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01.06.19

Words to Avoid: Cloud, Serverless, Microservices and More

Posted in Deception, Patents at 9:08 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Servers, services and daemons

The inside of a server
There’s always a physical server, it’s not “up there” (in the “cloud”) but down here and it’s definitely not “serverless

Summary: The marketing industry is hijacking press coverage and journalism has turned into a laughable mash-up of buzzwords; technical people ought to push back

IN THE context of the EPO and USPTO we often complain about propaganda terms such as “intellectual property rights” (these aren't property, legally and technically speaking, and these are not rights either but more like franchises) and also buzzwords that are used to promote software patents in Europe and sometimes in the US too. We talk about words like “smart”, “IoT”, “AI” and so on.

“People aren’t as gullible as marketing/PR departments want them to be and they’re willing to push back against bad vocabularies and semantic trickery.”Buzzwords like these are a very big problem because they deliberately distort the debate to make bad ideas and sometimes human rights violations (like grotesque privacy infringements) seem acceptable if not “hip”.

I wrote the following yesterday:

The comments there add more examples to the same effect. People aren’t as gullible as marketing/PR departments want them to be and they’re willing to push back against bad vocabularies and semantic trickery. Last year we wrote on numerous occasions that patent examiners must learn to reject buzzwords like “cloud” or “AI”; many old things are nowadays being spun as novel because “cloud” or because “AI”, never mind how meaningless those terms often turn out to be.

One Week After Site Migration

Posted in Site News at 8:13 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Bunch of servers

Summary: January 1st marked an important milestone/accomplishment: managing to fully migrate Techrights to the new environment (datacentre) with zero downtime, just in time for the new year

TODAY IS MONDAY. Last Monday was the day we moved to the new datacentre, which happens to make the site even faster. We still have occasional hangups on the VMs. But we have identified the causes and are working to reduce unexpected downtimes. We have also started/resumed covering Microsoft/Linux news, leaving aside some of the focus on legal cases in the US. The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the European Patent Office (EPO) will be watched closely for their policy. We depend on sources.

For those who might be curious about numbers, our WordPress database is 4,527,656,147 bytes in size (nearly 25,000 posts). Post attachments in the Techrights blog (images, PDFs, editable documents, leaked documents/mails etc.) now weigh at 21GB in total. The Wiki database is 640,046,205 bytes in total size and the front page (Drupal) 220,979,813 bytes in total. There are many customisations which made the migration far from trivial; testing wasn’t straightforward either. Readers are advised to inform us upon encountering any problems (possibly migration issues we’ve failed to spot and need pinpointing).

Links 6/1/2019: KBibTeX 0.8.2, Cloudera-Hortonworks Merger a Done Deal

Posted in News Roundup at 1:58 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

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

    Born out of the 2014 FCC crackdown on modifying off-the-shelf network infrastructure devices, this week’s highlighted project got its start as a way to help facilitate community networks, which relied on such modifications for most of their operations. LibreRouter uses open-source hardware and software to provide the sort of flexible network infrastructure required by locally organized networking initiatives.

    In a discussion with APNIC, members of the LibreRouter team said that when the 2014 regulation was rolled back, the impact of the bumped-up security was felt worldwide, which is why LibreRouter members all over the globe continue to develop their hardware and software with approachability, efficiency, robustness, affordability and especially, the community being served in mind.

  • Mobile Experts Releases First Forecast of Open RAN Deployment

    Taking a cue from the internet web-scale market, the mobile industry is moving toward ‘openness.’ But what exactly does that mean? Mobile Experts released a report this week that takes a close look into the concept of openness in the Radio Access Network (RAN), and explains the which operators will deploy mobile networks based on Open RAN standards, and which operators will not.

    “For RAN, the first step is an open standard between the Radio Unit (RU, also called RRH) and the Distributed Unit (DU, also known as the BBU in LTE). A standard will be developed between the DU and the Central Unit, which covers the higher layer of baseband processing for control path signals. These changes will make possible the virtualization of the CU and/or DU, ultimately reducing the cost of hardware and software,” commented Principal Analyst Joe Madden.

  • Source code of Nokia 8.1 now available

    The official Open Source Code page for Nokia smartphones got updated once again. Now the source code is available for HMD’s latest phone, Nokia 8.1. If you are interested in peeking in this code, you can get it by going to Open Source Code page and download it there.

  • Open source technology trends 2019

    Recent estimates from 451 Research noted that the container market, even in the early days of the space, suggested enormous growth, with application containers set to become a $2.7 billion market by 2020.

    The 451 Research report can probably be considered a conservative estimation now, with Docker driving forward its pivot to the enterprise – and considering the popularity of the Google-born Kubernetes container orchestration system, the cash value of the market probably does not reflect usage.

    Not only is Kubernetes adoption growing quickly in the developer world, it is also increasingly informing major enterprise purchasing decisions (see investment – below) such as VMware buying Heptio for a cool half billion dollars.

    There were some interesting developments at the Openstack Foundation in the container space too, with the Intel – and Huawei – backed Kata containers release, which act like lightweight VMs, wrapped with an additional layer of security.

  • Congress Opens Floodgates with Data Law

    If, as many now suspect, open source is becoming less open, there was a bit of good news for open-source advocates at the end of 2018 when Congress approved legislation ensuring that unclassified government data remains free and available to all.

    The Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act was approved by lawmakers at the close of last session of Congress in late December. The OPEN provision was included as part of a larger Foundations for Evidenced-Based Policymaking Act of 2017.

    The open data legislation currently awaits the president’s signature.

    The legislation’s definition of what constitutes “open” government data is somewhat vague, defined as “not encumbered by restrictions, other than intellectual property rights.” Open data is considered under the legislation to be a “public data asset” maintained by government agencies and “released to the public” without restrictions on its use.

    [...]

    “The OPEN Government Data Act will ensure that the federal government releases valuable data sets, follows best practices in data management and commits to making data available to the public in a non-proprietary and electronic format,” the Washington-based group said.

    “Passage of the OPEN Government Data Act is a win for the open data community,” added Sarah Joy Hays, acting executive director of the Data Coalition. The group noted the legislation defines open data “without locking in yesterday’s technology” and creates baseline standards for providing public access to federal data.

  • Open source space academy opens in Nairobi

    Nairobi’s Tunapanda Institute has been using open source tools to provide technology, design, and business training in East Africa since its inception in 2013. Next year the school will launch a “space academy” to inspire young people to think about some of the most critical challenges facing humanity on this planet and beyond.

    Tunapanda’s founders believe that everyone should have the opportunity to help shape the future, and in order for that to happen there must be learning materials and tools that are open, shareable, and unrestricted so that anyone, no matter their financial or educational background, can learn and be inspired.

  • Events

    • Tobias Mueller: Talking at HITCon 2018 in Taipei, Taiwan

      I was invited to give a talk at Hacks in Taiwan Conference, or HITCon. Since I missed the GNOME Asia Summit and COSCUP just before, I was quite happy to go to Taiwan still.

      [...]

      My own talk was about making operating system more secure and making more secure operating systems. With my GNOME hat on, I mentioned how I think that the user needs to led in a cruel world with omnipresent temptation to misbehave. I have given similar presentations a few times and I developed a few questions and jokes to get the audience back at a few difficult moments during the presentation. But with that didn’t work so well due to the language barrier. Anyway, it was great fun and I still got some interesting discussions out of it afterwards.

    • KubeCon and CloudNativeCon 2018 Summary: Kubernetes 1.13, Envoy Update, and New Hosted Projects

      At the recent KubeCon and CloudNativeCon North America events, held in Seattle, USA, a series of updates were provided about the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) hosted projects. Highlights included the release of Kubernetes 1.13, an overview of the progress of the Envoy Proxy project (and a discussion of its increasing ubiquity in the cloud native stack), and the inclusion of the Rook storage orchestration and Harbor image registry projects.

    • 5 Open Source Conferences You Should Not Miss Out In 2019

      With all the advancements happening in the technology landscape, Open Source has gained ground with tech giants releasing open source tools and building new business models around it. The days are almost gone when companies used to buy closed-source, proprietary, off-the-shelf software solutions. Today, even the big players of the industry are adopting and integrating open source technologies with millions of dollars being plowed into open source software investments.

      IT professionals and developers working with open source tools who want to know more about this technology can stay up-to-date with these 5 leading Open Source conferences going to be held in India in 2019.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • arm64 windows update #1

        A month ago, we formally announced that we were working to bring Firefox to ARM64 Windows. The last month has seen significant progress on our journey to that release.

        The biggest news is that we have dogfoodable (auto-updating) Nightly builds available! As that message states, these Nightlies are even nightlier than our normal Nightlies, as they have not gone through our normal testing processes. But Firefox is perfectly usable on ARM64 Windows in its present state, so if you have an ARM64 device, please give it a try and file any bugs you find!

      • Encryption? This time it’ll be usable, Thunderbird promises

        Those who remember trying to configure the Thunderbird of old to work with PGP – an effort akin to learning how to run an Enigma machine while blindfolded – will be watching with interest: the project’s coders promise that 2019 will be the year of easy encryption.

        When the Mozilla Foundation decided to turn the email client loose in May 2017, its future looked doubtful, but it’s still here and, according to this post by community manager Ryan Sipes, donations are flowing freely enough for Thunderbird to expand its development team.

        The current eight personnel are to be expanded to 14, and one of the roles to be resourced is an engineer who will focus on security and privacy.

        “The UX/UI around encryption and settings will get an overhaul in the coming year,” Sipes wrote.

      • Mozilla has big plans for Thunderbird in 2019

        In a recent blog post, Mozilla has revealed what Thunderbird users can look forward to this year. It starts by restating its commitment to the software by hiring new staff for the Thunderbird team, with potentially 14 new full-time roles.

        These new hires will concentrate on updating and improving Thunderbird’s code, with Mozilla aiming to make big gains when it comes to Thunderbird’s general speed, as well as fixing performance issues of the software.

      • Mark Surman: Raising my sights in 2019

        At the beginning of last year, I set the intention to ‘stay the course’ on big changes that I had made in both my personal life and at Mozilla. This has paid off. I have a house of my own that I have slowly, and with the help of others, turned into a home. I have a renewed sense of family and community, including a much richer relationship with my boys. And, I have energy, hope and gratitude for Mozilla and the people I work with that is stronger than it has been in years. Being present and staying the course on a good set of choices, made these things possible.

  • SaaS/Back End

    • Cloudera And Hortonworks Merge To Take On Amazon

      Data software companies Cloudera and Hortonworks have combined to take on Amazon, according to a report from CNBC.

      Both companies were rivals vying for market dominance and hemorrhaging cash as they tried to attract businesses and outdo each other, but now they can focus on taking on the online giant itself.

      Cloudera and Hortonworks are two popular vendors of Hadoop open-source software, which can analyze, store and process a lot of different data. When the merger was announced in October, it was valued at $5.2 billion. However, the new company, which will be called Cloudera, is worth $3 billion.

    • Cloudera-Hortonworks Merger a Done Deal

      “Today, we start an exciting new chapter for Cloudera as we become a leading enterprise data cloud provider,” said Tom Reilly, CEO of Cloudera. “This combined team and technology portfolio establish the new Cloudera as a clear market leader with the scale and resources to drive continued innovation and growth.”

      The two open-source vendors both focus on Hadoop distributions, but Cloudera’s vision is to become an enterprise data cloud provider on a 100 percent open-source data platform.

    • Cloudera and Hortonworks finalize their merger

      Cloudera and Hortonworks, two of the biggest players in the Hadoop big data space, today announced that they have finalized their all-stock merger. The new company will use the Cloudera brand and will continue to trade under the CLDR symbol on the New York Stock Exchange.

      “Today, we start an exciting new chapter for Cloudera as we become the leading enterprise data cloud provider,” said Tom Reilly, chief executive officer of Cloudera, in today’s announcement. “This combined team and technology portfolio establish the new Cloudera as a clear market leader with the scale and resources to drive continued innovation and growth. We will provide customers a comprehensive solution-set to bring the right data analytics to data anywhere the enterprise needs to work, from the Edge to AI, with the industry’s first Enterprise Data Cloud.”

      The companies describe the deal as a “merger of equals,” though Cloudera stockholders will own about 60 percent of the equity in the company.

  • Databases

    • Redis in-memory storage

      Redis (Remote directory server) [1] is an open source, in-memory data structure store that can be used as a database, cache, and message broker. It supports a wide range of data structures, such as strings, hashes, lists, sets, bitmaps, HyperLogLogs, and geospatial indexes. Redis servers can be loaded locally, or they are available as web-hosted solutions. Redis libraries are available for a wide variety of programming languages.

  • CMS

    • Joomla 4.0 on the Horizon, More Open Source News

      The Joomla project has announced the availability of Joomla 4.0 Alpha 6 for testing purposes only. The announcement represents another big step toward the imminent release of Joomla 4.0.

      The primary objectives of this Alpha release are to provide developers with a basis to test their custom extensions and report any bugs and issues before the publication of the final release, and to become familiar with the new features that will be introduced in Joomla 4.0.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

    • Bridging the multicloud gap with open source

      Cloud technologies are advancing at full tilt with the aid of machine learning tools and open-source learnings, and new companies born in the cloud era are quick to optimize for an increasingly digital market.

      But while cloud-native organizations enjoy these advantages seamlessly, legacy businesses continue to struggle through the re-platforming challenges inhibiting cloud benefits. While the emergence of multicloud offers a more efficient option than lift-and-shift migration, the path to hybrid modernization remains under construction for most cloud providers still building their own enterprise solutions.

      With the experience of both a legacy tech enterprise and emerging cloud leader, IBM is adopting an open-source approach to guiding customers on their digital transformation journey.

    • Struggling IBM Uses CES to Reinvent Itself

      Among the featured speakers at the largest consumer electronics show next week in Las Vegas is the CEO of a a major enterprise IT vendor not generally associated with the whizzy world of gadgetry: Ginni Rometty, who also serves as IBM’s chairwoman and president.

      Rometty’s keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on Tuesday (Jan. 8) illustrates how far the buttoned-down company has shifted its focus as it searches for problems to solve with its AI, cloud and blockchain technologies. Too, it must convince skeptics that its blockbuster—and debt-financed—deal to acquire open-source leader Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) will bear fruit once the $34 billion deal closes.

    • Cabling is now code: How cloud and open source fuel Cisco’s vision for the programmable network

      It would not be a stretch to say that 2018 was the Year of the Cloud for Cisco Systems Inc. The networking company’s agreement in November with Amazon Web Services Inc. to provide an integrated platform connecting Kubernetes’ container orchestration management clusters across AWS and on-premises operations was just the culmination of a number of strategic, cloud-related moves.

      Earlier in the year, Cisco announced that its own CloudCenter portfolio would become part of the hybrid solution under joint development with Google LLC. And the company released AppDynamics for Kubernetes to troubleshoot performance issues within clusters. Cisco also rolled out its Container Platform in August using 100 percent upstream Kubernetes.

      In Cisco’s financial teleconference two months ago, Chief Executive Officer Chuck Robbins made it clear that enterprise customer transition to the cloud was a key factor in driving his company’s current growth. Since taking over the chief executive’s role in 2015, Robbins has steered the Cisco ship directly toward the north star of cloud.

  • BSD

    • The New ZFS on FreeBSD Implementation Can Now Be Tested With TrueOS

      It was recently decided that FreeBSD’s ZFS file-system support would be re-based atop ZFS On Linux. That new “ZFS On BSD” implementation based on ZOL continues moving along and it’s now easier to test thanks to iX Systems and their TrueOS platform.

      With the ZFS On Linux code-base being more actively maintained and improved upon than the OpenZFS support within the Illumos kernel, FreeBSD developers are working on merging their “ZOB” changes with ZOL.

    • Ingo Schwarze -mandoc Better documentation – on the web and for LibreSSL video is now published

      Ingo shows that if a program is difficult to document, then it is likely due to serious flaws in the program’s design.

    • [OpenBSD] Request for testing

      Hi,

      If you ever thought about getting more involved and learning a bit
      about buikdling a current OpenBSD, there’s a call for testing at

      https://marc.info/?l=openbsd-tech&m=154521488707434&w=2

      Testing would provide me with valuable data about performance of
      memory management in multi-threaded applications.

      Thanks,

      -Otto

  • Public Services/Government

    • EU to offer nearly $1m in bug bounties for open-source software

      The full list of 15 bounty programs includes the file archiver 7-zip, the Java servlet container Apache Tomcat, the content management framework Drupal, the cross-platform FTP application Filezilla, the media player VLC, the password manager KeePass, the text/source code editor Notepad++, plus other popular tools. Rewards start at €25,000 and go on up to €90,000 ($28,600 to $103,000), for a total offered amount of €851,000 ($973,000).

    • Pirate Party MEP serves up €1m Brussels-backed bug program for open source

      The European Union is ponying up close to €1m under a bug bounty programme spanning a range of open source projects.

      The cash drop represents the latest milestone for the Free and Open Source Software Audit Project (FOSSA) the brainchild of German Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda and her colleague, Max Andersson.

      In a pre-NYE blog post announcing the bounties, and recapping progress on FOSSA, Reda said that, “In January the European Commission is launching 14 out of a total of 15 bug bounties on Free Software projects that the EU institutions rely on.

    • EU Offers up to $100,000 in Bug Bounties for Open Source Projects

      The European Commission has provided funding for bug bounties in 14 open source projects it relies on. The bounties are designed to find gaps in its security after a year of successful attacks across the world.

      The idea has roots in the Heartbleed vulnerability, whose discovery in OpenSSL caused a mad scramble and widespread concern. This led to the proposal of the Open Source Software Audit (FOSSA) by Julia Reda.

