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01.04.19

Links 5/1/2019: Wine 4.0 RC5, Hyundai Joins the Linux Foundation

Posted in Site News at 8:56 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • The top 5 Linux and open-source stories of 2018

    Last year was among the best of times for Linux and open-source. It was also the worst of years. The top five Linux and open-source stories tell it all.

  • A 2018 retrospective

    We started with a vague prediction that there would be an increase in introspection as we think about what our projects and our industry should be trying to achieve in the world. On the industry side that has certainly happened; technology companies have lost their halo and find themselves under increasing levels of scrutiny, and some have had to change course as a result. Whether that process has extended to the free-software community is debatable, though. Some actions, such as the removal of the questionable Speck encryption algorithm from the kernel, show concern about the world we are creating, but there aren’t a huge number of examples to point to.

    The prediction that we would see more hardware vulnerabilities was published before the disclosure of Meltdown and Spectre, so we could perhaps claim a major success there. By January 2, though, when that article was published, it was obvious that something of that nature was about to surface, so the amount of credit that is due is limited. Whether the level of interest in open hardware has increased as a result is not really clear. The RISC-V architecture has indeed seen such an increase, but that may be more a result of commercial forces than security concerns, and whether RISC-V processors will truly be more secure has yet to be proven.

    Concerns about a major security incident at a cloud provider were not realized — so far as we know. Even the various rounds of hardware vulnerabilities appear to have been handled well enough. Serious security breaches continued to surface elsewhere, of course, to nobody’s surprise.

    Work on alternative container runtimes continued as predicted, as did blockchain hype; no surprises there. The collapse in the prices of many cryptocurrencies and the lack of other convincing blockchain applications suggests that some of the shine has come off of some blockchain-based technologies, though.

    The prediction that vendors would move closer to mainline kernels was a bit controversial at the time, but things do indeed seem to be moving in that direction. The Android project, in particular, is working hard to make that happen. We are still some distance from being able to run mainline kernels on our mobile devices, but there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon.

    Did alternative kernels like Fuchsia gain prominence this year? That may or may not have happened, but those projects have certainly not gone away. It is still true that Linux developers take our domination of small, embedded systems for granted; they can be heard saying that no vendor will want to bother qualifying another kernel for its hardware. Perhaps that is true, but perhaps that is the pride that goes before the fall in that piece of the market.

    Wayland support did grow as predicted, but “the long reign of the X Window System” seems far from an end. It probably is true that Python 3 adoption has reached a turning point; those who are still running Python 2 applications are generally thinking seriously about moving forward.

  • Vigilance

    It is getting harder to write this column. I used to have a ready supply of topics, with all the outrageous things that were happening to Linux: Microsoft’s disinformation, SCO’s lawsuit, patent licenses, the Novell/Microsoft pact – big things that threatened the very existence of the Linux community.

    Dear Reader,

    It is getting harder to write this column. I used to have a ready supply of topics, with all the outrageous things that were happening to Linux: Microsoft’s disinformation, SCO’s lawsuit, patent licenses, the Novell/Microsoft pact – big things that threatened the very existence of the Linux community.

    I was trying to think up a new topic today, and it occurred to me that there used to be way more in the news on an average day that could rile up a Linux guy. That’s the good news, because Linux is in a safer place and is no longer faced with the threat of imminent destruction. Microsoft is playing nice (sort of); SCO has collapsed under the weight of its own imagination deficit. But are we really walking on easy street now? Surely some other threats must be out there? Are there still factors that are threatening the livelihood of the Linux community, and if so, what are they?

  • Desktop

    • Asus Enters the Small but Growing Chrome OS Tablet Market

      Full tablets powered by Google’s Chrome OS are thin on the ground, but with the Pixel Slate now making its way to users’ hands, it’s growing faster. Asus, frequent Chromebook manufacturer, is introducing its first model at CES.

      The Chromebook Tablet CT100—which, yes, is a tablet and not a “book” of any note-like description, and lacks a keyboard—shares a lot of similarities with the first Chrome OS tablet from Acer. Its 9.7-inch, 2048×1536 screen runs on top of a Rockchip ARM-based processor with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of flash storage, making its hardware closer to an entry-level iPad than a Pixel competitor. Expansion comes from a MicroSD card slot and a USB-C port.

      Asus claims that it’s designed the CT100 with “young kids” in mind, and to that end has coated the body with rubber that can stand a drop from a meter. 2MP and 5MP cameras on the front and rear are nothing to write home about, but the included stylus slides into its own bay in the tablet, something that’s not always a given in today’s market.

    • 7 Things Desktop Linux Needs in 2019

      The new year is upon us, which means yet another year has gone by in which Linux has not found itself dominating the desktop. Linux does many things very well, and in the coming weeks, we’ll be looking at the some of the very best distributions to suit your various needs, but for now, let’s take a step back and revisit this old issue.

      For some, the idea of Linux dominance on the desktop has fallen to the wayside; instead, users simply want what works. The Linux operating system, however, does “just work.” And when you stop to realize that the typical user spends the vast majority of their time working (or playing) within a browser, it stands to reason that Linux (with its heightened security and reliability) is primed to become the dominant platform on the desktop market.

    • Linux Apps on Chromebooks Getting Display Scaling for High-Res Devices

      In retrospect, the entire project bringing Linux apps to Chrome OS has been a relatively smooth, fast, and painless process for end users. Unlike the years-long Play Store transition (which is still playing out in quite a few ways even a few years later), bringing Linux apps to Chromebooks has been a process that has evolved quite rapidly.

    • Insiders! The good news: Windows 10 Sandbox is here for testing. Bad news: Microsoft has already broken it

      No, Windows Insiders, that isn’t your New Year’s hangover kicking in. After unveiling Windows Sandbox to much fanfare, Microsoft promptly broke it with a cheeky cumulative update.

      We noted the imminent arrival of Windows Sandbox just before Christmas. Microsoft dropped a fresh fast ring build in the form of 18305 shortly after, which let its army of unpaid testers have at the new toy.

      Sandbox itself allows apps to run in splendid isolation and works well, albeit with some limitations. It’s a breeze to set up (for Pro and Enterprise users at least), not requiring fiddling with Hyper-V and VHDs to get working. The thing is both impressively lightweight and able to tidy up after itself. Nothing persists after closure.

      But even though it is a step in the right direction, it is a bit clunky – it is, after all, a desktop within a desktop at the moment.

    • A Good Walled Garden | User Error 56

      Android vs iOS, turning users into contributors, and good vs bad in the world.

  • Server

    • Red Hat’s David Egts: Open-Source Training, ‘Sense of Mission’ Could Help Agencies Address Cyber Skills Gap

      David Egts, chief technologist for Red Hat’s North American public sector, has said there are several options the federal government can consider to build up its workforce’s cybersecurity and information technology skills and one of those is to explore open-source training.

      “The proliferation of open source software has changed the training landscape dramatically,” Egts wrote in a Nextgov piece published Wednesday.

    • Red Hat to Keynote PBExpo 2019 with Insights on Open Source Technology Used in Aviation and Aerospace
    • Suse, Red Hat, IBM, SAP: It’s Linux Versus Linux Now

      Undoubtedly, the answer can only be Suse. The European company has been with SAP since the beginning. Red Hat has been sleeping on the SAP enterprise business for a long time, but it is catching up now. In the course of an internal meeting in North America, Red Hat managers have emphasized their wish to work more closely with SAP. If this wish was influenced by IBM could not be verified.

      Consequently, this creates a complex situation and entanglement of relationships. On the one hand, IBM does not like SAP all that much, because the leading ERP provider forces the IBM enterprise data base DB2 out of the SAP community with its Hana data base. On the other hand, IBM has been very successfully selling its Power servers for Hana. However, these servers run on Suse Linux, which is the better Linux variant at the moment.

      Now, IBM has decided to acquire Red Hat, meaning that SAP customers can expect interesting package deals consisting of Power and Red Hat. Worldwide, SAP customers will have to opt for Hana and simultaneously for the tried and tested IBM server Power – but now with Red Hat Linux.

    • Handling the Kubernetes symbolic link vulnerability

      A year-old bug in Kubernetes was the topic of a talk given by Michelle Au and Jan Šafránek at KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America, which was held mid-December in Seattle. In the talk, they looked at the details of the bug and the response from the Kubernetes product security team (PST). While the bug was fairly straightforward, it was surprisingly hard to fix. The whole process also provided experience that will help improve vulnerability handling in the future.

      The Kubernetes project first became aware of the problem from a GitHub issue that was created on November 30, 2017. It gave full detail of the bug and was posted publicly. That is not the proper channel for reporting Kubernetes security bugs, Au stressed. Luckily, a security team member saw the bug report and cleared out all of the details, moving it to a private issue tracker. There is a documented disclosure process for the project that anyone finding a security problem should follow, she said.

    • Kubernetes Guideposts for 2019

      Having been open sourced in 2014 and used in production by enterprise teams today, Kubernetes is now better understood. We are entering the third era of Kubernetes, meaning users will be looking at ways to bring in more automation around operations. Operation teams will be looking for the qualities typically associated with hosted services, such as automated updates, automated back-ups, auto-scaling and self-tuning, to be available on any environment, whether on a cloud provider’s infrastructure, or on their own premises.

      In 2019, more and more, the automation of these operations will manifest themselves as Operators: Operators take human operational knowledge of a given application or service and encode it into software. They help to codify operational processes into Kubernetes-native infrastructure and services running on top of it, providing a more efficient way of managing Kubernetes-native applications at scale. What’s more, this codification will be implemented by subject matter experts with deep hands-on experience operating these infrastructures and services themselves.

    • Leveraging OpenShift or Kubernetes for automated performance tests (part 2)

      This is the second of a series of three blogs based on a session I hold at EMEA Red Hat Tech Exchange. In the first article, I presented the rationale and approach for leveraging Red Hat OpenShift or Kubernetes for automated performance testing, and I gave an overview of the setup.

      In this article, we will look at building an observability stack that, beyond the support it provides in production, can be leveraged during performance tests. This will provide insight into how the application performs under load.

      An example of what is described in this article is available in my GitHub repository.

    • Getting started with predictive analytics in DevOps

      Data—it’s the new currency. Many years ago, we measured the volume of data we processed in gigabytes; then we quickly moved to terabytes. Due to the influence of the smartphone and mobile devices, our volume of data is rapidly increasing to petabytes.

      In addition to managing the size of our data, we need to process various kinds of data and begin to understand what data can tell us. One opportunity in DevOps is to analyze this large amount of machine data. More importantly, machine data, such as logs and metrics of multiple infrastructure-monitoring tools, can continue operating the current IT system throughout the hybrid cloud. Another opportunity is to use this machine data to quickly respond to problems and identify when human involvement may be needed.

    • Red Hat ups ante for OpenJDK on Microsoft Windows

      Red Hat has, of course, been busy becoming the new IBM version of Red Hat since the firm’s recent acquisition.

      That corporate reality hasn’t stopped the open source platform company still pressing ahead with its wider approach to platforms and tools.

      As we closed up last year, the firm announced the availability of long-term commercial support for OpenJDK on Microsoft Windows.

      As many readers will know, OpenJDK is OpenJDK is a free and open-source implementation of the Java Platform Standard Edition (SE) and it dates back to early beginnings under Sun Microsystems in 2006.

    • What’s New in Red Hat Application Migration Toolkit 4.2 including OracleJDK to OpenJDK Migration

      Application migration and modernization can be a daunting task. The release of Red Hat Application Migration Toolkit 4.2.0 has made this process easier with a number of new capabilities. This release continues the mission of helping you understand the scope, dependencies, complexity and risks that may be associated with your software migration project.

    • Devops predictions for 2019

      Devops thinking is arguably mainstream today, and there were plenty of developments afoot in 2018 that suggest 2019 will be an intriguing year to follow the space.

      Loosely defined, devops is the combination of developer and operations teams through an organisational culture change, assisted by automation tooling with the goal of releasing software as quickly as possible.

      Naturally this makes it an enticing proposition to enterprises, especially those who may be at the start of their “digital transformation”, even though they may currently be working a devops project at the micro level and aren’t yet fully scaled out. There is also some allure in “streamlining” (or “downsizing”) existing team numbers here too.

      As the executive director of the Cloud Foundry Foundation Abby Kearns notes, acquisitions in the open source space such as IBM-Red Hat and VMware-Heptio suggest further consolidation of the cloud-native market.

    • Confused Deputies Strike Back

      A few weeks back Kubernetes had its first really severe security issue, CVE-2018-1002105. For some background on this, and how it was discovered, I recommend Darren Shepherd’s blog post, he discovered it via some side effects and initially it did not appear to be a security issue just an error handling issue. Of course we know well that many error handling issues can be escalated, but why was this one so bad?

    • Kata Containers – A form of art

      November was a productive month for us. As you’ve already glimpsed in the KDE snaps article, we hosted a Snapcraft Summit in our London offices, during which we worked with engineers from major companies on building snaps. Hailing from Intel, Julio Montes joined us to improve the Kata Containers snap, to make it easier for community members to participate and contribute to the project. Kata Containers is a new open source project building extremely lightweight virtual machines that seamlessly plug into the containers ecosystem. So what have we done?

    • Monitoring application performance with Performance Co-Pilot

      In this article, we will build up on top of the basic setup from the previous article. One additional detail if you are using the pcp-zeroconf package in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.6: pmlogger will be configured in /etc/sysconfig/pmlogger to log metrics in 10sec steps. The default setting uf 60sec provides less granularity, but also stores less data.

    • [Older] Red Hat Open Innovation Labs Hosts First Japan Residency With Fukuoka Financial Group

      Red Hat, Inc. (NYSE: RHT), the world’s leading provider of open source solutions, today announced that Fukuoka Financial Group, Inc. (“FFG”), a banking and financial services company based in Japan, has completed a residency with Red Hat Open Innovation Labs, the first residency completed in Japan. During the residency, the teams worked to improve corporate competitiveness and advance the company’s digital transformation efforts.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

    • Episode 11: Moving the Chairs

      Katherine Druckman and Doc Searls talk to Petros Koutoupis about his Deep Dive articles, storage, blockchain, and moving chairs.

    • Back to our /roots | TechSNAP 393

      In a special new year’s episode we take a moment to reflect on the show’s past, its future, and say goodbye to an old friend.

  • Kernel Space

    • Unit Testing in the Linux Kernel

      Brendan Higgins recently proposed adding unit tests to the Linux kernel, supplementing other development infrastructure such as perf, autotest and kselftest. The whole issue of testing is very dear to kernel developers’ hearts, because Linux sits at the core of the system and often has a very strong stability/security requirement. Hosts of automated tests regularly churn through kernel source code, reporting any oddities to the mailing list.

      Unit tests, Brendan said, specialize in testing standalone code snippets. It was not necessary to run a whole kernel, or even to compile the kernel source tree, in order to perform unit tests. The code to be tested could be completely extracted from the tree and tested independently. Among other benefits, this meant that dozens of unit tests could be performed in less than a second, he explained.

    • C-SKY CPU Architecture Port Updated For Linux 4.21

      Back during the Linux 4.20 kernel cycle, support for the C-SKY CPU architecture was introduced while now for Linux 4.21 it has seen its first round of improvements.

      C-SKY is a 32-bit CPU architecture out of China intended for embedded devices from DVRs to printers to media boxes and other low-power consumer electronics. C-SKY Microsystems has joined the RISC-V Foundation, but this architecture added to Linux 4.21 is not RISC-V based but their own home-grown design with support for 16/32-bit variable length instructions, 70+ core instructions, and is a two-stage pipeline processor.

    • Linux in mixed-criticality systems

      The Linux kernel is generally seen as a poor fit for safety-critical systems; it was never designed to provide realtime response guarantees or to be certifiable for such uses. But the systems that can be used in such settings lack the features needed to support complex applications. This problem is often solved by deploying a mix of computers running different operating systems. But what if you want to support a mixture of tasks, some safety-critical and some not, on the same system? At a talk given at LinuxLab 2018, Claudio Scordino described an effort to support this type of mixed-criticality system.

      For the moment, this work is focused on automotive systems, which have a bunch of non-critical tasks (user interaction and displaying multimedia, for example) and critical tasks (such as autonomous driving and engine control). These tasks can be (and often are) handled with independent computers running different operating systems, but there is a lot of interest in combining these computers into one. The result, should this effort be successful, would be a system that is both cheaper and more flexible.

    • Linux Technology for the New Year: eBPF

      In the year to come, we will start to see a change in the Linux kernel architecture, as a new component, eBPF, starts taking over more monitoring, security and networking duties from individual kernel modules.

      eBPF is “Linux’s newest superpower,” said SAP Labs’ developer Gaurav Gupta, during a talk that he gave about using the technology for low-overhead tracing at KubeCon in Copenhagen earlier this year.

      A virtual machine for the Linux kernel, eBPF could set the stage for advanced, low-overhead tracing inside the kernel itself, offering insight into I/O and file system latency, CPU usage by process, stack tracing and other metrics useful for debugging. It could also play a role in system security, potentially offering a way to thwart DDOS attacks, to monitor for intrusion detection, and even replace IPtables. It also offers a cleaner alternative to installing drivers.

    • Raspberry Pi gets official touchscreen support via Linux 4.21

      The official Raspberry Pi touchscreen will be supported in the mainline Linux kernel, as this Wednesday pull request by Google engineer Dmitry Torokhov provides support for the 7-inch, 800 x 480 display. The touchscreen has existed for several years, though prior to now, support was provided either by customized kernels for distributions like Raspbian-which specifically targets the Raspberry Pi-or by custom kernel patching.

      Though external displays typically do not require custom drivers, the Raspberry Pi touchscreen connects via the DSI port, rather than HDMI, with power provided via GPIO pins.

    • 5 Bad Reasons to Update Your Linux Kernel

      A Linux kernel update is not to be taken lightly—change means risk. Whatever reasons you think you might have, there is really only one that matters. Igor Seletskiy, CEO of CloudLinux, tells you what it is in this blog post.A Linux kernel update is not to be taken lightly—change means risk. Whatever reasons you think you might have, there is really only one that matters. Igor Seletskiy, CEO of CloudLinux, tells you what it is in this blog post.

    • Linus Torvalds and Greg Kroah-Hartman discuss the state of Linux

      Linux creator Linus Torvalds describes some recent challenges and opportunities for the Linux kernel – and stable branch maintainer Greg Kroah-Hartman joins in with thoughts on diversity and competition.

      In what’s becoming an annual event, I sat down with Linus Torvalds at the Open Source Summit, Vancouver (Canada) to talk about the state of Linux. We chatted for over an hour and Greg Kroah-Hartman (maintainer of the stable branch of the Linux Kernel) also joined us. We talked about a wide range of topics, including the sustainability of Linux, threats to Linux (both from inside and outside), the state of security in the kernel world, the success of Linux on the desktop, his outbursts on the Linux kernel mailing list, privacy, diversity, and much more.

      Following is an edited version of my interview with Linus, along with a special appearance from Greg Kroah-Hartman.

    • Linux Kernel Support Revived For Hibernation Encryption & Authentication

      The kernel work has been revived for supporting encryption and authentication of hibernation snapshot images for better security.

      Last summer an Intel developer posted patches supporting in-kernel hibernation encryption so that the memory pages dumped to disk during the hibernate process could be secured and verified on resume. We hadn’t seen anything from that patch series in the months since until SUSE’s Lee Chun-Yi has sent out a revised version of this work for encryption/authentication of hibernation images.

      The goal of this work remains to ensure that any snapshot images were not modified while on disk. The authentication can be done using a TPM’s trusted key or a user-defined key.

    • FBDEV Is Still Alive In 2019, Picking Up A Few Minor Improvements In Linux 4.21
    • Linux Foundation

      • It’s a Linux-powered car world

        Linux is everywhere including your car. While some companies, like Tesla, run their own homebrew Linux distros, most rely on Automotive Grade Linux (AGL). AGL is a collaborative cross-industry effort developing an open platform for connected cars with over 140 members.

        This Linux Foundation-based organization is a who’s who of Linux-friendly car manufacturers. Its membership includes Audi, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Mercedes, Suzuki, and the world’s biggest automobile company: Toyota.

        Why? “Automakers are becoming software companies, and just like in the tech industry, they are realizing that open source is the way forward,” said Dan Cauchy, AGL’s executive director, in a statement. Car companies know that while horsepower sells, customers also want smart infotainment systems, automated safe drive features, and, eventually, self-driving cars. Linux and open-source company can give them all of that.

      • Hyundai Advances Connected Car Technologies and Open Source Collaboration by Joining Automotive Grade Linux and the Linux Foundation

        Automotive Grade Linux, a collaborative cross-industry effort developing an open platform for the connected car, has announced that Hyundai has joined Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) and the Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization enabling mass innovation through open source.

        “Hyundai has been active in open source for years, and their experience will benefit the entire AGL community,” said Dan Cauchy, Executive Director of Automotive Grade Linux at the Linux Foundation. “This is a significant milestone for us, as the rapid growth of AGL proves that automakers are realizing the business value that open source and shared software development can provide. We look forward to working with Hyundai as we continue on our path to develop open source solutions for all in-vehicle technology.”

        AGL is an open source project at the Linux Foundation that is changing the way automotive manufacturers build software. More than 140 members are working together to develop a common platform that can serve as the de facto industry standard. Adopting an open platform across the industry enables automakers and suppliers to share and reuse the same code base, which reduces development costs, decreases time-to-market for new products and reduces fragmentation across the industry.

      • Hyundai Joins the Linux Foundation To Embrace AGL’s Open Source Connected Car Tech

        According to a case study published by AGL, a connected car uses some 100 million lines of code, which is about 11 times more than the number that went into the F-35 fighter jet. Getting on AGL’s bandwagon would also help Hyundai speed up development of its in-car technologies.

      • Hyundai joins the Linux Foundation to embrace AGL’s open source connected car technologies

        Hyundai has become the latest car company to explore serious open source alternatives for developing its in-car services. Ahead of CES 2019, the South Korean automotive giant today announced that it has joined the Linux Foundation and the nonprofit’s seven-year-old Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) effort as it looks to contribute to — and reap benefit from — software developed by over 140 companies.

        The announcement underscores the growing popularity of AGL, which has attracted dozens of car manufacturers and other companies in recent years. Members of AGL, which include Toyota, Ford, Honda, Suzuki, Intel, Nvidia, ARM, and LG, work in tandem to develop open source software for infotainment, telematics, and instrument cluster applications.

      • The Linux Foundation in 2019: Can’t-Miss Educational Programs, Events, and Training Opportunities Offer Something for Everyone

        There’s a pervasive myth surrounding open-source software, and squashing it will unlock incredible opportunity, said Clyde Seepersad, General Manager, Training & Certification at the Linux Foundation.

        “We have to let go of this strange, almost macho, idea that you’re a weakling in open-source if you have to be trained on it — that you’re supposed to figure it out yourself,” he said. “Open-source software is just like any other software: You learn it best if you’re actually taught it. If we expect our employees to magically figure it out on nights and weekends, we’re fooling ourselves.”

    • Graphics Stack

      • Is It Worth Releasing X.Org Server Updates For Old Branches To Help Vintage Hardware?

        Is there enough interest in seeing new point releases for older X.Org Server release branches to ship fixes almost exclusively aimed at improving decades old graphics/display hardware? We’ll see, but at least one person wants to work on such releases.

        Kevin Brace got involved with the open-source graphics driver scene by being the lone one left/interested in working on OpenChrome for VIA x86 graphics hardware. He’s learned along the way and managed to provide various fixes to the DDX and has also been working on the OpenChrome DRM/KMS driver though that effort seems to have stalled on getting mainlined as it would require porting to the atomic mode-setting interfaces.

      • NVIDIA 410.93 Linux Driver Released With Quadro RTX 8000 Support, 4.20 Kernel Compatible

        The NVIDIA 410.93 Linux driver is out today as the company’s first Linux driver release of 2019.

        While the NVIDIA 415.25 Linux driver was released back in December with support for the new Turing-based Quadro RTX 8000 graphics card, 415 is the current short-lived driver series. With 410 being the current “long-lived” driver series with a longer support period, the NVIDIA 410.93 driver was released this morning with Quadro RTX 8000 series compatibility and other fixes.

      • NVIDIA have put out the 410.93 driver for Linux today

        Arriving today, NVIDIA have their first bug-fix release of the year with the 410.93 driver as part of their longer supported series.

        NVIDIA currently run a few different driver series, with the 410.93 driver being a “long-lived branch release”. This means it will see bug fixes for a longer period, while not adding in breaking changes which would be reserved for their short-lived branch releases.

    • Benchmarks

      • The Ryzen 7 1800X Linux Performance Evolution Since The AMD Zen Launch

        With it quickly approaching two years since the launch of the original AMD Ryzen processors and complementing our other end-of-2018 Linux performance benchmarks, in this article are some fresh benchmarks seeing how the Linux performance at the start of 2017 on the Ryzen 7 1800X compares to the latest Linux performance at the start of 2019.

