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01.03.19

Links 3/1/2019: ‘Year of the Desktop’ and Many New Releases

Posted in News Roundup at 10:33 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Desktop

    • From The Linux Perspective: What I Am Most Looking Forward To In 2019

      With 2019 started and also the 15th year since starting Phoronix.com, what am I most excited for in 2019 from a Linux/open-source perspective? Here is a look at what has me motivated for the year ahead.

    • Year of the Desktop #yearofthedesktop

      TLDR; most PC hardware vendors are shipping Linux machines, Linux had the best cheap laptop of the year, Linux is a good platform for games, Steam now supports 1000s of Windows apps(+ 5000 linux native) and is contributing to Wine, the web is a good high quality desktop software target, government support for Linux desktop is increasing, and even Microsoft is supporting running Linux software on Windows, cheap hardware like Raspberry Pi(and more) is available and usable, community software cares about usability and has a supporting financial model, community development is a kinder place, fragmentation of the Desktop is no more, Gnome receives $1,000,000 donation, governments spend money on community desktop software, IBM the original PC company bought the first Linux Desktop company, less fragmentation and distributing Desktop apps to all Linux users is now very easy, punch line at end.

    • Other Open-Source / Linux Letdowns For 2018 From File Creation Time To Flatpaks

      Back on New Year’s Eve I shared what I viewed as some of the biggest open-source and Linux letdowns of 2018. Since then via the forum comments and elsewhere some other current shortcomings were also brought up.

    • Chrome OS Linux apps get new display density toggle for high-DPI devices like Pixelbook

      Chrome OS gained a whole host of new applications to use last year when Google officially released Linux apps support, internally known as Crostini. Unfortunately, many of these Linux apps looked very small on Chrome OS devices like the Pixelbook and Pixel Slate, which have high resolution displays. The latest Chrome OS Developer build includes a new, simple display density fix to get your Linux apps looking correct.

      Certain apps, like GIMP, don’t always handle the intricacies of display scaling very well, especially with the additional layer of being run on a virtual Linux inside of Chrome OS. Up to this point, power users had been attempting to manage the display density manually from the command line.

  • Server

    • Performance improvements in OVN: Past and future

      OVN (Open Virtual Network) is a subcomponent of Open vSwitch (OVS). It allows for the expression of overlay networks by connecting logical routers and logical switches. Cloud providers and cloud management systems have been using OVS for many years as a performant method for creating and managing overlay networks.

      Lately, OVN has come into its own because it is being used more in Red Hat products. The result has been an increased amount of scrutiny for real-world scenarios with OVN. This has resulted in new features being added to OVN. More importantly, this has led to tremendous changes to improve performance in OVN.

      In this article, I will discuss two game-changing performance improvements that have been added to OVN in the past year, and I will discuss future changes that we may see in the coming year.

    • Hot sysadmin reads for the new year
    • How 2018 learned to do the cloud right

      Over the last five years, I’ve worked in various roles bringing high-performance computing (HPC) into the public cloud. It’s been fascinating to watch the industry change from saying “You can’t do HPC in the cloud” to “How can I do HPC in the cloud?” to “Why wouldn’t I do HPC in the cloud?”

    • What we learned about containers last year
    • How Oracle Is Embracing Cloud-Native Technology to Enable Applications

      The term “cloud-native” is increasingly being used by organizations and vendors alike as a new paradigm shift for how applications can run and be deployed in the cloud.

      For Bob Quillin, vice president for Oracle Cloud Developer Relations, cloud-native isn’t just about technology; it’s also about people and process. Quillin sold his company StackEngine to Oracle in December 2015 and has been at Oracle ever since, helping to mature the company’s container strategy. In a video interview with eWEEK, Quillin provides insight into how Oracle views the emerging need for multicloud and what cloud-native is all about.

      “It’s a blend of the people, the process and the technology all together; it’s very open-source driven and community-based,” he said.

    • Software predictions for 2019

      2019 will be a year of consolidation in the cloud ecosystem, from startups to publicly traded companies. The recent enormous acquisitions we’ve seen across the industry – such as IBM and Red Hat, Microsoft and GitHub, and most recently VMware and Heptio – are the latest confirmation of one thing: open source continues to be the driving force behind innovation for companies of all sizes. In 2019, we’ll see a deeper investment in open source technologies to power innovation, new entrants, and more exits across the entire cloud ecosystem.

    • Kubernetes project showing strong signs of maturity

      As the Kubernetes project nears 2 million lines of code (including all languages and generated files), the 4-year-old open source project is showing many signs of maturity, according to an analysis by source{d}, a company enabling Machine Learning for large-scale code analysis.
      The velocity of commits for the core Kubernetes project seems to be slowing down as the community focus moves to infrastructure testing, cluster federation, Machine Learning, and HPC (High Performance Computing) workloads management. With just under 16,000 methods, the Kubernetes API also seems to be stabilizing despite its high level of complexity.
      This analysis leverages source{d} Engine to retrieve and analyze all the Kubernetes git repositories through SQL queries to get insights into the project codebase history, as well as emerging trends.

    • Using automation to connect build engineering and DevOps: A guide

      Build engineering and DevOps: it seems that never the twain shall meet. Build engineering supplies the build system, with its tools and processes that make software development and deployment easier. DevOps professionals use Agile principles to develop and deploy applications with their teams. Although build engineering and DevOps are distinct but connected activities, organisations are not typically bringing them together.

      DevOps has enjoyed growing adoption in the last 10 years or so. Before that, there was a discrete division between coding — done by developers and engineers — and deployment, done by operations (aka “Ops”). However, it became apparent that for companies to optimize benefits and increase productivity, development and operations shouldn’t be so disparate. The result of this alignment is DevOps.

    • IBM makes Spectrum Scale play nicely with software containers

      IBM has announced Spectrum Scale file system support for containers. The release means that companies building containerised IT environments can use their existing Spectrum Scale storage systems as opposed to buying new products.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

    • sleep(jesus); | Coder Radio 338

      Don’t call them resolutions, lets just call them reasonable goals. Mike and Chris share their plans for 2019’s ground work, and why every single thing is fair game.

    • Wishing Upon a Kernel | LINUX Unplugged 282

      We start off the new year with our hopes and dreams for Linux and open source in 2019 and beyond.

      Plus Clear Linux aims to build the ultimate Linux desktop based on Xfce, and it looks like GNOME is closing the performance gap.

    • The Linux Link Tech Show Episode 790
    • FLOSS Weekly 512: Opencast

      Opencast is a flexible, scalable and reliable video capture, distribution, and management system for academic institutions. Opencast is built by a growing community of developers in collaboration with leading universities and organizations worldwide.

  • Kernel Space

    • Reiser4 File-System Port To The Linux 4.20 Kernel

      There hasn’t been a formal Reiser4 file-system patch release since September when it was ported to the Linux 4.18 kernel, but via Git this week there is a port for the Linux 4.20 kernel should you want to utilize this once promising file-system under the latest stable patch series.

      Edward Shishkin, the last main Reiser4 developer involved and former employee of Hans Reiser’s Namesys company, has updated his Reiser4 kernel tree where there is now the few code changes necessary to get the file-system kernel module building for Linux 4.20 along with a patch containing a fix.

      That’s the most Reiser4 activity we’ve seen in months since back in September was the last patch release on SourceForge adding Linux 4.18.0 compatibility.

    • Intel Developing New CPU Idle Governor For Tickless Systems

      Linux power management expert Rafael Wysocki, who is also the maintainer of the ACPI/PM subsystems, has been working on the “TEO” the past few months as the Timer Events Oriented governor for CPUIdle framework.

      The CPUIdle governor is responsible for deciding the desired C-state of the CPU/system. Rafael has been working on this new “TEO” governor for Linux tickless systems with this new design that is smarter and potentially offers some minor performance benefits. Rafael explained, “the timer events oriented (TEO) governor, uses the same basic strategy as menu: it always tries to find the deepest idle state that can be used in the given conditions. However, it applies a different approach to that problem.”

    • The New ARM Hardware Support That’s Now Part Of The Linux 4.21 Kernel

      The ARM platform and board changes were sent in on New Year’s Eve for the Linux 4.21 kernel.

    • Dbus Broker 17 Released – No Longer Depends On Glib, Better Isolation With Systemd

      Red Hat’s systemd team who also work on BUS1 and D-Bus Broker announced a new version of Dbus-Broker to kick off 2019.

      As we enter 2019, there still isn’t any sign that BUS1 will be merged this year as the successor to the original KDBUS plans for in-kernel inter-process communication. The BUS1 kernel module code only gets touched every few months and there’s been no review process recently that would suggest it may be trying to go mainline soon.

    • Mourning Shaoh

      I’ve got some very sad news to share with you – over Christmas, Shaohua
      Li passed away after battling cancer for most of last year.

      As you know, Shaohua acted as the maintainer for md. He remained
      dedicated to that through the difficult times. With his passing, we
      obviously have a void that needs to be filled.

      For now, I’ll act as interim maintainer for md until we can find a good
      permanent solution. I’ll queue up reviewed patches in a separate branch,
      in the block tree, and help review fixes. I’m subscribed to linux-raid,
      but please do CC me as well.

    • Reiser4 Patch Released For Linux 4.20 Kernel Support Plus A Few Fixes

      While a few days ago I wrote about the Reiser4 port to the Linux 4.20 kernel being a work-in-progress, now it’s officially been released with their first tagged patch release since Linux 4.18.

    • Linux Foundation

      • LF Networking Moving Forward to Consolidate Open Source Networking Efforts

        In a video interview, Arpit Joshipura, General Manager for Networking at the Linux Foundation said that there has been positive momentum in the LF Networking effort.

        “Members do appreciate the concept, not just of collaborating across projects, but also the cost savings they get for not paying into individual projects,” Joshipura explained.

        The initial six projects that joined LF Networking are OpenDaylight, ONAP, OPNFV, FD.IO, pnda and SNAS.io. Other projects that have since joined LF Networking, include Tungsten Fabric, which was originally known as Open Contrail. The umbrella effort also benefits from improved testing, certification and infrastructure components that help all of the participating projects.

      • 2019 and the Strength of Open Source

        2018 saw amazing growth for open source generally and for The Linux Foundation specifically, with huge tech acquisitions and widespread industry adoption stemming from more than 20 years of steady open source development and innovation.

      • gRPC Conf
      • ONAP DDF + OPNFV Plugfest
    • Graphics Stack

      • Vulkan/OpenCL Interop Extension In Development, OpenCL-Next Continues

        Khronos President Neil Trevett just commented on the current state of Vulkan/OpenCL compute and reaffirmed that OpenCL will continue to evolve as well.

      • It Turns Out AMDGPU KFD Compute Support Can Work On 64-bit ARM

        Up to now the AMDKFD kernel driver needed for running the ROCm user-space has only worked on x86_64 CPUs, but with some simple changes, it turns out this Radeon compute kernel driver can work on 64-bit ARM as well.

        The motivation for getting the AMDKFD driver working on 64-bit ARM isn’t entirely clear so it could be for a reason as simple as an ARM employee discovering it could work fairly trivially or it could be something more interesting. Posted by one the AMDKFD patch wrangler at AMD on Wednesday was this patch allowing the “Kernel Fusion Driver” to build on ARM64 (AArch64). The changes were just a few lines to include allowing the kernel Kconfig option to display for ARM64 and then also dealing with a few x86_64-specific lines of code.

  • Applications

    • 5 of the Best Markdown Editors for Linux

      Markdown is a text-based markup language that makes use of a simplified syntax which can be converted to HTML. It has grown in popularity since its creation in 2004 by John Gruber and has become many people’s preferred way of creating content for the web.

    • recutils 1.8 released

      I am happy to announce a new release of the GNU recutils, version 1.8.

    • sjfonts 2.1 released

      More than 11 years after sjfonts 2.0.2 was released today I’m announcing sjfonts 2.1

      It contains two enhacements contributed by Yuri Chornoivan
      * Delphine font now has the Euro sign
      * Steve font now has “basic” Cyrillic characters

    • pgcli: Release v2.0.2

      Pgcli is a command line interface for Postgres database that does auto-completion and syntax highlighting.

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Wine or Emulation

      • Best Free Linux SNES Emulators

        Emulation refers to the duplication of functions of one system using a different system. Specifically, an emulator is software specifically written to emulate aspects of the original console or computer, primarily the CPU, I/O and memory system.

        The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (also known as Super NES, SNES, or Super Nintendo) is a 16-bit video game console. Nintendo released it in Japan in November 1990 as the Super Famicom (or SFC) with only a few games available. The console was released the following year in North America, and more widely in 1992. The Super Nintendo was the best-selling 16-bit game console of its era, despite a late start and competition from the Sega Genesis.

        Gamers have a few choices when it comes to playing their SNES games. They can whip out their ageing SNES console, purchase the Nintendo Classic Mini SNES (where you’re limited to the included games), or play with a PC emulator.

      • Best N64 emulators for Android and PC

        While the video game industry is always moving forward to bigger and “better” things, there’s no denying the audience for revisiting or experiencing classics for the first time. Nintendo has tapped into nostalgia and created a new audience for classic games with the excellent NES Classic and SNES Classic. What about Nintendo 64 games? Nintendo currently doesn’t have any plans to create an N64 Classic, so unless you own a working N64, it’s hard to play games from the dawn of Nintendo’s 3D days. Sure, the Wii U has a selection of N64 games, but the Wii U has been dead for years.

      • Wine-Staging 4.0 RC4 Released

        Spun on top of last Friday’s Wine 4.0-RC4 release is now the Wine-Staging re-base update.

        Wine-Staging 4.0-RC4 doesn’t offer up any new patches compared to the previous Wine-Staging 4.0 release candidate, but some basic patches did get upstreamed. The staging tree is still carrying about 830 patches over what’s found in the official Wine source tree.

    • Games

      • Red Hat Celebrates Gamers at DreamHack Atlanta

        A welcome comfort, without question, but Red Hat also communicated passion through education. The message? That gamers can enjoy their favorite titles on LINUX, and become part of something bigger.

      • The Corona 2D game engine is going open source in 2019

        After more than nine years of developing and evolving the Corona game engine, Corona Labs is releasing its technology to open source. It’s a move we’ve been planning for a few years now, with the goal of making the engine development process more transparent, and to empower the community to directly impact future growth and potential. As part of a series of steps on a longer evolution journey, entrusting Corona to the community is the surest way to quickly respond to market shifts and changes, ensuring Corona stays relevant and valuable to all mobile app developers.

        “The transition of Corona to the open source model of development has been our long-term vision since Corona Labs was acquired by Appodeal in 2017. We believe that this move will bring transparency to the development process, and will allow users to contribute features or bug fixes to make the project better for everyone,” said Vlad Sherban, product manager for Corona Labs.

        [...]

        Corona engine has been updated with HTML5 and Linux (alpha-version) building during 2018 and celebrated our 9th anniversary from the date of the first release.

      • This Gaming Platform Will Let You Play A New Game Everyday In 2019

        Those who love playing random games online should try out Meditations; it’s a new gaming platform where you can play new games to unwind daily stress.

        Meditations promises to launch one new “tiny game” every day in 2019. Each of them will be accompanied by text which serves as a “meditation, distraction, lesson or inspiration.”

      • Steam On Linux Usage Ended 2018 At Around 0.82%

        With the start of a new month brings the Steam Survey results for the month prior where we see the Linux gaming market-share ending at a high point for the year.

        According to the just-published data from Valve, the Linux gaming population on Steam reached 0.82% during December, a +0.1% increase compared to the month prior. Windows was at 95.86% (-0.58%) while macOS rose 0.47% to 3.31%. That +0.10% increase is a bit odd though as at least initially, Valve was reporting 0.80% for November, which they must have revised lower to 0.72% in that case.

      • Gaming and Game Dev on Linux

        Linux has become my operating system of choice. Not only for general computing, web surfing, and pet projects, but also high-end gaming and game development, including my work as lead game designer and programmer at Golden Drake Studios. I mean, look, I’ll admit it: I still boot up Microsoft Windows now and then since there’s a (rapidly shrinking) number of games I enjoy that work better, or more conveniently, in that environment. Also, credit where credit’s due: I really like the overall look and feel of Windows 10 and it’s nice that Microsoft now directly supports a Linux subsystem. Nonetheless, customization is limited and certain “features,” such as forced updates, provide regular reminders that Windows doesn’t fully respect user freedom. Similarly, though I’m grateful to Apple for facilitating my childhood exposure to computers and cannot deny their products are appealing in some ways, they represent an even more draconian environment: far from full freedom despite macOS being built on an open-source, Unix-like foundation named Darwin.

      • The free and open source RTS 0 A.D. has re-released Alpha 23 fixing issues

        While Alpha 23 of the free and open source RTS 0 A.D. was released way back in May of 2018, it did come with some issues and they’ve put out an updated version now to improve it. Not quite the major release we were hoping for after many months of progress but it’s good to see them act on issues.

        In particular, multiplayer received quite a number of important fixes and updates including: lobby lag and freezing were fixed, steps towards preventing denial-of-service attacks to the lobby, game start time has been improved when no AI players are present and “STUN” can no longer be abused to make games crash.

      • The developers of ‘The End of the Sun’ show some behind the scenes development info

        Coming to Linux sometime this year, The End of the Sun is a first-person exploration and adventure game set in the world of Slavic rites, beliefs, legends and their everyday life. The developers recently some behind the scenes development information.

        The blog post linked here contains some pretty in-depth information on how they’re creating the world and more specifically the characters themselves. Making use of photogrammetry and noting how they’re working around being a small team with limited resources, it’s quite fun to read about. I especially liked how they detail making people grow old.

      • Looks like the ‘Linux Steam Integration’ project is being continued with Intel’s Clear Linux

        Linux Steam Integration, the project originally made while developer Ikey Doherty was working on the Solus Linux distribution now seems to be continuing on under Intel with their Clear Linux distribution.

        As a reminder on what it is, in their words: “Linux Steam Integration is a helper system to make the Steam Client and Steam games run better on Linux. In a nutshell, LSI automatically applies various workarounds to get games working, and fixes long standing bugs in both games and the client.”

      • Some Linux games we’re excited to see in 2019, a list to keep you going

        Now that 2019 is here, let’s take a look at what interesting games Linux fans can expect to see across this year.

        Grab a coffee, wipe away that new-year hangover from the wild party you had and take a look at just a small selection of what’s to come. We have a pretty mixed selection here, hopefully it will serve as a nice reminder for some titles perhaps you had missed being announced last year.

      • Live For Speed Available to Install via Snap in Ubuntu

        Live For Speed, a online racing simulator, now can be installed in Ubuntu 16.04, Ubuntu 18.04, and higher easily via Snap package.

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • New xfce4-panel development release

      After patching up xfce4-settings and finishing the “primary display” story with the patches against xfdesktop I decided to turn to the panel and continue making it 4.14-ready. Next stop: xfce4-panel 4.13.4.

    • Xfce4-Panel 4.13.4 Released As Another Step Towards The Xfce 4.14 Desktop

      The Xfce 4.14 remains long overdue for release but with Xfce4-Panel 4.13.4 being released on New Year’s Day gives us hope we could see this long-awaited desktop environment out in 2019.

      The Xfce4-Panel 4.13.4 release is another step towards preparing the big Xfce 4.14.0. This panel update has a new plugin icon size feature for plug-in developers, corrects menu positioning, fixes tasklists, small theme updates, deprecates various bits of code, and has a lot of bug fixing.

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • KDE Plasma 5.15 Pre-Beta Run Through

        In this video, we are looking at KDE Plasma 5.15 in a Pre-Beta state and it looks great! Enjoy!

      • Toying with iOS

        Qt’s documentation was excellent, and pretty soon I had the Tablet example application running on the iPad. It looks a bit weird, because that’s a QWidget-based application, but that’s fine. ClipStudio Pro on iOS also is a compleat Desktop Application, with popup dialogs and menus and everything, so I am sure Apple wouldn’t mind… And the Pencil was supported really well, so that’s very hopeful.

        Now I only had to make one more experiment before starting to tackle maybe porting Krita: port the Tablet example to CMake, load that in Qt Creator and use Qt Creator to build it and deploy it to my iPad.

      • Copy Date/Time To Clipboard Is (Apparently) Back on KDE Plasma 5

        Did you use copy date/time to clipboard feature on KDE 4? I did that a lot and I loved that. That was one thing I missed since the inception of KDE 5. But, fortunately, and personally shockingly, I met this again starting from my updated KDE 5.13.5. It made me very happy and shocked in the same time when I ran latest Plasma 5.14.4 few days ago: “amazing, since when did this feature come back?” like that. When I went back to my Plasma 5.13.5, it’s there too, and finally I obtained information that it’s available again since Plasma 5.13.0 from April 2018. So let’s see how is it now. Enjoy!

      • Join the first KDE e.V. board dinner of 2019

        Twice a year (on that note, happy new one!), the KDE e.V. board of directors comes together for an in-person meeting, taking care of business. It’s become a tradition that on one of the two meeting days, the board hosts a dinner event open to KDE users, contributors and other interested parties.

      • Google Code-in 2018 – My First Experience as a Mentor in KDE

        During the last months I had the opportunity to participate in Google Code-in 2018 as a mentor for the KDE Community. I’ve created tasks and assisted pre-university students aged from 13 to 17 in their first contributions to free software projects.

  • Distributions

    • What’s the best Linux distribution for beginners to start with?
    • January 2019, #294: The Distributions Issue

      The first version of Linux I truly used, for any length of time, was back at the end of the 1990s—in Ye Olden Times, when 56k modems, 3.5″ floppies and VGA CRT monitors reigned supreme.

      Linux itself had been a thing for a number of years by this point—with both SUSE (then known as the gloriously mixed-case and punctuation-filled S.u.S.E.) and Red Hat doing good business supporting it—when I decided to really give this “Free” operating system a try.

      Because I’m a nerd. And that’s what we do.

    • Reviews

      • Kodachi Builds Privacy Tunnel for Linux

        Online and Internet security are not topics that typical computer users easily comprehend. All too often, Linux users put their blind trust in a particular distribution and assume that all Linux OSes are equally secure.

