought and sold along a massive chain of shady operators seems to have finally woken everybody up on the subject.

      Whether we actually do something about it is another issue entirely.

      Pressure has started to mount on FCC boss Ajit Pai in particular. Why? While people rightfully obsessed on Pai’s attacks on net neutrality, the repeal itself effectively involved neutering most FCC oversight of ISPs and wireless carriers, then shoveling any remaining authority to an FTC that lacks the authority or resources to really police telecom. This neutering of already tepid oversight was always the telecom lobby’s plan, and unless you’ve got a severe case of denial, it’s obvious the Pai FCC acted as a mindless rubber stamp in helping the industry’s biggest players achieve this goal.

      Of course the GOP helped as well, by quickly kowtowing to telecom sector lobbyists and, in March of 2017, voting to kill some fairly modest FCC privacy rules before they could take effect. Those rules, in addition to some other requirements, would have given consumers far more power over how their location data is shared and sold among what, in some instances, has been proven to be a chain that in at least one case was some 70 companies long.

    • Anna Eshoo, Other Lawmakers Offer Gushing, Facts-Optional Support For T-Mobile Sprint Merger

      We’ve repeatedly explained how T-Mobile and Sprint’s latest attempt to merge will be terrible for both jobs and competition. Despite what T-Mobile and Sprint executives have claimed, history suggests the reduction of total wireless carriers from four to three will likely result in less incentive than ever to seriously compete on price. Similarly, while T-Mobile and Sprint have told regulators that the deal will somehow create an explosion in new jobs, Wall Street analysts have predicted that the deal could kill off tens of thousands of US jobs as the new company inevitably eliminates redundant positions.

      This was the same Sprint, T-Mobile merger that had been blocked previously by lawmakers. And it’s not a far cry from AT&T’s attempted takeover of T-Mobile, which was also blocked back in 2011. Generally speaking, people have recognized that reducing overall competitors in a telecom market never quite works out well for anybody other than executives and investors. Yet here we are, once again, with folks oddly not quite understanding that reality.

      Case in point, Anna Eshoo and numerous other House lawmakers fired off a letter (pdf) this week to both the DOJ and FCC urging both agencies to approve the merger post-haste. One of the cornerstones of the letter is that the merger is essential for the US quest to deploy 5G networks, something the carriers themselves at various points have admitted is not actually true. It also repeats the claim that eliminating one of just four competitors will somehow increase competition, something disproven by any economics 101 textbook (and 50 years of telecom history, including Canada’s).

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • New PatentlyO Law Journal article: Colleen Chien, Deferring Patentable Subject Matter

      Responding to frustration with the Supreme Court’s patentable subject matter (PSM) decisions, the Federal Circuit has issued clarifying decisions, the USPTO has released new guidance regarding applying Section 101 (and 112), and Senators Coons and Tillis have holding roundtables. 101 appeals and rejections, including pre-abandonment rejections, have risen following Alice and Mayo, particularly within impacted technology areas. (Figs 1A and 1B, details here and here). To support tracking the impact of its own guidance and related developments, the USPTO should release updated versions of office action data (the last release was in 2017).

      [...]

      If successful, the treatment would result in the diminished presence of 101 subject matter issues within ex parte appeals and pre abandonment rejections and, potentially, resolution time, e.g. closer to pre-Mayo or Alice levels. Applicant and prosecutor satisfaction with the process, changes made to what gets filed, timelines, and such factors would also be worth tracking.

    • U.S. ITC: A Powerful Forum for Biologics Patent Owners

      For manufacturers of biologics and biosimilars facing potential patent litigation in the U.S., the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA) imposes a complex statutory scheme that restricts the timing and control of disputes in federal district court. Biosimilar applicants who find themselves on the receiving end of a potential patent infringement complaint in district court have the advantage of (and have utilised) patent challenges at the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB).

      However, another option also exists for biologics patent owners—one that proceeds at a fast pace using specialised rules and judges and that eschews stays pending PTAB challenges: the International Trade Commission (ITC).

    • Inherency: Same Enzyme => Same Enzymatic Activity

      Ikeda is attempting to patent a glucose sensor using a particular enzyme (“a soluble flavin compound-binding glucose dehydrogenase”) that promotes glucose oxidizing. U.S. Application No. 12/851,668. One U.S. patent is already issued in the family as well as Japanese , Chinese, and European patents. In this case, however, the examiner rejected the claims as obvious and the PTAB affirmed. The Federal Circuit has now also affirmed that finding.

      The case is most interesting for its inherency finding. Here, the claims at issue particularly require low-maltose activity (“enzymatic activity to maltose in the enzymatic reaction layer is 5% or less relative to the enzymatic activity to glucose.”) The prior art did not expressly teach that limitation, but the PTAB found it inherently disclosed. In particular, the cited prior art used the same enzyme preparation as the patentee, and the PTAB concluded that it would inherently exhibit the same low-level maltose activity.

      Teachings that are inherent to a disclosure work as prior art — both for anticipation and obviousness. However, the court applies fairly strict requirements before it will assume the existence of unstated elements. “[T]he limitation at issue necessarily must be present[] or the natural result of the combination of elements explicitly disclosed by the prior art.” PAR Pharm., Inc. v. TWI Pharm., Inc., 773 F.3d 1186 (Fed. Cir. 2014).

    • It’s Hard Out There for a Commons

      I just finished reading a fascinating draft article about the Eco-Patent Commons, a commons where about 13 companies put in a little fewer than 100 patents that could be used by any third party. A commons differs from cross-licensing or other pools in a couple of important ways. First, the owner must still maintain the patent (OK, that’s common to licensing, but different from the public domain). Second, anyone, not just members of the commons, can use the patents (which is common to the public domain, but different from licensing).

      [...]

      The findings were pretty bleak. In short, the patents were cited less than a set of matching patents, and many of them were allowed to lapse (which implies lack of value). Their survey-type data also showed a lack of importance/diffusion.

      What I really love about this paper, though, is that there’s an interpretation for everybody in it. For the “we need strong rights” group, this failure is evidence of the tragedy of the commons. If nobody has the right to fully profit on the inventions, then nobody will do so, and the commons will go fallow.

    • Copyrights

      • Developer DMCAs Steam For Hosting Its Own Game To Wrest Control Back From Rogue Publisher

        We’ve seen plenty of ways in which the DMCA process has been used, and often abused, for purposes not intended by the lawmakers who crafted it. With everything from pure attempts to censor damning information to oblique fuckery heaped upon a competing business, folks have used the DMCA as a blunt tool. Given the context in which this is done, it is nearly always the case that you can’t root for anyone issuing those sorts of DMCA takedowns

        But perhaps we’ve found the exception that proves the rule. TorrentFreak has a fascinating story about a game developer that issued a DMCA notice to Steam… for its own game. Why? Well, because apparently that was the only way to wrestle back control over the game’s distribution from a publisher the developer says skipped out on the publishing contract.

      • Study Shows Piracy Can Sometimes Be Beneficial To Markets & Consumers Alike

        If you’ve been around Techdirt for more than a few weeks, you probably know that one of our core arguments is that piracy should be seen as a competitor, not as some kind of mad demon whose antics can only be thwarted by equally demonic countermeasures. As such the solution for piracy isn’t engaging in idiotic, harmful behavior (like copyright troll lawsuits or kicking people off the internet), it’s to compete with piracy by offering better, cheaper products that make piracy less appealing. And no, just because you think “competing with free” isn’t fair, doesn’t mean this entire paragraph isn’t true.

      • Stream-Ripping Site Acted Illegally, German Court Rules

        ZeeZee, a site that extracted music tracks from online radio streams and offered them to users upon request, has been declared illegal by a German court. Citing a 2017 ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union and an earlier case featuring a similar service called MusicMonster, the court found that no private copying exception is available so ZeeZee was unlicensed.

      • Bell Asked Canadian Government to Ban Certain VPNs

        Newly revealed documents show that media giant Bell previously urged the Canadian Government to ban ‘copyright infringing’ VPNs. The request was made in a 2017 submission regarding the NAFTA trade deal negotiations. This call didn’t lead anywhere but with site-blocking still on the agenda, VPNs remain a topic of interest.

People Are Dying Because of Low Quality of (Wrongly-Granted) European Patents

Posted in Europe, Patents at 5:16 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

While the media and so-called ‘IP’ blogs look the other way

Science|BusinessSummary: EPO puff pieces and shallow coverage help distract from the crisis of patent quality in Europe — a crisis that now culminates in real threats to women with breast cancer

ASK anyone at the European Patent Office (EPO) and they’ll tell you that quality of patents isn’t what it used to be. Everyone knows it, even the management. Some people are in the job of publicly denying this (not privately) and many are afraid to openly speak about it. Stakeholders, notably law firms, have already complained although they too have something to lose (clients walking away from them, i.e. fewer patent applicants). SUEPO is being threatened if it dares bring up the subject (we’ve given examples). This is hardly surprising given the rushed pace of work and internal leaks from a couple of years ago.

“This is hardly surprising given the rushed pace of work and internal leaks from a couple of years ago.”Patents are not a game; economies and lives are at stake. It’s not a ‘sport’ and it’s not ‘showbiz’.

Yesterday the EPO retweeted this nonsense which says: “From 2011-2017, European #patent applications for #AutomatedDriving technologies increased fourfold, according to the latest data from the European Patent Office ( @EPOorg).”

They’re merely reclassifying old things for hype waves (e.g. calling algorithms “AI”, even retroactively) and granting fake patents (patent which courts would reject) that are abstract. Science Business, based on what it published earlier this week, is still in the business of writing propaganda/puff pieces for the EPO [1, 2] in order to help software patents agenda in Europe. This is what it has just published:

From 2011 to 2017, European patent applications for automated driving technologies increased fourfold, according to the latest data from the European Patent Office (EPO). This is by far the largest increase in the number of patents, with EPO reporting a 16 per cent increase across all technologies in the same period.

Half of the top 25 companies active in the field of automated driving at the EPO are not traditional automotive companies, including the top four applicants, Samsung, Intel, Qualcomm and LG.

These are patents on things like computer vision, my research discipline, which boils down to implementing mathematics (e.g. geometry) on a computer. Not many of these have anything physical to show. Nothing.

“These are patents on things like computer vision, my research discipline, which boils down to implementing mathematics (e.g. geometry) on a computer.”But wait. It gets worse.

Having previously covered the EPO’s threat to patients with cancer [1, 2], we were interested to see yesterday’s post from IP Kat. Embargoes are being initiated using patents — questionable patents that will kill poorer women with cancer. The mortal damage and great suffering (in the process) caused by dubious European Patents that should never have been granted in the first place isn’t a subject that IP Kat covers. Heck, today IP Kat never even mentions the patent quality problem and the EPO corruption that kills people, sometimes literally. IP Kat has at least given up on UPC jingoism, seeing that it was a lost cause anyway. Here is what IP Kat wrote yesterday:

The English Patents Court recently handed down a decision granting Novartis a preliminary injunction to prevent infringement of its second medical use patent protecting sales of its breast cancer drug everolimus (marketed as Afinitor) – Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Limited v Dr Reddy’s Laboratories (UK) Limited [2019] EWHC 92 (Pat). Dr Reddy’s opposed the injunction on the basis that the patent in issue is invalid on the basis of added matter but did not otherwise dispute infringement.

What is interesting about the decision is that the High Court reached a “provisional but clear” view at the interim hearing that there is no added matter in claim 1 of the patent. This differs from the EPO’s decision of September 2018 in opposition proceedings, where the patent was found to be invalid for added matter under Art 123(2) EPC (see EPO decision here). The EPO decision is currently under appeal.

[...]

What happened in the EPO opposition proceedings? The EPO applied the principle that selecting items from two lists means that a claim may contravene Article 123(2). This is expressed in the European Patent Office’s case-law textbook in its current edition – see paragraph 1.4.2 of section II.E.1 Article 123(2) EPC). It reached the conclusion that there is no specific pointer to the specific combination therapy claimed (further detail can be found from paragraph 3.2 of the EPO’s decision).

[...]

The judge, Birss J., also proposed writing to the EPO to notify it of the UK infringement proceedings and to request expedition of the EPO appeal. He noted that Dr Reddys are not prevented from raising additional arguments on validity at the UK trial.

Are courts rushing to mob ‘justice’ here? Before the legitimacy of the patent/s in question is even known? That’s what the US ITC did after the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) had rejected a Cisco patent, following an inter partes review (IPR). Do we want an embargo-centric trigger-happy system, such as what Team UPC envisions and lobbies for (on behalf of companies like Novartis, which make a killing out of cancer)?

“Miracles and justice are mutually exclusive. We need justice, not “miracles”.”At the moment, Team UPC hopes that its corruption will yield something, bypassing national courts and handing more power over to an EPO-connected bureaucracy. “Miracle needed,” Heuking Patent Law Team wrote on Twitter yesterday. To quote: “Only 2 months until #Brexit . Agreement regarding the European #UnifiedPatentCourt not in force yet. No decision of the German Constitutional Court on the related complaints yet. No brexit deal. Ongoing debate in the House of Commons. Miracle needed.”

Miracles and justice are mutually exclusive. We need justice, not “miracles”.

“As if there’s no other EPO scandal — a real one — to be covering. IP Kat has instead been covering up, e.g. by deleting all comments about António Campinos and not mentioning him since.”As we explained some weeks ago, the 'Kats' have become part of the problem; they’re not writing about the UPC’s demise and EPO corruption anyway (does not suit their agenda). These Kats’ blog deals with non-scandals, such as the EPO’s drawing requirements — a shallow post that attracted this IP Kat comment: “The Korean Patent Office accepts colour photographs. These could present problems in getting legible drawings for EP filings. In one case where the draftsmen we used had great difficulties, I got much better results using a basic image processing program that came with my ancient Windows 98 PC that could render continuous tone images as contours of different patterns.”

As if there’s no other EPO scandal — a real one — to be covering. IP Kat has instead been covering up, e.g. by deleting all comments about António Campinos and not mentioning him since. Censorship followed by self-censorship.

01.29.19

Links 29/1/2019: VirtualBox 6.0.4, New Firefox, KMyMoney 5.0.3, Flatpak 1.2

Posted in News Roundup at 12:24 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Desktop

  • Server

    • 7 Reliability Questions Engineering Managers Need to Ask Their Teams

      And then there is the complexity of scale, something we know about first hand. The New Relic platform includes more than 300 unique services and petabytes of SSD storage that handle at least 40 million HTTP requests, write 1.5 billion new data points, and process trillions of events … every minute. The platform is maintained by more than 50 agile teams performing multiple production releases a week. To cope with serious scale like this, engineering teams must be nimble and fast moving. Their managers must also ensure that their teams adhere to reliability processes that support this kind of complexity and scale. So how do we do it at New Relic?

    • CO.LAB hosts its first global experience at Tate Modern in London

      The program is a collaboration between Red Hat and Femi Owolade-Coombes, better known as Hacker Femo. Femi, a 13-year-old coder known for his Young Coder Workshops in London, worked with us to provide a curriculum that extends the capabilities of the micro:bit, a pocket-sized codeable computer of which one million were delivered to England and Wales year 7 students in 2016.

      [...]

      As a part of Red Hat’s Open Source Stories initiative, CO.LAB is an ongoing effort to create and share stories about how openness can be a catalyst for change. Red Hat has championed communities—both big and small—as we strive to build innovative technologies. With Open Source Stories, we are sharing what happens when people defy convention and say to the world: “Take this. Build on it. Make it better.”

    • How Nginx Is Expanding Beyond Just Web Application Delivery

      Nginx was once perhaps best known as an open-source web server, but that’s now only one of many things that Nginx Inc. is developing and supporting for customers.

      Nginx provides a suite of web application delivery services and capabilities, with the company’s Nginx Controller, which was first announced in 2017, at the core of an emerging set of features. Thus far this year, the company has announced its new API Management Module for Nginx Controller, providing organizations with an integrated approach to define, publish and manage APIs on top of Nginx.

    • Top 8 Container Management Solutions
    • Docker Containers: Product Overview and Insight
    • OpenShift: Product Overview and Insight

      Not surprisingly, OpenShift integrates well with Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Ansible, OpenStack, and JBoss middleware. It also integrates well with Amazon Web Services and supports the public cloud provider’s microservice frameworks.

      OpenShift can help enterprises deploy containerized workloads on any cloud or on-premises using standardized components like Kubernetes and OCI compliant containers. By tapping into Red Hat Enterprise Linux and CoreOS, OpenShift provides a secure environment needed to run enterprise applications. By integrating Operator Framework to OpenShift, Red Hat has made it easy to deploy the platform and other application services anywhere.

    • Google Kubernetes Engine: Product Overview and Insight

      A feature of Google Cloud, Google Kubernetes Engine shines well by aligning closer to the open source Kubernetes release. This helps developers build bleeding edge applications by taking advantage of latest Kubernetes features. Google has recently added support for hybrid cloud deployment, making GKE an attractive option for enterprises. By tapping into KNative, Google offers abstraction from container services to serverless. This will help support wide range of application architectures, giving developers choice.

    • Kubernetes: Product Overview and Insight

      Users generally praise Kubernetes for its user focus, strong API support and the ability to run it on-premises or in the cloud. It also has attracted a large and strong multi-stakeholder community – meaning its growth will remain robust.

      Clearly, Kubernetes has emerged as a powerful tool for deploying, automating, scaling and managing components. The container control tool defines building blocks and uses them to manage activities related to software development. It runs containers at scale and deploy microservices. It is built into Docker and other container tools, services and platforms, including AWS and Azure. The service offers a robust set of APIs that allow it to work with numerous other tools.

    • MicroK8s: How To Install and Use Kubernetes

      Container technology is one of the hottest topics in IT right now. Containers are user-space instances that allow programs to run in an isolated space; applications running in containers can only see devices and resources assigned to them. As containers share the kernel, albeit with some isolation, they’re considerably lighter weight than virtual machines (VMs). Containers can be spun up quickly and because they don’t consume the same resources as a full VM, many more containers can be run on a server compared to a full VM. Figure 1 is a gross oversimplification of how a VM compares to a container.

      [...]

      For the past couple of years, I have struggled with getting an operating K8s environment up and running, and I was surprised and pleased by how easy Canonical made it to install a K8s environment with MicroK8s. In this article, I walked you through how I installed a working K8s environment and the commands needed to verify that it is operational. In the next article, I’ll show you what you need to do to get a K8s GUI up and running. In the last article in this series, I’ll dive even deeper and explore how to use MicroK8s to run applications.