        As some interesting benchmarks to kick off the new year, on the same AMD Ryzen 7 1800X + MSI X370 POWER GAMING TITANIUM system I re-ran benchmarks using Ubuntu 17.04 to represent the Linux performance back when these “znver1″ processors first debuted with the Linux 4.10 kernel, Mesa 17.0.3, and GCC 6.3 compiler. After running the benchmarks on that old Ubuntu configuration, I did a fresh daily snapshot install of Ubuntu 19.04 “Disco Dingo” in its current development state. On top of the Ubuntu Disco development build I also pulled in the Linux 4.21 development Git kernel as of 3 January and also built a fresh snapshot of the GCC 9.0.0 compiler that has the latest AMD Zen microarchitecture optimizations.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • Bastian Ilsø Hougaard: 2019 – New directions

        GNOME Release Videos Needs New Hands!

        It’s hard for me to let go, but reason tells me that it is time to pass on the torch with release video production for the time being. 10 videos is a great round number and a good place for me to step down. None of them were ever a stand-alone project and I deeply thank everyone for their contributions, small and big! I’m far from convinced that I have hit the right magic release video flavor yet, but they require a large concentration of time that I no longer have on my hands to give. That said, get in touch if you are interested in being the next video production person! I will gladly supervise, pass on necessary details and give feedback in the process of it all. I’m unfortunately hard to get hold off on IRC/matrix these days, but quiet easy to get hold of on telegram and e-mail.

  • Distributions

    • Compilation of GNU/Linux Distros Which Provide Source ISO CD Downloads

      If you want to redistribute (or, sell) GNU/Linux distros in CD or USB media, it’s safe to include it with source code CDs. The problem is, some very popular GNU/Linux distros like Manjaro or even PureOS does not provide source code ISO (at least for now), so you can not easily download the source ISO to burn them to CD (you should do it manually from source repositories). In order you want to know which popular distros with source code ISO CD available, I compile this list for you. Among them are Trisquel, Debian, Slackware, Ubuntu, and KDE Neon. I include here their respective download links and some additional information.

    • New Releases

      • Sparky 5.6.1 Special Editions

        There are new live/install iso images of SparkyLinux 5.6.1 “Nibiru” GameOver, Multimedia & Rescue available to download. Sparky 5 follows rolling release model and is based on Debian testing “Buster”.

        GameOver Edition features a very large number of preinstalled games, useful tools and scripts. It’s targeted to gamers.

        Multimedia Edition features a large set of tools for creating and editing graphics, audio, video and HTML pages.

        The live system of Rescue Edition contains a large set of tools for scanning and fixing files, partitions and operating systems installed on hard drives.

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

    • Arch Family

      • Manjaro Deepin 18.0.2 Released, Tons of Packages Updated

        Additionally, updates were performed on MSM, Wine, Firefox, and all the regular Haskell, php, and python updates. QT5 was updated to 5.12 LTS, which brings full Qt support for Python developers. All of the Qt APIs are now available for Python developers, which allows them to create complex graphical applications and UIs.

        Mesa is updated to 18.3.1, which is a fairly tiny update that disables the VK_EXT_pci_bus_info extension that was previously introduced – basically a botched Vulkan extension.

        KDE Frameworks was updated to 5.53.0, while KDE Apps was updated to 18.12.0.

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • How to disable GUI in SUSE Linux

        Sometimes when installing with ISO you end up in booting Suse Linux system in GUI mode. In this short article, we will walk you through how to disable GUI and how to enable GUI in Suse Linux.

        For demonstration we used SUSE12 in this article. You can use system control systemctl to set default for next reboot. We will be using this feature to enable or disable GUI in SUSE Linux

      • No Candidates? Board might be forced to hand pick new Board Members

        There are less than 10 days left to apply as a Candidate for the openSUSE Board Elections, yet as of this date, no eligible Candidates have stepped up to run for the three vacant Board Member Seats. If there are no Candidates by the closing date of January 13, 2019, the three remaining members of the openSUSE Board will be tasked to choose new Board Members, based on their own personal choices, to fill those three vacant seats.

    • Fedora

      • Fedora 30 To Finish Polishing Off Their Flicker-Free Boot Experience

        Fedora 29 succeeded at a long elusive and rather mystical flicker-free boot experience that has continued to improve since release. With Fedora 30, that flicker-free boot experience should be in even better standing.

        The flicker-free boot experience is about making use of an Intel graphics driver feature option to avoid useless mode-sets during the initialization/boot process, preserving the initial UEFI boot screen until reaching the GDM log-in manager, smooth transitions, and all-around making it an experience on-par with Windows and macOS compared to the days of flickering when launching the X.Org Server, extra mode-sets making for a less than sleek boot experience, etc.

      • Fedora 30 Aims To Make UEFI The Default Boot Means On ARMv7

        Fedora 29 aimed to provide UEFI support for ARMv7 given the maturing support to U-Boot and other components, but that didn’t turn out as planned so is now being worked on for Fedora 30.

      • Fedora Council December 2018 Hackfest Report

        In December, the Fedora Council met in Minneapolis, Minnesota for several days of meetings. With the holidays now behind us, here’s our summary of what happened.

      • 2018 blog review

        I managed to wake up early in most of the days, but, I spent that time in reading and experimenting with various tools/projects. SecureDrop, Tor Project, Qubes OS were in top of that list. I am also spending more time with books, though now the big problem is to find space at home to keep those books properly.

      • F29-20190103 updated isos
    • Debian Family

      • Mike Gabriel: My Work on Debian LTS/ELTS (December 2018)

        In December 2018, I have worked on the Debian LTS project for 21 hours and on the Debian ELTS project for 5 hours as a paid contributor. The originally planned 11 LTS hours (one hour carried over from November) had been extended to 21 hours. Of the originally planned 6 ELTS hours I carry over one hour to January 2019.

      • Debian CoC Applies To Planet Debian Blog Posts & Other Updated Rules

        For Debian Developers and other contributors that list their personal blog(s) on Planet Debian, there is a new set of rules for DD blogs being aggregated by their site.

        Most notable with the revised policy for Planet Debian is the clear communication that the Debian Code of Conduct should be followed for material being circulated on Planet Debian.

      • Update to Planet Debian policy
      • Debutsav Kochi 2018

        This year we, the members of FSCI had been trying to have a mini-debconf or a Debutsav down in South India for sometime now. First, preparations were made for August 2018 to have Debutsav in Kochi, Kerala but then the Kerala Floods happened and the organizers were forced to push it back to November end.

        So somewhere around end-October there was a CFP announced with two tracks, one on general FOSS technologies and one for the Debian track. I submitted few topics and 2 of my talks were accepted. and the final schedule was known about one or one and a half week before the Event.

        Before venturing ahead, I would like to thank Balasankar, Kiran and the whole team of volunteers at CUSAT for taking such good care of all the speakers.
        If you look at the schedule you would see lot that at least on Day 1 there were quite a few parallel sessions so it was not possible to cover all the sessions as they were happening at the same time. I am covering only those which I was able to cover or was able to take time from the presenter to know her or his presentation.

      • “debhelper-compat (= 12)” is now released

        A few days ago, we released debhelper/12 and yesterday uploaded it to stretch-backports (as debhelper/12~bpo9+1). We deliberately released debhelper/12 so it would be included in buster for the people, who backport their packages to older releases via stable-backports. That said, we would like to remind people to please be careful with bumping the debhelper compat level at this point of the release cycle. We generally recommand you defer migrating to compat 12 until bullseye (to avoid having to revert that change in case you need an unblock for the buster release).

      • Debhelper 12 Released With Meson+Ninja Build System Support

        Debhelper, the package offering various scripts to assist in the creation of Debian packages, has reached version 12 in time for Debian Buster.

        The Debhelper 12 update brings support for the increasingly used Meson+Ninja build system, which is quite common now by GNOME components as well as some X.Org/Mesa projects and a growing number of other open-source projects. CMake paired with Ninja is also now supported too by Debhelper.

      • Debian Enters Freeze State For Buster Release

        Debian testing enters freeze state for the release of the next Debian stable version called Buster. The current stable version of Debian is Stretch which is versioned 9. So you can correctly guess Buster version is gonna be the number 10. If you aren’t a Debian testing user, worry not, there are tons of exciting new stuff to expect in the next stable Debian version.

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Canonical Pulled In $110 Million, Down To ~440 Employees During Their Last Fiscal Year

            For Canonical’s fiscal year ending 31 March 2018, the company behind Ubuntu just filed their latest financial documents in the UK on Thursday. These documents with UK’s Companies House offer a first look at the financial performance of Canonical since their 2017 shift to focus on profitability and doing away with Unity 8 and mobile/convergence work while laying off a sizable portion of their staff in the process.

          • Exploring Ubuntu 18.10 “Cosmic Cuttlefish”

            Ubuntu Linux gets back to basics with the Ubuntu 18.10 release – an appealing and practical distro that isn’t worried about conquering the world.

            Ubuntu is back. The same Ubuntu that I loved back in 2011 before Unity and Gnome 3 happened. Both were great projects, but they broke my workflow, so I moved to openSUSE and Arch Linux with the Plasma desktop.

            Much water has flowed under the bridge since then. Canonical’s dream of taking over Microsoft (Windows), Google (Android), and Apple (iOS) didn’t materialize, and they decided to reduce their focus on the consumer space.

          • Mark Shuttleworth on success with OpenStack

            As one of the founding members and most popular distributions in OpenStack the conferences, now the Open Infrastructure Summit, are a valuable event that Canonical uses to meet with the open source community.

            During the final OpenStack Summit, Mark Shuttleworth, CEO, Canonical spoke about success with OpenStack being about the OPEX.

            Speaking with TelecomTV, Shuttleworth also discusses the specific requirements of telcos relating to open source deployment, and how these impact the overall direction of the OpenStack community.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Blender celebrates its 25th birthday!

    Blender, a free and open source 3D computer graphics software, celebrated its 25th birthday yesterday. Blender team celebrated the birthday by publishing a post that talked about the journey of blender from 1993 to 2018, taking a trip down the memory lane.

  • Apache Groovy 3.0.0 Released, as Downloads Top 100 Million

    Apache Software Foundation (ASF) project contributors have released version 3.0.0 of Apache Groovy, the dynamic language for the Java platform, saying download numbers topped an impressive 100 million in 2018 for the first time.

    The latest release on January 1 will be the last “alpha” release of Groovy 3.0.0 the Apache Groovy team said, saying it includes 138 bug fixes/improvements, helped by the contributions of 30 new participants to the long-running project.

    The rise in the open source project’s popularity (first created by James Strachan – now at CloudBees working on Jenkins X – in 2004) comes as developers seek tools that can add flexibility to the Java Virtual Machine (JVM).

  • Syncthing 1.0.0 released as open-source P2P sync tool, finally leaves beta

    If you’re looking for an open, trustworthy and decentralized alternative to cloud sync platforms, then Syncthing is the tool for you. And today is a milestone — after five long years in beta, Syncthing 1.0.0 (32-bit) and Syncthing 1.0.0 (64-bit) has been released for Windows, Mac, Linux and Android.

    The new release has been given a new code name: Erbium Earthworm, continuing the tradition of alphabetic code names (the previous release was Dysprosium Dragonfly). It’s also been dubbed “Graduation Day” by lead developer Jakob Borg.

    [...]

    The decision to bump to Syncthing to a stable release comes from lead developer Borg’s realization that the application is now over five years old, and should no longer be considered unsuitable for production use given each previously ‘stable’ beta release gets over a million downloads from GitHub alone.

  • Growing Pains: For Organizations Moving to Open Source, It’s a Tough Transition

    For organizations used to the old ways of doing business, open source can be a tough transition.

    Open source requires self-sufficiency, new relationship skills and vigilance against new kinds of risks, say technologists working at telcos, cloud providers and enterprise IT who’ve embraced open source.

    Open source culture also requires a thick skin against criticism.

    “Open source is developed in a radically different methodology than most enterprises are used to when it comes to producing software,” says Justin Shepherd, CTO, private cloud, at Rackspace , a managed cloud computing company which pioneered OpenStack open source software for cloud infrastructure, and also supports Kubernetes and other open source projects. (See Rackspace Launches Kubernetes-as-a-Service.)

  • Open source the winner in 2018

    And unlike proprietary software, in open source there is no need for an enterprise leader. It is about having a community focus and pooling resources as required.

    This community-led approach has always been one of the strengths of open source. But even considering this [community] growth, there are still ample enterprise open source opportunities in the market to give traditionalists peace of mind.

    Ultimately, 2018 has seen open source become part of boardroom discussions the world over. The coming year will be even more significant as implementations start growing and more business benefits start materialising.

  • Sweet Home 3D 6

    It all starts with a simple plan. You create rooms by creating 2D polygons, just as you would with a drawing app like Inkscape. Select Add walls and you can snap vertical walls onto your creation. As you make all these changes, the 3D preview updates in real time, so you can see what your abode will look like from a first-person view. This extends to when you start furnishing your creation by dragging and dropping elements from the vast library of models that are categorized by room. There are two living room armchair types, for example, and three staircase types. Double-click on one of these objects, and you can change its size, its orientation, its shininess, and even its texture and material. It’s easy to lose hours trying to get everything exactly right, or changing options to see what things look like in a different color or with a different theme.

    Sweet Home 3D has been in development since 2005, which is why it has such a rich set of features and such a huge library of objects. Version 6 is a major update with lots of new models, many replacing older and more dated versions, all released under a GPL or CC-BY license. This added detail extends to changeable screens on the laptop model and the picture frame, and even a mirror that actually reflects. But our favorite is the mannequin object that you can drop into your scene. Double-click on this and select Modify deformation, and you can drag the mannequin’s limbs around to put them into the exact position you need, whether that’s lounging on the sofa or playing the arcade machine.

  • The NSA to Release a Free Software Reverse Engineering Toolkit

    The US’s National Security Agency (NSA) is releasing a software reverse engineering tool for free public use in March, in an unusual step – although the tool had already been leaked by Wikileaks as part of its Vault 7 batch of CIA leaks.

    Dubbed GHIDRA and understood to have been in use internally at the NSA for over a decade, it will be publicly demonstrated – and made freely available – for the first time on March 5 at the RSAC 2019 conference by senior NSA advisor Robert Joyce.

    [...]

    The release will happen in a session at the conference in San Francisco titled “Come Get Your Free NSA Reverse Engineering Tool!”

    The session note says the tool provides “an interactive GUI capability [that] enables reverse engineers to leverage an integrated set of features that run on a variety of platforms including Windows, Mac OS and LINUX and supports a variety of processor instruction sets.”

    It adds: “The GHIDRA platform includes all the features expected in high-end commercial tools, with new and expanded functionality NSA uniquely developed.”

  • Nokia 7 Plus and Nokia 8.1 kernel source code are now available

    Only in April of last year did HMD Global start releasing the kernel source code. Back then, the company was widely known for not releasing kernel source code and actively going against the development community. While the company still is doing that, releasing kernel source code is a step in the right direction for sure. HMD Global once said that they would unlock the bootloaders of devices “one model at a time”, yet we’ve only seen one unlocked thus far. It’s possible that the company may eventually unlock more devices, but for now, there’s not a huge amount that can be done with the kernel source code. If you’d like to check it out anyway, you can check out the links below for the Nokia 7 Plus and the Nokia 8.1.

  • Musings on business models for open source software

    Okay, so we’ve got some quick and dirty business model definitions laid down. The majority of the companies in this space are open core, and it’s not hard to see why. Selling proprietary software is a relatively straightforward model. Customers pay for a license to use, they become dependent on functionality which can only be found in that software, and they usually become locked in, securing a recurring revenue stream of license renewals and forced upgrades to newer versions.

    And yet, the most successful company (by financials) in this space, Red Hat, is not open core. Having been at Red Hat since 2001, I think the primary key to our success has been that we have deeply invested in delivering value to our customers and to our open source communities. The open source model allows for us to leverage a development pool far beyond what we can staff in house, incorporate the improvements of the participants in that community, and deliver offerings to our customers that put them entirely in control.

    When I was in Red Hat Sales, I learned very quickly that the top value for open source for our enterprise customers was that control. They hated the lock-in model of proprietary software, not because they had to pay, but more specifically, because they were stuck on software that was not entirely meeting their needs and for which the vendor was not providing good value for the money. After all, if your customers are locked in, it is easy to reach a point where you have no real business case for improving the software, either via new features, improved usability, or bug fixing. Customers get wedged in a painful state where it is even more painful to abandon the software, trapped in a poor experience and growing to despise their vendors. Even if a customer was never going to make a change to the source code, or even look at it, the knowledge that they could (or that they could hire anyone else to maintain it for them) was empowering. They paid Red Hat because we delivered value beyond binary deliverables.

    The open core model has always seemed odd to me, a sort of “half-pregnant” state. On one hand, companies must believe there is value in the open source development model, otherwise, why not simply work from an entirely proprietary stack? I suppose some companies might see the open source core as a cheap foundation for their offerings, but I think that if they treat it as such, they only get a one-time boost from it, and fail to benefit significantly over time. Regardless, open core assumes that a company could not generate revenue (or could not generate as much revenue) from open source alone. My experiences at Red Hat provide evidence that this is not the case, though, I’m careful not to assert that this is never true.

  • Haiku OS Was Working On A Lot Of Interesting Projects At The End Of 2018

    While the long-awaited Haiku R1 Beta debuted back in September, development activity didn’t lighten up after that point but the developers of this open-source BeOS-inspired operating system were very busy through the holidays.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Mozilla Thunderbird desktop email client to get UI refresh, better Gmail support
      • Mozilla Says It Didn’t Make Any Money From Booking.com

        Mozilla has been taking heat for promoting Booking.com via a snippet on Firefox’s New Tab page. Contrary to speculation, Mozilla told us that “zero money changed hands.” Also, Firefox didn’t share any data with Booking.com, and the snippet wasn’t targeted.

        This is all very interesting because Mozilla’s previous statements didn’t do much to clear this up. Despite Mozilla claiming this “experiment” wasn’t an advertisement or paid placement, Firefox users speculated that Mozilla had an affiliate relationship with Booking.com and Mozilla was receiving payment whenever a Firefox user booked a hotel.

      • MOSS 2018 Year in Review

        Mozilla was born out of, and remains a part of, the open-source and free software movement. Through the Mozilla Open Source Support (MOSS) program, we recognize, celebrate, and support open source projects that contribute to our work and to the health of the internet.

        2018 was a year of change and growth for the MOSS program. We worked to streamline the application process, undertook efforts to increase the diversity and inclusion of the program, and processed a record number of MOSS applications. The results? In total, MOSS provided over $970,000 in funding to over 40 open-source projects over the course of 2018. For the first time since the beginning of the program, we also received the majority of our applications from outside of the United States.

      • Socorro in 2018

        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.

      • Mozilla Looks to Improve Email With 2019 Thunderbird Roadmap

        Mozilla, an organization that is best known for its Firefox web browser, is starting 2019 by renewing focus on its Thunderbird email client. It’s a move that comes after a meandering 20-year path for the open-source organization’s email efforts.

        Email is not a new thing for Mozilla, and to understand how long the organization has been grappling with developing an email client, it’s important to go back and look at the history of the internet itself. Mozilla has its roots in the Netscape browser, which in its final years had a full suite known as Netscape Communicator that included both email and web browser applications. The original Mozilla suite that debuted in 1998 included both email and browser capabilities.

        In 2003, Mozilla split its email and browser efforts into two groups, one for browsers that led to Firefox and the other effort for email, which is where Thunderbird comes in. So yeah, Mozilla has been trying to build traction for its stand-alone email client for 16 years, with a lot of ups and downs along the way.

  • SaaS/Back End

    • Cloudera is gearing up to take on Amazon, but investors are skeptical

      Cloudera and Hortonworks were bleeding cash as the two data software providers spent years going head-to-head to lure businesses onto their fledgling technology. As of Thursday, they can join forces against a common enemy: Amazon.

      The all-stock deal unites the two most prominent vendors of Hadoop open-source software, which customers can use to store, process and analyze many different types of data. Valued at $5.2 billion when the merger was announced in October, the companies are worth just a combined $3 billion as of its official close.

      The stocks plunged in the fourth quarter amid the market sell-off and specific concerns about whether Cloudera — the name of the combined entity — has a compelling enough story to take on Amazon Web Services. For all of 2018, a year that was a boon for many cloud stocks, Cloudera shares fell 33 percent and Hortonworks dropped 29 percent.

  • LibreOffice

    • Marketing in Vendor Neutral FLOSS Projects #2

      In order to understand how we can best shape the ecosystem to drive LibreOffice’s success – it is helpful to understand first what products and services companies currently sell, and then consider how we want to shape the environment that they adapt to to encourage behaviors that we want.

    • Video playlist: Main room of LibreOffice Conference 2018

      We’ve finished editing and uploading all the videos from the main room of the LibreOffice Conference 2018 in Tirana, Albania.

    • SmartArt improvements in LibreOffice, part 3

      I recently dived into the SmartArt support of LibreOffice, which is the component responsible for displaying complex diagrams from PPTX. I focus on the case when only the document model and the layout constraints are given, not a pre-rendered result.

  • BSD

    • Simplifying SSH

      EasySSH lives up to its name and starts SSH connections at the click of a mouse.

      Most experienced Linux users are familiar with Secure Shell (SSH), with some being regular users. The protocol supports encrypted connections with remote devices via TCP/IP according to the client-server principle. Typically, you connect to servers that do not have a graphical user interface (GUI). However, with the appropriate bandwidth, you can manage tools with a GUI using X forwarding.

    • Future of ZFS | BSD Now 279

      The future of ZFS in FreeBSD, we pick highlights from the FreeBSD quarterly status report, flying with the raven, modern KDE on FreeBSD, many ways to launch FreeBSD in EC2, GOG installers on NetBSD, and more.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • Molly de Blanc: Free software activities (December, 2018)

      December was a fairly quiet month for my free software activities (and my life in general). There was a lot of continued discussion around the Server Side Public License and the Commons Clause. People around me debated the relationship between open source and software freedom and the role of open source to support corporate activities.

    • Free Software Foundation $1 Million Bitcoin Donation Reduced by $140,000 Before Conversion

      According to the blog post written by the its founder, Richard M. Stallman, the foundation, which was given two separate donations of $1 million each, will use the funding to bolster its operations and ramp up its workforce as it seeks to expand its scope to include “work that always needed doing but that we could not undertake.”

  • Public Services/Government

    • European Union announces bug bounty program

      Payouts have ranged from 25.000,00 € for a Digital Signature Services (DSS) vulnerability to 90.000,00 € for a PuTTy vulnerability.

      “The issue made lots of people realise how important Free and Open Source Software is for the integrity and reliability of the Internet and other infrastructure,” Reda said in an announcement. “Like many other organisations, institutions like the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission build upon Free Software to run their websites and many other things.”

    • EU primes open source bug bounty effort

      Security researchers have welcomed a European Union-funded scheme to offer bug bounties on free and open source software projects that begins its roll-out this month.

      The bounty scheme is an extension of the Free and Open Source Software Audit (FOSSA) project, and will reward ethical hackers who uncover flaws in key components of internet technologies such as Drupal and Apache Tomcat as well as consumer utilities such as the VLC Media Player.

      Maximum payouts will range between €25k and €90k under a total of 15 programs, administered by either HackerOne or Intigriti/Deloitte, funded in large part by the EU.

    • Europe to Fund Open Source Software Bug Bounty Programme

      From Monday 7 January the European Commission (EC) will start paying out bug bounties to security researchers who find vulnerabilities in 14 open source projects.

      The funding pot is part of the EU Free and Open Source Software Audit (FOSSA) project, overseen by the EC’s Directorate General of Informatics (DIGIT).

      The bounty programmes, run on the HackerOne and Intigriti platforms, cover open source software (OSS) used in European infrastructure, including streaming software Apache Kafka, content management framework Drupal and puTTY; a free SSH and telnet client for Windows.

      But the project has not been without its critics, who have warned it will place a growing workload on volunteer-led projects, potentially alienating code maintainers who will see little personal benefit as a result.

    • Open Source Software Needs Funding, Not Bug Bounty Programs

      While the European Union’s latest bug bounty program for widely used open source projects sounds like a step towards improving the security of the overall Internet ecosystem, these programs may wind up complicating efforts to secure these applications.

      The European Union has committed to pay €850,000 (nearly $1 million) in bug bounties for vulnerabilities found in 15 open source projects as part of the edition of the Free and Open Source Software Audit (FOSSA) project, said Julia Reda, a member of the European Parliament representing the German Pirate Party. The projects 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. Six of the projects will accept vulnerability reports until the summer, six until the end of the year, and three will accept reports through 2020. Drupal, a powerful content management system, and PuTTY, a terminal emulator, serial console and network file transfer application, have the largest amounts allocated under this program, at €89,000 ($101,000) and €90,000 ($102,000), respectively.