        However, not all Linux distros are created with the same degree of attention to security and privacy control. A misconfiguration of a firewall, or misapplied Web browser privacy and modem settings, can trash the best-designed Linux safety strategies.

        Kodachi Linux offers an alternative to leaving your computer privacy and security to chance. It is developed by Oman-based Eagle Eye Digital Solutions, an IT firm with a focus on preserving computer privacy and anonymity.

        The developers announced the release of Linux Kodachi 5.6 last month. Based on Debian 9.5 Xbuntu 18.04 Long-Term Support, it runs from a DVD or USB thumb drive as a live session OS for a completely isolated and secure Linux session on any computer for portable Linux convenience.

        You also can install Kodachi to a hard drive. That method blunts one of the primary features of the distro, though. Running in a live session removes all traces of your Internet activity and your documents from the host computer when you remove the DVD or USB.

        Otherwise, either option provides an anti-forensic, anonymous operating system with all the features a person concerned about privacy needs. In this sense, Kodachi gives you built-in techniques, gadgets and software designed to hamper a computer investigation seeking to intercept your email or breach your digital data.

    • New Releases

      • ExTiX 19.1, Build 181228, with KDE 4.17, Kodi 18 “Leia”, Calamares, Refracta Tools, Nvidia and kernel 4.20.0-exton

        I have made a new version of ExTiX – The Ultimate Linux System. I call it ExTiX 19.1 KDE/Kodi Live DVD. (The previous KDE version was 18.6 from 180602). The best thing with ExTiX 19.1 is that while running the system live (from DVD/USB) or from hard drive you can use Refracta Tools (pre-installed) to create your own live installable Ubuntu system. So easy that a ten year child can do it! As an alternative to KDE you can run Kodi 18 Leia. Just start Kodi like any other program while logged in to the KDE Desktop as the ordinary user extix. I have enabled a few addons in Kodi. Most important the Netflix addon.

      • Linspire 8.0 Released

        New year, New Linspire. Today our development team is pleased to bring you Linspire 8.0 – the latest and greatest Linux desktop distribution from PC/OpenSystems LLC showcasing the latest open source technologies to our users. We have toiled diligently over the past year to improve security, stability and functionality in our alternative to Windows 10, ChromeOS and macOS. Linspire 8 offers the choice of a full desktop environment, KDE and Mate are available, bundling productivity, full multimedia playback, audio and video production, games and productivity.

        We have listened to our customer base and preinstalled many applications our users utilize in their daily lives. With Linspire 8.0 there is very little package installation users will have to do after installation. The Minimal install is an ISO that installs a subset containing only a web browser, ideal for users who wish to create and deploy their own desktop systems and customize their application line-up. Linspire CE, Cloud Edition, targets customers who wish to completely embrace a cloud only or hybrid infrastructure – cloud based apps in tandem with locally installed applications. Linspire CE’s flexibility makes it the best-in-breed cloud operating system on the market today.

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

    • PCLinuxOS/Mageia/Mandriva Family

      • The January 2019 Issue of the PCLinuxOS Magazine

        The PCLinuxOS Magazine staff is pleased to announce the release of the January 2019 issue. With the exception of a brief period in 2009, The PCLinuxOS Magazine has been published on a monthly basis since September, 2006. The PCLinuxOS Magazine is a product of the PCLinuxOS community, published by volunteers from the community. The magazine is lead by Paul Arnote, Chief Editor, and Assistant Editor Meemaw. The PCLinuxOS Magazine is released under the Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial-Share-Alike 3.0 Unported license, and some rights are reserved. All articles may be freely reproduced via any and all means following first publication by The PCLinuxOS Magazine, provided that attribution to both The PCLinuxOS Magazine and the original author are maintained, and a link is provided to the originally published article.

        In the January 2019 issue:

        * Firefox Updates Autoplay Media Control
        * GIMP Tutorial: Helpful Tips You Might Already Know
        * PCLinuxOS Family Member Spotlight: drmarwat
        * Short Topix: New Website Removes Photo Backgrounds In Seconds, For FREE!
        * ms_meme’s Nook: Her Name Was Meme
        * Alternatives To Dropbox, Part 2
        * Another Year Ends, And Cyberthreats Continue
        * PCLinuxOS Recipe Corner
        * Worst Passwords Of 2018: You Should Change Yours!
        * And much more inside!

        This month’s cover was designed by Meemaw.

        Download the PDF (7.6 MB)

        https://pclosmag.com/download.php?f=2019-01.pdf

        Download the EPUB Version (5.3 MB)

        https://pclosmag.com/download.php?f=201901epub.epub

        Download the MOBI Version (5.5 MB)

        https://pclosmag.com/download.php?f=201901mobi.mobi

        Visit the HTML Version

        https://pclosmag.com/html/enter.html

    • Arch Family

      • Bug Day 2019

        We will be holding a bug day on the weekend of January 5th and 6th, to start off the year with a cleaned up bugtracker.

        The community is encouraged to canvass the bugtracker and find old bugs, figure out which ones are still valid, track down fixes and suchlike.

    • Fedora

      • Fedora rawhide – fixed bugs 2018/12
      • Fedora 30 Planning To Enable Python Generators By Default

        After being an opt-in feature since Fedora 28, this year’s Fedora 30 release will enable Python generators by default to help in crafting packages around Python code.

        The Python Generators are able to automatically generate the package’s build dependencies — namely the RPM’s Requires and Provides fields — based upon the egg/wheel metadata for the Python code. This makes it easier packaging Python programs with the packagers no longer needing to manually specify run-time dependencies and no longer having the possibility of not having complete coverage of necessary dependencies for a program.

      • Fedora 29 – Make perfect after installation

        And that’s it. Now if you look back at my earlier articles, some things have definitely improved over the past couple of years. You don’t need to worry so much about music support, you need fewer packages and third-party sources, plus it’s easier to set them up, and things are working more smoothly overall. Hence, this guide can be shorter and just as effective.

        In the end, making Fedora 29 suitable for everyday use includes a bunch of Gnome tweaks, fresh themes and icons, some third-party repos and software, fonts, and you’re good to go. If you type fast, you can probably get all this done in about half an hour of leisurely work. But should you? Well, that’s the matter of taste and sheer practicality. Gnome 3 won’t be my day-to-day desktop, for sure, but it ain’t ugly and can be made reasonable, so if you’re inclined that way, you might as well Gnome with style. To wit, we end. Scene.

    • Debian Family

      • Reproducible Builds: Weekly report #192

        A full and in-depth report about our recent summit is under preparation but in the meantime the Guix project published their own report on the event.

      • Rhonda D’Vine: Political Correct Communication

        Oh, and one more thing: Free Software and Debian in specific always was political. Don’t tell me that’s news to you. Working on Free Software is an extremely strong political statement.

      • wpa-supplicant and hostapd 2.7 in Debian

        Hostapd and wpa-supplicant 2.7 have been in Debian experimental for some time already, with snapshots available since May 2018, and the official release since 3 December 2018.

      • Bye-bye binary vconfig(1)

        This morning I have decided that this is the time. The time to finally remove the binary vconfig utility (which used to help people configure VLANs) from Debian. But fear not, the command isn’t going anywhere (yet), since almost six years ago I’ve written a shell script that replaces it, using ip(8) instead of the old and deprecated API.

      • Kiwix in Debian, 2018 update

        I also created a “Kiwix team” in the Debian Package Tracker, so you can subscribe to different notifications for all of the Kiwix-related packages (though it might be spammy if you’re not very interested in Debian internals).

      • Fixing stability issues with 1st generation Ryzen chips on Debian

        I was an early adopter when Ryzen – AMD’s latest CPU line – came out. The prices were very good, the chips had a lot of cores and they ran pretty fast. At the time I thought the Ryzen 1600 CPU with its 6 core and 12 threads all running at 3.4 GHz with a TDP of 65W (with support for ECC RAM) made the perfect homeserver chip.

        Fast forward two years: I’ve finally got around the stability issues I was having that hung my server at random intervals. Sometimes, everything was fine for months, but I also experienced random system freezes twice in a week. Since I’m using full disk encryption on all the drives in my server, a whole system freeze meant I had to go back home and reboot the server manually.

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Using Yarn on Ubuntu and Other Linux Distributions

            This quick tutorial shows you the official way of installing Yarn package manager on Ubuntu and Debian Linux. You’ll also learn some basic Yarn commands and the steps to remove Yarn completely.

            Yarn is an open source JavaScript package manager developed by Facebook. It is an alternative or should I say improvement to the popular npm package manager. Facebook developers’ team created Yarn to overcome the shortcomings of npm. Facebook claims that Yarn is faster, reliable and more secure than npm.

            Like npm, Yarn provides you a way to automate the process of installing, updating, configuring, and removing packages retrieved from a global registry.

            The advantage of Yarn is that it is faster as it caches every package it downloads so it doesn’t need to download it again. It also parallelizes operations to maximize resource utilization. Yarn also uses checksums to verify the integrity of every installed package before its code is executed. Yarn also guarantees that an install that worked on one system will work exactly the same way on any other system.

          • What to Expect From Ubuntu in 2019

            This year (2019) promises to be a bumper one for Ubuntu.

            We’ve got two all-new short-term releases ahead of us: Ubuntu 19.04 mid April and Ubuntu 19.10 in late October.

            Both release will be packed full of the latest software and kernel updates, though the latter release is of particular interest as it it will lay the groundwork for Canonical’s next Long-Term Support release, Ubuntu 20.04.

            This year will also see more work done to make the (now not so) new Yaru GTK theme as pixel-perfect as possible; icon set changes to improve visual consistency are underway; and an optimistic proposal to create an ‘editorialised’ Software center that dispenses articles, reviews and tips alongside apps (just like the macOS App Store) should kick in to gear.

            But that’s not all, folks!

            Below, we highlight five new features, releases and changes we’re expecting to see from Ubuntu in 2019. Our list is based on publicly accessible development plans, wiki pages, forum posts, mailing list e-mails, and the odd secret whisper or two.

          • Call for testing: Ubuntu Touch OTA-7

            As a new year approaches (or has arrived, for much of the world), we’re preparing for the release of Ubuntu Touch OTA-7! OTA-7 is slated to come out on Tuesday, the 8th of January. Until then, it needs to be tested to ensure its quality!

          • UBports’ Ubuntu Touch OTA-7 Is Being Prepared With On-Screen Keyboard Themes

            The UBports folks that continue to maintain and advance Ubuntu Touch are preparing their OTA-7 update for release with a few new features.

            Ubuntu Touch OTA-6 came out just a month ago while OTA-7 is now available for testing and is expected to be officially released next week. With just one month having passed and their limited resources, understandably it’s not a big feature release.

          • Flavours and Variants

            • Peppermint 9 Respin-2 Released

              Team Peppermint are pleased to announce the latest iteration of our operating system ISO images Peppermint 9 Respin-2 (20190102). This is a bug fix release of the original Peppermint 9 Respin ISO images that fixes 3 issues discovered in the installation routine. There is no need for anyone who has already successfully installed the first Peppermint 9 Respin (20181222) to reinstall this version, this purely fixes bugs in the installation routine.

              Peppermint 9 Respin-2 is still available in 32bit and 64bit versions with the 64bit version having full UEFI and Secureboot support.

            • Trying out Pop!_OS 18.10, Distribution Overview and Installation Walkthrough
            • Xfce & Xubuntu 2018 Year In Review

              2018 has been a busy year for Xfce & Xubuntu. As we enter 2019 and continue to inch closer to Xfce 4.14, let’s look back at one of the busiest development years in a while.

            • Linux Mint 19.1 Tessa: Hands-on with an impressive new release

              The latest Linux Mint point release (19.1) came out the week before Christmas. I always have Mint loaded on all of my various laptops and my desktop system, in various states of update/release, so I have gone through and updated all of them to this new release. There are four ways to do this, depending on your starting point…

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Open-source tool aims to curb BGP hijacking amid Chinese espionage concerns

    ARTEMIS is seeking to resolve this problem with the release of an open-source software tool that aims to detect and stop BGP attacks within one minute. The group also received funding from a grant from the RIPE Network Coordination Centre, which works as the internet registry for Europe, West Asia and former Soviet states.

  • Cultural Techniques

    When talking about Free Software I argued already in the past that software is a new cultural technique. My arguments typically was along the line that software is everywhere and shapes our world. Software changed the way we live, learn, work, communicate, participate in society and share our culture. I think that’s still true, but this Wikipedia article added an important aspect to me. With the distinction between the tools and what we achieve collectively with it, I think we can argue that software alone is not a cultural technique, but Free Software is.

    By definition Free Software is a licensing model for software. A software license that gives the users the freedom to use, study, share and improve the software makes it Free Software. These days Free Software influence all areas of our live. Cars, airplanes, cash terminals, pay machines, the internet, televisions, smart phones, I could continue the list indefinitely, nothing would be possible without Free Software. The freedom given by the license and the influence it has on all areas of our live changed the way we develop software. A new development model was established and is used for most Free Software these days. The most successful Free Software is developed by open communities with a strong focus on collaboration and participation. This model is embraced by individuals and large organizations. According to the 2017 Linux Kernel Report, 4300 developers from over 500 companies have contributed to the kernel, with a impressive list of large companies. Everyone works at the same code, often in parallel. People discuss the changes proposed by each other and improve it together until it is ready to be released. The community is not limited to the code, in a similar collaborative way the corresponding design, documentation, artwork and translations are created. People exchange ideas in online forums, real time chats and meet at conferences. All this happens in a transparent and socio-cultural context, open for everyone to join.

  • Marketing in Vendor Neutral FLOSS Projects

    Against the backdrop of a number of companies getting ‘cute’ with licensing, to attempt to encourage companies who use their software to re-invest into the product; vendor neutral non-profits that steward the project, trademark and other assets while allowing many parties to invest – seem increasingly attractive to sustain software beyond its (often) VC fuelled birth. LibreOffice is hosted by just such a project The Document Foundation (TDF) – and this is a huge strength.

    Unfortunately, there are also very significant impacts on how a commercial ecosystem can be grown and sustained around such vendor neutral projects – particularly as relates to encouraging ongoing corporate investment into such projects. This paper (which I will serialize into several sections and re-aggregate here) – examines this space and I’ll try to keep it somewhat alive by incorporating feedback. This also exists to inform a wider discussion in the LibreOffice community along these lines.

  • Obsidian Systems MD on open source trends to watch out for in 2019

    The evolving landscape is seeing business requirements also shifting. Next year will see a veritable land rush for position in the cloud environment. More C-suite decision-makers are open to going, well, open, and vendors and service providers are clamouring for market position.

    Providing even more impetus for this is the recent launch of what many consider to be South Africa’s first truly digital bank. Focusing on ‘behavioural’ banking, all its systems are cloud-based highlighting the security, availability and redundancy of going this route. Moreover, it is built on open standards all but giving the death knell to those who think proprietary is still the preferred method of doing business.

  • Trends & Predictions Piece: Talend 2019

    The “G” in GDPR Will Soon Stand for “Global”

    Data privacy regulations are going to become more widespread. California, Japan and China are already developing their own regulations similar to the EU’s GDPR. Additionally, the severe mishandling of consumer data by companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter has shown the need for increased and widespread data privacy regulations — even prompting Apple CEO Tim Cook to call for global privacy regulations. With consumers now viewing data privacy as a human right, increased data governance policies are sure to follow.

    APAC regulations are also expected to rise to GDPR standards as international regulations become more standardised and the GDPR is considered the new norm.

    [...]

    To date, open source has still functioned with a freemium model, but the coming years may see that shift as the enterprise finds value in conventional open source technologies.

  • 10 Best Kodi Addons You Should Install In 2019 | Legal Addons

    odi is one of the most popular media player software which enables you to access videos, music, and pictures via the internet or local storage on a host of platforms. Managed by XBMC foundation, Kodi is an open source software. However, its reputation has been soiled by labeling it as a piracy bearer, and that is why many ask “Is Kodi legal?” You can read more about Kodi and whether it is legal or not here.

  • Commercial vs open source for app monitoring [Ed: Open Source is also "Commercial". Stop rebranding malicious proprietary software with back doors "Commercial" as if to imply FOSS is not suitable for commercial use.]

    In 2019 you might already be asking yourself, “Should we go with open source or commercial monitoring for our growing cloud application?” This question is as old as open source software itself, but with the rapid growth of cloud-native applications (software that utilizes services and infrastructure provided by cloud providers like Amazon EC2, Azure, IBM, VMWare, etc), it’s becoming more critical than ever – especially because not all monitoring suites can cover every potential break in cloud native apps.

  • Seizing the Opportunity to Close the Cybersecurity Skills Gap

    The proliferation of open source software has changed the training landscape dramatically. Today, there is a plethora of low cost or even free options available, ranging from books to online forums to go-at-your-own-pace training programs.

  • HMD released the source code for Nokia 7 Plus

    Nokia’s Open source releases page just got updated with the source code of Nokia 7 Plus. HMD is using software licensed under the General Public License (GPL) and Lesser General Public License (LGPL) which means it has to release the source code used for devices. HMD can provide just selected parts of source code which developers can use to make custom ROM’s for which you’ll need unlocked bootloader. Unfortunately, this is possible only for Nokia 8 which bootloader is the only one unlocked by now.

  • Zumasys Acquires OpenQM

    Zumasys announced today its acquisition of OpenQM, a high-performance, self-tuning MultiValue database, from UK-based Ladybridge Systems.

    As the exclusive global distributor of OpenQM since 2015, Zumasys more than doubled worldwide sales of OpenQM for three consecutive years by adding 24×7 telephone support, professional services and an automated conversion process which makes it easy for customers to migrate their existing applications to OpenQM.

  • Events

    • Speak at foss-north 2019

      The call for paper is open until late February – but it always helps if you submit your talks early. The submissions are made here. We gather a mix of different speakers – experienced speakers and first timers, technically detailed and process oriented, new contents and really old stuff. As long as it is interesting and fun, you are more than welcome. You can check-out videos and slides for past events for inspiration.

      There is also an opportunity for projects who wants to do something fun to join in. Be it a development sprint, an install fest, a workshop or just a general meetup – join in and be a part of the foss-north community day. Reach out to me (e8johan, gmail) and I’ll tell you more.

    • Jiri Eischmann: F29 release parties in Brno and Prague

      I’ve been organizing Fedora release parties in Brno since Fedora 15 (2011) and with the great release of Fedora 29 I couldn’t make an exception. With help of Květa Mrštíková, Lenka Čvančarová, and all speakers I organized F29 release parties in Brno (Nov 26) and in Prague (Dec 4).

      The Brno one was hosted in Red Hat offices in Brno and all speakers were redhatters. I kicked off the event with a talk on news in F29 Workstation. Then Michal Konečný continued with his experience using Silverblue (OSTree-based Workstation). František Zatloukal talked on his passion – gaming on Fedora. After the recent release of Proton by Valve, there was a lot to talk about. The last talk was delivered by Lukáš Růžička and it was about maybe the biggest feature in Fedora 29 – modularity.

    • Maker Faire UK RIP

      I’m sad to belatedly witness the apparent demise of Maker Faire UK: an annual event for (mostly) amateur makers of all skill-levels that ran from the Centre for Life in Newcastle.

      The Centre was always packed out for the Maker Faire, which attracted a huge range of people from all over the UK, and beyond. I was proud that this was taking place in my city. I always enjoyed attending the Faire, although it was often bitter-sweet: none of my own Making was of the kind of that you could show off at an exhibition like this. I often found myself wondering if I should try my hand at more physical hobbies.

      The Centre for Life is remodelling itself this January, and as part of that project or planning, they seem to have decided that the Maker Faire was not a good fit for their new direction. They talk about opening a new space for “crafting, tinkering and creativity” within the Centre in the Spring, but I very much doubt it will attract the breadth and depth of talent that the Maker Faire did.

    • LibreOffice community events: Cyprus and Japan

      Happy new year! But before we really get into 2019, here are a couple of short event reports from our LibreOffice communities around the world, for events in December 2018. A big thanks to the organisers for their work, and the participants – you’re all doing a great job to boost the community, improve LibreOffice, and share information!

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Thunderbird in 2019

        Our team grew considerably in 2018, to eight staff working full-time on Thunderbird. At the beginning of this year we are going to be adding as many as six new members to our team. Most of these people with the exception of this author (Ryan Sipes, Community Manager) are engineers who will be focused on making Thunderbird more stable, faster, and easier to use (more on this below).

        The primary reason we’ve been able to do this is an increase in donors to the project. We hope that anyone reading this will consider giving to Thunderbird as well. Donations from individual contributors are our primary source of funding, and we greatly appreciate all our supporters who made this year so successful!

      • Thunderbird In 2019 To Focus On Performance & UI/UX Improvements

        As a longtime Thunderbird user going back to its original release, the details Mozilla revealed today about their development focus on their mail client for 2019 have me excited and adding to what I am looking forward to in 2019.

        For the year ahead, the Mozilla developers working on the Thunderbird project will be focusing on performance improvements (in particular, “addressing UI slowness”) and general performance enhancements, UI/UX improvements, improved notification support, encryption and other settings improvements, and much more.

      • Mozilla: Open-source Thunderbird getting new look, better Gmail support, encryption

        Thunderbird will be getting some much needed attention in the coming year, with the Mozilla-backed project planning to hire six new developers — bringing the project’s employed headcount to 14 — who will work to make the email client more stable, faster, and easier to use.

        Mozilla Corporation handed off Thunderbird to the community in 2014, but Mozilla Foundation still supports it.

        According to Thunderbird community manager Ryan Sipes, the team will be working this year to improve Thunderbird’s user interface (UI) and user experience, with better Gmail support and native notifications for Windows, Mac and Linux — the three operating systems Thunderbird supports for its 25 million users.

      • Thunderbird to Get a UI Refresh, Better Gmail Support in 2019

        The dev team behind the Thunderbird e-mail client have detailed their ambitions for the coming year — and if you’re a fan of fast, pretty things, you’re gonna be pretty well pleased.

        Mozilla’s desktop email client might not be as popular as its desktop browser, but Thunderbird remains a venerable app with a large following. After all, it still comes pre-installed in a slate of major Linux distributions, including (no prizes for guessing) Ubuntu.