    • For banks, new open source projects are creating new opportunities for innovation

      More recently, FINOS, which launched in April of 2018 to promote open innovation in the financial services community, created another project – the Cloud Native Computing Working Group. Chaired by Red Hat’s Diane Mueller, the group is working to define, build and maintain a collection of white papers and use cases that help members who are adopting containerized architectures. The group will also curate and promote the FINOS Service Catalog for use with the free, fully hosted Open Developer Platform on which FINOS members develop, test and collaborate.

    • Open Outlook: Cloud

      Hybrid cloud is a new reality for IT. While the benefits of this model are many, I believe that organizations should embrace hybrid cloud because it can give them more choice. Until recently, our choices to deliver solutions were primarily mutually exclusive of one another — will I build the app in house on my own? Will I outsource the infrastructure to a service provider? Will I buy a SaaS based app? Will I just put everything in the public cloud? While each of these choices had their own merits, orchestrating them can be difficult. The platform we’ve advanced, the Red Hat OpenShift platform, is designed to allow for more choice in how to leverage benefits of a hybrid multi-cloud world.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

    • Get started with gPodder, an open source podcast client

      There seems to be a mad rush at the beginning of every year to find ways to be more productive. New Year’s resolutions, the itch to start the year off right, and of course, an “out with the old, in with the new” attitude all contribute to this. And the usual round of recommendations is heavily biased towards closed source and proprietary software. It doesn’t have to be that way.

      Here’s the 17th of my picks for 19 new (or new-to-you) open source tools to help you be more productive 2019.

    • What You Need To Know About Open Source Licenses And Intellectual Property

      As a developer and user of open source code, you interact with software and digital media every day. What is often overlooked are the rights and responsibilities conveyed by the intellectual property that is implicit in all creative works. Software licenses are a complicated legal domain in their own right, and they can often conflict with each other when you factor in the web of dependencies that your project relies on. In this episode Luis Villa, Co-Founder of Tidelift, explains the catagories of software licenses, how to select the right one for your project, and what to be aware of when you contribute to someone else’s code.

    • Episode 13: Digital Sovereignty

      Katherine Druckman and Doc Searls talk to Elizabeth Renieris about digital identity, ethics, boiled frogs, and horses with lasers.

  • Kernel Space

    • The Latest Proposal For Wayland Content Protection Protocol (HDCP)

      Ankit Nautiyal who previously brought up a HDCP content protection protocol for Wayland has now sent out a patch with the proposed protocol. This is different from the Collabora-developed secure-output protocol that at a high level offers a similar aim but differs in its implementation. The Intel “content_protection_unstable_v1″ Content-Protection protocol leaves more work up to the clients and is based at the display connector level and requires all connectors to support the content protection standard.

    • Linux 5.1 Picking Up Intel Coffeelake GVT, More Icelake IDs Added

      As is standard practice for the DRM-Next development workflow, the Intel open-source graphics driver developers have already been staging their new feature work ahead of the Linux 5.1 kernel cycle, as have other parties involved in DRM/KMS drivers and elsewhere in the kernel. Today another big feature update was submitted to DRM-Next of new material that will come with Linux 5.1 this spring.

    • Configurable Zstd Compression Level Support Is Revived For Btrfs

      Since the Linux 4.14 kernel Btrfs has supported Zstd for transparent file-system compression while a revived patch-set would allow that Zstd compression level to become configurable by the end-user.

      Facebook, which is behind Zstandard and also the employer for several key Btrfs developers, started off on the Zstd compression level support for Btrfs previously. This would allow users to use a higher compression level to achieve greater compression but at the cost of increased memory usage and obviously more resource intensive or opt for lower compression.

    • Linux Foundation

      • Project EVE Promotes Cloud-Native Approach to Edge Computing

        The LF Edge umbrella organization for open source edge computing that was announced by The Linux Foundation last week includes two new projects: Samsung Home Edge and Project EVE. We don’t know much about Samsung’s project for home automation, but we found out more about Project EVE, which is based on Zededa’s edge virtualization technology. Last week, we spoke with Zededa co-founder Roman Shaposhnik about Project EVE, which provides a cloud-native based virtualization engine for developing and deploying containers for industrial edge computers (see below).

        LF Edge aims to establish “an open, interoperable framework for edge computing independent of hardware, silicon, cloud, or operating system.” It is built around The Linux Foundation’s telecom-oriented Akraino Edge Stack, as well as its EdgeX Foundry, an industrial IoT middleware project.

        [...]

        There’s no mention of Linux in the announcements for the LF Edge projects, all of which propose open source, OS-agnostic, approaches to edge computing. Yet, there’s no question that Linux will be the driving force here.

      • Mapzen Open Source Data and Software for Real-Time Mapping Applications to Become A Linux Foundation Project

        The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization enabling mass innovation through open source, today announced that Mapzen, an open source mapping platform focused on the core components of map display including search and navigation, is a new Linux Foundation project.

        Used by organizations such as Eventbrite, Foursquare, Mapbox, The World Bank, Snapchat, HERE Technologies, and Mapillary, Mapzen provides developers with open software and wide-ranging data sets that are customizable and easy to access. Using Mapzen, developers are able to take the open data and build vibrant maps equipped with search and routing services, augment their own libraries and also process data in real-time. This is something not available from conventional, traditionally proprietary mapping or geotracking services.

      • 30% off Hyperledger Fabric and Hyperledger Sawtooth Administration

        We are happy to tell you that the Linux Foundation were kind enough to give us 30% off the Hyperledger Sawtooth Administration (LFS273) and Hyperledger Fabric Administration course until February 11th, so only 2 weeks for this offer.

    • Benchmarks

      • Running The Flash-Friendly File-System On A Hard Drive? Benchmarks Of F2FS On An HDD

        While I have benchmarked the F2FS file-system a lot since it was mainlined back in 2013, it’s all been on solid-state drives or even other forms of flash storage like USB drives. After all, F2FS is short for the Flash-Friendly File-System. But a Phoronix reader recently suggested that F2FS also works out well for traditional, rotating hard drives so I decided to run some benchmarks.

        A Phoronix reader recently suggested on Twitter that F2FS works out well for hard drives, particularly shingled magnetic recording (SMR) drives. While I don’t have any SMR drives around, I decided to run some benchmarks with a Western Digital VelociRaptor 150GB WD1500HLHX-0 hard drive. With this Western Digital HDD I tested on the common EXT4 and XFS file-systems before proceeding to test F2FS on this 10,000 RPM hard drive. Each file-system was tested with its default mount options while all tests were done from an Ubuntu 18.10 box running the Linux 5.0 Git kernel.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • Awesome 4.3 Window Manager Brings Better DPI Handling, Widget Improvements

      Over two years since the unveiling of the Awesome 4.0 window manager and one and a half years since the Awesome 4.2 release, out today is Awesome 4.3 for this X11 window manager.

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • KMyMoney 5.0.3 released

        The KMyMoney development team is proud to present version 5.0.3 of its open source Personal Finance Manager.

        Some problems have been reported by many of you and the development team worked hard to fix them in the meantime. The result of this effort is the new KMyMoney 5.0.3 release.

        Despite even more testing we understand that some bugs may have slipped past our best efforts. If you find one of them, please forgive us, and be sure to report it, either to the mailing list or on bugs.kde.org.

        From here, we will continue to fix reported bugs, and working to add many requested additions and enhancements, as well as further improving performance.

  • Distributions

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

      • What’s New in Netrunner 19.01 Blackbird

        Debian-Based Netrunner 19.01 “Blackbird” has been released, is now available to download and install on your PC and Laptop. Using KDE Plasma 5.14.3 as default desktop environment, this release comes with a dark new look and feel with a more 3D-looking design, which was created using the Kvantum theme engine and the Alpha-Black Plasma theme.

        Netrunner 19.01 “Blackbird” also adds support for Web Apps, which are links to websites that can be easily added as launchers from the applications menu, the Plasma-Integration addon to the Mozilla Firefox web browser, which enables media controls and visual feedback for downloads, as well as Plasma integration for GTK+ apps.

      • MakuluLinux Core 15 Run Through

        In this video, we look at Makulu Core 15 and it is really good! Enjoy!

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

    • Fedora

      • Flatpak 1.2 Linux App Sandboxing Framework Released with Various Improvements

        Flatpak is one of the most used Linux application sandboxing and distribution framework among GNU/Linux distributions, allowing developers and users alike to easily and quickly install the latest versions of applications as soon as they are available upstream.

        When Flatpak reached maturity with the 1.0 version announced last year in August, it promised to take the lead and beat Canonical’s Snap universal binary format used by the Ubuntu Linux operating systems with innovative features. Now, six months later, Flatpak 1.2 is here with more improvements.

      • Flatpak 1.2 Released For This Widely-Used Linux App Sandboxing & Distribution Tech
      • Matthias Clasen: Whats new in Flatpak 1.2

        1.2 includes new commands which make it easier to manage running Flatpaks.

        Like other containers, Flatpaks are just regular processes, so traditional tools like ps and kill can be used with them. But there is often a bit more to a Flatpak sandbox than just a single process – there’s a babysitter, and D-Bus proxies, and it can be a little daunting to identify the right process to kill, in a process listing.

        To make this easy and obvious, we’ve added two new commands, flatpak ps and flatpak kill. For now, flatpak ps just lists basic information, but it is the natural place to show e.g. resource consumption in the future.

        This functionality is available to other Flatpak front ends as well, in the form of the FlatpakInstance API in libflatpak.

      • Fedora Making Progress On New Privacy-Minded System For Counting User Statistics

        Earlier this month there was a change proposal announced that would give Fedora system’s a new unique UUID tracking identifier to count systems. The intention isn’t to track users but rather to provide more statistics about the Fedora install base compared to the current system that is just tracking unique IP addresses, but a revised proposal would improve the privacy while still offering up much of the same statistics potential.

        Rather than relying upon a unique identifier that is transmitted to the Fedora update servers, the revised proposal is focusing upon just transmitting the “variant” (indicating if you are running Fedora Workstation or one of the other spins) and then a new “countme” variable. That countme variable would be managed client-side and under current thinking would increment weekly to reflect the age of the Fedora system: that would allow Fedora to see the age of the systems, new vs. updating installs to new releases, the number of users just running in Docker / cloud / other short-lived instances, and other metrics but without relying upon a per-system UUID.

      • Fedora 30 Might Finish Removing The Old Yum Package Manager

        Yum was supposed to be removed from Fedora 29 in favor of the modern DNF package manager that is largely compatible with Yum commands of the past. But its retirement was delayed due to the request being late in the cycle and some infrastructure like Koji and Pungi having not finished the migration to DNF interfaces. Yum’s retirement might come for Fedora 30 but it could be too late.

        The change proposal was posted today to retire Yum 3. It’s largely the same proposal as what was suggested for Fedora 29 and largely to no surprise since DNF as the default package manager has been working out well.

      • Flathub Adds WPS Office For Easy Linux Installation And Update

        Yet another important application has been added to Flathub, a service for hosting and distributing Flatpak applications: WPS Office, making it even easier to install and update on Linux.

        WPS Office is an office suite for Windows, Linux, Android and iOS, that includes three components: WPS Writer, WPS Presentation and WPS Spreadsheet. The personal basic version is free to use (but not open source software), with a professional version being available for a subscription fee.

      • How to Check Integrity With AIDE in Fedora
      • How to Compile Brotli Compression Tool from Source on Fedora 29
    • Debian Family

      • PySide2 on Raspberry Pi 3b+ with Raspbian Buster

        PySide2, or Qt for Python, is becoming more usable: since it has landed on PyPi, it is easy to install on almost every PC. Unfortunately, this does not apply to the RaspberryPis. Actually, there are only wheels for 64 bit x86 (and 32bit on Windows), not ARM. And there’s a reason for this: the actual Raspbian Stretch has way too old packages for PySide2 to work. To get PySide2 on a RaspberryPi, you’ll need Rasbpian Buster, which has not been released (even though there are repositoryes for an upgrade). Then, you can use the packages already compiled for Debian armhf (which are not in the Raspbian repository, at this moment). This is not straightforward, expecially for beginners. So I made an image, ready to be written on a (at least 16GB) microSD card. This image has Raspbian Buster with the main Qt5 and PySide2 modules. I’ve also switched the desktop environment from LxDE to LxQt.

      • https mirror

        Debian mirror servers are not run by Debian system admins but mirror admins kindly offer their servers and network capacities to our users. So, providing https support depends on them, we cannot force it.

      • Derivatives

        • Debian-Based DebEX OS Now Shipping with Linux Kernel 5.0 and Budgie Desktop 10.4

          DebEX Build 190128 is now available with the Budgie 10.4 desktop environment, and it’s the first release of the GNU/Linux distribution to ship with the soon-to-be-released Linux 5.0 kernel. This release is based on the upcoming Debian GNU/Linux 10 “Buster” operating system series, which is currently available as Debian Testing.

          The biggest news is the implementation of the Linux 5.0 kernel as Arne Exton took the risk to add a pre-release version into his DebEX operating system. Therefore, DebEX Build 190128 is using Linux kernel 5.0.0 RC3, which means that it shouldn’t be installed on production systems.

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Canonical Outs Major Linux Kernel Update for Ubuntu 18.04 LTS to Patch 11 Flaws

            Several security issues were discovered in the Linux kernel used by Canonical’s Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (Bionic Beaver) operating system, affecting all of its derivatives, including Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Ubuntu GNOME, Ubuntu Budgie, Ubuntu Kylin, and Ubuntu Studio, as well as other third-party flavors based on them.

            A total of eleven security vulnerabilities were addressed in this major kernel update, seven of which are flaws (CVE-2018-10876, CVE-2018-10877, CVE-2018-10878, CVE-2018-10879, CVE-2018-10880, CVE-2018-10882, and CVE-2018-10883) discovered by Wen Xu in Linux kernel’s EXT4 filesystem implementation.

          • Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter Issue 563
          • Flavours and Variants

            • Which Linux Distros is Better – Linux Mint or Ubuntu

              You have a lot of Linux popular distributions available as you are spoiled for choices which are generally subject to comparison in order to know the best. Among these popular systems, you have Ubuntu and Linux Mint that attract the attention.

              In this article, we will try to give you some specific aspects concerning the latest versions of Ubuntu (v. 18.04) and Linux Mint (v. 19) so that you will be able to take your own decision in order to determinate which one is the most suitable for your needs.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • The challenges of decoding open source DNA

    In 2018, I surpassed a few personal milestones. In February, I celebrated 15 years of working at Red Hat. Then, in May, I turned the big 40—so you can imagine why I might be feeling more reflective of life in general these days.

    Marking both these occasions made me realize I’ve spent a large part of my life growing up in an open organization—and that the open source way is firmly embedded in my DNA. That means my default behavior is different from that of others who might have spent any number of years at a traditional organization. While working with people at other companies, organizations, and nonprofits, I’ve discovered just how strikingly different my work habits can be. How I approach collaboration stops many people in their tracks. It’s more noticeable now that I’m aware of it this rift.

  • Best 6 Free and Open Source Veterinary Management Software

    The advent of smart computational software brought a lot of relief to workers in different walks of life especially to those in business. Programmers have successfully created software like Electronic Medical Records apps and Content Management Systems to enhance workflow and nobody is left out.

  • Web Browsers

  • LibreOffice

    • What About A Review Of LibreOffice Extensions?

      I made a quick test with a currently published LibreOffice extension and it seemed there were no accurate review of the file before it and the project were published. Sad situation.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

  • Licensing/Legal

    • VMware GPL case is back in court—will we finally get some clarity on the meaning of “derivative work”?

      One of the most active Linux kernel developers, Christoph Hellwig, backed by the Software Freedom Conservancy, (unsurprisingly perhaps) has struck again against a virtualisation giant—VMware. for breaching the GNU General Public Licence (GPL). More than two years after the Hamburg District Court’s dismissal, an appeal has been filed in the German Court of Appeal. This case has attracted a worldwide attention because the claims raised call for court’s interpretation of the scope of the GPL applicability and, in particular, the reach of its copyleft effect.

      [...]

      The notion of a derivative work in a GPL context has been a big unknown for nearly two decades. Such uncertainty and potential risk of having to open-source proprietary code has led many commercial entities and open source projects to refrain from including a GPL’ed software in their codebase.

      Hellwig v VMware might become a gamechanger, if it provides for the first time much-anticipated judicial clarity as to what implications software architecture has for licence interpretation and how copyright law fits in. That said, given the wide diversity of the structure of software is built and how it is distributed any decision in this case will not likely be the last word.

  • Programming/Development

    • Intel’s Initial Open-Source, LLVM-Based SYCL Compiler Is Now Available

      As a follow-up to the story from earlier this month about Intel wanting to add SYCL programming support to LLVM/Clang, the company’s initial open-source compiler is now public.

      Last week Intel published their initial SYCL programming support for LLVM/Clang as part of their effort to support single-source C++ heterogeneous programming for their CPUs, FPGAs, and other accelerators. More details on that and the likely tie-in to their new “oneAPI” initiative in the aforelinked article.

    • Conda 4.6 Release

      The latest set of major Conda improvements are here, with version 4.6. This release has been stewing for a while and has the feature list to show for it. Let’s walk through some of the major ones.

    • Given a list of dictionary objects, return a string
    • Daily Coding Problem #69: A functional programming solution
    • Eclipse releases GlassFish 5.1 for Java EE 8

      Moving forward with its development of enterprise Java, the Eclipse Foundation will provide its own version of the GlassFish application server, which traditionally has served as a reference implementation of the Java EE (Java Enterprise Edition) platform.

      Eclipse GlassFish 5.1 is compatible with the Java EE 8 specification and represents the full migration of GlassFish to the open source Eclipse Foundation. The GlassFish application server supports enterprise technologies including JavaServer Faces, Enterprise JavaBeans, and Java Message Service.

Leftovers

  • Science

    • DCMS seeks input on gaming addiction inquiry

      The UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has called for ‘gamers, game designers, and experts’ to complete a survey on whether or not gaming can be addictive and, if it can, whether it should be subject to regulations similar to those levied against the gambling industry.

      [...] seemingly ignoring the government’s previous demands that its departments use cross-platform and open standards like the Open Document Format (ODF) rather than proprietary formats.

    • Screen time ‘may harm toddlers’

      The findings, published in the JAMA Paediatrics, suggest increased viewing begins before any delay in development can be seen, rather than children with poor developmental performance then going on to have more screen time.