    • EU Launches Bug Bounty for 15 Open Source Projects

      Working in partnership with HackerOne and Intigriti, the EU announced that the European Commission will launch a bug bounty program as part of the Free and Open Source Software Audit (FOSSA).

      The third edition of FOSSA will include 15 software programs: 7-zip, Apache Kafka, Apache Tomcat, Digital Signature Services (DSS), Drupal, Filezilla, FLUX TL, the GNU C Library (glibc), KeePass, midPoint, Notepad++, PHP Symfony, PuTTY, VLC Media Player and WSO2, according to EU Parliament member Julia Reda.

      Reda, who has written extensively about the security risks in Open SSL, launched the FOSSA project with her colleague Max Andersson in 2015, which is moving into phase three. The first 14 bug bounty projects will commence in January 2019, with the final project beginning in March.

    • EU to launch bug bounties for 14 open source projects

      Starting this month the European Commission (EC) will kick off a series of bug bounties aimed at finding and patching security bugs in open source software (OSS).
      Each of the bug bounties, which offer prize pools of between €25,000 and €90,000 (AUD$40,518 and AUD$145,868), target open source programs that are widely used within the EC.
      The EC selected software it would fund bug bounties for based on previous inventories of software usage within the EC and a public survey about what projects should be supported.
      Open source projects that will get EC-incentivised attention in coming months include Filezilla FTP software, the KeyPass password manager, Drupal CMS software, and the Apache Software Foundation’s implementation of Java technologies, Apache Tomcat.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • RISC-V architecture development

        As open source software development for the RISC-V architecture moves ahead, maddog says stop complaining and start contributing to the project.

        Recently a colleague sent me a link to an online article about the RISC-V Foundation and the Linux Foundation agreeing to work together to advance Linux and other open source software on top of the RISC-V architecture.

        RISC-V, for those of you who do not know about it, is a relatively new architecture that originated at the University of California, Berkeley (the same people who developed the Berkeley Software Distribution, also known as BSD).

      • Libre RISC-V M-Class

        All of these turn out to be important for GPU workloads.

        One of the most challenging aspects of Simple-V is that there is no restriction on the “redirection.” Whilst one instruction could use register five and another uses register ten, both of them could actually be “redirected” to use register 112, for example. One of those could even be changed to 32-bit operations whilst the other is set to 16-bit element widths.

        Our initial thoughts advocated a standard, simple, in-order, SIMD architecture, with predication bits passed down into the SIMD ALUs. If a bit is “off,” that “lane” within the ALU does not calculate a result, saving power. However, in Simple-V, when the element width is set to 32-, 16-, or 8-bit, a pre-issue engine is required that re-orders parts of the registers, packing lanes of data together so that it fits into one SIMD ALU, and, on exit from the ALU, it may be necessary to split and “redirect” parts of the data to multiple actual 64-bit registers. In other words, bit-level (or byte-level) manipulation is required, both pre- and post-ALU.

        This is complicated!

      • More Details On The Proposed Simple-V Extension To RISC-V For GPU Workloads

        With the proposed Libre RISC-V Vulkan accelerator aiming to effectively be an open-source GPU built atop the open-source RISC-V ISA there were recently some new details published on how the design is expected to work out.

        For this very ambitious libre RISC-V SoC design. that EOMA68 developer Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton wants to pursue through crowdfunding, it’s just not a matter of spinning his own RISC-V design but for making the SoC suitable for GPU workloads he has talked of a “Simple-V” extension he envisions.

      • MIPS Joins RISC-V as Second Open Source Alternative to Arm

        The open source silicon space has suddenly become more crowded. Shortly before Christmas, Silicon Valley AI startup Wave Computing, which is developing hardware for running deep learning applications in data centers and offices, announced plans to open source its MIPS instruction set architecture, or ISA, under what it’s calling the “MIPS Open” program. When the process is completed in the first quarter, participants will have full access, with no licensing fees or royalties, to the most recent versions of the 32-bit and 64-bit MIPS ISA, along with licensing for MIPS’s “hundreds of existing worldwide patents.”

        According to Wave, open sourcing the design will open the door for semiconductor companies, developers, and universities to adopt and innovate using MIPS for next-generation system-on-chip (SoC) designs.

  • Programming/Development

    • GitLab user? Maybe start your year with an update

      Now available GitLab 11.6.1, 11.5.6, and 11.4.13 fix a couple of security vulnerabilities affecting versions as far back as 8.0 – an upgrade is strongly recommended.

      One of the vulnerabilities can result in the exposure of source code belonging to projects with repositories which are supposed to be available to team members only. It was pinpointed to a missing authorization control and affects users of community and enterprise versions 8.17 and later.

    • Announcing a new course: Intro Python — Fundamentals

      Python is one of the hottest languages out there. People can’t get enough Python, and companies can’t get enough Python people.

      This means that learning Python is a great move for your career. (Also, it’s just plain ol’ fun to use.)

      If you’ve always wanted to get started with Python, or if you’ve been using it by combining good guesses with many visits to Stack Overflow, then I’m happy to announce the release of my new course, “Intro Python: Fundamentals.”

    • Python Context Managers

      One of the most “obscure” features of Python that almost all Python programmers use, even the beginner ones, but don’t really understand, is context managers. You’ve probably seen them in the form of with statements, usually first encountered when you learn opening files in Python. Although context managers seem a little strange at first, when we really dive into them, understand the motivation and techniques behind it, we get access to a new weapon in our programming arsenal. So without further ado, let’s dive into it!

    • Python gets a new governance model

      Back in late October, when we looked in on the Python governance question, which came about due to the resignation of Guido van Rossum, things seemed to be mostly set for a vote in late November. There were six Python Enhancement Proposals (PEPs) under consideration that would be ranked by voters in a two-week period ending December 1; instant-runoff voting would be used to determine the winner. In the interim, though, much of that changed; the voting period, winner-determination mechanism, and number of PEPs under consideration are all different. But the voting concluded on December 16 and a winner has been declared; PEP 8016 (“The Steering Council Model”), which was added to the mix in early November, came out on top.

      Right around the time of our previous article, a new thread was started on the Python committers Discourse instance to discuss the pros and cons of various voting systems. Instant-runoff voting fell out of favor; there were concerns that it didn’t truly represent the will of the electorate, as seen in a Burlington, Vermont mayoral election in 2009, for example.

    • Relief for retpoline pain

      Indirect function calls — calls to a function whose address is stored in a pointer variable — have never been blindingly fast, but the Spectre hardware vulnerabilities have made things far worse. The indirect branch predictor used to speed up indirect calls in the CPU can no longer be used, and performance has suffered accordingly. The “retpoline” mechanism was a brilliant hack that proved faster than the hardware-based solutions that were tried at the beginning. While retpolines took a lot of the pain out of Spectre mitigation, experience over the last year has made it clear that they still hurt. It is thus not surprising that developers have been looking for alternatives to retpolines; several of them have shown up on the kernel lists recently.
      The way to make an indirect call faster is to replace it with a direct call; that renders branch prediction unnecessary. Of course, if a direct call would have sufficed in any given situation, the developer would have used it rather than an indirect call, so this replacement is not always straightforward. All of the proposed solutions to retpoline overhead strive to do that replacement in one way or another, though; they vary from the simple to the complex.

    • Refactor with Clang Tooling at code::dive 2018

      This was a fun talk to deliver as I got to demo some features which had never been seen by anyone before. For people who are already familiar with clang-tidy and clang-query, the interesting content starts about 15 minutes in. There I start to show new features in the clang-query interpreter command line.

    • PyPy for low-latency systems

      Recently I have merged the gc-disable branch, introducing a couple of features which are useful when you need to respond to certain events with the lowest possible latency. This work has been kindly sponsored by Gambit Research (which, by the way, is a very cool and geeky place where to work, in case you are interested). Note also that this is a very specialized use case, so these features might not be useful for the average PyPy user, unless you have the same problems as described here.

      The PyPy VM manages memory using a generational, moving Garbage Collector. Periodically, the GC scans the whole heap to find unreachable objects and frees the corresponding memory. Although at a first look this strategy might sound expensive, in practice the total cost of memory management is far less than e.g. on CPython, which is based on reference counting. While maybe counter-intuitive, the main advantage of a non-refcount strategy is that allocation is very fast (especially compared to malloc-based allocators), and deallocation of objects which die young is basically for free. More information about the PyPy GC is available here.

    • Python For Windows 10 Now Available For Download From Microsoft Store
    • Python can be now downloaded from Microsoft Store
    • Solving tic tac toe problem with python
    • Move the enemy ship up and down
    • qsslint – A linter for Qt stylesheets
    • Quick Tip: Comparing two pandas dataframes and getting the differences

      There are times when working with different pandas dataframes that you might need to get the data that is ‘different’ between the two dataframes (i.e.,g Comparing two pandas dataframes and getting the differences). This seems like a straightforward issue, but apparently its still a popular ‘question’ for many people and is my most popular question on stackoverflow.

      As an example, let’s look at two pandas dataframes. Both have date indexes and the same structure. How can we compare these two dataframes and find which rows are in dataframe 2 that aren’t in dataframe 1?

    • Popular Programming Language For Kids “Scratch 3.0” Now Available

      After spending months in Beta version, Scratch 3.0 has been finally released. It brings major changes such as support for tablets and implementation of an HTML, CSS, and JavaScript-based extension system instead of the previously used Flash.

      This visual programming language was created to teach kids how to code. After more than a decade since its launch in 2007, Scratch has established itself as the only kids’ programming language which is actually worth using.

    • ImportPython Newsletter – Issue 188
    • How to Use Date Picker with Django

      In this tutorial we are going to explore three date/datetime pickers options that you can easily use in a Django project. We are going to explore how to do it manually first, then how to set up a custom widget and finally how to use a third-party Django app with support to datetime pickers.

    • Performance gains with goroutines

      In the Go language, program parts that run simultaneously synchronize and communicate natively via channels. Mike Schilli whips up a parallel web fetcher to demonstrate the concept.

      I often wonder why some developers seem committed to designing new programming languages. Of course, the young guns today are all hungry for slight improvements in the syntax, while hipsters enthuse over smart ideas for compact code. But the effort of building an ecosystem and setting up a community is immense!

      Alas, since processors stopped running faster every year some time ago and only simulate more speed with cores running in parallel, one thing is very important: Your choice of language has to be able to coordinate parallel program parts easily. When I visited the WhatsApp team at Facebook in Menlo Park after work a few months ago, I learned what the secret of the small team’s success was when they used a handful of machines to text millions of users. They used the old-fashioned Erlang language, which has parallelism as a native feature.

    • Multiple item search in an unsorted list in Python

      I was reviewing simple algorithms with a view to using some as examples or exercises in my Python programming course. While doing so, I thought of enhancing simple linear search for one item in a list, to make it search for multiple items.

    • Fedora 30 Is Planning To Go With Golang 1.12

      The latest change/feature proposal is to ship Fedora 30 with Go 1.12.

      This though should come as little surprise considering Fedora is known for always shipping the latest and greatest packages in its release. With Go 1.12 expected for release in February, it should come as little surprise to find it in the May release of Fedora 30 but the standard Fedora change policies are being followed.

Leftovers

  • 5 public speaking resolutions for 2019

    Conference proposals are a lot like hockey: You’re more likely to score if you take more shots on goal. When you’re submitting to a conference’s call for proposals/papers, submit more than one proposal. You’ll increase your chances of getting a talk accepted, and you’ll give the conference organizers a more diverse pool of talks from which to choose.

    This also means that you’ll start collecting more proposal rejections. This is a good thing! It shows you’re putting effort into trying to get a talk accepted. Also, every rejection is an opportunity to ask for feedback on your proposal so you can learn and improve.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Now That Everybody Is for Medicare for All, Opponents Say Let’s Dilute It

      A strange phenomena has appeared in the US debate over universal healthcare: a big majority favors a well-known reform—Medicare for All—as the pundits, insurance and pharma lobbyists, and political insiders denied it (since 1992!), then since 2016 opposed it and all of sudden want to re-define it.

      The appearance of Medicare for All in the New York Times just before the New Year—as the subject of an in-depth Robert Pear story on December 29th, the type of work he consistently devotes to the hottest healthcare issues in Washington, but rarely has done so about MFA—and in a letters to the editor special on the 30th, featuring readers remedies for the healthcare system, “not surprisingly,” said the Times, Medicare for All “topped the list.”

    • ‘A Giant Step’ Toward Humane Healthcare as Democrats Announce First-Ever Hearings on Medicare for All

      “It’s a huge step forward to have the Speaker’s support,” Jayapal said in an interview with the Washington Post on Thursday. “We have to push on the inside while continuing to build support for this on the outside.”

      According to the Post, Medicare for All legislation is set to receive hearings in the Rules and Budget committees, both of which are chaired by Medicare for All supporters—Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), respectively.

      While dates for the hearings have not been officially announced, Jayapal said House Medicare for All supporters expect to release legislation in “the next couple of weeks.”

      “This will ensure that Medicare for All is part of the 2020 Democratic presidential platforms,” said Jayapal, who will sponsor the House bill.

    • Preparing Medical Students for a Warmer World

      The World Health Organization has called climate change “the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.” Similarly, the United Nations’ ninth Secretary-General, António Guterres, refers to climate change as “the most systemic threat to humankind.” The scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is “unequivocal” according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a scientific and intergovernmental body under the auspices of the United Nations.

      As medical students and future medical professionals, my peers and I feel a profound responsibility to keep our future patients safe and healthy — and the links between climate change and health present a compelling argument for including climate change in /medical curriculum to prepare doctors for a changing ecological landscape of disease.

      As the medical community becomes more open to the idea of including climate change in the medical curriculum, it’s critical that educational institutions figure out strategies to effectively teach climate and health concepts in an already crowded course load.

    • Walking on the Aussie Wild Side: The Counterculture Down Under with Michael Wilding

      You’re either in it or out of it. In this case “it” is the cannabis bubble. If it’s a bubble in California and elsewhere in the U.S., it can feel much the same around the world, including Australia, as Michael Wilding knows. Smoking a joint is smoking a joint whether one is in Sydney or Sacramento, Melbourne or Modesto.

      An Englishman who settled in Australia in the early 1960s, Wilding has helped—through his writing—to move cannabis away from the periphery and toward the mainstream.

      Many of the same words that are used in the U.S.—grass, weed, dope, marijuana, pot, reefer, cannabis and more—are used “Down Under,” Wilding explains, though the land Down Under doesn’t have a history of African Americans jazz men and woman, such as Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday, or Hollywood stars like Robert Mitchum, who smoked reefer and went to jail.

      American cannabis activists might pat themselves on the back and insist that they’re in advance of the Aussie movement for legalization, but as history, culture and language show, Americans and Aussie are in the same boat, though separated by a vast ocean.

  • Security

    • When Open Source And Cyber Security Bonds: Kali Linux, The Go-To OS For Penetration Testing

      When we talk about hacking, the first thing comes to our mind is a guy in a hoodie who is involved in data fraud, identity theft, and maybe even cyber terrorism (thanks to Hollywood!) However, this is not the scenario all the time; not all hacking is necessarily the criminal, destructive act.

      There is one form of hacking that is not related to any kind of criminal activity and organisations or institutes often use it to check their defences — Ethical Hacking or Penetration Testing. Today, with cybercrime gaining prominence, the concept of ethical hacking has become popular.

    • Security updates for Thursday
    • Software Security Predictions: What to Watch for in 2019

      Security breaches regularly made headlines this year, while advancements in DevOps, application security testing tools, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud adoption, and the Internet of Things race forward. 2019 promises to be another busy year in technology and digital transformation, but what will that look like for software security?

    • [Crackers] Accessed Smart TVs to Play PewDiePie Propaganda Videos

      Owners of some Chromecasts and smart TVs might see an unusual message on their screens: A message and propaganda video imploring them to subscribe to PewDiePie on YouTube.

      [...]

      The devices are exposed to the [I]nternet, which allowed the duo to [crack] them and play their own media on them.

    • How our InfoSec Professionals stay one step ahead

      Our team knows the hacking world. We’ve recruited ethical hackers, OSCP-certified engineers, and seasoned IT professionals, all of whom are watching the dark web and its subversive operatives, watching how threats evolve and how attacks are planned. We routinely monitor zero-day exploits, examining use-cases thoroughly and responding with robust mitigation strategies.

      The fruits of intensive research and development are augmented by both human experience and machine learning. This sharpens our ability to produce timely and targeted WAF rule sets and blocking strategies in ways that no other security solution provider can match. To do our work, we must adopt the devious mind-set of a hacker. But we stay firmly attached to the ethical anchor of a trusted name in the Linux hosting world, CloudLinux.

    • No More Ransom, a global anti-ransomware initiative, announces ESET as new partner

      ESET has been announced as the latest partner of No More Ransom, an international initiative between Europol, the Dutch National Police and major cybersecurity organizations in the fight against ransomware. The collaborative project helps victims of ransomware attacks recover their personal data and has so far managed to decrypt the infected computers of 72,000 victims worldwide.

      With its 130 partners, the No More Ransom online portal hosts a collection of 59 free decryption tools from multiple security software vendors, covering 91 ransomware families. Users from around the world can access the tools for free in order to recover data held hostage by ransomware attacks. Launched in 2016, No More Ransom decryption tools have so far kept around USD 22 million out of the pockets of cybercriminals.

    • Passwords and Encryption

      More than just a boot manager, GRUB 2 can help you add another line of protection to your security defenses.

      A boot manager is almost as much of the Linux tradition as compiling a custom kernel. Traditionally, a boot manager has been used for choosing a kernel to start and for running multiple operating systems on a single computer. However, at a time when everybody is becoming security conscious, few are aware that GRUB 2, the most popular boot manager, is also capable of using passwords and encryption to provide another level of security [1]. Admittedly, GRUB 2 security is not enough by itself, but it is still worth adding to your in-depth defenses.

      GRUB 2 has existed for well over a decade and is rapidly replacing GRUB Legacy, the original version of the boot manager, especially in major distributions. As a result, its basic operation and traditional uses are reasonably well-known. However, before I dive into setting up passwords and encryption, a quick overview is useful, both as a reminder and as an introduction for those who might be still using GRUB Legacy or another boot manager, like the now discontinued LILO.

    • Google’s Fuchsia OS to Support Android Apps, Linux Servers with Poorly Configured IPMI Cards Prone to Attack, LinuxGizmos’ 2019 SBC Catalog Is Out, USB Type-C Becoming More Secure and Epic Games Not Planning to Provide a Linux Version of Its Store

      Linux servers equipped with poorly configured IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) cards are prone to attack. ITPro Today reports that “since November, black hat hackers have been using the cards to gain access in order to install JungleSec ransomware that encrypts data and demands a 0.3 bitcoin payment (about $1,100 at the current rate) for the unlock key”. The post recommends that to secure against these attacks, make sure the IPMI password isn’t the default and “access control lists (ACLs) should be configured to specify the IP addresses that have access the IPMI interface, and to also configure IPMI to only listen on internal IP addresses, which would limit access to admins inside the organization’s system.”

  • Defence/Aggression

    • US Withdrawal From Syria a Chance for Peace

      President Donald Trump’s announced withdrawal of US forces from Syria has met with near-universal condemnation by Democrats and Republicans alike. That says less about Trump than it does about the US foreign policy establishment’s blinkered vision.

      The mainstream of both political parties exhibits certain reflexive judgments: that the US must maintain a troop presence all over the world in order to prevent adversaries from filling a vacuum; that US military might holds the key to foreign policy success; and that America’s adversaries are implacable foes impervious to diplomacy. Trump’s withdrawal from Syria could indeed be a dangerous prelude to an expanded regional war; yet, with imagination and diplomacy, the withdrawal could be a critical step on the path to an elusive peace in region.

    • A Loose Cannon for Peace?

      Apparently what’s under assault is war itself, or so the Establishment believes, in the wake of the shocking announcement by the president that he plans to withdraw all 2,000 U.S. troops now deployed in Syria and 7,000, or half, the U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

      No, can’t do that! Can’t do that! This screws everything up. “. . . we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours,” writes Defense Secretary Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis in his resignation letter to Donald Trump over the issue.

      And the New York Times noted that Trump’s decision “risks leaving United States’ allies in the long-running war weakened while strengthening rivals backed by Iran and Russia.

      “American troops entered Syria in 2015 as part of a coalition fighting the Islamic State, which had seized large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq. In the three years since, the extremist group’s self-declared caliphate has crumbled. But the continuing lack of stability in both Syria and Iraq could provide fertile ground for the jihadists to retrench.”

    • ‘The Machine of Perpetual War Acceptance’: Veteran NBC Journalist Resigns in Protest Over One-Sided Coverage

      This week I published a column on how the Democratic Party seems to have jettisoned many of its defining values to simply become the anti-Trump party. The best example of that transformation is the automatic opposition to Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria and other countries. At the same time, liberal media outlets like CNN and MSNBC have been airing continual experts denouncing the “hasty” withdrawal.

      Now veteran NBC award-winning journalist William Arkin has resigned in protest of what he says is the unrelenting support of the network for endless wars. He notes that the anti-Trump agenda at the network has overwhelmed what used to be critical coverage of “the machine of perpetual war acceptance and conventional wisdom to challenge Hillary Clinton’s hawkishness.” Now the reflective anti-Trump response at the network has overwhelmed all such considerations, according to Arkin. While Arkin calls Trump “an ignorant and incompetent impostor,” he cites the transformation of NBC into an opposition network as the main reason for his departure.

    • Veteran NBC Commentator Rips Failures, Pro-War Posture of Corporate Media in Scathing Resignation Letter

      Reflecting on his past couple of decades working with the network—in addition to writing books and columns for major newspapers and serving as as military adviser to human rights and environmental groups—Arkin laments: “My expertise, though seeming to be all the more central to the challenges and dangers we face, also seems to be less valued at the moment. And I find myself completely out of [sync] with the network, being neither a day-to-day reporter nor interested in the Trump circus.”

      Noting in his 2,228-word memo that “the world and the state of journalism [are] in tandem crisis,” Arkin delivers a scathing critique of how NBC has responded to the foreign policy of President Donald Trump—whom he calls “an ignorant and incompetent impostor”—asserting that “in many ways NBC just began emulating the national security state itself—busy and profitable. No wars won but the ball is kept in play.”

      However, Arkin also delivers a broader condemnation of the network’s coverage of the so-called War on Terror in the nearly 18 years since 9/11, and how it has helped produce a scenario in which “perpetual war has become accepted as a given in our lives.”

    • The Hidden Structure of U.S. Empire

      My father was a doctor in the British Royal Navy, and I grew up traveling by troop-ship between the last outposts of the British Empire – Trincomalee, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Malta, Aden, Singapore – and living in and around naval dockyards in England and Scotland.

      The British naval bases where I grew up and the fading empire they supported are now part of history. Chatham Dockyard. a working dockyard for over 400 years, is now a museum and tourist attraction. Trincomalee Dockyard, where I was born, has been in the news as a site where the Sri Lankan Navy is accused of torturing and disappearing Tamil prisoners during the Sri Lankan civil war.

      Since the late 1970s, I have lived in California and Florida, grappling with the contradictions of U.S. empire like other Americans. The U.S. does not have an internationally recognized territorial empire like the British or Ottoman Empires. American politicians routinely deny that the United States maintains or seeks an empire at all, even as they insist that its interests extend across the entire world, and as its policies impact the lives – and threaten the future – of people everywhere.

    • Despite Everything, U.S. Troops Should Leave Syria

      Donald Trump’s sudden decision to remove U.S. forces from Syria appears to have been impetuous and ill-considered — apparently a result of a conversation with Turkey’s autocratic president Recep Erdoğan. That doesn’t mean, however, that the United States should remain in that country.

      It’s quite reasonable to question how and why Trump made his choice. This doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right one, however.

      First of all, the presence of U.S. forces in Syria is illegal. There was never any authorization by Congress, as mandated by the U.S. constitution, to send troops there, making the frantic bipartisan calls for congressional oversight regarding the withdrawal particularly bizarre.

      There’s also the matter of international law. While the brutality of the Syrian regime and the mass atrocities it has committed do raise questions regarding its legitimacy, it is nevertheless illegal for a country to send troops to another country without either the permission of that government or authorization by the United Nations.

      One can make a case that the presence of foreign troops within a nation-state’s borders against the will of that country’s recognized government, and without the authorization of the UN Security Council, is nevertheless justifiable — if it is to protect the population from mass killing. There’s little to indicate that this is why U.S. forces are in Syria, however.

    • A Loose Canon for Peace

      Apparently what’s under assault is war itself, or so the Establishment believes, in the wake of the shocking announcement by the president that he plans to withdraw all 2,000 U.S. troops now deployed in Syria and 7,000, or half, the U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

      No, can’t do that! Can’t do that! This screws everything up. “. . . we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours,” writes Defense Secretary Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis in his resignation letter to Donald Trump over the issue.

      And the New York Times noted that Trump’s decision “risks leaving United States’ allies in the long-running war weakened while strengthening rivals backed by Iran and Russia.