        But should the effort teased in a new year blog post happen, Thunderbird could find itself enjoying something of a revival…

      • Google Gains Approval to Launch Project Soli, Sony’s New 3D Sensors for Face Recognition, the GIMP Team Looks Back at 2018 and Shares Plans for 2019, Thunderbird Also Publishes a Retrospective and Look Forward, and xfce4-panel 4.13.4 Was Released

        The Thunderbird team has also published a 2018 retrospective and a look at what’s ahead for the new year. The team has added more full-time staff members, and they are focusing on “making Thunderbird fly faster” and making a “more beautiful (and useable) Thunderbird”. See the Mozilla blog for all the details.

      • A bumpy road to Firefox ScreenshotGo in a foreign market

        Back in January 2018, we were assigned to lead a project called New Product Exploration to help Mozilla grow impact on shopping experience in Southeast Asia, and the first stop was Indonesia, a country I had not visited and barely knew!

      • Socorro: December 2018 happenings

        Socorro is the crash ingestion pipeline for Mozilla’s products like Firefox. When Firefox crashes, the crash reporter collects data about the crash, generates a crash report, and submits that report to Socorro. Socorro saves the crash report, processes it, and provides an interface for aggregating, searching, and looking at crash reports.

        At Mozilla, December is a rough month to get anything done, but we accomplished a bunch anyways!

      • [Firefox] January’s featured extensions
      • WebRender newsletter #34

        Happy new year! I’ll introduce WebRender’s 34th newsletter with a rather technical overview of a neat trick we call primitive segmentation. In previous posts I wrote about how we deal with batching and how we use the depth buffer both as a culling mechanism and as a way to save memory bandwidth. As a result, pixels rendered in the opaque pass are much cheaper than pixels rendered in the blend pass. This works great with rectangular opaque primitives that are axis-aligned so they don’t need anti-aliasing. Anti-aliasing, however, requires us to do some blending to smoothen the edges and rounded corners have some transparent pixels. We could tessellate a mesh that covers exactly the rounded primitive but we’d still need blending for the anti-aliasing of the border. What a shame, rounded corners are so common on the web, and they are often quite big.

        Well, we don’t really need to render whole primitives at a time. for a transformed primitive we can always extract out the opaque part of the primitive and render the anti-aliased edges separately. Likewise, we can break rounded rectangles up into smaller opaque rectangles and the rectangles that contain the corners. We call this primitive segmentation and it helps at several levels: opaque segments can move to the opaque pass which means we get good memory bandwidth savings and better batching since batching complexity is mostly affected by the amount of work to perform during the blend pass. This also opens the door to interesting optimizations. For example we can break a primitive into segments, not only depending on the shapes of the primitive itself, but also on the shape of masks that are applied to it. This lets us create large rounded rectangle masks where only the rounded parts of the masks occupy significant amounts of space in the mask. More generally, there are a lot of complicated elements that can be reduced to simpler or more compact segments by applying the same family of tricks and render them as nine-patches or some more elaborate patchwork of segments (for example the box-shadow of a rectangle).

      • ARCore and Arkit: What is under the hood : Anchors and World Mapping (Part 1)

        Some of you know I have been recently experimenting a bit more with WebXR than a WebVR and when we talk about mobile Mixed Reality, ARkit and ARCore is something which plays a pivotal role to map and understand the environment inside our applications.

        I am planning to write a series of blog posts on how you can start developing WebXR applications now and play with them starting with the basics and then going on to using different features of it. But before that, I planned to pen down this series of how actually the “world mapping” works in arcore and arkit. So that we have a better understanding of the Mixed Reality capabilities of the devices we will be working with.

      • Rabimba: ARCore and Arkit, What is under the hood: SLAM (Part 2)

        In our last blog post (part 1), we took a look at how algorithms detect keypoints in camera images. These form the basis of our world tracking and environment recognition. But for Mixed Reality, that alone is not enough. We have to be able to calculate the 3d position in the real world. It is often calculated by the spatial distance between itself and multiple keypoints. This is often called Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM). And this is what is responsible for all the world tracking we see in ARCore/ARKit.

      • India attempts to turn online companies into censors and undermines security – Mozilla responds

        Last week, the Indian government proposed sweeping changes to the legal protections for “intermediaries”, which affect every internet company today. Intermediary liability protections have been fundamental to the growth of the internet as an open and secure medium of communication and commerce. Whether Section 79 of the Information Technology Act in India (under which these new rules are proposed), the EU’s E-Commerce Directive, or Section 230 of the US’ Communications Decency Act, these legal provisions ensure that companies generally have no obligations to actively censor and limited liability for illegal activities and postings of their users until they know about it. In India, the landmark Shreya Singhal judgment had clarified in 2015 that companies would only be expected to remove content when directed by a court order to do so.

      • Kenya Considers Protection of Privacy and Personal Data

        Mozilla applauds the government of Kenya for publishing the Data Protection Bill, 2018. This highly anticipated bill gives effect to Article 31 of the Constitution of Kenya, which protects the right to privacy, and, if passed, will be Kenya’s first data protection law.

  • CMS

    • Open Source as an Answer to Your LMS Pain Points

      With hundreds of LMSs out in the market, the decision of which software to go with can be overwhelming! How do you begin your search? A good place to start is to consider if you would like to have open-source software or a proprietary solution. We are a big proponent of open-source software like Moodle and Totara Learn.

      Let’s break down the question of open-source or proprietary into three key areas that usually cause the most pain: flexibility, customization, and (of course) price.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing) and Microsoft

  • BSD

    • toying with wireguard on openbsd

      New year, new network. WireGuard promises to be a simpler more secure alternative to IPsec, and there’s a beta iOS client, so I thought I’d try my hand at setting up a server endpoint.

      The caveats are that the documentation is sparse at times, and it’s mostly for Linux. The good news is it does deliver on the promise of simplicity. I was able to muddle along without too many missteps.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • GIMP and GEGL in 2018

      In April, we released the much anticipated version 2.10, featuring updated user interface, high bit depth support, multi-threading, linear color space workflow, revamped color management, new transformation tools, and many more changes, as outlined in the release notes.

      Given that the next big update, v3.0, is likely far ahead, we now also allow new features in the stable series (2.10.2, 2.10.4 etc.). Which means, you don’t have to wait years for new features anymore. Instead, we make a new release every 1-2 months, and it usually comes with many bugfixes as well as some new stuff.

    • GIMP Developers Prepare For A Busy 2019 With Inching Towards GIMP 3.0

      The GIMP team has posted their 2018 redux covering the debut of GIMP 2.10 and the various improvements they focused on over the past year. Additionally, they provided a sneak peak of where they will be focusing their development efforts for 2019.

      Obviously GIMP 3.0 is what most people are probably wondering about… GIMP 3.0 is the long-awaited release where they intend to transition from GTK2 to GTK3. The developers haven’t committed to releasing GIMP 3.0.0 in 2019, but they do plan to at least start the pre-releases / development snapshots.

    • GnuCash 3.4 Released with Tons of Bug-fixes / Improvements

      Free accounting software GnuCash 3.4 was released a few days ago with tons of bug-fixes and improvements. Here’s how to install it in Ubuntu 18.04, Ubuntu 18.10.

      According to the release note, GnuCash 3.4 redesigned gnc-uri-utils, cleaned up more report code, improved toolbar buttons, text options widget, and fixed a large number of bugs.

    • tar-1.31 released

      This is to announce the release of GNU tar version 1.31. This is a stable
      release. Please see the end of this mail for a list of noteworthy changes.

    • GNU Tar 1.31 Released With Zstd Support

      As the first update to the GNU Tar program in more than one year, Tar 1.31 is out today and it has support for Zstd compression.

      The headlining new feature to Tar 1.31 is its support for Zstd compression with the –zstd switch for dealing with Tar’ed files for listing, extracting, and comparing. Zstandard-compressed archives are recognized automatically and with the -a option, Zstd compression is selected for filenames ending in zst/tzst.

  • Public Services/Government

    • ‘Ethical’ hackers could make up to £80,000 breaking into EU computer software as part of new European Commission security project

      The Commission is funding 15 ‘bug bounties’ in total, with the total prize fund topping £800,000.

      EU officials are looking to paper over the cracks in open source programmes – software available for free online – that the Union uses in its computer systems.

      The full list of programs includes 7-zip, Apache Tomcat, Drupal, Filezilla, VLC, KeePass, Notepad++ and other popular tools used in systems across the globe.

      Rewards for ‘ethical hackers’ who get involved range from £22,000 to £80,000 per bug found, depending on how serious the flaw is.

    • 14 open source projects get EU funding for bug bounty payments

      Starting from the New Year, the European Union has decided to fund bug bounty programmes for a plethora of important open source projects. There are 14 projects covered by this initiative, starting from January 2019. The EU reckons its funding will shore up the integrity and reliability of the internet and other infrastructure, benefitting organisations and intuitions not just in Europe, but worldwide.

    • The EU Opens Bug Hunting Season in 2019 for 15 Open-Source Projects It Uses

      From January 7, 2019, researchers can submit security flaws for Filezilla, Apache Kafka, Notepad++, PuTTY, and VLC Media Player via the HackerOne bug bounty and vulnerability coordination platform. midPoint, a platform for identity management governance, is another product the EU wants to be more secure and offers rewards for vulnerabilities reported through HackerOne, starting March 1, 2019.

      The rest of nine software products for which the EU set up a bug bounty are FLUX TL, KeePass, 7-zip, Digital Signature Services (DSS), Drupal, GNU C Library (glibc), PHP Symfony, Apache Tomcat, and WSO2; security flaws for them are coordinated through Intigrity, a Brussels-based crowdsourced security platform. The security reward programs for these start on January 15 and January

    • EU to sponsor bug bounty programs for 14 open source projects from January 2019

      Julia Reda, EU member of the parliament, announced, last week, that EU will be funding the internet bug bounty programs for 14 out of the total 15 open source projects, starting January 2019.

      The Internet Bug Bounty programs are rewards for friendly hackers who actively search for security vulnerabilities and issues. The program is managed by a group of volunteers that are selected from the security community. The amount of the bounty depends on how severe the issue uncovered is and the importance of the software. The amount ranges from 25,000,00 Euros and all the way up to 89,000,00 Euros.

    • EU to fund bug bounty program for top open-source software

      The European Union will help cover the expenses of bug bounty programs for 14 open-source projects according to an announcement made by EU Member of Parliament Julia Reda.

      The projects that will receive funding for their bug bounty programs are 7-zip, Apache Kafka, Apache Tomcat, Digital Signature Services (DSS), Drupal, Filezilla, FLUX TL, the GNU C Library (glibc), KeePass, midPoint, Notepad++, PuTTY, the Symfony PHP framework, VLC Media Player and WSO2.

      The bug bounty programs are being sponsored as part of the third edition of the Free and Open Source Software Audit (FOSSA) project.

    • EU to fund open-source bug bounty program

      Here’s a cool way for white hat hackers to earn themselves some nice greens. The European Union is funding a bounty hunter program for a bunch of open-source projects.

      Starting next year, cybersecurity-savvy individuals can get their hands dirty with a total of 14 projects: 7-zip, Apache Kafka, Apache Tomcat, Digital Signature Services (DSS), Drupal, Filezilla, FLUX TL, the GNU C Library (glibc), KeePass, midPoint, Notepad++, PuTTY, the Symfony PHP framework, VLC Media Player, and WSO2.

    • EU to fund bug bounties

      Ethical hackers could earn up to $100,000 if they can spot vulnerabilities in the free open source software used by the European Union
      The European Union (EU) has set up a bug bounty for 15 applications to help uncover security flaws in the most popular free and open source software on the web.

      Bug bounties are a prize for people who actively search for security issues and the EU is calling on ethical hackers and developers to help find vulnerabilities in the open source projects it relies on.

      The initiative was announced by Julia Reda, a member of the European Pirate Party and the co-founder of The Free and Open Source Software Audit Project (FOSSA), and will see the EU fund 15 bug bounties ranging from $30,000 to $100,000 depending on the software in question and the size of the vulnerability.

    • The EU opens its own bug bounty program for open source software

      IN PRECISELY 86 DAYS – unless something dramatic happens – Britain’s 73 MEPs will lose their hard-earned (citation needed) European Union salary. For those that want one more hit of EU gravy after handing in the door pass, there is another way: finding bugs in open source software.

      Bug bounties are nothing new, but they tend to be offered by companies with deep enough cash reserves to fund them, for obvious reasons. Facebook, Google, Microsoft and many others essentially pay people to find flaws in their software, so they can patch them before somebody else uses it to cause them bigger headaches further down the line.

      So why is the EU getting in on the act? Simply because it uses open source software, and said programmes rely on the community to catch potential exploits. That’s proved pretty efficient in the past, but with the EU representing the interest of 28 countries – well, 27 and one putting on its coat to leave – one small exploit could cause a lot of big problems.

      As such, German Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda has unveiled the bug bounty program for 15 pieces of software favoured in Brussels and beyond: 7-zip, Apache Kafka, Apache Tomcat, Digital Signature Services (DSS), Drupal, Filezilla, FLUX TL, the GNU C Library (glibc), KeePass, midPoint, Notepad++, PuTTY, the Symfony PHP framework, VLC Media Player and WSO2.

    • EU to fund open-source bug bounty programmes
    • EU Offers Bug Bounties For 14 Open Source Projects

      The European Commission in January is funding 14 bug bounty programs in hopes of sniffing out vulnerabilities in the free open source projects that EU institutions rely on.

      The bug bounty programs span 14 open source software projects and offers a total of almost $1 million for all bounties combined. The bug bounty programs have varying rewards, start and end dates, and platforms. The first bug bounty programs – for Filezilla, Apache Kafka, Notepad++, PuTTy, and VLC Media Player – begin next week on Jan. 7.

      The initiative stems back to the Free and Open Source Software Audit project (FOSSA), first created by European Parliament member Julia Reda. Reda proposed FOSSA with the hopes of securing open source software, after the Heartbleed vulnerability was discovered in open source encryption library OpenSSL in 2014.

    • European Union is Encouraging Coders in Open Source Projects with Bug Bounty Programs

      For anyone who has played around with the coding side of things, or even had a peek under the bonnet, names such as notepad++, GNU C library and Putty will be immediately recognizable.

      These are some of the commonly used Open Source Software (OSS); software that is freely distributed with it source code that allows the user to read or modify it. Due to this, they are widely used in IT and programming.

      Appreciating the important purpose they serve, and also the possibility of abuse, Julia Reda, an EU Member of Parliament has announced that the European Commission is launching what they term as “ bug bounty programs,” in a bid to encourage and support open source software.

      The Member of Parliament noted that this is part of an ongoing effort, Free and Open Source Software Audit (FOSSA) in a concerted effort to get people to look debug these projects. At this time there will be up to fifteen programs that will be supported, in a bid to make the Internet safer and more reliable.

    • EU launches Bug Bounty program for 14 free open-source products

      Bug bounty program for 14 of its open source projects will commence from January 2019 while the last one will start from March 1. These programs are sponsored as part of the 3rd edition of the FOSSA project, which was approved by the EU authorities in 2015 after severe vulnerabilities were identified in the OpenSSL library in 2014.

    • EU to offer bug bounties for finding security flaws in open-source software

      Bug bounties are a way for companies to check the security of their software by offering cash to freelancers who hunt for security exploits and then report them so that they can be fixed. The idea is that everyone benefits from this process: the company gets its software checked by a larger variety of people than they could employ by themselves, the bug hunters get offered legitimate cash for finding a security flaw instead of selling that information on the black market, and the public gets software which has been more thoroughly checked for security issues. Big tech companies like Google and Intel have been running bug bounty programs for years.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Birmingham firm collaborating with MIT

      MITx courses are offered through the edX platform, which works with more than 100 educational institutions. That includes Harvard, Brown, Cornell and Oxford. The terms of the contract were not disclosed.

    • Open Source Company Gives Us A Peek At Financial Innards

      There is a wealth of information exposed in the company documentation; it’s as though they took their internal wiki and made it public, which we suppose is exactly what happened. The most interesting part for our readers might be the statistics page that tracks costs and quantities for their products. This is where the magic lives. You can use to it see that so far they’ve sold 124 Genesis XL machines at an average selling price of $3,834.34 for $475,458.30 of revenue (it cost $187,200 to build their run of 200 machines). You can also see that each machine has 1,415 parts and takes about 25 hours to assemble. This page is where the true guts of the business live.

    • Currency

      • Ethereum Plans to Cut Its Absurd Energy Consumption by 99 Percent

        Bitcoin soaks up most of the hype and the opprobrium heaped on cryptocurrencies, leaving its younger and smaller sibling Ethereum in the shadows. But Ethereum is anything but small. Its market capitalization was roughly US $10 billion at press time, and it has an equally whopping energy footprint.

        Ethereum mining consumes a quarter to half of what Bitcoin mining does, but that still means that for most of 2018 it was using roughly as much electricity as Iceland. Indeed, the typical Ethereum transaction gobbles more power than an average U.S. household uses in a day.

        “That’s just a huge waste of resources, even if you don’t believe that pollution and carbon dioxide are an issue. There are real consumers—real people—whose need for electricity is being displaced by this stuff,” says Vitalik Buterin, the 24-year-old Russian-Canadian computer scientist who invented Ethereum when he was just 18.

      • Ethereum Planning To Cut Its Energy Consumption by 99%

        Rthereum is the second biggest cryptocurrency with a massive $10 billion market capitalization. It also means that Ethereum mining and transactions gobble up tons of energy. Well, things might change by the end of 2019.

        According to a report from IEEE Spectrum, Vitalik Buterin, the computer scientist who invented Ethereum, is planning a major overhaul. Buterin is supported by the Ethereum Foundation and the open source movement to perform the long-overdue field test of Ethereum’s code overhaul to reduce energy consumption by 99%.

      • UNICEF France Accepts Dai Donations To Fund Global Bounties

        After officially launching its website last week, UNICEF France will allow individuals to donate Dai, MakerDAO’s Ethereum-compliant, dollar-pegged stablecoin, to fund “open source explorations of blockchain for social impact.” The Dai donations will be used to create global bounties that will help fund blockchain projects around the world.

      • ‘Boring’ Blockchain Could Become Mainstream in 2019: MIT

        Blockchain — which has been hailed as a game-changing technology that could revolutionize whole industries — will be so commonplace in 2019 that it’ll become “boring,” according to the MIT Technology Review.

        “In 2017, blockchain technology was a revolution that was supposed to disrupt the global financial system,” the Technology Review claimed. “In 2018, it was a disappointment. In 2019, it will start to become mundane.”

        MIT observed that distributed ledger technology has been widely praised for its potential to transform healthcare, banking, supply chain management, and even the entertainment industry.

      • OmiseGo (OMG) Aims to ‘Enable Financial Inclusion’ via Interoperable, Open-Source Blockchain Networks

        The OmiseGO (OMG) platform has been developed by Omise Ltd., a venture capital funded payments technology firm based in Thailand. The company also has offices in Japan, Singapore, and Indonesia as it’s reportedly planning to expand its operations further into the Asia-Pacific region.

        In this introductory article, we go over the basic concepts and motivation behind the development of OmiseGo’s OMG network.

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • 1973: When Calculators Were Built Like Computers

        Should you ever pick up [Steve Wozniak]’s autobiography, you will learn that in the early 1970s when his friend [Steve Jobs] was working for Atari, [Woz] was designing calculators for Hewlett Packard. It seems scarcely believable today, but he describes his excitement at the prospects for the calculator business, admitting that he almost missed out on the emerging microcomputer scene that would make him famous. Calculators in the very early 1970s were genuinely exciting, and were expensive and desirable consumer items.

        [Amen] has a calculator from that period, a Prinztronic Micro, and he’s subjected it to an interesting teardown. Inside he finds an unusual modular design, with keyboard, processor, and display all having their own PCBs. Construction is typical of the period, with all through hole components, and PCBs that look hand laid rather than made using a CAD package. The chipset is a Toshiba one, with three devices covering logic, display driver and clock.

  • Programming/Development

    • Automating AWS EC2 Management with Python and Boto3

      In this article I will be demonstrating the use of Python along with the Boto3 Amazon Web Services (AWS) Software Development Kit (SDK) which allows folks knowledgeable in Python programming to utilize the intricate AWS REST API’s to manage their cloud resources. Due to the vastness of the AWS REST API and associated cloud services I will be focusing only on the AWS Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) service.

    • How To Learn Fortran – Introduction

      Fortran is a programming language specially designed to perform numerical calculations, in order to fully exploit the arithmetic capabilities of all types of computers, from home PCs to supercomputers. Its name is an abbreviation: Formula Translating System, which refers to the niche to which the language is addressed: to scientists and engineers who require an easy-to-use but powerful language.
      Historically, Fortran began as a language designed to be written on punch cards used by the IBM 704 mainframe computer. Today, this version of the language is known as FORTRAN I. Subsequent versions were released (II, III and IV), which added new features. The language was standardized in 1966 by the Association of Standards of the United States (American Standards Association).

      For the year of 1978, the committee approved a new version of the language, FORTRAN 77, which improved the support for structured programming, in addition to adding new features. Among several versions of the language that existed (such as Minnesota FORTRAN), FORTRAN 77 became the most important, and it stayed that way for almost two decades. The constant development of programming practices led to the publication of a new standard: Fortran 90 (ANSI, 1992) with which the language implemented many novelties: for the first time it allowed the development of programs in free format, in addition to it allowed writing the keywords in lowercase, and the length of the identifiers could be up to 31 characters, among many other improvements.

    • Caktus Consulting Group: Caktus Blog: Top 18 Posts of 2018
    • PyCoder’s Weekly: Issue #349 (Jan. 1, 2019)
    • Reducing Application Size using Link Time Optimization

      We need to talk about calories! Not the calories from your Christmas cookies — those don’t count. But, calories in your Qt application. We’re going to take a look at a technique that is easy to enable and helps you save precious bytes around your application’s waistline.

    • Okay, so here’s the Java Mess…

      Okay, so here’s the Java Mess as I think it currently stands. Oracle has, for the third time, figured out that “open source” generally means “people will use this product without giving us money”, so they’re moving further development to a non-free fork for enterprise customers (see also, MySQL, StarOffice). If you want to keep using the free JDK and/or JRE, you can use the last OpenJDK that Oracle released, or you can pick someone else’s fork, or you can create your own.