      The bounties include popular applications like Filezilla, Notepad++, PuTTy, VLC Media Player, KeePass, and 7-zip. They were chosen by a historical look at application usage in the EC and a public survey by Reda.

      Of course, while the discovery of the bugs will aid the European Commission, they’ll play a wider role in protecting the public as a whole. The bounties are open to all on HackerOne and Intigriti, meaning anyone holding on to relevant exploits has a financial incentive to divulge them.

  • Licensing/Legal

    • Top 10 FOSS legal developments in 2018

      The year 2018 was a year in which the FOSS business model demonstrated its success: IBM purchased Red Hat, Inc. for $34 billion. The FOSS ecosystem also celebrated its durability: OSI celebrated the 20th anniversary of the open source movement and Linux celebrated its 25th anniversary.

      Meanwhile, however, old legal problems returned. The year 2018 has also seen another significant increase in decisions in litigation involving FOSS issues, and several of these cases are very important. This increase in litigation is a reminder of the importance of an active compliance program for all corporations that use FOSS (which now means virtually all corporations). Continuing the tradition of looking back over the top ten legal developments in FOSS, my selection of the top ten issues for 2018 is as follows:

    • Legal Issues And Compliance Pertaining To Open Source Software

      An Open Source Software (OSS) is a kind of software with source code which can be modified, enhanced and inspected by ANYONE. In case of an OSS, a person may alter how the software works or improve it by adding features or fixing parts that do not work properly, by modifying the source code of the software program. This is different from a closed software, where only the person/organization that created the software has the capacity to alter it, OSS is preferable and is considered to be a better option for the users than the former, as it grants them more freedom in relation to a closed software. Some prime examples of OSS are the Apache HTTP Server, the e-commerce platform os Commerce, internet browsers like Mozilla Firefox and Chromium. Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn all release OSSs, so that developers may share knowledge, create solutions, and contribute towards the creation of stable and functional products. There are certain landmark judicial pronouncements in the field of OSS that hold paramount importance in deciding the future of OSS.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Opening government data, new life for Mozilla Labs, a bug bounty program, and more news

      In this edition of our open source news roundup, we take a look making government data open in the U.S., German state funding an open source e-health app, the return of Mozilla Labs, and more

    • Open Access/Content

      • The Quest to Topple Science-Stymying Academic Paywalls

        SCIENCE IS BUILT, enhanced, and developed through the open and structured sharing of knowledge. Yet some publishers charge so much for subscriptions to their academic journals that even the libraries of the world’s wealthiest universities such as Harvard are no longer able to afford the prices. Those publishers’ profit margins rival those of the most profitable companies in the world, even though research is largely underwritten by governments, and the publishers don’t pay authors and researchers or the peer reviewers who evaluate those works. How is such an absurd structure able to sustain itself—and how might we change it?

        When the World Wide Web emerged in the ’90s, people began predicting a new, more robust era of scholarship based on access to knowledge for all. The internet, which started as a research network, now had an easy-to-use interface and a protocol to connect all of published knowledge, making each citation just a click away … in theory.

        Instead, academic publishers started to consolidate. They solidified their grip on the rights to prestigious journals, allowing them to charge for access and exclude the majority of the world from reading research publications—all while extracting billions in dollars of subscription fees from university libraries and corporations. This meant that some publishers, such as Elsevier, the science, technology, and medicine-focused branch of the RELX Group publishing conglomerate, are able today to extract huge margins—36.7 percent in 2017 in Elsevier’s case, more profitable than Apple, Google/Alphabet, or Microsoft that same year.

      • Presenting the PLOS ONE Open Quantum Computation and Simulation collection

        We are pleased to present the first papers of the PLOS ONE collection on Open Quantum Computation and Simulation to the public. Quantum information and technologies have experienced an enormous boost in the last couple of years moving from a purely academic environment to new realms in advanced research centers, startups and corporate companies. This transition requires new methodologies and approaches to fruitfully achieve the challenging goals set out by this research program.

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • Krste Asanović : RISC-V Momentum is Massive in India

        When Krste Asanović, chief architect and leader of the team at UC Berkeley that defined the open RISC-V ISA recently visited India for the first time, he was absolutely confident that he would come again.

        Not just because he loves Indian food which he had fallen in love with during his childhood in England but because there has always been a long-standing and strong Indian connection with IIT, Madras which has been working on RISC-V through its Shakti Project.

        Now the Indian connect just grew stronger after Krste’s co-founded company, SiFive acquired Bengaluru-based Open-Silicon, a system-optimized ASIC solution provider which would now start focusing more on RISC-V. Its customised ASIC work would also simultaneously continue. SiFive, the first fabless provider of customized semiconductors based on the RISC-V and founded by some of the team members from Berkeley, helps organizations turn semiconductor designs based on the open-source RISC-V instruction set architecture (ISA) into chips.

      • The Solderdoodle Open Source Iron Rides Again

        Now, [Isaac] is back with an updated version he calls the Solderdoodle Plus. It’s still based on the heating element from the Weller BP645, but now boasts twice the power, an improved 3D printed case, an intuitive touch-based user interface, and even some LED blinkenlights for good measure. As with the original Solderdoodle the hardware and software for the device are open source and you’re invited to build your own, though kits are also available through an already fully-funded Kickstarter campaign.

        [Isaac] says that the temperature control functions on traditional corded soldering irons waste energy due to the large thermal mass they have to bring up to temperature. But with less thermal mass and a system of variable duty cycle pulsed power, he says the Solderdoodle Plus can do the same work as an old-school 60 watt iron while only consuming 10 watts. This allows the iron to maintain a constant 500°C for over an hour on the dual internal Panasonic NCR18500A lithium-ion batteries, and means you can charge it up with nothing more exotic than a micro USB cable.

  • Programming/Development

    • Monkeypatching with pytest

      I was really excited when I figured out how to use the monkeypatch fixture in pytest, so I wanted to write a blog post about how it works. This blog post describes what monkeypatching is and provides two examples of using it with pytest.

    • Introduction to Python Iterators

      An iterator in Python refers to an object that we can iterate upon. The iterator consists of countable values, and it is possible to traverse through these values, one by one.

    • #CircuitPython2019
    • Experiments with new low latency PyPy garbage collector in a thread.
    • Increase the points that need to win the game
    • Scratch 3.0 is now available

      The only kids’ programming language worth using, Scratch, just celebrated the launch of Scratch 3.0, an update that adds some interesting new functionality to the powerful open-source tool.

      Scratch, for those without school-aged children, is a block-based programming language that lets you make little games and “cartoons” with sprites and animated figures. The system is surprisingly complex, and kids have created things like Minecraft platformers, fun arcade games and whatever this is.

      The new version of scratch includes extensions that allow you to control hardware, as well as new control blocks.

    • When you code, write down everything

      TAKE NOTES! Write down everything.

      Don’t remember how I first got the idea, but this super critical exam was where I tried it out first.

      When you’re thinking, have an output. Write down every thought that comes to mind.

      This solves 3 problems: [...]

    • Python Matplotlib Tutorial
    • Complete rewrites of the level manager class
    • Count the words within a string with python
    • Increase the speed of the enemy ship

      Hello friend, I wish you all have a nice day. After near to a month of continuing to develop this latest pygame project, today I have finally completely finished all three stages of the game and fixed most of the bugs that I can find during gameplay.

    • The idea of CI and Engineering

      In software development I see and interesting trend and push towards continuous integration, continually testing, and testing in production. These techniques are designed to allow faster feedback on errors, use real data for application testing, and to deliver features and changes faster.

      But is that really how people use software on devices? When we consider an operation like google or amazon, this always online technique may work, but what happens when we apply a continous integration and “we’ll patch it later” mindset to devices like phones or internet of things?

    • stackoverflow python report
    • Python logging made simple
    • Best Javascript Editor for Linux: Best 20 Javascript IDE and Online Editors Reviewed

      It was not long ago people considered JavaScript an obsolete language that tends to mess things more than helping. However, with the inception of Node.js, the runtime built on top of Chrome’s infamous v8 engine, developers can run JavaScript code outside the browser. You might not imagine, but this gives developers superior flexibility by enabling them using the same language on both the client side and server side. Moreover, with the stable ES6 update, JavaScript has become a much elegant language on its own right and brings an extra edge regarding delivering awe-inspiring web apps. Today, we’ll outline the 20 best Javascript Editor for Linux, the most used system by opensource JavaScript developers.

    • How Trulia began paying down its technical debt

      As every software company knows, over time as code ages and workarounds build on work-arounds, the code base becomes bloated. It becomes ever more difficult to get around the technical debt that you’ve built up over time. It’s really impossible to avoid this phenomenon, but at some point, companies realize that the debt is so great that it’s limiting their ability to build new functionality. That’s precisely what Trulia faced in 2017 when it began a process of paying down that debt and modernizing its architecture.

      Trulia is a real estate site founded way back in 2005, an eternity ago in terms of technology. The company went public in 2012 and was acquired by Zillow in 2014 for $3.5 billion, but has continued to operate as an independent brand under the Zillow umbrella. It understood that a lot had changed technologically in the 12 years since its inception when engineering began thinking about this. The team knew it had a humongous, monolithic code base that was inhibiting the ability to update the site.

Leftovers

  • Meduza reports from on the ground in Magnitogorsk, at the site of a deadly apartment building collapse

    In the early morning hours on December 31, a gas line exploded in a 10-story apartment complex on Karl Marx Prospect in the city of Magnitogorsk, almost completely destroying one section of the building. As of January 2, rescue workers had pulled 20 bodies from the rubble, and nearly two dozen souls were still missing, with the search still underway. Hours after the explosion, Meduza special correspondent Evgeny Berg traveled to Magnitogorsk to visit the blast site and the headquarters established in town to provide aid to victims.

  • Reinventing a radio wheel

    Many years ago, I attended an introductory lecture on software radio at a Linux conference we used to have – maybe OLS, maybe LCA, maybe ALS/Usenix even. Bdale Garbee was presenting, who I mostly knew as a Debian guy. He outlined a vision of Software Defined Radio: take what used to be a hardware problem, re-frame it as a software problem, let hackers hack on it.

    Back then, people literally had sound cards as receiver back-ends, so all Bdale and his cohorts could do was HF, narrow band signals. Still, the idea seemed very powerful to me and caught my imagination.

    A few years ago, the RTL-SDR appeared. I wanted to play with it, but nothing worthy came to mind, until I started flying and thus looking into various aviation data link signals, in particular ADS-B and its relatives TIS and FIS.

  • Science

    • Why children’s lives have changed radically in just a few decades

      This special report will explain what has led to these momentous changes in childhood in America and other rich countries, as well as in middle-income China. They range from broad social and demographic trends such as urbanisation, changes in family structure and the large-scale move of women into the labour force in recent decades to a shifting emphasis in policy on the early years and the march of digital technology.

      Start with the physical environment in which children are growing up. In rich countries the overwhelming majority now lead urban lives. [...]

    • A Tale of Two Toilets: Profiting from Necessity?

      The Gates toilet is top-down in planning and design and quite possibly energy-intensive to manufacture and distribute, while Practical Action is cooperative and communal in planning, design, and installation. The externalities of the toilets also need assessment, including materials, the resources used in their production, and all transportation costs. The Gates toilet has been in “transition” for six years while the Practical Action toilet does not require any delays or transitions and is already widely used, saving lives and preventing severe and lifelong illness. According to Forbes, the Gates Foundation, funded by capital gains, is charitable and not taxed; the federal government has “likely lost out on $15-20 billion.”

    • Senior Scientists Warn of Inequalities in Medical Benefits of Genetics Research

      One of the UK’s leading scientists has called for organizations that fund medical research to acknowledge that genetic tests developed using samples from white Europeans do not necessarily provide accurate results when applied to other ethnic groups, the Guardian reported in October, 2018.

      In a letter to the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Wellcome Trust, David Curtis, a geneticist and psychiatrist at University College London, wrote that the situation is so problematic that “UK medical science stands at risk of being accused of being institutionally racist.” In response, John Savill, the MRC’s chief wrote, “I do not think it is helpful to cast concerns over experimental design as ‘equalities issues.’”

      Other senior scientists have backed Curtis’s claims. Eske Willerslev, a geneticist at the University of Cambridge and director of the GeoGenetics center at the University of Copenhagen, criticized funding agencies of “appearing reluctant to invest in sequencing samples from people of non-European descent,” the Guardian reported. Doug Speed at Aarhus University in Denmark was quoted as saying, “Certainly there is a bias towards European samples. It definitely stands to reason that European populations will be first to benefit.”

      Curtis identified polygenic risk scores as the most striking instance of ethnic inequalities in the medical benefits of genetic research. Polygenic risk scores predict the likelihood of conditions like schizophrenia or high blood pressure, where vast numbers of genes contribute to risk.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • There’s a Toxic Weed Killer on the Menu in K-12 Schools Across the US

      Many parents cheered about 10 years ago when Michelle Obama took on the important task of improving school meals. Of course, every child should have a healthy lunch and breakfast. Most of us have school cafeteria stories; I still remember the feeling of failure I had decades ago when I realized my daughters never had time to eat more than their dessert before joining the stampede for recess.

      Ms. Obama’s work — and the work of many other concerned parents, teachers and staff — sparked significant improvements in school menus, some of which are now being undone by the current administration (allowing children to eat food with more salt and less whole grain). Schools must once again take another step forward.

      If you haven’t met glyphosate (Roundup) yet, allow me to introduce you. Glyphosate is the most widely used pesticide in the US. Its use has skyrocketed during the last 20 years because of the popularity of genetically-modified crops that are tolerant of this weed killer. Health concerns about glyphosate have also skyrocketed since 2015, when the World Health Organization evaluated its ability to cause cancer.

    • The Troubles of “Invasive” Plants: Collateral Damage, Monsanto, and the Tragedy of Pinyon-Juniper eradication

      The U.S. federal government defines it as “an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.”

      The National Wildlife Federation elevate s environmental considerations, describing it as “any kind of living organism… that is not native to an ecosystem and causes harm.”

      The Connecticut Audubon society is less discriminating about the effects of introduction. For them, an invasive is any “non-native species that has been introduced, either intentionally or accidentally into a new habitat or has escaped cultivation.”

      A plant species doesn’t have to venture far outside its native range to be considered invasive. Such is the case of the endangered Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa ), which “ is a frequent target for the chain saws of the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department—even though two small stands in Monterey, just fifty miles south, are cherished and protected as natives.” Meanwhile, a 500 mile drive north of its relict range , a large specimen planted by European settlers in the 1850’s is an officially designated “Oregon Heritage Tree,” which we assume grants it some safety.

      [...]

      Chemical methods for eradicating invasive plants are the most common because they are cheap and effective. Of course, they are also effective at killing non-target plants, and that result is quite common. In fact—and shockingly—less than 1% of a sprayed herbicide application ends up being delivered to the intended target. The remainder—if one can use that word to mean “the vast majority”—is dispersed into the surrounding environment. As a science, it’s quite a far cry from “exact.” A 1% success rate in just about any other endeavor would be considered a dismal failure.

      What do the “extra” chemicals do? Let’s look at glyphosate, the most commonly used herbicide in the world, which is manufactured by Monsanto and is the active ingredient in their notorious product, Round-Up. As a “broad spectrum” agent, it kills many kinds of plants, both terrestrial and aquatic, including algae. Sublethal doses are also harmful and lead to higher rates of fungal diseases and lower rates of micronutrient uptake. Additionally, glyphosate destroys beneficial bacteria and microorganisms in the soil, complicating recovery for native plants who no longer have the soil components required for health. As if that wasn’t enough, the bacteria that break down herbicides increase in number, further throwing off soil balance. Soil structure is also detrimentally effected by the way glyphosate binds with soil particles, which can lead to lower crops yields (and defeats the point of using it).

    • Big Pharma ushers in new year by raising prices of more than 1,000 drugs

      Drugmakers are starting 2019 with a slew of price hikes, affecting more than 1,000 medications.
      The average increase amounts to about 6 percent, said Michael Rea, founder and CEO of RX Savings Solutions, which sells software that helps employers and health plans analyze drug prices. Among the best-known drugs getting costlier are the opioid OxyContin, with a 9.5 percent jump, and the blood thinner Pradaxa, up 8 percent.
      Those increases underscore the challenges facing consumers and health care plans as drug costs far outpace the rate of inflation or wage growth. Americans spent $535 billion on prescription drugs last year, an increase of 50 percent since 2010, according to one estimate.

    • How The Government Shutdown Affects Health Programs

      There seems to be no end in sight for the current partial government shutdown, the third since the beginning of the Trump administration.

      For the vast majority of the federal government’s public health efforts, though, it’s business as usual.

      That’s because Congress has already passed five of its major appropriations bills, funding about three-fourths of the federal government, including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

      But seven bills are outstanding — including those that fund the Interior, Agriculture and Justice departments — and that puts the squeeze on some important health-related initiatives.

    • Pelosi: Leggo My PayGo!

      As expected, Nancy Pelosi won the House Speakership this week and has thereby solidified her position as chief Democratic Party austerian in service to the rich.

      Widely praised as a genius at extracting campaign cash from wealthy oligarchs for her members and for deftly co-opting their loyalty in the process, one of her first orders of business was reinstating the so-called PAYGO rule, which requires that all new spending be offset either by new taxes or by cutting funds from other programs. Critics say the move – which passed on Thursday with only three Democrats dissenting – is a deliberate attempt to prevent such progressive policies as Medicare For All from ever reaching the floor for debate, let alone a vote for actual implementation.