      “American troops entered Syria in 2015 as part of a coalition fighting the Islamic State, which had seized large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq. In the three years since, the extremist group’s self-declared caliphate has crumbled. But the continuing lack of stability in both Syria and Iraq could provide fertile ground for the jihadists to retrench.”

      Sounds sensible enough until you factor in the fact that the pursuit of short-term national interests and, indeed, war itself — particularly the wars fomented by, underwritten and armed by the United States over the last two decades — are the primary cause of global instability and the upsurge of terrorism. There’s never an acknowledgment, by the war establishment, of the consequences of militarism, just an abstract discussion of strategy and “interests.”

      Since Mad Dog is the face of reasonable opposition to these U.S. troop withdrawals, let me pause for a moment simply to note that, as commanding officer of the two U.S. invasions of Fallujah in the early stages of the Iraq war, in April and November 2004, he’s a full-on war criminal.

    • 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.

      What is clear is that military enlistment is potentially a vehicle for upward mobility. Now, perhaps more than ever, this is relevant for who is joining up. Active duty soldiers in the United States Armed Forces are disproportionately rural, people of color, and middle class. According to one study, 44% of military recruits come from rural areas, whereas less than 20% of the country’s total population reside in the countryside. People of color – African-American, Latino, and Asian – make up over 40% of enlisted personnel. Economically, middle-class people enlist at a higher rate than either the poor or the rich.

      Whether they reside in rural areas, are people of color, or members of the middle class, working families in the United States currently struggle with job insecurity, an ever-increasing cost of living, and the reality that economically they will do worse than past generations.

    • Russia and the Liberals

      Hillary Clinton and the people around her did not revive the Cold War on their own, but they did play a significant role.

      As a general rule, HRC’s initiatives turn out badly. As First Lady, she set the cause of health care reform back a generation – or longer, inasmuch as the Affordable Care Act is no prize. As Secretary of State, she helped spread misery, death, and destruction all over the planet. Her mark is especially evident in such places as Syria, Libya, and Honduras.

      A non-negligible amount of blame for the ensuing refugee crises is on her too, notwithstanding the fact that she never quite made it to the spot, occupied at the time by Barack Obama, where the buck finally stops.

      There is however an exception to the rule: as a promoter of a new (or revived?) Cold War with Russia, she has done a fantastic job — mobilizing support in elite political and media circles and among liberals generally.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Ecuador to audit Julian Assange’s asylum & citizenship as country eyes IMF bailout

      Ecuador has begun a “Special Examination” of Julian Assange’s asylum and citizenship as it looks to the IMF for a bailout, the whistleblowing site reports, with conditions including handing over the WikiLeaks founder.

      Former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa tweeted an image of the letter he received from the State Comptroller General on December 19, which outlines the upcoming examination by the Direction National de Auditoria.

      [...]

      WikiLeaks tweeted the news on Wednesday, joining the dots between the audit and Ecuador’s consideration of an International Monetary Fund bailout. The country owes China more than $6.5 billion in debt and falling oil prices have affected its repayment abilities.

      According to WikiLeaks, Ecuador is considering a $10 billion bailout which would allegedly come with conditions such as “the US government demanded handing over Assange and dropping environmental claims against Chevron,” for its role in polluting the Amazon rainforest.

    • President Trump’s Lawyer Rudy Giuliani Says Do Not Prosecute Julian Assange

      President Donald Trump would do well to listen to Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s Russiagate investigation lawyers, concerning the propriety of prosecuting Julian Assange of WikiLeaks who has lived in the Ecuador embassy in London since 2012 to avoid extradition to the United States. Interviewed Sunday at the Fox News show Fox & Friends, Giuliani made it clear that he believes Assange should not be prosecuted for the publishing of US government information. Assange took part in First Amendment-protected activity, Giuliani explains, as did the New York Times and the Washington Post decades earlier when they published the US government’s Pentagon Papers containing many revelations about US activities related to the Vietnam War.

    • Watch the 11th Online Vigil for Julian Assange Live on Friday Night

      Consortium News will broadcast live the 11th Unity4J vigil for WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange on Friday night from 8 pm to 11 pm EST. You can watch it here.

      Guests on past vigils have included Dan Ellsberg, John Pilger, former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel, John Kiriakou, Suzie Dawson, Cathy Vogan, Margaret Kimberely, Ann Garrison, Scott Horton, George Smazuely, Ray McGovern and many more. The broadcast will be hosted by CN Editor-in-Chief Joe Lauria.

    • Silence follows Trump attorney’s statement that Julian Assange did nothing “wrong”

      Giuliani was referring to the 1971 publication of a mass of leaked documents that exposed decades of lies and crimes committed by successive American governments throughout the Vietnam War. The Nixon administration went to the US Supreme Court to outlaw the publication but the court ruled that the US Constitution’s First Amendment, guaranteeing free speech, protected the media outlets.
      Once leaked information was provided to a “media publication,” Giuliani stated, “they can publish it for the purpose of informing people.”
      He continued: “You can’t put Assange in a different position. He was a guy who communicated. We may not like what he communicated, but he was a media facility. He was putting that information out. Every newspaper and station grabbed it and published it.”
      Giuliani was discussing, not the 2010 leaks published by WikiLeaks exposing US war crimes and diplomatic intrigues, but the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Lurid and absurd allegations have been made that WikiLeaks was part of a nefarious conspiracy with Russia to assist the Trump campaign.
      In July 2016, WikiLeaks published leaked emails revealing that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) had sought to undermine self-styled “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders and ensure that Hillary Clinton was nominated as the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • It’s Time to Get Serious About CO2 Pollution

      Fifty years ago, a bipartisan U.S. Congress enacted novel, far-reaching legislation that changed our country and the world for the better. At that time, the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act were new, untested approaches to combating pollution. The U.S. had a huge problem in the 1970s; rivers regularly caught fire, and many big cities were choked with air pollution.

      These new laws enshrined a new but logical principle: polluters should control, and if necessary pay for, the damage they cause to human health and natural resources. For many decades, polluters had a free ride. They dumped pollution in our air and water with impunity. Our kids got sick from unchecked auto exhaust. Our rivers caught fire because they were laden with oil.

      These environmental laws have stayed on the books for over five decades, because they work. Today our waters are much cleaner, our air far-less polluted. Missoula. Montana is a great case in point; those who lived here in the 1970s and ’80s will remember how bad our air quality was and how much better it is today. The Clark Fork River is much healthier too now that mining wastes are being cleaned up.

      These changes did not occur voluntarily; environmental regulations required tougher standards for air pollution. Mining companies had to pay for the pollution they caused to the Clark Fork. Today, many countries around the world seek to emulate our environmental laws. They are one of the great gifts American democracy has given to the world, a legacy we should be proud of.

      Now we are faced with a new type of pollution. Carbon dioxide and other pollutants are accumulating in the atmosphere. These accumulations have already contributed to serious problems; for example, record-breaking fires in California and more powerful hurricanes in Texas and Florida. According to the Fourth National Climate Assessment, recently released in collaboration with 13 federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the air quality impacts from increased wildfires will cause serious impacts on human health, not to mention billions of dollars of damage to our economy from property and job losses. Scientists agree that if we continue on our current trajectory of increasing CO2 emissions, our children and grandchildren will face a world dominated by climate-caused impacts. It’s a world we don’t want to see, and one that we may be able to avoid.

    • Watching the World Burn: Truthout Readers Share Their Climate Stories

      Toward the front end of the recent spasm of several wildfires (one of them record-breaking) to rake drought-prone California, my friend Michael Dales who lives in Berkeley shared this with me:

      “Smoke from the fire burning up in Butte County is so thick here in the Bay Area that lungs ache, eyes burn, and the TV news warns against being outside. Because of the winds (and of course, because we’ve had no rain), at one point the Camp/Butte fire was consuming the equivalent of 1 football field of acreage every second. Again, a football field size area every second.”

      At the time of this writing, the Camp Fire in Northern California had already set the record of being both the most deadly (85 dead) and the most destructive in history.

      And it’s not just wildfires that are setting records. Every year now we are seeing records being set for high temperatures, record-breaking droughts, Arctic sea ice melting and more species going extinct every day.

      All one needs to do to see these dramatic changes stemming from runaway climate change is look out the window. When we sit still, and really pay attention to the shifts in nature right in front of our eyes, they cannot be missed.

      Below is a selection of observations from some of Truthout’s readers from around the world.

    • House of Pain: Pruitt Should Expect The Spanish Inquisition From House Oversight Authorities

      Yesterday, a new Democratic House took up its gavel and ushered in a long-overdue agenda of government oversight. We might finally start to see answers to the many, many questions that have come up over the past two years about Trump’s regulatory rollbacks. One lobbyist told CNBC’s Tim DeChristopher that the Trump administration should expect to face “the Spanish Inquisition.”

      All this change has got to be worrisome for Trump’s cabinet, even those like Zinke who have already left, given everything that reporters (who lack the power to issue subpoenas or compel testimony under oath) have uncovered about Pruitt.

      Scott Pruitt might be gone from Trump’s administration, he certainly hasn’t been forgotten. Yesterday, Mother Jones followed up its story from December of 2017 on the political machinations behind the EPA’s short-lived contract with the conservative political PR group Definers Corp. As it turns out, it wasn’t a standard contracting process, as political appointees told reporters. Instead, emails reveal that the contract was a politically-driven decision pushed by Pruitt’s caustic spokesman Jahan Wilcox as career staff attempted to follow the rules and go through the standard protocols.

      How bad was the situation? University of Baltimore professor of contract law Charles Tiefer told MoJo that this sort of politicization, of sending contracts to preferred political friends instead of going through the bidding process “is the definition of corruption.” In his over 20 years of teaching government contracting, he has “never seen a political operative firm getting a government contract.”

    • The EPA has backed off enforcement under Trump – here are the numbers

      The Trump administration has sought to weaken the Environmental Protection Agency in a number of ways, from staff and proposed budget cuts to attempts to undermine the use of science in policymaking.

      Now, our new research finds that one of the EPA’s most important functions – enforcement – has also fallen off dramatically.

      Since its founding, the EPA has been the nation’s environmental enforcer of last resort. Enforcing environmental laws is a fundamental role of the EPA. William Ruckelshaus, the agency’s first administrator, famously described its role in environmental enforcement as that of a “gorilla in the closet” – muscular, dexterous, smart and formidable – not omnipresent, but ready to take decisive action to enforce laws if need be.

      But the data we have collected show that EPA enforcement under Trump is more accurately characterized as sheep-like – meek and mild, often following the lead of regulated industry rather than acting as an independent, scientifically and statutorily driven regulator. The report is based on interviews with EPA staff and recent retirees and analysis of the EPA’s own data and internal documents. In this article we’ve also used recently updated data and included an expanded analysis of regional and statutory declines.

    • This Is Not a Dress Rehearsal: Climate Can No Longer Wait

      “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity,” wrote William Butler Yeats in his famous poem, “The Second Coming,” written in 1919, and published in 1920. Ironically, the poem’s centennial years (2019 and 2020) are the precise time frame for making socio-political choices that will determine whether we manifest — or avoid — the apocalypse the poem implies.

      In 2019, with a new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, there’s an opportunity for a better agenda on climate— as articulated within the Green New Deal called for by the Sunrise Movement and supported by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her new freshman congressional colleagues.

      And not a moment too soon.

      In 2020, the year of the next US presidential election, we will likely begin what the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report defines as our final decade of opportunity to forestall or mitigate climate disruption.

      It’s time to hold all elected officials accountable. The Congress who gets sworn in today and the president we elect in 2020 must fully grasp what has entrapped us into destroying our own habitat. These officials must harness the political will to revise a whole range of interlocking systems on a structural, economic and socio-political level. To do this, they must be unhampered by any allegiances that require equivocation, denial, stalling or retreating into incrementalism.

    • ‘They Failed Us Once Again’: House Democrats Denounced for Dashing Hopes of Green New Deal

      With the mandate (pdf) for presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) Select Committee on the Climate Crisis finally available to the public, youth climate leaders highlighted these glaring omissions on Wednesday when they denounced the Democratic leadership’s new panel as completely “toothless” and lacking the ambition needed to rapidly transition America’s energy system away from fossil fuels.

      “It’s everything we feared,” said Varshini Prakash, co-founder of the Sunrise Movement, the youth-led advocacy group that helped organize sit-ins at the congressional offices of Pelosi and other Democratic leaders to demand a Green New Deal Select Committee.

      “Democratic leaders had an opportunity to embrace young people’s energy and back the Green New Deal, but they failed us once again,” Prakash added. “This committee is toothless and weaker than the first Climate Select Committee from a decade ago, and it does not get us meaningfully closer to solving the climate crisis or fixing our broken economy.”

    • 10 Cataclysmic Scenarios if We Fail to Control Climate Change

      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.

    • 4 Energy Blockchain Companies You Should Watch in 2019
    • If You Pave It, They Will Come

      As world leaders gathered in Poland for the UN climate conference, the Washington Post threw its support behind a $9 billion plan to add over 100 miles of toll lanes to Maryland highways in the traffic-choked DC region. The Post offered its hearty initial support, despite the fact that studies show adding more lanes leads to more cars on the road, when cars already consume “a quarter of the world’s oil” (New York Times, 12/13/18).

      At the climate conference—which came on the heels of a major UN report finding that the world has just 12 years to drastically cut emissions to avert catastrophe—there was a sense of urgency. “To waste this opportunity in [Poland] would compromise our last best chance to stop runaway climate change,” said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. “It would not only be immoral, it will be suicidal.”

      Meanwhile, at the Post—which seemed to be channeling President Trump’s drill, baby, drill approach to the environment—there was excitement over Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s highway expansion plan, which the newspaper (12/8/18) hailed as “potentially one of the most audacious public/private partnerships in the nation.”

    • Energy Transfer Uses Workaround to Open Mariner East 2 Pipeline Amid Hazard Worries, Criminal Investigation

      Energy Transfer has begun shipping natural gas liquids through one of the most troubled pipeline projects in Pennsylvania, sparking calls for additional investigations as residents say safety concerns remain unresolved.

      Natural gas liquids (NGLs) are fossil fuels found in large volumes in “wet” shale gas wells. They include the highly flammable fuels propane and butane, plus ethane, which is used extensively in the petrochemicals and plastics industy.

      A year ago today, Pennsylvania temporarily suspended permits for Mariner East 2 pipeline construction, citing the builder’s “egregious and willful violations” of state laws.
      Portions of Mariner East 2 construction remain under a separate injunction, this one issued by a state administrative law judge in May, after sinkholes opened up in West Whiteland Township in the densely populated suburbs of Philadelphia.

      The Mariner East projects are the subject of a criminal probe by the Chester County district attorney’s office, which announced in December that it was investigating potential charges including risking a catastrophe, criminal mischief, and environmental crimes.

      “We expected the state regulators and the governor to step in and assure the safety of Pennsylvanians,” District Attorney Tom Hogan said in a statement announcing the investigation. “They have not.” (Energy Transfer has “vehemently” denied wrongdoing.)

    • Is Whole Foods Telling Us the Truth About Its Stance on Animal Rights?

      In February of this year, I was one of around 100 members of the grassroots animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) who walked into a Whole Foods store on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, California. Several of the activists rolled a small wooden calf hutch with a young woman inside into the store. The hutch was four feet wide, six feet long and four feet high, the size used by dairy farms DxE visited; dozens of milk cartons were placed in front of the hutch. All of this was meant to dramatize the violence and cruelty inherent in raising cows and taking their milk for human consumption.

      The protest was one of numerous nonviolent actions, both inside Whole Foods stores and outside in their parking lots, that have been held during the past four years. Until recently, Whole Foods employees, managers and security, at least in the Bay Area where I live, let them happen. DxE activists have never been arrested at Bay Area Whole Foods protests, which have also included holding a mock Thanksgiving dinner in the meat department with a live human in place of a roasted turkey.

      But toward the end of September 2018, Whole Foods (which was purchased by Amazon in 2017) changed its tactics. Whole Foods Market California decided to sue DxE, asking for a prohibitory injunction to prevent activists from protesting on Whole Foods property throughout California, including inside stores and outside in the parking lots.

      [...]

      Animal rights activist have a name for Whole Foods’ hypocrisy: the “humane lie.”

      DxE says the very notion that it’s okay to kill an animal as long as you raise the animal in a decent manner is wrong. As DxE points out again and again in chants and speak-outs, and as anyone who cares for a dog or cat knows, “Animals want to live, just like us.”

  • Finance

    • Why Are Leftists Cheering the Potential Demise of Rojava’s Socialist Experiment?

      Lost in the discussions of Donald Trump’s abrupt announcement of the withdrawal of United States troops from Rojava is the possible fate of the democratic and cooperative experiment of the Syrian Kurds. Threatened with annihilation at the hands of Turkish invaders, should we simply wipe our hands and think nothing of an interesting experiment in socialism being crushed on the orders of a far right de facto dictator?

      The world of course is accustomed to the U.S. government using financial and military means to destroy nascent socialist societies around the world. But the bizarre and unprecedented case — even if accidental — of an alternative society partly reliant on a U.S. military presence seems to have confused much of the U.S. Left. Or is it simply a matter of indifference to a socialist experiment that puts the liberation of women at the center? Or is it because the dominant political inspiration comes more from anarchism than orthodox Marxism?

      Most of the commentary I have seen from U.S. Leftists simply declares “we never support U.S. troops” and that’s the end of it; thus in this conception President Trump for once did something right. But is this issue really so simple? I will argue here that support of Rojava, and dismay at the abrupt withdrawal of troops on the direct demand of Turkish President and de facto dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is not at all a matter of “support” of a U.S. military presence.

    • I Am a Teacher in Los Angeles and I Am Ready to Go on Strike

      When I started teaching in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), I was teaching at Harrison Elementary/Middle School in East Los Angeles. I started my career teaching 8th graders. It was a year-round school, and my classroom was in the bungalows overlooking the asphalt playground and Interstate 10 freeway. It was my first year teaching and everything was new to me. I learned that the bungalows had been condemned and reopened five times. When I was teaching there, I would break out into rashes. I didn’t know what was normal, and being a new teacher, I was trying to survive. There was a sink and a drinking fountain in my classroom. When I turned on the water of the drinking fountain, the water was brownish-yellow and there was debris coming out of the water. Since we were out in the bungalows and away from the main building, there was no other access to drinking water, and especially through the hot summer, students would drink from the fountain. So, I brought a Brita filter to help clean the water. I told the administrators and did what I could at the time to address the situation, but the fountain was never fixed.

      Our classroom would shake each time a big truck passed by and we heard the noise of the freeway throughout the day. These are the conditions at some of our public schools. My first two-and-a-half years of teaching was my introduction to injustice in the city; I could not understand how a building that had been condemned five times could be operating classrooms. I could not understand how drinking water could be so dirty and unhealthy, yet still in a classroom. I could not understand how elementary school kids only had asphalt to play on alongside a noisy freeway with polluted air. All 640,000 students in the Los Angeles Unified School District deserve clean water and air, and to be treated like they matter.

      Students deserve fully funded schools. This is why I will go on strike on January 10 if the LAUSD does not meet the demands of my union, the United Teachers of Los Angeles. One thing we are asking the district for is parent and teacher input on the budget. This is how we create community schools: by centering power not just among the few and rich, but rather parents and teachers.

    • What Could the French “Yellow Vests” Teach Us about Ourselves?

      Most coverage of the Yellow Vest movement in France—lasting seven weeks and drawing hundreds of thousands onto the streets—misses a key question, and one at the heart of our own nation’s journey.

      We’re told the diesel tax hike was the “last straw” for the rural, working poor unable to make ends meet, while the underlying cause of the uprising is resentment at the worsening inequality.

      But wait. If the stress of making ends meet and economic inequality were the distinguishing causal forces, shouldn’t Americans have been the first to hit the streets? In France the top fifth of all earners receive almost five times more than the bottom fifth. Sounds extreme. But here that gap is eight-fold.

      Such contrasts in economic inequality carry with them real differences in the depth of human suffering. Consider that American babies die at a rate 80 percent higher than French babies; and disparities in death rates between babies in poor and wealthy neighborhoods is more significant in Manhattan than in Paris. Moreover, our lives are on average three years shorter than those of the French. In education, American college grads are burdened with student-loan debt averaging almost $29,000, whereas in France the cost of higher education is negligible.

      So, what’s to explain the relative quiescence of Americans confronting more extreme violations of basic fairness than their French counterparts?

    • An Example for Mistreated ‘Workers Across the Globe,’ Spanish Amazon Employees on Strike

      Amazon workers in Spain took part in the second of a two-day strike on Friday demanding improved job conditions from the online behemoth.

      The strikers, said Isabel Serra, a member of the Podemos political party in the regional parliament, “are becoming an example and hope for workers across the globe.”

      Organizers say about 60 percent of the San Fernando de Henares warehouse took part—though Amazon refutes the figure. The timing of this latest strike by the Spanish Amazon workers is noteworthy, as it comes just ahead of a major gift-giving holiday for Spaniards, Three Kings Day, celebrated on January 6.

      “We have been protesting for a year. This is the richest company in the world and they want to keep profiting by taking away workers’ rights,” said David Matarraz, an Amazon worker outside the Madrid-area warehouse.

      Reuters also reports that the action is a joint effort of Spain’s two main unions, CCOO and UGT.

    • Bolsonaro Unveils Mass Privatization Plan for Brazil While Slashing Taxes for Rich and Wages for Poor

      Ending his first week in office by quickly putting into action the far-right agenda he promoted during his campaign, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday unveiled economic proposals that critics says will worsen inequality across Brazil, putting corporate profits above the well-being of middle- and lower-class families.

      Privatization of airports and seaports, tax cuts for the rich, pension cuts, and a minimum wage set lower than Bolsonaro’s predecessor had planned were among the economic reforms the new president has in store for the country, as it moves toward what the new right-wing government calls a “minimal state.”

      Finance Minister Paulo Guedes indicated that the administration has plans to privatize Eletrobras, the government-run power firm, while Bolsonaro took to Twitter on Wednesday to announce his plan to privatize 12 of the country’s airports and four seaports, claiming Brazil is burdened by “hundreds of bureaucratic governing bodies” and that the move will make available $1.85 billion in private investments.

      The president eventually plans to privatize 44 airports, according to the Center for Aviation, a move that could end operations for Infraero, the country’s national aviation authority.

      Guedes also expressed the need for “tax simplification and reduction”—a sign that the administration will worsen the already-regressive tax code which has slashed taxes for the rich while leaving low-income families paying more each year, proportionally, than rich households.

    • Doctors Strike in Zimbabwe as Government Imposes Austerity to Attract More Chinese Investment

      Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has had to cut his holiday vacation short to try to resolve an escalating strike among doctors at public hospitals over low pay and medical supply shortages. Now entering its second month, the strike comes as the government pursues a short-sighted effort to improve its reputation among international creditors by slashing public spending.

      After 37 years of former President Robert Mugabe’s iron fist rule, Zimbabwe’s government is now rolling out the welcome mat for foreign investors — particularly for China. While President Trump has his “Make America Great Again” slogan, Mnangagwa, who became president of this southern African country in 2017, is using the theme “Zimbabwe is open for business.”

    • Economy Adds 312,000 Jobs in December, Wage Growth Creeps Upward

      The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the economy added 312,000 jobs in December. It also revised upward the reported job growth for the prior two months by 58,000, bringing the three-month average to 254,000. In spite of the strong job growth, the unemployment rate edged up to 3.9 percent. This was due to a rise in the labor force participation rate of 0.2 percentage points, as the labor force grew by 419,000. The employment-to-population ratio (EPOP) was unchanged at 60.6 percent.

      Job gains were widespread across sectors. The biggest job gainer was health care, which added 50,200 jobs, well above its average of 28,800 over the last year. Restaurants were also a big job gainer, adding 40,700 jobs in December compared with an average of 19,600 over the last year. Construction added 38,000, likely aided by relatively good weather in December.

      Manufacturing added 32,000 jobs in the month, in spite of the continued growth in the trade deficit. Employment in the sector is now up by 284,000 over the last year. There had been some shortening of the average workweek in manufacturing, especially in the durable sector, which limited the increase in the index of aggregate hours between July and November to just 0.1 percent overall and left it flat for durable manufacturing. However, an increase in the average workweek in December caused the overall index to rise 0.5 percentage points and the durable index to increase 0.4 percentage points.

    • Capitalist Word Play

      Words make up language. Languages make cultures. They describe the world around us in ways the speaker understands. If the listeners hail from the same cultural background, they too understand the message being relayed. That being said, those meanings can change even as they are being told by one to another within the same culture. Examples that come to mind and are fairly well known are the various words US residents use to describe sandwiches. One person’s hero is another person’s sub…and so on. More specific to the point attempting to be made here and in a newly published text by John Patrick Leary titled Keywords: The New Language of Capitalism is the appropriation of words and phrases by the dominant culture that originated among members of a culture or subculture. I like to recall the phrase “Right On!” which originated as an expression of group power in the Black community of the United States. Indeed, in its original context it was often the follow up to an antiphonal call among Black radicals that went: Power Check! Right On! Somewhere along the way, the latter phrase got picked up by an advertising agency. This new use began the phrase’s journey into the mainstream culture.