    • Change the direction of the enemy ship

      Hello and happy new year to all readers of this website, in this new year’s eve I would like to list out the entire plan for this website in the year 2019 before we proceed even further. After a long thought about the future plan for this website in the year 2019 I have decided to continue writing about the previous pygame project which I have developed last year which means instead of stop posting about any further change or the latest features that have been included into this project I will continue to post an update on this project so you can play the game and continue to learn about the programming part of this game at the same time. If you have not yet downloaded version 1 of this game then go ahead and do so first through below link. The latest update of this game on this article will not appear immediately on those major gaming sites, this game will only get updated once a week on those major gaming sites.

    • Dashboard combining workshop notes and terminal

      The workshop environment described so far in this series of posts only targeted the problem of providing an in browser interactive terminal session for workshop attendees. This approach was initially taken because we already had a separate tool called workshopper for hosting and displaying workshop notes.

      I didn’t want to try and modify the existing workshopper tool as it was implemented in a programming language I wasn’t familiar with, plus starting with it would have meant I would have had to extend it to know about user authentication, as well as add the capability to spawn terminals for each user which would be embedded in the workshopper page.

    • Create a strong password for a website account with python

      Welcome to another chapter of enjoying coding with python, in this chapter we are going to explore another website which will help us to improve our python skill by solving various python related problems. I am still not sure what this site is really about yet after I have joined the site a moment ago. Is this site allows the programmer to create a game with python? Or is it just an ordinary site likes those that we have visited previously, we will find it out together later on. But first let us joined this site together through this link.

    • Tech Ethics New Year’s Resolution: Don’t Build Software You Will Regret

      New years are for resolutions, right? And then February finds them discarded like last season’s must-have toy. Resolutions most often fail because people don’t make plans, just wishes. With that in mind, this new year, we at The New Stack — with the help of some at the forefront of modern tech ethics — will not only help you resolve to work more ethically, but to offer you the beginnings of a framework with which to achieve it.

      After all, we should be working not just to pay the bills, but to make sure we don’t create software that we will one day regret.

    • Modeling Polymorphism in Django With Python

      Modeling polymorphism in relational databases is a challenging task. In this article, we present several modeling techniques to represent polymorphic objects in a relational database using the Django object-relational mapping (ORM).

      This intermediate-level tutorial is designed for readers who are already familiar with the fundamental design of Django.

    • Introduction to Python’s Collections Module

      Collections in Python are containers that are used to store collections of data, for example, list, dict, set, tuple etc. These are built-in collections. Several modules have been developed that provide additional data structures to store collections of data. One such module is the Python collections module.

      Python collections module was introduced to improve the functionalities of the built-in collection containers. Python collections module was first introduced in its 2.4 release. This tutorial is based on its latest stable release (3.7 version).

    • Python 101: Episode #40 – Creating Executables with py2exe
    • How to Set Up Django with Postgres, Nginx, and Gunicorn on Ubuntu 16.04
    • How to Implement Grouped Model Choice Field
    • This Week in Rust 267
    • Evennia: Into 2019!

      Last year saw the release of Evennia 0.8. This version of Evennia changes some fundamental aspects of the server infrastructure so that the server can truly run in daemon mode as you would expect (no more running it in a GnuScreen session if you want to see logging to the terminal). It also adds the new Online Creation System, which lets builders create and define prototypes using a menu system as well as big improvements in the web client, such as multiple window-panes (allows the user to assign text to different windows to keep their client uncluttered) as well as plenty of fixes and features to help ease life for the Evennia developer. Thanks again to everyone who helped out and contributed to the release of Evennia 0.8!

      On a personal note, I spoke about Evennia at PyCon Sweden this December, which was fun. I might put up my talk and make a more detailed blog post about that in the future, but my talk got a surprising amount of attention and positive feedback. Clearly many people have fond memories of MUDs and enjoy seeing they are not only still around but are possible to create in Python!

    • The Smooth-Max Minimum Incident of December 2018

      In this plot, the black dotted line identifies the minimum of the true maximum: the left intersection of the blue parabola and red line. The green dotted line shows the mimimum of soft-max, and it’s easy to see that they are completely different!

      I haven’t yet coded up a fix for this, but my basic plan is to allow the smooth-max alpha to increase whenever it fails to find a feasible point. Why? Increasing alpha causes the smooth-max to more closely approximate true max. If the soft-max approximation becomes sufficiently close to the true maximum, and no solution is found, then I can report an empty feasible region with more confidence.

      Why did I make this blunder? I suspect it is because I originally only visualized symmetric examples in my mind, where the mimimum of smooth-max and true maximum is the same. Visual intuitions are only as good as your imagination!

    • How to Rock Python Packaging with Poetry and Briefcase

      As part of modernizing Gaphas, the diagramming widget for Python, I took another look at what the best practices are for packaging and releasing a new version of a Python library or application. There are new configuration formats and tools to make packaging and distributing your Python code much easier.

    • Using a React Context as a Dispatch Replacement

      React Contexts are the pretty little bows of the React world.

      Here’s a really quick example of the kind of messy code you can cleanup by using contexts, without dragging in a larger dependency like Redux or even Flux.

    • Python Now Being Offered Through Microsoft Store

      Fans of both Python and Microsoft Windows have something to be excited about. An official Python package has made its way to the Microsoft Store. This will hopefully replace the Windows Installer (.MSI) packages that the CPython team has been compiling for years.

    • wxPython: Changing Custom Renderers for Columns / Rows

      The wxPython GUI toolkit has a very rich and powerful Grid widget that I have written about previously on this blog. It allows you to create sheets of cells similar to those in Microsoft Excel.

      There is also a neat mixin that allows you to apply a custom renderer to the labels on the columns and rows of the grid.

Leftovers

  • Science

    • This clever AI hid data from its creators to cheat at its appointed task

      The intention was for the agent to be able to interpret the features of either type of map and match them to the correct features of the other. But what the agent was actually being graded on (among other things) was how close an aerial map was to the original, and the clarity of the street map.

      So it didn’t learn how to make one from the other. It learned how to subtly encode the features of one into the noise patterns of the other. The details of the aerial map are secretly written into the actual visual data of the street map: thousands of tiny changes in color that the human eye wouldn’t notice, but that the computer can easily detect.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Public Health Workers Must Join the Struggle for Immigrant Justice

      Immigration researchers have often taken a bird’s eye view of migratory patterns across the globe, or considered the ways in which newly arrived immigrants “assimilate” into their new communities.

      Given the increased immigration enforcement actions under former President Obama and current President Trump, many immigration researchers have focused on local immigration issues, and come to advocacy organizations and networks to guide and shape the implications of their work in their home communities.

      As a public health researcher who aims to understand local policies in a broader context, I sat down with Lili Farhang and Sari Bilick to talk about Public Health Awakened — an national network formed soon after the November 2016 election in response to the Trump administration’s federal policy agenda.

      Lili Farhang is co-director at Human Impact Partners (HIP), a national nonprofit organization based in Oakland, California, that uses research, advocacy, capacity building and field building to challenge the inequities that harm the health of communities.

    • 2019: The Year of Medicare for All

      Early in this new year, Rep. Pramilla Jayapal (D-Wa.) will be introducing an updated version of a House Medicare for All bill, buttressed by the election in November of a number of new Medicare for all House candidates. Re-introduction of a Senate bill by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is also expected soon.

      Nurses and other health activists are already gearing up to increase the number of co-sponsors, especially for the House bill, long known as HR 676, and push for action on the bill now that the Democrats will be in the majority again.

      Hundreds of activists have participated in organizing, that will include barnstorming in early February for public events and to press Congress members who have not signed on to the bill. Both Jayapal and Sanders joined a national conference call, sponsored by National Nurses United, following the election, to promote the organizing campaign. A barnstorm is a mass organizing meeting to kick start action on Medicare for all in local communities.

  • Security

    • First-Ever UEFI Rootkit Tied to Sednit APT

      Researchers hunting cyber-espionage group Sednit (an APT also known as Sofacy, Fancy Bear and APT28) say they have discovered the first-ever instance of a rootkit targeting the Windows Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) in successful attacks.

      The discussion of Sednit was part of the 35C3 conference, and a session given by Frédéric Vachon, a malware researcher at ESET who published a technical write-up on his findings earlier this fall (PDF). During his session, Vachon said that finding a rootkit targeting a system’s UEFI is significant, given that rootkit malware programs can survive on the motherboard’s flash memory, giving it both persistence and stealth.

    • Hackers Threaten to Dump Insurance Files Related to 9/11 Attacks

      On Monday, New Year’s Eve, a hacker group announced it had breached a law firm handling cases related to the September 11 attacks, and threatened to publicly release a large cache of related internal files unless their ransom demands were met.

      The news is the latest public extortion attempt from the group known as The Dark Overlord, which has previously targeted a production studio working for Netflix, as well as a host of medical centres and private businesses across the United States. The announcement also signals a slight evolution in The Dark Overlord’s strategy, which has expanded on leveraging the media to exert pressure on victims, to now distributing its threats and stolen data in a wider fashion.

    • Hackers Threaten To Release Stolen Data Related to 9/11 Attacks

      In an announcement posted on Pastebin, the hacker group TheDarkOverlord told that it has been successful in breaching law firms that handle cases related to 9/11 attacks.

    • BTC ransom: Hackers to release 9/11 files that will “top Snowden’s finest work”

      On new years eve, the infamous hacker group, known as “Darkoverlord” revealed that they had hacked several legal firms including Hiscox Syndicates, Lloyd’s of London and Silverstein’s properties; the group asserted that they had stolen over 18,000 documents all allegedly relating to the 9/11 attacks.

      In a (fairly disturbing) message posted on Pastebin, the hackers detail the ransom request stating that they were: “welcoming 2019 with open arms and a big announcement”

      The post continues to ostentatiously provide details of the hacks, stressing that this particular instance was “quite peculiar” and that the documents in question “were not public, nor would this company want them public.”

    • Security updates for Wednesday
    • USB-C Is Going to Get A Lot More Secure
    • Upcoming Chrome OS Feature Secures USB Ports When The Device Is Locked
    • USB Type-C to Become More Secure With Authentication Standard

      The security of USB-based connections and devices is taking a step forward, with the official launch of the USB Type-C Authentication Program on Jan. 2

      USB devices have become ubiquitous in modern computing, and in recent years USB Type-C has been introduced on leading notebooks, smartphones and other connected devices because it enables faster data transfer and more power delivery than the larger USB Type-A interface, which has been widely deployed. While USB devices and interfaces have been broadly adopted and used across the computing landscape, they have also introduced new risks, by simply plugging in a malicious USB device.

    • Open-source devs: Wget off your bloated festive behinds and patch this user cred-blabbing bug

      Happy New Year! Oh, and if you include GNU’s wget utility in software you write, pull down the new version released on Boxing Day and push out updates to your users.

      The popular utility retrieves internet-hosted HTTP/HTTPS and FTP/FTPS content and some years ago began storing extended attributes on disk as URIs.

    • New Windows Zero-day Bug Allows Deleting Arbitrary Files

      A security researcher released exploit code for an unpatched bug in Windows that could allow an attacker with limited privileges to delete system files.

      Exploiting the bug requires winning a race condition on the machine, so a successful exploit can take some time as it will retry until it succeeds, the researcher who uses the online handle SandboxEscaper said in the release notes.

    • USB Type-C Authentication Program Launched To Protect Devices Against Hardware Attacks
    • You’ll soon be able to shut down your Chromebook USB ports
    • Hackers hijack thousands of Chromecasts to warn of latest security bug

      Hackers have hijacked thousands of exposed Chromecast streaming devices to warn users of the latest security flaw to affect the device. But other security researchers say that the bug — if left unfixed — could be used for more disruptive attacks.

      The culprits, known as Hacker Giraffe and J3ws3r, have become the latest person to figure out how to trick Google’s media streamer into playing any YouTube video they want — including videos that are custom-made. This time around, the hackers hijacked forced the affected Chromecasts to display a pop-up notice that’s viewable on the connected TV, warning the user that their misconfigured router is exposing their Chromecast and smart TV to hackers like themselves.

    • Google Was Aware Of This Chromecast Bug For Years; Now Hackers Are Exploiting It

      A security consultancy firm going by the name Bishop Fox informed Google of a UPnP bug in 2014 that has affected Chromecast devices and could allow hackers to play any YouTube video they want. Five years have passed, and the bug persists.

    • Hacker hijacks thousands of Chromecasts and smart TVs to play PewDiePie ad

      A hacker duo claims to have hijacked thousands of internet-exposed Chromecasts, smart TVs, and Google Home devices to play a video urging users to subscribe to PewDiePie’s YouTube channel.

      [...]

      The devices expose these ports on internal networks, where users can send commands from their smartphones or computers to the devices for remote management purposes. But routers with incorrectly configured UPnP settings are making these ports available on the internet.

      This allowed FriendlyH4xx0r to set up a script that scans the entire internet for devices with these ports exposed. Once devices are identified, the hacker said another script renames the devices to “HACKED_SUB2PEWDS_#” and then tries to autoplay the video below.

    • Linux Servers Appear Most Affected by IPMI Enabled JungleSec Ransomware Attacks

      Linux servers top the list of victims to a ransomware attack that seems to take advantage of poorly configured IPMI devices.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Killing in the name of: The US Army and video games

      America’s Army, the free-to-play first-person shooter that aims to give players a taste of what it’s like to be a member of the Armed Forces, has been around since 2002. The shooter has garnered a number of awards over the years, and has managed to attract several million players on both PCs and consoles. While it has certainly proved popular with gamers, it isn’t an outright recruitment tool in its own right. A more accurate description of the game would be that it’s an aid in the recruitment process.

    • Let’s Make Ending Militarism Our New Year’s Resolution

      Most New Year’s Resolutions last but a few days. By late January the crowd in the gym dwindles down to its normal size. Most resolutions are fantasy, a simple act of wishful thinking. We all know this. Still, dreams are what makes life tolerable. So, in that spirit, let’s take a break from the standard critique of existing US foreign policy and conjure a world as it should be, not as it is. Consider this the ultimate New Year’s make believe – a resolution to swear off militarism and forever war in the Greater Middle East.

      It would begin with a restructuring of the entire legal framework for American war-making. US soldiers still kill and die – and bomb at least seven countries – under two outdated Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). One, in 2001, authorized the president to battle the culprits of the 9/11 attacks, the Al Qaeda organization. The other, in 2003, approved the tragic-comic invasion of Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein. Neither resolution is relevant to the fights at hand, which, therefore are only of dubious legality. In 2019, the US Congress should reassert its constitutional primacy in warfare, overturn the old AUMFs, and demonstrate the courage to debate and vote on each of America’s ongoing wars. If the people’s representatives truly believe any of the ongoing shooting wars – in Syria, Libya, Niger, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan – are worth fighting, then let them say so publicly and declare war.

      My guess is that most congressmen, knowing the prevailing public skepticism of ongoing overseas interventions, wouldn’t authorize the continuation of these disastrous campaigns. America’s forever warfare state might wither under the light of legitimate oversight. Nevertheless, no matter how Congress voted, the very act of public debate and accountability would be a refreshing change for our ostensible republic. When it comes to the momentous decisions of war and peace, more, not less, transparency should be the norm in 2019.

    • As UNESCO Says Its Only Wish for 2019 is World Peace, US and Israel Officially Ditch UN Body

      UNESCO was founded after World War II with the intention of fostering peace by “promoting cultural heritage and equal dignity between all cultures” and “strengthening bonds between nations.” It’s established more than 1,000 World Heritage sites in 167 countries as well as promoting education in developing countries.

      In keeping with its mission, UNESCO has criticized Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem and in 2011 granted Palestine full membership in the organization—a move Israel and the U.S. viewed as an attack and a reason to strangle UNESCO by refusing to pay their dues for several years.

      The 195-member panel has suffered from funding shortages since then, with the U.S. owing $600 million in dues and Israel owing about $10 million.

      Contrasting with the message sent by the two countries—which last year celebrated the U.S. embassy’s move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem while Israeli troops killed dozens of Palestinians in border protests during the Great March of Return—UNESCO shared its own New Year’s Day wish with the world on Tuesday, calling for peace.

    • Trump’s Wasteful Military Venture

      The media frenzy surrounding Trump’s political posturing about his wall during the latest government shutdown should not distract us from the fact that 5,000 active duty soldiers remain stationed at the border. This deployment is wasteful, not only of taxpayer dollars, but of potential, valuable experiences that the working people who are our troops could be receiving.

      Why engage in this venture? According to now former Defense Secretary Mattis, “in terms of readiness, it’s actually, I believe, so far improving our readiness for deployments.” While that hardly sounds like a ringing endorsement, one must ask what deployments might the administration be planning and why? It is even more bizarre given that Trump has decided to remove soldiers from Afghanistan and Syria.

      Such mixed signals highlight the mission’s lack of a clear purpose. Even its name – originally called Operation Faithful Patriot – has changed due to disputes over the reason for the troop’s presence on the border to confront a few thousand Central American asylum seekers. Some have alleged that the deployment was an attempt to rally political support before the midterm elections. Regardless, the deployment’s lack of a coherent objective, as President Trump has given no specifics, has hurt troop morale. With an estimated cost of $200 to $300 million, this use of tax dollars is impossible to justify, as is the waste of soldiers’ time.

    • The True Nature of US Interventions

      ‘Make America Great Again’: Trump’s slogan seems both to yearn for a time when the United States had more influence, and to call for its pre-eminence to be restored. In its own way, it asserts that the US is – or should be – different. In fact it was only Trump’s predecessor, Obama, who was the first president to talk regularly about American exceptionalism, yet to Trump it is something that is long lost and it is his job to recover it. Yet belief in the US’s exceptional nature has been a constant feature of the country’s history, whoever has been president, and continues right up to the present day.

      Its starting point in the early nineteenth century was the ‘Monroe doctrine’, the assertion of the US’s pre-eminent power in the western hemisphere, replacing the old colonial powers such as Spain and Portugal. Its domestic counterpart was the US’s God-given ‘manifest destiny’, which justified settlement of the whole North American continent, regardless of the presence of the people to whom much of the land already belonged. Whereas the Monroe doctrine at first reflected a degree of respect for the then newly emerging Latin American nations, by the end of the century it only thinly disguised a new kind of imperialism which justified US intervention anywhere in the hemisphere.

    • Trump’s US in 2019: Is the Mideast ‘War on Terror’ Paradigm Ending?

      The primary post 9/11 paradigm of US foreign policy has been the war on terrorism, which is to say a profound and kinetic military and counter-insurgency engagement of the US Pentagon, CIA and State Department in the Greater Middle East. This paradigm succeeded the Cold War paradigm of 1946-1991, which collapsed when the Soviet Union did.

      There are some signs that the War on Terror paradigm in US foreign and military policy may be winding down. Trump is trying to get out of Syria, and though the Washington Establishment may succeed in putting some brakes on the withdrawal, it seems likely that Trump mostly will get his way before summer. He obviously would also like to pick up stakes and get out of Afghanistan, though whether he can get his way there is unclear. Trump, by starting back up the US-Iranian Cold War has ticked off a lot of Iraqi Shiites, who may not want the current 6,000 or so US troops based in Iraq to stay very much longer. The powerful Shiite militias in particular squawked about the humiliation of having Emperor Trump hold his durbar for American troops at a base in al-Anbar but completely ignore actual Iraqis.

      Not only are there neo-isolationist currents in the American heartland and among the Libertarian fraction of the business classes, but the anti-imperialism of the 2018 New Left may also push in that direction. Bernie Sanders sponsored a successful Senate resolution urging a US withdrawal from the Saudi-led Yemen War.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • What does the US embassy in Baghdad export to Finland and dozens of other countries?

      According to Wikileaks’ database, orders to ship more than 540 tonnes of cargo to the US were made in May 2018. The same document shows other main delivery destinations included 120 tonnes of freight to Europe, and 24 tonnes to South Africa, South America and Central Africa respectively. In comparison, only two and a half tonnes of freight were moved within Iraq between Baghdad, Basra and Erbil International Airports. So, the export of items from Iraq appears to be the primary activity.

      The content of the deliveries is as yet unclear, though the order contract suggests household items, rugs, electrical goods, linen, kitchenware, furniture, pianos, refrigerators, books, chinaware, clothing as well as mail could be among the items dispatched. According to the website movers.com, an average one bedroom apartment of furniture weighs approximately one tonne but the practicality of moving many types of household objects across continents is doubtful. It also remains unclear whether the quantity of tonnage relates to many small deliveries or a small number of very large ones.

      The lack of disclosed orders moving cargo and services into Iraq highlights that the movement of diplomats and their families into such a dangerous region on a large scale is unlikely. Transfers of military personnel back and forth would normally go through the US airbases in Iraq and not via the Embassy administration. So discounting the movement of more than a thousand staff members out of Iraq to countries around the world means that the content and purpose of the shipments remains a mystery.

      The Wikileaks’ database findings coincide with the discovery of a previously undisclosed US Embassy warehouse near Malmi Airport, a storage facility suitable for receiving large truckloads of incoming freight. Documents also show that the US Embassy in Finland ordered a new security perimeter fence for the warehouse compound in April 2018. The purpose for the warehouse remains unknown.

    • Five Weeks After the Guardian’s Viral Blockbuster Assange/Manafort Scoop, No Evidence Has Emerged – Just Stonewalling

      FIVE WEEKS AGO, the Guardian published one of the most extraordinary and significant bombshells in the now two-plus-year-old Trump/Russia saga. “Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort held secret talks with Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and visited around the time he joined Trump’s campaign,” claimed reporter and best-selling “Collusion” author Luke Harding, Dan Collyns, and a very sketchy third person whose name was bizarrely scrubbed from the Guardian’s byline for its online version but appeared in the print version: Fernando Villavicencio, described by the Washington Post, discussing this mysterious discrepancy, as “an Ecuadoran journalist and activist.”

