The EPO’s Low Patent Quality Can Kill the European Software Industry and Kill People Too

Posted in Europe, Patents at 5:43 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

This isn’t just some game or competition between brands (as human rights and lives are at stake)

Office Life

Summary: The patents granted by the EPO are often invalid as per courts’ decisions, which means that fake/illegitimate European Patents saturate the market and discourage development (e.g. of software and life-saving drugs)

Yesterday, for whatever reason, the European Patent Office (EPO) tweeted almost nothing, but it then — later on — it retweeted the following:

The @EPOorg has opened its consultation on a postponed examination system. The consultation can be found at https://www.epo.org/law-practice/consultation/ongoing.html …, and will remain open until tomorrow, 11 January 2019

That’s today. This does nothing for patent quality, reinforcing the false impression that speed is the same as quality (by that definition, optimal quality would mean all decisions are made on the spot within one minute of application/submission). António Campinos follows Battistelli’s yardstick for “quality”. They conflate that with timeliness. It’s really that laughable and nowadays they pretend that giving applicants more control over timeliness (e.g. imposed delays/procrastination) is giving them “quality”. What about public interests?

“…they pretend that giving applicants more control over timeliness (e.g. imposed delays/procrastination) is giving them “quality”.”How about European software patents disguised as “AI”? Or as the headline from Paweł Kocańda (JWP Patent & Trademark Attorneys) has just put it, “Artificial Intelligence Patent?”

“EPO Gives The Green Light!”

To quote an example put forth by Kocańda (just algorithms, obviously, based on maths/statistics):

An example of an artificial-intelligence and machine-learning solution that would be patented by the EPO is the use of a neural network in a heart-monitoring apparatus designed to identify irregular heartbeats. Examples of technical character may also include classification of speech signals, digital audio or video, or digital images. It is important that patent applications directly or indirectly indicate a close link between the technical objective and the stages of a given method. A general objective, such as “control of the technical system”, will not be sufficient.

The next step after establishing the technical nature of the solution is to verify whether the solution is new and has an inventive step. If all the necessary conditions for considering the solution as an invention are met, we can start the patenting procedure.

So “technical effect” became (above) “technical character”, “technical system” and “technical nature” (in just the above two paragraphs), conjoined with “inventive step”. It’s that typical semantic nonsense to get around common sense.

Sandeep Basra (Haseltine Lake LLP) has also just posted this article about a case where the “first instance decision went in favour of the generic companies.” Generics save lives. Everyone knows that. Watch what had happened at the EPO though:

After surviving opposition proceedings at the EPO, the validity of the patent in Germany has been challenged, and the first instance decision went in favour of the generic companies. The EPO found that the skilled person would have no motivation to use pemetrexed in combination with vitamin B12 to reduce the toxic effects of pemetrexed. The judges at the German Federal Patent Court saw things differently and concluded that there are ample pointers in the prior art to arrive at the claimed combination. In particular, the skilled person would have known that homocysteine elevation is a sign of folic acid deficiency that can inter alia be caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency. As such, the claims were found to be obvious to the skilled person.

The judges emphasised that the conclusion reached is not in direct contradiction to the EPO decision due to the extensive prior art filed by the parties during the proceedings in Germany. Based on these documents, the first instance decision was reached without the use of expert witnesses.

This is why there are protests outside the EPO (not just staff’s). People’s lives are at risk when patents get granted in error. Policy can kill. The policymakers are then culpable. Sure, those who manage the EPO enjoy both immunity and impunity, but that’s another matter…

“UPC was an attempt to get around national courts and national patent law (scope), but that didn’t work out.”At the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which we don’t cover much anymore (by choice), there’s a widening gap between examiners’ decisions and courts’ decisions. This reduces confidence in US patents and discourages legal action. Is the same happening to European Patents now? If so, it’s unlikely that law firms will publicly talk about it because their biggest ‘product’ is lawsuits and they don’t wish to discourage that. The same goes for patent applications at the EPO. They worry that applicants will find out what’s going on. UPC was an attempt to get around national courts and national patent law (scope), but that didn’t work out. Nor should it.