    • Rescuing the National Conversation

      Another important step would be training teachers and students from all disciplines in the arts, sciences, politics and philosophy of Classical Greece, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. It would be essential for teachers and students to examine the political, cultural and economic reasons that put “white men” in positions of power to spread these ideas. In addition, it would be vital to analyze how these ideas shaped the political, economic and educational philosophy that has led to the current clash of viewpoints in America’s “marketplace of ideas”. Intense engagement with the thoughts and writings of Socrates, Plato, Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Thomas Jefferson would be of great import. Rather than undertake blind hagiographical study of these thinkers, however, teachers and students would look critically at their shortcomings, including the philosophers’ acceptance of slavery, promotion of aristocratic or absolutist political control and the oppression of women. But the aim of this critical approach would not be to tear these philosophers down. It would be to connect students with the political, economic and philosophic foundations of Western civilization while putting these “white men” in historical context and asking what should be disparaged or salvaged from their experience.

      Finally, teachers must remind themselves and students that nobody has a monopoly on the Truth. In fact, being open to rationally debating competing Truths would help students develop the critical research, writing and speaking skills needed to become productive citizens. Rather than immediately firing off Twitter rants aimed to defame or shame, students would be taught to engage in reasonable debate and discussion with those harboring different world views. By no means would this search for understanding mean capitulation. Instead, as Voltaire noted, it simply would mean standing up for freedom of expression.

      The alternative is to promote ever more divisive and vindictive tactics and watch the national conversation sink lower into the abyss.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • DNDi, MMV Make 400 Compounds Available To Boost Pandemic Disease Research

      The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) and Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) today announced the launch of the “Pandemic Response Box”, which offers researchers open access to 400 compounds that could lead to development of new treatments for pandemic diseases. In return, researchers “will be expected to share data resulting from research on the molecules from the box in the public domain within 2 years of its generation.”

      The Pandemic Response Box is a collection of antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal compounds for screening against infective and neglected diseases, the Geneva-based organisations said in a press release.

    • WHO Draft Resolution On Universal Health Coverage Shows Efforts At Consensus

      With half the world’s population still lacking access to essential health services, World Health Organization Executive Board members this week are working to agree on a resolution indicating ways through which this situation can be alleviated. Discussions are going on outside plenary room as delegates seek agreement on a draft resolution.

    • New Study Confirms: Degenerative Food & Farming System Poses Mortal Threat

      A new study calling for a “radical rethink” of the relationship between policymakers and corporations reinforces what Organic Consumers Association and other public interest groups have been saying for years: Our triple global health crises of deteriorating public health, world hunger and global warming share common root causes—and that the best way to address these crises is to address what they all have in common: an unhealthy, inequitable food system perpetuated by a political and economic system largely driven by corporate profit.

      The study, the result of three years of work by 26 commissioners from several countries, was released this week by the Lancet Commission on Obesity.

    • ‘When You Take Healthcare Away From People, People Die’ – CounterSpin interview with Rebecca Vallas on Medicaid under attack

      Recent reporting by Politico, citing three administration sources, says that the Trump White House, having failed to get congressional support for the capping and shrinking of federal Medicaid spending, now plans to try to make those changes without congressional approval.

      Cutbacks to the low-income health program that helps some 75 million people—people with disabilities, children, seniors—have long been a GOP goal, but every time it comes up, it’s been soundly rebuffed, by a range of advocates for people who rely on the program. Clearly that vigilance is still required, and our next guest has been tracking the issue.

      Rebecca Vallas is the vice president of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress, and the host of the podcast Off-Kilter. She joins us now by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Rebecca Vallas.

    • Officials Urge Vaccinations Amid Northwest Measles Outbreak

      Public health officials scrambling to contain a measles outbreak in the U.S. Northwest warned people to vaccinate their children Monday and worried that it could take months to contain the highly contagious viral illness due to a lower-than-normal vaccination rate at the epicenter of the crisis.

      The outbreak near Portland has sickened 35 people in Oregon and Washington since Jan. 1, with 11 more cases suspected. Most of the patients are children under 10, and one child has been hospitalized.

      Health officials say the outbreak is a textbook example of why it’s critical to vaccinate against measles, which was eradicated in the U.S. after the vaccine was introduced in 1963. In recent years, however, the viral illness has popped up again from New York to California and sickened hundreds.

    • Drug-Pricing Reforms Find New Momentum as “a 2020 Thing”

      The next presidential primary contests are more than a year away. But presumed candidates are already trying to stake a claim to one of health care’s hot-button concerns: surging prescription drug prices.

      “This is a 2020 thing,” said Dr. Peter Bach, who directs the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and tracks drug-pricing policy.

      Spurred on by midterm election results that showed health care to be a deciding issue, lawmakers — some of whom have already launched presidential run exploratory committees — are pushing a bevy of new proposals and approaches.

      Few if any of those ideas will likely make it to the president’s desk. Nevertheless, Senate Democrats eyeing higher office and seeking street cred in the debate are devising more innovative and aggressive strategies to take on Big Pharma.

      “Democrats feel as if they’re really able to experiment,” said Rachel Sachs, an associate law professor at Washington University in St. Louis who tracks drug-pricing laws.

    • Russian egg producers responded to high food prices by selling one fewer egg per carton. Let the memes begin!

      On January 8, a photograph of a carton with nine eggs was published on the Russian social portal Pikabu. Russian eggs are usually sold in groups of 10; selling nine eggs at a time would be like selling a carton of 11 in the United States. The photo’s title deadpanned, “A nine of eggs, please.”

      In the caption, the author listed several more products that come in strange volumes: “Milk 867 milliliters, mayonnaise 220 milliliters, Coca-Cola not one liter but only 900 milliliters. Now in the New Year it’s the eggs’ turn.” Many have linked the appearance of the nine-egg cartons to rising food prices.

    • In Defense of “Taxpayer-Funded Abortion”

      In the midst of President Trump’s now temporarily-halted government shutdown, Senate Republicans weren’t working very hard to strike a deal and put 800,00 Americans—who by the way, were mostly women—back to work. Instead, they were focused on passing anti-choice legislation to “prohibit federally funded abortion” through the deceptively-titled “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” which sought to permanently codify anti-choice restrictions on federal dollars. But thankfully, they failed at that, too.

      The reasoning for Republicans’ obsession with this illogical policy? Anti-choice politicians claim that they simply believe that federal taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be used to fund abortion care. The actual reality beneath that gaslighting is that federal funds already aren’t allowed to be used to subsidize abortion. These funds have been untouchable for those wanting to terminate a pregnancy for decades. Our tax dollars don’t fund abortion. But they should. And with a pro-choice majority now in control of the House of Representatives, it’s time to repeal the anti-choice policies that block it.

      The Hyde Amendment, an appropriations rider that prohibits federal funds—including Medicaid—from providing financial assistance for abortion care, was first passed by Congress in 1976 and has been approved again every year since. The policy has exceptions only in cases in which the life of the pregnant person is endangered or the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest. Similar policies extend this rule to cut off federal financial assistance for abortion to Native American people, federal employees, U.S. military personnel, Peace Corps participants, and federal prisoners and detainees who receive their healthcare insurance from the federal government. Abortion is the only procedure that is legislatively singled out by Congress in this way.

    • Illegal Abortion Exacts a High Toll Among African Women
  • Security

    • APT Package Manager Vulnerability for Debian Based Linux Distributions

      Recently a security vulnerability has been discovered that affect many Debian based Linux distributions.

      APT is one of the commonly used package managers for Debian based Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Elementary OS, and more.

      Max Justicz has discovered a vulnerability on APT package manager earlier which allows intruder to use APT package manager to execute arbitrary code during the update or the installation process through the package manager as network man-in-the-middle to execute the malicious code.

    • European Law Enforcement Agency Goes After Users Of Major DDoS Platform

      Europol cracked down illegal marketplace webstresser.org last year. The site was known as one of the booster sites that launched distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. The authorities found information regarding the 151,000 registered users of the website. And now Europol is all set to go after these registered users with actions underway to crack them down.

      According to the law enforcement agency, actions are currently underway in collaboration with the Dutch and UK police. In the United Kingdom alone, police have seized up to 60 personal electronic devices from webstresser.org users. The devices have been seized by the police as part of the Operation Power OFF. Action and live operation against other webstresser.org users is expected to continue by the law enforcement agency.

    • Security updates for Monday
    • Privacy: GUI applications leaking passwords

      Most of these applications use the Qt’s default text component – QLineEdit – when they need password input, because QLineEdit has a nice convenient mode where it masks the content of the text field – it shows asterisks or circles instead of the actual characters it contains.

      This is a nice way to block over-the-shoulder snooping, and is a common approach to do password entry even in non-Qt software.

      [...]

      When the QLineEdit is destroyed, so is the QString variable that stores the password. But, while the buffer that QString uses to store the data is freed/deleted, its contents remain in memory until some other dynamically allocated object is created in the same memory space and overwrites the data. This is because QString does not fill its buffer with zeroes on destruction. This means that the passwords remain in memory for much longer than needed (problem 2).

    • Roadmap to Securing Your Infrastructure: Intro

      As you’ll see throughout the year, I’m a huge fan of using open source tools to solve problems. You won’t hear me saying to go spend $10,000 to solve your problem. We’ll always look to open source solutions, when available. I enjoy using creativity to solve problems as well and would love to hear about problems you have creatively solved as well as open source products you use in your security practices.

    • There’s a Huge Bug in FaceTime. Disable It Now

      Anyone can call you on FaceTime and hear audio or see video from your phone before you answer. This bug is going viral on social media, and the only protection is disabling FaceTime.

    • FaceTime bug lets callers hear you before you answer (really)

      We have tested this method and confirmed that it works. After a caller completes the steps, they will be able to hear the recipient’s audio—but the recipient will be able to hear the caller’s audio, too. It doesn’t really work for eavesdropping for that reason, thankfully, but you could potentially catch someone by surprise. After the steps have been followed, the caller’s end shows that the recipient is part of a FaceTime call. But as far as the recipient can tell, the recipient has not yet answered.

    • ‘Keyless’ cars are almost all vulnerable to £10 [intrusion] kits

      An investigation by Which? found a glut of cars including the Ford Fiesta and Focus, VW Golf and Nissan Qashqai are all at risk from technology designed to let thieves mimic the signal of the car’s lock and gain access.

      Worst still, any budding car thieves can buy the technology for about a tenner.

    • Security updates for Tuesday
    • FOSS Project Spotlight: Mender.io, an Open-Source Over-the-Air Software Update Manager for IoT Devices

      Mender is an open-source (Apache 2.0) project to address over-the-air (OTA) software update management for Linux-based IoT devices. When we researched this five years ago, there were no open-source end-to-end (device-to-server) options to manage the lifecycle of OTA updates for connected devices. Some open-source options were available, but they either had a proprietary management server, or they were client-only and required integration with another back-end server.

      In short, the options available to IoT device-makers either had vendor lock-in or simply were too kludgy. Thus, we created Mender, which has two components: the runtime client integrated into the device and the management server with an intuitive user interface to manage updates at scale for large fleets.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • This Is Very Dangerous’: Trump Administration Seizes Venezuela Oil Assets, Renews Threat of Military Action If Maduro Stays

      The Trump administration intensified its interference in politically-fractured Venezuela on Monday by announcing the seizure of billions of dollars in assets connected to the nation’s state-owned oil company, a move critics decried as part of a “dangerous” U.S. policy to help opposition forces overthrow elected president Nicolás Maduro.

      National Security Adviser John Bolton and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced the sanctions imposed via executive order against Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA)—a primary source of income and foreign currency for the country—at a White House press briefing on Monday afternoon. They were joined by Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council.

    • As Nations Get Ready for Nuclear War, Their Governments Work to Create the Illusion of Safety

      Ever since the U.S. atomic bombings of Japanese cities in August 1945, a specter has haunted the world―the specter of nuclear annihilation.

      The latest report from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, issued on January 24, reminds us that the prospect of nuclear catastrophe remains all too real. Citing the extraordinary danger of nuclear disaster, the editors and the distinguished panel of experts upon whom they relied reset their famous “Doomsday Clock” at two minutes to midnight.

      This grim warning from the scientists is well-justified. The Trump administration has withdrawn the United States from the painstakingly-negotiated 2015 nuclear weapons agreement with Iran and is in the process of withdrawing from the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia. In addition, the 2010 New Start Treaty, which caps the number of strategic nuclear weapons held by the United States and Russia, is scheduled to expire in 2021, thus leaving no limits on the world’s largest nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972. According to Trump, this agreement, too, is a “bad deal,” and his hawkish national security advisor, John Bolton, has denounced it as “unilateral disarmament.”

    • As Trump’s War Hawks Threaten Venezuela, Omar and Jayapal Demand US Rule Out Military Intervention

      “We must rule out military action in Venezuela,” Omar wrote. “We have to wonder, if Trump and [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo are so worried about human rights and democracy in Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, why do they actively support horrible regimes in Brazil, Guatemala, and Honduras?”

      “Of course there is suffering in Venezuela and I strongly stand with the people,” the Minnesota congresswoman continued. “There [are] many ways we can assist that I would support but will always caution us against intervention.”

    • Washington’s Favorite Literal War Criminal Isn’t Done in Venezuela

      On Dec. 10, 1981, as the U.S.-trained Atlacatl Battalion arrived at the village of El Mozote in El Salvador to slaughter nearly 1,000 civilians, including children, President Ronald Reagan posed for a photo with Elliott Abrams and his parents, wife and son in honor of Human Rights Day. Then the U.S. assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs, Abrams was distinguished in Washington as an expert at lying in the name of freedom.

      At the United Nations on Saturday, Jorge Arreaza, the Venezuelan representative, called the U.S. “the vanguard of the coup d’état” when Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president with the support of the United States. Newly appointed by the State Department as the head of the “efforts to restore democracy” in Venezuela, Abrams responded by criticizing President Nicolás Maduro: “Democracy never needs to be imposed. It is tyranny that needs to be imposed.” At least 44 people have been killed by security forces in the past week, according to activists. Abrams was previously appointed to be deputy secretary of state, but Trump nixed the idea because Abrams wrote a negative piece about Trump in 2016 titled “When You Can’t Stand Your Candidate.”

    • Regime Change Is Not the Answer: Rep. Ro Khanna Speaks Out Against U.S.-Backed Coup in Venezuela

      More information has come to light about the direct U.S. role in an attempted coup in Venezuela. The Wall Street Journal reports Vice President Mike Pence called opposition leader Juan Guaidó on the night before he declared himself to be president, pledging U.S. support for his actions. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has accused the United States of attempting to wage a coup. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has named Elliott Abrams to be his special envoy to Venezuela. Abrams is a right-wing hawk who was convicted in 1991 for lying to Congress during the Iran-Contra scandal, but he was later pardoned. Abrams defended Guatemalan dictator General Efraín Ríos Montt as he oversaw a campaign of mass murder and torture of indigenous people in Guatemala in the 1980s. Ríos Montt was later convicted of genocide. Abrams was also linked to the 2002 coup in Venezuela that attempted to topple Hugo Chávez. We speak to Ro Khanna, Democratic congressmember from California.

    • Here’s how Venezuela can achieve a peaceful resolution to the crisis

      Events in Venezuela may be heading toward a catastrophic conflict. Venezuelan society is deeply divided between President Nicolas Maduro and his supporters, backed by the military, versus an opposition led by self-declared president, Juan Guaido, leader of the National Assembly.

      According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, which cited a senior administration official, the US promised it would back Guaido as part of a secret plan developed over several weeks. The US, along with Canada and several Latin American governments, quickly recognized Guaido as president, while China and Russia are backing Maduro. One spark could set off a civil war.

      Neither side appears willing to go down without a fight and new elections in these circumstances would be fraught with peril. If Venezuela had a parliamentary system, new elections might produce a broad coalition among several small parties. Unfortunately, with Venezuela’s presidential system, an election now, if somehow organized, would amplify both the stark polarization between Maduro and the opposition — and the threat of civil war.

      The US’ move to recognize Guaido is provocative. The problem is that the US has a track record of bullying Latin America and staging interventions in the region. These US interventions, both direct and indirect, have resulted in dozens of regime changes over the course of more than a century.

    • Turning Victory Into Defeat

      Think of it as a reverse miracle. Seventeen years of American war in this century waged by a military considered beyond compare on a planet that, back in 2001, was almost without enemies. How, then, was it possible, month after month, year after year, to turn the promise of eternal victory so repetitiously into the reality of defeat (and spreading terror movements)? As I read retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and historian William Astore’s latest piece on the subject, I must admit that I felt a certain sense of awe. In fact, I wondered whether, historically speaking, this might not be a one-of-a-kind situation.

      Had there ever been an imperial power at the ostensible height of its glory that proved quite so incapable of effectively applying its military and political force globally to achieve its aims? At their height, the Roman Empire, China’s various imperial dynasties, and Europe’s colonial powers, however brutally, generally proved quite capable of impressing their wills and desires on those beyond their borders, even on relatively distant parts of the planet (at least for a time). In fact, in the Cold War years — think of Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, or Chile on the first 9/11 (September 11, 1973) — the U.S. proved no less capable, often in similarly brutal ways. And yet, from Afghanistan to Libya, Iraq to Somalia, Syria to Yemen, despite the endless application of U.S. power, the killing of tens of thousands of people (including key figures in various terror movements), the displacement of millions, the rubblization of whole cities, and the creation of a series of partially or fully failed states, nowhere, as TomDispatch regular Astore points out today, has U.S. power succeeded in successfully imposing its will, even as its wars only multiplied.

      And here’s another thing I’ve come to wonder about: How did the hearts-and-minds moxie of the leftist national liberation movements of the previous century that decolonized much of the planet get transferred to the extreme Islamist groups of this one? Like the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (the “Vietcong”) and similar groups in the twentieth century, al-Qaeda, ISIS, the Taliban, and other terror outfits regularly suffer extreme casualties and yet somehow maintain their grip on the hearts and minds of significant numbers of people in riven, increasingly ruined lands. They can, it seems, even attract random Americans and Europeans into the fold. It’s a strange and unexpected phenomenon, a grim success story that hasn’t been faced in a serious way here.

      I suspect that these two puzzles — how the self-acknowledged greatest power of all time failed to deliver and the extremist resistance to it, against all odds, did — may have to be left to future historians to fully unravel. In the meantime, check out Astore’s striking account of how the U.S. military has repeatedly turned promised victory into dismal defeat in these years. No question about it, it’s a tale for the history books.