      That the Guardian story would be seen as an earth-shattering revelation – one that would bring massive amounts of traffic, attention, glory and revenue to the paper – was obvious. And that’s precisely how it was treated, as it instantly ricocheted around the media ecosystem with predictable viral speed: “The ultimate Whoa If True. It’s … [the] ballgame if true,” pronounced MSNBC’s Chris Hayes who, unlike many media figures reacting to the story, sounded some skepticism: “The sourcing on this is a bit thin, or at least obscured.”

      But Hayes’ cable news colleague Ari Melber opened his MSNBC show that night excitedly touting the Guardian’s scoop while meticulously connecting all the new inflammatory dots it uncovered, asking one guest: “how does this bombshell impact the collusion part of the probe”?

      [...]

      In lieu of addressing the increasingly embarrassing scandal, the Guardian’s top editors and reporters on this story have practically gone into hiding, ignoring all requests for comment and referring journalists to a corporate PR official who provides a statement that is as vague and bureaucratic as it is nonresponsive. It’s easier to get a substantive comment from the NSA than it is from the Guardian on this story.

    • Rudy Giuliani: Julian Assange Should Not Be Prosecuted

      Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for President Donald Trump, said Monday that WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange had not done “anything wrong” and should not go to jail for disseminating stolen information just as major media does.

      “Let’s take the Pentagon Papers,” Giuliani told Fox News. “The Pentagon Papers were stolen property, weren’t they? It was in The New York Times and The Washington Post. Nobody went to jail at The New York Times and The Washington Post.”

      Giuliani said there were “revelations during the Bush administration” such as Abu Ghraib. “All of that is stolen property taken from the government, it’s against the law. But once it gets to a media publication, they can publish it,” Giuliani said, “for the purpose of informing people.”

    • The FBI investigated The Village Voice and RCFP for espionage in 1976

      In February 1976, The Village Voice published “the report on the CIA that President Ford doesn’t want you to read,” more formally known as the Pike Committee Report. The report was damning, dealing with covert action and the finances of the intelligence community – so damning, in fact, that it was infamously suppressed. Documents obtained by MuckRock show that the Federal Bureau of Investigation responded to the Voice’s publication of classified information with an espionage investigation. The memos reveal both what triggered the investigation, and what caused the Bureau to expand it to include the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press.

      [...]

      MuckRock has filed several new FOIA requests to learn more about the case. In the meantime, you can read the “Espionage X” section of -Schorr’s FBI file](https://www.muckrock.com/foi/united-states-of-america-10/daniel-schorr-39752/) below.

    • Bush Normalized Extraordinary Rendition, Now The U.S. Can Capture Assange

      George W. Bush can still be used as an avatar for the evils of the American empire because Bush’s presidency never really ended. The surveillance state, the lack of liberties like due process and the right to privacy, and constant direct warfare have all been part of our national reality since 9/11. The fundamentals of this Orwellian paradigm haven’t changed since then, and Obama and Trump have further established them by expanding America’s wars and by cracking down on whistleblowers.

      As the U.S. gets ready to detain and prosecute Julian Assange, the consequences of staying complicit with this takeover’s earlier years are now ironically clear. When Bush authorized the CIA to carry out wildly unusual amounts of extraordinary rendition, the American people were told that this and the other new law enforcement measures would only be used to catch terrorists. Many people believed the government’s explanation, and those who didn’t believe were powerless to stop it and the other policies of the “War on Terror.”

    • The FBI Now Has a Media Leaks Unit

      The FBI now has a not-at-all-dystopian unit to combat “media leak threats,” according to new documents obtained by The Young Turks. The documents were partially declassified thanks to a FOIA request.

      The internal communications, which are still heavily redacted, say that there has been a “rapid” rise in leaks to the media from inside the government.

    • ‘Dark Overlord’ Hacker Demands Bitcoin In Alleged 9/11 Insurance Megaleak

      Another insurance provider, Advantage Life, has also been targeted by The Dark Overlord, but there’s confusion over just when and how the company was breached. An Advantage Life spokesperson confirmed to Forbes it learned of an attack in early 2018 and informed clients and regulators at that time. As noted in the advisory to customers, Advantage Life found one of its websites was copied in an attempt to trick clients out of information. It filed reports with the FBI and was cooperating with the agency on its investigation.

    • Assange Should Not Be Prosecuted for Hillary Clinton Email Hack – Trump Lawyer

      Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s lawyer and a former NYC mayor, insisted that the media is allowed to publish hacked classified information for the purpose of informing the public. He drew parallels with the case of Hillary Clinton, who WikiLeaks claim received questions for the 2016 Democratic Party presidential primary debate with Bernie Sanders.
      Rudy Giuliani rallied to the defence of embattled whistle-blower Julian Assange, who has been hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for the past six years.

      While conceding that the theft of property is a crime, Giuliani stressed that stolen property has a “different nature” when it is information. “Let’s take the Pentagon Papers,” Giuliani said on news show Fox & Friends.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Russiagate vs. Climate Genocide: How Democrats Cover Up Trump’s Worst Crime

      The more important an issue is to humanity, the likelier it is Democrats don’t want to discuss it.

      Thus, it’s hardly surprising that Noam Chomsky felt obliged to point out the “moral depravity” of both major parties for discussing neither climate change nor the increasing risk of nuclear war during the recent midterm election campaigns. It’s likewise hardly surprising that the Republican Party, which Chomsky rightly terms “the most dangerous organization in human history,” likes to stay mum on the real nature of its wantonly destructive policies. But what’s truly amazing—until one habituates to the mammoth corruption of current U.S. politics—is how utterly unwilling today’s Democratic Party is to discuss issues that would paint Republicans in not merely in an unflattering, but in a criminally insane light.

      But so corrupt is today’s Democratic Party that the very issues on which they could “nail” Republicans at election time—climate destruction, warmongering, ever worsening economic inequality, or corruption by political money—are themselves a profound embarrassment for Democrats as well. So, far better for Dems to pin their anti-Trump stance on something far less discernible, like Trump’s purported (but never proven) collusion with Russia.

    • Burn Lands

      At dawn, and again at sundown, the cloud scudded winter skies over the foothills of Southern California’s Sant Ynez mountains have been flushed recently with pinks and violets, shadowed with undertones of browns and grays. In the early mornings, the charred skeletons of laurel sumac, chamise, and ceanothus are silhouetted against the blazing firmament above these burn lands. The flame and drought plagued mountains are a grey-brown, newly studded with pale sandstone, exposed by the Thomas Fire. The foothills look as though they are covered with the mottled skin of some bottom-dwelling sea-creature.

      The flesh of the chaparral, that biotic fuzz that drapes itself over so much of California, is fire-changed. Beneath its erstwhile canopy the matrix of sandstone and thin soil is now revealed as though a new volcanic age is upon us, the mantle still writhing from some recent uplift of magma. It’s not new of course, this growing medium has been weathering down for many eons, derived from sediment laid down in the Eocene, perhaps fifty million years ago. The plants of the chaparral emerged more recently, just twenty million years ago, and organized themselves into chaparralian assemblages just as soon as some semblance of a Mediterranean climate (wet winters, long, dry summers) emerged mid-Miocene, about ten million years ago. The florid, crepuscular skies that glow on the horizon at either end of winter days are a characteristic of that climate, of moisture laden skies that both diffract and reflect the near-horizontal rays of the sun.

      I can only comprehend the strange images that the local hills present as simile. So, their surface look likes the camouflaged skin of a giant cuttlefish recumbent on the sea-floor. What remains of the chaparral is spiked with skeletal limbs awaiting miracles of stump-sprouting or obligate re-seeding. These burn lands have spread over storied territories of Southern California such as Malibu, Calabasas and Ojai. Absent the drama of flame and smoke, the ancient plant communities now mutely regenerate.

    • 10 Worst-Case Climate Predictions If We Don’t Keep Global Temperatures Under 1.5 Degrees Celsius

      The summer of 2018 was intense: deadly wildfires, persistent drought, killer floods and record-breaking heat. Although scientists exercise great care before linking individual weather events to climate change, the rise in global temperatures caused by human activities has been found to increase the severity, likelihood and duration of such conditions.

      Globally, 2018 is on pace to be the fourth-hottest year on record. Only 2015, 2016 and 2017 were hotter. The Paris climate agreement aims to hold temperature rise below 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius, but if humankind carries on its business-as-usual approach to climate change, there’s a 93 percent chance we’re barreling toward a world that is 4 degrees Celsius warmer by the end of the century, a potentially catastrophic level of warming.

    • Indigenous Groups from Amazon Propose Creation of Largest Protected Area on Earth

      Sweeping development throughout the Amazon rainforest is an abiding concern for indigenous groups. The Amazon’s extraordinary biodiversity is being destroyed for profits and political gain. In response, an alliance of some 500 indigenous groups from nine countries, known as COICA, is planning to safeguard a “sacred corridor of life and culture” covering 761,600 square miles—an area about the size of Mexico. The alliance presented its Bogota Declaration, outlining “the principles and joint vision of the indigenous confederations to protect the Amazon rainforest by using a traditional and holistic perspective,” at the 14th UN Biodiversity Conference, held in Egypt in November, 2018.

      In a report for Common Dreams, Tuntiak Katan, the alliance’s vice president, said, “This space is the world’s last great sanctuary for biodiversity. It is there because we are there. Other places have been destroyed.”

    • Shutdown, Drilling and Coal: The Trump Administration’s Holiday Gifts to the World

      President Trump didn’t exactly lie low over the holidays.

      The battle over border-wall funding and the announced departures of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis stole most of the headlines, but they were hardly the only events of the Trump administration’s Christmas.

      We kept a close watch on news affecting the environment, health and wildlife, and there was plenty to keep us busy. From new developments on plans to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to attacks on air-pollution regulations, here’s a blow-by-blow account of what you may have missed:

      Dec. 14: Trump tapped his budget director and notorious climate-change denier Mick Mulvaney as his new chief of staff. The former South Carolina Congressman has a 6 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters, and when asked about funding for climate programs in 2017, he said, “We consider that to be a waste of your money.”

      Dec. 15: Trump announced that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who is facing numerous investigations, would be out at the end of the year. Follow-up reporting reminded folks that Zinke will likely still be forced to account for his actions. And of course, the infrastructure of like-minded fossil fuel boosters that he put into place in Interior will live on long after he’s gone.

      Dec. 18: Thirteen species being considered for Endangered Species Act listing were all denied protection by the Trump administration. The ill-fated species include the Cedar Key mole skink, Florida sandhill crane, Fremont County rockcress, Frisco buckwheat, Ostler’s peppergrass, Frisco clover, MacGillivray’s seaside sparrow, Ozark pyrg, pale blue-eyed grass, San Joaquin Valley giant flower-loving fly, striped newt, Tinian monarch and Tippecanoe darter. (One of those species, the Ozark pyrg, won’t get protected because it’s been declared extinct — after waiting decades as a candidate species for the Endangered Species Act.)

      Dec. 19: Trump’s Department of Energy helped grease the wheels for the natural gas industry by speeding up the export-approval process for liquefied natural gas.

    • Thanks to Green New Deal Push, Progressives Have Forced Corporate Media to Put Focus on Climate Crisis

      While applauding the fact that NBC’s “Meet the Press” did an hour-long special on climate change this past Sunday—which very well may be the first time the mainstream media has done such a thing—many progressives, green groups, and journalists were quick to point out that the conversation should have included a discussion of the rapidly growing Green New Deal campaign and “guests who acknowledge the scientific imperative of radical decarbonization over the next 12 years” such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Ayanna Presley, as Grist staff writer Eric Holthaus tweeted.

      Perhaps more useful than Ocasio-Cortez getting a two-minute cut of billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s time, though, was the benchmark the show’s chosen lineup provided. Grassroots activism at current levels equals a baseline coherent discussion of climate change on cable airwaves via fifteen minute one-on-ones with a scientist, a centrist billionaire claiming that “all of the things to be done [on the crisis], or most of them, have been done by the private sector,” and a gaggle of politicians who aren’t leaders in the movement by any stretch of the imagination but aren’t sponsored by the Koch Foundation, either.

    • From Me to We. My New Year’s Resolution

      It’s not likely that many of us will mourn the passing of 2018. It’s been a deeply troubled year defined by wildfires, floods, earthquakes, water shortages, financial chaos, political gridlock, flows of displaced persons, growth in the gap between rich and poor, the rise of dictatorial leaders, and a dire consensus warning from scientists on the impact of climate change.

      I’ve been pondering my New Year’s resolution for 2019. Deep change is clearly needed. But what can I do that might measure up to the magnitude of the problem? A promise to turn down my thermostat? Buy an electric car? Give to a charity? Take in a refugee? The possibilities that come to mind—even those that might involve serious commitment—seem trivial, given the scale of the problem.

      The problem isn’t me. It isn’t you. Nor is it those folks over there. The problem is we. The big we, humanity: What we believe, how we live, how we relate to one another and Earth. We have gotten something terribly wrong that we must now get right. But what? Do we even agree on the problem?

    • Ocasio-Cortez Rips Dem Leadership for Treating Planet-Saving Green New Deal as ‘Controversial’

      Incoming Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took aim at the Democratic Party on Monday over the newly-announced climate crisis committee—a body she and other progressives say lacks the teeth needed to avert planetary disaster.

      In a Twitter thread, Ocasio-Cortez said that her proposal for a select committee on a Green New Deal—a key demand of the youth-led Sunrise Movement—contained “3 simple elements: 1. No fossil fuel money on climate cmte 2. Offer solutions for impacted communities 3. Draft sample #GreenNewDeal.”

      Yet all three, she said, were deemed “too controversial.”

      Given the rejection of those elements, as well as the expected lack of subpoena power by the new Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, announced by presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week, Ocasio-Cortez said it will “will be in an even weaker position than the select climate committee of 10 years ago,” referring to the House committee in existence from 2007 to 2011.

    • Greta “Joan of Arc” Thunberg Shames Leaders at COP24

      In 1429 Joan of Arc (17) led French troops to victory over English forces at the Siege of Orleans after she had a vision. Today, eco warrior Greta Thunberg (15) is leading the battle against the ravages of climate change. Greta has vision. She’s taken the leadership mantle from Joan of Arc whether she knows it or not. Some things in life just happen!

      For nearly three decades, the global movement to fix climate change has been stuck in low or no-gear ever since the nations of the world agreed to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 1992 at the Kyoto Protocol. It’s been a dry run ever since, nothing of consequence happens.

      Instead, GHGs continue to accumulate, and at an accelerating rate no less, and ecosystems are starting to collapse, e.g., the Arctic is losing its entire infrastructure because of global warming and permafrost regions of the world are collapsing. The consequences are too unnerving to mention! More likely, divine intervention is needed, badly needed.

      Fortunately, Joan of Arc’s contemporary counterpart Greta Thunberg has swept onto the scene from Sweden. Her advent is eerily similar to that of Joan of Arc dressed in armor and white garments leading the French against English forces. Hers was a watershed victory for France during the exhausting and horrifically bloody 100-Years War.

      Over subsequent weeks Joan led the French forces into a number of stunning victories over the English, and Reims, the traditional city of coronation, was captured in July. Later that month, Charles VII was crowned king of France with Joan of Arc kneeling at his feet.

    • China’s cities face sobering cooling costs

      China’s cities now have a better idea of what global warming is going to cost. New research warns that for every rise of one degree Celsius in global average temperatures, average electricity demand will rise by 9%.

      And that’s the average demand. For the same shift in the thermometer reading, peak electricity demand in the Yangtze Valley delta could go up by 36%.

      And the global average rise of 1°C so far during the last century is just a start. By 2099, mean surface temperatures on planet Earth could be somewhere between 2°C and 5° hotter. That means that average household electricity use – assuming today’s consumption patterns don’t change – could rise by between 18% and 55%. And peak demand could rise by at least 72%.

    • Applause as Warren Shows Support for Green New Deal—the Plan ‘Every Serious Presidential Contender Should Embrace’

      After garnering some criticism from progressives for leaving her plans to combat the climate crisis out of her announcement regarding a potential 2020 presidential run, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) indicated Wednesday that she broadly supports the Green New Deal.

      An aide to the senator told Axios that Warren backs the proposal that includes shifting the U.S. to 100 percent renewable energy in the next decade—a plan that has gained some traction in the House and elements of which the Senate could see in legislation Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is planning to introduce, following tireless advocacy by the youth-led Sunrise Movement.

      “Senator Warren has been a longtime advocate of aggressively addressing climate change and shifting toward renewables, and supports the idea of a Green New Deal to ambitiously tackle our climate crisis, economic inequality, and racial injustice,” the staffer told Axios.

      The statement suggested support for the sweeping green economy framework championed by progressive freshmen lawmakers including Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), which would create 10 million jobs over the next decade, putting Americans to work creating sustainable technology and infrastructure while rapidly transitioning away from fossil fuels in order to stem the climate crisis.

    • This Radical Plan to Fund the ‘Green New Deal’ Just Might Work

      With what Naomi Klein calls “galloping momentum,” the “Green New Deal” promoted by newly-elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) appears to be forging a political pathway for solving all of the ills of society and the planet in one fell swoop. It would give a House Select Committee “a mandate that connects the dots between energy, transportation, housing, as well as healthcare, living wages, a jobs guarantee” and more. But to critics even on the left it is just political theater, since “everyone knows” a program of that scope cannot be funded without a massive redistribution of wealth and slashing of other programs (notably the military), which is not politically feasible.

      Perhaps, but Ocasio-Cortez and the 22 representatives joining her in calling for a Select Committee are also proposing a novel way to fund the program, one which could actually work. The resolution says funding will primarily come from the federal government, “using a combination of the Federal Reserve, a new public bank or system of regional and specialized public banks, public venture funds and such other vehicles or structures that the select committee deems appropriate, in order to ensure that interest and other investment returns generated from public investments made in connection with the Plan will be returned to the treasury, reduce taxpayer burden and allow for more investment.”

    • Do Sleeping Bears Hold Secrets for Human Health?

      By now most of Yellowstone’s grizzly bears are snug hibernating in winter dens, safe at last from human dangers.

      But in the darkness below the snow, mysteries and miracles unfold, apropos of our Christmas season. Researchers have long known the basics of bear hibernation. These bruins don’t eat or drink or excrete waste for between 150 and 180 days. But when grizzly bears crawl out of their dens in spring, they are specimens of health. They lose very little bone strength or lean muscle mass, though they may lose as much as 30 percent of their fall weight.

      Unlike deep hibernators like ground squirrels, bears are not unconscious during their winter slumber, which allows mother grizzlies to give birth in the dead of winter to a cub or two, each the size of a teacup, which she groggily nurses in her den until sometime during April or even May.

      How does a mother bear pull off this feat? Part of her secret involves obesity. Gorging on foods ranging from bison to ants, she packs on several pounds a day during her late summer and fall feeding frenzy.

      Her choice of a den site helps boost her chances of successfully reproducing. She digs her den at high elevations and on north-facing slopes where snows pile deep enough to cover the entrance hole and provide not only good insulation but also safety from predators.

    • Communism, Fascism and Green Shaming

      I am sensing — at least in the U.S., a migration of the liberal policing of thought into green movements. A guy ( a writer in fact, one published on several left sites including this one) arguing about plane travel. And this seems to be a thing. The problem of individual travel on jet airplanes is, of course, dwarfed by military pollution of all kinds, including massive nearly incomprehensible jet fuel usage, corporate air travel, and the world of private jets altogether. In other words there is a qualitative distinction. And I’m quite sure most people getting a short break from their miserable day job appreciate the shaming and hectoring of this polyanna bullshit. I’d be happy to travel by train, but since that’s not possible much anymore, nor is sea travel unless you own a sailboat, the point is to change a system of inequality, which would by itself radically reduce the pollution of jet engines. The EU, by the by, suggested a ticket tax (to passengers of course) for flying. Nothing about reduced truck transport of useless foods, or any rational solution because rational solutions cut into profit. Nothing about military transport. Nothing about improved rail transport –which most people would absolutely prefer. No just more guilt pinned on the working class for daring to take a trip. To ask people to voluntarily restrict their movement is a very dangerous and disingenuous delusion. And so far, for me anyway, it is always white males who promote this thinking.

      But beyond that, one finds very often a kind of Mr Rogers neighborhood prose in this stuff. Its sentimentalized and full of talk of Gaia and whatever else is au courant in the affluent Prius owning class. The fact is that most people I know would be very happy to travel other ways than by air. But telling people, the working class, to stop flying is very typical of this new shaming impulse in the American psyche and in American society. Young people learn tolerance by travel, learn other cultures, learn period. Better, I guess, to stay home and what? And I want to know how much travel is ok? For whom? I mean people fly to climate conferences. It becomes all very Ionesco like at a certain point. But is one allowed to take a bus to work? What is the guideline here? Can I fly to help organize anti capitalist resistance? This is a kind of critique mired in individuality. It’s lacking any class analysis. Unsurprisingly.

      So lets get back to war and the military. If one wants to stop climate change, the first step….before all this hand wringing about vacations…is to protest war. Protest militarism. Protest 900 military bases around the world. Each of which pollutes far far far far more then the country hosting them. Not to mention the attendant sexual violence, public drunkeness, drugs, and prostitution.

  • Finance

    • Teachers in America quitting jobs at record rate

      Others are quitting due to frustrations over a lack of resources and little support from communities, an issue brought to light by a wave of teacher protests in recent months.

    • ‘Like It Was Christmas All Year:’ GOP Succeeded in Making 2018 Yet Another Year the Rich Got Richer

      With year two of Republicans’ Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) now underway and the party touting the $1.5 trillion tax plan’s supposed successes, critics of the unpopular law are spotlighting the party’s broken promises and saying the so-called tax scam merely helped to make 2018 another year of bloated corporate profits and enriching the already wealthy.

      In fact, the wealthy were “celebrating like it was Christmas all year, which it basically was for them,” wrote Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF).

      Or, as Patriotic Millionaires put it bluntly, “the rich only got richer in 2018.”

      Linking to an article in the Washington Post urging Republicans to mute their cheers, ATF said, “Of course the GOP wants to celebrate their tax scam. It did exactly what it was intended to do: hand the wealthy, big corporations, and their rich mega-donors a massive tax giveaway!”