      The example of Right On’s journey into the mainstream is apocryphal in that it was the advertising business that appropriated the term and ultimately de-radicalized its meaning. It is quite often advertisers and their cohorts in the capitalist world that steal a piece of the “underground’s” language and redefine it to fit their needs. The success of these endeavors can be measured in how often the word is used afterwards and how removed it becomes from its original intention.

      In 1976, the Marxist cultural critic Raymond Williams published a book also titled Keywords. Like Leary’s text (obviously titled in reference to Williams’ earlier work) this work discusses how words and phrases are appropriated and their meanings ultimately changed. In discussing this phenomenon, Williams examines how these changes reflect the nature of power in a society. Naturally, in a capitalist society, the appropriation of language by the capitalist class is designed to enhance and maintain its domination over the rest of us. In response, it is not unusual for the disenfranchised to take words used to oppress them and redefine them. This latter process could be seen when the LBGT community re-appropriated the word “queer.”

      The text by Leary referred to above picks up where Williams book left off. Inspired by his discussion of language and (one assumes) appalled by its continued reworking by the powerful in the economy and academia, Leary’s Keywords provides a survey of words recently appropriated and redefined. This examination reflects the ongoing re-purposing of the language to serve capitalism’s newest champions—the tech industry and the motivational industry. Naturally, the longtime thieves of language are also represented: Wall Street, churches and academia.

      I was at a meeting recently where the word “intersectionality” came up during a discussion regarding the text of some publicity material. One of the people at the meeting asked if we could please not use that word in the text we were considering. Their reason was not that they didn’t agree with the original intent of the word. It was that the word “intersectionality” has been appropriated by liberals and even right wing writers; in this appropriation its meaning has become something different—something quite removed from the definition proffered by those who originated the concept.

    • Feeling Trapped by Vehicle Tickets? Let’s Talk About It — Live

      We’re hosting a forum based on our Driven Into Debt series of investigative stories that revealed how the city’s ticketing often punishes those least able to afford it. We’re doing this in collaboration with WBEZ, which has worked with us on many of the stories in the series, and the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

      During the event, you’ll hear from ProPublica Illinois reporter Melissa Sanchez and WBEZ digital editor Elliott Ramos and get a live tutorial on our interactive database, The Ticket Trap, which allows you to explore how the city tickets and collects debt. The event will include a panel of experts discussing how municipal fines and fees affect people and a Q&A session.

    • Brexit Armageddon

      It is a very English middle-class trait: the world will end if the price of a certain life style goes up. Certain services will be cut. Access to certain travel destinations might be restricted. (The usual European haunts in France and Spain rendered dearer if not inaccessible.) But there is no denying that the attitude to the New Year from this side of the world is one of gloom made normal.

      Not a day goes by without a digest of panicked revelations about what will happen in the event of a “no-deal Brexit”. A lack of certainly has propelled a set of speculations so thick as to be asphyxiating. But there is always room for more, the next desperate act of a government so cadaverous it can only give vague clues that it is still alive, wincing, dodging and avoiding what faces the United Kingdom before the mandarins in Brussels and the nostalgia driven addicts in the Conservative Party.

      London itself is the ground-zero of teeth-chattering panic. Stockpiling of essentials (and various non-essentials) is taking place in a manner reminiscent of the doom that might arise from nuclear holocaust or a crippling blockade initiated by a foreign power. These fears are not entirely irrational: no one knows what might happen to the smooth exchange of goods ands services with the EU in the absence of any clear set of guidelines.

      The latest manifestations of this sense of heightened neuroses can be found in three ferry contracts that have been awarded to French, British and Danish companies. But the means of shipping do not combat paperwork on the ground, the sort is bound to mount once Britain’s departure from the EU bloc is enforced. Chief Executive of the UK Chamber of Shipping Bob Sanguinetti puts it bluntly: “Government is rightly preparing for every eventuality… but it is not clear that government-chartered ships can move goods faster or more efficiently than the private sector.” The issue of customs remains an obstacle that threatens to hove into view with disrupting menace.

    • The Chinese Economy at 70: Slowing Down Amid a Protracted Trade War

      There is no future in predictions, as common as they are at this time of year. Add China into the mix and fate will be tempted to a dangerous degree. But there is one thing we can say for definite … the party will celebrate its 70th anniversary of coming to power in October, 2019. That could mean that much needed reform to the economy is delayed rather than risk social unrest in the run up to a key anniversary. Everywhere you go in Beijing there are signs of a slowing economy. Shops closing, factories letting people go, family holidays canceled. And a marked drop in property prices. I live in north Beijing in an area beyond the 5th ring road with no shops selling designer brands. You are considered successful in Beijing if you live inside the 4th ring road. The nearest subway is a 20 minute walk, as are the nearest shops. This in no way could fall into the des-res category.

      There are six residential blocs in my compound each with 100 flats. These flats were originally built to house elderly inhabitants from inner city areas. But many of their children, now adults with their own families, thought it might be a good idea to bring their parents in with them and rent out the new flat.

      Judging by the lights on at night, 70 percent are empty and have been for more than a year. Plans for two nearby shopping centers have been put on hold because there are so few potential customers. Even in northern Beijing, the most affordable part of the Chinese capital, signs of a downturn are obvious.

    • Best of blockchain: 5 must-reads

      So far, blockchain has remained in the realm of emerging tech, along with artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and virtual reality. Still, many companies and organizations are exploring the technology’s potential application in areas such as supply chain, finance, and more. Technology companies and startups are also working on the third generation of blockchain, adding scalability and sustainability.

      At Opensource.com, our writers also covered blockchain this year. Some popular articles covered topics such as open source crypto wallets, the evolution of blockchain, and how open source is at the heart of it all.

    • Bitcoin Magazine Launches Custom Block Explorer

      Bitcoin runs on a distributed network of computers that participate in securing and maintaining a ledger of transactions called a blockchain. A blockchain is made up of blocks that are secured every 10 minutes by computers called miners. For a detailed explanation of Bitcoin mining, see our guide on the subject.

      A block explorer is an interface for exploring blocks in a blockchain in a detailed way. Bitcoin Magazine’s explorer, like others, provides updated information regarding every block in Bitcoin’s blockchain. Such information contains details including the total number of transactions in a block, as well as the individual outputs for each transaction.

    • Episode 9 – Macron and French Fascism

      On this episode of Along The Line, Nicholas “Dr. Dredlocks” Baham III, Dr. Nolan Higdon and Aimee Casey discuss Emmanuel Macron and the possible reemergence of French Fascism.

    • Increasing Wealth and Income Inequalities before Trump

      In Summer 2018, Rick Baum reported that wealth inequality has been on the rise even before the Trump administration. Undercutting any claims that the Obama administration made meaningful gains in making American society more equitable for ordinary families, Baum’s study detailed trends in wealth inequality that perpetuate the increasing disparity between the rich and the ordinary families.

      According to his analysis of recent Federal Reserve Board information and government reports, wealth inequality has been on the rise. For example, from 1989 to 2016, the shares of the nation’s wealth held by the top one percent increased from 29.60 percent to 38.65 percent. Similarly, the shares held by the top ten percent overall increased from 66.80 percent to 77.18 percent. Yet, the shares held by the bottom 90% declined from 33.20 percent to 22.82 percent, indicating that economic growth came at the expense of those in the bottom.

      Income inequality is also on the rise. From 1992 to 2016, the share of total income going to the top one percent increased from 11.68 percent to 23.80 percent. Shares of income for the bottom 90% decreased from 58.22 percent to 49.69 percent.

    • Apple losses trigger a plunge in US markets

      Sales were suffering in more regions than China, Forte noted. India, Russia, Brazil and Turkey also had slowing sales of new iPhone models, he said.

    • Apple is selling fewer iPhones than it would like

      Or maybe we’re just clinging to them because they are small enough to fit in our back pockets. Or because they don’t cost $1,449. Or because they still work.

    • Did Apple retail prices get too high in 2018? Consumers say yes.

      It wasn’t just iPhones that got price hikes. Apple also upped the cost of the top-of-the-line iPad to $1,000 as well (or more than $2,800 for a loaded model) and added $300 to the cost of the Mac Mini and new MacBook Air computers.

    • Dow Falls 660 Points Amid Investor Fears on Apple Sales

      “When the largest and second-largest economies in the world get into a trade dispute, the rest of the world’s going to feel the effects. That’s what we’re seeing now,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer of Cresset Wealth Advisors.

      In a letter to shareholders Wednesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that iPhone demand is waning in China and that the company expects revenue of $84 billion for the quarter that just ended. That’s $7 billion less than analysts expected.

      Cook’s comments echoed the concerns that have pushed investors to flee stocks over the past three months. The U.S. stock market in 2018 posted its worst year in a decade.

      The S&P 500 lost 62.14 points Thursday, closing at 2,447.89. The Dow fell to 22,868.22. The Nasdaq, which has a high concentration of tech stocks, retreated 202.43 points, or 3 percent, to 6,463.50.

      U.S. government bond prices surged, sending yields to their lowest level in almost a year, and gold and high-dividend stocks like utilities also rose as investors looked for safer places to put their money.

    • Why I am Still a Cryptocurrency Enthusiast, 2019 Edition

      Cryptocurrencies had a rough ride in 2018. As of January 7, 2018, the total market capitalization of all cryptocurrencies tracked by CoinMarketCap.com came to more than $800 billion, its highest point ever. As I write this on January 3, 2019, that total market capitalization is down to about $130 billion — about 1/6th of the market’s high point.

      You might be surprised to learn that I’m still a cryptocurrency fan. But, just to be up front, yes, I am.

      Not because I’m sitting on a huge pile of the stuff (as of this moment, my cryptocurrency holdings are worth less than $100 US), nor because I expect to make a killing speculating (when I get some crypto, I generally spend it without waiting very long to see if it increases in value).

      I’m still enthusiastic about cryptocurrency because I’ve seen what it can do and make plausible predictions about what it will be able to do in the future. Cryptocurrency seizes control of money from governments and puts it in the hands of people. With improvements in its privacy aspects, that’s only going to become more true. In short, cryptocurrency fuels freedom.

    • Bitcoin Turns 10: The Digital Coin That Defined The Cryptocurrency World

      en years ago, on 3rd January, an anonymous developer named Satoshi Nakamoto mined the genesis block of Bitcoin and started a new peer-to-peer electronic cash system. Fast forward ten years, Bitcoin is one of the most well known and dominant cryptocurrencies in the world where digital currencies are biting the dust.

    • Apple Could Share Same Fate As Nokia: Goldman Sachs

      According to a Goldman Sachs analyst, Apple’s latest slump in iPhone sales is the starting of the end of Apple. Rod Hall from Goldman Sachs has compared Apple to Nokia, which ruled the smartphone industry once but soon fell to competitors, reports Cult of Mac.

      Halls’ theory rests on the fact that just like Apple, Nokia has also started relying on customer upgrades after populating the market with its devices. Nokia started witnessing fall in sales of new devices as people started waiting more for the upgrades.

    • Goldman Sachs thinks Apple could be the next Nokia

      A Goldman Sachs analyst thinks Apple’s revised earnings guidance might be the start of a longer-term story. According to Rod Hall, Apple could slash numbers even further later in the year, due to lowered expectations about iPhone sales.

      Hall goes on to liken Apple to Nokia, a fallen giant in the mobile game. The company ruled the market early on, only to run into problems.

    • Google Moved $23 Billion To Tax Haven Bermuda In 2017, Filing Shows

      Search and advertising giant Google moved about $23 billion (19.9 billion euros) to tax haven Bermuda in 2017. A report from Reuters suggests that the company did it through a Dutch shell company.

      Google’s filing on Dec. 21 with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce has made this information public. This has been done as a part of the arrangement to reduce the foreign tax bill.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • 5 (More) Reasons Facebook Is Even Worse Then We Thought

      Fast-forward a few years and … whoopsie-doodles, it turns out Facebook was lying their asses off.

      The video metrics that Facebook reported to publishers — such as total number of views, average viewing time, etc. — were inflated by as much as “60 to 80 percent,” a little glitch they reportedly discovered in early 2015 but didn’t (quietly) cop to until September 2016. They knew this looked bad, because it was bad, so they rolled out the fixes veeeeery slowly and without telling anyone, specifically so that “advertisers … won’t notice significant changes.” It’s like if a restaurant found out they’d been accidentally seasoning food with rat poison, then took two years to replace it because they didn’t want to change the taste.

    • Fans of Brazil’s new fascist president chant “Facebook! Facebook! Whatsapp! Whatsapp!” at inauguration

      In case you have any doubt about whether Bolsonaro really owes his election to Facebook and Whatsapp, allow his hardcore supporters to remove that doubt: at his inauguration, Brazil’s bootlickers and useful idiots gathered to chant “Facebook!” and “Whatsapp!”.

    • The Left Is on a Roll, and Trump Is Beatable in 2020

      One constant theme of the Trump era is an unspecified anxiety about whether anything matters. Throughout 2017, Trump lied at an unprecedented scale. Did any of it matter? Trump fired then-FBI director James Comey, then confessed on NBC News that he did so to relieve pressure from the Russia probe. Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel, and each passing week gave the public a small glimpse into what his office was looking into. But with every breaking news story, the inevitable follow-up question was: Does any of this matter?

      The 2018 midterms gave the public a clear sign that yes, Trump’s reprehensible behavior and the multiple investigations encircling him and his closest advisers have taken a toll on his presidency. He was elected with historically high disapproval ratings, and after two years he has made no headway in increasing his support and has arguably lost at least some of it.

      Looking at Trump’s personal failings and the Mueller investigation only tells part of the story though. A full picture of why voter turnout was higher in 2018 than in any midterm since World War I needs to include the disability activists who led the fight to save what’s left of the ACA; the immigrant rights advocates who fought against family separation, detention and deportation; and the new crop of Democrats who won primaries and have already shifted the party significantly to the left.

      What does this mean for the 2020 election, and what does the 2020 election mean for the future of the country and the planet? The twin realities of an upcoming census — and the redistricting processes that will follow — and worsening climate change mean the next election could literally determine the fates of tens of millions of people. So, let’s look at a few possible scenarios we may encounter, come 2020.

    • Trump Writes Sad Ballads as the New House Majority Arrives

      After a 90-minute Cabinet meeting on Wednesday where Trump was lying or bragging or both throughout, he met with Nancy Pelosi and a congressional delegation to “discuss” border security, the Wall and the government shutdown. Before the delegation even had a chance to sit down, Trump deployed a pair of brazen lies about his beloved Wall: The trade deal he just struck means Mexico will pay for it (nope), and, in his words, “much of the Wall has already been fully renovated or built” (likewise nope).

      The Trump-Pelosi meeting Wednesday evening predictably came to nothing, and not just for the reasons you might suspect. Donald Trump hasn’t realized he’s betting all his chips on a busted straight and still believes he can bare-face his way through the muddle he’s made for himself, but we knew that. Word came down on Wednesday afternoon, however, that Trump and his people have somehow convinced themselves that Pelosi lacks the votes to become Speaker. The White House chose to punt the meeting to Friday and see who’s still standing once the smoke clears. Pro tip: Pelosi has it in the bag.

      What a perfectly ridiculous way to ring in a new year.

      It is my most devout and fervent hope that you were able to spend the days between the Christmas holiday and the New Year resting and ignoring the president of the United States and his ongoing government shutdown with all your might. If you managed to do so, congratulations: You are smarter for the effort. If you were sucked into the vortex of gibbering nonsense deployed by Donald Trump before the ball dropped in New York City, well, welcome to the club; we get jackets.

    • Democrats vs. Trump: Why Status Quo Ante and Obamaism are Not Enough

      Beginning January 3, the Democrats have a choice: Do they act simply as anti-Trumps, seeking to reverse his policies and revert to status quo ante Obama- politics, or do they move toward something more transformational? If they are politically smart, they do the latter and build policies and a coalition more permanent. If they do the former they set themselves for failure and position themselves for setting up the conditions that led to their demise over the last generation. The challenge for Democrats is navigating this choice, and it is not clear they can successfully do it given the distinct interests within their party.

      Democrats, especially in the US House, face complex challenges governing. In part, their agenda is determined by the lessons of 2016 and 2018 elections. Theory one is that Clinton and the Democrats lost in 2016 because they failed to take Trump seriously. Clinton was a weak candidate with a poor message and campaign strategy who ran on the politics of the status quo in an election whose geography came down to a handful of swing states. She and her party lost because critical voters, such as women, people of color, and those under the age of 30 stay home because Democrats assumed they would show up to vote, and they did not, while at the same time angry white men did.

      Democrats won in 2018 because Trump was despised, especially by female voters in more affluent and better educated suburbs where Democrats ran candidates who worked hard to get out the vote and mobilize voters who stayed home in 2016. If this is the theory of what happened, then the Democratic agenda is set: Reverse Trumpism, bring back Obama-era policies, and take on the president with aggressive investigations and checks that could include impeachment. Do this and many of those lost white, working class voters will return to the party.

    • Nancy Pelosi kicks off second stint as House speaker by picking a fight with progressives

      Some progressive Democrats have announced that they will vote against the House Democrats’ new package of legislative rules, the first order of business when the new Congress officially convenes on Thursday, based on of a number of changes championed by conservatives that progressives argue will hamstring their policy objectives.

      As soon as the new Congress is sworn in on Thursday, House Democrats will attempt to pass the new rules for how the House of Representative conducts its business for the next two years. Assuming none of the 197 House Republicans vote to approve the rules package, the 234-Democratic majority cannot lose more than 16 votes to pass the new rules package. But there are growing signs that presumed incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will kick off her second tenure by angering a significant portion of her caucus, potentially spoiling for an embarrassing first run of Democratic governance in the Trump era.

    • Bernie Isn’t Running (Yet), But the Sanders Network Is Alive, Kicking, and Organizing for 2020

      It sure seems like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is going to run for president. And the people who want him to do so are already busy making sure the announcement they believe is coming is greased with an infrastructure and base of support that will give him a distinct advantage in what is expected to be a crowded Democratic field.

      On New Year’s Day, Sanders sent out an email to supporters in which, in addition to wishing people “a happy and healthy” 2019, he reiterated his belief that “fighting Trump is not enough” in the year ahead as he called for an ambitious and progressive agenda that looked very much like his previous presidential campaign platform.

    • Raising ‘All Manner of Conflict of Interest Questions,’ the Only National Park Site Reopening Amid Shutdown Is in Trump Hotel

      While 380,000 federal employees have been out of work on furlough for 12 days and 420,000 more are working without pay due to the government shutdown, the General Services Administration has reportedly found the funding to reopen the Old Post Office tower in Washington, D.C., which shares a building with President Donald Trump’s hotel.

      Although the government shutdown is expected to continue into next week at least, the tower is set to reopen by the end of this week, according to a report by E&E News.

      Considering the president’s financial interest in ensuring the tower remains open, Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW) executive director Noah Bookbinder said Wednesday that the reopening “raises all manner of conflict of interest questions.”

    • Looking Backward (2018) and Forward (2019)

      Many years ago, I came across a pre-Islamic Arabic poem describing a camel running across the desert. Suddenly, the camel freezes in mid-stride. First, it looks backward in fear of what it was running from, and then it turns its glance forward – also in fear – toward the unknown that is its destination. It was this image that came to mind as 2018 came to an end and I sat down to write about the year that was and what we expect might unfold in the new year.

      By any measure, 2018 was a tumultuous year, in no small way owing to President Trump’s unpredictable behavior. He has been, in a word, exhausting.

      We began and ended 2018 with a short government shutdown owing to Trump’s insistence that Congress agree to fund the wall on the Mexican border, despite opposition from Democrats and some leaders in his own party. When Democrats offered the White House partial funding of the wall in an effort to secure a compromise on immigration reform, Trump balked and upped the ante demanding, in addition to his wall, an end to the diversity lottery and family unification – making disparaging remarks about immigrants from the African continent in the process. He also dramatically reduced the number of refugees admitted to the US and imposed new hardships on those seeking asylum. Added to this has been the Administration’s “family separation” policy which produced the nightmarish result of thousands of little children being taken from their parents at the border and sent to far-away locations. At year’s end, we once again have a government shutdown, no wall, and no indication that the White House is willing to compromise.

    • What to Expect of House Democrats

      Democrats are now in control of the House of Representatives, under Speaker Nancy Pelosi. I know and have worked with many of them. They are people of integrity who will strive to do what’ right for America. Pelosi is tough and courageous. Were it not for her insistence, Obama would not have pushed for the Affordable Care Act.

      But they are not miracle workers. Republicans still control the Senate.

      They will make life harder for Trump, to be sure. They will investigate. They have the power of subpoena. The House Ways and Means Committee is specifically authorized to subpoena Trump’s tax returns. They might even move to impeach Trump, if Mueller reports what I expect him to.

    • And They’re Off! Candidates Race to Challenge Trump in 2020

      The cork was barely off the champagne on New Year’s Eve 2019 before a crowd of eager candidates began their 2020 presidential election stampede.

      Elizabeth Warren has formed her official presidential exploratory committee, dedicating her campaign to “fighting for America’s middle class.”

      Among the most high-profile Trump challengers are Senator Elizabeth Warren, who announced that she had formally launched her presidential exploratory committee in a video to supporters released on December 31.

      Mitt Romney waited until January 2, the day before his swearing-in as the new Republican Senator from Utah, to blast Donald Trump in a Washington Post op-ed widely seen as a move to position himself as the voice of anti-Trump Republicans and a potential challenger in the Republican presidential primary.

    • Elizabeth Warren’s Presidential Bid Leaves Questions to Be Answered

      With the launch of her exploratory presidential committee on New Year’s Eve, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been among the first to jump into what is sure to be a crowded field of Democrats vying for their party’s 2020 nomination. In a four-minute video, she laid out in clear terms her bold, progressive agenda for a people-centered economy—a major improvement on the video she published last fall as part of her widely criticized response to President Donald Trump’s false accusations about her Native American ancestry.

      For Warren to make her intentions clear nearly two years before the actual election is a good problem to have during this time of political devastation being wrought by Trump. With a partial government shutdown in progress that has no end in sight, and an announced pay freeze for federal workers, the president’s callousness toward working Americans is more apparent than ever. Into this fray, surely Warren’s move is a welcome one. There are, however, caveats to the senator’s bid and critical lessons for voters looking ahead to an inordinately long campaign season.

    • It’s Your Congress, People. Make it Work for You!

      Congress is the Constitutionally delegated repository of the sovereign authority of the people (the Constitution which starts with “We the People,” not “We the Congress!”). Most of the changes, reforms, and improvements desired by a majority of people have to go through Congress. Incentives for change often start with Congressional elections or grass-roots organizing. But sooner or later, change has to go through the gates of our national legislature on Capitol Hill.

      This point is so obvious that it is astonishing so many reformers fail to regularly hammer home that we must intensely focus on Congress.

      Just 535 humans (Senators and Representatives) need your votes far more than they need fat cat campaign contributions.

    • Accused of Lying to His Own Agency’s Investigators, Departure Doesn’t Save Zinke From DOJ Probe

      Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke left office Wednesday following a Trump administration tenure characterized by aggressive environmental regulatory rollbacks as well as 18 federal investigations into his ethics, spending, and conduct while in office—but his resignation has not saved him from a Justice Department probe into potentially criminal violations.

      The Washington Post reported Thursday that the DOJ has opened a probe into whether Zinke lied to his own agency’s investigators about his involvement in a land deal in Montana and the blocking of a casino project proposed by First Nations tribes in Connecticut.

    • New Polling Shows House Democrats Who Won’t Back Green New Deal Could Be Ousted by Progressives in 2020

      In a signal that Democratic voters aren’t satisfied with timid steps to address the human-made global climate crisis, new polling from Data for Progress—initially reported by HuffPost on Thursday—shows that incumbent congressional candidates in 2020 could be ousted by progressive primary challengers if they fail to back a Green New Deal.

      Championed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and a growing collective of Democratic lawmakers and climate campaigners, a Green New Deal would combine efforts to curb global warming and create a more just economy through generating clean energy jobs and other initiatives. Such a deal, however, has been met with opposition from more conservative Democrats.

    • “Are You Serious?” Awards 2018

      From Saudi Arabia funding Islamophobic attacks on Muslim congresswomen to Israel arming anti-Semitic militias, we look at some of the more fascinating boondoggles from 2018

    • Shunning Corporate Donors and Pledging People-Powered Campaign, Warren Shuttering Fundraising PAC

      Urging any Democratic candidates who launch 2020 presidential campaigns to follow suit, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) announced on Thursday that she is shutting down her joint fundraising PAC.