The Fiction That Spain (or Italy) Can Salvage the UPC

Posted in Europe, Patents at 5:22 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Spanish bullfight

Summary: The proponents/lobbyists of the Unified Patent Court (UPC), firms that make money from patent litigation (we collectively call these “Team UPC”), are nowadays backpedaling, having come to grips with the death of the UPC, realising it’s time to save face by pretending everything they said in the past wasn’t a lie

THE NEW year is well underway, but the European Patent Office (EPO) has said nothing about the UPC. Team UPC has not apologised for misleading the public with fabricated rumours, either. Days ago we noticed that Bristows corrected at least 3 errors in its latest blog post, dated late December. These people know they’re lying, but they try to save face and retain some level of credibility. Bristows uses an arcane CMS that reveals when they make edits, so we compared/assessed the latest edits using Google Cache. It’s quite revealing.

“Bristows uses an arcane CMS that reveals when they make edits, so we compared/assessed the latest edits using Google Cache. It’s quite revealing.”Anyway, no ratification in 2018. Not even close. What will be the next talking point then?

DLA Piper’s Gualtiero Luca Dragotti has just mentioned the UPC in relation to Italy; these people hope that Milan can just magically replace London and suddenly make UPC possible. But the UPC is dead. Team UPC needs to move on. “Unitary Patent” and anything predating it (other names for the same thing) was all along a zombie and nowadays it is a failure, as even its paid media cheerleaders finally admit. They had spent years lying about Spain, spreading what many nowadays call “fake news”. These cheerleaders (IAM) try to save face by belatedly admitting that UPC is dead.

“Guess who else is trying to save face: Kluwer.”“UPC Tracker”, a Twitter account dedicated (for years) to Unified Patent Court propaganda, is also late to admit (or quote): “Saying that the UK can still be a member of the UPC Agreement because it was an EU member at the beginning of the negotiations – even though it is not an EU member anymore – is, in my humble opinion, complete nonsense. Law doesn´t work like that.”

Guess who else is trying to save face: Kluwer. “Deal or no deal,” they’ve repeated the headline in Twitter, the “UK cannot stay in the Unitary Patent system post-Brexit,” based on “Kluwer Patent blogger,” quoting some UPC proponent from Spain; he’s now promoting two lies or fictions: 1) that ‘unitary’ patents are inevitable and 2) that there’s will in Spain to make it happen. From this article/interview (more like a pro-UPC puff piece in dialogue form):

I´m not sure what Spain would do in such a scenario. The translation issue has not been solved yet and it does not look like there will be an acceptable solution for Spain any time soon. Furthermore, litigation is also an issue and might even clash with the Spanish Constitution and what it says about jurisdiction concerning intellectual property rights. The Spanish Constitution could of course be changed, but as said before, given the current political situation in my country, I don´t see the Parliament opening the Pandora´s box of our Constitution because of a patent matter. However, this whole issue is of course a political battle and, as such, it may have very easy solutions that we may not be thinking of right now, such as increasing agriculture aids; new fisheries agreements or Gibraltar. Who knows.’

Fictional nonsense, to put it relatively politely. So their latest strategy might be to pretend that Spain will “save the (their) day…”

“This relates to the issues associated with legal proceedings in a foreign language — one of several Constitution-violating issues raised EU-wide.”The sole comment so far (made it past the blog’s censorship of UPC critics) is from Jan Van Hoey, who rebuts one aspect among many when he says: “Automated translation is discriminatory anyway. There are 2 kinds of people: those who can rely on legally binding laws, and the ones who have to rely on non-legally binding automated translations.”

This relates to the issues associated with legal proceedings in a foreign language — one of several Constitution-violating issues raised EU-wide. Can the defendant be accused, sued and then ‘convicted’ in some court he or she cannot even understand? This redefines the whole concept and theory of the Rule of Law.

The UPC was never meant to be. The fact that it managed to get as far as it has should be seen as extraordinary and it serves to highlight how ripe the political system is to overt corruption (by law firms in this case).

Links 11/1/2019: IBM-Red Hat Obstacle Cleared, Toyota Chooses Linux

Posted in News Roundup at 3:28 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



  • Desktop

    • Dell Shipped Linux On 162 Unique Platforms In Fiscal Year 2019

      Despite having shipped Linux on client systems since 1999, Dell has made waves in the developer and consumer space more recently with Project Sputnik, a now 6-year-old initiative that aimed to create a premium Linux PC that “just works” right out of the box using Ubuntu. That device, as most of you probably know, is the XPS 13.