      It’s also an ideological return to the Obama era austerity politics that immiserated millions of people and paved the way for the Donald Trump victory.

      Defenders of the rule point out that it is actually only a toothless little offshoot of the real PayGo law, and that this law, enacted in 2010, can be waived at any time and indeed, has been waived in the past. Of course, the most recent waiver benefited only the richest of the rich, via Trump’s deficit-ballooning tax package.

      And that leads skeptics to ask why Pelosi would insist on such a redundant rule in the first place.

  • Security

    • Security updates for Friday
    • Django security releases issued: 2.1.5, 2.0.10, and 1.11.18
    • Most home routers don’t take advantage of Linux’s improved security features [Ed: The study is titled “Build Safety of Software in 28 Popular Home Routers,” but the CBS ZDNet drama queen Catalin Cimpanu made it about Linux (which he loves to badmouth for clicks]

      Security experts from the Cyber Independent Testing Lab (Cyber-ITL) analyzed the firmware of these routers and mapped out the percentage of firmware code that was protected by the four security features listed above.

      “The absence of these security features is inexcusable,” said Parker Thompson and Sarah Zatko, the two Cyber-ITL researchers behind the study.

    • [Crackers] are using Chromecasts to broadcast security risks about Chromecast

      Yes, this isn’t a Chromecast bug as such, more an inherent weakness in Universal Plug and Play, which is designed to make devices work easily with each other. In this case, it makes it a bit too easy when exposed to the wider internet. As a Google spokesperson told TechCrunch: “This is not an issue with Chromecast specifically, but is rather the result of router settings that make smart devices, including Chromecast, publicly reachable.”

    • The Elite Intel Team Still Fighting Meltdown and Spectre [Ed: Intel is, at the same time, putting back doors in all chips, so you know this 'security' work is a facade at best]

      A YEAR AGO today, Intel coordinated with a web of academic and independent researchers to disclose a pair of security vulnerabilities with unprecedented impact. Since then, a core Intel hacking team has worked to help clean up the mess—by creating attacks of their own.

      Known as Spectre and Meltdown, the two original flaws—both related to weaknesses in how processors manage data to maximize efficiency—not only affected generations of products that use chips from leading manufacturers like Intel, AMD, and ARM, but offered no ready fix. The software stopgaps Intel and others did roll out caused a slew of performance issues.

    • Cloud provider blames Ryuk ransomware for Christmas Eve attack

      According to cybersecurity journalist Brian Krebs, Data Resolution was infected with the Ryuk ransomware, which is the same ransomware thought to be behind the attacks on Tribune Publishing Company’s network, which disrupted the publication of newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune late last week. Krebs reported the attack on Data Resolution temporarily gave the threat actors control of the cloud provider’s data center domain.

      Data Resolution has over 30,000 customers worldwide and provides businesses with software hosting, cloud computing, data center services and business continuity systems. The cloud provider, which is based in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., hasn’t made a public statement about the attack yet, but Krebs reported the company notified affected customers on Dec. 29 via a status update on Dropbox. The update said the Ryuk ransomware attack happened on Christmas Eve, with a point of origin of North Korea. “We all were attacked by North Korea,” the customer notification said.

    • A Major [Cracking] Spree Gets Personal for German Politicians

      The trove of leaked documents is massive, but early assessments indicate that it seems focused less on exposing state secrets than it does on revealing deeply personal information about its targets. The exposed data includes internal political communications, like emails and scans of faxes, along with credit card information, home addresses, phone numbers, personal identification card details, private chat logs, and even voicemails from relatives and children.

    • “Security researcher” dumps files of German chancellor, legislators, bloggers

      Today, a German government spokesperson acknowledged that at least some of the documents appear to be genuine, dating back to 2017. German deputy government spokesperson Martina Fietz told reporters that “personal data and documents belonging to hundreds of politicians and public figures were published on the Internet… the government is taking this incident very seriously.” The data includes home addresses, mobile telephone numbers, letters, invoices, and copies of identity documents.

    • Marriott Concedes 5 Million Passport Numbers Lost to [Crackers] Were Not Encrypted

      On Friday the firm said that teams of forensic and data analysts had identified “approximately 383 million records as the upper limit” for the total number of guest reservations records lost, though the company still says it has no idea who carried out the attack, and it suggested the figure would decline over time as more duplicate records are identified. The revised figure is still the largest loss in history, greater than the attack on Equifax, the consumer credit-reporting agency, which lost the driver’s license and Social Security numbers of roughly 145.5 million Americans in 2017, leading to the ouster of its chief executive and a huge loss of confidence in the firm.

      What made the Starwood attack different was the presence of passport numbers, which could make it far easier for an intelligence service to track people who cross borders. [...]

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Bernie Sanders Reminds Liz Cheney of Iraq War Lies After Daughter of Bush VP Attacks So-Called ‘Fraud of Socialism’

      After Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.)—daughter of the notorious warmonger former Vice President Dick Cheney—attacked the so-called “fraud of socialism” in a “Trumpism-inflected” speech on the U.S. House floor on Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) clapped back with a reference to what has been called her father’s “biggest lie.”

      “Really? I wasn’t aware that it was ‘socialism’ that lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and got us into a horrific war that we should never have started,” Sanders tweeted Friday, a clear reference to Dick Cheney’s hand in misleading the American public ahead of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq that launched a war that killed hundreds of thousands of people—including, by some estimates, more than than 200,000 civilians.

    • Yemen, Where No One Hears You Scream

      Now we know what it takes to briefly flip the script on Saudi Arabia. A journalist has to be murdered in an embassy on the orders of the Crown Prince, his body dismembered with a bone saw and then the butchered remains dissolved in a vat of acid. But not just any journalist. The Saudis have killed and imprisoned many journalists before. But Jamal Khashoggi was journalist working for the Washington Post, a paper owned by the world’s richest man. Usually, the Saudis just buy off their critics. But in Jeff Bezos they may have encountered a man too rich to be bought.

      Still there was no anguished outcry, from the Washington Post or the New York Times, three months earlier, after a Saudi Arabian fighter jet launched an airstrike on a school bus in Yemeni village of Dahyan. The bus had stopped in Dahyan for refreshments, after a picnic, and was heading back to the school when it was struck by a laser-guided MK 82 bomb manufactured by Lockheed and sold to the Saudis by the Pentagon. Fifty people were killed in the bombing, all of them civilians, 30 of them children, most of them 10 years old and younger. Another 48 people were wounded.

      One of the school’s teachers, Yahya Hussein, was driving behind the bus in a car. She arrived in Dahyan a few minutes after airstrike and encountered a scene of unspeakable horror. “There was body parts and blood everywhere,” she told Al Jazeera.

      The Saudis didn’t bother cleaning up the blood or hiding the severed limbs. Instead the Crown Prince declared the school-bus bombing a “legitimate military attack.” A few days later, the Saudis bombed a funeral for one of the victims, killing and maiming another dozen people. The Saudis said the victims were being used as human shields by the Houthi militias. “I’ll be talking about a lot of things with the Saudis,” Trump quipped to Axios recently. “But certainly I wouldn’t be having people that don’t know how to use the weapons shooting at buses with children.”

      One might have hoped for at least a little introspection from the Pentagon in the wake of this gruesome child slaughter.

    • U.S. Sends Troops For Possible ‘Violent’ Congo Vote Protests

      On the eve of the first expected results of Congo’s long-delayed presidential election, President Donald Trump said military personnel had deployed to Central Africa to protect U.S. assets from possible “violent demonstrations,” while the country’s powerful Catholic church warned of a popular “uprising” if untrue results are announced.

      Congo faces what could be its first democratic, peaceful transfer of power since independence from Belgium in 1960, but election observers and the opposition have raised concerns about voting irregularities as the country chooses a successor to longtime President Joseph Kabila.

      The first results are expected on Sunday, and the United States and the African Union, among others, have urged Congo to release results that reflect the true will of the people. The U.S. has threatened sanctions against those who undermine the democratic process. Western election observers were not invited to watch the vote.

      While Congo has been largely calm on and after the Dec. 30 vote, Trump’s letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said about 80 military personnel and “appropriate combat equipment” had deployed to nearby Gabon to support the security of U.S. citizens and staffers and diplomatic facilities. More will deploy as needed to Gabon, Congo or neighboring Republic of Congo, he wrote.

    • Trump Aide: Syria Withdrawal Waiting on ‘Conditions’

      President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said Sunday that the U.S. military withdrawal from northeastern Syria is conditioned on defeating the remnants of the Islamic State group, and on Turkey assuring the safety of Kurdish fighters allied with the United States.

      Bolton, who traveled to Israel to reassure the U.S. ally of the Trump-ordered withdrawal, said there is no timetable for the pullout of American forces in northeastern Syria, but insisted it’s not an unlimited commitment.

      “There are objectives that we want to accomplish that condition the withdrawal,” Bolton told reporters in Jerusalem. “The timetable flows from the policy decisions that we need to implement.”

      Those conditions, he said, included the defeat of remnants of IS in Syria, and protections for Kurdish militias who have fought alongside U.S. troops against the extremist group.

    • As Trump Orders US Out of Afghanistan, Notorious CIA-Backed Units Will Remain

      Politicians and pundits alike have roundly criticized Donald Trump for stating he will pull our troops out of Syria and cut US forces in Afghanistan by half. James Mattis immediately resigned as secretary of defense, writing in a letter to Trump, “you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours.”

      As the US military kills civilians in Syria and CIA-led Afghan forces continue to commit war crimes, it appears Trump is doing the right thing in pulling out military troops. But the CIA will remain and grow stronger after the US troops leave. “[A]s American military forces are set to draw down, the role of the Central Intelligence Agency is only likely to grow in importance,” according to The New York Times.

      On December 31, The Times described a CIA-sponsored Afghan strike force that operates “unconstrained by battlefield rules designed to protect civilians, conducting night raids, torture and killings with near impunity.” In the article, journalist Mujib Mashal cites an October 2018 United Nations report that raised concern about “consistent, credible accounts of intentional destruction of civilian property, illegal detention and other abuses.”

      Mashal reports that the abuses by the CIA “are actively pushing people toward the Taliban” and when few US military troops remain, “the [CIA-led] strike forces are increasingly the way that a large number of rural Afghans experience the American presence.” Indeed, Mohibullah, whose relative was killed when his home was attacked by a strike force, told The Times he saw “no difference between the CIA-sponsored force and the Islamic State if the result was to be attacked with no warning.”

    • CIA-managed forces in Afghanistan are reportedly conducting ‘torture and killings with near impunity’

      Afghan strike forces overseen by the CIA are operating with little care for preventing civilian casualties, a lengthy New York Times report details Monday, and their brutality has fostered local populations’ sympathy for the Taliban.

      The CIA-managed teams work “unconstrained by battlefield rules designed to protect civilians, conducting night raids, torture and killings with near impunity,” the Times reports, citing Afghan and American officials. “Those abuses are actively pushing people toward the Taliban, the officials say,” and as the U.S. military footprint in the country has declined from its 2011 peak of about 100,000, these “strike forces are increasingly the way that a large number of rural Afghans experience the American presence.” Unconfirmed reports suggest some raids may even include American operatives.

    • CIA undermining the U.S. mission in Afghanistan with abuse, torture

      “C.I.A.’s Afghan Forces Leave a Trail of Abuse and Anger,” writes Mujib Mashal, the New York Times’ senior correspondent in Afghanistan.

      Details: “The fighters hold the line in the war’s toughest spots, but officials say their brutal tactics are terrorizing the public and undermining the U.S. mission.”

    • C.I.A.’s Afghan Forces Leave a Trail of Abuse and Anger

      Razo Khan woke up suddenly to the sight of assault rifles pointed at his face, and demands that he get out of bed and onto the floor.

      Within minutes, the armed raiders had separated the men from the women and children. Then the shooting started.

      As Mr. Khan was driven away for questioning, he watched his home go up in flames. Within were the bodies of two of his brothers and of his sister-in-law Khanzari, who was shot three times in the head. Villagers who rushed to the home found the burned body of her 3-year-old daughter, Marina, in a corner of a torched bedroom.

      The men who raided the family’s home that March night, in the district of Nader Shah Kot, were members of an Afghan strike force trained and overseen by the Central Intelligence Agency in a parallel mission to the United States military’s, but with looser rules of engagement.
      Ostensibly, the force was searching for militants. But Mr. Khan and his family had done nothing to put themselves in the cross hairs of the C.I.A.-sponsored strike force, according to investigators.

      It was clear that the raiding force had “committed an atrocity,” said Jan-mir Zazai, a member of the Khost provincial council who was part of the government investigating team. “Everyone we spoke to said they would swear on the innocence of the victims.”

    • CIA oversees grisly war crimes in Afghanistan

      The Central Intelligence Agency, the Times reported, is overseeing an Afghan strike force operating under none of the constraints to which conventional Afghan or US troops are beholden.

    • CIA’s Afghan Forces Leave a Trail of Abuse and Anger
    • In Afghanistan, Uncle Sam’s left hand doesn’t know what his right hand is doing
    • Russia detains US citizen Paul Whelan on suspicion of spying

      Russia has detained a US citizen on suspicion of spying, according to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB).

    • Whelan Doesn’t Fit The Profile Of A Spy, Former CIA Officer Says
    • When ex-spies go rogue by becoming lawmakers
    • CIA Analyst-Turned-Rep. Elissa Slotkin is Putting Pocketbook Issues Before Politics
    • German government cagey on spy cooperation in Pinochet’s Chile

      The German government has offered only cagey responses to questions about cooperation between the BND (Germany’s foreign intelligence agency), the American CIA and military dictatorships in Chile and Greece in the late 1960s and early ’70s.
      The socialist Left party’s Jan Korte submitted 68 questions to the German Foreign Ministry late last year, and the incomplete answers he got irritated the Bundestag member so much that he filed an official complaint about the noncooperation of the government. “These answers are an unparalleled insult,” he told DW. “And, by the way, that is no way to treat the parliament.”
      The Foreign Ministry did admit that the administration of Chancellor Willy Brandt knew in advance about the imminent putsch being planned by Chilean military leaders under General Augusto Pinochet in September 1973, but offered few details on exactly how.
      Otherwise, the government largely refused to answer any key questions about the cooperation between the CIA (which actively supported Pinochet’s coup) and the BND, citing “the good of the state” as the main reason. “The release of information related to the cooperation with foreign security forces would breach the strict and unlimited confidentiality that forms the basis of all intelligence cooperation,” according to the government.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Hackers leak personal data trove on Angela Merkel, top German politicians

      Hacked personal data of hundreds of German politicians was trickled out on Twitter for more than a month before government officials caught wind of it.

      The data, posted by a Twitter user named @_0rbit, included personal information on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as phone numbers, documents and email addresses for top German politicians.

      The hack affected members of all German political parties with the exception of Alternative for Germany (AfD), the country’s far-right political group. The first post published on Dec. 1 and the hacker was posting daily updates until Friday, when Twitter suspended the account.

    • Germany cyberattack: The five most likely culprits

      Such an astonishingly broad hack of hundreds of German officials and celebrities would normally indicate a state actor with significant technical capability. But the fact that the contacts and messages of those targeted were not held by German government servers means that we cannot take state actor involvement for granted. As I see it, considering capability and intent, five possible culprits stand out as most likely here. Note that, as of 18 hours since the publication of the attack, the five-eye alliance of Western intelligence services has not yet identified a culprit.

    • Ecuador unveils “special examination” of Julian Assange’s asylum

      WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose courageous publication of leaked documents exposed the crimes and mass surveillance of the US and its allies, is facing a new threat to expel him from Ecuador’s London embassy. He was granted political asylum there in 2012 to protect him from being extradited to the US to face possible life imprisonment, or even execution, on trumped-up espionage or conspiracy charges.

      Having already cut off Assange’s internet access and communication with the outside world last March, in an effort to coerce him into leaving the embassy, Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno has set in motion a pseudo-legal inquisition to provide a cover for his government to repudiate its asylum obligations.

    • Wikileaks Cable That Confirms Trevor Ncube Never Supported Morgan Tsvangirai As He Claims

      1. (C) SUMMARY. Prominent exiled Zimbabwean businessmen Trevor Ncube and Strive Masiyiwa agreed that the upcoming March 29 elections offered opportunities for political change in Zimbabwe, but differed on the electoral prospects for independent presidential candidate Simba Makoni. Ncube, a strong Makoni supporter, claimed that Makoni has generated significant excitement in Zimbabwe and would do well in the upcoming poll, whereas Masiyiwa questioned Makoni’s organizational strength on the ground. Both believed that Makoni’s candidacy has created sharp divisions in ZANU-PF, and that Makoni and Tsvangirai may still form a coalition before the election. Some key ZANU-PF officials who were in involved in the rigging in previous elections now support Makoni, potentially making it harder — but not impossible — for Mugabe to steal the upcoming election. The MDC will attempt to combat rigging, but has not yet devised a plan for the “day after” in the event of a Mugabe victory.

      Masiyiwa expressed his growing concern about the spiraling inflation, suggesting that there may be “no more room” for the economy to collapse. END SUMMARY. 2. (C) Visiting DAS Carol Thompson, AF/S Office Director, and PolOff met February 27 with prominent and influential Zimbabwean exile businessmen Strive Masiyiwa and Trevor Ncube. Harare Ambassador McGee joined the meeting with Masiyiwa. Ncube is publisher of the respected South African weekly newspaper the Mail & Guardian, as well as the Zimbabwean newspapers The Sunday Standard and The Zimbabwean Independent.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Espoo trials ride-sharing app to reach 2030 zero-emissions goal

      “Butts on the seat” (Peput Penkkiin) is the catch phrase for a ride-sharing app the city of Espoo will be trialling until mid-January as one strategy to achieve emissions-free status by the year 2030. City leaders also want to ensure the efficient use of the stock of private cars in the region.