      A spokesperson for Warren announced the move to CNBC three days after the senator revealed that she is forming an exploratory committee ahead of a potential 2020 run, and a day after Warren appeared on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” where she discussed the importance of Democrats ending their dependence on corporate donors and instead running grassroots campaigns powered by small donations from voters.

      “I think this is a moment for all of the Democratic nominees to come into the race to say, ‘In a Democratic primary we are going to link arms and we’re going to say grassroots funding. No to the billionaires,” Warren told Maddow.

    • ‘Trump Is Guilty’: Along With Democratic Control of House Comes Renewed Push to Impeach President

      Democratic Reps. Brad Sherman (Calif.) and Al Green (Texas) on Thursday re-introduced Articles of Impeachment against Trump for allegedly obstructing justice by firing former FBI director James Comey, among other actions. Sherman, with Green’s support, had previously filed an impeachment resolution in July of 2017, when the House was under GOP control.

      Since Republicans refused to hold hearings on that measure, H.Res. 438, and all legislation introduced last session but not enacted into law was terminated on Wednesday, Sherman said in a statement: “Accordingly, it’s necessary and appropriate to reintroduce the Articles of Impeachment. I have not changed the text. I continue to believe that obstruction of justice is the clearest, simplest, and most provable high crime and misdemeanor committed by Donald J. Trump.”

      “Every day, Donald Trump shows that leaving the White House would be good for our country,” the 12-term congressman told the Los Angeles Times early Thursday, before the congressional session convened. In terms of his impeachment resolution, Sherman said, “There is no reason it shouldn’t be before the Congress.”

    • This Girl Is On Fire

      Talk about your welcome sea change. After suffering through eight years of racist, boorish, bellicose mini-Trump Paul LePage, Mainers this week celebrated the swearing-in of our 75th – and first woman – governor Janet Mills, a wonkish Democratic former Attorney General who often tangled with LePage, who believes in climate change and health care, and who speaks in full sentences. Speaking before 3,000 elated people at her Wednesday inauguration, Mills offered up a promising future with the help of a newly Democratic-controlled legislature, vowing to fund Medicaid expansion, focus on renewable energy, fight the state’s opioid crisis and reconvene a council of state agencies to help children in need. The icing on her inaugural cake: The bring-down-the-house performance by two immigrant girls, 11-year-old Shy Paca and 10-year-old Natalia Mbadu, of Alicia Keys’ “Girl On Fire.” Cue jubilation, and the sense Maine had come back to itself. “Tomorrow we rise before the dawn,” said Mills near the end of her speech, “(with) hope in our hearts and love in our souls for a brand new day.” Not a moment too soon.

    • Democrats Attack Journalism On Their Preferred 2020 Candidates

      Establishment Democrats are waging smear campaign against journalist David Sirota and his reporting on Beto O’Rourke, who may run for president in 2020.

    • Day 13: Dems pass funding plan without wall, Trump digs in

      On their first day in the majority, House Democrats have passed a plan to re-open the government without funding President Donald Trump’s promised border wall.

      The largely party-line votes Thursday night came after Trump made a surprise appearance at the White House briefing room, pledging to keep up the fight for his signature campaign promise.

      House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump and Senate Republicans should “take yes for an answer” and approve the border bill, which was virtually identical to a plan the Senate adopted on a voice vote last month.

      “We’re not doing a wall. Does anyone have any doubt that we’re not doing a wall?” Pelosi told reporters at a news conference Thursday night.

      Pelosi, who was elected speaker earlier Thursday, also took a shot a Trump, calling his proposal “a wall between reality and his constituents.”

    • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has arrived. But she’s not the only AOC in town

      Is there room in Washington for two AOCs? A couple of very different entities are using the moniker these days, and it’s stirred up some feelings among Hill workers and watchers.

      One is a young, hotshot newcomer to Congress who’s been in the spotlight since an upset election victory over the summer. The other is a 226-year-old agency whose 2,000 employees keep the trees trimmed, the tours running and the lights on behind the scenes.

      Over the weekend Bronx native Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took a big step — she changed her official Twitter handle to @AOC.

      That’s further tangling things for Hill denizens who see those familiar initials and can’t help but think of the Architect of the Capitol. The Legislative Branch agency, responsible for everything from fixing elevators to restoring historic works of art in the sprawling Capitol complex, has used AOC as its official shorthand for years. The agency’s website is even aoc.gov.

    • “If Bernie Runs?” Wrong Question

      In late 2014 Bernie Sanders came out to Iowa City to speak before a large and enthusiastic crowd at that university town’s venerable independent Prairie Lights Bookstore. It was part of his exploration before finally committing to running for the U.S. presidency as a Democrat Iowa City was a key spot – a big campus town bastion of liberal Democrats whose support would be needed in the pivotal first-in-the nation Iowa Caucuses in January of 2016.

      Sanders spoke well and angrily against economic inequality and its terrible social and political consequences. He made a compelling case for single-payer health insurance, progressive taxation, the restoration of union organizing and collective bargaining rights, and positive climate action.

      It was a good progressive-populist talk with some nice identity politics thrown in for the university crowd. It made important points any leftist could applaud.

      There were two things missing from Bernie’s presentation, however – a pair of deletions that made me wonder how serious he really was about fighting for the nation’s working-class majority and against the nation’s unelected dictatorship of capital. The first omission did not surprise me: any criticism of the American war and empire (“defense”) machine as a barrier to the progressive policies he advocated for “the middle class.”

      The second thing missing was any reference to any Democrats being every much part of the American plutocracy as the Republicans. In his talk, Sanders skewered the evil racist, corporate, and climate science-denying Republicans again and again. He never mentioned corporate Democrats. It was left to a leftist film professor to stand up and politely remind Sanders that the Democratic “leaders” were also tools and agents of the American oligarchy.

      I found Bernie’s silence on Big Business Democrats curious. I recalled John “Two Americas” Edwards denouncing “corporate Democrats” across Iowa in the long lead-up to the 2008 Iowa Caucus. Edwards was no leftist. He’d been a full-blown Democrat who had run on the same presidential ticket with the corporatist neoliberal John “I am Not a Redistribution Democrat” Kerry in 2004.

      The mainstream Edwards could say and denounce “corporate Democrats” – meaning, accurately enough, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson, and Chris Dodd – in 2007, but the avowed socialist and independent Bernie Sanders could not in 2014? It seemed odd.

    • Alexandria in Pelosistan

      Those of us who live in San Francisco are often accused of inhabiting an alternative reality. I’m starting to think that maybe those SF bashers are right, but not for the reasons they think.

      No, lately I have the feeling that I’m slipping down the rabbit hole because of the curious behavior of my representative in Congress, Nancy Pelosi.

      Maybe I ate the wrong mushrooms with my avocado toast, but whether I shrink my perspective or expand it to tree top level, nothing quite makes sense here anymore. I thought I was living in the most progressive realm in the USA, but Pelosi, the Queen of Hearts in these parts, still thinks the smart move is playing 1990’s, Clintonite, triangulating, political power games rather than pushing for the real changes we desperately need to improve our lives today and secure a livable future for the generations to come.

      I struggle to find a name for this strange place, where the great and urgent issues of our time are treated as if they have no substance, where our nearly octogenarian Queen is unwittingly in league with a grinning Cheshire cat with his orange comb over in resisting substantive change. Out of loyalty, let’s call it Pelosistan (with apologies to Lewis Carroll).

      For just one upside down example here in this whimsical realm, our Queen appears to believe that only the most fortunate among us are entitled to quality, affordable health care. Our Queen is on the record as being opposed to Medicare for all (or anything like it) – despite the fact that a substantial majority of people in the nation favor it and our current health care system costs twice as much as that of any other advanced nation, yet the World Health Organization ranks us as the 37thbest health care system in the world, while by other measures we rank 40thin child mortality rate, 62nd in maternity mortality rate, 36thin access to essential health services and 35th in life expectancy at age 60. Hmmmmm. Curioser and curioser.

      For another brain teaser, our Queen thinks it’s a clever idea to adopt a pay-go rule for the House of Representatives, meaning you can’t spend any money on new programs without offsetting tax hikes or budget cuts. She thinks it will appeal to voters if the Democrats adopt a Republican austerity strategy, although Republicans themselves refuse to follow such a strategy even as they drone on about its dire necessity. Not only does that seem like she might be taking her advice from a hookah smoking caterpillar, but it makes me wonder what voters she thinks this strategy appeals to. Certainly not her own constituency here in San Francisco.

    • Democrats: Make Labor a Priority for 2020

      Democrats and liberals need to take back the labor issue.

      They, along with Republicans, have supported globalization and free trade policies that have stagnated the American wage for nearly 40 years. The worker remains in a precarious state, at the behest of the double-edged sword of outsourcing and artificial intelligence. Under these conditions, in which they are often happy to maintain any job, employers have been able to maintain low salaries and get by with offering only minimal benefits. Contracting out within the U.S. is also a problem, as seen with Uber and other employers that hire “independent contractors” who work long hours, are stripped of benefits traditional employees receive and are penalized for not providing rides around the clock.

      A tax penalty for international outsourcing, stricter legal definitions on the “independent contractor” and fines for replacing workers with AI, without first securing an equal paying job, would be a good start. Tariffs on goods damaging American industry are another option. Unlike previous candidates, Trump paid lip service to the miserable conditions of the worker and has placed tariffs on steel imports. But his tax cuts, permanent only for corporations, and his further deregulation of industry have far outweighed any good that tariffs may have initiated. Furthermore, as the U.S. steel industry is already in a state of disrepair, the tariffs can only do so much, while negatively impacting American finished products industries that typically purchase cheap steel from China.

      There are some daunting challenges to mainstream Democrats and liberals’ embracing pro-labor policies. First, just as the Republicans are closer to the fossil fuel industry, Democrat are in bed with the high-tech industry. Thus, placing a burden on industries that replace workers with AI faces a logistical hurdle – funding from the high-tech industry may then evaporate. Second, Democrats’ placing strong regulation on businesses is generally unlikely, as Republicans and mainstream Democrats are heavily funded by corporate interests. Lastly, making globalization work for employees requires that they are no longer easily replaceable with inexpensive labor in developing countries. But both parties have long-embraced the ‘freedom’ of American businesses to shift labor overseas, under the pretense of benevolent globalization. Yet placing a tax on businesses that outsource abroad is likely to further erode Democratic campaign funds.

      There is also a perception problem among many Democrats and liberals. They hold a sanguine view of displaced workers’ ability to find other employment without difficulty. And they often associate disgruntled, displaced employees with the ‘angry white male’ who voted for Trump. However, worker displacement affects men, women, African Americans, Hispanics and the rest of the ethnic/racial gamut equally – from self-service cash registers replacing human cashiers, to AI removing white collar workers and outsourcing impacting workers throughout the socioeconomic spectrum.

      The future of employment in the U.S. does not look very positive – unless Democrats act.

    • Will Bernie Sanders Will Be Our President in 2020?

      No one liked Hillary Clinton. Partly because she was a woman and partly because she was a nasty person. Thus when Trump called Hillary a “nasty woman” he could stumble into truth, not so much because he knew what nasty was, but because he didn’t like women. Regardless of the reasons, Hillary was disliked by everyone. She only won the primary for two reasons: 1. Because the party rigged it for her. 2. This was only a two horse race.

      Now, we know the Democrats always rig their primaries. They don’t count mail-in ballots that are primarily from independents and poor people, they bar independents from voting in some states, they repress the votes of young people and people of color, they have a rigged delegate system, and they have a biased corporate media that really is propaganda. They could rig it against Bernie last time because Hillary could keep it close against him even if the rules were fair. 2016 was a two horse race and Bernie was universally unknown, starting the polls at about the 1% he despised.

    • As Most Diverse Congress in History Takes Office, Dems Push to End Shutdown Without Funding for Wall

      The 116th Congress made history Thursday, swearing in the most diverse group of lawmakers ever and more than 100 women in the House, including the first two Native American women, the first two Latina women from Texas and the first two Muslim women. The first-ever African-American women congressmembers from Connecticut and Massachusetts were sworn in, as was Colorado’s first-ever African-American member of Congress. The first-ever and now second female House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and House Democrats sought to end the government shutdown as their first order of business, passing a package of spending bills that would reopen the federal government without meeting Trump’s demand for $5 billion for expanding the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. We speak with California Rep. Judy Chu.

    • Slamming Joe Lieberman for Joining Chinese Telecom Giant, Warren Calls for ‘Lifetime Ban’ on Members of Congress Becoming Lobbyists

      Responding to news that former Democratic Sen. Joe Liebermann—who once promised to never lobby after leaving Congress—is joining the Chinese telecom giant ZTE as a registered lobbyist, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) argued on Thursday that such a move should be illegal and reiterated her call for “a lifetime ban on members of Congress working as lobbyists.”

      Warren, who on Monday offically announced that she is exploring a 2020 presidential bid, went on to call for a total ban on foreign lobbying as well, arguing that it would force “countries like China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia… to conduct their foreign policy out in the open.”

      “ZTE is a giant foreign telecom company that’s close with the Chinese government. They’ve violated serious U.S. sanctions on Iran and North Korea. Their lobbyists keep blocking accountability. And today former Senator Joe Lieberman joined them. Should that be legal? No,” Warren declared on Twitter.

      “Corruption in Washington isn’t about a single president or political party. It runs deep,” the Massachusetts senator added. “We should call it out—and we should pass my sweeping anti-corruption reforms to clamp down on all the ways giant companies drown govt in money to get their way.”

    • ‘Call Me a Radical’: Ocasio-Cortez Suggests 70% Tax Rate for Ultra Rich to Help Pay for Green New Deal

      In the second video featuring Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) to make headlines in less than 24 hours, the first-term congresswoman called for major systemic changes to address the climate crisis and suggested taxing ultra wealthy Americans around 70 percent to help pay for it—declaring, “if that’s what radical means, call me a radical.”

      The preview of Anderson Cooper’s forthcoming interview with Ocasio-Cortez, which is set to air at 7pm ET Sunday on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” quickly caught the attention of both advocates and critics of implementing a progressive taxation scheme that, as she put, could force the rich “to start paying their fair share in taxes.”

    • Historic Bill to Strengthen Democracy Introduced in Congress

      In a major step toward fixing our broken system of elections, House Democratic lawmakers introduced a comprehensive democracy reform bill Thursday, the first day of the 116th Congress.

      The bill, which is known as H.R. 1, or the For The People Act, and was sponsored by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), would create a more responsive and representative government by making it easier for voters to cast a ballot and harder for lawmakers to gerrymander, by transforming how campaigns are funded to amplify the voices of ordinary Americans, and by bolstering election security and government ethics.

      The measure, which comes in response to the demands of voters last November, marks the first time in decades that either of the two major parties has put democracy reform at the top of its priority list. And by grouping together issues that Washington has until now treated separately — voting rights, gerrymandering, campaign finance reform, and ethics — the effort helps to define and build momentum for a sweeping democracy agenda.

    • Democrats in Congress Unveil Ambitious Plan to Fix Our Election System

      On the second day of the 116th Congress, the new House Democratic majority will introduce H.R. 1, the most comprehensive democracy reform legislation seen this century. It addresses voting rights and electoral procedures, campaign finance rules and loopholes, and seeks to institute higher ethical standards for federal officeholders and more.

      One can look at the For The People Act as a wish list of inclusive, transparent and publicly accountable solutions and best practices that seek to come to grips with today’s world of voting, election advocacy and voter engagement—or suppression. Or one can look at its dozens of focal points as a catalog of everything that has broken down in a system that vainly labels itself the world’s greatest democracy.

      “When they trust you on this issue, they trust you on other issues as well,” said Rep. John Sarbanes, D-MD, chair of the House Democrats’ Democracy Reform Task Force and a longtime public financing advocate, describing H.R. 1. “That confidence is what democracy is all about.”

    • Within Hours of Taking Office, “Trump of the Tropics” Starts Assault on the Amazon

      Within hours of taking office, the Trump of the Tropics, aka the new President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, launched an all-out assault against the Amazon rainforest and its indigenous communities yesterday, potentially paving the way for large scale deforestion by agricultural, mining and oil companies.

      Startling many commentators by the speed of his action after his inauguration, Bolsonaro signed an executive order or decree, which immediately shifted responsibility for indigenous land demarcation from FUNAI, the Brazilian government’s Indigenous Affairs office, to the pro-agribusiness Ministry of Agriculture.

      More worryingly, it could eventually pave the way for the dismantling of the indigenous reserve system, which would allow mining and oil interests to move in unchallenged.

    • ‘Wait Till GOP Find Out Congresswomen Dance Too,’ Says Ocasio-Cortez

      After an attempt by right-wingers to somehow embarrass Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) by sharing an amazing video of her replicating a dance scene from the 1980s classic film, “The Breakfast Club,” the newly-seated member let her detractors know on Friday that not only is she not ashamed of the archival footage, she’s got a couple of moves left.

    • Copyright, Culture, Sharing, Remix… And A Congresswoman Dancing As A College Student

      So… this post is going to discuss something involving freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. For a variety of reasons — some good, some bad, some truly awful — Ocasio-Cortez (or AOC, as people call her) seems to elicit quite a strong reaction from people, both pro and con. This post is not about her, or her views, or whatever you happen to think about any of it. If you want to argue about her in the comments, feel free, just know that you’ll be off-topic and will look silly. Rather, this post is about copyright — a topic that we talk about frequently, and one on which AOC, in her new job, may at some point be asked to weigh in on as a legislator.

      The latest “controversy” (if you can even call it that) began as one of the various attempts by some of her critics to dig into her past to try to prove… something(?!?), in this case by unearthing a video of her in college dancing. I remain unclear of what awful thing her critics thought this proved, but apparently it was something about how people can’t possibly have been poor if they once had fun dancing. At least that was the suggestion I saw passed around, and it’s about as nonsensical as copyright term extension, but alas…

    • The Factual Reporting by David Sirota That Stirred an Epic Freakout

      In recent weeks, investigative journalist David Sirota made the repeated fatal error of doing his job. He reported facts, as his wont, and the corporate media and political elites flipped out, as is their wont.

      Earlier this week, he linked to another investigative journalist’s tweet which accurately described what Biden said in a 2018 video—that he would support a means test for Social Security. In response, The Daily Banter—a website which smears anyone to the Left of the DNC, portrays harassers as victims and has a white male staff writer who lectures Nina Turner about her “ancestors” and African American history because he went to a civil rights museum once—posted a story with the expected regurgitation of a talking point used by conservatives or centrists pretending to have progressive politics: ‘Universal programs, you see, are bad, you see, because they benefit the super wealthy, you see, who don’t deserve the help.’ This hot take ignores history and common sense. Universal programs are less stigmatized and less likely to be cut when they apply to everyone. There’s a reason why the politically savvy Bill Clinton went after Welfare and not Social Security.

      The attack on Sirota over Biden is just beginning but it’s the latest iteration of smearing investigative journalists for reporting inconvenient truths. Last month, when David Sirota tweeted out a simple fact about a segment of Beto O’Rourke’s donors, he was accused of launching a “seriously” dangerous war on behalf of Trump. “Oh look,” tweeted Neera Tanden, the president and CEO of the liberal(ish) think tank Center for American Progress and a close ally of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. “A supporter of Bernie Sanders attacking a Democrat. This is seriously dangerous. We know Trump is in the White House and attacking Dems is doing Trump’s bidding. I hope Senator Sanders repudiates these attacks in 2019.”

      As is often the case, the smear began with a blatant distortion covered in a mantle of self-righteous moralism. Why is it risky for a journalist—who writes regularly about campaign finance and the interactions between corporations and politics—to point out that the former Democratic Congressman was “the #2 recipient of oil/gas industry campaign cash in the entire Congress.” How is stating a fact “doing Trump’ s bidding”? Why would Sanders need to condemn a journalist for reporting the truth?

    • ‘No-Brainer for Anyone Who Actually Cares About American Democracy’: House Democrats’ HR 1 Praised as Real Plan to Drain the Swamp

      Formally titled the For the People Act—or H.R. 1—and sponsored by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), the far-reaching bill would promote public financing of elections, reduce the influence of corporate dark money, strengthen ethics and financial disclosure rules, and bolster voting rights, which are under severe attack from the Republican Party, the Trump White House, and the right-wing Supreme Court.

      “Everything in H.R. 1 is a no-brainer for anyone who actually cares about American democracy,” Morris Pearl, chair of the Patriotic Millionaires, said in a statement applauding the new legislation.

      “It’s time to unrig our broken political system,” Pearl continued. “Our political leaders have been most responsive to the interests of their wealthy donors for too long while the needs of normal Americans go unaddressed. Before we can fix any of our other issues we need to put power back into the hands of the people, and H.R. 1 is an important, necessary first step to getting there.”

      Progressive groups echoed Pearl’s praise for H.R. 1, describing the plan as an urgent and necessary solution to the corruption that has distorted America’s democratic process for decades.

    • Biggest Threat to Single-Payer? Democrat Support for a Public Option.

      With the midterms over, a battle over health care policy among establishment Democrats and the grassroots is unfolding. What kind of health care reform should Democrats pursue now that they have won control of the House? This struggle will determine in large part how Democrats will spend the political capital the party has accumulated on the issue of health care. This is a considerable amount thanks to the GOP’s efforts to take health care away from millions and ongoing war against Medicaid. How this battle transpires over the next two years may go a long way in determining if Medicare for All can become policy, or simply remains a “goal” or an “aspiration.”

      Single-payer advocates, jubilant about record support in Congress and in public polls, have responded to the midterm success by boldly pushing for a floor vote on Medicare for All (H.R. 676) during the 116th Congress. This move would not result in a law as it has no chance in the Senate. It would, however, represent a huge symbolic victory and, ideally, plant HR 676 as the centerpiece of the Democratic Party’s health care platform.

      Much of the work that is being planned by major players in the movement was discussed in a post-midterm strategy call hosted by National Nurses United and attended by Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Pramila Jayapal and speakers from Healthcare-NOW!, Physicians for a National Health Program and Democratic Socialists of America. In the call, Sanders warned of the opposition from “Trump and his minions” and the private health industry. But of all the speakers, only one, Dr. Adam Gaffney, president of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), warned of the dangers posed by Democrats and the threat of “a slew of half-measures.”

    • Welcome to the Jungle: New Democrats Get Early Political Lesson

      The education of the star-studded class of House freshmen has begun.

      Lesson one: Speaking with the bluntness of a candidate can produce swift and uncomfortable results.

      Rep. Rashida Tlaib learned that before lunch Friday, when her profane remarks the night before vowing to impeach President Donald Trump drew almost no support, and plenty of pushback, from members of her party.

    • Why We Must Get Big Money Out of Politics The most important…

      Today, big money continues to corrupt American politics – creating a vicious cycle that funnels more wealth and power to those at the top and eroding our democracy.

      In the 2018 midterm elections, wealthy donors and Super-PACs poured millions into the campaigns of the same lawmakers who voted to pass the 2017 tax cuts, which gave them huge windfalls.

      Consider conservative donors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, whose casino business received an estimated $700 million windfall, thanks to Trump and Republicans’ tax cuts. The couple then used some of this extra cash to plow more than $113 million dollars into the 2018 election, breaking the record for political contributions by a single household.

      That’s not a bad return on investment – for them.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Google, Twitter and Apple report requests to take down content. Why doesn’t Netflix?

      After Netflix caved to a legal threat from authorities in Saudi Arabia and removed an episode of “Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj” in that country, the streaming service is facing calls to start issuing transparency reports.

    • Netflix pulls ‘Patriot Act’ episode in Saudi Arabia after it criticized official account of Khashoggi killing

      Netflix added that Saudi officials threatened it with prosecution under the Kingdom’s cybercrime law, which states “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 punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine not exceeding $800,000.

    • Canadian journalist ‘threatened by Islamic party’
    • Censoring Commentary on War Crimes and Mass Starvation Is No Joke

      Netflix’s decision to censor an episode of comedian Hasan Minhaj’s series, blocking access to it within Saudi Arabia, has implications that ripple far beyond the borders of the Saudi dictatorship. “Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj” is a comedy series produced by Netflix, featuring the young, Muslim-American comedian’s commentary on news and current affairs. Among the topics covered in the show’s first season this past fall were affirmative action, the corporate giant Amazon, oil, immigration enforcement and, in the episode released on Oct. 28, Saudi Arabia.

      The timing of the segment placed it squarely in the midst of the developing scandal around the murder and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Days before the segment came out, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, speaking at an investment conference in Riyadh that was widely boycotted because of his perceived connection to the brutal murder, said it was a “heinous crime that cannot be justified.” The next day, Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor admitted the killing was premeditated. This only intensified international pressure on Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Salman, with bipartisan calls in the U.S. Congress to halt arms sales to the kingdom. The CIA reportedly confirmed that Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered the killing.

      The U.S. State Department, in its 2017 annual report on human-rights practices in Saudi Arabia, specifically noted that Khashoggi went into “self-exile” from his home country because “in 2016 authorities purportedly banned him from writing, appearing on television, and attending conferences as the result of remarks he made that were interpreted as criticizing the president of the United States,” referring to President Donald Trump.