      However, over FY2019 Dell shipped Linux across 162 platforms, including various models of Precision Workstations, Latitude, Optiplex, Inspiron, Vostro and XPS lines. While Dell primarily ships with Ubuntu pre-installed, they also support a couple different China-specific distributions, and they certify machines like its Precision Mobile Workstation for Red Hat. (Dell simply chooses not to pre-install RHEL only because most customers will buy an enterprise license and then install it independently.)

      If this hits you as somewhat of a surprise, you’re not alone! Even Project Sputnik lead Barton George was taken aback by this statistic, and understands that people following Dell’s movements don’t necessarily have visibility into what’s happening beyond Sputnik.

    • Entroware’s New Linux Workstation Rocks Ryzen Threadripper And 4x Nvidia RTX GPUs

      The Entroware Hades also has the distinction of being the company’s first AMD system, and includes 5 different Ryzen Threadripper options for those who don’t want any compromises when it comes to ripping threads: Ryzen TR 1900X (8 cores, 16 threads) all the way up to the Ryzen TR 2990WX (32 cores, 64 threads).

      I don’t immediately see any weaknesses here, beyond the sticker shock when scaling up the hardware loadouts. The Hades begins with the Fractal Design FD-CA-DEF-R6C-BK case. Connectivity on the front ports is ample, with 2x USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.0 and 1 USB 3.0 Type-C port, as well as standard headphone and mic inputs. Moving to the back, you’ve got a total of eight USB SuperSpeed 3.1 ports (plus two additional ones at 10Gbps), 5x audio jacks, dual Gigabit Ethernet ports and a dual-antenna Intel Wireless-AC connection.

      The minimum Hades loadout is perhaps too anemic for a workstation with this much capability, and it’s admittedly a system you could assemble yourself for less. For the baseline price tag of about 1770 Euros (including tax) you’ll get a 3-year warranty, a Ryzen Threadripper 1900X, 16GB of DDR4 RAM at 2933MHz, a 120GB SSD, a GeForce GT 1030 and Ubuntu or Ubuntu MATE 18.04/18.10.

  • Server

    • In science and in space: Red Hat leads the way for supercomputing

      The computation capabilities and scale of supercomputers have grown and are expected to continue growing. The next big trend we’re likely to see is exascale computing, where supercomputers will be able to perform at least one billion billion (quintillion) floating point operations per second. At the moment, teams in the United States, Europe, Japan and China are all racing to build and deliver exascale systems in the next 3-5 years. It is no coincidence that this new generation of systems is referred to as “intelligent” supercomputers, as they have nearly enough processing power to simulate a human brain in software.

      We recently attended SC18, the leading supercomputing conference, and have several takeaways on what the future looks like for high performance computing (HPC).

      Originally projected to arrive this year, based on Moore’s law, exascale class systems are now expected to appear by 2021, largely based on innovative approaches in hardware design, system-level optimizations and workload-specific acceleration. Several years ago, HPC visionaries determined that we can no longer rely on commodity Central Processing Unit (CPU) technologies alone to achieve exascale computing and became vigorously involved in innovation around other parts of the system.

    • Report: Investor drops lawsuit over $34B IBM-Red Hat merger

      An investor in Raleigh-based Red Hat on Tuesday filed a lawsuit seeking to block a shareholder vote on the firm’s $34 billion merger with IBM.

      The investor identified as Charles Orgel had filed the suit in federal court in Delaware.

    • Open Outlook: Global Services

      As we enter the fourth quarter of our fiscal year, I would like to take some time to reflect on the trends we are learning from our customers in the Red Hat Global Services Organization and what the next year holds for us.

      Looking back at 2018, I am most proud of the success we have seen as our role in the business increased. Services played a more prominent part in sales conversations, as more complex deals demanding solution approaches, adoption roadmaps, and return on investment emerged. As a result, we have seen training and services revenue growth of more than 25 percent in fiscal year 2018.