    • Experts Warn Trump’s New ‘Low-Yield’ Warheads Will Make Nuclear War More Likely

      Warning that the U.S. is already engaging in a new nuclear arms race as officials announced the development of a new “low-yield” warhead, nuclear disarmament campaigners ramped up their calls Monday for nations to sign on to an international treaty prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons.

      The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced that the U.S. has begun manufacturing the new weapon, the W76-2, and that the first batch of missiles is set to be delivered to the U.S. military by October 2019. The warhead will give new so-called “flexibility” to Trident missiles, making it easier for President Donald Trump—a future presidents—to deploy the weapons.

      The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) wrote on Twitter that the availability of such a weapon will make nuclear war even more likely than it has been under President Donald Trump.

    • A Progressive Alternative to Trump’s Dangerous Venezuela Policy

      The Trump administration’s recent moves on Venezuela have so many historical echoes it’s a veritable déjà vu layer cake. The appointment of Elliot Abrams as U.S. Special Envoy to Venezuela last week was the icing on the cake. Abrams is an unrepentant interventionist, notorious for being found guilty for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal. But he also guided U.S. policy towards supporting genocide in Guatemala under Reagan, was the architect of the Panama invasion under George H.W. Bush, and was the central figure in the failed coup in Venezuela against Hugo Chavez in 2002 under George W. Bush. If Abrams’ appointment is any guide, history may well repeat itself again, unless we apply its lessons — and fast.

      [...]

      Speaking about the Venezuelan refugee crisis, Mr. de Zayas told The Independent, “When I come and I say the emigration is partly attributable to the economic war waged against Venezuela and is partly attributable to the sanctions, people don’t like to hear that. They just want the simple narrative that socialism failed and it failed the Venezuelan people.” On Monday, the Trump administration doubled down on this coercive approach, announcing aggressive new sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry.

      As for the military option, there’s no reason to think it would go better than the invasions of Iraq or Afghanistan. Retired Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, who was a high-ranking U.S. general responsible for South America, told Vox that a military intervention was the wrong course of action. Venezuela has a 515,000-person military that would fight back in any intervention. Even if an intervention succeeded in removing Maduro, civil war and a U.S. occupation could follow.

      Given the economic woes already plaguing the country, two possible outcomes include a long occupation and nation building (a la Iraq) or a temporary intervention that topples the government but leaves behind years of chaos and violence (a la Libya).

      The administration’s loose talk of military options is dangerous, and should be met with vocal opposition. So far, with a few exceptions, opposition to intervention has been scarce, most notably from Democratic members of Congress. The Iraq War had far too many Democratic enablers, and the consequences of their complicity have rippled out for decades. Opposing regime change should be a no-brainer at this point for progressives, Democrats and the anti-interventionist wing of the Republican party. The time to speak up is now, before the crisis escalates.

    • The West Failed to Learn the Most Important Lessons From the Rise and Fall of ISIS

      It is always pleasing for authors to find out that they have readers in far flung places. It was therefore surprising but gratifying to see a picture of a battered copy of a French translation of a book I wrote called The Jihadis Return abandoned by Isis fighters, along with suicide vests and homemade explosive devices, as they retreat from their last enclaves in Deir ez-Zor province in eastern Syria.

      The book was written in 2014 when Isis was at the height of its success after capturing Mosul, and was sweeping through western Iraq and eastern Syria. I described the Isis victories and tried to explain how the movement had apparently emerged from nowhere to shock the world by establishing the Islamic State, an entity which at its height ruled 8 million people and stretched from the the outskirts of Baghdad to the Mediterranean.

      A picture of the book, Le Retour des Djihadistes, was tweeted by Quentin Sommerville, the intrepid BBC Middle East correspondent, who is travelling through the deserts of Deir ez-Zor and reporting what may be the last pitched battles fought by Isis. The book had presumably belonged a French-speaking Isis fighter: many Isis volunteers came from Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, as well as from France itself, and may now be trapped in this corner of Syria.

    • Pompeo’s Foreign Policy Fantasy

      U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo started out the new year—the date was January 10—preaching “the truth” about U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, and for reasons we will get to below, he chose to do so at the American University in Cairo, Egypt (AUC). He implied that he was particularly capable of discerning the truth because he is “an evangelical Christian” who keeps a “Bible open on my desk to remind me of God and His Word, and The Truth.” This confession indicates that Mr. Pompeo is wearing ideological glasses through which he cannot possibly see the world, much less the Middle East, in an objective fashion. We can assume that the decidedly unthinking and amoral president he serves has no problem with this prophet in the State Department because Pompeo is one of the few cabinet ministers whom President Trump has not fired.

      So what are Mr. Pompeo’s version of foreign policy truth? In terms of his Cairo pronouncements, they are twofold. First, as is to be expected of a man of Mr. Pompeo’s temperament (he declared: “I am a military man” who learned his “basic code of integrity” at West Point), he has identified the true enemy of the civilized world. And, again not unexpectedly given his Christian zealotry, the enemy is of Muslim origins. It is the “tenacious and vicious” cabal of “radical Islamism, a debauched strain of the faith that seeks to upend every other form of worship or governance.”

    • Defying War and Defining Peace in Afghanistan

      On January 27th, 2019, the Taliban and the U.S. government each publicly stated acceptance, in principle, of a draft framework for ongoing negotiations that could culminate in a peace deal to end a two-decade war in Afghanistan.

      As we learn more about the negotiations, it’s important to remember others working toward dialogue and negotiation in Afghanistan. Troublingly, women’s rights leaders have not, thus far, been invited to the negotiating table. But several have braved potential persecution to assert the importance of including women in any framework aiming to create peace and respect human rights.

      A young medical graduate student told me she was deprived of schooling during the Taliban era. “If government doesn’t protect women’s basic rights,” she said, “we could lose access to health care and education.”

    • The Empire’s Propagandists

      With most media attention in the US on the government shutdown and border wall stand-off spectacle, the Trump administration has been quietly ramping up US militarism around the world. And it has set its sights on Venezuela, once again, by supporting a coup. Whether or not one supports the policies of Maduro or any other leader is inconsequential in this regard because, despite the empty mythos, the American Empire has never been interested in defending democracy. After all, its list of allies include fascist strongholds, a murderous medieval kingdom, a ruthless apartheid regime and several compliant, neoliberal states.

      The ruling class of the US imperium will simply not tolerate any government that opposes its financial and geopolitical dominance, attempts socialism, or transfers its nexus to another powerful state entity, like Russia or China for instance. If one chooses to do so it is instantly targeted for assault either by crippling economic sanctions or embargoes, which make governance nearly impossible and primarily harms the general population, or covert subversion, or by direct and indirect military intervention. And the corporate media, when it chooses to cover these issues, generally parrots State Department and Pentagon talking points and obfuscations about the intentions of the US government, the role of corporations and global capitalism, and the character of the governments the US happens to be opposing at the time. And all of this is done with virtually no historical analysis. But of course none of this is new.

      Whether it was for Reagan in Grenada or Bush Sr. in Panama or Kuwait, or Clinton in the Balkans, the American mainstream media has dutifully peddled the lies of Washington. The media cycle was drenched in the lies of the Bush administration about “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq. Despite Iraq having absolutely nothing to do with the attacks on 9/11, the corporate media did little to underscore this fact at a time when the Empire was ratcheting up the war machine. Those who questioned it often lost their jobs or were marginalized. Now that this foray resulted in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of civilians, mass migration, and the decimation of an entire region many in the media and some politicians have looked back with selective remorse. As if that helps the dead in any way.

    • George Orwell’s Message in a Bottle

      Last June the United States became the only nation to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council, which a Trump official called a “cesspool of political bias.”

      Just one day earlier, the U.N. Human Rights office had called Trump’s detention of children at the Mexican border “unconscionable.” Three days later, when the U.N. rapporteur for extreme poverty and human rights delivered a scalding report on the United States, Trump’s envoy to the United Nations assailed that report as “biased,” “politically motivated,” and “patently ridiculous.”

      Since then, the world has been treated to the spectacle of refugees, many of them children – some still in diapers – sprayed with tear gas by U.S. border agents.

      George Orwell would not have been surprised. It is a little known fact that Orwell, renowned for Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, defended the human rights of children and detainees with force and insistence. Indeed, his views strikingly anticipate U.N. views as expressed by Philip Alston – the author of the report blasted by Trump’s outgoing ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley.

    • Adab Festival Pakistan

      Am giving a talk in Karachi on Sunday, and very much looking forward to it. Entry is free. This blog has a number of regular readers and two donating subscribers in Karachi, and it would be a great pleasure if they can introduce themselves. I am speaking primarily on Sikunder Burnes, (after whom Karachi’s famous Burnes Road is named), but shall happily wander off into the vicious folly of modern western military interference in Afghanistan, the illegality of drone strikes, the two century long history of western exploitation and exacerbation of the Sunni/Shia divide, and the great work of Julian Assange.

    • Bernie and the Dems Flunk Trump’s Test On Venezuela’s Coup

      When Trump announced his support for the unfolding coup in Venezuela, Bernie Sanders remained silent for 24 hours. This matters because coups are made or broken in the first moments or hours; a day during a coup can feel like a month or more.

      With each hour Bernie’s silence roared louder. So much was hanging in the balance with Trump at home and abroad, to the point where a finger could tip the scales— yet Bernie refused to lift his.

      Among the many Democratic Party candidates running for President, only Tulsi Gabbard made an unequivocal statement condemning the coup, while leftist darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez limited her criticism to a retweet.

      While U.S. politics grappled furiously over the government shutdown, Trump’s coup gifted the Democrats a dagger and an exposed flank, yet they refused to strike, returning the weapon so that it could be used against the democratically-elected government of Venezuela.

      Nancy Pelosi and other leading Democrats went further and cheerleaded their Commander and Chief by using their platform to attack President Maduro. Trump’s position was consequently strengthened. Instead of being condemned for breaking international law he was made to look like a responsible statesman, leading a “coalition” of countries facing off against an ‘authoritarian dictator’. The virulently anti-Trump section of the U.S. media closed ranks in his favor— since it was difficult to find a dissenting opinion.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Permafrost thaws as global warming sets in

      Even in the coldest places – 10 metres below the surface of the polar wastes – global warming has begun to work. A new study of the frozen soils in both hemispheres shows that between 2007 and 2016, they warmed by an average of 0.3°C.

      This remained true within the Arctic and Antarctic zones, in the highest mountain regions of Europe and Asia, and even in the Siberian tundra, where the temperatures at depth rose by almost a whole degree.

      New research into the permafrost, defined as territory where soil has been frozen for at least two consecutive years, suggests that much of it may not be permanently frozen for much longer.

      Climate scientists have repeatedly warned that along with the tilth, clays and sediments the icy structures store vast amounts of carbon in the form of yet-to-be-decomposed plant material.

    • Declare a Green War Now!

      Struggle has brought man into being.

      Struggle against nature, against other humans, within himself.

      Today it is no different.

      The task now set before us is gargantuan transformation. Nothing less is required than changing humanity’s social and economic relationship to the planet.

      The good news is that more and more people are aware and willing to pay the price of necessary change.

      While some look to the stars to usher in a new age, others realize that the stars are still too far away. And in any case, there certainly will not be enough time to reach them if we do not fundamentally transform relationships here on earth.

      Ironically, the much feared outbreak of World War Three has already begun; the planet has long since declared war on mankind.

    • We Are Destroying Our Life Support System

      The warming of planet Earth continues apace, and the ramifications become ever more stunning with each passing month. While no single meteorological event or phenomenon can be attributed solely to human-caused climate disruption, this is now nearly always the leading cause of the event, or at the very least a major contributing factor.

      Recent data from the World Meteorological office showed that 2018 was the fourth warmest on record, making the last four years the hottest four years in Earth’s recorded history.

      On that note, it is worth remembering that the single worst mass extinction event in Earth’s history, the “Great Dying” that happened 252 million years ago and took out as much as 96 percent of all marine species and two-thirds of terrestrial life, occurred due to rapid planetary warming.

      Another feedback loop has been discovered in the Arctic, this time in Greenland, where it was recently reported that melting glaciers are yet another source of methane.

      It was also recently revealed that Greenland saw an “unprecedented” loss of ice over the last two decades. Another study by a US research team had shown that the decade of 2004-13 experienced more sustained and intense melting there than during any other 10-year period in the 350-year record. This means that Greenland is contributing more to sea level rise than previously understood, adding more than at any other time that record keeping has existed. Melt water runoff there has increased 50 percent since the industrial revolution began.

    • Germany Plans to Quit Coal by 2038 ‘But There’s a Problem’

      In an effort to fight climate change, Germany announced plans to quit coal mining and burning by 2038.

      All 84 of the country’s coal-fired power plants will be shut down over the 19-year time frame, a government-appointed commission announced Saturday, according to The Los Angeles Times.

      It’s a significant move as nearly 40 percent of Germany’s electricity comes from coal-fired power plants.

      “This is a historic accomplishment,” Ronald Pofalla, one of four commission leaders, announced at a news conference after more than 20 hours of negotiations.

      “It was anything but a sure thing. But we did it,” he added. “There won’t be any more coal-burning plants in Germany by 2038.”

      The commission’s plan provides about $45 billion in aid to coal-producing regions affected by the phase-out. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is expected to adopt the plan.

      “Good for the economy and climate: The report of the climate/coal commission is widely supported by business and environmental organizations,” Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, a trusted advisor to Merkel, tweeted on Saturday. “Less CO2, more new jobs. Security of supply and affordability: a strong signal!”

    • Will Arizona’s Saguaros Survive Climate Change and Drought?

      The click of container lids and swoosh of zippers filled the air on a still morning in Saguaro National Park East.

      Tom Orum and his wife, Nancy Ferguson, pulled measuring equipment from the trunk of their dusty white truck, parked in a flat landscape of majestic saguaros towering over teddy bear cholla, prickly pear, woody shrubs and spiny plants.

      Orum, 71, and Ferguson, 74, have visited this spot for four decades. Their job is always the same: to monitor the health of more than 600 saguaros on 60 acres of the park. They’re the third generation to measure and monitor these iconic symbols of the West since 1941, and the work has become a treasured ritual for them.

      “It’s sort of like having roots yourself to get back to the same place and repeat a process year after year,” said Ferguson, a retired biologist dressed in jeans, a baseball cap and a gray T-shirt decorated with green saguaros.

    • Congress Must Stop USDA’s Animal Experiments, Says Whistleblower

      In December, the Senate introduced legislation called the Kittens in Traumatic Testing Ends Now (KITTEN) Act, the companion to a bipartisan House bill of the same name targeting outdated food safety experiments at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). As Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) explained to CNN when he introduced the bill, “The USDA breeds up to 100 kittens a year, feeds them parasite-infected meat in order to have the parasite’s eggs harvested for use in other experiments, and then kills the kittens. This bill would essentially stop this process.” To date, the project has consumed $22 million tax dollars and taken the lives of 3,000 kittens.

      I was disturbed, but not at all surprised, when I read about the experiment, because for two decades, I worked as a veterinarian and researcher at the USDA’s Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) in Nebraska, the world’s largest livestock research center. When I finally blew the whistle on the extensive government waste and animal abuse I witnessed at the USDA, it destroyed my career, and ultimately, my marriage. But I would do it again.

      As I explain in Natalie Portman’s recent documentary, Eating Animals, soon after starting at MARC, a colleague sought my assistance with a “downed cow” unable to stand on her own. The young heifer was corralled with six bulls in a sexual libido experiment. Libido is typically measured by placing one bull with one cow in heat for 15 minutes. However, the bulls continuously mounted the heifer, immobilized in a restraint device so she could not escape, for hours. Her back legs were broken. MARC denied me permission to euthanize her. She died hours later from her severe injuries.

    • From Premature Deaths to Planet-Heating Emissions, Analysis Reveals Costs of Trump’s Fossil Fuel Giveaways

      While the report, published Sunday, estimates that the fossil fuel industry could save up to $11.6 billion, other consequences include up to 1,400 more premature deaths per year, a jump of about a billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions that will further warm the planet, increased risk of water contamination, and fewer safety checks to prevent oil spills.

      [...]

      While the rollbacks analyzed are at different stages of implementation—five are pending and six are final—environmental and consumer advocacy groups have launched various legal challenges, citing the public and planetary health risks that many, including University of Chicago professor Michael Greenstone, a top economist for the Obama administration, claim federal agencies are understating.

      “When you start fudging the numbers, it’s not that the costs just evaporate into thin air. We will pay,” Greenstone told the AP. “They are reducing the costs for industries where pollution is a byproduct.”

      The AP report sparked outrage online, with one Twitter user concluding, “Trump is letting his corporate friends wreck the planet and our health.”

    • “Huge Win”: This County in Washington State Just Voted for a Moratorium on New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure

      Climate activists have their eyes on King County, Washington on Monday, where the city council is poised to vote on an ordinance that would put a moratorium on all new fossil fuel infrastructure within its jurisdiction.

      “We’re throwing a line in the sand for the future,” city councilmember Dave Upthegrove, who plans on introducing the meaure, told the Seattle Times. If successful, it would send “a clear message that, moving forward, King County is going to support clean energy technologies rather than fossil fuel.”

    • Factory Farms Pollute the Environment and Poison Drinking Water

      Hurricane Florence, which battered the US East Coast last September, left a trail of ruin and destruction estimated to cost between $17 billion and $22 billion. Some of the damage was all too visible — smashed homes and livelihoods. But other damage was less so, like the long-term environmental impacts in North Carolina from hog waste that spilled out over large open-air lagoons saturated in the rains.

      Hog waste can contain potentially dangerous pathogens, pharmaceuticals and chemicals. According to the state’s Department of Environmental Quality, as of early October, nearly 100 such lagoons were damaged, breached, or were very close to being so, the effluent from which can seep into waterways and drinking water supplies.

      Rather than an isolated problem, however, the story of North Carolina’s failure to properly manage its hog waste opens a door to what critics say is a much wider national and global issue: the increasingly extensive and varied impacts on our water resources, air and soils from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).

  • Finance

    • Apple just dismissed more than 200 employees from Project Titan, its autonomous vehicle group

      Apple dismissed just over 200 employees this week from Project Titan, its stealthy autonomous vehicle group, people familiar with the matter told CNBC.

    • Say goodbye to the 500 euro bills starting on Sunday

      It is already as of this Sunday that 17 of the 19 national central banks of the euro zone stop issuing notes of 500 euros. These notes will be collected and destroyed, however, they will retain their value for an unlimited period.