    • Bitcoin’s Warrior Queen: Lightning’s Elizabeth Stark Is Building an Army

      A former academic, Elizabeth Stark likes to play devil’s advocate. Take, for instance, her appearance at the Crypto Springs conference in October 2018.

      It’s a sunny morning in Palm Springs, California, and a handful of attendees are lounging by the pool; onstage, however, Stark is busy describing some of the darker potential scenarios for the cryptocurrency industry, ones in which it could fall short of its potential.

      But if the words of warning aren’t drawing a response, it’s perhaps because the price of bitcoin is still north of $6,000, and some are optimistic that the so-called “crypto winter” will soon be over, evaporated by an end-of-year upswell in institutional money entering the industry.

    • Doing Business with Tyrants

      On the front page of the New York Times (NYT) of 16 December 2018, above the fold, there is a long article entitled “Turning Tyranny Into a Client.” It tells how the management, and a good part of the staff, of McKinsey & Co., a worldwide management firm, goes about the business of burnishing the reputations and increasing the wealth of some of the nastiest tyrants on the planet. Simultaneously, the company publicly claims to be creating “tens of thousands of jobs, improving lives, providing education” and generally “making a positive difference to the businesses and communities” which engage their services. How much of these claims are simply a cover for making huge profits by facilitating corruption is one of the things the article explores.

      This scenario is not an unusual one. Most large corporate structures dealing internationally find themselves assisting tyrannical governments and their corrupt leaders—it is just a matter of degree. McKinsey & Co., for their part, may be into it big time.

      Indeed, there is further aspect to this story, and it is introduced through the article’s description of this McKinsey & Co.’s 2018 retreat. Here it is: “hundreds of the company’s consultants frolicked in the desert, riding camels over sand dunes and mingling in tents linked by red carpets.” And where was this occurring? In “Kashgar, the ancient Silk Road city in China’s far west.” Kashgar is also a place that is “experiencing a major humanitarian crisis. About four miles from where the McKinsey consultants discussed their work, which includes advising some of China’s most important state-owned companies, a sprawling internment camp had sprung up to hold thousands of ethnic Uighurs—part of a vast archipelago of indoctrination camps where the Chinese government has locked up as many as one million people.”

      [...]

      The McKinsey consultants remind me of professional soldiers or diplomats, or any of us who serve an authority on which our livelihood depends. You must often learn the proper rationalizations to explain away, to yourself and others, the consequences of your behavior. Too much independent thinking, too much questioning of orders and you’re out.

    • The Wholesale Destruction of Our Postal Service Is Already Underway

      This spring, President Trump created an inter-agency federal task force to propose structural reforms in the U.S. Postal Service.
      In only two months, the task force (comprised entirely of top Trump officials) zapped out a down-and-dirty report with this key recommendation: “Prepare [USPS] for future conversion from a government agency into a privately-held corporation.”
      Privatization! Are they not aware that our public postal agency is enormously popular and important to… well, to the public?
      A February Pew Research poll finds that an astonishing 88 percent of Americans give the Postal Service a thumbs up. Even the president’s executive order setting up the task force conceded that the post office “is regularly cited as the Federal agency with the highest public approval rating.”
      The 640,000 middle-class postal workers and letter carriers merit such kudos because they literally deliver for us. Working from 31,585 local offices, they trundle 150 billion pieces of mail a year, 4 million miles a day, to 157 million addresses across the land — from inner-city neighborhoods to back roads — delivering all with remarkable speed.
      USPS does this without taking a dime in taxpayer funds, financing its operations entirely from its sales and services to customers. This is a genuine public good linking all of America’s people together.

    • Federal Employees’ Union Sues Trump Administration as 420,000 Work Without Pay During Shutdown

      The government shutdown continues as President Trump prepares to meet with congressional leaders just one day before Democrats take control of the House. President Trump has insisted on including $5 billion for border wall funding before he’ll agree to sign any spending measure. Eight hundred thousand government workers’ lives have been thrown into disarray by the shutdown, with 380,000 workers on furlough and 420,000 who have worked without pay since December 22. We speak with a federal workers’ union that is suing the Trump administration over the shutdown. The American Federation of Government Employees, or AFGE, says it is illegal for federal workers to work without pay. We speak with Heidi Burakiewicz, lead attorney in the lawsuit, and David Borer, general counsel for AFGE.

    • Resisting the Threat of Blockchain Recentralization

      I think most can agree that it’s been a hell of a long year, in crypto and in general. The greatest way to reflect back on the year may be to review our expectations as we entered it; to this end, I’d highly recommend a revisitation of the “95 Crypto Theses” post by Ryan Selkis.

      Selkis was wise enough to veer away from micro-predictions and focused instead on broad and conceptual observations that ring true no matter where our current prices stand. Most crucially, his theses were shaped by the core values of most crypto-decentralists: pursuit of liberation, escape from censorship and bewilderment at the success of centrally issued XRP.

      As Zach Harvey has already excellently outlined in this series, these values come from the cypherpunk roots of cryptocurrency, which are crucial to keep in focus. Unfortunately, my biggest takeaway from 2018 was this: recentralist tricks were in full swing as the year kicked off, and even as opportunists fled the crashing market, we’re still surrounded by those who seek to undermine the core principles of our presumed revolution.

    • Blockchain evolution: New results require new models

      How are copycat-only projects denying resources and users from projects with a proven history of creativity and disruption? In this article, Kee Jeffreys explains how looking ahead at a more mature blockchain market, only the true innovators will survive.
      Since the emergence of blockchain technology in 2008, opportunities for developers to build upon publicly available code in order to create new technological infrastructures and bring new products and services to market have grown exponentially.

      The blockchain sector’s ethos of open sour

    • Apple Drops iPhone Bombshell on Already Reeling Stock Market

      Apple acknowledged on Wednesday that demand for iPhones is waning, confirming investor fears that the company’s most profitable product has lost some of its luster.

      The company expects its annual revenue to fall 5 percent from the previous year’s level. That reversal of fortune could reinforce fears of a global economic slowdown.

      The reckoning came in a letter from Apple CEO Tim Cook to the company’s shareholders released after the stock market closed Wednesday.

    • Apple Blames China & Cheap Battery Replacements For Poor iPhone Sales

      Additionally, other expenses have increased from $300 million to $550 million.

      Among the four factors that Apple cites for the revenue generation, the Cupertino tech major has suggested that Greater China has been a major factor for its declined revenue generation, affecting over 100 percent of its worldwide year-on-year revenue declin

    • Apple and Samsung Fined for Deliberately Slowing Smartphones

      An Italian government agency has found that Apple and Samsung intentionally slowed older smartphones in order to induce customers to buy newer models. As Samuel Gibbs reported for the Guardian in October 2018, the Italian government’s antitrust agency fined Apple approximately $11.4 million and Samsung approx. $5.7 million for the “planned obsolescence” of their smartphones. The Guardian reported that the ruling is believed to be the first of its kind against smartphone manufacturers. Similar investigations are pending in France and the United States.

    • Inspired by Yellow Vests in France, Germany’s Left-Wing ‘Get Up’ Movement Vows to Take to the Streets in 2019

      Citing widespread dissatisfaction with inequality and a government reticent to take effective action against it, the leader of the German movement Aufstehen (“Get Up”) said Wednesday that the world can expect major protests in the country in 2019, inspired by the recent Gilets Jaunes, or Yellow Vest, protests in France.

      Sahra Wagenknecht, a member of parliament representing the left-wing Die Linke party and a leader of Aufstehen—which has also been translated to “Stand Up” and “Rise Up”—told a foreign press association that the group’s 170,000 members have looked to the Yellow Vests as an example of direct action that has had a tangible effect on policies affecting working people.

    • The GOP’s Most Successful Scam Is About to Reboot Itself

      At its core, the strategy is simple and elegant: When Republicans are in power, run up as much debt as possible, mostly by borrowing and giving that cash to the Republican donor class through tax cuts and corporate subsidies; when Democrats have political power, Republicans suddenly become hysterical about the debt and demand that Dems keep taxes low while cutting social spending.

      If successful, not only will Republicans (and corporate-funded Dems) block any genuinely progressive spending legislation in 2019 or 2020, but they’ll prevent any possibility of debt-free college, Medicare for All, or a Green New Deal in the entire next presidential term, clear through 2024 or beyond.

      For this remarkably successful 38-year-long GOP head-fake strategy, you can thank a guy named Jude Wanniski.

      Odds are you’ve never heard of Jude, but without him Reagan never would have become a “successful” president, Republicans only rarely would have taken control of the House or Senate, and neither George Bush would have been president.

      It all began in 1964, when Barry Goldwater went down to ignominious and massive defeat. Most Republicans felt doomed, among them the then-28-year-old Wanniski. They had to come up with a new message, he knew, instead of just “drugs are bad,” “school segregation is good,” and “Democrats are communists.”

    • Thom Hartmann: The GOP Is Reviving One of Its Favorite Scams

      Get ready to see it on your TV. The GOP is about to kick back into Two Santa Clauses mode and restart the scam they’ve been running since Reagan.

      It’ll predictably begin in the first week or two of January, probably first on “Meet the Press” and other Sunday shows that feature “serious thinkers” and only rarely challenge Republicans. It’ll simultaneously roll out on Fox, on right-wing hate radio, and in the conservative media.

      And there are more than a few “Third Way” Democrats eager to go along with it.

      At its core, the strategy is simple and elegant: When Republicans are in power, run up as much debt as possible, mostly by borrowing and giving that cash to the Republican donor class through tax cuts and corporate subsidies; when Democrats have political power, Republicans suddenly become hysterical about the debt and demand that Dems keep taxes low while cutting social spending.

      If successful, not only will Republicans (and corporate-funded Dems) block any genuinely progressive spending legislation in 2019 or 2020, but they’ll prevent any possibility of debt-free college, Medicare for All, or a Green New Deal in the entire next presidential term, clear through 2024 or beyond.

      For this remarkably successful 38-year-long GOP head-fake strategy, you can thank a guy named Jude Wanniski.

      Odds are you’ve never heard of Jude, but without him Reagan never would have become a “successful” president, Republicans only rarely would have taken control of the House or Senate, and neither George Bush would have been president.

    • The Danish Dilemma

      This psychic tug of war between the comforts of old-fashioned socialism and the economic possibilities of newfangled neoliberalism has now landed with a thud in, of all places, the pristine hills of Jefferson County, West Virginia, about 70 miles northwest of Washington, D. C. That’s where the Danish insulation giant Rockwool has its sights set on building a $150-million factory that would hire somewhere between 120 and 140 employees, many of them not necessarily locals. The factory is part of Rockwell’s expansion into the American insulation market.

      But Rockwool won’t be joining Cross any time soon in his pro-tax, Denmark rocks refrain. Assisted by powerful state and creative local political operatives interested in bringing blue-collar jobs to Jefferson County, Rockwool cut a top-secret deal (code named “Project Shuttle”) to build its factory in a former Jefferson County apple orchard and pay almost no taxes.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • The War for the Democratic Party Continues

      Elizabeth Warren just threw her hat in the ring for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. If the Democrats were smart, they’d get in line behind her, or Bernie Sanders.

      Unfortunately, Pelosi, Schumer and Hoyer are doing everything in their power to keep the progressive insurgency in check, and keep their neoliberal/corporate money machine in power. Beyond the many moral and ethical problems with this, it’s just plain stupid politics. About the only way Democrats could lose their 2018 momentum in 2020 is to return to the same old neoliberal, corporate-friendly policies that lost them the election in 2016.

      They’re being supported by most of the mainstream media, many of the pundits who’ve been the architects of the Democratic Party’s precipitous decline over the last few decades, and a robust and well-funded neoliberal infrastructure composed of not-for-profits, many unions, foundations, and public interest groups, who’ve gone into overdrive on their anti-Bernie campaign. It was this neoliberal mafia that helped deliver the nomination to Hillary Clinton in 2016, which in turn depressed turnout to the point that Trump was able to win the election with just over 26 percent of eligible voters.

    • The Problem with Border Security

      On December 11, President Donald Trump hosted an Oval Office sit-down with incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Charles “Chuck” Schumer (D-NY). Among the many noteworthy lines and exchanges which stick out is when Trump stated, “We need border security. And I think we all agree that we need border security.”

      “Yes. We do. We do,” Schumer immediately responded.

      “See? We all get along,” pronounced the president.

      [...]

      One group agitates for overt, brutal means—a “big, beautiful wall” in Trump’s words, and highly visible expressions of force along the international divide. The other side calls for “smart” border policing policies and infrastructure, contending that such policies are more effective in stymieing unwanted border crossings than Trumpian wall-building. However, despite such objections, the Democrats have supported the construction of large barriers along the international divide on many occasions.

      Indeed, just as telling as Schumer’s “we do” was Pelosi’s “we agree with that” in response to Trump’s insistence that “this country needs border security.” In other words, though CNBC characterizedthe meeting as a “heated Oval Office fight,” the ultimate goal was not in question. It was a debate about means, not ends. And this has long been the case.

    • ‘You Are Courting a Fascist’: Pompeo Gives Inauguration US Blessing as Brazilians Brace for ‘Repugnant’ Bolsonaro

      While progressives, women’s rights advocates, journalists, and the LGBTQ community were among the many mourning Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s inauguration on Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo angered critics with a celebratory tweet congratulating the proud misogynist who has defended Brazil’s former military dictatorship and vowed to crush the country’s leftist opposition during his first speech as president.

      Pompeo tweeted that he was “looking forward to witnessing the peaceful transfer of power in one of Latin America’s strongest democracies,” as international observers warned that Bolsonaro’s presidency is likely to usher in a new era of fascism.

    • India Could Change IT Laws To Shutdown Apps And Sites That Spread Fake News

      The Indian Government has suggested that amendments to the Information Technology (IT) Act should be made to curb the spreading of fake news in the country.

      As per a report by The Times Of India, the government plans to make changes to the IT rules to charge penalty and pull down websites, causing the dissemination of fake and demeaning news as well as child abuse and revenge porn.

    • Will Pelosi Open the Floor to Bipartisan Ideas?

      Nancy Pelosi is returning as speaker of the House of Representatives amid a partisan standoff that has made it virtually impossible to move forward on major legislation requiring the support of both Democrats and Republicans.

      Now, she has a chance to fix at least part of the problem.

      Prodded by some House Democrats, in late November she agreed to establish a more open process for working on legislation and to allow more votes on amendments supported by both parties. The changes in rules, expected to come to a vote after the House reconvenes Thursday, will help set the parameters for Pelosi’s second stint as speaker.

      Historically, amendment votes have been critical to legislation, allowing in a variety of ideas. They are one way for lawmakers to change a bill’s contents after it goes through committee, or when it skips that step entirely. They are often used on spending bills to get lawmakers on the record on important issues and to build consensus solutions.

      But ever since the House began using electronic voting in 1973, minority party members have increasingly adopted the floor amendment — one of the few legislative tools available to them — as a way to force their opponents to cast politically difficult or symbolic votes. In response, House majority party leaders have clamped down on amendments to shield their members from those electorally risky votes.

    • Romney Criticizes Trump’s ‘Character’ in Scathing Op-ed

      Days away from joining the Senate’s Republican majority, Sen.-elect Mitt Romney broadly criticized President Donald Trump’s policies and character and argued that the president “has not risen to the mantle of the office.”

      “With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable,” the Utah Republican and 2012 presidential nominee wrote in a Washington Post op-ed posted online Tuesday night. “And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.”

    • Nixon and Trump: Bookends to the Culture Wars

      Presidents Richard Nixon and Donald Trump are bookends to the culture wars. They personify how two opportunist politicians can effectively exploit critical social issues — racism and patriarchy, among others – for personal gain.

      The year 2020 will be the year that Trump may likely seek re-election as president – and will mark a half-century of the culture wars. His defeat, if not prior resignation like Nixon’s resignation in 1974, may well signal the death knell of the religious right’s culture wars.

      Nixon rose to power in the wake of the tumultuous ‘60s. After signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Pres. Lyndon Johnson warned, “we’ve lost the South for a generation.” The civil-right movement that emerged in the wake of the Supreme Court’s momentous Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), a case argued by Thurgood Marshall, that legally repudiated the South’s century-old Jim Crow culture.

      The adoption of the ‘64 legislation and the ’65 Voter Rights Act intensified Southern white anger over the Democratic Party’s embrace of anti-racism reforms. Nixon, along with other Republicans, made a devil’s bargain with religious conservatives, opportunist politicians and white voters to protect traditional “white skin privilege” through racist appeals and rigged ballots. This bargain harnessed the deeply felt – and virulent — beliefs in racial identify, patriarchal authority and homophobic fears into a powerful political movement that shaped the culture wars and, a half-century later, culminated in Trump’s election.

    • In 2019, women’s rights are still not explicitly recognized in US Constitution

      Over nine decades, efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution to recognize women’s rights have faced major challenges.

      Congress finally passed such legislation, known as the Equal Rights Amendment, in 1972. The amendment would recognize women’s equal rights to men under the law.

      Despite concerted campaigns by women’s rights groups, it fell short of the 38 states that needed to ratify it in order for it to become part of the Constitution. The original deadline for states to ratify was 1979. Congress extended the deadline to 1982, but even then it still fell three states short of passage.

      Nevertheless, women’s rights activists have continued working to get states to ratify it.

      Many ERA proponents argue that the deadline is irrelevant because the 27th Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits changes to the salaries of congressional legislators, was ratified in 1992, 203 years after it was introduced. The same could happen to the ERA, they argue. They maintain that Congress has the power to change the deadline and recognize the 38 ratification votes to approve the amendment.

    • Mark Pocan on Democrats Taking Charge and Holding Trump to Account

      Mark Pocan enters the 116th Congress as one of the most outspoken, engaged and powerful progressives in the United States. The town of Vermont Democrat will co-chair the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the largest values-based group of House Democrats. With co-Chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Pocan is overseeing the launch of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Center, a $2 million project that will develop progressive policies, frame messaging and coordinate the work of members of Congress and millions of activists working beyond the Beltway for enlightened policies at home and abroad. He will, as well, serve on the House Appropriations Committee, where he will continue to play a pivotal role on the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education and also the Subcommittee on Agriculture.

      A former Dane County supervisor and Wisconsin state representative, Pocan remains a passionate champion of economic and social and racial justice and an ardent advocate for peace and the planet.

      As he prepared to take the lead in the new Congress, the small-business owner, union man and LGBTQ activist who represents the House district that once sent Robert M. La Follette to the Congress spoke enthusiastically about holding President Trump to account, upending reactionary politics, and ushering in a new era of progressive politics.

    • In 2018, Israel’s Mask Finally Came Off

      Thus far, the practical foundation has been laid on the ground. The Green Line was expunged a long time ago, the territories annexed de facto. But that’s not enough for the right wing, which has concluded that to make the occupation permanent, appropriate legal and legislative steps must also be taken.

      First, they built settlements, where more than 700,000 Jews now reside, including in East Jerusalem, to create an irreversible reality in the territories. This enterprise is complete, and the victory of the settlers and their supporters is clear and unequivocal. The aim of the settlements – to thwart any prospect of establishing a Palestinian state in the territories occupied in 1967, and to take the two-state solution off the table – has been wholly accomplished; they’ve won. Now, they intend that this irrevocable reality shall also be anchored in law, to neutralise the opposition to annexation.

    • The New Congress and the Rolling Catastrophe of the US Body Politic

      Bathed in the soothing waters of the Blue Wave, such that it was, a new US Congress will be baptized on January 3rd. But what portends when “Mad Dog” Mattis, arch racist Jeff Sessions, and deep state spooks are canonized by self-identified liberals and leftists as bulwarks against fascism? When all mainstream “opposition” politics can be reduced to a single issue: Trump. And when the midterm elections ignored deepening impoverishment at home, endless wars abroad, and climate calamity – let alone the tax cut for the super-rich – and instead focused on the “threat” posed by (take your pick) immigrants or the Russians.

      For the first time ever, the Gallup poll reported that most Democrats favor socialism to capitalism. And for good reason: as the Occupy movement proclaimed, “the system isn’t broken, its fixed.” An observer from the UK quipped, if the midterm elections would have changed anything, they would not have been allowed.

      The American body politic is in deep malaise with the current administration. But Trump is the symptom, not the disease, which is neoliberal rule. The conditions that allowed the ascendency of Trump were the result of the neoliberal policies of Obama/Bush and of their predecessors. Trump does not so much represent a break or reversal of Obama era policies. Rather, we are suffering a continuation and intensification of those policies as the body politic lurches to the right.

    • A Road Trip Across the American South With Politics in Mind

      Both Dubya Bush and Trump lost the popular vote but managed to become president.

      [...]

      Hillary Clinton beat Trump in Jefferson County (Birmingham is the county seat) 51.55%to 44.34% in 2016 (whereas Trump beat Clinton in Alabama overall 61.1% to 34.4%).

      New Orleans, our final stopover, is a city whose mayor and 7-member council are all Democrats. Hillary Clinton beat Trump in New Orleans by more than 80% in 2016 (whereas Trump beat Clinton in Louisiana overall by 20%).

      Houston, our final destination, has a Democratic mayor, and its 16-person city council only has 5 Republicans.

      It is thus a misnomer to speak of the ʺnewʺSouth in blanket terms—theʺnewʺSouth is very much confined to its metropolitan areas, while their rural counterparts remain obdurately old South.

      On a frivolous note, having driven in 40-plus US states since the 1980s, some entirely subjective observations may be in order.

      Champion states for pot-holed roads: Alabama and Arkansas (btw, both low-tax Republican states).

      Champion states for kamikaze drivers: New Jersey, northern Virginia, Texas.

    • Peak Trump

      As he nears the end of his second year in office, Donald Trump has reached the high point of his influence and power.

      For the last two years, the president has relied on a Congress controlled by the Republican Party. He took advantage of this congressional control to appoint two Supreme Court justices. He also achieved one principal legislative victory: the enormous tax cut in 2017 that largely benefited the wealthy.

      Trump used his authority to issue 86 executive orders over the last two years. Some of those have been immediately effective, such as cancelling U.S. participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Others, like the Muslim travel ban, were blocked by the courts.