  • Kernel Space

    • Non-Child Process Exit Notification Support

      Daniel Colascione submitted some code to support processes knowing when others have terminated. Normally a process can tell when its own child processes have ended, but not unrelated processes, or at least not trivially. Daniel’s patch created a new file in the /proc directory entry for each process—a file called “exithand” that is readable by any other process. If the target process is still running, attempts to read() its exithand file will simply block, forcing the querying process to wait. When the target process ends, the read() operation will complete, and the querying process will thereby know that the target process has ended.

      It may not be immediately obvious why such a thing would be useful. After all, non-child processes are by definition unrelated. Why would the kernel want to support them keeping tabs on each other?

    • Preparing for Y2038 (Already?!)

      It somehow doesn’t seem that long ago, but nineteen years ago during Y2K I spent my New Year’s Eve in the Akamai Network Operations center, waiting to respond to anything that might go awry as the clock struck midnight in key time zones such as Greenwich and Boston. As of January 9, 2019, we are roughly half-way from Y2K to “Y2038″, the next large time epoch roll-over event. In 2038 on January 19th the “Unix Epoch Time” will exceed the size of a signed 32-bit integer “time_t” value (231-1), or roughly 2.1 billion seconds since the epoch of 00:00:00 on January 1, 1970. We have somewhat more time to deal with the systems that will break nineteen years from now. However, as we get closer there will be increasing impacts on software working with future dates.

      Shortly after Y2K we made jokes about “next up, Y2038!” but back then it felt an eternity in the future and likely to be someone else’s problem. Now that we’re halfway there, and we have already reached the point where Y2038 issues can cause software failures, it is a good opportunity to start planning for Y2038. For example, software may already be having issues working with 20-year certificate lifetimes or 20-year mortgages, and the frequency of these issues will only increase as we get closer to Y2038. At Akamai we are already running strategically-targeted internal planning and testing for Y2038, and it seems likely that the scope of this work will continue to grow over the next 19 years as this important effort increases in urgency.

      Very little went wrong on January 1, 2000 for us (short of some Javascript on an Akamai marketing site displaying “1900″ as the current date!), but one thing that gets missed is that the limited global impact that evening was due to two factors: 1) the amount of advanced preparation that was done; 2) many “Y2K problems” actually occurred years in advance rather than during the roll-over itself. Leap seconds are in some ways scarier than date-format issues in that they are harder to test for and much less of the impact happens in advance. There is a risk that the lack of impacts of Y2K may cause organizations and technologists to under-prepare for Y2038. It is also harder to explain “Y2038″ to lay people than Y2K, potentially making it harder to prioritize and focus advanced work. The large number of embedded Internet of Things (IoT) devices becoming ubiquitous in our environment also makes the likely risk and potential impact considerably higher for Y2038 than it was for Y2K.

    • Linux 5.0 lands with added Nvidia Turing RTX, AMD FreeSync support

      LINUX HAS been updated to a brand new version number, something that creates more excitement in users than in Linus Torvald’s mind.

      Linux 5.0 has hit rc1, meaning that within weeks (roughly seven or eight), it will be the stable kernel for the various operating systems that depend on it.

      Despite the renumbering being as arbitrary as ever (he’s been thinking of changing this for the last four versions) there are actually a whole bunch of new features to talk about.

      AMD FreeSync and Raspberry Pi touchscreen support have been added, there’s early support for the Nvidia RTX Turing GPUs, and Logitech’s high-resolution scrolling from its high-end mice.

    • Linux 5.0 Is Finally Arriving In March

      With last week’s release of Linux 5.0-rc1, it’s confirmed that Linus Torvalds has finally decided to adopt the 5.x series.

      The kernel enthusiasts and developers have been waiting for this change since the release of Linux 4.17. Back then, Linus Torvalds hinted at the possibility of the jump to place after 4.20 release.

    • Linux Foundation

      • Toyota Motors and its Linux Journey

        I spoke with Brian R Lyons of TMNA Toyota Motor Corp North America about the implementation of Linux in Toyota and Lexus infotainment systems. I came to find out there is an Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) being used by several autmobile manufacturers.

        I put together a short article comprising of my discussion with Brian about Toyota and its tryst with Linux. I hope that Linux enthusiasts will like this quick little chat.

        All Toyota vehicles and Lexus vehicles are going to use Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) majorly for the infotainment system. This is instrumental in Toyota Motor Corp because as per Mr. Lyons “As a technology leader, Toyota realized that adopting open source development methodology is the best way to keep up with the rapid pace of new technologies”.