    • Citing $750 Million Tax Break for Amazon While Students Suffer, Teachers Walk Out in Virginia

      Fed up with plummeting school funds and low teacher salaries in a state that recently offered hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks to one of the world’s richest companies, unionized teachers and their allies in Virginia traveled to the state capital on Monday to demand state legislators begin fighting for them and students instead of for powerful corporations.

      The grassroots group Virginia Educators United and the 50,000-member Virginia Education Association (VEA) urged teachers to take a personal day to lobby state lawmakers and demand more funding for school renovations, teacher pay, and supplies. The call was answered by thousands of educators and supporters, who met on the steps of the capital in Richmond with many chanting, “Fund our schools!”

    • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 70 Percent Tax on the Rich Isn’t About Revenue, It’s About Decreasing Inequality

      Asked earlier in January by “60 Minutes,” how she might pay for a Green New Deal, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez noted that top marginal tax rates in the mid-20th century were “as high as 60 percent or 70 percent.” A slew of articles have since debated whether higher tax rates would actually raise much revenue. But these articles miss the point. Taxes on the very wealthy are corrective taxes, like tobacco taxes, that should be judged by their societal impact, not simply their revenues. The purpose of high tax rates on the rich is the reduction of vast fortunes that give a handful of people a level of power incompatible with democracy.

      Among progressive economists, Ocasio-Cortez’s comments have mostly been received with something akin to relief. Though top marginal income tax rates were, for decades, substantially higher than 70 percent, even Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 plan to fund “Medicare for All” tapped out at a top rate of 52 percent. For liberals, high tax proposals have long remained taboo. Now, it seems, that barrier has finally been broken.

    • A Year After ‘One of the Greatest Heists in US History,’ Survey Confirms Corporate Tax Cuts Didn’t Lead to Hiring and Raises for Workers

      The release of a new survey on Monday confirmed that corporations used the $1.5 trillion giveaway in the Republicans’ 2017 tax plan for their shareholders and top executives—not their workers or reinvesting in their businesses.

      The National Association of Business Economics’ (NABE) quarterly poll found that 84 percent of companies were not ramping up spending in the form of hiring, raises, and other capital investments.

      “The corporate tax reform has not caused their firms to change hiring or investment plans,” NABE president Kevin Swift said simply of the corporate leaders the group surveyed.

      The news came as no surprise to think tanks and advocacy groups like the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) and Americans for Tax Fairness—with some critics pointing to the survey as the latest evidence that “Trickle-down economics doesn’t work!”

    • John C. Bogle: Renaissance Money Manager for the People and More

      Ever the contrarian, in a November 29, 2018 Wall Street Journal article, Bogle warned about the index mutual funds – an industry he started – having too much power! The big three – Vanguard, Black Rock, and State Street Global dominate the field with a collective 81% share of index fund assets. He wrote: “if historical trends continue, a handful of giant institutional investors will one day hold voting control of virtually every large U.S corporation… I do not believe that such concentration would serve the national interest.”

      Rick Stengel, former managing editor of Time magazine and former president of the National Constitution Center, when Jack Bogle was the Board chair, described him as “the last honorable man, a complete straight-shooter.” In his 2008 book, Enough: True Measures of Money, Business and Life, Bogle ranged far beyond index funds and shareholders.

      The Philadelphia Inquirer put it well: he was “less interested in counting than in what counts. … He revered language, history, poetry, and classical wisdom, and frequently amazed and delighted people by reciting long passages of verse …a social critic, civic leader, mentor, and philanthropist.” He was also very courteous – striving to return calls and respond to letters, which makes him unique these days.

    • We Don’t Need A New Deal: We Need A Whole New Deck

      The gap between the earth’s wardens of wealth and the nearly eight billion humans under their control has grown wider and more dangerous but is beginning to be understood by some as a systemic problem and not simply a matter of evil leaders and villainous followers. When people see and feel their futures ranging from problematic at best to non-existent at worst, we get the resultant turmoil and changes taking place in nations moving in many directions at once but all of them against established power over things as they are.

      Whether votes are cast in elections labeled democratic though still under minority control, or issues are subject to mob rule of one extreme or another, they are producing governments at least rhetorically dedicated to change even if often dangerously confused or in merely cosmetic form. Nevertheless, those demanding change beyond simply continuing the rule of market forces under minority control are starting to move up and into more commanding roles in governments. Unfortunately, and especially in America, many still operate as though political change amounts to the candidates skin tone, religion or sex, neglecting the philosophy between their ears by concentrating more on the genitals between their thighs.

      Thus we have working people going to the polls and electing representatives of wealth operating against their interest but rhetorically speaking of change, which may mean reverting to earlier forms of capital private profit which still leave the public good in poor condition, or worse, sinking into megalomaniacal rule under populists (?) promising to dump even more wrath on those at or near the bottom. Meanwhile, more social democratic forms of capital rule which see the need for avoiding revolution by sharing a little more with the multitudes beginning to loudly complain, are also moving into positions of governmental power. This lesser evil of earlier stages, once called a “new deal” at capitalism’s last sign of collapse, is now dubbed a “green” new deal, in the face of massive environmental threats only denied by the brain dead among private profiteers, as in the old days when realistic capital supported social democracy even while the troglodytes of capital insisted it was dreadful socialism.

    • Yes, Low Unemployment Does Raise Wages

      In the fall of 2013, Jared Bernstein and I wrote a book called Getting Back to Full Employment: A Better Bargain for Working People. The main point of the book was that low unemployment rates disproportionately benefited those who are most disadvantaged in the labor market. For this reason, we argued for using macroeconomic policy to get the unemployment rate as low as possible, until inflation became a clear problem.

      At that time, the unemployment rate was still close to 7.0 percent. It was coming down from its Great Recession peak of 10.0 percent, but there were many economists, including some at the Federal Reserve Board, who argued that it should not be allowed to fall below a range between of 5.0–5.5 percent because lower rates of unemployment could trigger spiraling inflation. Our argument challenged that view.

      We felt the evidence that unemployment rates this high should pose any sort of floor for macroeconomic policy were weak. Given the enormous gains from allowing the unemployment rate to fall further, we argued the Fed should take the small risk of accelerating inflation, and allow the unemployment to continue to decline.

      Thankfully, Janet Yellen, who was then Fed chair, agreed with this position. (It helped that our friends with the Fed Up Coalition were also pushing hard in this direction.) Her replacement, Jerome Powell, seems to be following the same path, more or less.

    • Executives at Davos Are Eager for Automation

      Donald Trump has often mentioned bringing back manufacturing jobs, 5.5 million of which were lost in the U.S. from 2000 to 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But while the president blames trade deals for the job losses, economic experts and officials, including from the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University, see another culprit: the rise in automation, with machines taking over positions that had been only performed by humans.

      While 72 percent of Americans are very or somewhat worried about the prospect of automation, as the Pew Charitable Trust found in 2017, one group that remains unfazed, perhaps even enthusiastic about the prospect of a robot-worker future, are the wealthy attendees of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, according to a Davos dispatch from Kevin Roose in The New York Times. “They’ll never admit it in public,” Roose writes, “but many of your bosses want machines to replace you as soon as possible.”

      Publicly, Roose continued, attendees “wring their hands” over most lost jobs, but in private, “they are racing to automate their own workforces to stay ahead of the competition, with little regard for the impact on workers.”

      Mohit Joshi, president of Infosys, a firm that helps other companies automate their operations, told Roose that more companies are coming to Infosys with ever-increasing goals for achieving more profits with fewer workers; “Earlier they had incremental, 5 to 10 percent goals in reducing their workforce, Now they’re saying, ‘Why can’t we do it with 1 percent of the people we have?’”

    • Zimbabwe’s Capitalist Crisis: Imperial Vultures and Subimperial Doves Both Turn Away From Economic Carcass

      The most crucial potential bailout lender for Zimbabwe is still the much-feared IMF, to which Robert Mugabe’s regime (questionably) repaid all arrears in late 2016. A series of self-delegitimizing 21st-century leaders have helped reduce its reputation: Rodrigo Rato (jailed last October for bank fraud), Dominique Strauss-Kahn (resigned in disgrace but demanded IMF support for his 2011 rape trial) and still today (after a guilty verdict in 2016 for corruption ‘negligence’ in France), Christine Lagarde. Nevertheless, the institution remains the global policeman for the entire financial world, and since 1984 it has pummelled Zimbabwe into austerity and structural adjustment.

      In early 2018, IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice endorsed the neoliberal path Mugabe’s coup-based successor Emmerson Mnangagwa had chosen for Zimbabwe: “The authorities are cognizant of these challenges that they face and the economy is facing and they’ve expressed their determination to address them. The 2018 budget which they presented on December 7th, so about a month ago, stresses the government’s intentions to reimpose budget discipline, reform and open the economy, and engage with the broader international community, which is ongoing and important in terms of arrears clearance.” For budget shrinkage, he specifically recommended more agricultural subsidy cuts.

      Again last September, as pro-IMF finance minister Mthuli Ncube took office, Rice made clear that his staff “stand ready to help the authorities design a reform package that can help facilitate the clearance of external payment arrears to international development banks and bilateral official creditors and that then would open the way for fresh financing from the internal community including potentially the IMF. But, again, just to stress as we said before, potential financial support from the Fund is conditional on the clearance of those arrears to the World Bank, the AFDB and financing assurances from bilateral official creditors. We are working with the Zimbabwean authorities in the meantime to provide policy advice and technical assistance that might help, could help move that process forward.”

    • Workers lead the way against austerity in Zimbabwe

      ZIMBABWE IS in the throes of a massive crisis. Huge price hikes — including a 150 percent rise in the price of fuel — have been imposed by the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa on top of acute shortages in medicine and food, and widespread unemployment.

      In response, thousands of Zimbabweans have taken to the streets, to be met with violence at the hands of government security forces. Hundreds of protesters — branded “terrorists” by the government — have been arrested, beaten or killed.

      On January 13, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions called a three-day general strike in opposition to the hikes, and the government retaliated with accusations of “government subversion” and the arrests of labor leaders and activists.

    • Looking for the economic smoking gun that got us here

      BACK in primary school we used to wear these uniforms with a logo that said, “Knowledge is power” and so, in the interests of empowering fellow citizens with the right insights, I decided to pen this article.

      Unless the ordinary citizen knows who is poisoning the well, we may never get out of this hole that someone has seemingly dug for us. We may even unwittingly help the digger and dig even harder than them. And so, it is my wish to explain in the simplest of terms what’s really going on here and what it’s likely to translate to in the coming near to medium term.

      So, what is really going on in Zimbabwe, why is the economy getting worse instead of better after the New Dispensation? Why are we in a state of unrest right now? Why can’t we just replicate the exact same blueprint employed during the GNU and get the country back on a recovery path?

    • Chinese Court Creates App To Alert Citizens Of Deadbeat Debtors In Their Area

      No one’s ever going to confuse China for a free and open country, but it seems like the government is trying just a bit too hard to let citizens know they belong to the government, rather than the other way around.

      Just recently, the government began engaging in door-to-door censorship, sending cops to citizens’ houses to order them to delete forbidden tweets. That’s certainly not going to help the tweeter’s Citizen Score — a dystopian credit score that takes far more than debt into account to measure the worthiness of the country’s billion-plus citizens. The score tracks purchases, social circles, and online opinions to raise and lower scores. Certain purchases will raise scores while others that the government doesn’t consider worthwhile (like videogames) will lower it.

      It’s far worse than that, though. Low-scoring members of your social circle can lower your score as well, forcing people to ditch their unhelpful friends and replace them with people more closely aligned with the government’s preferences. There are perks attached to higher scores, which basically give citizens the privilege to travel after they’ve proven themselves worthy servants of the state.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Real Facebook Oversight Requires More Than a 40-Expert Board

      Contrast that with what Facebook is trying to do. In its charter, the company suggests creating a body of up to 40 “independent experts” to review Facebook’s most contentious content moderation decisions, in order to cast the final vote on whether a given post or comment should stay or go and how that should alter Facebook’s policies in the future. This board would be choosing not from thousands of cases each term but potentially several million cases every week. And its decisions would affect the world’s 2.3 billion Facebook users, a population that’s roughly seven times the size of the United States.

    • Facebook unveils plans for preventing spread of misinformation ahead of elections worldwide

      Facebook also said it will begin assembling information on ads in the European Union, India, Ukraine and Israel, which all have elections coming up. That information will be placed in a library available for users to peruse for up to seven years, the company said, adding that library will include information on the number of people the ad reached, the demographics of who saw the ad, and the budget of the advertisement.

    • Facebook blocks third-party tools that collect information on political ads

      According to both ProPublica and British activist group Who Targets Me, which also operates its own ad transparency tool, Facebook disabled browser plugins that would collect information about political ads and why those ads were being shown to a particular Facebook user earlier this month, using a snippet of JavaScript code that prevents computers from automating the clicking of the “Why am I seeing this?” option under sponsored posts. Mozilla, which operates the Firefox browser and offers a similar extension of its own, said the same, ProPublica confirmed.

    • Mark Zuckerberg’s WSJ op-ed was a message to would-be regulators: Hands off our ad business
    • Lawrence Lessig on designing a corruption-resistant democracy for a virtual world
    • A Onetime Rising Democratic Star Faces Questions About Voter Privacy

      In an appearance on MSNBC in July 2017, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes expressed her vehement opposition to giving voter data to President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission, which had requested it from election officials in all 50 states. The privacy risks were simply too high, she said.

      “There is not enough bourbon here in Kentucky to make this request seem sensible,” Grimes said. “Not on my watch are we going to be releasing sensitive information that relates to the privacy of individuals.”

      But beginning months before she made that statement, Grimes’ own staff had been looking up hundreds of voters in the very same registration system. One of her former staffers first revealed the practice last summer but provided little detail.

    • Brokaw Says He Feels Terrible Commentary Offended Hispanics

      NBC’s Tom Brokaw says he feels terrible that his comments on “Meet the Press” Sunday that Hispanics should work harder at assimilation “offended some members of that proud culture.”

      The former “NBC Nightly News” anchor tweeted in response to a social media backlash to what he had said earlier in the day during a discussion of the proposed border wall.

      On the show, Brokaw said that many Republicans fear the rise of a new constituency in American politics “who will come here and all be Democrats.

    • “It Can’t Be Warren and It Can’t Be Sanders”: Wall Street Executives Make 2020 Preferences Known

      The first 2020 Democratic presidential primary is still over a year away, but Wall Street executives are reportedly already freaking out about two likely progressive candidates: Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

      “It can’t be Warren and it can’t be Sanders,” the CEO of a “giant bank” anonymously told Politico, which reported on Monday that Wall Street executives are “getting panicked” about the presidential prospects of the Senate’s two fiercest financial sector critics.

    • Critics Say Howard Schultz “Seriously Considering” 2020 Run Shows He’s Not Qualified for Position

      The announcement by Howard Schultz on Sunday that he is “seriously considering” a 2020 run for president was proof enough for some critics that the billionaire, former CEO of Starbucks, and self-described “independent centrist” is definitely not qualified for the position.

      In messages on social media and an interview on 60 Minutes, Schultz announced his consideration while also championing a new memoir and launching a three-month book tour to promote it alongside his political ideas. Among those ideological positions is his belief that while it’s possible and good to build a global business empire in order to provide people around the world with subjectively “delicious” and “overpriced” coffee it remains impossible, as he argued on 60 Minutes, to improve and expand Medicare so that every single American is covered.

      “Every American deserves the right to have access to quality health care. But what the Democrats are proposing is something that is as false as the wall,” said Schultz as he compared President Trump’s xenophobic border wall to a single-payer system, which polls show 7 in 10 Americans now support, including 84 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans. “That is free health care for all,” Schultz falsely claimed, “which the country cannot afford.”

      Contrary to Schultz’s assertion, a study released in November showed that a Medicare for All system in the United States could save the country $5.1 trillion over ten years. Progressives did not let the former executives remark go by without comment.

    • Howard Schultz’s amateur-hour politics: Please God, not another egotistical billionaire

      Over the past few months there’s been a lot of chatter about former New York mayor and multibillionaire Michael Bloomberg throwing his hat into the ring for president. If he does run, he reportedly plans to do so in the Democratic Party, as an alternative to all the crazy progressives. Good luck with that.

      On Sunday, we got confirmation that yet another multibillionaire is seriously considering a run: Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks.

      What in the world are these people thinking? After two years of Donald Trump, do either of these men really think the nation is yearning for another wealthy businessman in the White House? I realize that this idea of “running the country like a business” has been a popular trope for many years, but one might have thought the current disastrous experiment would have provided considerable evidence of what a fatuous idea that is. From Trump to Jared Kushner to Rex Tillerson to Wilbur Ross to Steve Mnuchin and beyond, the private sector folks in government haven’t exactly covered themselves with glory.

    • Facebook Moves to Block Ad Transparency Tools — Including Ours

      A number of organizations, including ProPublica, have developed tools to let the public see exactly how Facebook users are being targeted by advertisers.

      Now, Facebook has quietly made changes to its site that stop those efforts.

      ProPublica, Mozilla and Who Targets Me have all noticed their tools stopped working this month after Facebook inserted code in its website that blocks them.

      “This is very concerning,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who has co-sponsored the Honest Ads Act, which would require transparency on Facebook ads. “Investigative groups like ProPublica need access to this information in order to track and report on the opaque and frequently deceptive world of online advertising.”

      For the past year and a half, ProPublica has been building a searchable database of political ads and the segments of the population advertisers are paying to reach. We did this by enlisting thousands of volunteers who installed a web browser extension. The tool shared the ads users see as well as Facebook’s details on why the users were targeted.

    • There’s a wider scandal suggested by the Trump investigations

      The scope of financial crimes unearthed so far by state and federal authorities investigating President Trump and his associates is remarkable.

      Paul Manafort was found guilty of bank and tax fraud, and faces another trial involving charges of money laundering.

      Former campaign adviser Rick Gates pleaded guilty to financial fraud.

      Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to tax evasion and illegal campaign donations. The Trump Foundation was just dissolved over what the New York attorney general described as “a shocking pattern of illegality.”

      And authorities opened new investigations following a recent New York Times exposé describing hundreds of millions of dollars of potential financial fraud by the Trump family.

      Even more remarkable is what these investigations tell us about the levels of criminality among America’s business and political elite.