    • Scientists Accelerate Coral Reef Regrowth with Electricity

      In 2018, BGR and New Scientist reported on a scientific effort using electrical currents to stimulate regrowth of damaged coral reefs. As is generally known, coral reefs, which are crucial components of ocean ecosystems around the world, have been dying off due to climate change and destructive fishing practices. Damaged coral regrows slowly, and rising ocean temperatures lead to bleaching that can cause entire reef systems to collapse permanently. As Alice Klein reported in New Scientist, researchers found that laying metal grates over damaged reefs and then running electric current through them draws in minerals that cause the coral to grow up to four times faster than it otherwise would.

      The technique is currently be used by conservationists with Reef Ecologic to restore sections of damaged coral on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The same technique has previously proven successful on reefs in the Caribbean and elsewhere.

    • Corporate Food Brands Drive Massive Dead Zone in Gulf of Mexico

      Dead zones are areas in a body of water that do not have enough oxygen to support marine life. At 8,185 square miles, the Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone is about the size of New Jersey.

    • National Parks Struggle to Stay Open, Safe During Shutdown

      Nonprofits, businesses and state governments nationwide are putting up money and volunteer hours in a battle to keep national parks safe and clean for visitors as the partial U.S. government shutdown lingers.

      But such makeshift arrangements haven’t prevented some parks from closing and others from being inundated with trash. Support groups say donations of money and time could run short if the budget impasse between President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats lasts much longer. Some are calling for parks to close for the duration of the standoff, which Trump said Friday could last “months or even years.”

      “Our national parks deserve better than an improvised patchwork of emergency care,” Diane Regas, CEO of the Trust for Public Lands, said in a letter to Trump that noted reports of theft, poaching and accumulating piles of garbage and human waste. “They need robust funding and full-time protection, or they should be closed.”

      Ryan Zinke, who recently stepped down under fire as Interior Department secretary, had ordered many national parks to stay open, saying visitors should not be penalized for the political feud over a border wall with Mexico. During an interview with The Associated Press, Zinke said visitors should take action to keep parks clean.

      “Grab a trash bag and take some trash out with you,” he said. “In order to keep them open, everybody has to pitch in.”

    • Trump’s EPA Is Undermining New Law to Regulate Chemicals

      Modern life is awash with chemicals. They’re in our work places, our homes, our bedrooms, the clothes we wear, the water we drink, the paint on our walls, the products we clean with. They’re all around us. Indeed, roughly 30,000 pounds of chemicals are produced per person, per year in the US. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is a federal safety net that ensures these chemicals don’t cause harm to humans or the environment.

      At least it’s supposed to.

      This act is the centerpiece of the nation’s table-display of chemical regulations, which include different laws governing food, drugs, cosmetics and pesticides. For decades, however, TSCA was widely criticized by many environmental and consumer advocacy groups for being toothless—that it achieved very little in regulating the nation’s chemicals. This led to a major overhaul two years ago, and a revised TSCA signed into law near the end of the Obama administration, shepherding in a number of “important improvements.”

      But as the new law, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, continues to be rolled out under the Trump administration, critics point to recent modifications made by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the way it evaluates and regulates chemicals, prioritizing industry concerns over human health and the environment. Sen. Tom Udall, ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee overseeing EPA’s budget, has called implementation of the law a “remarkable disaster.”

    • Beauty—The Forgotten Recipe For Happiness

      George Leigh Mallory, who died on Mt. Everest in 1924, was asked why he wanted to climb the world’s tallest peak. “Because it’s there,” he replied. When I was young, I too loved to climb mountains. Most were peaks in California’s Sierra Nevada. The highest, Mt Whitney, was only half as high as Everest and had a trail to the top. Others were more challenging, and the challenge—because they were there—along with companionship on the climbs and bragging rights back home in the suburbs—was part of the appeal.

      But really, I climbed because the views from the top were so stunning. Repeatedly, they overwhelmed me with their beauty—blue lakes, deep canyons, green meadows, and surrounding snow-covered summits of glistening granite or colorful quartzite. Every hundred feet opened new eye-popping panoramas.

    • Why the Climate Change Message Isn’t Working

      Here is what I want everyone in the climate change movement to hear: People are not going to be frightened into caring. Scientific predictions about what will happen 10, 20, or 50 years in the future are not going to make them care, not enough. What we need is the level of energy and commitment that we saw at Standing Rock. We need the breadth of activism we saw in Flint, Michigan, where everyone from yoga teachers to biker gangs joined in relentless protest against lead contamination. That requires making it personal. And that requires facing the reality of loss. Facing the reality of loss is called grief. There is no other way.

      The Standing Rock action to stop the Dakota Access pipeline wasn’t framed around climate change at all (at least until White environmentalists became involved) but around protecting water and the integrity of Indigenous sites, and not all water or all sites, but a specific body of water and specific sites, real places. Thousands of people, especially young people, braved long journeys and hostile conditions to participate. That is the kind of commitment we need to arouse in defense of the sacred, in defense of all beings of Earth. It comes from beauty, loss, love, and grief.

    • We Already Have a Border Wall. It’s an Environmental Disaster.

      As of Thursday, the U.S. government has been partially shut down for 13 days due to the Trump administration’s demand that a new funding package include money for a border wall with Mexico. The new House Democratic majority intends to vote on a bill to re-open the government that doesn’t include such funding soon after it’s sworn in. The administration and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have called the bill a non-starter.

      But ask anyone living along the U.S.-Mexico line, and they’ll tell you: We already have fences and walls, drones and helicopters, surveillance towers, checkpoints, and border patrol agents speeding their ATVs across the fragile biotic crust of the desert.

      In fact, communities are suffering due to decades of militarization and border infrastructure. Today’s walls and fences already cover 700 miles of the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border, dividing towns and families, and causing damage to the environment and border communities, many of which are low-income, tribal, or on the Mexican side of the line.

      In short, we don’t need or want another wall.

  • Finance

    • Five Things the Shutdown Shows Us About 2019

      The era of divided government began with the continuation of a ridiculous and destructive government shutdown caused by a president who seemingly cares only about impressing a hateful right-wing minority obsessed with the symbolism of building a literal wall on the southern border to keep out brown-skinned immigrants.

      Happy New Year.

      To this point, Democrats have been flexing their new leverage as holders of the House majority by refusing to agree to Trump’s wall. It feels a little better that at least one part of one branch of government is controlled by someone other than the gutless Republicans who have catered to Trump’s every destructive whim.

      But what hasn’t changed is that, with the exception of a few left-wing Democrats, the Democratic Party as a whole continues to stand for nothing beyond opposing Trump — certainly not for the refugee families in Tijuana who were teargassed on New Year’s Day as they approached a border wall that very much already exists.

      Regardless of who ends up blinking first in this latest Trumpian theater of the absurd, the shutdown has revealed some of the key political dynamics that socialists can expect over the coming two years.

    • Ocasio-Cortez’s “Not At All Outlandish” Proposal for 70% Tax Rate on Uber-Wealthy Could Raise $720 Billion Over Decade

      As many historians, economists, and informed citizens were forced to point out in the wake of the freak-out over a proposal by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to raise the current tax rate on the very wealthiest Americans to 70 percent, such a rate is not at all unprecedented and higher rates were the norm for a large portion of last century.

      And one of the reasons that much higher rates were once very popular was because they were able to generate lots of revenue that was then put to good use. And, since most people are not extremely rich, there was popular support for such progressive taxation.

      What Ocasio-Cortez is actually suggesting, said economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, is “what top public finance economists have been saying for some time” and “not at all outlandish.”

      So while the newly-seat New York Democrat embraced the idea that “radical” ideas might be needed to help pay for essential policies like the Green New Deal or Medicare for All, many of her allies pointed out that there’s nothing necessarily radical about much higher tax rates on the rich and powerful.

    • Ontario court rules that Uber can’t use arbitration to keep its drivers from suing it

      The Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled that Uber can’t use binding arbitration “agreements” to stop its drivers from joining a class action suit against the company; the court held that the arbitration clause was “illegally outsourcing an employment standard.”

    • Proposed class action against Uber can proceed, appeal court rules

      In a ruling released Wednesday, the Court of Appeal for Ontario says a clause in Uber’s services agreement that requires all disputes to go through arbitration in the Netherlands amounts to illegally outsourcing an employment standard and therefore cannot stand.

      It further concludes that the clause takes advantage of the significant power and financial disparity between Uber and its drivers, who would bear up to US$14,500 in filing fees just to begin the arbitration process, no matter the amount at stake in the dispute.

    • Street vending is legal in Los Angeles after a decade of organizing

      Street vending was legalized in Los Angeles on Jan. 1, marking an important victory for economic and immigrant justice in the city. This comes after statewide decriminalization through the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act, or SB946, signed into law in September 2018 by Gov. Jerry Brown. SB946 limits violations and fines imposed on vendors and is a turning point in the fight to protect many migrant families from Trump-era deportations.

      These achievements at the state and local level were won through a hard-fought campaign led by sidewalk vendors — in partnership with Los Angeles Street Vending Coalition, or LASVC, and other allies — that began more than 10 years ago. These victories should be recognized and celebrated, but the work to safeguard street vending in our society is just beginning.

      While California has the largest economy in the United States — and the fifth largest in the world — it also has the highest poverty rate of any state. One path out of this poverty, especially for the immigrant community, has been through street vending.

    • Elizabeth Warren Pierces Through Rhetoric on Economy, Muddles on Foreign Policy

      In her New Year’s Eve announcement forming an exploratory committee for the presidency, Sen. Elizabeth Warren made a great point: “Right now, Washington works great for the wealthy and the well-connected. It’s just not working for anyone else.”

      In case you missed that, she pointedly did not say “the economy isn’t working well” or such, as we’ve all heard numerous politicos say countless times.

      She rather said the opposite of that — repeatedly: “The way I see it right now, Washington works great for giant drug companies, but just not for people who are trying to get a prescription filled. Washington works great for for-profit colleges and student loan outfits, but not for young people who are getting crushed by student loan debt. And you could keep going through the list. The problem we have got right now in Washington is that it works great for those who’ve got money to buy influence.”

      And in case anyone at all missed the point, she said it yet again: “We want a government that works not just for the rich and the powerful. We want a government that works for everyone.”

      It’s laudatory that Warren is using her perch and analytical skills to avoid a common rhetorical trap and is articulating the truism that the political establishment largely does the bidding of the wealthy and connected when it comes to the economy.

    • Inequality from a Drone’s Perspective

      Johnny Miller’s photography project, “American Unequal Scenes,” captures inequality across the United States by using aerial drone footage to show how the rich and poor live.

    • Ethereum Developers Give ‘Tentative’ Greenlight to ASIC-Blocking Code

      Members of ethereum’s open-source development community tentatively agreed Friday to implement a new algorithm that would block specialized mining hardware, or ASICs, pending further testing on the proposed code.

      If accepted by the network of users that run the ethereum software, the code change, dubbed “ProgPoW,” would block ASICs, such as those made by major mining firms like Bitmain. In its place, the new software would allow general purpose, or GPU hardware – which is typically phased out by ASICs – to compete for rewards on the platform.

      ASICs were developed for ethereum as early as April 2018.

    • Unions Need to End Pay Inequality Within Their Ranks

      One of the pressing issues of our time has been the growing inequality between the rich and everyone else. It is accompanied by social ills including mass poverty, homelessness, hunger and a lack of decent healthcare. In a country as wealthy as the United States, these conditions should be viewed as crimes against humanity especially when many, including children, have to endure depravity at a time others live excessively opulent lifestyles.

      Labor unions are vital to preventing greater inequality. They are under attack because, as is obvious to the wealthy and their enforcers, unions can be a major obstacle to the ability of the rich to accumulate greater wealth. With unions, workers are more likely to receive higher rates of pay and better benefits, be less dominated, have greater job security, and work under better conditions resulting in less of the wealth created by workers ending up in the pockets of the rich.

      One would hope that “alternative” institutions critical to the achievement of social justice that include labor unions would not embody characteristics of gross inequality. Unfortunately, while far less egregious than the divide between the super-rich and everyone else, many labor unions do. There are highly paid union leaders and bureaucrats making large six figure incomes whose dues paying members often have extreme difficulties making ends meet.

    • Yellow Vests, Modern Junk Politics and Robespierre

      During the recent holidays, I had the opportunity to listen to my French friends extol the virtues of the yellow vests (gilets jaunes) movement. “We have had enough of the elitist rule that has left most of the French working class economically desperate,” Pierre said. “People have gone into the streets out of dire frustration.” Jean added; “This is not just a complaint about taxes, rather it is an uprising against the oligarchy that has destroyed democracy.”

      I listened to their complaints with empathy, fully accepting their descriptions of what the French middle and lower classes are living through. Their emotions seemed genuine; I had no reason to question their analysis of the underlying causes of the recent protests. Where we differed was their inability to answer my simple question: “What is the solution?”

      My answer to that question refers back to what is considered to be the first act of modern politics, the beheading of King Charles I of England in 1649 during the civil war between the monarchy and parliamentarians. The beheading highlighted the people’s uprising against the established order. The parliamentarians, led by Oliver Cromwell, scored military victories, eventually capturing the monarch and convicting him of treason before sentencing him to death.

      In this historical example, attention should be on the actions before the beheading, involving rulers, parliamentarians, armies and courts. All were legitimate structures of power. The political, in this sense, took place within a given system. Cromwell’s army had the goal of establishing rule by the people within that system. The actual beheading was the culmination of a political process.

    • Why France’s Yellow Vest Protests Are Ignored by “The Resistance” in the U.S.

      In less than two months, the yellow vests (“gilets jaunes”) movement in France has reshaped the political landscape in Europe. For a seventh straight week, demonstrations continued across the country even after concessions from a cowing President Emmanuel Macron while inspiring a wave of similar gatherings in neighboring states like Belgium and the Netherlands. Just as el-Sisi’s dictatorship banned the sale of high-visibility vests to prevent copycat rallies in Egypt, corporate media has predictably worked overtime trying to demonize the spontaneous and mostly leaderless working class movement in the hopes it will not spread elsewhere.

      The media oligopoly initially attempted to ignore the insurrection altogether, but when forced to reckon with the yellow vests they maligned the incendiary marchers using horseshoe theory to suggest a confluence between far left and far right supporters of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen. To the surprise of no one, mainstream pundits have also stoked fears of ‘Russian interference’ behind the unrest. We can assume that if the safety vests were ready-made off the assembly line of NGOs like the raised fist flags of Serbia’s OTPOR! movement, the presstitutes would be telling a different story.

      It turned out that a crisis was not averted but merely postponed when Macron defeated his demagogue opponent Le Pen in the 2017 French election. While it is true that the gilets jaunes were partly impelled by an increase on fuel prices, contrary to the prevailing narrative their official demands are not limited to a carbon tax. They also consist of explicit ultimatums to increase the minimum wage, improve the standard of living, and an end to austerity, among other legitimate grievances. Since taking office, Macron has declared war on trade unions while pushing through enormous tax breaks for the wealthy (like himself) — it was just a matter of time until the French people had enough of the country’s privatization. It is only a shock to the oblivious establishment why the former Rothschild banker-turned-politician, who addressed the nation seated at a gold desk while Paris was ablaze, is suddenly in jeopardy of losing power. The status quo’s incognizance is reminiscent of Marie Antoinette who during the 18th century when told the peasants had no bread famously replied, “let them eat cake” as the masses starved under her husband Louis XIV.

    • Can Nepal Realistically Look to China as an Alternative Trade Partner?

      Politically, India is a kind of mentor. Nepali opposition figures depended on India’s protection during periods of exile; once in power, newly elected leaders customarily make an inaugural visit to India for sanction and support. Nepal accepts its huge trade deficit with India and its cultural and political dominance as inevitable. But how long can this last?

      The danger of their imbalance was manifest three years ago when India subjected Nepal to a mean-spirited economic boycott. That happened on the heels of the traumatic 2015 earthquake. In support of the Madeshi people (a Nepali population who inhabit the southern border regions) with their strong cultural and economic affinity, India effectively sanctioned a punishing trade ban on the Nepalese. Anti-Indian feeling generated during that six-month period is still palpable, perhaps one reason Nepal would welcome a cross Himalayan rail route from China.

      Chinese economic interests in Nepal are not new and not confined to tourism. In recent years Chinese goods– phones, an array of electrical and other household items, and clothing and fresh fruits, most entering by air—have become ubiquitous. Chinese products at prices competitive with Indian goods are everywhere, in village and city. But for China to become a real alternative to India, a land corridor is essential.

    • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Proposes Perfectly American Tax on Ultra-Rich

      In an effort to fund policies that would reduce fossil fuel and carbon emissions within the next 12 years, New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has proposed a tax rate on the super-rich that is more moderate than U.S. tax policy during parts of the 20th century. In a video clip released Friday she tells journalist Anderson Cooper of “60 Minutes” that taxing incomes above $10 million at a 60 to 70 percent rate could be a good step.

      “There’s an element where, yeah, people are going to have to start paying their fair share in taxes,” she said, echoing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to remind skeptics that historically, income rates in the U.S. have been much higher.

      The tax would be marginal, meaning it would not apply to a top earner’s entire income. “That doesn’t mean all $10 million are taxed at an extremely high rate,” Ocasio-Cortez said, “but it means that as you climb up this ladder you should be contributing more.”

    • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proposes 70 percent tax on mega-rich to pay for “Green New Deal”

      Newly elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the youngest woman ever elected to the U.S. Congress, told Anderson Cooper that high tax rates on the super-rich would help fund the ambitious plan to combat the threat of climate change known as the “Green New Deal.”

      In an upcoming 60 Minutes interview, set to air this Sunday, the 29-year-old Democratic socialist says the “Green New Deal,” which aims to eliminate carbon emissions within 12 years, is “going to require a lot of rapid change that we don’t even conceive as possible right now.”

      “What is the problem with trying to push our technological capacities to the furthest extent possible?” 1Ocasio-Cortez asks.

      To pay for the deal, Ocasio-Cortez pointed to the progressive tax rate system in the 1960s and proposed the idea of tax of tax rates as high as 70 percent on the super-rich.

    • Degrowth: A Call for Radical Abundance

      When orthodox economists first encounter the idea of degrowth, they often jump to the conclusion that the objective is to reduce GDP. And because they see GDP as equivalent to social wealth, this makes them very upset.

      Nothing could be further from the truth.

      I reject the fetishization of GDP as an objective in the existing economy, so it would make little sense for me to focus on GDP as the objective of a degrowth economy. Wanting to cut GDP is as senseless as wanting to grow it.

      The objective, rather, is to scale down the material throughput of the economy. From an ecological standpoint, that’s what matters. And indeed some orthodox economists might even agree. Where we differ is that while they persist in believing (against the evidence) that this can be done while continuing to grow GDP, I acknowledge that it is likely to result in a reduction of GDP, at least as we presently measure it. In other words, if we were to keep measuring the economy by GDP, that’s what we would see in a degrowth scenario.

    • How Congress Could, But Probably Won’t, Take Charge of Shutdown Battle

      In normal times it wouldn’t matter so much that Congress has abdicated many of its constitutional powers to the president. But the times clearly are not normal, and a reassertion of congressional power could help calm our troubled political waters.

      The current stalemate between Congress and President Trump has closed about a quarter of the federal government, but it also presents an opportunity. Despite the president’s objections, Congress has the constitutional authority to end the crisis without appropriating money for a “wall” that most of its members regard (correctly, I think) as a colossal waste of taxpayer money. By so doing it could announce that it is once again the government’s most powerful branch, reflecting the intent of those who drafted our Constitution in 1787.

      The Constitution provides for a presidential veto, which President Trump has been threatening to use if the appropriations needed to reopen the government don’t include money for a wall. But the Constitution also provides that two-thirds majorities in House and Senate can override vetoes.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Russia isn’t out to decide our elections, they want to divide us and damage our country

      I deleted my Twitter account. It’s a breeding ground for thoughtlessness and contempt.

    • How To Blow Your Online Cover With URL Previews

      The difference with URL previews in messaging applications is that you are broadcasting to the website owner that you are discussing the website, as opposed to just browsing to it.

    • North Carolina GOP sabotages investigation of election fraud in disputed House district

      Under a bill passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly, a new permanent elections board cannot be seated until Jan. 31.

      Because Republicans refused to submit any nominations, Cooper announced that the evidentiary hearing on the potential fraud that was scheduled for Jan. 11 cannot go forward and accused Republicans of obstruction.

    • Robert Reich: House Democrats Must Be Pushed

      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’s right for America. Pelosi is tough and courageous. Were it not for her insistence, President 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 Donald 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 Robert Mueller reports what I expect him to.

    • Neoconservatives Are Ascendant in Donald Trump’s America

      In December, after a 23-year run that saw it perpetuate the Bush administration lie that Saddam Hussein harbored weapons of mass destruction and breathlessly champion the ensuing war in Iraq, The Weekly Standard released its final issue. Two years removed from Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 election, one might be forgiven for concluding the publication’s demise sounded the final death knell of neoconservatism—an ideology that has been soundly defeated at the polls and appears to lack even a constituency, the ubiquity of Bill Kristol on cable news notwithstanding.

      If only. As Stephen Wertheim argues in The New York Review of Books, the neoconservatives are ascendant in Trump’s America, reasserting themselves within GOP and, more troublingly, renewing their ties to the Democratic Party. Together they constitute the “neo-neoconservatives” or “post-neoconservatives,” as he’s dubbed them.

      “Today, neoconservatives are riding high once more, in the White House, on Capitol Hill, in the most prominent organs of opinion,” Wertheim writes. “The Weekly Standard may have shuttered, but anti-Trump neocons enjoy increasing influence in the center of the Republican and Democratic parties and in publications like The Atlantic and The Washington Post.”

    • With 800,000 Public Employees Facing Pay Freeze and Shutdown, Pence and Other Top Trump Officials to Get $10K Raise

      While 800,000 federal workers are currently either working without pay or furloughed and not entitled to retroactive pay, President Donald Trump’s top appointees as well as Vice President Mike Pence are scheduled to get pay raises averaging about $10,000 per year on Saturday—and the shutdown is to blame for the glaring inequity.

      An executive pay freeze, which caps the salaries of top government employees and has been in place since 2013, lapsed on Dec. 21 because Congress was unable to pass the spending bill in which it was included, leading to the government shutdown that’s now gone on for two weeks.

      Without the salary caps in place, Pence is entitled to a $13,000 raise on Saturday, bringing his compensation to $243,500 per year. Cabinet secretaries will be given raises of about $11,000, bringing their pay to $210,000, while their deputies and other top agency administrators will be given significant raises as well.

      On social media, critics were incensed Friday at the hypocrisy of cabinet members collecting raises while employees go without any pay at all.

    • In Bid to ‘Get Big Money Out of Politics,’ House Lawmakers Introduce Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United

      “Let’s not mince words here—for too long, the needs of the American people have taken a backseat to the needs of corporations that dump unlimited amounts of money into political campaigns,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), who introduced the “Democracy for All Amendment” alongside Reps. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), and John Katko (R-N.Y.).

      “From gun violence to healthcare costs to climate change,” McGovern continued, “the issues Americans care about have been held hostage by wealthy special interests. No more. We have got to solve this, and we have to overturn the disastrous Citizens United decision to restore the power of the ballot box and get big money out of politics.”

      “Years after the Citizens United decision, election spending has exploded into billion-dollar races that corrupt our elections by drowning out the voices of American voters,” added Deutch. “Meaningful political participation cannot be reserved for individuals with extreme wealth and special interests, and we cannot continue to allow those who spend the most to dictate public policy that is out of step with our country.”

    • Happy New Year?

      A new year is upon us, and this writer is pondering the national and international disasters of 2018, as well as gazing into his crystal ball to see what 2019 will bring. Although it is a bit hazy (it hasn’t been all too lucid since it predicted a disastrous Clinton presidency being elected in 2016), it does show a few things with some clarity. The new year does not portend to be a whole lot better than its predecessor.

      So, what exactly do we have to look forward to? This writer will list just a few of them for the reader. He cautions the reader against getting his or her hopes up; the picture is not pretty.

      Yes, the Democrats have wrested power, and now control the U.S. House of Representatives. Does this mean that the highly-moral Democrats, with only the good of the common man and woman in mind, will now save the nation from the corrupt, corporate-owned Republicans? Can we all now breath a giant sigh of relief? Is the nation’s long nightmare at an end? Do pigs fly?

      Reality is a harsh concept, but, sadly, it must be dealt with. The incoming Democrats are gleeful at the prospect of harassing the nation’s presidential buffoon, Donald Trump, for the next two years. They will open investigations of his campaign activities, with all the accusations of ties to Russia; they will demand years (decades?) of his tax returns. They will interview has-been models and porn stars striving for just another moment in the sun, as they provide more detail than most people can possible bear of their illicit relations with the aforementioned buffoon.

    • On Pocahontas: Democrats, Press Must Stop Playing Into the Master Manipulator’s Hands

      The day after Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced that she was launching an exploratory committee for the 2020 presidential race, National Public Radio reported that President Donald Trump had responded to the news by again referring to the Massachusetts senator as “Pocahontas” and ridiculing her recent attempt to prove her Native American ancestry via a DNA test.

      Rather than talking about Sen. Warren’s policies, her advocacy for consumer protections, her experience as a longtime Ivy League economics professor, her political and economic ideas, her bootstrap autobiographical story, instead of talking about Trumps’ countless lies and potential crimes, National Public Radio — and many other news outlets and pundits — was talking about…“Pocahontas.”

      This is Trump’s genius. Don’t get me wrong, Trump is a moron, but like Isaiah Berlin’s hedgehog, he knows one important thing. How to divert the press and the public’s attention from what is truly important (his lies, charges of obstruction of justice, etc.) toward whatever nonsense he wants them to focus on: Pocahontas. Hillary’s emails. George Soros. Trump knows that an outrageous utterance by the President of the United States is considered news. News that will knock the real news of the day off the front page: Dow Jones plummets more than 800 Points? Trump responds by tweeting: FAKE NEWS – THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!

    • Democrats Must Slam the Revolving Door Shut

      Former members of Congress are already migrating like geese from Capitol Hill to K Street.

    • The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?

      The 2020 election horse race is beginning to take shape. Unless something unexpected happens (e.g., impeachment, resignation), Trump will likely seek reelection as the Republican candidate. A number of independents will seek third-party (e.g., Greens, Socialists) candidacy. And then there are the Democrats.

      Numerous Democratic politicos are beginning to cluster behind the starting gate considering a primary run for the 2020 presidential nomination. The UK’s Independent lists 40 possible candidates that fall into four broad categories – former elected officials, current Senators and Congress-persons, celebrities and billionaires. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has announced her plans to explore a candidacy. However, the paper, like other media outlets, identifies Joe Biden as the current front runner. “The former two-term vice president consistently receives a majority of support among Democratic voters to run in 2020 against any other potential candidates in recent polling,” it reports.

      Liberal outlets like Vanity Fair and The Atlantic are touting Biden’s candidacy. Vanity Fair sputters, “Is Biden progressive? Absolutely. Gaffe-prone? Duh. But he is the antithesis of Trump, with the added benefit that he’s been vetted before, and passed muster.” And The Atlantic reflects, “These are odd times for Biden. He gets dismissed as too old, or he gets held up as the only adult who can actually come in to lead the Democrats to beat Trump in 2020. He is to many in his party the perfect answer to how to win back the white working-class voters that he helped bring in for Barack Obama, but to others he’s a relic of a Democratic Party of the past.”

      [...]

      Glover dismisses previous third-party campaigns like that of Jill Stein and Ralph Nader of the Green Party or Ross Perot as coming “from the lunatic fringes.” But with a Biden campaign, a “trans-party” third-party “presidency would be genuinely disruptive.”

      In all likelihood the Democratic establishment will seek a “safe” candidate like Biden, one who would not challenge political conventions like a “democratic socialist” or be an African-American, an Hispanic or another woman. Biden is the perfect band-aid candidate, one well-tested in compromise or “bi-partisan” politics. Best case, a Biden candidacy and possible victory over Trump in 2020 could also lead to a further increase of Democrats in the House and possibly the defeat of many Senate Republicans.

    • Talks to Resume After Trump Says Shutdown Could Last ‘Years’

      White House officials and congressional staffers will continue negotiations Saturday over the government shutdown, even after President Donald Trump declared he could keep it going for “months or even years.”

      Trump met Friday with congressional leaders from both parties as the shutdown hit the two-week mark amid an impasse over his demand for billions of dollars for a border wall with Mexico. Democrats emerged from the meeting, which both sides said was contentious at times, to report little if any progress.

      Trump has designated Vice President Mike Pence, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and adviser Jared Kushner to work with a congressional delegation at a meeting set for 11 a.m. Saturday.

    • Democrats in ’19 as anti-democratic as ever
    • Partisan Gerrymandering Back at the Supreme Court

      The North Carolina and Maryland congressional maps that are at issue in these cases are among this decade’s starkest examples of extreme partisan gerrymanders, which lock in an artificial statewide majority for the political party drawing the maps, through good and bad election cycles.

      The North Carolina cases (Rucho v. Common Cause and Rucho v. League of Women Voters of North Carolina) challenge the congressional map drawn by Republican lawmakers in 2016. That map was drawn to replace an earlier map that the federal courts struck down as an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. Like the old racially gerrymandered map, the new map has created an artificial 10-3 Republican advantage in a purple state that is among the most electorally competitive in the nation. In drawing the new map, North Carolina Republicans didn’t hide their intent to maximize seats for their party. Representative David Lewis, the lawmaker in charge of the redistricting process, openly proclaimed, in fact, that the map was a “political gerrymander” and that the Republicans’ goal was to “draw [it] to give a partisan advantage to ten Republicans and three Democrats.”

      The resulting map has performed exactly as intended, even in the wave election of 2018. Although Democrats won roughly half of the votes cast statewide for congressional candidates in 2018, North Carolina’s congressional delegation retained its 10-3 split (pending resolution of election controversies in the race for the Ninth District).

    • Poll Notes “Trump Effect” as American Desire to Leave US Permanently Surges

      Released Friday as part of the Gallup World’s Poll, the survey found that while only 11 percent and 10 ten percent wanted to leave the county under former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, respectively, that number surged to 16 percent in 2018 under Trump.

      While the survey, explained Gallup, “does not ask people about their political leanings, most of the recent surge in Americans’ desire to migrate has come among groups that typically lean Democratic and that have disapproved of Trump’s job performance so far in his presidency: women, young Americans and people in lower-income groups.”

    • Gillibrand Defends Voting Record Following Report NY Senator Feeling Out Wall Street Support for 2020 Run

      In the wake of reporting that the potential 2020 Democratic candidate has been “reaching out to Wall Street executives” in order to gauge their support for her possible run, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) responded by saying that what’s more important than the people she might be talking to is her strong voting record on behalf of progressive economic policies.

      Citing a pair of senior business leaders who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the behind-the-scenes discussions, CNBC reported Friday that “Gillibrand has personally been working the phones and calling senior executives at Wall Street firms in recent weeks to see whether they would back her campaign if she jumps into the race.”

      Seen as a likely Democratic primary candidate—Gillibrand told CNN’s Van Jones last month she was “definitely thinking about” running—the reporting by CNBC raised eyebrows among those monitoring the numerous Democrats who are believed top contenders.

    • With Shutdown Talks at Standstill, Trump Declares: “I May Declare National Emergency” to Build Wall

      Meanwhile, Trump’s new acting Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney admitted just hours earlier on NBC’s Meet the Press that negotiations with Democrats over the weekend have gone nowhere. “We’re at $5.6 billion. And I think they’re at zero,” Mulvaney confessed, referencing the $5.6 billion Trump is demanding for his wall.

      Since first floating the idea of a national emergency declaration on Friday, legal experts have argued he has no constitutional (or moral) authority to do so, even as reporting from inside the White House indicates Trump has been getting support for the move from right-wing confidants and xenophobic hardliners with whom he discusses policy.

    • FBI-CIA Collaboration Reveals Blatant Illegitimacy of Guantánamo Trials

      Earlier last month, lawyers for Moath Hamza Ahmed al-Alwi, a Yemeni citizen who’s been detained in Guantánamo since January 16, 2002, petitioned the Supreme Court to review his case. His legal team argues that the US government lacks the authority to detain al-Alwi under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force and that indefinite detention is illegal. Previously, the district and circuit courts denied al-Alwi’s habeas petition, which is why his lawyers are going to the Supreme Court. Al-Alwi’s case is a reminder of Guantánamo’s reality: The military commissions system is a kangaroo court designed to cover-up CIA torture while dozens of men remain indefinitely detained, and it’s likely that new prisoners could be transferred to Guantánamo.

      Since 2002 when the Guantánamo prison first opened, over 700 prisoners have spent time in Guantánamo and most of them have been released since then. Currently, 40 detainees remain held in Guantánamo and only five are cleared for transfer, while most have not been charged or tried. Dubbed the “forever prisoners,” 26 are specifically held in indefinite detention without charge or trial. Meanwhile, only two prisoners have already been convicted and seven have been charged in the military commissions system. Part of the US government’s justification for indefinitely detaining certain Guantánamo detainees is that they are both too difficult to prosecute, because of inadmissible and often torture-obtained evidence, and too dangerous to release. However, recidivism for former Guantánamo prisoners is low — 4.6 percent. In other words, it is rare that released Guantánamo prisoners participate in terrorist or militant activity. Indefinite detention violates international human rights law, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

    • Rashida Tlaib and Working Class Authenticity v. Trump’s Plutocrat Pretense

      Why does Donald Trump get a pass on speaking and acting obscenely but Rashida Tlaib is pilloried for calling him a Mofo? It is because US corporate media and political elites expect the wealthy to do bad imitations of working class profanity (so as to fool the rubes into voting for them), but despise the real thing.

      Rashida Tlaib is the daughter of a Ford factory worker and one of 14 children. Although she earned higher degrees, including a law degree, she grew up in a disprivileged working class family–inasmuch as they were Palestinian refugees and hardly part of the labor aristocracy. Tlaib came by her ability to curse like a sailor honestly. She didn’t go to finishing school or come out as a debutante. She has said that her grandmother, a Palestinian from the working class in the old country, “told it like it is,” by which I take it she means she was capable of some salty language.

      Rich people masquerading as the guy you’d like to have beer with are not a new thing in American politics. Corporate media, increasingly staffed with Ivy League millionaires that are a huge contrast with the dogged, penniless gumshoes of journalism past, gives this appropriation a pass. Columnists such as David Brooks have, in addition, made an industry of spreading the falsehood that the working class is conservative and despises its supposed allies among professionals for being effete liberals.