      The president has also discovered that he has more range of action in the foreign policy realm than with domestic legislation. He has withdrawn the United States from the nuclear deal with Iran and the Paris climate change agreement. He has imposed tariffs on trade with both allies and adversaries. And he has negotiated face to face with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

    • ‘Stop This Fiscal Madness’: Dems Urged to Vote Down ‘Brainless Republican Idea’ as Pelosi Plows Ahead With Pay-Go

      “In order for pay-go to go into effect, it needs to pass the House,” Warren Gunnels, policy director for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), pointed out on Twitter. “If some 18 Democrats vote no, it fails. The vote will take place on Thursday. Will enough progressives have the courage to vote no on the first roadblock to Medicare for All, Green New Deal, and college for all? Let’s see.”

      In a petition pressuring House Democrats to vote against any rules package containing pay-go, Social Security Works declared that the proposed provision “would leave Democrats fighting for working families with one arm tied behind their backs.”

      “Reject the pay-go rules that perpetuate deficit scaremongering and bolster claims that we need to cut Social Security and Medicare,” reads the group’s petition, which currently has over 23,800 signatures.

    • Who Isn’t Running for the Democratic Presidential Nomination?

      The field of candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination is starting to form, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) announcing Monday that she has launched a campaign “exploratory committee” — the same step that former housing and urban development secretary Julián Castro took earlier in December. Spoiler alert: Exploratory committees always come to the same conclusion. They’re both running.

      Actually, who isn’t running? At this point, by some counts, as many as 30 potential Democratic candidates either have expressed interest in taking the plunge or have significant constituencies urging them to do so. If you thought the 2016 GOP debates were crowded, just wait. This year, Democrats may have to debate in shifts, or perhaps stand on risers like a choir.

      And, no, they won’t all be singing the same tune. That’s a good thing. Even more than it needs new blood, the party needs new ideas. In the wake of President Trump’s nihilistic vandalism, the next president will have much to do — not just healing the nation, but moving it forward.

      Democratic hopefuls should have a vigorous argument about Medicare-for-all. They should have fact-based debates about comprehensive immigration reform, renewing our infrastructure, worker-friendly trade policy, the Middle East wars and the best ways to confront climate change.

    • Say What?

      If you were hoping our lunatic village idiot miraculously grew a brain or soul for the new year: Sorry. After weeks of sulking and skulking around the White House – “I was all by myself in the White House. It’s a big, big house – except for the guys on the lawn with machine guns. Nicest machine guns I’ve ever seen. I was waving to them. I never saw so many guys with machine guns in my life…These are great people. They don’t play games, they don’t, like, wave. But I was all alone with the machine gunners” – Trump held a wildly ignorant, incoherent first Cabinet meeting surrounded by his low-life coterie – the best people! – of liars, bigots, sycophants and thieves. Also Game of Thrones! (Don’t ask.) Following a lurid spectacle brilliantly dubbed “Mango Unchained,” one observer noted, “The movie “Idiocracy” can no longer be classified as a comedy, but as an extremely prescient, historical docudrama.”

      Full disclosure: We stopped watching about a minute in as he babbled about stopping billion dollar payments to Pakistan – “for nothing, like it’s water, because they don’t even vote for us in the U.N.” It got worse. He endorsed the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and got everything wrong: “Russia used to be the Soviet Union. Afghanistan made it Russia because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan. The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists.” One response: “The sound you hear is historians everywhere, weeping.” He made up walls around Obama’s house and the Vatican. He tripled the number of people here illegally. He said, “I think I would have been a good general, but who knows?” He said, “I could be the most popular person in Europe.”

    • Donald Trump Will Not Go Quietly Like Nixon

      “History,” as Mark Twain reputedly remarked, “doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” As we flip the calendar to a new year, Donald Trump would be well-advised to take careful heed of Twain’s maxim.

      Unless Trump suddenly discovers an untapped reservoir of self-restraint, he’s going to confront an impeachment moment reminiscent of the crisis that drove Richard Nixon from office in 1974. And with his presidency on shaky ground from the outset, a Nixon-style climax appears increasingly likely.

      The historical echoes and rhymes with Nixon are clearly discernible. As veteran journalist Elizabeth Drew, who covered the Watergate scandal as a Washington correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, observed in an op-ed for the New York Times last month: “An impeachment process against President Trump now seems inescapable. Unless the president resigns, the pressure by the public on the Democratic leaders to begin an impeachment process next year will only increase.”

      The public is indeed becoming increasingly fed up with Trump, much as the American people turned on Nixon in the waning days of his presidency. According to a Harvard CAPS/Harris poll released on Dec. 28, nearly 60 percent of U.S. voters surveyed say Trump should either be impeached and removed from office or formally censured by Congress.

      As Drew also notes, the substantive case for impeaching Trump is very strong, albeit more complex than the one mounted against Nixon.

      Impeachment is a two-step process: First, the House votes to impeach, then the accused federal official is put on trial before the Senate. A two-thirds vote of the upper chamber is needed to sustain an article of impeachment, resulting in removal from office.

    • From ‘Depleted’ Food Stores to Understaffed Health Clinics, Native Americans ‘Among Hardest Hit’ by Trump Shutdown

      Adding to the long and ever-growing list of harmful consequences stemming from President Donald Trump’s government shutdown—from hundreds of thousands of furloughed workers to gutted food stamps offices to trashed public parks—the New York Times published a report late Tuesday highlighting the damage Trump’s prolonged border wall temper tantrum has done to Native American communities.

      “For one tribe of Chippewa Indians in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the government shutdown comes with a price tag: about $100,000, every day, of federal money that does not arrive to keep health clinics staffed, food pantry shelves full, and employees paid,” the Times noted. “The tribe is using its own funds to cover the shortfalls for now. But if the standoff in Washington continues much longer, that stopgap money will be depleted. Later this month, workers could be furloughed and health services could be pared back.”

      Because the staff of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs has been significantly diminished due to the shutdown—which entered its 12th day on Wednesday—basic services such as road maintenance, healthcare, and disaster relief have been cut or put at risk, the Times reported.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Iran TV Boss Fired Over Sex Scene Featuring Jackie Chan

      A regional boss of Iran’s state broadcaster IRIB has been fired after inadvertently letting a Jackie Chan sex scene slip through its tight censorship rules, local media reported on Monday.

      Viewers on Iran’s Kish Island were shocked when their local TV station showed the martial arts star having sex with a prostitute in one of his films.

    • Leaked Documents Show How Instagram Polices Stories

      Newly leaked internal documents obtained by Motherboard detail how Instagram polices content published through its Instagram Stories feature, which allows users to publish short videos and static images that generally stay on profiles for 24 hours. The fact that they often have multiple discrete parts can make it particularly difficult to moderate stories, the documents show.

    • Netflix Removed Clip That Criticized Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Record

      Netflix removed an episode of the comedy show “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj” that criticized Saudi Arabia’s human rights record after a request from the Saudi government to do so, according to a report by the Financial Times.

      In the November clip, Minhaj explained why the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, is only one instance in a long list of violations. He took issue with the detainment of women’s rights activists and Saudi Arabia’s direct role in the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

      Minhaj addressed the reputation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directly: “It blows my mind that it took the killing of a Washington Post journalist for everyone to go, ‘Oh, I guess he’s really not a reformer.’ Meanwhile, every Muslim person you know was like, ‘Yeah, no shit. He’s the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.’ Now would be a good time to reassess our relationship with Saudi Arabia. And I mean that as a Muslim and as an American,” he said.

      At the end of the episode, Minhaj turned to Silicon Valley’s close financial relationship with Saudi Arabia. “WeWork won’t let you expense meat,” he said, referencing the startup’s July decision to ban meat over environmental concerns, “but you take money from Saudi Arabia? So you’re against slaughterhouses unless they’re in Yemen?”

    • Netflix Expected to Name Activision Blizzard’s Spencer Neumann as New CFO

      Spencer Neumann is joining Netflix as its new chief financial officer and will exit as Activision Blizzard’s CFO after less than two years, according to reports.

    • Exclusive: Netflix poaches CFO from Activision Blizzard – source

      Neumann will start at Netflix in early 2019, the source said.

      Earlier on Monday, Activision Blizzard said in a regulatory filing that it intended to fire Neumann for an unspecified reason.

    • Netflix pulls episode of comedy show in Saudi Arabia after kingdom’s complaint: report

      The news outlet reported that Netflix took down an episode of the streaming series that contained criticisms of Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after it received a complaint from the kingdom.

    • Netflix removes Patriot Act episode in Saudi Arabia following government complaint

      The second episode of the Netflix comedy show criticized Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the government’s reaction to the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Saudi government reportedly told Netflix that the episode violated its cybercrime laws and requested its removal. The cited law effectively states that criticizing the government through any kind of digital medium is a criminal act.

    • Saudi Arabia Discovers The Streisand Effect; Gets Netflix To Take Down Hasan Minhaj’s Show About MBS’s Atrocities

      It covers a lot of ground, from the death of Jamal Khashoggi to MBS’s arresting of a bunch of his cousins to the catastrophic situation in Yemen… and the complicity of the US government and much of Silicon Valley who has taken Saudi money.

      Not surprisingly, the Saudi government was not thrilled with this episode, or the fact that it was available via Netflix in the country. So, as first reported by the Financial Times (behind a paywall), and since reported in tons of other places, Netflix has agreed to pull that episode in Saudi Arabia in response to a “legal request.”

      Apparently, the “legal request” referenced a cybercrime law that says “production, preparation, transmission, or storage of material impinging on public order, religious values, public morals, and privacy, through the information network or computers” is a crime that can lead to imprisonment and fines. Cyber lese majeste, basically.

    • Atlantic Council Partners with Facebook to Censor Social Media

      In May 2018, Facebook partnered with Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab to censor information on social media, while claiming to protect the integrity of US elections.

      The partnership between Facebook and the Atlantic Council to fight fake news has resulted in the censorship of anti-establishment narratives. The Atlantic Council is a Washington, DC-based think tank with strong military ties. It receives significant sponsorship from major corporate entities, US intelligence agencies, and foreign governments, and is understood by many as a lobbying group for NATO. The criteria for how the Atlantic Council categorizes fake news or misinformation remain undisclosed as Facebook continues to close hundreds of mostly left-wing Facebook pages and accounts. The partnership between Facebook and the Atlantic Council has also discredited numerous progressive and independent media outlets by identifying them as serving “foreign interference.”

    • After Netflix Pulls Episode at Saudi Request, Comic Hasan Minhaj Urges Donations for Suffering Yemen

      Taking advantage of the recent attention brought to his Netflix series “Patriot Act” by the Saudi government’s objection to an episode that criticized Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, comedian Hasan Minhaj called on supporters to contribute to aid efforts in Yemen while mocking the prince’s insistence that the episode be banned in Saudi Arabia.

      On Tuesday, on Saudi orders, Netflix removed from its Saudi platform a “Patriot Act” episode released shortly after the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents—which the CIA concluded was ordered by bin Salman, often called MbS—because Minhaj discussed the need for the U.S. to cut ties with the Saudis in light of the murder. However, the episode remained on YouTube in the country and is still available on Netflix outside Saudi Arabia.

      Minhaj mocked the Saudis for drawing attention to content they claimed was harmful to their government, while asking his fans to donate to the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) efforts to fight famine and disease in Yemen, where tens of thousands of civilians have been killed by the Saudi’s U.S.-backed military campaign.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • 2018 and 2019

      2018 is over and 2019 starts. This is a great opportunity to look back, reflect and to try to look into the future. I predict that 2019 will be a very good year for privacy, open source and decentralized cloud software. Maybe even the mainstream breakthrough of federated and decentralized internet services!

      [...]

      This year, Europe introduced the GDPR to regulate the collection of private data. I believe it is a good start and think we ultimately we need rules as described in the User Data Manifesto
      I expected that people in the US and Asia wouldn’t take the GDPR seriously and make fun of Europeans tendency to ‘over-regulate’. So I was surprised to see that the GDPR was widely praised as a step into the right direction. People in Asia and Europe are already asking for similar regulations in their markets, California has already announced its own variant of the GDPR with the California Consumer Privacy Act.

    • China spying efforts escalate to tapping up Britain’s former spies and diplomats

      Beijing is increasing cyber attacks and hacking but the latest move harks back to the Cold War days seen in film thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

      The old-fashioned method of getting information is becoming more widespread and threatening, Britain’s intelligence chiefs have warned officials.

      The Foreign Office said in a secret memo to former staff: “The Chinese service are becoming increasingly proactive and aggressive in approaching former members of Her Majesty’s Government including security and intelligence agencies.”

    • Mark Zuckerberg-Funded Researchers Are Testing Brain Implants

      Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have raised nearly $5 billion by selling almost 29 million Facebook shares to fund an ambitious research programme called the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI).

      A part of the research programme includes the development of a brain-machine interface and devices that can essentially translate thoughts into commands.

    • The Long Fight to Stop Mass Surveillance: 2018 in Review

      EFF is in it for the long run, especially in the important, hard fights for your rights. One of the longest running fights in online civil liberties is over your right to have a private conversation over a digital network. Whether it’s for our intimate relationships, our healthcare, our associations and political organizing, or for our business relationships, we all need assurance that Big Brother isn’t accessing our data and communications. 2018 saw some creeping steps forward towards freeing our digital networks from mass surveillance, but the road remains long.

    • Research: Some Android apps share your data with Facebook without consent

      Here’s the worst part: Staying off Facebook doesn’t protect you from this.

      Privacy International, a London-based charity that focuses on improving people’s personal privacy, examined 34 popular Android apps, each installed from 10 to 500 million times, between August and December 2018.

      All of these apps share data with Facebook through its SDK (software development kit), which is fine if the users have in some way consented to this. But the organization intercepted data as it was sent (using a freely available, open-source tool) and found that at least 20 of these apps (roughly 61 percent) “automatically transfer data to Facebook the moment a user opens the app.”

    • Prepare for the Smart Home Fitness Revolution
  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Dear Sisters, We Fought Together

      One year ago, 300 high-profile in film, theater and TV responded to #MeToo and “the Weinstein effect” by partnering with activists to launch Time’s Up, a movement to fight systemic sexual harassment in workplaces across the country with the tagline, “No more silence. No more waiting. No more tolerance for discrimination, harassment or abuse. Time’s Up.” The actresses said they chose to lend their “public voices” and resources to a common struggle by all women – most notably, at the start, 700,000 female farm workers who declared their solidarity – to address gender imbalances of power across race, class, and work environment. For all, the goal was accountability, from perpetrators facing consequences to survivors being heard and believed.

      In the last year, the sea change wrought by #MeToo has helped pass new laws addressing workplace harassment in at least 11 states. Time’s Up has likewise sparked broad change: As of December, it had raisedmore than $22 million – the most raised in GoFundMe history – for its legal defense fund; under its auspices, over 800 volunteer lawyers have helped over 3,900 people, many low-income workers in 30 different industries, fight for their civil rights in the workplace. On New Year’s Day, organizers released a powerful video to celebrate their achievements and assert, says one leader, “that we can actually create change.” Their rallying cry: “2018 was just the beginning.”

    • Do Good Fences Make Good Neighbors?

      It used to be that people who owned a lot of things could protect themselves and their things by erecting sturdy houses and, if necessary, putting a lock on the door. Today, it seems, that’s not enough. It’s estimated that three million American households live within gated communities – twenty thousand of them, often equipped with private security guards and electronic surveillance systems. Some years ago, the town of Rosemont, Illinois, erected a beige wrought-iron fence. Rosemont is a suburb of Chicago, with a population of four thousand, and it has one of the largest auxiliary police forces in the United States.

      A wall is being erected around the nation, too – an outer perimeter, separating the United States from the Third World. So far, our national wall extends along only sixty-four miles of the nearly two-thousand-mile border with Mexico, but Congress has appropriated funds for lengthening it and also fortifying it.

    • Understanding Populism

      Back in 2008, at the time of the financial crisis, I published a book about the history of populism called Fixing the System: A History of Populism, Ancient & Modern. It didn’t make me famous, but it did claim some understanding of the rising political phenomenon of populism–something which since has morphed into a global tidal wave.

      Since 2016 we’ve had an explosion of political upheavals around the world–all widely described as populist: the Brexit vote in Britain, Trump’s election, and the rise of separatist and nationalist parties in Europe and beyond. We can add to the mix the ‘yellow vests’ in France, and movements in places like Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, and the Philippines.

      Populism is widely misunderstood. It can be found on both the left and right of the political spectrum. It’s not about how liberal or conservative you are. It’s about the failure of the system to provide economic and social security for a large part of the population.

    • ‘Cruel and Inhumane’: Trump Border Patrol Hits Women, Children, and Journalists in Mexico With Tear Gas

      According to an Associated Press photographer present at the scene, CBP agents fired “at least three volleys of gas” into Mexico at around 150 asylum-seekers who approached the border in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

      Contradicting CBP’s claim that the tear gas was used to deter migrants who were throwing rocks over the border fence, the AP photographer said rocks were thrown “only after U.S. agents fired the tear gas.”

      In a statement Tuesday night, Justin Mazzola, deputy director of research at Amnesty International, said CBP’s actions should be viewed as part of the Trump administration’s sweeping anti-immigrant agenda.

    • “Prison Reform” Is Not Enough. In 2019, Let’s Fight for Decarceration.

      Prison reform is now in vogue, but police power remains as brutal as ever. Policing in the US continues to include the power to cage as well as the power to kill — a reality that is spectacularly evident at the southern US border. By all accounts, 2019 promises to be another brutal year in the arena of prisons and policing.

      President Trump signed the First Step Act in late December, while threatening a government shutdown to secure funding for a border wall. The act makes it easier for some federal prisoners to seek early release, widens federal judicial discretion in some low-level sentencing issues and limits some mandatory minimum sentences in federal cases.

      It is a limited reform program, less because federal prisoners account for just over 10 percent of the prison system and more because the crafters of the bill had such limited ambitions. The Koch-backed act defines reform through expanded “e-carceration,” the use of surveillance technologies like ankle monitors that turn people’s homes into their prisons.

      This move follows similar efforts at the state level. In eliminating cash bail, for instance, California implemented similar digital surveillance and algorithmic “risk assessment.” The move led many activists who had campaigned against cash bail to withdraw their support for the bill before it passed.

    • Dr. Cornel West on the Global Shift Right

      From Trump in the U.S. to Bolsonaro in Brazil, ordinary people in large democracies are discontented and shifting right, what can progressives do about it? Cornel West in conversation with Sharmini Peries

    • DIY Democracy

      What do the workaday majority of Americans want their lawmakers working on? Check any legitimate poll — or just listen to most any barstool conversation down at the Bottoms Up pub — and you’ll hear them saying clearly and consistently that they want such basics as middle-class jobs, health care for all, a fixed-up infrastructure, a government uncorrupted by corporate cash, a little less greed… and, you know, the Common Good. And what have they been getting from their national and (most) state governments? Tax giveaways for the superrich, a relentless shredding of the social safety net, union busting, privatization, a 2,000-mile border wall, racial and gender repression, dark-money politics, paranoia and xenophobia, voter suppression and… well, the building blocks of an American plutocracy. In short, our elected “representatives” have been bluntly ignoring what we want and routinely delivering precisely what we don’t want.

      How can we get lawmakers to reverse that perverse agenda and produce public policies that serve the people? Not by pleading with entrenched incumbents. That’s as hopeless as trying to teach table manners to a hog: It annoys the hog and wastes your time. The tried-and-true way of “influencing” them is to target, expose, challenge, and un-elect the bastards. That’s not easy, and it takes several election cycles, but it has been done periodically throughout our history by organizing and mobilizing big grassroots movements, including in the New Deal years, the 1950s and 60s civil rights struggle, and the anti-war movement of the 1970s.

    • Brazil’s Bolsonaro Targets Minorities on 1st Day in Office

      Newly installed President Jair Bolsonaro targeted Brazil’s indigenous groups, descendants of slaves and the LGBT community with executive orders in the first hours of his administration, moving quickly after a campaign in which the far-right leader said he would radically overhaul many aspects of life in Latin America’s largest nation.

      Sao Paulo’s stock market, meanwhile, jumped 3.56 percent to a record closing of 91,012 points as new Cabinet ministers reinforced the intent to privatize state-owned companies and a Brazilian arms maker benefited from Bolsonaro’s plans to loosen gun controls. Similar spikes in stock prices also occurred during the presidential campaign.

    • As the 115th Congress Ends, Here Are the Important Civil Rights Battles We’ve Won
    • Gov’t Used An Ambiguously-Worded Tweet As The Basis For The Raid Of NSA Contractor’s House

      The prosecution of former NSA contractor Hal Martin continues. Martin somehow managed to exfiltrate sensitive documents and code for nearly 20 years without the NSA noticing. It finally started paying attention after its hacking tools and exploits made their way into the hands of the public via the “Shadow Brokers.” These tools then made their way into the computers of the public, wreaking worldwide havoc and giving the leaky agency — whose literal middle name is “Security” — another PR black eye.

      Hal Martin was suspected of handing over tools to the Shadow Brokers but the charges against him are solely related to the mishandling of classified info, indicating the feds no longer believe Martin was involved. But this original suspicion was apparently enough to justify the FBI raid of Martin’s residence, according to the federal judge handling his case. The probable cause appears to have been generated by a tweet from Martin’s Twitter account, at least according to what can be gleaned from the redacted order [PDF] handed down by Judge Richard Bennett. Josh Gerstein of Politico has the details.

    • ‘The US Has Been at the Root of the Undemocratic History of the Congo’

      The Times leads with how Kabila—who has overseen a period of wide-scale violence, hunger and disease in Congo—likes his fish. Likewise rose-tinted write-ups at other outlets invited to the party—the Times and the Washington Post even end their pieces with an identical quote, about his favorite movie—underscored that the desire to hang on to power, that denoted dangerous demagoguery when associated with say, Hugo Chavez, is viewed as a kind of ernest affectation in Kabila.

      And since corporate media coverage of all African nations combined doesn’t amount to more than that given a Trump tweet on a good day, that drive-by image may be all many Americans have to go on.

      What should we know about upcoming elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the historic and ongoing role of the United States? We’re joined now by Maurice Carney, co-founder and executive director of the group Friends of the Congo. He joins us by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Maurice Carney.