    • A Survival Guide to Two More Years

      It’s doubtful he’ll be leaving anytime soon. Even an impeachment will drag out for a long time. Here are 7 suggestions for what to do to survive in the meantime:

    • After Standing Ovation at Sundance, Ocasio-Cortez Says ‘All Hands on Deck’ Against ‘Systemic Injustices’ That Led to Trump

      Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who told the audience that just getting rid of President Donald Trump will not be enough to repair the nation’s ills, received a standing ovation at the Sundance Film Festival as she appeared via Skype at the Sunday premiere of a documentary featuring her grassroots campaign and stunning primary upset last year.

      “I think overall, we need to realize that our democracy does belong to us, and when we don’t participate in it, when we don’t invest in it, when we don’t put our own energy into it, what we are doing is we are giving it away to somebody else, and we give it away usually to a very small group of people,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

    • The Roger Stone Indictment Poses a Major Legal Threat to Trump

      It’s hard to see Roger Stone as the victim of prosecutorial overreach, as some on the right claim, even in the aftermath of Stone’s dramatic predawn arrest last Friday by a heavily armed FBI tactical response team.

      Now white-haired and 66 years old, the longtime Republican political consultant, confidant to President Donald Trump and self-described “dirty trickster” was hauled into a Fort Lauderdale courtroom after being taken into custody. Shackled at the waist and wrists, he listened as a federal magistrate informed him he had been indicted by a grand jury under the direction of Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller for obstruction of justice, witness tampering and lying to Congress.

      Ever arrogant and defiant, Stone emerged later on the courthouse steps after posting bail of $250,000. Arms raised in a Nixon-style victory salute, he proclaimed his innocence and denounced the case against him as politically motivated. He maintained the charges “relate in no way to Russian collusion … or any other crime in connection with the 2016 [presidential] campaign.”

    • “Where’s My Roy Cohn?”: Film Explores How Joseph McCarthy’s Ex-Aide Mentored Trump & Roger Stone

      Former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone, who was arrested on Friday, and Donald Trump share a unique history: Both were heavily influenced by the infamous attorney Roy Cohn, who served as a chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy during the Red Scare in the 1950s and would later become a leading mob attorney. Cohn represented Trump for years and once claimed he considered Trump to be his best friend. Cohn is the subject of a new documentary at the Sundance Film Festival titled “Where’s My Roy Cohn?” We speak to the film’s director, Matt Tyrnauer.

    • A Very “Informed” Elizabeth Warren Explains Exactly Why Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan Should Be Fired

      U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Monday reiterated her calls for Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan to be fired, saying, “His hands are too dirty from overseeing years of scams and scandals.”

      The Massachusetts Democrat—who recently announced a 2020 exploratory committee—outlined her reasoning in an eight-part Twitter thread. It came in response to Sloan’s interview Friday with CNBC’s Jim Cramer, who said, referring to Warren, “Tim, she wants you gone.”

      Sloan responded by saying she “can have that opinion,” and asserted that he’s “taken responsibility” since he took over as CEO in 2016 after serving as the bank’s president and Chief Operating Officer (COO). “We were going to make things right by customers,” he told Cramer. “And we were going to be very transparent about it. And we’ve done all that.”

      While Sloan accused Warren of not being “informed” about his record, the senator retorted that she’s “actually been paying pretty close attention, and I’ve got a long list of reasons why I think he should be fired.”

    • ‘Putin’s chef’ is reportedly trying to take control of St. Petersburg’s coming gubernatorial election

      Russia’s most mysterious businessman — the tycoon with empires in catering, media, and mercenary work — is back in the headlines, thanks to a new investigative report for the independent television network Dozhd by journalist Olga Churakova, who says political strategists tied to Evgeny Prigozhin are vying for control of acting St. Petersburg Governor Alexander Beglov’s fall election campaign.

      According to Dozhd, Prigozhin’s media outlets have published more than 1,300 puff pieces about Beglov since October 2018, and his “troll factory” has been busy promoting primitive cartoons where the governor is depicted as an uncompromising, efficient city official who enjoys Vladimir Putin’s personal support. Earlier this month, Prigozhin’s Internet bots even peppered local online communities with rave reviews for the city’s snow removal. “St. Petersburg is literally being licked clean!” several suspicious accounts claimed.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Protest Song Of The Week: ‘Good Old American Values’ By Lula Wiles

      One of the more political tunes on the album is “Good Old American Values.” The lyrics are a biting satirical critique of America’s long history of subjugation of Native Americans.

      For Obomsawin, who is of Abenaki descent, there are personal reasons for recording this song. In the album’s liner notes, Obomsawin shares, “As an indigenous songwriter, I hope that it becomes equally unacceptable to write and sing anti-Native lyrics as it now is to write and sing anti-black lyrics.

      “Unfortunately, Indian hating is a good old American tradition. In fact, American culture has depended on it,” Obomsawin adds. “The best I can offer is to reclaim and re-purpose the rhetorical and aesthetic space of country music carved out for me by colonialism, in pursuit of beauty and truth.”

    • Ted Rall, Robert Manning, and Kenneth Dubroff

      Author and editorial cartoonist Ted Rall is the first guest; he explains the latest developments in his legal battle with the Los Angeles Times, and the wider problem of how big corporations now use anti-SLAPP statues to stop less-powerful plaintiffs from having their cases heard by juries
      In the second half of the show, Robert Manning and Kenneth Dubroff introduce a new grassroots-based nuclear-disarmament advocacy group they created, and how they hope to influence decision-makers. They point out that the nuclear nations’ arsenals of today are even more dangerous than those of the 1960s.

    • Guy Who Forged A Court Order To Delist Content Issues More Bogus Takedown Notices To Remove Posts Discussing His Forgery

      That’s not what DMCA notices are for, even if any of these assertions were true. But none of it is true, starting from word one. The publication of a criminal complaint cannot be defamatory, and in no way did Volokh “bully” or “threaten” Don Lichterman, who previously forged a court order to try to remove content detailing him being sued for copyright infringement. Volokh covered this case, as he has several others where the same tactics (forged court documents) have been used.

      The DMCA notice doesn’t even claim there’s been any copyright infringement. I guess that’s a good thing, considering one of the URLs targeted links to the criminal complaint filed against Lichterman for forging a court order.

      The second notice is a bit more on point, even though it’s no more honest than the first one. This one is a delisting request tied to a court order, so there’s no abuse of the DMCA process. That being said, the court order doesn’t say what Lichterman wants it to say. Here’s Volokh’s summation of the second bogus takedown attempt.

    • Attempt to Get Google to Vanish My Article About a Forged Court Order

      Since late 2016, I’ve been blogging about various fraudulent or otherwise suspect attempts to try to get material deindexed by Google, or removed by hosting companies. Many companies will deindex or remove material if they see a court order (even one not addressed to them) that finds the material to be libelous or otherwise illegal (whether criminal, tortious, or infringing some property right). But that has led some people to submit, for instance, forged court orders, hoping that the recipients won’t check them. Back in April 2017, I blogged about two such incidents (paywall-free version); one of the incidents had led to a federal forgery prosecution…

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Undercover agents target Toronto-based cybersecurity watchdog Citizen Lab, which reported key details in Khashoggi case

      Who these operatives are working for remains a riddle, but their tactics recall those of private investigators who assume elaborate false identities to gather intelligence or compromising material on critics of powerful figures in government or business.

      Citizen Lab, based out of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, has for years played a leading role in exposing state-backed [crackers] operating in places as far afield as Tibet , Ethiopia and Syria. Lately the group has drawn attention for its repeated exposes of an Israeli surveillance software vendor called the NSO Group, a firm whose wares have been used by governments to target journalists in Mexico , opposition figures in Panama and human rights activists in the Middle East .

    • Dozens Of Privacy Experts Tell The California Legislature That Its New Privacy Law Is Badly Undercooked

      Here at Techdirt we’ve taken issue with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), not because there’s anything wrong with online privacy, or even all online privacy regulation. But there’s definitely something wrong with regulating it badly. As we’ve seen with the GDPR, not only does poor regulation struggle to deliver any of the intended benefit, but it also causes all sorts of other harm. Thus it’s enormously important to get this sort of regulation right.

      But that’s not the current iteration of the CCPA. Born out of an attempt at political blackmail, rather than considered and transparent policy making, even with several small attempts at improvements, it suffers from several showstopping infirmities.

    • The 5G Protocol May Still Be Vulnerable to IMSI Catchers

      It’s hard to talk about the vulnerabilities in cellular technology without increasing the amount of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. There is already much uncertainty around cell-site simulators (CSS, aka Stingrays), their capabilities, and how widely they are used. Partly this is because of the veil of secrecy that has surrounded the workings of commercial cell-site simulators thanks to the widespread use of non-disclosure agreements by the manufacturing companies like Rayzone and Harris Corporation. The privacy threats posed by CSSs are undoubtedly dire, but we need to keep our hypothesis about their capabilities and the scope of their use grounded in facts and research.

      One good source for research about potential capabilities for cell site simulators has been academia. A number of fantastic papers explore vulnerabilities in 2G, 3G, and 4G which are potentially the same ones exploited by commercial CSSs.

      The upcoming 5G protocol for cellular communications promised many improvements over the current 4G standard, including a claim that it would protect mobile users from cell-site simulators. But here’s the catch: new research suggests that it won’t. Researchers from ETH Zurich and Technische Universität Berlin have discovered that a flaw in the Authentication and Key Agreement (AKA) protocol (used in 3G, 4G, and the upcoming 5G standard) allows for a new privacy attack against all variants of the protocol.

    • Study Again Finds That Most VPNs Are Shady As Hell

      When a well-lobbied Congress eliminated consumer privacy protections for broadband back in 2017, many folks understandably rushed to VPNs for some additional privacy and protection. And indeed, many ISPs justified their lobbying assault on the rules by stating that users didn’t need privacy protections, since they could simply use a VPN to fully protect their online activity. But we’ve noted repeatedly that VPNs are not some kind of panacea, and in many instances you’re simply shifting the potential for abuse from your ISP to a VPN provider that may not actually offer the privacy it claims.

    • Why Data Privacy Is About More Than Just Security

      Jan. 28 is Data Privacy Day—a day to raise awareness about how the things and services we interact with online and in person collect data and what organizations and end users can do to limit risks.

      Data Privacy Day is not a new event, but incidents that occurred in the past year have perhaps made the need for better data privacy even more pronounced. In 2018, the Facebook scandal involving data misuse by Cambridge Analytica broke, revealing that the information from millions of user profiles was used by a third party without user consent. Also in 2018, a reported breach from Marriott Hotels’ Starwood division impacted the data privacy of hundreds of millions more users. Beyond data breaches, 2018 was also the year in which the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went in effect, providing a set of compliance regulations that organizations need to follow to help protect user privacy.

      In the spirit of Data Privacy Day, eWEEK presents data points and tips on things that both end users and organizations can do to help keep data private.

    • What data privacy means and how to guard it in 2019

      We have mixed feelings about Data Privacy Day. On one hand, we’re very much in favor of empowering people and businesses to think about data privacy and how they can better manage and protect their personal data. On the other hand, only one day per year? We think about data privacy a lot more than that, and you should too!

      In the words of the National Cyber Security Alliance, Data Privacy Day “is an international effort to empower individuals and encourage businesses to respect privacy, safeguard data and enable trust.”

    • Zuckerberg Bashed By Ex-Classmate: “50% Facebook Users Are Fake”

      An ex-classmate of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has given very bold statements about the social media giant, claiming that 50% of the profiles on the platform are fake.

      In the report, Aaron Greenspan, the old Harvard pal of the CEO, alleges that there is no way to measure the company’s true Monthly User Base (MAU) accurately.

    • GDPR makes it easier to get your data, but that doesn’t mean you’ll understand it

      According to the UK data protection regulator, the ICO, companies must provide all personal data — defined as any data that relates to an identified or identifiable individual — on request. The information must be provided to the individual in a “concise, transparent, intelligible and easily accessible form, using clear and plain language” in a “commonly used electronic format.” It sounds simple enough, but how did each of the four tech giants do?

    • Privacy Groups Claim Online Ads Can Target Abuse Victims

      New documents filed Monday with regulators in Poland, the UK, and Ireland claim that the way personal data is handled during the process of matching advertisements to ad slots does not comply with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, a strict set of consumer privacy rules that went into effect in May.

    • Ireland is questioning Facebook’s plan to merge Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp
  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • America’s 7 Racist Exclusions: From Muslim Visa Ban to 1930s Exclusion of Jews

      1. Chinese Buddhists Both racism and religious bigotry built up toward Chinese-Americans brought in from 1849 to build the trans-American railroad. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first time a whole people was excluded from the United States. In the prejudiced language of the day, that Chinese were Buddhists, Confucianists or Taoists, i.e. “pagans” or “heathens” from an Evangelical point of view, was one of the reasons they should be kept out of the country. The total exclusion lasted until 1943, when 100 Chinese a year began being admitted, which was not much different from total exclusion. In 1965 the Immigration Act ended racial and religious exclusions based on racism and religious fanaticism, including of Chinese. Chinese-Americans have made enormous contributions to the United States, despite the long decades during which they were excluded or disrespected.

      2. Japanese Buddhists. In 1907-08, the US and Japan concluded a “gentlemen’s agreement” whereby Japan would limit the number of passports it issued to Japanese wanting to come to the United States. In turn, the city of San Francisco agreed to end the legal segregation of Japanese-Americans in that city (yes, they had their very own Jim Crow). Not satisfied with the agreement, in 1924 racist Congressmen ended Japanese immigration completely. This action angered Japan and set the two countries on a path of enmity.

    • ‘Democrats Can Stop This’: Ahead of Fourth Vote, Senate Pressured to Defeat ‘Unconstitutional’ Attack on Right to Protest

      Targeting key Democratic senators directly on Twitter, MoveOn.org asked: “What’s one of the first things the Senate will vote on after finally opening the government?”

      “Answer: Undermining the First Amendment right to protest by penalizing those participating in the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions [BDS] movement. No Senate Democrats should vote for this,” the group wrote. “There’s no ‘compromise’ that can come out of Republicans trying to sign away our rights. Any legislation that seeks to penalize or criminalize BDS participation is an attack on free speech and peaceful protest.”

    • The Legal System Has Failed Black Girls, Women, and Non-Binary Survivors of Violence

      The silencing of and structural biases against Black survivors can have devastating consequences — including their incarceration.

      Following the airing of Lifetime’s six-part docuseries, “Surviving R. Kelly,” — which describes decades of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse he allegedly perpetrated against Black girls and women — many of Kelly’s fans and supporters continue to rally around the singer-songwriter and even place blame on his accusers for being “fast.”

      This is not surprising. Studies have shown that Black girls, women, and non-binary people are hyper-vulnerable to abuse. About 22 percent of Black women in the United States have experienced rape. Forty percent will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime. And Black women are killed at a higher rate than any other group of women. A 2015 survey of Black trans and non-binary individuals found that 53 percent have experienced sexual violence, and 56 percent have experienced domestic violence. At least 16 Black trans people were reportedly murdered in 2018 alone.

      When abuse occurs, they are less likely to be believed and supported. A report published by Georgetown Law Center found that “adults view Black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than their white peers.” Black girls are perceived to be more independent, more knowledgeable about sex, and in less need of protection.

    • Reconstructing the Politics of Power via MLK

      Politics should no longer be an abstract notion for young people, but a concrete method to bring about long-term reforms, which younger generations could build on.

      Is the politics of Martin Luther King Jr. relevant today? Can the revival of his political ideology compel millenials to recognize the influence that the local community can exercise, and to think constructively about change within organizations and institutions?

      The motivation to create empire brought major parts of the earth under the domination of a few powers. These powers used violent, ideological, and cultural practices for disseminating the values that molded the racial and cultural identity of the colonizer as well as the colonized. Western imperialism and colonialism were violent acts of acquisition that were supported by ideological notions of the superiority of the dominant culture and the purported imbecility of non-European cultures. This strategy created an unbridgeable gulf between the “center” and the “margin.”

    • Michelle Alexander Opened A Door

      This past Sunday, The New York Times featured on the front page of its “Week in Review” section a major column by Michelle Alexander: “Time to Break the Silence on Palestine.” It was, by any measure, an important article because of who wrote it, where it appeared, and its breathtaking indictment of both Israel’s history of violations of Palestinian rights and the silence of U.S. policymakers to address these outrageous behaviors.

      As a renowned civil rights attorney and author of the best-selling The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Alexander has a voice that matters. Although in the past the Times has run a few opinion pieces critical of Israel, the placement and promotion given to this article guaranteed that it would gain national attention. And it did. Millions read it, tens of thousands commented on it, and scores of others wrote columns favorably reviewing Alexander’s observations.

    • “Wet’suwet’en Strong”: Indigenous resistance in Canada

      Colonialism in Canada is alive and present. It wields enormous ongoing violence against us Indigenous people through disappearing and murdering our women, two-spirit, and trans people; through lack of clean drinking water; dire housing conditions and shortages; and the highest rates of poverty, and incarceration, of any group of people within Canada. The underlying motivation that propels all of this violence is the state’s age-old war for Indigenous land.

    • Construction supervisor who helped build Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome reportedly found dead with self-inflicted gunshot wound

      One of the key figures involved in supervising the construction of Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome spaceport has shot and killed himself, according to the news agency RIA Novosti. Dmitry Savin, the former head of the state company “Dalspetsstroy,” was reportedly discovered at his home in Moscow’s Vykhino-Zhulebino District late on January 27 with a self-inflicted head wound from a handgun registered in his name, according to the news agency Moskva.

    • The Criminal Justice System Is Relying On Tech To Do Its Job And That’s Just Going To Make Everything Worse

      The criminal justice system appears to be outsourcing a great deal of its work. On the law enforcement side, automatic license plate readers, facial recognition tech, and predictive policing have replaced beat cops walking the streets and patrolling the roads. Over on the judicial side, analytic software is helping make sentencing decisions. This is supposed to make the system better by removing bias and freeing up government personnel to handle more difficult duties algorithms can’t handle.

      As is the case with most things government, it works better in theory than in practice. ALPRs create massive databases of people’s movements, accessible by a hundreds of law enforcement agencies subject to almost zero oversight. More is known about facial recognition’s failures than its successes, due to inherent limitations that churn out false positives at an alarming rate. Predictive policing is the algorithmic generation of self-fulfilling prophecies, building on historical crime data to suggest future crimes will occur in high crime areas.

      While the judicial side might seem more promising because it could prevent judges from acting on their biases when handing down sentences, the software can only offer guidance that can easily be ignored. That and the software introduces its own biases based on the data it’s fed.