    • In Conversation: Aaron Cynic Discusses Race For Next Chicago Mayor

      Shadowproof launched a six-part series by Aaron Cynic on the upcoming mayoral election in Chicago. It presents a major opportunity to advance a progressive agenda in the city because Mayor Rahm Emanuel is not seeking a third term.

      Aaron produced the first piece in the series in December. It offers an overview of what life has been like for organizers, marginalized groups, and communities facing disinvestment during Emanuel’s administration.

      The next four pieces in the series will examine various issues, which grassroots groups believe the next Chicago mayor must address and answer for if they are elected.

      Kevin Gosztola, managing editor of Shadowproof, was joined by Aaron for a wide-ranging conversation about his series. They discuss what Rahm Emanuel’s administration was like the past eight years.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Censoring China’s Internet, for Stability and Profit

      Like many young people in China, the 24-year-old recent college graduate knew little about the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. He had never heard of China’s most famous dissident, Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who died in custody two years ago.

      Now, after training, he knows what to look for — and what to block. He spends his hours scanning online content on behalf of Chinese media companies looking for anything that will provoke the government’s wrath. He knows how to spot code words that obliquely refer to Chinese leaders and scandals, or the memes that touch on subjects the Chinese government doesn’t want people to read about.

    • We must be free to criticise Islam

      According to freedom-of-information disclosures I obtained from the Metropolitan Police, crimes against British Jews, Sikhs, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists and agnostics have all been recorded as ‘Islamophobic’ hate crimes.

    • ‘Anything you’ve ever said will be used against you’

      Recently, YouTuber Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad, was banned from Patreon, one of the internet’s most popular crowdfunding platforms for content-creators. Benjamin is well-known for his regular missives against PC culture and for his willingness to offend.

      Patreon says Benjamin violated its community guidelines on hate speech. But the offending content was never hosted or funded by Patreon. [...]

    • Burning Books, Banning Art, and the Persistence of American Puritanism

      Several months ago I had a conversation about art with an American friend of mine. I consider him to be fairly left leaning, but I was puzzled when he told me he was seriously having to reconsider his “appreciation and enjoyment of certain artists” now that he knows of their “sexual abuse and sexist misogyny.” When I asked what he was referring to he mentioned Picasso and Gauguin as a couple examples. At the moment I was left nonplussed. In that short conversation I was taken aback by the swiftly moving and insidious undercurrent of puritanism still strong in American life.

      What is more interesting to me is that this strain of authoritarianism is quite strong in many on the left end of the political spectrum. I’ve encountered similar attitudes when it comes to books. In fact, many 21st century American liberals appear all too willing to run to the bonfire when a new cause célèbre calls out a book that may contain offensive language or a work of art that may display a difficult, complex or nuanced sexual content. But what has been lost in this maelstrom of purging the past (and the present for that matter) is a needed dialogue about censorship, sexuality in relation to fascism, and the pernicious role it plays in suppressing political dissent. It has in many ways become a rush to censor and erase artists and writers from the pages of history for infractions they may have made against current sensibilities and silence current writers and artists for daring to speak in a voice that differs from the mainstream.

      There are seemingly countless instances of conservative driven censorship. The book Stick by Andrew Smith, for example, faced backlash because it contains themes of gay and adolescent sexuality. Even The Diary of Anne Frank, a young girl’s thoughts and feelings while she hid with her family during the Holocaust, was edited of parts where she writes about exploring her body. Yet the fact that adolescents have a sexuality to begin with is a topic that is oft forbidden and increasingly censored even among many on the left and among liberals. One example of this was at New York’s Metropolitan Museum where Manhattanite, Mia Merrill, launched a campaign to remove a painting by Balthus entitled “Thérèse Dreaming” due to an apparent psychological projection about an alleged sexual sub-context. She attached her outrage to the #MeToo movement. Other works of art have been targeted as well for related “concerns.” Even in Britain, J.W. Waterhouse’s painting depicting the Greek myth “Hylas and the Nypmhs” was removed by a Manchester museum to supposedly start a “conversation.”Yet one would be hard pressed to start any conversation about a missing piece of artwork sans the topic of censorship.

    • Coinbase Reportedly Bans Personal Account of Social Media Platform Gab Founder

      The personal Coinbase merchant account of Andrew Torba, social media platform Gab’s founder, has been terminated, the official Gab.com account tweeted on Jan. 4.
      As blockchain blog Breaker reported earlier, Gab’s business account on Coinbase was allegedly closed in December. The news source put forward that a possible reason why it is hard for Gab to obtain a payment processor is its reputation for being the social network for people banned from mainstream platforms for hate speech.
      In October, the New York Times mentioned Gab as a social network used by the shooter in Pittsburgh to post a final message before he attacked a synagogue. After the shooting, Torba stated that the Pittsburgh shooter did not represent the broader user base of the social media site.

    • Coinbase and Its Troubling History of Customer Account Closures

      Coinbase is hailed as a paragon of the cryptocurrency industry, its CEO’s every utterance amplified and its every coin listing over-analyzed. Lauded for introducing millions of people to cryptocurrency, Coinbase is regarded as a net good for the crypto space. But there’s a less savory side to the San Francisco exchange that’s seen prominent customers have their accounts frozen without warning.

      [...]

      Coinbase is by no means the only major platform with a penchant for freezing customer accounts. Exchanges such as Binance and Bittrex have faced similar criticism for reasons that include upholding U.S. sanctions against Iran and suspending accounts linked to illegal darknet market activity. Bitcoin payment processor Bitpay has also suspended Gab, among other customers, and been strongly rebuked by members of the crypto community for doing so.

      Exchanges are entitled to maintain or suspend the accounts of any of their customers, famous or otherwise. That’s their prerogative, just as it’s Twitter’s to decide who gets to use its platform. Once a platform develops a reputation for censorship, however, it alienates a tranche of the cryptocurrency community, and sends out a warning to future customers that they are taking on additional risk in signing up. The Free Ross campaign had its account briefly suspended by Coinbase in 2017, and while the matter was eventually chalked up to the work of an “automated security feature,” it garnered headlines given that Ross Ulbricht’s prosecutor, Kathryn Haun, serves on Coinbase’s board of directors.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • What happens to identity and privacy when every biometric can be faked?

      Identity and privacy are closely bound up. Typically, you use proof of your identity to access your private information. Alongside traditional approaches like passwords and hardware tokens, biometrics are increasingly employed to authenticate people, notably with smartphones, many of which now come with fingerprint sensors and facial recognition built in as standard. As well as convenience, this seems to be driven in part by a somewhat naive view that our biometrics are unique and immune to attack. So what happens to identity and privacy when it becomes easier to fake just about any biometric? We’re about to find out.

      For example, it turns out that there are special “master fingerprints” that can match a large number of real fingerprints because of key features they possess. These may be natural, obtained by searching through fingerprint databases, or created artificially. A recent academic paper described a technique for producing synthetic master fingerprints that possess the additional property of looking like real fingerprints to the untrained eye – not the case for previous examples.

      With a fingerprint recognition system that had a 1 in 1000 chance of making a false match, the synthetic master fingerprints were able to fool the checks 23% of the time. Less-stringent recognition systems with a 1 in 100 error rate, which may often be the case in real-life working environments, were tricked 77% of the time. The fact that these master fingerprints also looked realistic means that it might be possible to apply them as 3D-printed films to fingers for practical attempts to pass fingerprint checks.

    • Google wants to spy on everything you do at home, in every room (including the bathroom), to help “improve” your family

      Smart speakers and the Internet of Things are undoubtedly impressive considered purely as technology. That may explain why they are increasingly popular. But as this blog has pointed out a number of times, they raise huge questions about privacy that many users seem unaware of. Moreover, we have only just started the journey towards making what amounts to surveillance technology a routine and often invisible part of our lives. Privacy problems are likely to get much worse as devices become more powerful and “intelligent”.

      Just how bad can be gleaned from a fascinating document from Google. It’s a 54-page patent application, but don’t let that put you off. Within its rather dry pages it contains a detailed and startling vision of where placing “smart” devices throughout our homes may be taking us. The patent bears the title “Smart-home automation system that suggests or automatically implements selected household policies based on sensed observations”, which begins to hint where this leads.

    • Health Insurers May Be Raising Rates with Help of Personal Information Collected by Data Brokers

      Private data brokers are selling the personal information of 150 million Americans that could be used to predict health care costs. Companies such as LexisNexis Risk Solutions, IBM Watson Health, and Optum have collected over 78 billion records of personal data—including race, education level, online purchases, and more—to predict the health care expenses that individuals will cost their insurers. These data brokers then sell this information to health insurers, who in turn can use it to raise their insurance rates for those deemed high-risk.

      Medical data is protected from being shared by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), but HIPAA does not protect other personal data. Companies like Optum process this personal data through algorithms to predict how much an individual will cost a health insurer. While health insurers claim to use this information to help patients get proper care, scientific researchers and actuaries note that there is potential to use this data for insurance plan pricing.

    • Weather Channel App Accused of Selling Users’ Personal Data

      People relied on the most popular mobile weather app to track forecasts that determined whether they chose jeans over shorts and packed a parka or umbrella, but its owners used it to track their every step and profit off that information, Los Angeles prosecutors said Friday.

      The operator of The Weather Channel mobile app misled users who agreed to share their location information in exchange for personalized forecasts and alerts, and they instead unwittingly surrendered personal privacy when the company sold their data to third parties, City Attorney Michael Feuer said.

      Feuer sued the app’s operator in Los Angeles County Superior Court to stop the practice. He said 80 percent of users agreed to allow access to their locations because disclosures on how the app uses geolocation data were buried within a 10,000-word privacy policy and not revealed when they downloaded the app.

      “Think how Orwellian it feels to live in a world where a private company is tracking potentially every place you go, every minute of every day,” Feuer said. “If you want to sacrifice to that company that information, you sure ought to be doing it with clear advanced notice of what’s at stake.”

    • Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook executives are upset at The New York Times
    • LA County Sues IBM’s Weather Channel for User Location Tracking [iophk: "Microsoft omitted"]

      The lawsuit pulls IBM into the broader conversation about how tech companies use consumer data that has roiled the industry in the past two years and prompted intense questions from politicians, users and regulators. IBM has actively worked to paint itself as having better data practices than consumer platforms like Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Enes Kanter will miss New York Knicks’ NBA London game over assassination fears

      The 26-year-old has long been a vocal critic of Erdogan’s regime in his homeland and, in 2017, he had his Turkish passport withdrawn as well as having an international arrest warrant issued by the country.

    • Turkey investigates HSBC director general for insulting Erdogan

      The Turkish government has been using social media posts, cartoons, news and articles as evidence for insulting the president and thousands of people have been facing prison sentences.

    • A Muslim Goes to Church and Another Storm Erupts in Lebanon

      Meant as a gesture of tolerance, the event quickly turned into a vicious social-media brawl fueled by the entrenched sectarianism that impedes Lebanon’s progress three decades after its civil war ended. Eight months on from an election, it remains without a government and with billions of dollars in aid untapped as tensions fester. The worsening economy and delay in forming an administration triggered strike action by some workers on Friday.

    • “Believe Women” Weaponizes Accusations Against Men — And Never Mind Whether There’s Anything To Them

      Social media ruin is no small thing. Augustin eventually killed himself.

      Now, it’s possible he had serious emotional issues before he was shamed by this lie. However, again, because being ruined virally, on social media, is now effectively being ruined for life — or could be — his suicide is reminiscent of the stories I heard of financiers who’d lost everything in The Great Depression jumping off of buildings.

    • Immigrant Caravan Ensures Safety for Survivor of 2010 Massacre

      On November 5, 2018 a reporter from Al Jazeera interviewed Billy Noe Martinez, a Honduran immigrant, about why he traveled in a caravan through Mexican territory, to which Martinez responded that he felt safer in a large group of people than by himself.

      During the interview, the reporter discovered that Martinez had a dramatic story to tell. Eight years ago, Martinez started his journey by traveling across Mexican soil without documentation. Running from poverty, starvation, and social inequality, Martinez decided to leave Honduras and seek the American dream and a better future for his family that stayed behind. As Martinez told Al Jazeera, his journey suddenly stopped when he met a group of armed men near the US-Mexico border. Members of the Zetas, one of the fiercest Mexican drug cartels, captured Martinez by force. His captors took him and the other migrants he was traveling with to a nearby ranch. After the migrant refused the Zeta members’ demands for ransom, cartel members cartel started the shooting. Seventy-two people from different nationalities were murdered, and Martinez was one of two known survivors. At least 11 people have been charged in connection with the San Fernando massacre, Al Jazeera wrote, but no one has been convicted.

    • The Shutdown as Fascist Creep: Profiling Right-Wing Extremism in America

      The government shutdown over Trump’s proposed southern border wall is a teachable moment, speaking to the danger of rising fascism in America. Contrary to prominent scholarly efforts, I do not believe it is useful to draw a dividing line between Trump’s politics on the one hand, and white supremacy and fascist ideology on the other. [1] Trump may not officially call for an exclusively white ethno-state in his speeches or proposals, but he has long straddled the line between hateful far-right ideology and fascism in his rhetoric and policies. Considering his flirtation with the white supremacist “alt-right” movement and his authoritarian politics more generally, it makes sense to speak of American politics under Trump as falling victim to “creeping” fascism. This classification is not new, as the concept of “fascist creep” is drawn from previous journalistic and historical works. [2]

      Trump’s efforts to bully Congress into funding his wall draw on classic elements of totalitarianism and fascism. But in “mainstream” American political discourse, warnings that Trump’s politics speak to a nascent fascism and represent a threat to republican government tend to be marginalized, leaving the impression that these concerns are alarmist and paranoid. For example, in the New York Times– the nation’s “paper of record,” the terms “fascist” and “fascism” are infrequently applied to Trump. An analysis of the Nexis Uninews archive finds that the terms appeared alongside discussions of Trump (within 50 words of references to the president) in 67 articles included in all segments of the newspaper throughout 2018. By comparison, moderately less incendiary references to “authoritarian” politics or “authoritarianism” and Trump appeared in 194 articles – almost three times as often. But it’s not fashionable to depict Trump in fascistic terms, despite journalists and pundits recognizing his authoritarian tendencies.

      Considering the ahistorical nature of American popular political culture, it’s worth establishing a working definition of fascism. Historian Kevin Passmore discusses various “features” of fascism, including “ultranationalism”; public reliance on a dictatorial single-party politics and on leaders who exhibit “charismatic leadership”; an embrace of racist and antisemitic prejudices; and support for paramilitarism and violence against government critics. [3] Passmore notes that fascism is “reactionary” in its opposition to leftist politics, liberal democracy, and socialism. [4]

      Historian Robert Paxton lists various “mobilizing passions,” which serve as the foundation for fascism. These include: efforts to construct popular notions of “crisis,” in order to cultivate public support for concentrated political power; portrayals of specific groups as “victim[s]” in a larger national cultural and political “decline”; the elevation of “a purer community” to the top of national discourse and aspirations, which typically excludes racial, ethnic, and economically disadvantaged groups; embrace of specific “natural leaders” and “a national chief” as inherently “superior” in their political “instincts”; and the idealization of the “beauty of violence” – particularly via efforts to “dominate others without restraint.” [5]

    • Over Quarter of Formerly Incarcerated People are Unemployed

      A 2018 report shows that people released from prison are being disproportionally discriminated against in the pursuit of work. The study—by Lucius Couloute, a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of Massachusetts, and Daniel Kopf, a reporter for Quartz—found that an average of 27% of formerly incarcerated people are unemployed. That figure, Couloute and Kopf wrote, is greater than “the total U.S. unemployment rate during any historical period, including the Great Depression.”

      Their report goes on to show that black people, Hispanics, and women face the most significant disadvantages in the search for work after leaving prison. 39% of Hispanic women, 26% of Hispanic men, 40% of black women, 34% of black women, 23% of white women, and 18% of white men face unemployment after being released from prison. (The national average rate of unemployment is approximately four percent, for comparison.) The numbers for some five million formerly incarcerated people living in the United States show how patterns of mass incarceration further penalize groups that have been historically marginalized in the job market.

    • Atlanta Prosecutor Sues DOJ For Blocking Investigation Of Incident Where Cops Shot A Man 59 Times

      This FOIA lawsuit is only part of the federal government’s problems. The family of Jamarion Robinson has also sued the officers involved in the shooting, which includes the US Marshals Service. This lawsuit appears to be on hold at the moment as everyone suing over the shooting attempts to obtain documents related to Robinson’s killing.

      The numbers mentioned above — 59 bullet holes, 600 days of DOJ stonewalling — are just part of the picture. There’s also the number of officers involved and the number of bullets expended to take the life of someone law enforcement apparently had little reason to suspect might respond violently.

    • After VC Firm’s Harassment Scandal, Binary Co-Founder Gets Sued Via Tweet

      Jonathan Teo, a founder of a venture capital firm accused of fostering a toxic environment for women in Silicon Valley, allegedly evaded a summons for months in a lawsuit related to his company’s scandals. But on Friday, the plaintiff’s lawyer finally caught up with him—on Twitter.

      Chris Baker of Baker Curtis & Schwartz PC represents former Binary Capital principal Ann Lai in a lawsuit claiming she experienced harassment and defamation connected to her tenure at the firm. Late last month, Baker got permission from a judge in San Mateo County, California, to serve Teo with a lawsuit via his Twitter account, @jonteo, as well as in the Daily Journal, a legal newspaper.

    • Surprise Ruling Opens New Avenue for Mumia to Win New Trial on his Murder Conviction

      In a surprise order signed Dec. 27, a Philadelphia Common Pleas supervising judge has offered a new chance for Mumia Abu-Jamal to challenge his 1982 conviction for the murder of white Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.