    • Western Nations Seek African Resources but not Migrants

      “Unchecked exploitation” of Africa’s natural resources by corporations from outside countries has “forced desperate choices” on the citizens of African nations, Yasin Kakande reported for Truthout. In particular, Kakande described the challenges that confront African migrants to nations that benefit from the extraction of natural resources from Africa. These migrants, Kakande wrote, are often seen as “nuisances” by white citizens in Western nations, or as “burdens” that “threaten” the nation’s economic wellbeing.

      Africa is simultaneously one of the world’s wealthiest, yet poorest continents. As Tom Burgis wrote in The Looting Machine (2015), “a third of the planet’s deposits are in Africa—including 40 percent of the world’s gold and 80 percent of its platinum.” As Kande reported, the continent’s natural and mineral resources are “targets of predatory wealth where no costs are incurred for unfettered exploitation.” Western exploitation of African resources occurs at “the expense of their own citizens” who need and would benefit the most from the resources of their homelands. According to an analysis by Global Justice Now and the Jubilee Debt Campaign, as reported by the Guardian in May 2017, more streams of wealth-building revenue leave Africa every year going to former colonialist countries than revenue streams coming into the continent.

      In September 2017, President Donald Trump congratulated a group of African leaders at the United Nations General Assembly on their continent’s “tremendous business potential.” But in January 2018, he included African nations among the “shithole countries” whose immigrants

    • Latina Mothers and Infants Affected by Immigration Raids

      Pregnant Latinas who experience the stress of immigration raids and deportation are more likely to have pre-mature births than other women. There is a correlation between immigration raids and low birthweight among newborns of Latina mothers. As Carolina Moreno reported in the Huffington Post, “As the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement tactics continue to escalate, researchers at Harvard University’s Chan School of Public Health have found that political rhetoric and policies that target specific immigrant groups may contribute to an increase in preterm births.”

      The research emphasized that being a minority who is targeted constantly can significantly increase stress hormones. For many immigrant mothers, discrimination, trauma, and financial insecurity are daily stressors. In turn, a mother’s stress can affect a fetus by triggering premature birth, leading to growth restriction and low birthweight even for babies born at full term. It is well documented that preterm and low birthweight babies are more likely to have illnesses like cardiovascular disease and suffer from complications as they grow older.

    • Historic Moment for Equality in India as Millions Link Arms to Form 400-Mile “Women’s Wall”

      A day after millions of women stood together in the Indian state to form a nearly 400-mile-long human chain to call for equality, two women made history—and sparked protests and a call for a state-wide shutdown—when they entered the Sabarimala temple in the state of Kerala in the early hours Wednesday.

      They were the first women to enter the holy Hindu site since a ban on women of menstrual age was lifted just over three months ago, as protests have blocked others from entering previously.

      The women were identified as 42-year-old Kanaka Durga and 44-year-old Bindu Ammini, who told India Today TV that the two represented “the society fighting for gender justice.” Durga added, “We are not scared at all. We followed our legal right as women. We are 100 percent sure that we didn’t hurt people.”

    • UN Blames Facebook, WhatsApp For Enabling Human Trafficking; Charities Call BS

      According to Europol’s Migrant Smuggling Center, 90% of migrants arriving in the EU were brought there by human traffickers belonging to a criminal organization – while the IOM pegs human trafficking as the third largest business for international criminals.

      While the IOM says they have been in discussions with social media providers about the smuggling of people, Doyle has his doubts.

    • Social Media and the Ubiquity of Sharia Law

      Letters like this have been in the mail. Virtual for now. But it may only be a matter of time before the virtual turns real.

    • Fears of ‘Relapse’ as Sweden Releases ‘Muhammad Cartoons’ Terror Attack Plotters

      In 2010, the four Islamists living in Sweden and currently aged 37 to 52 planned to carry out a bloodbath at the headquarters of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which in 2005 published satirical drawings depicting Prophet Muhammad. According to the Danish Security Service (PET), the Islamists aimed to “kill as many as possible”. In connection with the arrests, carried out in collaboration between Danish and Swedish security police, weapons, ammunition and duct tape intended to bind people were found.

    • Indian Islamic Scholar Threatens to Smash Journalist’s Head, Triggers SM Outrage

      In a video which has gone viral, prominent Islamic scholar and politician from the state of Assam, Moulana Badruddin Ajmal, is seen abusing a journalist, and even threatens to “smash” his head.

    • PM Mahathir to overhaul Malaysia’s schools, saying too much focus on Islamic studies now

      “They are all learning about the religion of Islam and not learning anything else,” he said late on Friday (Dec 21) at a dinner event.

    • With Deadline Looming, Groups Urge Public to Speak Out Against DeVos’ Plan to Steamroll Rights for Sexual Assault Survivors

      The changes would hit the LGBTQ community and students of color particularly hard, as they face higher levels of sexual assault.

      “Under these new proposed rules, @michiganstateu would’ve had no responsibility to stop #LarryNassar from sexually abusing girls and young women, just because his victims told their coaches and athletic trainers instead of the #TitleIX coordinator,” Rewire.News noted in a tweet on Wednesday.

      Given the potential impacts, groups like Legal Voice are encouraging people to swiftly submit a formal comment by the January 28 midnight deadline.

      But don’t stop with just a comment, says the Network for Victim Recovery of DC. The legal and advocacy group says another way to stand against the administration’s proposal is “to advocate for #survivors’ rights on ur campus. Tell your school what YOU think about the proposed Title IX changes & ask them what their plan is!”

    • Audit Finds Austin, Texas, Improperly Cleared Rapes

      An independent audit by Texas officials found Austin’s Police Department improperly cleared nearly a third of sexual assault cases from 2017 that auditors recently examined, indicating the city’s true rate of solving rape cases is lower than what police officially reported to the public and government officials.

      The audit was requested by the Police Department following a joint investigation by Newsy, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica. The investigation revealed that Austin police and dozens of law enforcement agencies across the country are making it appear as though they have solved a significant share of their rape cases when they have simply closed them without making an arrest, using a process known as exceptional clearance.

      The project found that in 2016, Austin police reported that 51 percent of rape cases were cleared, but that suspects were arrested only 17 percent of the time. The rest were exceptionally cleared — a category that requires police know the identity and location of the suspect and have probable cause to make an arrest, but cannot because the suspect is dead, already in prison, if prosecutors decline to take a case or if the survivor is not ready to speak with authorities. The Austin Police Department has promoted its high clearance rate at City Council meetings as a sign of its effectiveness in fighting crime.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • ‘Ajit Pai Won’t Be Laughing Long,’ Say Internet Defenders, After FCC Chair Applauds Death of Net Neutrality

      “It’s an uphill battle, but we are winning the fight to restore net neutrality,” Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, declared in a statement. “The internet freedom movement is stronger than it’s ever been as we head into 2019. We’ll keep fighting in the states, in the courts, and in Congress. It’s only a matter of time before net neutrality is the law of the land again.”

      While open internet advocates failed in their ultimate goal of fully repealing Pai’s attack on net neutrality—which the Republican-controlled FCC rammed through in December of 2017 despite opposition from the vast majority of Americans—Greer noted that the fight to pass the net neutrality Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution “shined a giant spotlight on corruption in Congress.”

      “Every single lawmaker who voted against the CRA in the Senate or failed to sign on to the discharge petition in the House has exposed themselves as industry puppets. They put the interests of telecom giants like Comcast and AT&T over the basic rights of their constituents,” Greer said.

    • FCC says ‘most’ operations will be suspended Thursday if partial government shutdown continues
    • Net’s founding father Dr Larry Roberts dies aged 81

      American scientist Larry Roberts who helped design and build the forerunner of the internet has died aged 81.
      In the late 1960s, he ran the part of the US Advanced Research Projects Agency (Arpa) given the job of creating a computer network called Arpanet.

      He also recruited engineers to build and test the hardware and software required to get the system running.

    • AT&T Attempts A Head Fake With ‘Fake 5G’

      We’ve already gone over how fifth-generation “5G” wireless, while a notable improvement in network speed and performance, has been obnoxiously over-hyped by hardware vendors and cellular carriers. We’ve also noted that in reality, broad availability of 5G-capable handsets and networks are still quite a few years away, and when products do arrive, they won’t, contrary to some claims, magically fix the myriad of problems deeply woven into the U.S. broadband industry, most of which have to do with lobbyist political power and the monopoly domination of cellular tower backhaul.

      AT&T’s been among the biggest hype generators for 5G, even though its early offerings on this front, while fast, tend to suffer from high prices and low usage caps (did you expect something else?). In addition to over-hyping 5G’s impact, AT&T has been busy both distorting what 5G actually is… and dramatically over-stating actual availability. For example, last year AT&T introduced what it called “5G Evolution” wireless connectivity, which wasn’t actually 5G, but a collection of tech (specifically 4×4 MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) antenna and 256 QAM technologies) that simply made existing LTE networks somewhat faster.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • China inaugurates national appeal court for IPR cases

      China’s Supreme People’s Court (SPC) on Tuesday inaugurated a national appeal court for intellectual property right (IPR) cases.

      According to a recently issued SPC regulation, the court will handle appeals of both civil and administrative IPR cases, which require more expertise.

    • What is the Role of the Objective Indicia of Nonobviousness

      In its decision, the Federal Circuit sided with the accused infringer Nash — affirming that the asserted claims are invalid as obvious. In particular, the Federal Circuit agreed with the lower court ruling that Zup had simply combined well-known elements (handles & foot bindings, e.g.) to solve a longstanding watersport goal. Zup presented evidence of secondary considerations of both long-felt but unresolved need and copying.

    • India: Delhi High Court rules on role of intermediaries

      Online marketplaces established by e-commerce portals claiming to be intermediaries have come under scrutiny from the Delhi High Court. The portals currently enjoy immunity under safe harbour provisions laid out in the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000. This was examined by a single judge of the Delhi High Court in a series of cases brought by Christian Louboutin SAS, Luxottica Group SPA, Skullcandy Inc and L’Oreal. The Court looked at the practices followed by e-commerce portals in selecting and enrolling sellers on their platform. Further, it examined if such practices made them an active participant or an intermediary. The brand owners in each of the cases listed below questioned the role played by the e-commerce operator in the sale of counterfeit goods on its platform.

    • New China IP appeals court opens

      A new IP appeal court in China that was set up to handle highly technical cases has begun operating.

      Based in Beijing, the court opened for business yesterday, January 1, two months after plans to launch it were revealed.

      The court, which falls under the remit of the Supreme People’s Court (SPC), is called the SPC IP Tribunal. It will oversee disputes on patents, plant varieties and computer software, among other areas, but not trademarks or trade secrets.

    • Final trial briefs filed in FTC v. Qualcomm: harm to consumers is key to Qualcomm’s defense

      The most remarkable aspect of the FTC’s trial brief is that, regardless of how significant this case is, it comes across as rather unremarkable: it explains the FTC’s allegations of uncompetitive conduct, and its effects, in plain terms and sports a simple syntax. Private-party trial briefs are often characterized by extensive, heavy rhetoric. The FTC’s brief actually uses an understatement where it says that one of the agency’s experts compared other wireless SEP license agreements in the industry to Qualcomm’s deals and found that “Qualcomm’s rates significantly exceed the range of potential FRAND royalties.” Given that Qualcomm allegedly charges more than about a handful of other major SEP holders combined, a private-party plaintiff would not have settled for “significantly,” but would normally have portrayed Qualcomm’s royalty demand as being a multiple of FRAND.

      In my previous post (the one on LG Electronics having joined the Korean antitrust action) I promised to keep an eye on MediaTek’s role. The FTC’s trial brief says “MediaTek [...] began supplying CDMA modem chips for use in handsets sold in China in 2015 and for use in handsets sold in the United States in 2016.” While Intel is presumably going to play a far bigger role in the weeks ahead, it will be interesting to see what MediaTek told the FTC.

      The FTC’s brief is self-explanatory, but now that this case goes to trial, the FTC has to prove its allegations–and under the rule of reason it will have to counter any Qualcomm theory according to which its criticized conduct was actually justified by ultimate consumer benefits. That’s why Qualcomm’s trial brief denies each of the FTC’s accusations and additionally seeks to pave the way for a finding of evidentiary failure.

      There’s more rhetoric in Qualcomm’s brief than the FTC’s, but within reason. Presumably both filings will help Judge Lucy H. Koh to focus on the outcome-determinative issues, and Qualcomm’s defenses are also very fact-centric, just that they have a major credibility problem: over the years, practically every major industry player (even including those whose testimony and amicus briefs Qualcomm relies on now) complained over Qualcomm’s conduct. It’s been almost 13 years since I first heard about this from the BlackBerry (then named Research in Motion) people. And now there have been findings and holdings by competition authorities in multipe major jurisdictions on three continents. It’s practically impossible to believe that there should be absolutely nothing substantive there. But regulatory and industry consensus, while important to those of us who are watching this case, is not the legal standard. The FTC, whose legal theories Qualcomm characterized as deficient but Judge Koh declined to throw out last year, will now have to present stronger evidence than whatever Qualcomm can defend itself with.

    • Erin McGuire: Can Equity Crowdfunding Close the Gender Gap in Startup Finance? [Ed: The same old stuff the military does. Patent extremists try to double the number of patents (monopolies) in the name of “diversity”, making more litigation/feuds… because “harmony”?]

      As I have previously explained, there is growing interest in gender and racial gaps in patenting from both scholars and Congress—which charged the USPTO with studying these gaps. But I don’t think it makes sense to study these inequalities in isolation: patent law is embedded in a larger innovation ecosystem, and patents’ benefit at providing a strong ex post reward for success comes at the cost of needing to attract funding to cover R&D expenses until patent profits become available. It may be difficult to address the patenting gap without also addressing inequalities in capital markets.

      In particular, there is a large and well-documented gender gap in the market for early-stage capital. For example, this Harvard Business Review article notes that women receive 2% of venture funding despite owning 38% of U.S. businesses, and that even as the percentage of female venture capitalists has crept up from 3% in 2014 to 7% in 2017, the funding gap only widened. Part of the explanation—explored in the fascinating study summarized in the HRB piece—may be that both male and female VCs ask different kinds of questions to male and female entrepreneurs: in actual Q&A sessions, VCs tended to ask men questions about the potential for gains and women about the potential for loses, with significant impacts on funding decisions.

    • SPCs cannot be revoked on the grounds of a wrongfully granted reestablishment of rights, confirms Swiss Federal Supreme Court

      Regardless of whether someone intends to enforce their own supplementary protection certificate (SPC) or finds themself at the receiving end of an SPC infringement action, the question which grounds of invalidity justify the revocation of an SPC may become highly relevant.

      This question is all the more intriguing in light of the CJEU’s corresponding case law, which is often summarized with the catchphrase that the list of grounds of invalidity in Article 15(1) of the SPC Regulation is “not exhaustive”.

      Indeed, while Article 15(1)(a) of Regulation (EC) 469/2009 on SPCs for medicinal products (and, likewise, Article 15(1)(a) of Regulation (EC) 1610/96 on SPCs for plant protection products) provides that an SPC shall be invalid if “it was granted contrary to the provisions of Article 3”, the CJEU ruled in Hässle (C-127/00) and Synthon (C-195/09) that even if it is not possible to infer from the wording or the origin of Article 15(1) that the list of grounds of invalidity of an SPC set out therein is not exhaustive, the infringement of an Article of the SPC Regulation which is not referred to in Article 15(1), i.e. the infringement of a provision other than Article 3, can still render an SPC invalid “owing to the connection between the provision in question and Article 3 of the Regulation”. This same position was also taken by the EFTA Court in Pharmaq v. Intervet (E-16/14).

    • Trademarks

    • Copyrights

      • Mickey Mouse will be public domain soon—here’s what that means

        On January 1, 2024, we’ll see the expiration of the copyright for Steamboat Willie—and with it Disney’s claim to the film’s star, Mickey Mouse. The copyrights to Superman, Batman, Disney’s Snow White, and early Looney Tunes characters will all fall into the public domain between 2031 and 2035.

        The expiration of copyrights for characters like Mickey Mouse and Batman will raise tricky new legal questions. After 2024, Disney won’t have any copyright protection for Mickey’s original incarnation. But Disney will still own copyrights for later incarnations of the character—and it will also own Mickey-related trademarks.

      • EU’s First Attempt At Building A List Of Evil Pirate Sites… Lists Non-Infringing Sites

        In mid-January, the EU is hoping to finalize the EU Copyright Directive, including Article 13, which will effectively create mandatory copyright filters for many internet websites (while, laughably, insisting it creates no such burden — but leaving no other option for most sites). One of the key arguments being made by supporters of Article 13 is that it’s crazy to think that this law will be used to block legitimate content. This is pretty silly, considering how frequently we write about bogus DMCA takedowns. As if trying to prove just how bad they are at properly classifying infringing content, the EU recently released its “Counterfeit and Piracy Watch List”, which is a sort of EU version of the USTR’s “notorious markets” list. That list has been widely mocked for basically declaring any site that Hollywood doesn’t like “notorious”, even if no court has ever ruled that it’s breaking the law.

        It would appear that the EU list has the same sort of problem. For example among the sites listed in the EU report is Cloudflare, a platform used by tons of internet companies (including Techdirt) as a CDN or to protect against DoS attacks (among other things). Cloudflare is simply a tool — like a phone line — that tons of internet companies use. If some of them are doing things that are against the law, that should be on those sites, not Cloudflare. Unfortunately, the EU doesn’t seem to care.

      • Antipiracy Outfits Routinely Claim Copyright Infringement Against Sites That Simply Report When Torrents Are Released

        Whenever we hear new or renewed calls for more ways for antipiracy outfits and copyright holders to extrajudicially get content and/or sites taken down, there always seems to be one curious omission in the discussion: that antipiracy outfits generally suck at identifying actual infringing content. This is a strange omission, considering that creating ways for content to be taken down without a court’s oversight rests the entire reputation for this practice on reports of infringement being accurate. Those of us who have taken to screaming how ripe all of this is for abuse do so because of the collateral damage it causes. Claims to the contrary have to rely on reports generally being accurate.

        They aren’t. In fact, they aren’t even close. It’s not going too far to say that antipiracy groups of all entities should be well-suited in identifying piracy. And, yet, they quite often target innocent sites that simply post factual information that does not include pirated files, including sites that do factual reporting on torrent availability. One such site is SweTracker, which focuses on detailing Nordic torrent releases, when they become available, and to whom they are attributed.

      • Reporting When Pirate Releases Hit The Internet is Apparently Illegal Now

        A PreDb is an online database that advises users when a particular pirate file hits the Internet. The vast majority of these services are for information purposes only and contain no links to pirated content. However, anti-piracy companies apparently cannot tell the difference between these and pirate sites. We caught up with the operator of SweTracker, which specializes in Nordic releases, for an inside look.

      • Creators Of Dance Moves Suing Creators Of Fortnite Over Copyright Infringement That Can’t Possibly Have Happened

        Let’s do a bit of stage-setting for readers who aren’t aware of Fortnite, the multiplayer online battle arena that is generating millions of dollars for Epic Games. Fortnite is multicolored, vibrant playground of death wherein dozens of combatants fight to be the last man/woman standing. Also included are tools to build things (hence the “fort” half) — like walls — to surround yourself with to stave off the inevitable. (“Inevitable” meaning a 12-year-old halfway around the world celebrating your death with a purchased “emote.”)

        Fortnite is free-to-play. But it still makes millions of dollars. It does this by selling players cosmetic items. After exchanging real money for Fortnite funbux, players can purchase pickaxes, backpacks, and “emotes.” The last one on the list has translated into a flurry of litigation over the last month.

        Emotes are mostly dances. Being that there’s a limited number of instantly-recognizable dances available, Epic Games has been plucking new “emotes” from the vast pop culture wasteland. It then sells these animated sequences to players, making each celebration dance no more individually expressive than the millions of imitators spawned by the pop culture figures Epic is approximating.

      • Fair Use Continued to Bear the Weight of Protecting Speech and Innovation: 2018 in Review

        Fair use provides breathing space in copyright law, making sure that control of the right to copy and distribute doesn’t become control of the right to create and innovate. New technologies and services depend on the creation of multiple copies as a matter of course. At the same time, copyright terms cover works many decades old and copyrighted software appears in more and more devices. Taken together, these developments mean the potential reach of copyright may extend ever further. Fair use makes sure that the rights of the public expand at the same time.

        Unfortunately, the courts did not always let fair use play that role in 2018.

        On the plus side, the long-running litigation over the online publication of building codes and other standards that governments have adopted as binding law offered a prime example of fair use’s importance. As part of its mission of creating a comprehensive, fully accessible database of the law, Public Resource.org posts those binding standards on its website. Six industry groups, known as standards development organizations, accused PRO of copyright and trademark infringement for posting those standards online. In effect, they claimed the right to decide who can copy, share, and speak the law. In 2017, a federal district court ruled in favor of the standards organizations, and ordered PRO not to post the standards.

        In July 2018, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reversed that decision, ruling that the district court did not properly consider copyright’s fair use doctrine. It rejected the injunction and sent the case back to district court for further consideration of the fair use factors at play. “[I]n many cases,” wrote the court, “it may be fair use for PRO to reproduce part or all of a technical standard in order to inform the public about the law.”

      • Announcing The Public Domain Game Jam: Gaming Like It’s 1923

        Happy new year, everyone. Every year, soon after the new year, we post a somewhat disappointing post describing how, once again, no new works have gone into the public domain in the US, because various lobbying interests have continued to extend copyright over and over again, with the last such extension coming in 1998 (the last time old works automatically entered the public domain in the US), better known as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. It’s been 21 years of nothing, and that’s been quite sad. But this year is different. Thanks to public interest in copyright and people getting increasingly angry about our locked up culture, Hollywood didn’t even make a serious attempt to extend copyrights again (to be fair, they put out some feelers, and when they realized it would be a total disaster, they let it go).

      • Five ‘Piracy’ Predictions For 2019

        The new year is just a few hours old. A good time to make some predictions. There’s little doubt that there will be plenty controversy in 2019. The Pirate Bay will remain online, albeit predominantly on the dark web. The site-blocking push finally makes its way to the US, and Google will implement piracy alerts.

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