    • Freddie. King. (Freddie DeBoer and Martin Luther King, That Is.)

      “They have excised the parts of King’s legacy that are incompatible with the way they comport themselves in political life,” he writes.

      Perhaps I’m feeling a little defensive, because I first adopted the practice Freddie describes back in 2011 with a Huffington Post piece called “Today’s Visionary, Not Yesterday’s Celebrity.” And perhaps I’m more defensive than I should be because my prose seems somewhat overzealous and stilted to me now, especially as pieces like this become more common. Reading it today. I wince a little. (Maybe Freddie’s on the right track with those deletions, after all.)

      He’s right. I didn’t write about MLK’s inclusivity or calls for dialogue in that piece. Most other leftists don’t, either, when they write about King. But it wasn’t a surgical excision (“excise” is a pretty loaded word) in my case, and I don’t think it has been for the other King-the-radical pieces I’ve read.

    • Russian geological company executive loses job after ‘Twitch’ footage shows him bragging about sex with subordinates

      Ruslan Gorring is no longer a deputy director at the Russian state geological company Rosgeo, following the publication of scandalous online footage. Earlier this week, the Telegram channel Mediakiller shared a montage of Gorring’s outbursts on the live streaming video platform Twitch, where he threatened real-world violence against fellow PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds players. In another clip, Gorring speaks to a young woman who apparently works at Rosgeo whom he once fired for ordering him business-class — not first-class — plane tickets.

      In the video, Gorring bullies the woman into recalling how he rehired her to work at a Rosgeo subsidiary to serve as his mole in the staff. He then brags about sleeping with four coworkers at the company, calling them “kitties” and “princesses,” while insisting that his female employees spend their time discussing his sexual conquests. At the end of the video, Gorring says he has a meeting scheduled soon with his boss (presumably Rosgeo head Roman Panov) and the billionaire Leonid Mikhelson.

    • All of the extremist killings in the US in 2018 had links to right-wing extremism, according to new report

      Every extremist killing in the US in 2018 had a link to a right-wing extremism, according to a new report from the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.

      The report zeroes in on incidents such as the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February 2018, and the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in October 2018.

      There were at least 50 extremist-related killings in the US in 2018, according to the report, making it the fourth-deadliest year on record for domestic extremist-related killings since 1970.

    • Colorado’s Ban on “Conversion Therapy” Won’t Stop the Catholic Church

      State Senate Majority Leader Stephen Fenberg (D-Boulder) introduced the measure on Thursday and expects it to pass. So-called conversion therapy is opposed by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychological Association.

    • Ex-IBM Executive Says She Was Told Not to Disclose Names of Employees Over Age 50 Who’d Been Laid Off

      In sworn testimony filed recently as part of a class-action lawsuit against IBM, a former executive says she was ordered not to comply with a federal agency’s request that the company disclose the names of employees over 50 who’d been laid off from her business unit.

      Catherine A. Rodgers, a vice president who was then IBM’s senior executive in Nevada, cited the order among several practices she said prompted her to warn IBM superiors the company was leaving itself open to allegations of age discrimination. She claims she was fired in 2017 because of her warnings.

      Company spokesman Edward Barbini labeled Rodgers’ claims related to potential age discrimination “false,” adding that the reasons for her firing were “wholly unrelated to her allegations.”

    • 25 Democrats Join GOP to Advance Anti-Boycott Bill Bernie Sanders Warns Violates “Americans’ First Amendment Rights”

      In the Senate’s first vote since the government shutdown ended last week, 25 Democrats teamed up with the Republican majority Monday night to advance anti-boycott legislation that Palestinian rights groups and civil libertarians have denounced as a brazen attack on the First Amendment rights of those protesting the brutal Israeli occupation.

      [...]

      While the 25 Democratic senators who crossed the aisle were denounced for voting to end debate on Senate Bill 1 (S.1)—which legal experts have decried as “unconstitutional”—the 19 Democrats and one independent who voted no were applauded for taking a firm stand for free expression.

      “Disappointing vote to undermine free speech rights for Palestinian freedom, but encouraging 19 senators understand minimal credibility as a progressive now includes standing up for freedom to boycott,” said Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace.

    • An Affront To Justice

      Amidst our grim, slow slide into a police state where almost no one is safe comes a new report showing ICE arrests of undocumented immigrants at courthouses in New York state have risen a staggering 1,700% since Trump’s coronation. The report, “The Courthouse Trap,” was released Monday by the nonprofit Immigrant Defense Project. It tells of not just rising numbers but increasing brutality, broader scope and an alarming loosening of the rule of law, all while ICE’s bullies and racists often target the most vulnerable – young people, survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking, and victims of other crimes.

      The allegations, collected from lawyers, legal aid groups and the Project’s hotline, include horrific instances of ICE thugs tackling people, pulling guns on them, dragging them from cars in front of their stunned kids, slamming family members against walls, trailing and assaulting their (pregnant) lawyers and otherwise terrorizing them. Many perpetrators are plainclothes agents who use unmarked cars and (illegally) refuse to identify themselves; in one case, they so violently, anonymously grabbed and dragged away a man in Brooklyn his distraught mother thought he was being kidnapped – which, really, he was.

      The report also found ICE attacks had reached into upstate, previously untouched areas, and into once- sacrosanct locations like civil, family, juvenile, small claims and rehabilitative justice courts – that, despite a 2018 pledge to avoid “enforcement actions at sensitive locations.” New York City accounts for about 75% of arrests, which went from 11 in 2016 to over 200 in 2018 – part of a record increase in ICE detentions around the country. ICE doesn’t want to acknowledge what critics call the “affront to justice” against people who, lest we forget, have committed no crimes. Like any good Gestapo member, a spokesperson responded to a query about numbers with, “Unfortunately, we can’t speak to the data you’ve referenced.”

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Canadians Pay The Highest Rates For Wireless Data, And The US Is About To Follow Suit

      However bad American broadband and wireless service can be, generally speaking Canadians have it worse. Plagued by the same sort of revolving door regulator approach taken in the US, Canada pretty routinely makes an even poorer showing than the United States when it comes to broadband pricing, availability, and service quality. And, just like the United States, Canada’s solution is often to appoint industry lobbyists to positions of power, who immediately get to work making things worse for their entrenched incumbent pals. Here in the States that’s Ajit Pai; in Canada it’s Ian Scott.

      Needless to say, installing revolving door industry sycophants to solve problems the industry refuses to even acknowledge doesn’t work out particularly well for consumers, competition, startups, or innovation in general — as consumers and small businesses run face first into entirely unnecessary usage constraints. Constraints made worse if you’ve, say, killed off net neutrality protections, or have net neutrality protections nobody actually wants to enforce.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Will Apple v. Qualcomm (April 15 in San Diego) be a $50 billion trial?

      The FTC v. Qualcomm trial in a narrow sense (ten days of testimony) has just wrapped up, and closing arguments will be delivered later today. Not only has the underdog team–the FTC’s litigation staff–had (and managed) to square off with multiple top-notch law firms but Qualcomm, through its allies and hacks, has intensified a barrage of opinion pieces in different media to pressure the competition enforcer to settle the case. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal’s website published an op-ed by star attorney Ted Olson (I first heard about him in connection with the dispute in 2000 over ever more recounts in Florida). He explains why it’s a good thing that the FTC is pursuing this case.

      Mr. Olson does disclose the fact that his law firm, Gibson Dunn, represents Apple’s contract manufacturers in the San Diego Apple v. Qualcomm case. But all those Qualcomm puff pieces bashing the FTC weren’t any more balanced. I’m not aware of anyone else right now who would express clear opinions on the issue in the case but also acknowledge when the other side has a point like I agreed with Qualcomm’s 2017 motion to dismiss in part, found Qualcomm had a potential point in the timing of a consumer antisuit motion (which Judge Koh denied, for the time being, for that very reason), and in connection with the trial I concluded that part of MediaTek’s testimony was useful to Qualcomm and that Qualcomm destroyed one of the FTC’s three experts, Mr. Lasinski, whom I’ve criticized sharply. Also, I commented favorably on the testimony of a Qualcomm employee-expert, Mr. Casaccia, and gave Qualcomm unsolicited advice on who should be their lead counsel and deliver their closing argument.

    • Short final trial day exposes “intellectual bankruptcy” of Qualcomm’s economic expert, lead counsel as sore loser

      Today was the tenth, final and shortest day of the FTC v. Qualcomm antitrust trial before Judge Lucy H. Koh in the Northern District of California. It was also the only one of the ten trial days without a break. Tomorrow we’ll hear closing arguments (with a break between the two parties’ one-hour presentations).

      The short amount of time in court today was enough for Qualcomm’s extremely weak position to be on full display again. As I wrote yesterday, it’s time look past the question of merits (where the facts and the law are overwhelmingly on the FTC’s side) and on to the subject of remedies.

    • Federal Circuit Returns this Christmas Gift

      Willis Electric (Taiwan) owns several patents on artificial Christmas trees. In 2015, Willis sued Macao-based Polygroup for infringement. Polygroup turned-around and filed several inter partes review (IPR) petitions that were granted. In its final decisions, the PTAB sided with the patentee – finding that Polygroup had not proven the claims unpatentable. On appeal, the Federal Circuit has rejected the PTAB’s claim construction. Below, I look at just one of the cases — this one involving “modular artificial tree.”

      [...]

      Even applying the broadest-reasonable-interpretation, the PTAB found the phrase limiting — and construed it to require “a tree constructed of modular portions, each modular portion being a separate tree section” with pre-attached branches. The cited prior art references all had branches that separately attached to the trunk — and thus did not provide a prior art teaching of the pre-attached branchs.

      On appeal, the Federal Circuit rejected this construction — finding that it “does not represent the broadest reasonable interpretation of ‘modular artificial tree.’” None of the claims require branches, and the proffered expert testimony regarding the term’s meaning was “conclusory” and “unsupported” by corroborating evidence.

    • U.S. top court rejects Helsinn over anti-nausea drug patent in win for Teva

      The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to revive Swiss drug company Helsinn Healthcare S.A.’s patent on the lucrative anti-nausea drug Aloxi in a victory for Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, which launched a generic version of it last year.

      The nine justices unanimously upheld a lower court ruling that had canceled Helsinn’s patent on Aloxi for violating a provision in U.S. patent law that forbids sales of an invention before applying for a patent. Teva began selling its generic version of the drug in March 2018 after convincing the lower court to invalidate the patent.

      Aloxi is used to prevent nausea and vomiting in patients receiving chemotherapy. The high court’s decision comes after it previously refused Helsinn’s request to block the lower court ruling while it considered the company’s case, which allowed Israel-based Teva to bring its Aloxi generic to market.

    • Huawei ties with Canadian universities risk ‘weaponization’ of tech patents, say experts

      Research partnerships between Canadian universities and private tech companies such as Huawei could contribute to the “weaponization” of patents, caution cybersecurity experts.

      When such partnerships bear fruit, the resulting patents sometimes flow to the company, explained Christopher Parsons, managing director of the Telecom Transparency Project at Citizen Lab, part of the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.

    • Trademarks

    • Copyrights

      • Google v. Oracle – Supreme Court Petition

        After reading the Federal Circuit decision, I wrote that the case is “likely heading to the Supreme Court.” Although I believe that the case has a very good shot – one difficulty is that it involves a decision by the Federal Circuit applying Ninth Circuit law — it effectively holds no weight and can be simply rejected by the next Ninth Circuit panel addressing the same issues.

      • Another Nail In The Coffin For Fair Use: TVEyes Agrees Not To Carry Fox News

        The saga of TVEyes and its battles for fair use is over, and unfortunately fair use has lost. Following the news that the Supreme Court had refused to hear its appeal of a weird and troubling ruling by the 2nd Circuit, the company has now ended its ongoing lawsuit with Fox by agreeing to no longer carry Fox News content on its service.

        If you don’t recall, TVEyes was a very useful media monitoring service used by tons of journalists and politicians to effectively search and find content that was airing on TV. Fox had sued, claiming that this was both infringement and a violation of the obsolete “hot news” doctrine. The court easily rejected the hot news claim, and the district court originally (and correctly) found in favor of TVEyes, saying that its service was clearly fair use (even as it was being used for profitable purposes). The key point: TVEyes was transformative. It wasn’t offering a competing service, but rather (similar to Google books) helping people search and find content that they might not otherwise find.

        A later ruling, however, found that only parts of TVEyes service was truly fair use. It could archive content — but allowing downloading and sharing of clips failed the fair use test. Eventually, that resulted in an incredibly restrictive permanent injunction against the company, and an appeal that favored Fox News, again focusing on the feature that allowed users to download and share clips.

      • Independent Musician Explains Why Article 13 Will Be An Utter Disaster For Independent Artists

        A decade ago, when there were still people laughably insisting that the internet was the worst thing that ever happened to musicians, I kept pointing out examples of artists who were creatively embracing the internet to great success — connecting with fans, building new business models, and succeeding. And every time I did that, people would complain that this example was an “exception” or an “anomaly.” And, they had a habit of qualifying any success story — even if the qualifications were contradictory. For example, if I highlighted an independent artist’s success, people would say “well, that’s just a small independent artist, they have nothing to lose, no big rock star could ever succeed that way.” And then, when I’d highlight a big rock star having success embracing the internet, I’d be told “well, it’s easy for him, he already had a huge following.”

        [...]

        I’d argue it goes much further than that. First, the major record labels see everything stated in the paragraph above as a benefit of Article 13. Giving huge power to the middlemen gatekeepers puts them back in the position they were in year’s ago, where they get to decide who gets distribution and who doesn’t. That system created a world in which musicians had to hand over their copyright and nearly all of the revenue generated from their works in exchange for a pittance of an advance (which was really just a loan). So, putting more gatekeeper power back in their hands is the goal here.

        Second, and even more concerning, is that Article 13 is premised on only the largest platforms being able to comply — meaning that there will be less competition on the platform side and fewer and fewer places for independent artists to distribute their work, should they wish to do so. That gives them fewer options and less ability to build a fanbase, unless they get plucked out of obscurity by a giant gatekeeper (again, going back to the way things were a couple decades ago).

        Now, I’m sure that someone will pop into the comments and point out that this example doesn’t count because it’s just a “small, independent artist,” and that his concerns don’t matter to “real” artists (meaning major label ones), but, haven’t we played that game long enough?

      • Replacing DVDs With Online Screeners Won’t Stop Pirates

        Within the movie industry there are increasing calls to replace DVD screeners with online streaming versions. The Emmys already plan to do so. Some fear that this change will be the end of screener leaks, but others, including pirate release group EVO, disagree.

      • Copyright Trolling in Sweden Grows Massively Putting US Efforts in the Shade

        A study carried out by Swedish ISP Bahnhof has revealed that copyright trolls targeted more than 10 times as many IP addresses in Sweden during 2018 than they did in the whole of the United States during the same period. Customers of local ISP Telia are most at risk by a huge margin.

      • Tolerating Piracy Can Benefit Consumers, Creators and Retailers, Research Finds

        New research suggests that turning a blind eye to piracy can benefit consumers, creators and retailers, all at the same time. This win-win-win situation has a positive effect on the economy at large. Using Game of Thrones as an example, the researchers conclude that tolerating piracy to a certain degree can be a wise decision.

The EPO Continues to Grant Software Patents Even Though Many European Patents Are Being Invalidated Already

Posted in Europe, IBM, Patents, Red Hat at 9:18 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The legal certainty associated with European Patents is rapidly ending

USS EPO

Summary: “Strong patents aligned with a company’s products help secure exclusivity in core markets,” the EPO wrote yesterday. The EPO, however, is no longer a place for strong patents (certainly not anymore) because its patents are of low value, low legal certainty, and work is poorly researched (examiners not given sufficient time to do the work properly); the EPO just lowers the bar and violates the EPC in the process, hoping to replace the courts so as to mask this gross violation

LAST WEEK we gave almost a handful of new examples wherein European Patents, granted by the European Patent Office (EPO), were thrown out by courts, including the highest British court. The new President doesn’t seem to care. To the credit of the EPO’s examiners, some of them also threw out patents after oppositions; but they, like the appeals’ processors (not the same thing), do not enjoy independence from this President and they’re grossly understaffed for these respective tasks because the number of oppositions has soared and the number of appeals reportedly reached about 10,000 (the backlog for a few dozen people to handle while the pile grows quickly).

GenomeWeb has another new reminder that patent quality suffers. Even the EPO itself can admit this:

The European Patent Office has revoked a patent held by Pacific Biosciences, the company’s rival Oxford Nanopore Technologies said today.

Oxford Nanopore had challenged the validity of the patent, EP3045542, titled “Methods for nucleic acid sequencing,” which was granted in 2016.

2016 means under Battistelli at the height of all the scandals.

“To the credit of the EPO’s examiners, some of them also threw out patents after oppositions; but they, like the appeals’ processors (not the same thing), do not enjoy independence from this President and they’re grossly understaffed for these respective tasks because the number of oppositions has soared and the number of appeals reportedly reached about 10,000 (the backlog for a few dozen people to handle while the pile grows quickly).”At the turn of the new year I was personally alarmed to learn just how bad things had become at the EPO. And almost nobody talks about, certainly not the corporate media. I decided to throw aside coverage of American affairs in favour of EPO stories (this is the fourth one so far today). The newly-confirmed buyer of Red Hat, IBM, is pushing for "AI" patents in Europe — the very opposite of what Red Hat did around 2005 when the relevant directive was debated in Parliament. Less than a day ago Patent Docs advertised for the patent extremists at the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO), notably backed by IBM (with a dedicated “task force” for software patents), who prop up the Berkheimer lie. Among the bulletpoints there: “Finjan, Inc. v. Juniper Network, Inc. (N.D. Cal.), where the court ordered the section 101 invalidity defense be decided at trial, but the ultimate jury instructions and verdict form did not address Section 101″ (this horrendous patent troll has USPTO-granted patents passed to it by IBM).

“The newly-confirmed buyer of Red Hat, IBM, is pushing for “AI” patents in Europe — the very opposite of what Red Hat did around 2005 when the relevant directive was debated in Parliament.”Also less than a day ago Watchtroll published an interview with “Mark Ringes, Vice President and Assistant General Counsel for IBM, and Manny Schecter, Chief Patent Counsel for IBM” — an interview in which they’re denying that patent trolls are a problem (“just noise” is what they say) because IBM itself acts like a patent troll. They now bring that very same agenda to Europe. The same patent maximalists’ site that recently revealed IBM proudly promotes this “AI” agenda in Europe (algorithms as “AI”) has caught the eye of FFII. “It is a computer program,” FFII’s Benjamin Henrion wrote yesterday, alluding to this text: “Which is a problem for AI patentability because the technology is seen by some as pure mathematical methods and nothing else.”