      Specifically, Judge Leon Tucker has ordered the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to reconsider four Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) hearings and petitions for hearings in the Abu-Jamal case that the state’s high court had rejected over the years.

      The world-famous prisoner, journalist and political activist Abu-Jamal, better known to both his supporters and his enemies as Mumia, has spent 37 years in jail, most of that time in solitary confinement and on death row. His death sentence was initially vacated on constitutional grounds by Federal District Court Judge William Yohn in December, 2001 but at the insistence of the Philadelphia DA’s office, he remained held on death row until that office’s appeals were exhausted a decade later by the decision of an appellate court.

      Barring a pardon, which in Pennsylvania is not remotely likely, particularly in this politically fraught case, the only way for Abu-Jamal to get out of prison at this point is for him to have his conviction overturned and a new trial ordered. This is what PCRA hearings seek to do by presenting new evidence of innocence or by challenging trial errors, witness recantations or prosecutorial misconduct in the original trial.

    • Migration, Injustice and the Horrific Irony of It All

      When Jimmy Gomez, U.S. Congressman, accompanied a group of recently arrived migrants to the U.S. border in San Isidro, he got a revealing, first hand glimpse of ICE policy. The group went to the border to inquire as to how they could apply for asylum. They were no sooner at the border when, in the Congressman’s words, they were “corralled” by armed ICE agents, who literally built a cage around them and forced them to remain, and eventually sleep on the cold ground right at the border.

      While Gomez and the other U.S. citizens were told by ICE they could leave, they decided to stay with the group of immigrants which was a majority children, to protect them with their presence. While they were huddled in ICE’s makeshift prison, ICE agents harassed them and a few “hurled verbal abuse about ‘vile’ migrants who are ‘criminals’, ‘bringing disease.’” The “criminal” charge has become the standard Trump line of agitation to rile his white supremacist, fascist adorers. The charge of bringing disease is particularly hypocritical and revolting, given that within the past few weeks, many otherwise healthy children — who successfully endured a long and difficult journey — have taken ill, and even died, while in the custody of these border protectors!

    • Recent Disasters Reveal Racial Discrimination in FEMA Aid Process

      The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a branch in the Department of Homeland Security, is responsible for responding to disasters that have an overwhelming impact on communities and providing services that will allow those affected to rebuild their lives. Yet, a survey of 1,600 Texans after Hurricane Harvey indicates that “storm victims could face barriers in securing federal aid—especially if they’re not white,” Sue Sturgis reported for Facing South.

    • US Government Using Secretive FISA Rules to Spy on Journalists

      Documents recently obtained by the Freedom of the Press Foundation reveal troubling facts about how the government is secretly using the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to spy on journalists. The documents were released as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by the Freedom of the Press Foundation and Columbia University’s Knights First Amendment Institute. These newly declassified memos confirm suspicions long held by civil liberties advocates that the government is using and abusing FISA court orders to conduct intrusive surveillance on reporters they deem as “foreign agents” and on those reporters’ contacts.

      By using FISA, the Department of Justice circumvents traditional court systems that have long protected journalists from invasive and illegal spying practices.

      Stringent rules for obtaining court orders, subpoenas, and warrants against journalists have been thrown aside in an effort to target members of the media. The absence of clear guidelines to determine whether a journalist is an agent of a foreign power leads to potential government abuses of journalists’ civil rights.

    • The Uighur Question: A Civil Society Solution

      In the last few months, the International Movement for a Just World (JUST) like so many other civil society groups in various parts of the world has been inundated with videos and articles from different sources alleging cruel persecution and harsh oppression of the Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang province in the Western part of China. It is alleged that the Chinese government views the Uighur and also some other Muslim groups such as the Kazakhs and Kyrgyzas as threats to national security given their purported links to terrorism and separatist insurgency. Even a UN human rights panel had issued a report in August 2018 that stated that in order to wean them away from terrorism “as many as 2 million people may have been forced into a vast network of detention camps” in Xinjiang.

      In these camps, according to dissident Uighurs, there is a systematic effort to brainwash the detainees. The propaganda is not just about immunising them against militancy or separatist ideologies. They are required it is alleged to abdicate Islamic prohibitions and even to renounce their faith. Torture is apparently common in these camps and even deaths have occurred. Some critics have gone so far as to describe the targeting of the Uighurs as “the most brutal repression the regime has undertaken since the Cultural Revolution.”

      The Chinese authorities have denied vehemently these allegations. They reject any suggestion that there has been forced renunciation of Islam in the camps. They admit though that there are re-education centres but focused entirely on combating terrorism, religious extremism and separatism.

    • Washington State Addresses Law Enforcement Use of Lethal Force

      In March 2018, the Washington state legislature recently passed two measures that will help hold law enforcement officers accountable when they use lethal force. Measures I-940 and ESBH 3003 were passed to eliminate de facto immunity from Washington states use of force statute and to implement reasonable standards for the state’s law enforcement officers. The measures require that independent investigations be conducted into each lethal force encounter with law enforcement in addition to violence de-escalation training, mental health, and first aid training for all Washington state law enforcement officers.

      These measures were enacted through the efforts of the De-Escalate Washington coalition and Amnesty International USA, in collaboration with local law enforcement unions.

    • Undercover Officers Involved in Nearly 33% of NYPD’s Fatal Shootings, Study Finds

      Drawing on data from the Fatal Encounters project, in May, 2018, the Intercept reported that despite being only a small fraction of the New York Police Department (NYPD) force, on-duty officers who are not wearing uniforms are responsible for many police killings in New York. Plainclothes police, Joseph George and Liam Quigley reported, “have been involved in nearly a third of all fatal shooting incidents recorded since 2000.”

      Data from Fatal Encounters, a website that tracks deaths involving law enforcement officers, indicates that on-duty NYPD officers have been involved in at least 174 fatal shootings since 2000. Fifty-four of those deaths involved plainclothes or undercover police, while eleven involved both uniformed and plainclothes police. An estimated six percent of NYPD officers work undercover in plainclothes, but that group has been involved in 31% of the force’s fatal shootings since 2000.

      The Intercept reported that, in contrast with regular beat cops, who generally respond to 911 calls, NYPD plainclothes officers “attempt to catch criminals in the act, or even before it.” Plainclothes, the NYPD says, helps officers evade detection by violent criminals.

    • Former Child Soldier’s Guantánamo Nightmare Lives On

      On December 21, Canadian Justice June Ross denied former Guantánamo prisoner and Canadian citizen Omar Khadr his request to have his bail conditions loosened. Under the current terms, Khadr can travel within Canada, though he has to let his bail supervisor know, and cannot travel out of the country. Additionally, Khadr cannot have unsupervised calls with his sister who lives in Georgia. In response to Khadr’s request, Judge Ross stated that, “The passage of another year has changed neither Mr. Khadr’s legal status nor my view of the law…. The evidence does not indicate a current hardship arising from bail conditions.” Though Judge Ross also added that her decision is not “etched in stone” and could be reconsidered in the future, one thing is clear: Khadr’s Guantánamo nightmare will continue.

      The decision regarding Khadr’s bail was contingent in part on the appeal of five war crimes convictions while he was in Guantánamo that include murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, material support for terrorism and spying. These alleged crimes, however, were adjudicated by military commissions — which many have criticized as a faux form of justice (among other reasons) because coerced confessions are considered acceptable evidence.

      Khadr was captured in Afghanistan in 2002, where he allegedly killed a US soldier – himself being seriously injured in the battle in which he was embroiled. Though he was only 15, he was subsequently detained by the United States and was sent to Bagram Air Base and then Guantánamo — both places where he was subjected to violence and torture. The torture he endured included sleep deprivation, being held in solitary confinement and being used as a human mop. This torture was integral to gaining his forced confession, resulting in the conviction of five war crimes.

    • Integrating the Social Safety Net Into America’s Prisons

      President Trump signed the First Step Act into law on December 21. The legislation represents the culmination of years of energy on both the left and the right to reform the criminal justice system.

      While most of the attention has been focused on the legislation’s contribution to sentencing reform, far less has been paid to its attempts to facilitate the reentry process for incarcerated Americans back into society. Among other changes, the First Step Act provides $250 million over the next five years to empower the Bureau of Prisons to expand access to programming designed to boost the employment prospects of returning citizens. In doing so, the First Step Act ostensibly acknowledges the difficulties with maintaining economic stability that many, if not most, of those who come into contact with the criminal justice system face.

      However, the depth and persistence of these difficulties demands more robust reentry measures than those currently provided by the First Step Act.

    • Women who ran for Congress avoided women’s issues in their campaign ads

      A record number of women were sworn into Congress on Jan. 3.

      The influx of women candidates helped turn the midterm election into what many observers dubbed a “Year of the Woman.”

      But despite a tide of voter sentiment favoring women, these winners got to Congress or a statehouse not by defining themselves as “women’s candidates,” but instead by sidestepping issues typically associated with their gender, from equal pay to reproductive freedom.

      We are experts on women and politics, and in a recent study we conducted at the University of Maryland’s Rosenker Center for Political Communication & Civic Leadership, we examined 2018 political ads to understand how woman defined their candidacies and qualifications for office.

    • Wall Debate Obscures Other Struggles at the Border

      In Washington, it’s all about the wall. At the border, it’s only part of the story.

      Border authorities are struggling with outdated facilities ill-equipped to handle the growing increase in family migrants, resulting in immigrants being released onto the streets every day. The immigration court system is so clogged that some wait years for their cases to be resolved, and lacks funding to pay for basic things like in-person translators. An increase in sick children arriving at the border is putting a strain on medical resources.

      But the Washington debate has focused almost exclusively on the $5 billion in wall spending that President Donald Trump wants. Other proposals being discussed keep the rest of the Homeland Security department funding at existing levels.

    • Legal Scholars to Trump: No, You Cannot Declare Emergency to Build Wall That Public Doesn’t Want and Isn’t Needed

      If there was money that Trump could use to build a wall, many experts agree it will likely come from undesignated Pentagon funds. But speaking with NBC News, Matt Dallek, professor at Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management and an expert in presidential power, said that Trump can “declare some kind of national emergency, but what it would allow him to do legally is a totally different question.”

      As the Trump’s intransigence continues—and after admitting behind closed doors that he could not submit to the Democrat’s demands because it would make him “look foolish” if he did—NBC News reports on how the concrete impacts are being increasingly felt by those federal workers locked out of working or working without pay.

      Discussing the issue on MSNBC on Saturday afternoon, legal scholar and former congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman said that her reading of the relevant statute is that while Trump has some authority to declare a national emergency, as Dallek noted, this doesn’t qualify as one of those times and that the president has no authority to re-direct money already appropriated by Congress for other purposes towards his wall.

      “This just another one of his hair-brained schemes,” Holtzman said. “And we know, time after time, his cruel, unnecessary, horrifying policies on the border—whether its separation of children from their parents or whether it’s stopping people from coming in under the asylum laws or whether its his original total ban on Muslim immigration—all of those were shut down by the courts. So I think the reason he’s doing this now, in this way, is he’s very worried about whether he has authority and he’s trying to threaten Congress. It’s not going to work. The Democrats are not going to support a wall.”

      As a result, Holtzmann said, it is the 800,000 federal workers and their families who are being held hostage by Trump’s cruelty. “Are they going have enough money to put food on the table? Is their house going to be taken away? Is their mortgage going to be forclosed on? I mean, what is he doing to this country? For his image? That’s an outrage.”

    • Mexico Launches Plan to Stimulate U.S. Border Economy

      The plan for the border region is part of what Lopez Obrador calls “curtains of development” to shore up different corridors of the country so that Mexicans stay rather than migrating in search of better economic prospects.

    • Domestic Violence Shelters Scramble To Keep Doors Open Amid Shutdown

      Domestic violence shelters across the country are cobbling together funds to keep their doors open as the government shutdown hits the two-week mark.

      Most shelters pay their staff, rent and expenses out of pocket, and are repaid with federal funds at the end of each month, Kim Gandy, the president of the National Network to End Domestic Violence explained.

      The amount of time a shelter can continue operating without federal funds depends on its cash reserves, access to credit lines, and other sources of funding, such as state grants and private donors.

      “A lot of shelters operate on the edge,” she said. “If there is nobody home in the government to send out reimbursement checks, some programs won’t be able to pay next month’s rent.”

    • Trump Says He Needs to Deal With Dem Leaders to End Shutdown

      President Donald Trump held out little hope Sunday that another round of talks between top aides and congressional staff would produce meaningful progress toward ending the partial government shutdown, seeming to undercut his team by saying he needed to deal directly with Democratic leaders.

      “Ultimately, it’s going to be solved by the principals,” Trump told reporters at the White House before leaving for staff meetings at Camp David as the shutdown headed into its third week. A second round of discussions between administration officials and Capitol Hill aides was scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

      “I don’t expect to have anything happen at that meeting,” said Trump about the talks led by Vice President Mike Pence. “But I think we’re going to have some very serious talks come Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.”

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • The government shutdown is driving users to illegal router settings

      Under normal circumstances, doing this sort of thing would get you thrown in jail, or at least fined! As one user put it on Stack Exchange, “avoid channel 13 and 14 unless you like the idea of prison, being a prisoner, living the prison lifestyle, etc.” All of that is still true in the abstract. As Ajit Pai is quick to remind us, the statute of limitations will last beyond the end of the shutdown, even in the most pessimistic scenarios, and there’s nothing to stop them from taking you to court after the government reopens.

    • Will BitTorrent’s Paid ‘Fast Lane’ Violate ‘Net Neutrality’?

      BitTorrent and TRON have an ambitious plan to improve the BitTorrent protocol. Not only will users be financially rewarded for seeding, but they can also pay for faster access. While this may sound good to some, we wonder how this rhymes with BitTorrent’s fight for Net Neutrality and its advocacy against paid prioritization.

    • The lies Comcast allegedly told customers to hide full cost of service

      The complaint alleges, among other things, that Comcast reps falsely told customers that the company’s “Regional Sports Network (RSN)” and “Broadcast TV” fees were mandated by the government and not controlled by Comcast itself. These two fees, which are not included in Comcast’s advertised rates, have gone up steadily and now total $18.25 a month.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Plant breeders at University of Göttingen protect tomato seeds as common good

      Plant breeders of the University of Göttingen and the Association Agrecol have launched a joint initiative to protect seeds as a common good. Agrecol developed an “open-source seed license”, which secures seeds as a common good and thus protects against patenting and plant variety protection. The results have been published in the journal PLoS Biology.

    • Billionaires Shouldn’t Control Artificial Intelligence – Lester Earnest on RAI (4/5)

      “Patents block progress” – says Lester Earnest, founder of the Artificial Intelligence Lab at Stanford, on Reality Asserts Itself with Paul Jay

    • In its courtroom chess match with Qualcomm, the FTC gains initial control over the center of the board

      Yesterday (Friday, January 4), the hugely important FTC v. Qualcomm antitrust trial kicked off in the federal courthouse in San Jose (Northern District of California). I live-tweeted from the Ceremonial Courtroom. With MLex’s Mike Swift and Joshua Sisco, I agreed on the #ftcqcom hashtag, and I recommend following that one, too (in the “Latest” mode), but unfortunately some spam bots have already identified it as a popular hashtag.

      The trial will be held on nine more days–always Monday, Tuesday and Friday, except for the 21st (MLK Day). There is, however, a potential risk: the federal courts will run out of funding on January 11, so unless the government shutdown ends or some bridge funding is arranged, there is a risk (though Judge Lucy H. Koh continues to believe everything will continue as planned) of an interruption after the end of next week.

      I’m spending most of my time preparing the launch of my second app, but I can schedule everything so as to allow me to watch the most important smartphone-related trial to date. After reporting on Judge Koh’s Apple v. Samsung cases for more than seven years, and on her pretrial work on FTC v. Qualcomm, it was great to see her in action. Her unrelenting focus on rules and facts, her natural but unpretentious authority, her experience with these types of issues, her knowledge of this industry, her hard work, and her multitasking capability all showed yesterday.

    • Code names referenced in FTC v. Qualcomm antitrust trial: sounds like a spy novel (at times)

      After my bird’s-eye view of the first FTC v. Qualcomm antitrust trial day (“In its courtroom chess match with Qualcomm, the FTC gains initial control over the center of the board”), there’s more information to share. And there’s still more to come after this post.

      Toward the end of the day, Judge Lucy H. Koh requested a glossary from the parties given all the acronyms that came up, such as NDRC (China’s National Development and Reform Commission, one of three government agencies sharing the responsibility for antitrust enforcement until the consolidation announced last year) and DG COMP (the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition). The first trial day featured not only acronyms but also three code names: Eureka, Project Berlin, and Project Phoenix–code names of the kind one would see in a spy novel or movie.

    • Trademarks

      • SCOTUS to hear scandalous Brunetti trade mark case

        The US Supreme Court now has five IP cases on its docket, after agreeing to hear the USPTO’s appeal of the case involving the FUCT mark

      • How are trademarks showing era name handled in Japan?

        In 2019, there is a big event in Japan. The current crown prince ascends to the throne on May 1. In conjunction with that, Japan’s era name is also changed. Reportedly, the new name will be announced on April 1, one month prior to the enthronement, to ease the transition including necessary system update and other preparation.

        From intellectual property perspective, names of goods or services that are just recognized as the era name are not allowed to register trademarks in Japan, because of lack of distinctiveness. The names combined an era name and other non-distinctive word (e.g. generic names) are also not allowed to register trademarks.