    • Netflix Censors Hasan Minhaj in Saudi Arabia, Sparking Backlash over Khashoggi Killing, War in Yemen

      Netflix is under fire for pulling an episode of U.S. comedian Hasan Minhaj’s show “Patriot Act” from Saudi Arabia, after officials from the kingdom complained to the streaming company that it violated Saudi cybercrime laws. The episode was posted in late October, a few weeks after Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Hasan Minhaj sharply criticized the Saudi royal family and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The censored episode has been viewed more than 1.6 million times on YouTube, where it remains available to viewers in Saudi Arabia. On Wednesday, Minhaj tweeted, “Clearly, the best way to stop people from watching something is to ban it, make it trend online, and then leave it up on YouTube. Let’s not forget that the world’s largest humanitarian crisis is happening in Yemen right now. Please donate: help.rescue.org/donate/yemen.” We speak with Courtney Radsch, advocacy director at the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division.

    • Siri’s Hebrew Voice Sues Apple Because She Doesn’t Like The Way IPhone Owners Are Using Siri

      The licensee — Apple — cannot control how end users manipulate a series of recorded syllables controlled by an algorithm. Its use of Gura-Eini’s voice for its Hebrew version of Siri is a completely legitimate use. No matter how disturbing it might be to hear your own voice saying horrible things you’d never say, the problem is end users, not Apple.

      It’s impossible to see how this case moves forward. If the licensing is all in place — and it appears to be (Apple is longtime partner of Nuance Communications) — the only thing left is someone seeking to soothe their ruffled feathers with $66,000 from Apple’s checkbook.

    • Another State Lawmaker Thinks Teachers Should Be Banned From Discussing ‘Controversial’ Issues

      Perhaps Mark Finchem will allow these many surveys supporting his indoctrination theory to be read into the state record along with the rest of his bullshit bill. Finchem claims a “stunning number” of calls from concerned parents has prompted this action, rather than the organized #RedForEd educator walkout that accompanied educators’ demands for increased funding.

      There’s no chance this bill survives a Constitutional challenge if it somehow becomes law. Restrictions on speech — even that of government employees — demands a narrow crafting. Targeting speech with legislation requires a sniper’s mentality. Finchem is carrying a shotgun loaded with birdshot and hoping it’s enough to prevent speech he doesn’t like from being spoken in the state’s classrooms.

    • UK Court: Guy Who Didn’t Write Defamatory Tweet Needs To Pay $50,000 In Damages Because The Guy Who Did Doesn’t Have Any Money

      We’re all pretty familiar with the United State’s take on defamation. Except for the noticeable lack of a federal anti-SLAPP law, the system works pretty well. Those claiming they’ve been defamed need to meet some rather high bars to win a case, which is how it should be in a country that has enshrined free speech protections. Without these high bars, it’s whoever has the most money or the biggest lawyer, rather than the facts of the case. It’s not perfect, but dear lord it is so much better than how it’s handled by our former overlords.

      Defamation lawsuits are good business in the UK. The law encourages venue shopping, giving mildly-insulted plaintiffs a route to securing a payout for slightly-bruised feelings. It’s a mess and it just keeps getting worse. A recent decision [PDF] by a UK court in a libel lawsuit has delivered some jaw-dropping judicial reasoning.

      A tweet from a group account used by members of the Ukip party apparently defamed a man by mislabeling him a compatriot of “child groomers.” The tweet was composed by one member of the Bristol Ukip. The lawsuit, however, was allowed to be amended to hold someone else completely responsible for this tweet. The end result is one person paying for another person’s alleged libel.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Spy in the camp…

      What if I told you it is possible you have a device in your house capable of listening to all your conversations, recording them and sending them to the cloud, so they can be interpreted by sophisticated algorithms that determine what you are talking about – and sent to organisations that want to know.

      I am not talking about a mobile phone, which can be configured to do this as well but not so easily.

      I am talking about Amazon’s Alexa and similar devices such as Google Home.

      Digital assistants, as they are called, were the must-have devices that were purchased and given as presents this Christmas.

      So much so that Amazon’s Alexa servers crashed on Christmas Day due to the sheer number of new devices being plugged in.

    • Give Up the Ghost: A Backdoor by Another Name

      Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ,) the UK’s counterpart to the National Security Agency (NSA), has fired the latest shot in the crypto wars. In a post to Lawfare titled Principles for a More Informed Exceptional Access Debate, two of Britain’s top spooks introduced what they’re framing as a kinder, gentler approach to compromising the encryption that keeps us safe online. This new proposal from GCHQ—which we’ve heard rumors of for nearly a year—eschews one discredited method for breaking encryption (key escrow) and instead adopts a novel approach referred to as the “ghost.”

      But let’s be clear: regardless of what they’re calling it, GCHQ’s “ghost” is still a mandated encryption backdoor with all the security and privacy risks that come with it.

      Backdoors have a (well-deserved) horrible reputation in the security community. But that hasn’t dissuaded law enforcement officials around the world from demanding them for more than two decades. And while the Internet has become a more dangerous place for average users, making encryption more important than ever, this rhetoric has hardly changed.

    • The Internet Giant’s Dilemma: Preventing Suicide Is Good; Invading People’s Private Lives… Not So Much

      We’ve talked a lot in the past about the impossibility of doing content moderation well at scale, but it’s sometimes difficult for people to fathom just what we mean by “impossible,” with them often assuming — incorrectly — that we’re just saying it’s difficult to do well. But it goes way beyond that. The point is that no matter what choices are made, it will lead to some seriously negative outcomes. And that includes doing no moderation at all. In short there are serious trade-offs to every single choice.

      Probably without meaning to, the NY Times recently had a pretty good article somewhat exploring this issue in looking at what Facebook is trying to do prevent suicides. We had actually touched on this subject a year ago, when there were reports that Facebook might stop trying to prevent suicides, as it had the potential to violate the GDPR.

      However, as the NY Times article makes clear, Facebook really is in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t position on this. As the Times points out, Facebook “ramped up” its efforts to prevent suicides after a few people streamed their suicides live on Facebook. Of course, what that underplays significantly is how much crap Facebook got because these suicides were appearing on its platform. Tabloids, like the Sun in the UK, had entire lists of people who died while streaming on Facebook and demanded to know “what Mark Zuckerberg will do” to respond. When the NY Post wrote about one man committing suicide streamed online… it also asked for a comment from Facebook (I’m curious if reporters ask Ford for a comment when someone commits suicide by leaving their car engine on in a garage?). Then there were the various studies, which the press used to suggest social media leads to suicides (even if that’s not what the studies actually said). Or there were the articles that merely “asked the question” of whether or not social media “is to blame” for suicides. If every new study leads to reports asking if social media is to blame for suicides, and every story about suicides streamed online demands comments from Facebook, the company is clearly put under pressure to “do something.”

    • Several Android Apps Transmitting Sensitive Data to Facebook without Permission, ExTiX Linux Announces Version 19.1 Build 181228, Peppermint 9 Respin-2 Released, Nextcloud Founder’s 2019 Predictions and Some Security Updates

      A recent Privacy International report reveals that “at least 20 out of 34 popular Android apps are transmitting sensitive information to Facebook without asking permission, including Kayak, MyFitnessPal, Skyscanner and TripAdvisor”. According to the story on Engadget, “The concern isn’t just that apps are oversharing data, but that they may be violating the EU’s GDPR privacy rules by both collecting info without consent and potentially identifying users. You can’t lay the blame solely at the feet of Facebook or developers, though. Facebook’s relevant developer kit didn’t provide the option to ask for permission until after GDPR took effect. The social network did develop a fix, but it’s not clear that it works or that developers are implementing it properly.”

    • Indian Authorities Want To Scan Your Social Media Pics Using Microsoft’s PhotoDNA

      With an aim to fight serious issues such as child abuse in India, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has asked the various social media companies to start using Microsoft’s PhotoDNA to scan images on the platforms.

      For the unacquainted, Microsoft’s PhotoDNA is a tool meant for scanning pictures, specifically the ones which exhibit child exploitation. The tool is free to use for anyone.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Of Color, Crime and Punishment

      Seventeen investigations in and an undissipated miasma of suspicion continues to envelop Donald J. Trump. And yet, if his defenders are to be believed, the actions which prompted those investigations are neither technically crimes nor even impeachable offenses. Meanwhile, a U.S. district judge has condemned Michael Flynn’s behavior as “treasonous” and Michael Cohen has been sentenced to three years in prison, but their boss remains free to stalk the halls of power unimpeded, as America hurtles from one “constitutional crisis” to another.

      One wonders what fruit, if any, Robert Mueller’s much-vaunted investigation will eventually bear. Like most investigations of the powerful, its conclusions may prove edifying if not sufficiently punitive. If the Snowden case taught us anything, it is that the power elite lie with impunity: the fact a poker-faced James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence, could deny under oath that the NSA mined metadata on millions of American citizens in his 2013 Senate testimony and not be charged with perjury is the most salient recent example of the reluctance of this elite to police themselves. Adding insult to injury, when interviewed about his testimony by NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Clapper claimed he had “responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner by saying no,” a literal parsing of the truth that apparently has allowed him to evade a perjury charge, assuming, of course, that there was a political will to hold him accountable for those “untruths” once they became known, as indeed, they did, by his own admission. YetClapper has not been hauled off to prison despite the fact that the oath he swore required him to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God – not ass-covering, measured “untruths.” But Trump, who has not been sworn to truthfulness, has sworn to uphold the Constitution, though he has spent virtually every day in office conspiring to assault it, without facing any real political or legal consequences, because he knows that in Washington, as in Hollywood, Wall Street, and Silicon Valley, “when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”

    • Mumia Abu-Jamal Wins Major Court Victory

      Tucker’s decision represents a major victory for Abu-Jamal that opens the door to a new trial–or dismissal of the murder charges against him–after an appeal to the Pennsylvania courts.

    • Informal networks of generosity are supporting asylum seekers on both sides of the border

      When a woman I’ll call Elisa and her 15-year-old daughter, Ana, journeyed from their home in Honduras to Tijuana, Mexico, they survived due to the generosity of a friend who gave them bus tickets, strangers they met aboard the bus headed north and a temporary Mexican humanitarian visa.

      Once they arrived, they stayed in a shelter at a local church whose congregation provided food, toiletries and free health care. Elisa also helped others, by cooking, cleaning the shelter’s common areas and caring for another sick resident.

      As a nonprofit leader, I have built partnerships between U.S. charitable groups and those in Spanish-speaking communities. Now I’m conducting research on how immigrants rely heavily on informal and voluntary support on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Whether migrants arrive in large groups or on their own, I believe this largely unseen generosity is keeping many of them from going hungry and homeless and enhancing their personal safety in precarious conditions.

      This informal giving supplements the insufficient aid available through more official channels.

    • As Trump Applauds Brazil’s New Fascist President, Bolsonaro Wastes No Time Attacking Environment and Marginalized Brazilians

      Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro—whose inauguration on New Year’s Day was lauded by U.S. President Donald Trump—wasted no time Wednesday introducing policies targeting the environment, indigenous Brazilians, the LGBTQ community, and other marginalized populations, realizing the worst fears of progressives who have protested the openly misogynist, pro-torture president.

      On his first day in office, Bolsonaro introduced an executive order that will effectively take away land rights for indigenous Brazilians and descendants of former slaves and gave control of Amazon lands to the agriculture ministry; eliminated LGBTQ rights from the purview of the country’s human rights ministry; and set the minimum wage lower than the rate his predecessor’s government had budgeted for.

    • On Her Shoulders: Stunning Film Follows Nobel Peace Winner Nadia Murad’s Fight to End Sexual Violence

      We look at the remarkable story of Nadia Murad, the Yazidi human rights activist from Iraq who was recently awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. Murad was kidnapped by the Islamic State in 2014 and repeatedly raped as she was held in captivity. After managing to escape, Murad fled Iraq and has dedicated her life to drawing international attention to the plight of the Yazidi people. The documentary “On Her Shoulders” follows Murad as she shares her story with the world. The documentary has been shortlisted for an Academy Award for Best Documentary and recently received the Columbia Journalism duPont Award. We speak with the film’s award-winning director Alexandria Bombach.

    • Trump Administration Considering Major Civil Rights Law Changes: Report

      The Trump administration has reversed multiple government policies implemented in previous administrations, including rolling back protections in the Affordable Care Act, lifting limits on greenhouse gas emissions and limiting the Justice Department’s use of consent decrees, which ProPublica calls “a storied civil rights tool,” one that supporters say forces local and state governments to implement civil rights reforms that might otherwise languish.

      Now civil rights laws are once again in danger of a major rollback, according to a new internal memo from the Justice Department, details of which were reported by The Washington Post Thursday.

      Trump administration officials, in the memo, directed senior civil rights officials to review how “disparate impact” regulations can be changed or removed in the officials’ area of expertise. Under the concept of disparate impact, an action or policy can be considered discriminatory if it has an unequal impact based on, for example, race or ethnicity, even if that impact was unintentional.

    • U.S. to Investigate Discrimination Against Native American Students on Montana Reservation

      The Office for Civil Rights is already looking into a complaint by Louella Contreras that the Wolf Point district failed to provide her granddaughter, Ruth Fourstar, with special education services. The department’s decision to look into the tribal leaders’ broader allegations bucks the Education Department’s policy under Secretary Betsy DeVos of pulling back from investigating complaints of systemic discrimination by schools and colleges, and concentrating on mistreatment of individuals. ProPublica reported in June that, under DeVos, the department had scuttled more than 1,200 civil rights investigations that began under the Obama administration and lasted at least six months.

      Nationwide, more than 90 percent of Native students attend integrated public schools near or on reservations, which have historically restricted tribal influence over curriculum, funding and staffing. Native American students have some of the worst academic outcomes in public schools: They score lower than nearly all other demographic groups on national tests and less than three-fourths of Native students graduate from high school.

      In the early 20th century, white homesteaders prevailed on the federal government to open up unused lands on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation to non-Native settlement. In June 2017, the tribal executive board filed a 46-page complaint that described dozens of instances where Wolf Point schools provided limited academic opportunities and social support to Native students.

      ProPublica and the Times found that Native students in Wolf Point are twice as likely to receive at least one suspension compared with their white peers, and white students are more than 10 times as likely to take at least one Advanced Placement course as Native students, according to an analysis of federal education data. In interviews, students, staff and parents said Wolf Point’s schools push Native children into a poorly funded, understaffed program for remedial students and truants. Native students said they were dropped from sports teams after giving birth, while a white pregnant student was not.

    • Tribal Nationalism vs Global Unity

      Change, discontent and uncertainty are some of the most prominent characteristics of the times. These interconnected terms are routinely used to describe global affairs and are key factors animating the global protest movement as well as the growing tide of nationalism: Both movements arise from the same seed, one is progressive and in harmony with the new, the other is of the past and seeks to obstruct and divide.

      These are transitional times, as humanity moves out of one civilization imbued with certain ideals, values and beliefs to a new way of living based on altogether different principles; times of unease and insecurity certainly, but also times of great hope and opportunity.

      If humanity is to progress and the natural environment is to survive, fundamental change in the way life is lived is essential, systemic change as well as an accelerated shift in attitudes and values. Many people throughout the world recognize this and are advocating such a shift; those in power – political and corporate – reject such demands and do all they can to maintain the status quo and perpetuate the existing unjust systems. Despite this entrenched resistance, the new cannot be held at bay for much longer: change is coming; the question is when, how and with what impact it will occur, not if.

      Widespread uncertainty is in part the result of this sustained intransigence, coupled with the instability within the socio-economic systems, which are in a state of terminal decay; fuelled by the past, they are carcasses – forms without life. The pervading uncertainty is being exploited by the reactionary forces of the world; powerful forces using fear to manipulate people and drum-up what we might call tribal nationalism, as opposed to civic nationalism, in order to assert themselves, and in many countries they appear to be in the ascendency.

    • White-Collar Crimes Are Human-Rights Crimes

      Here’s a pop quiz: How long has corporate corruption existed? Answer: As long as corporations as we know them have been in business. Thanks to journalist David Montero’s meticulously sourced survey, “Kickback: Exposing the Global Corporate Bribery Network,” the consumer public now has access to a wealth of details about the astonishingly shady antics in which multinationals have been engaging since the retro-imperialist heyday of the British East India Company.

      And this malignant strain of corporatism is only getting worse. As Robert Scheer remarks to Montero in this week’s episode of “Scheer Intelligence,” it amounts to nothing short of a “virulent, corrosive, murderous arrangement that has only accelerated in recent years.” Some potential reasons why this global scourge hasn’t been more aggressively treated include: greed; willful ignorance; the widely supported myth that the phenomenon is “just” about white-collar crime; a false sense that corporate malfeasance ranges outside of various states’ jurisdictions; and powerful companies engaging in a race to the bottom because, well, everyone else is doing it.

    • Chip Gibbons on Defending Dissent

      This week on CounterSpin, what makes the work we’re doing even possible: the freedom to speak our criticism of the powerful out loud, to protest against actions taken by the state and by corporations, to communicate openly with one another about how to demand the better world we know is possible.

      Corporate news media serve up a lot of palaver about free speech, but when people actually act on that ideal, media elites use their megaphones to dismiss and deride, and to circumscribe conversation to make it appear that ideas that threaten their interests aren’t really serious ideas, and the people fighting for them are marginal, even dangerous. The power is with us, and our ability to speak and to hear one another—and holding on to that ability is just another part of the work we have to do.

    • Nurses Union Demands All 2020 Candidates Establish Strong Sexual Harassment, Pay Equity Policies

      “Sexual harassment can never be treated as business as usual or swept under the rug. Apologies alone are not enough. Strong mechanisms must be put in place to prevent harassment, that include full accountability for those who engage in such reprehensible behavior and by those with oversight responsibility,” NNU executive director Bonnie Castillo, RN, said in a statement on Thursday.

      While noting that “sexual harassment continues to be a widespread concern that touches every corner of our society, and every workplace, including political campaigns,” and “as an organization of nurses, who are predominantly women, we are acutely aware of the pervasive, appalling national problem,” Castillo added that “it is especially important that candidates for our highest office set a standard” with comprehensive policies to prevent discrimination and harassment, and to adequately serve the needs of survivors.

      The union’s call follows a letter—leaked to Politico—from more than two dozen former Sanders campaigners seeking a meeting with the senator and his top staffers to “discuss the issue of sexual violence and harassment on the 2016 campaign, for the purpose of planning to mitigate the issue in the upcoming presidential cycle.” Friends of Bernie Sanders, his main campaign committee, thanked those who signed the letter for coming forward “to engage in this incredibly important discussion.”

    • Fifth Circuit Says Apple Can’t Be Held Liable For A Car Crash Caused By Someone Reading Text Messages

      Seeking to hold tech companies responsible for the actions of their customers and users is a national federal court tradition. Law firms like *checks notes* 1-800-LAW-FIRM and Excolo Law have made a cottage industry of this, scoring dismissal after dismissal of their lawsuits seeking to hold Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube responsible for the violent actions of terrorists around the world.

      Seeking justice — or at least compensation — for wrongs committed against you and the ones you love is a natural instinct. Issues only develop when you take the fight to a third party only tenuously connected to the wrong that was committed. A lawsuit against Apple has been dismissed for the second time. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is no more impressed with the arguments that failed to make an impact at the lower level.

      In this case, the appellants sued Apple for a car crash caused by a driver reading text messages on her iPhone 5. Maybe the driver turned out to be judgment proof — especially after being convicted on two counts of criminally negligent homicide. The appellants — who lost two family members in the auto accident — feel Apple is liable because it did not implement a lock-out process it had patented in 2008.

    • ‘Quietly and Unnoticed,’ Trump Administration Won’t Cooperate with UN Investigators on Human Rights Violations in US

      Displaying what one United Nations human rights expert called “arrogance” considering international outcry over the Trump administration’s record of human rights violations, the State Department has refused to cooperate with U.N. investigators regarding their complaints about such issues for the better part of a year.

      As the Guardian reported Friday, the administration has “quietly and unnoticed” left unanswered at least 13 official requests from U.N. special rapporteurs on human rights since last May. The failure to respond began a month before Philip Alston, special rapporteur on extreme poverty, issued a scathing report detailing “devastating inequality” in the U.S., made worse by the policies of President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers.

    • Capitalism and Race Redux

      Race is among the more tortured axes of American social relations. The nation was formed from slavery and genocide and no redistribution of political and economic power has been made to rectify the imbalance that resulted. And less formalized types of violence and exploitation have persisted into the present. The same is true of treatment of the indigenous population— as late as the 1970s indigenous women of childbearing age were still being forcibly sterilized.

      This history creates a paradox. Three and one-half centuries after the Anglo-American incarnation of slavery was brought to American shores and one-hundred and fifty years after it was formally ended, racial injustice persists. The economic basis of the injustice was well understood during slavery. Subsequent framing in terms of race misstates the economic motives that have persisted into the present.

    • What I Learned Being Part of the Sanctuary Caravan: Delivering Support to Asylum Seekers on the U.S. Border

      December was the month CODEPINK: Growing a Local Peace Economy was dedicating our outreach and organizing to being an ally for the asylum seekers who had just arrived in and around Tijuana below the U.S. San Diego border.

      CODEPINK’s Local Peace Economy was created to focus on the disasters that will occur as a result of global inequality, climate change, constant war. Not to mention all the money that funds war (including $1.4 trillion in weapons sold each year) that should be alleviating human suffering instead of creating it. We have gathered every month for the past few years, learning about the values of a peace economy, practicing them together, deepening our relationship and trust, and weaving a community of those who invest their time and energy in the practices of peace locally. Last month, we reached out to our friends to ask for donations supporting asylum seekers, and the outpouring of generosity that resulted was overwhelming.

    • It’s Time to Get Serious About Prison Reform

      As 2018 drew to a close, Congress passed, and President Trump signed, a historic bill called the First Step Act to begin reforming our broken criminal justice system, reducing sentences for some nonviolent drug offenders and enhancing rehabilitation programs in federal prisons. Some media have described the new legislation, which was enacted with the support of Democrats and many Republicans, as a “sweeping overhaul.” Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) more soberly dubbed it “a compromise of a compromise,” adding that there’s a great deal more to do. The U.S. has by far the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world, and the vast majority of people in lockup are not in federal prisons. What’s more, the law will help only a fraction of the 180,000 people in federal custody, while doing nothing for the nearly two million people in state, county and local penitentiaries.

      By pandering to public fears, spreading misinformation, and posturing with macho slogans, “tough-on-crime” politicians have long opposed reforms and blocked efforts to rehabilitate people in prison, making it more likely that they will return to crime after their release.

      I should know. I spent much of the past two summers volunteering with the Prison Watch program of American Friends Service Committee in Newark, responding to letters from prisoners across the country, providing them with resources to help end abuses and inhumane conditions.

      “Officers locked me in solitary confinement for 10 days handcuffed and shackled to a metal bed. During that time they would extinguish their cigarette butts on my body and flip hot ashes in my face and eyes and place meal trays just out of reach…Another officer told me to shut up or he would kill me and used his boot to kick me in the head…”

      Letter after letter described the horrors unfolding in many of our nation’s prison cells and isolation units. The Eighth Amendment of our Constitution guarantees that no one shall be subjected to “cruel and unusual punishments.” Hundreds of testimonies that I encountered from prisoners suggest that this remains a promise unkept.

    • Sanders, Warren and the DSA

      Can you guess which Senator’s quote was which? Take 5 minutes to decide but no cheating, please. Okay, the answer is that Sanders’s quote came first. But wouldn’t any DSA’er be nearly as happy to see Warren become President in light of her belief that “giant corporations . . . exploit workers just to boost their own profits”? It is worth noting that some on the left—including Boris Kagarlitsky and Diana Johnstone—took Trump’s populist rhetoric to heart, so maybe something more than words have to be taken into account.

      Sunkara warns that with Warren getting support from prominent Democratic Party policy wonks like Matt Yglesias, the co-founder and editor of Vox, there’s reason enough to downgrade her. Maybe Sunkara forgot that Vox was a major booster of Jacobin, calling attention to how it was winning the war of ideas on the left. And who doesn’t love a winner?

      Vox followed up with another article helping to bolster Jacobin’s cred. After Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s primary victory, DSA member and Jacobin editor Meagan Day wrote a piece titled “Democratic socialism, explained by a democratic socialist” that warned against confusing her comrades with namby-pamby “New Deal liberals”. Unlike FDR, the democratic socialists are for “overthrowing capitalism”. This is apparently Sanders’s idea as well, according to Sunkara’s op-ed.

    • Class War in Sweden

      The resurgence of – true or self-proclaimed – socialist movements in the Global North has implied very generous interpretations of life in the Nordic countries. Sweden, in particular, has often been hailed as a model for the “democratic socialism” espoused by Bernie Sanders and others.