Henrion had also taken note of some new event [1, 2, 3] about “AI” patents. “Here’s what you need to deliver as inputs for your patent attorney to protect an AI-related invention,” one tweet said, along with Bastian Best “discussing levels of abstraction for patenting AI-related inventions #AMLD2019. He even prepared a 20-page document describing how to write the perfect invention disclosure report.”

“So highly successful European/French software projects — this one with over 3 billion downloads — are at risk due to software patents.”Best is still promoting software patents (in Europe) as he has done for like a decade (even picking a Twitter username to that effect, “swpat”). Another person was “discussing EPO practice wrt AI-related inventions…”

These are all just patents on algorithms — clearly in defiance of the EPC. Courts would not accept these.

“VLC is constantly receiving patent threat letters,” Henrion wrote, “ignoring them for now, and the UPC will change the whole EU situation, French courts won’t have to power to reject EPO software patents anymore…”

So highly successful European/French software projects — this one with over 3 billion downloads — are at risk due to software patents. They’re being threatened in Europe and patent attorneys (like the ones above, boosters of “AI” patents) typically also lobby for the UPC, in an effort to bypass national courts.

As of yesterday, the EPO carries on with the usual, promoting illegal software patents using hype waves like "blockchain" (just software basically). It wrote this: “What does the future of #blockchain and its impact look like?”

“The more software patents the EPO grants, the worse its reputation will get.”Crowell & Moring LLP’s Kristof Roox, Geert Bogaert, Steven Verbeke and Linh Truong have just written about another (albeit similar) trick for legitimising software on computer vision (software and mathematics, geometry), citing the “European Patent Office’s Study on Patent Applications for Self-Driving Vehicles Technologies in Europe”. They all push for patents on algorithms by calling these something else, typically ‘hot’ and ‘trendy’ acronyms that circulate in the media (perpetuating the concept of them being ‘innovative’).

Yet another conference pushing software patents in Europe was advertised at the start of this week, with the press release saying “Patent Protection for Software-Related Inventions in Europe and the USA”, then elaborating with “Examples and approaches for protecting software and computer-related innovations, taking into account the unique requirements in the US and Europe…”

Then came another with the same title. The more software patents the EPO grants, the worse its reputation will get.

“HE DID NOTHING Since He Arrived, Full Stop.” What EPO People Make of President Campinos…

Posted in Europe, Patents at 8:07 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The European Patent Office (EPO) isn’t recuperating; instead it’s trying to just silence causes or sources of dissent

EPO asylum

Summary: The EPO is still being run in the spirit of Battistelli; nothing has really changed as the same group of people manages the EPO ‘asylum’

YESTERDAY (we’re not sure what time exactly) EPO Flier’s publication number 46 (“staff reporting and careers”) was released. Some readers told us about it. It doesn’t look too good for António Campinos because it took 2-4 years of Battistelli before things truly boiled over. Campinos does ‘better’ (actually worse) than this because people are fed up within only a number of months. He is running out of time as people run out of patience. EPO corruption isn’t being tackled; instead it is being swept under the rug, the Office becomes more secretive, and the CSC (not just the union, SUEPO) gets gagged like never before. We’ve covered evidence to that effect several times since last summer. Campinos himself has not even blogged for a rather long time. Is silence his primary strategy now? He ought to know that it won’t work; not for long anyway… not for another 4.5 years. People want to see actions, not mere words, and at the moment they aren’t even seeing words. Campinos has repeatedly stonewalled representatives.

The latest EPO Flier publication says this:

28 January 2019

EPO FLIER No. 46

The EPO-FLIER wants to provide staff with uncensored, independent information at times of social conflict

Staff reporting and careers at the EPO: a system that ignores most of the staff

Current system

The current reporting and careers systems at the EPO are not formally linked to each other. This great idea was introduced by Benoît Battistelli but the person holding the pen was probably the current PD 4.3, Elodie Bergot.

The reporting system is based on objectives set by the line manager at the beginning of the year. At the beginning of the next year, the line manager must say whether each objective was met, not met, or exceeded. That’s it. At the end of the report, he can add some comments. He also has to assess the staff member’s core competences and give an overall comment on those.

Separately, line managers have to recommend staff for a career step, a promotion or a bonus. They have no guidance on how to choose what to recommend for which staff members other than being told how much budget they have for steps or promotions and how much they have for bonuses. In this system, it will be reasonably straightforward for the line managers to decide what they should recommend for the very high performers. It is also clear that they will not recommend very low performers for a promotion or bonus1. But what should they do for the majority of staff, the people in between, who do a good day’s work and give their best to deliver on their objectives? How often should they propose a step, a promotion and a bonus? How should they decide between colleague A and colleague B, who perform equally well? Without clear guidance, it is inevitable that individual colleagues receive a step reward, or not, based on arbitrary criteria. When asked to defend their decisions, some line and team managers have said that performance and reward are not directly linked.2 This is not a surprise because Battistelli broke the link between performance and reward.

This uncertainty is demotivating for staff and line managers. There is no transparency on the rewards for a good performance. Over the years, this system will grind everyone – except the high flyers – down and lead to an overall drop in motivation levels, and performance.

President’s meeting with line managers

On 5 November 2018, the president called a meeting of all line managers, with video links between all places of employment. From what we have heard, he tried his best to be positive about the current system and promised that some adjustments were in the pipeline to make it even better. But he failed to answer questions satisfactorily, and the line managers (many of them) reportedly left feeling very frustrated and not “listened to”.

So what happened to the expected new system?

Despite the big meeting and the big announcement about the new, improved system, nothing was implemented before the end of 2018. ILO case law prohibits changing the reporting system in the middle of the reporting period. So this is a big loss of face for those who made the announcement to line managers and it means no new system can enter into force before 1 January 2020.

We don’t know what happened that led to the president putting on the brakes. We hope that he reflected and understood that the problems will not be solved with simple adjustments and that the careers and reporting systems need a complete overhaul. The about-turn is in any case an embarrassment for PD 4.3 and the team working on this matter.

1 Since a new fast-track procedure for judging on employee’s professional incompetence entered into force (see CA/D 7/17), colleagues who fail to reach their target twice are at risk of being classified incompetent and dismissed. Here, neither the criteria nor the legal framework are clear. See the recent CSC paper “Article 52 Service Regulations – No news, bad news?” (sc19005cp, 18.01.2018), the CSC report on the GCC meeting of 18.12.2018 (sc19002cp, 16.01.2019) on a colleague dismissed last year for professional incompetence, and EPO staff should not be treated as ‘second-class European civil servants’, says CSC (Barney Dixon, IPPro, 22.01.2018).

2 See “New Career System in 2018: from bad to worse” (SUEPO The Hague, 17.01.2019, su19003hp)

SUEPO has meanwhile published a link to Kluwer Patent Blog (article published 27/1/2019) and the comments in particular are rather damning; all of them show lack of trust in Campinos; the most optimistic among them just argue he might need more time. Well, how long?

From the anonymous author of this post we have a reference to a recent CSC letter (not the one we've just published):

A letter from the Central Staff Committee, in the meantime, shows that EPO president Campinos’ Listening to the staff has certainly not always led to improvements for EPO employees. The CSC sent a letter to Campinos last Friday about the ‘very inconsiderate treatment’ of several colleagues and about ‘chaotic’ HR management. ‘Staff are seen as, and treated like a faceless commodity – just like pawns on a check-board.

Departmental reorganisations allegedly necessitating multiple sequential transfers in a very short period are proposals which concern ‘the conditions of employment of the whole or part of staff’ (Article 38(2) first bullet ServRegs) and should have been subject to GCC consultation. We consider the non consultation of the GCC when staff is so affected to be, at the very least, a breach of the Service Regulations, but more importantly, a failing of the duty of care that the Office has to its staff. Neither the CSC, nor the affected staff, has been consulted in any way. The treatment which the affected staff members are receiving at present – if maintained – would constitute a new low in staff/management relations. And this is happening at a time when we had finally hoped to see an improvement.

We are taken aback by the total absence of “Fingerspitzengefühl” in the approach to the colleagues. The heavy-handed style of communication merely breeds distress and demotivation, and we have been confronted with several of our colleagues in tears.’

On Campinos, one person then says: “HE DID NOTHING since he arrived, full stop.”

Here’s the full comment:

Many thanks for reporting to the Public what happens at EPO.

EPO HR practices have indeed not changed an inch since arrival of Mr Campinos (he is said to have absolutely no empathy towards “joe-average” staff members’ issues behind closed doors and he only wants to be seen as a “friendly and accessible chef” in Public).

He lets Bergot run the shop and she does it with her usual level of incompetence. Forced transfers were one of the key elements found contributing to the dangerous HR organisation at France Telecom (an illustration of the duo Battistelli – Bergot’s concrete achievements https://www.politico.eu/article/labor-relations-turn-toxic-in-the-european-patent-office/).

Bergot is responsible for all this.

Campinos finds the “new career” (which is a nightmare for staff as it not only does not reward staff for the efforts done but also attributes unhealthy incentives (focussing too much on quantity vs quality). He has not done anything concrete about the quality of the work done except pretending that he will do something soon. He has done nothing regarding Els Hardon and Laurent Prunier who are still held hostages for wrong-doings they have not committed.

HE DID NOTHING since he arrived, full stop.

One may expect that a new drama will for sure occur e.g. new suicide. The question is not if but when since indeed the fear factor remains the same and it is still coupled to far too high production pressure. This is depressing.

MaxDrei, who used to comment in IP Kat (before they gagged themselves on the subject of EPO corruption), then became the optimist of the bunch (he’s an attorney as far as we’re aware):

Being an optimist, I seize on these words:

“… the three new vice presidents Nellie Simon, Christoph Ernst and Stephen Rowan, who were elected last October and started in office on 1 January 2019, might be able to change things for the better.”

If I understand it right, Ms Simon will be Bergot’s supervisor. Simon studied at the LSE. Has she got the strength to set Bergot straight? Rowan is a Brit and Ernst is a German lawyer. Suppose all three new VP’s have respect for the Rule of Law. Suppose that President Campinos has been biding his time, gathering his forces and that he regards his three new VP’s as “the cavalry” which will enable him to act in the cause of restoring decency within the rogue State of Eponia, and patching up its reputation in the outside world.

Can we realistically hope along those lines?

In reply, one person said, “you mean the very same Dr Ernst who supported Battistelli all along when he was violating the Rule of Law (Pr Bross was clear enough wasn’t he)?”

Here it is:

question MaxDrei : you sincerely place hopes in Dr Ernst ?

you mean the very same Dr Ernst who supported Battistelli all along when he was violating the Rule of Law (Pr Bross was clear enough wasn’t he)?

Would this mean that Mr Campino alone has neither the courage or the strength or the will to instruct Mrs Bergot to behave (since obviously with the forced transfers and the continuation of her HR policies mainly based on by fear and retaliation she is not behaving) ?

You must be joking!

Ernst defended Battistelli for a long time as Chairman of the Administrative Council, who had previously overlooked Battistelli’s financial abuses (Germany later vetoed the most controversial among Battistelli’s financial instrumentations). Moreover, Battistelli’s denial of patent quality’s decline was later echoed by Ernst — publicly even — as one might expect not from a doctor but a pseudoscientist who denies climate change in spite of the overwhelming evidence and scientific consensus.

“The Convention watchdog” then wrote: “As head of the German delegation in the Administrative Council and more recently as President of the Council Mr. Ernst shares the Council’s responsibility for most of the developments in the past years. In particular, this applies to the punitive actions against the Boards of Appeal following decision R 19/12, including the failed structural reform aimed at efficiency instead of true independence, the exile of the Boards outside Munich and the handling of the Corcoran case showing that a Board member can be removed from office withoiut observing the garanties laid down in Article 23 (1) EPC. Nothing has changed in this respect. Rather, getting rid of a Board member who is not welcome to the management has become much easier: Reappointment has become dependent on a positive report and which manager will write a positive report on a person responsible for decisions not following the accepted mainstream. Dont forget, the President of the Boards is not just primus inter pares as a presiding judge should be. Rather he manages the Boards as laid down in revised Rule 12a (2) of the Implementing Regulations and his own dependency on his reappointment will not encourage him to risk conflics with the President of the Office or the Council. And the President of the Office has not lost his say when it comes to reappointment of Board members (cf. Rules 12d (3), 12c (2) EPC). The doubts about the rank of the rule of law in the EPO have not disappeared with the new President and his new team of Vice Presidents.”

Concerned observer topped that up with this:

If a (serious) breach of the Service Regulations can be proven, what would be the consequences?

I think that if the boot were on the other foot (that is, if it were an employee that breached the Regulations), then it is pretty clear that disciplinary proceedings would ensue, and could lead to dismissal.

That option is unlikely to be available in this instance, as the relevant internal Committees and Boards can hardly commence proceedings against the whole Organisation. But what if it can be proven that the breach by the Organisation was directed by an individual employee (or a small collection of employees)? Does this mean that we can expect the AC to exert the disciplinary authority afforded to them under Article 11(4) EPC?

But wait! Would it not be essential for the AC to first establish whether there had indeed been a breach of the Service Regulations? Do they have the power to commission such an investigation or would they need to wait for the President to provide a report (and recommendations) on the matter? And if the AC does not need to wait for the President, what information would they need to receive in order to start taking matters into their own hands?

Based upon the AC’s prior performance, I think that it would be pointless to expect them to take action, if even if they are empowered to do so. As pointed out by Attentive, the President will certainly have his own interpretation of the Service Regulations that (no matter how unsupportable) could easily be wheeled out to provide a prima facie reason for the AC’s inaction. And it is of course unlikely that the President would investigate himself or any of his senior staff.

So we can conclude that reliance upon the provisions of the EPC is unlikely to provide legal recourse for affected EPO staff. But what about the option of taking a case to the AT of the ILO? That could be suitable if one is an individual affected by an order issued in breach of the Service Regulations and one has the time to exhaust all internal remedies before waiting many months for the ILO to take up the case. But then, by the time that the ILO issues their judgement, the (series of) forced transfers would have come to pass, meaning that the best one can hope for is a Pyrrhic victory that awards costs / damages but does not reverse transfers that have become a fait accompli.

So, in the light of the above reasoning, does this mean that EPO staff have no effective legal recourse against forced transfers EVEN IF those transfers have clearly been issued in breach of the Service Regulations? If so, is it not high time to revisit the extremely shaky reasoning of the Dutch Supreme Court and to own up to the fact that this represents a serious breach of the human rights of EPO staff, and in particular their right to COLLECTIVE bargaining (that is, a right that can NEVER be asserted before the ILO because: (1) it concerns a union, and not an individual; and (2) is intended to address the lawfulness of a provision BEFORE it comes into effect)?

Seeing the above comments (and 3 more), it’s not hard to conclude that the general consensus is that Campinos is more ‘hot air’ than substance — something that ought to have been evident since Battistelli lobbied rather aggressively for his appointment. Campinos isn’t an alternative to Battistelli but more like “Battistelli’s man” at the EPO. They’re also of the same nationality, as usual…

The Management of the EPO Will Not Manage to Recruit Any Talent If It’s Killing Its Own Staff

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:19 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Months ago: Another Victim of Corrupt Benoît Battistelli

Letter about Prunier

Summary: Staff representative Prunier is an excellent example of false promises from António Campinos; his health too (like virtually all other victims of Battistelli) is reportedly deteriorating

HOW can the European Patent Office (EPO) ever recover its reputation when its main if not sole asset (the staff) gets treated so badly?

The following letter was sent at the end of last week to António Campinos, the imposter who pretends to be all “Change” and “Hope” while delivering nothing different from Battistelli (some argue that, in some respects, he is even worse than Battistelli). Here’s the text of the above letter:

European Patent Office | 80298 MUNICH | GERMANY

Mr António Campinos
President of the EPO

ISAR – R.1081

European Patent Office
80298 Munich
Germany

Central Staff Committee
Comité central du personnel
Zentraler Personalausschuss

Tel. +49 -89- 2399 – 4355
+43 -1-52126 – 305
+49 -30-25901 – 800
+31 -70-340 – 2028

centralSTCOM@epo.org
Reference: sc19012cl-0.3.1/4.5
Date: 24.01.2019

Situation of Mr L. Prunier

Dear Mr President,

On 12 September 2018, the CSC met with you to discuss (among other issues) the worrying situation of Mr Prunier, an elected CSC member and union official who was unlawfully dismissed from service based on trumped up charges while on certified sick leave. You informed us that Mr Prunier’s file was on your desk.

In October 2018 you issued an office-wide Communiqué in which you declared that your administration was in favour of reaching amicable settlements for on-going complaints. However, the Office does not appear to have contacted Mr Prunier to enter into any such discussion (despite the fact that he is still severely ill and any prolongation will only make it worse). Besides the suffering unduly inflicted on Mr Prunier, we doubt it is in the interest of the EPO to have this matter become public material once judged.

We are looking forward to being reassured that swift progress is being made in this matter, as Mr Prunier’s health appears to be suffering a lot from this protracted legal battle, which we are truly worried about.

Sincerely yours,

Joachim Michels
Chairman of the Central Staff Committee

For those who aren’t familiar with the above case, see the links below along with the parody video (no situation is too sad for parody).

  1. Caught in a Lie Again: EPO Management Just Cannot Stop Lying, Even About People Whom It Gags Using Threats (to Cover Up Battistelli’s Abuses)
  2. Dutch Media Reveals That Battistelli Continues His Vicious War on Staff Unions, Laurent Prunier the Latest Casualty (The Hague)
  3. Dismissal of Laurent Prunier Worse Than It Seems as Battistelli Almost ‘Pulls a Hardon’ by Taking Away Pension Rights Too
  4. Battistelli is Even Attacking the French, and Not Just in Germany But Also on Dutch Territory
  5. The Next Phase of Union Busting: Battistelli Now Cutting Salaries of Yet More EPO Staff Representatives
  6. In the Case of Frenchman Laurent Prunier, Battistelli Reasserts Himself as Psychopathic Bully
  7. EPO Ally IAM Magazine Calls Battistelli’s Dismissal of EPO Staff Representative Laurent Prunier “a Needless Own Goal.”


YouTube version

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