    • Copyrights

      • An economist explains what digital technology means for the future of popular culture

        The Verge spoke to Waldfogel about why pirating didn’t kill the music industry, the good news and bad news for creators, and the dangers to watch out for in the midst of this renaissance.

      • Japan Planning Up to Two Years in Prison For Manga Pirates

        While downloading copyright-infringing movies and music is illegal in Japan, downloading static images such as manga is not. According to local reports, the Agency for Cultural Affairs intends to criminalize the practice, with jail sentences of up to two years and fines of two million yen (US$17, 729)

      • US Online Piracy Lawsuits Hit a Record High Last Year

        The number of piracy lawsuits filed against alleged file-sharing pirates hit a record high in 2018. In total, more than 3,300 new cases were filed against BitTorrent users. A closer look at the data shows that just two companies are responsible for more than half of all copyright-related cases filed in US courts.

      • Operator of China’s Former Leading Torrent Site Jailed For Three Years

        The owner of what once said to be China’s leading torrent site has been jailed for three years and fined more than US$116,000 by the Huai’an Intermediate People’s Court of Jiangsu Province. Yuan Moumou was arrested by local authorities in September 2016 after generating around US$204,000 from advertising revenue on BT Paradise between May 2015 and July 2016.

      • EU’s list of ‘piracy’ websites for banning could actually break the internet

        Ahead of the final law being implemented, lawmakers have issued a list of websites that it believes should be blocked for copyright infringement – and if it wasn’t so tragic, it’d be pretty hilarious.

        It has singled out some blatantly legitimate sites for blocking, with the flimsiest of reasoning. Take Cloudflare, for example, a widely used tool that helps prevent services (including ours) from falling foul of the likes of DDoS attacks.

EPO Leaks

Posted in Europe, Patents at 8:46 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Vale

Summary: In 2014 we began receiving valuable information about the European Patent Office; to shake things up (betterment of patent quality and staff welfare) we’ll need more information in 2019 and we provide secure channels for transmission

IN THE summer of 2014 we started our special coverage regarding the European Patent Office (EPO). It started with some scoops. In 2015 and 2016 there was turmoil at the EPO and things have been quieter since (SUEPO has said not a word since November).

“We have not given up on EPO coverage; last month we wrote many articles on the subject.”Across the Atlantic, in the United States, 2014 brought Alice, which forced the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to rethink software patents. Over the next couple of years caselaw shaped itself accordingly, making such patents obsolete, unlike in Europe. António Campinos continues to promote such patents whilst at the same time threatening staff representatives who dare bring up the subject. Their communications have been severely limited and now that the EPO reduces the number of examiners and fires examiners without warning it takes a lot of courage to speak out.

We have not given up on EPO coverage; last month we wrote many articles on the subject. Shall anyone from the EPO wish to tell us anything (e.g. for anonymous publication/dissemination), here’s where to start [1, 2, 3]. In over 12 years we’ve never ever compromised a source. The road to reform is a long one. It won’t happen overnight.

On the road

Driven by Freedom or Just by Linux?

Posted in GNU/Linux at 8:19 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Tractor

Summary: Much focus or attention is being given to the role of Linux inside cars; almost nobody is willing to talk about what that means for the rights (civil/human rights) of drivers

“It’s a Linux-powered car world,” SJVN wrote last week, alluding to the press release [1] which was then noted by Slashdot [2] and again by Slashdot in relation to SJVN’s article [3] (that was last night). This hasn’t received much press attention; media focused on Hyundai [4,5].

“People no longer own their vehicles (which they paid for) and drivers aren’t in control of the cars they drive.”There’s much to be said about the role of GNU and Linux inside cars, including the AGL’s Zemlin-centric approach, which seems to help companies like Amazon put listening devices inside cars (Alexa).

Cars in general suffer from freedom deficit, especially computerised cars. It only gets worse over time. People no longer own their vehicles (which they paid for) and drivers aren’t in control of the cars they drive. Some vehicles, notably tractors, cannot be legally repaired by their owners (it’s akin to DRM and it’s helping the maker/seller monopolise maintenance). Some can be taken over remotely or take control away from the drivers (this aspect received more media attention after truck attacks). Nowadays a lot of cars are used for constantly tracking (surveillance) of one’s location, not just by scanning licence plates but also by tracking devices on the panel (or near the panel, e.g. a mobile phone). The Linux Foundation seems happy enough to help sneak listening devices (which constantly record everyone in the car and send that to surveillance companies that sell the data and hand it over to the authorities). Insurance companies could not be happier and marketing firms would gladly ‘monetise’ conversations inside cars. This is one among many aspects which has us concerned about the Linux Foundation taking corporate cash from truly unethical companies. GNU/Linux domination in automobiles is definitely good news, but will that usher in freedom or instead be accompanied by Trojan horses?

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Linux For Cars: Tesla Isn’t The Only Automaker Running Linux Under the Hood

    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… 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Hyundai Joins Automotive Grade Linux and the Linux Foundation

    According to a recent announcement, Hyundai has joined Automotive Grade Linux, a collaborative cross-industry effort developing an open platform for the connected car, 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.

Pirate Party Championing Free/Open Source Software in Europe

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software at 7:28 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

European Pirate Party

Summary: The European Pirate Party is an ally of Free/Open Source software, helping to improve such software not just for Europe but for everyone in the world

AT the end of last month Julia Reda (MEP, Pirate Party) made an announcement which was initially overlooked. Maybe due to the time of the year. But over the next week (and almost a fortnight) news sites caught up with it. See below.

This is definitely a step in the right direction. Not only does the Pirate Party promote copyright sanity (e.g. opposing copyright ‘reform’ which would ban or tax Fair Use like in the links below). It is also an effective proponent/advocate for software freedom.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. 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.

  2. EU to offer nearly $1m in bug bounties for open-source software

    The full list of 15 bounty programs includes the file archiver 7-zip, the Java servlet container Apache Tomcat, the content management framework Drupal, the cross-platform FTP application Filezilla, the media player VLC, the password manager KeePass, the text/source code editor Notepad++, plus other popular tools. Rewards start at €25,000 and go on up to €90,000 ($28,600 to $103,000), for a total offered amount of €851,000 ($973,000).

  3. Pirate Party MEP serves up €1m Brussels-backed bug program for open source

    The European Union is ponying up close to €1m under a bug bounty programme spanning a range of open source projects.

    The cash drop represents the latest milestone for the Free and Open Source Software Audit Project (FOSSA) the brainchild of German Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda and her colleague, Max Andersson.

    In a pre-NYE blog post announcing the bounties, and recapping progress on FOSSA, Reda said that, “In January the European Commission is launching 14 out of a total of 15 bug bounties on Free Software projects that the EU institutions rely on.

  4. EU Offers up to $100,000 in Bug Bounties for Open Source Projects

    The European Commission has provided funding for bug bounties in 14 open source projects it relies on. The bounties are designed to find gaps in its security after a year of successful attacks across the world.

    The idea has roots in the Heartbleed vulnerability, whose discovery in OpenSSL caused a mad scramble and widespread concern. This led to the proposal of the Open Source Software Audit (FOSSA) by Julia Reda.

    The bounties include popular applications like Filezilla, Notepad++, PuTTy, VLC Media Player, KeePass, and 7-zip. They were chosen by a historical look at application usage in the EC and a public survey by Reda.

    Of course, while the discovery of the bugs will aid the European Commission, they’ll play a wider role in protecting the public as a whole. The bounties are open to all on HackerOne and Intigriti, meaning anyone holding on to relevant exploits has a financial incentive to divulge them.

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

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

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

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

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

  6. EU to fund bug bounties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  13. 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.”

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. EU to fund bug bounty programs for 14 open source projects starting January 2019

    The 14 projects are, in alphabetical order, 7-zip, Apache Kafka, Apache Tomcat, Digital Signature Services (DSS), Drupal, Filezilla, FLUX TL, the GNU C Library (glibc), KeePass, midPoint, Notepad++, PuTTY, the Symfony PHP framework, VLC Media Player, and WSO2.

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

    EU authorities first approved FOSSA in 2015, after security researchers discovered a year earlier severe vulnerabilities in the OpenSSL library, an open source project used by many websites to support HTTPS connections.

  19. EU Offering Cash Bounty Incentives For Finding Security Flaws in Open Source Tools

    FOSSA aims at bringing together the developer community to ensure better security of open source systems, such as CMS or other standard software used by the EU.

    There are several open-source software that is widely used by the authorities, as well as the public at large. Reportedly some of these are used as part of the EU’s IT Infrastructure, and therefore they are keen on ensuring better security for such projects.

  20. Europe to fund bug bounties for 15 open source programs, including VLC, Drupal and Notepad++

    The full list of programs that will be funded by the EC from January includes a number of popular tools: 7-zip, Apache Kafka, Apache Tomcat, Digital Signature Services (DSS), Drupal, Filezilla, FLUX TL, the GNU C Library (glibc), KeePass, Notepad++, PuTTY, PHP Symfony, VLC Media Player and WSO2. In March, midpoint will be added to the list.

  21. EU offers bounties to help find security flaws in open source tools
  22. EU puts up bug bounties to find flaws in open source software

    The European Union (EU) has put up a bug bounty for security researchers to spot flaws in the open source software used by the regional bloc.

    In a post on her website, European Parliament member Julia Reda of Germany said the bounty to be launched in 2019 by the European Commission – EU’s executive branch – will cover a total of 15 free and open source software “that the EU institutions rely on.”

  23. EU to fund bug bounties for open source projects including PuTTY, Notepad++, KeePass, Filezilla and VLC

    Why it matters: The internet largely relies on open source projects to survive, but these are often developed by hardworking and charitable developers rather than well-paid employees. An unfortunate consequence of this is that developers simply don’t get the time and resources they require to hunt down the vulnerabilities that are so pervasive in complex code.

    The European Union has recognized this problem, and as part of their Free and Open Source Software Audit (FOSSA) they’ve set up a bug bounty for 15 applications. The bounty ranges from $30,000 to $100,000 depending on the software in question, and of course, on the seriousness of the vulnerability discovered.

  24. European Union to fund bug bounties for leading open-source software projects

    The European Union is an unexpected entrant into the world of bug bounties, funding 14 of them for open-source software projects on which the organization relies.

    Bug bounties are payments provided to security researchers and others who detect and report vulnerabilities in software. The EU’s funding will begin at the start of January.

    Announced late last week by Julia Reda, an elected representative of the EU Parliament, the program will fund bug bounties for a variety of software: 7-zip, Apache Kafka, Apache Tomcat, Digital Signature Services, Drupal, Filezilla, FLUX TL, the GNU C Library (glibc), KeePass, midPoint, Notepad++, PuTTY, the Symfony PHP framework, VLC Media Player and WSO2.

    The funding will be provided through the Free and Open Source Software Audit project that was approved by the EU in 2015. That project was founded after flaws were found in OpenSSL, the open-source library used for the encryption of internet traffic.

  25. EU to Launch Bug Bounty Program for Open Source Software

    The bounties are offered as part of the Free and Open Source Software Audit project (FOSSA), originally launched in 2015 following the discovery of security flaws in OpenSSL encryption.

    Julia Reda, a German member of the European Parliament, says the bug bounty program will include 14 projects that the EU itself relies on.

    “The amount of the bounty depends on the severity of the issue uncovered and the relative importance of the software. The software projects chosen were previously identified as candidates in the inventories and a public survey,” she says.

  26. EU To Offer Almost $1M In Bug Bounties On Open Source Software

    The full list of programs includes 7-zip, Apache Tomcat, Drupal, Filezilla, VLC, KeePass, Notepad++ and other popular tools that the EU institutions rely on, with rewards ranging from €25,000 to €90,000 ($28,600 to $103,000), for a total offered amount of €851,000 ($973,000).

  27. 14 open source projects get EU funding for bug bounty payments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  31. EU to fund open-source bug bounty program

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

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

Fighting ‘True Enemies’, Not One Another

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux at 6:53 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Infighting isn’t helpful and it helps the foremost detractors/adversaries

A spider

Summary: Lesser threats and greater threats to Free/Open Source software or why we aren’t entertaining particular stories/drama

THE WORLD of GNU/Linux has changed profoundly. Back in 2006 when this site was born GNU/Linux had already come under legal attacks from SCO; then came the Novell/Microsoft patent collusion and later came lawsuits such as Microsoft v TomTom. Microsoft wasn’t the sole threat, but it often co-opted other companies (like SCO and Novell in the aforementioned examples) in an effort to help Microsoft derail software freedom, promote software patents etc.

“Civility within the community and across/among communities generally makes us stronger in the face of proprietary software giants.”We have a great deal to say about what happened to the Linux Foundation, what systemd may do, the threats posed by centralisation (e.g. GitHub), what IBM’s takeover of Red Hat may mean, and all sorts of cultural wars against the Freedom of Free software communities, including free speech. Those are divisive issues, however, so we might limit what we say on those topics. Last year we explained that the CoC of the Linux Foundation, for instance, didn’t harm Linux as much as the wars/arguments over it. Mutual reconciliation is often a lot better than confrontation as long as those whom you do not agree with are more or less on the same channel technically speaking. To use an example, if one random person is in favour of GNU/Linux and the GPL but disagrees about women’s rights, is that really the person worth picking a fight with? Rather than people who are pushing Windows, smearing copyleft, and sometimes even bribing officials for GNU/Linux to be abandoned? For similar reasons we barely bring up politics (there are political news picks in our daily links, but we don’t comment on those).

A reader once asked us why we never write articles about systemd. It is not a priority. The assumption was that we would say negative things about it, but that would be counterproductive. At the moment there are many threats to Free/Open Source software (back doors, surveillance, the ‘cloud’ trap, openwashing and entryism to name just a few) — threats much greater than one another. Civility within the community and across/among communities generally makes us stronger in the face of proprietary software giants.

Unified Patents Goes After Patent Trolls Funded and Armed (Given Patents) by Microsoft

Posted in Microsoft, Patents at 4:02 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft and trolls

Summary: Opposition to dubious patents (typically on software) comes from a firm that crowd-funds the process; it’s curious to see several of Microsoft’s trolls being challenged

A COUPLE of days ago we wrote about patent trolls that Unified Patents had tackled just before the year’s end. Another proxy (among many) of the patent troll Bradley Liddle was mentioned 3 days ago and then we learned more about Uniloc, which is just a litigation pipeline that ought not exist. We might take a closer look at it some time in the near future because readers sent us relevant information.

Unified Patents wrote that on the final day of the year, “December 31, Unified filed a petition for inter partes review (IPR) against U.S. Patent 7,020,252 owned by well-known NPE Uniloc 2017 LLC. The ‘252 patent, directed to group voice messaging, has been asserted against Hike, Microsoft and Apple.”

Microsoft has already paid this troll a lot of money; apparently not enough to keep it away. But make no mistake; Microsoft isn’t the victim because Microsoft actively contributes to this problem. Microsoft spent a tremendous amount of time and money promoting software patents and now there’s this big mess. Unified Patents has just tackled this patent on “verifying electronic forms” (obviously abstract) and even if courts would reject such patents, their very existence is a major nuisance as they can be leveraged for extortion. It’s widely known by now (even IAM admitted it a few days) that patent litigation has collapsed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the extortion is winding down (it’s impossible to reliably measure/quantify). “2018 US patent cases down 41% from 2015,” patent maximalists noted some days ago, but what about the extortion?

The decrease in district court patent cases was proportionally smaller last year than the year before, suggesting the volume of new patent disputes is levelling out

They’re just looking for some positive spin to make this decline sound like good news for patent maximalists. Here comes another troll, whose sole apparent ‘business’ will be challenged by an inter partes review (IPR) at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB):

On December 28, Unified filed a petition for inter partes review (IPR) against U.S. Patent 6,411,871 owned by American GNC Corporation (an NPE). The ‘871 patent, directed to vehicle sensors, has never been asserted.

Maybe not in court. Extortion is still a possibility.

New IPRs that we find more interesting, however, were published no sooner than Friday. Intellectual Ventures, Microsoft’s main patent troll (which is arming proxies and shells that sue everyone), is also targeting automobile companies:

On December 31, Unified filed a petition for inter partes review (IPR) against U.S. Patent 7,925,416 owned and asserted by Carrum Technologies, LLC after it was transferred from an Intellectual Ventures subsidiary. The ‘416 patent, directed to vehicle sensors, was asserted in October against BMW, FCA, and Ford.

A Microsoft patent troll-armed (by Intellectual Ventures) patent troll rears its ugly head again. It’s this troll that nowadays uses shells that sue everyone and an IPR against it was also noted on Friday:

On December 31, Unified filed a petition for inter partes review (IPR) against U.S. Patent 7,376,645 asserted by Portal Communications LLC (owned by well-known NPE Dominion Harbor). The ‘645 patent, directed to natural language processing techniques, has been asserted against SoundHound, Microsoft, and Apple.

Again it’s curious to see Microsoft among those targeted because Microsoft’s own patent troll gave patents to Dominion Harbor. Has Microsoft lost control of the mess it created? Either way, this mess helps sell “Azure IP Advantage” [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18].

There’s one more newly-advertised IPR. “On December 31,” Robert Jain wrote “Unified filed a petition for inter partes review (IPR) against U.S. Patent 9,324,365 owned by Hertl Media LLC. The ‘365 patent, directed to techniques for buffering multiple audio tracks of a video, has been asserted against several companies with streaming media services such as Cox, Netflix, and Amazon.”

A lot of the above are abstract patents, but Unified Patents often leverages prior art to squash such patents. Considering the very high success rates of IPRs, one might assume that few (if any) of the above patents will endure PTAB’s scrutiny.

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