      It is true that the legacy of Sweden’s strong working-class movement and social-democratic governance makes the welfare state somewhat more resilient than in other countries. Sweden still enjoys a relatively high level of unionization, government funding for equal opportunities in education, employment, and the arts, universal health care, free education, and so forth. Sweden also ranks high when it comes to the implementation of the rights of women and LGBTQ people, it has relatively liberal immigration policies, and it dedicates an above-average percentage of its GDP to development projects in the Global South. All of this rightfully appeals to people embracing socialist values of equality and internationalism.

      But Sweden has been marked by the neoliberalist era as much as any other country. In the 1990s, the Social Democratic Party – which has been governing the country, with short interruptions, since the 1920s – embraced New Labour-type policies, privatizing huge parts of the public sector, including clinics, schools, postal services, the transport system, and council flats. The center-right government that ruled the country from 2006 to 2014 accelerated these developments. In Stockholm, thepercentage of council flats in available housing dropped from 75% in 1990 to 45% in 2015. Prices on the private market have skyrocketed, which has reshaped the city’s entire social fabric. Across the country, eligibility for unemployment and invalidity benefits have been cut substantially. And the once powerful unions have been losing much influence, not least due to large economic sectors being absorbed by the gig economy (from delivery, cleaning, and catering to cultural, academic, and IT work).

    • ‘I Can Do It If I Want’: Trump Threatens to Declare National Emergency to Build Border Wall

      Speaking outside of the White House on Friday as the government shutdown continued with no funding agreement in sight, President Donald Trump threatened to declare a national emergency to build his “border wall” if he doesn’t receive the more than $5 billion in funding he’s demanding from Congress.

      “I can do it if I want,” Trump proclaimed in response to a question from a reporter. “We can do it. I haven’t done it. I may do it. I may do it.”

    • What It Means to Put Class First

      Analysts of capitalist society who give primacy to class relations—sometimes branded “class firsters”—have been met with a mix of false and contradictory charges. Michael Yates’s CounterPunch (12/24/18) essay, based on his book Can the Working Class Change the World? (Monthly Review Press, 2018), is a good example of this muddled criticism. Yates’s piece warrants a close look for two reasons: first, unlike “race reductionists” who tend to operate without a structural analysis of capitalism, Yates explicitly offers such an analysis; and second, by sorting out where he goes wrong, it might be possible to find a way forward.

      One of Yates’s key points, reiterated multiple times, is that capitalism, racism, and sexism “cannot be separated.” Racism and patriarchy, Yates says, are “essential features” of capitalism; along with ecological destruction, racism and patriarchy are “fundamental to capitalism.” In his book, Yates suggests (p. 79), invoking W. E. B. Du Bois, that it is not even possible to imagine a non-racist, non-sexist capitalism. In light of this insistence on the ontological inseparability of capitalism, racism, and sexism, it rings odd, then, when Yates criticizes class-firsters for failing to see that “to some extent, race and gender are independent of class.”

      Aside from the apparent contradiction between claims that race/racism and gender/sexism are both inseparable from and independent of class, there are two problems here. One is that the people Yates identifies as class-firsters—most notably Adolph Reed; though perhaps with Walter Benn Michaels also in mind—don’t at all fail to see that race and gender, as systems of inequality, are “to some extent, independent of class.” Indeed, this is part of what they’ve been arguing.

    • Rhode Island Supreme Court Allows Unfairly Shutdown Strip Club to Reopen

      Providence’s licensing board, we argue, violated the club’s rights when it was shut down based solely on allegations of solicitation of prostitution.

      Imagine a symphony orchestra barred by the state from performing again because a musician was found to have sold marijuana to a colleague backstage. Imagine a bookstore being shuttered by the government because peace activists planned acts of civil disobedience in a backroom. Imagine a movie theater permanently closed because an employee assaulted a patron.

      In Providence, Rhode Island, you don’t have to imagine it, because it happened to a strip club called the Foxy Lady. On Dec. 19, the Providence Board of Licenses voted to permanently shut down the adult entertainment venue, which has been in operation for decades, after police arrested three employees for allegedly soliciting sex from undercover police officers earlier in the month. By doing so, the board threw more than 200 people out of work less than a week before Christmas.

      Within days, the state Department of Business Regulation quickly restored the club’s liquor license, but the Foxy Lady’s owners were required by law to petition the state Supreme Court to regain its entertainment license. On Monday, the ACLU of Rhode Island submitted a friend-of-the-court brief to that court arguing that it should grant a stay of the board’s revocation of the Foxy Lady’s license on the grounds that the board violated the due process and First Amendment rights of the establishment. Yesterday, the state Supreme Court agreed to issue a stay, allowing the club to reopen for now, but the threat of future closure remains.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • FCC Chairman Ajit Pai cancels trip to CES amid government shutdown

      This will be the second year in a row that Pai has canceled his plans to attend the biggest consumer electronics showcase in the country. Last year, he cited safety concerns following the commission’s move to repeal the Open Internet Order, which reversed net neutrality regulations, only a few weeks prior to the conference. Last year, Recode reported that federal law enforcement intervened in Pai’s 2018 appearance, following death threats he received in the aftermath of the net neutrality rollback. It was the first time in five years that he had not attended the conference.

    • FCC Chairman Pai celebrates Congress failing to bring back net neutrality

      And the “strong bipartisan majority” bears a bit of explanation as well. Indeed, the Democrats fell about 30 short of the votes they needed to put the Congressional Review Act into effect and undo the FCC’s order. But that was only after the Senate, by a similar “strong bipartisan majority,” as Pai would no doubt put it, voted for the rollback. No mention of that in his statement.

      In fact the CRA was a long shot from the beginning, but as Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) told me shortly after the repeal, “it’s very important to try, and it’s important to get everybody in Congress on the record. We want every member of Congress to have to go on the record and say whether or not they agree with what the commission just did.”

    • FCC gets a new Democrat, is back to full slate of five commissioners

      The Federal Communications Commission will once again have a full lineup of five commissioners, with three Republicans and two Democrats. The FCC has had three Republicans but only one Democrat since Mignon Clyburn left the agency in May 2018.

    • Ajit Pai Gloats As House Fails To Restore Net Neutrality

      One, the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules weren’t “heavy handed.” By international standards (Japan, Canada, The Netherlands) they were relatively weak, and were, in reality, pretty much the very least the US government could do to try and rein in natural telecom monopolies in the absence of real competition. Two, while Pai applauds a “strong bipartisan majority” in the House, that majority actively ignored the bipartisan majority of their constituents who support net neutrality and wanted the rules left intact in the first place.

      Pai also felt oddly compelled to take credit for fairly marginal speed increases he had little to do with. Broadband speeds being up 35% has more to do with natural evolution (largely relatively cheap DOCSIS 3.1 upgrades on cable networks) than anything else. And at least a healthy portion of that speed increase is thanks to community fiber networks Pai actively opposes. Claiming any of this had anything to do with net neutrality is patently false.

      Of course there’s plenty of realities Pai would rather not talk about. Like that time Verizon throttled the mobile connections of California firefighters (while they were fighting a wildfire) and Pai did nothing. Or when CenturyLink blocked user internet access until users clicked on an ad, and the FCC said absolutely nothing. Or last week when AT&T quietly began violating net neutrality by only applying broadband usage limits if you use a competitor’s streaming service. Not a word from the FCC about any of it, despite ample claims that the perils of non-neutrality are utterly hallucinated.

      Nor does Pai much want to talk about the fact that as US telcos refuse to upgrade aging DSL lines, it’s letting cable giants like Spectrum and Comcast nab a greater monopoly over fixed-line broadband, resulting in some of the highest prices for broadband in the developed world. Or how anybody with an IQ over 70 can see natural monopolies and media conglomerates like AT&T and Comcast hope to use their massive size and leverage to tilt the playing field and harm smaller streaming competitors in the online video wars to come.

    • ‘There’s a Disconnect Between DC and What People Actually Want’ – CounterSpin interview with Tim Karr on net neutrality

      Janine Jackson: When last we checked on the FCC, agency chair and former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai was admitting what everyone already knew: that he straight-up lied when he told lawmakers that public comments in favor of net neutrality couldn’t get through because the FCC was suffering an online attack that tied up their servers. In fact, the agency’s Republican majority simply overrode clearly stated public support for net neutrality rules in their decision to repeal them.

      That Pai has an agenda, to allow telecommunication industry titans to basically write policy to their liking, is obvious; whether he’ll be able to turn a federal agency tasked with representing the public interest so thoroughly against that purpose is what’s being contested, including by our next guest. Timothy Karr is senior director of strategy and communications at the group Free Press. He joins us now by phone from New Jersey. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Tim Karr.

    • Towns And Cities Keep Ditching Comcast To Build Their Own Broadband Networks

      We’ve long talked about the more than 750 towns, cities, and counties that have responded to US broadband market failure by building their own broadband networks. We’ve also talked at length about how data has shown these networks often offer better service at lower, more transparent prices than their purely private sector counterparts, whose apathy has only grown in the wake of limited competition. And, of course, we’ve talked at great length about the 21 state laws giant ISPs have quite literally written and purchased in a bid to try and keep this phenomenon from taking root.

      Those protectionist efforts aren’t working all that well.

      In states like Massachusetts, there are countless towns and cities that either only have the choice of expensive Comcast cable broadband, or antiquated Verizon DSL lines the company simply refuses to upgrade (despite countless billions in subsidies, regulatory perks, and tax breaks). After years of apathy from entrenched incumbents, these towns and cities have slowly but surely peeled off and begun building their own networks.

    • 2019 Brings Another Wave Of Cable Programming Blackout Feuds Nobody Wants To Address

      We’ve written for years about how retransmission and carriage fee disputes in the cable industry have grown increasingly common and are only getting worse. The short version: when it comes time to sign a new deal paying for content, broadcasters generally demand huge rate hikes for the same channels. Cable operators then play hardball, and during negotiations one side or the other (usually broadcasters) pulls their content from the cable lineup in a bid to apply the resulting consumer anger against the other guy in negotiations.

      According to cable providers, there were 140 such blackouts last year, up from just 8 back in 2010. One of the biggest problems with these feuds: consumers never see refunds, even though they’re often left without access to channels they’ve already paid for, for months. And while regulators from both parties occasionally make some noise about protecting consumers from such tactics, nothing ever actually happens. Generally, these fights are seen by regulators as “boys just being boys,” and the consumer impact is routinely ignored.

    • FCC Shuttered, Ajit Pai Forced To Cancel CES Trip Because The US Government Is a Hot Mess

      As you’ve probably noticed, the bickering over a dumb fence most attentive folks realize will never be fully funded or built has resulted in the government partially shutting down, leaving roughly 800,000 government employees furloughed without pay. As garbage and human waste begin to pile up at our under-staffed park system, the FCC this week also announced it would be suspending all but the most essential operations as of last Thursday, with 1,197 of the FCC’s 1,442 employees now left unpaid.

      According to the FCC, all investigations into fraud (admittedly few and far between with this FCC), merger review, management of spectrum, and approval and testing of new electronics will grind to a halt. And while the agency’s 911 and network outage complaint systems will remain operational, there will be nobody staffing the agency to respond to consumer or company complaints.

  • DRM

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Resolutions to Improve Debates on Economic Policy in 2019

      This one is pretty simple, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. It should be pretty obvious that these and other forms of intellectual property are government policies explicitly designed to promote innovation and creative work. We can (and have) make them stronger and longer, or alternatively make them shorter and weaker, or not have them at all. We can also substitute other mechanisms for financing innovation and creative work, including expanding those already exist. (Anyone hear of the National Institutes of Health?)

      Incredibly, most policy debates, especially those on inequality, treat these monopolies as though they were just given to us by the gods. It is endlessly repeated that technology has allowed people like Bill Gates to get incredibly rich, while leaving less-educated workers behind. But that’s not true. It is our rules on patents and copyrights that have allowed people to get enormously wealthy from technological developments. With a different set of rules, Bill Gates would still be working for a living.

    • Qualcomm posts security bonds over $1.5 billion to enforce German iPhone 7/8 sales ban: separating facts from fake news

      The purpose of the guarantee (regardless of how it is provided) is just that, if Qualcomm’s immediate enforcement later (after all appeals are exhausted) turns out wrongful, Apple can be ade whole up to this amount even if Qualcomm went out of business in the meantime. A finding of wrongful enforcement would be far from unprecedented; probably most patent enforcement in Germany is wrongful (just that cases normally get settled prior to such a finding). But we all know Qualcomm isn’t going to go out of business in the years ahead.

      The security amount is just meant to provide reasonable protection to Apple. Should there be a finding of wrongful enforcement when all is said and done, and should the parties be unable to settle the matter, then a court of law will have to determine the amount of the wrongful-enforcement damages. That amount can ultimately be lesser or greater–ad Qualcomm will have to pay the exact amount regardless of the security amount. (This works the same way in the United States, by the way.)

      The actual economic impact of this enforcement on Apple remains to be seen. The two injunctions (over the same patent but targeting different Apple entities) don’t have an effect on third parties, particularly resellers. Apple now has to stop selling certain devices (iPhone 7, 7 Plus, 8, and 8 Plus) in Germany, and it will have to send a recall letter to its resellers, but those resellers are not at risk of contempt sanctions by the court. In fact, the resellers (such as T-Mobile or Vodafone) could even keep buying such iPhones in other countries, and if they buy them from other EU member states (such as Austria or the Netherlands), then there won’t even be any import duties involved.

    • Qualcomm reiterates refusal to extend standard-essential patent licenses to rival chipset makers

      I doubt that whatever testimony Judge Koh will hear from Intel and MediaTek (Samsung is a special case because it makes chipsets for its own phones) is going to express much appreciation for Qualcomm’s licensing policy. The FTC’s trial brief is heavily redacted, but it does stress that rival chipset makers requested licenses from Qualcomm.

      What’s at issue in the FTC case is not whether others are “free to make and sell modem chips,” or whether Qualcomm demands supra-FRAND royalties from them. It’s about the interplay between Qualcomm’s chipset business and Qualcomm’s patent licensing practices, and the ultimate effects on competition.

      I’m sure (even prior to hearing the testimony) that the likes of Intel and MediaTek would be more than happy to pay FRAND royalties to Qualcomm because this would enable them (Intel, MediaTek, etc.) to sell their components to such customers as Apple on a basis where the customer would then know there’s no more need to negotiate with Qualcomm (unless one is interested in a license to some patents covering other types of functionality, such as the search-related patents Qualcomm is asserting against Apple in some of its cases pending in Munich).

      By contrast, when such customers work with Qualcomm, they get the chips and a patent license, and Qualcomm has positioned itself as a clearing house for wireless SEPs, meaning that if you buy a Qualcomm chip, you’re practically (thanks to patent exhaustion) also licensed to a number of other companies’ cellular SEPs.

      What Qualcomm says about its non-offensive approach to rival chipset makers comes down to saying: “We’re not going to sue them, just their customers (if they don’t pay our huge license fees).” One doesn’t have to have much industry expertise to understand that the business implications of this are just as bad, if not worse.

    • Copyrights

      • Hey! Wait! Nirvana’s got a new copyright complaint

        Nirvana is suing Marc Jacobs for copyright and trade mark infringement for its use of a smiley face logo in its Bootleg Redux Grunge clothing collection, with observers saying the fashion brand will likely rely on First Amendment defences

        Grunge band Nirvana is suing Marc Jacobs, alleging the fashion brand has infringed its copyright and misleadingly used its trade marks with the “Bootleg Redux Grunge” collection of clothing.

      • Smells like IP infringement?

        Whether it is competitor “inspiration” or a designer who inadvertently sells their name with their company the battles are myriad and go to the core of questions such as what is creativity and where the line is between standard design features and protectable IP rights.

        The latest designer to follow this trend is Marc Jacobs. His eponymous company has been accused of being a little too inspired by 90s grunge in his “Bootleg Redux Grunge” collection. The collection liberally borrows from Nirvana both in terms of the band’s signature logo and in its various allusions to many of their classic songs. The company’s Tumblr even included a Nirvana meme at one stage but this has now been removed.

        Rather than saying “nevermind,” Nirvana, via its LLC, has responded to this alleged infringement by commencing proceedings in California for copyright infringement and various common law trade mark equivalents under the Lanham Act and state law. The complaint is available here.

      • Lets Get It On…Trial – Another Copyright Infringement Case for Ed Sheeran

        There are two on-going cases relating to “Let’s Get It On” and “Thinking Out Loud”, before Judge Louis L Stanton in the New York Southern District Court. Neither of the cases are bought by the Gaye Estate. The song was recorded by Marvin Gaye, but was written by Ed Townsend who owned 2/3rd of the royalties for the song when he died in 2003.

        The first is between Structured Asset Sales (SAS) and Sheeran, his co-writer Amy Wadge and their record labels. SAS is a beneficial owner of one-third of all of the copyright rights of Townsend in all of his catalogue of works, including “Let’s Get it On.”

      • 7 Best KickAss Torrents Alternatives That Work In 2019: Similar Sites Like KAT

        Even if one has got the slightest exposure to the BitTorrent world, it’s hard to believe one doesn’t have an idea of KickAssTorrents. The defunct torrent site was so popular that we can often find internet users searching for torrent websites that are KickAss alternatives.

        In its glory days, KickAss rose to success, taking the throne away from The Pirate Bay. But in 2016, the website faced the wrath of the US law enforcement with its owner Artem Vaulin getting arrested. Numerous KickAss copycats came and went, some of them managed to deceive users for a while. It’s also worth noting that a group of staffers has tried to revive the site’s lost glory with a new website named Katcr.co/full.

      • Everybody Loses After Metal Band And Photographer Get Pissy Over Photographer’s Copyright Threat

        In many, if not most, of the copyright disputes we cover here, the stance we take is not typically a purely legal one. Often times, we make mention that one party or another is legally allowed to take the actions it has, but we note that those protectionist actions aren’t the most optimal course to have taken. Perhaps the best example of this can be found in a dispute that arose between metal band Arch Enemy and a photographer it had allowed to take concert photos for them.

        The backstory here goes like this. Arch Enemy has worked with J. Salmeron, a photographer and attorney, to take photos of the band’s concerts. Salmeron then posted those photos to his Instagram account, after which they were reposted both by the band’s fans and members of the band themselves. All of that was done without issue. One of the band’s merchandise partners, however, used one of the photos of the lead singer to promote the band’s merchandise on social media accounts. Finding out about this, Salmeron contacted the company and asked for a 100 euro “licensing fee” in the form of a payment to his choice of charity.

      • January 1, 2019: If you have not thought about the copyright public domain for a while, maybe this is a good time to do so

        What makes January 1, 2019, particularly interesting is that it marks the first year in which works protected under U.S. copyright law, whose entry into the public domain was stayed for a time under the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 (also known as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act or, more cynically, the Mickey Mouse Protection Act, since it had the effect of keeping the movie “Steamboat Willie” protected by copyright until 2024), will no longer enjoy that benefit. By virtue of this legislation, works first copyrighted in 1923 or thereafter, which were still protected by copyright in 1998, will enter the public domain in 2019 at the earliest. It did so by extending the term of protection for 20 more years.

        Well, January 1, 2019, has now passed and The New York Times, in a December 29, 2018 article (“New Life for Old Classics , as Their Copyright Runs Out”) by Alexandra Alter, has taken account of the copyright significance of this date. She notes that such works as “The Prophet” by Khalil Gibran (1,500 copies were originally printed; nine million copies have been sold in North America alone); “Tarzan and the Golden Lion” by Edgar Rice Burroughs; “A Son at the Front” by Edith Wharton; “The Id and the Ego” by Sigmund Freud; “The Inimitable Jeeves” by P.G. Wodehouse; “The Murder on the Link” by Agatha Christie; “Cane” by Jean Toomer (the only book he ever published); “The Prisoner” by Marcel Proust; and “New Hampshire” by Robert Frost (which includes the poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”), will be entering the public domain.

      • BitTorrent Unveils New Token to Pay for Faster Downloads

        BitTorrent Inc. has announced a new cryptocurrency token that will allow users to pay for faster downloads. The token is part of BitTorrent and TRON’s plan to add ‘currency’ to the BitTorrent protocol through a series of extensions. The new BitTorrent (BTT) token will be offered through an exclusive token sale. Later this year, users of uTorrent can expect to see the first ‘currency’ features in their clients.

      • Mitch Glazier Becomes New Chairman and CEO of the RIAA

        Mitch Glazier has been promoted to become the new Chairman and CEO of the powerful recording industry trade organization RIAA. The former RIAA President, who was touted for the top job back in 2017, is joined by Michele Ballantyne, who will act as the music group’s Chief Operating Officer.

      • Movie Companies Sue Popcorn Time Operator in US Court

        Filmmakers behind the movies “Mechanic: Resurrection” and “Once Upon a Time in Venice” are trying to shut down a popular Popcorn Time fork through the Hawaiian federal court. In an amended complaint, the companies accuse a Ukranian man of being the mastermind behind the site and software. At the same time, a Popcorn Time user is in their crosshairs as well.

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  15. Why I Once Called for Richard Stallman to Step Down

    Guest post from the developer who recently authored "Getting Stallman Wrong Means Getting The 21st Century Wrong"



  16. As Richard Stallman Resigns Let's Consider Why GNU/Linux Without Stallman and Torvalds Would be a Victory to Microsoft

    Stallman has been ejected after a lot of intentionally misleading press coverage; this is a dark day for Software Freedom



  17. Links 16/9/2019: GNU Linux-libre 5.3, GNU World Order 13×38, Vista 10 Breaks Itself Again

    Links for the day



  18. Links 16/9/2019: Qt Quick on Vulkan, Metal, and Direct3D; BlackWeb 1.2 Reviewed

    Links for the day



  19. Richard Stallman's Controversial Views Are Nothing New and They Distract From Bill Gates' Vastly Worse Role

    It's easier to attack Richard Stallman (RMS) using politics (than using his views on software) and media focus on Stallman's personal views on sexuality bears some resemblance to the push against Linus Torvalds, which leans largely on the false perception that he is sexist, rude and intolerant



  20. Links 16/9/2019: Linux 5.3, EasyOS Releases, Media Backlash Against RMS

    Links for the day



  21. Openwashing Report on Open Networking Foundation (ONF): When Open Source Means Collaboration Among Giant Spying Companies

    Massive telecommunications oligopolies (telecoms) are being described as ethical and responsible by means of openwashing; they even have their own front groups for that obscene mischaracterisation and ONF is one of those



  22. 'Open Source' You Cannot Run Without Renting or 'Licensing' Windows From Microsoft

    When so-called ‘open source’ programs strictly require Vista 10 (or similar) to run, how open are they really and does that not redefine the nature of Open Source while betraying everything Free/libre software stands for?



  23. All About Control: Microsoft is Not Open Source But an Open Source Censor/Spy and GitHub/LinkedIn/Skype Are Its Proprietary Censorship/Surveillance Tools

    All the big companies which Microsoft bought in recent years are proprietary software and all of the company’s big products remain proprietary software; all that “Open Source” is to Microsoft is “something to control and censor“



  24. The Sad State of GNU/Linux News Sites

    The ‘media coup’ of corporate giants (that claim to be 'friends') means that history of GNU/Linux is being distorted and lied about; it also explains prevalent lies such as "Microsoft loves Linux" and denial of GNU/Free software



  25. EPO President Along With Bristows, Managing IP and Other Team UPC Boosters Are Lobbying for Software Patents in Clear and Direct Violation of the EPC

    A calm interpretation of the latest wave of lobbying from litigation professionals, i.e. people who profit when there are lots of patent disputes and even expensive lawsuits which may be totally frivolous (for example, based upon fake patents that aren't EPC-compliant)



  26. Links 15/9/2019: Radeon ROCm 2.7.2, KDE Frameworks 5.62.0, PineTime and Bison 3.4.2

    Links for the day



  27. Illegal/Invalid Patents (IPs) Have Become the 'Norm' in Europe

    Normalisation of invalid patents (granted by the EPO in defiance of the EPC) is a serious problem, but patent law firms continue to exploit that while this whole 'patent bubble' lasts (apparently the number of applications will continue to decrease because the perceived value of European Patents diminishes)



  28. Patent Maximalists, Orbiting the European Patent Office, Work to 'Globalise' a System of Monopolies on Everything

    Monopolies on just about everything are being granted in defiance of the EPC and there are those looking to make this violation ‘unitary’, even worldwide if not just EU-wide



  29. Unitary Patent (UPC) Promotion by Team Battistelli 'Metastasising' in Private Law Firms

    The EPO's Albert Keyack (Team Battistelli) is now in Team UPC as Vice President of Kilburn & Strode LLP; he already fills the media with lies about the UPC, as one can expect



  30. Microsoft Targets GNU/Linux Advocates With Phony Charm Offensives and Fake 'Love'

    The ways Microsoft depresses GNU/Linux advocacy and discourages enthusiasm for Software Freedom is not hard to see; it's worth considering and understanding some of these tactics (mostly assimilation-centric and love-themed), which can otherwise go unnoticed


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