      • Hyundai Joins AGL and Other Automotive News from CES

        This week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas has been even more dominated by automotive news than last year, with scores of announcements of new in-vehicle development platforms, automotive 5G services, self-driving concept cars, automotive cockpit UIs, assisted driving systems, and a host of electric vehicles. We’ve also seen numerous systems that provide Google Assistant or Alexa-driven in-vehicle interfaces such as Anker’s Google Assistant based Roav Bolt.

        Here we take a brief look at some of the major development-focused CES automotive announcements to date. The mostly Linux-focused developments range from Hyundai joining the Automotive Grade Linux project to major self-driving or assisted ADAS platforms from Baidu, Intel, and Nvidia.

      • AT&T’s Conversion to Virtualization, Software Control On Track

        ONAP resulted from The Linux Foundation combining two of its open source projects into one for automating virtual network functions in software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) implementations.

    • Graphics Stack

      • “Soft” FP64/INT64 Implementations Merged To Mesa, Intel Driver Already Making Use

        For those with older graphics processors, rejoice as with the upcoming Mesa 19.0 driver release it might now be possible to have OpenGL 4.0 thanks to software-based implementations of ARB_gpu_shader_int64 and ARB_gpu_shader_fp64 finally being merged to mainline. The FP64 one is most notable with that being a requirement for OpenGL 4.0 but some older GPUs lacking that capability for bumping past OpenGL 3.3.

        Going back to the summer of 2016 was a Google Summer of Code project by Elie Tournier to implement “soft” FP64 support using GLSL to help out older GPUs that otherwise couldn’t expose OpenGL 4.0 due to not supporting ARB_gpu_shader_fp64. Elie Tournier has since gone on to work for Collabora but getting this code merged has taken quite some time.

      • Intel Developer Working On Adding HDR Display Support To Wayland / Weston

        While the Linux desktop’s display stack has largely reached parity with Windows and macOS in recent years (most recently, the DRM core properties hitting Linux 5.0 around Adaptive-Sync / VRR), but one of the areas that has remained elusive has been for full HDR display support. We’ve seen NVIDIA working on nursing the X.Org-based display stack for HDR while now Intel appears to be working on the necessary Wayland changes.

        Back in 2016 is when NVIDIA began looking at the Linux shortcomings for HDR display support and ended up proposing the DeepColor X11 extension (still yet to be merged) and other efforts for an HDR Linux desktop compared to traditional SDR content. Now with Intel’s Icelake processors coming out later in the year with “Gen 11″ graphics and their Xe discrete graphics potentially coming next year, HDR display support is now on the minds of their open-source driver developers.

      • The Expected Linux Driver State For The Radeon VII

        With yesterday’s surprise announcement of the Radeon VII “Radeon 7″ as a new $699 7nm second-generation Vega consumer graphics card launching in early February, you may be wondering about the open-source Linux driver support state. While nothing official has come down the wire yet, here is what appears to be the state for this new Vega graphics card on Linux.

        AMD hasn’t communicated yet about the Linux driver support for Radeon VII, I don’t have any review sample or the like at this time, but given the number of questions since yesterday about Linux support, here’s what I know based off my close monitoring of the AMD open-source Linux driver development.

    • Benchmarks

      • FreeBSD 12.0 vs. DragonFlyBSD 5.4 vs. TrueOS 18.12 vs. Linux On A Tyan EPYC Server

        Last month when running FreeBSD 12.0 benchmarks on a 2P EPYC server I wasn’t able to run any side-by-side benchmarks with the new DragonFlyBSD 5.4 as this BSD was crashing during the boot process on that board. But fortunately on another AMD EPYC server available, the EPYC 1P TYAN Transport SX TN70A-B8026, DragonFlyBSD 5.4.1 runs fine. So for this first round of BSD benchmarking in 2019 are tests of FreeBSD 11.2, FreeBSD 12.0, DragonFlyBSD 5.4.1, the new TrueOS 18.12, and a few Linux distributions (CentOS 7, Ubuntu 18.04.1 LTS, and Clear Linux) on this EPYC 7601 server in a variety of workloads.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Kdenlive 18.12.1 released

        You can now import keyframes to your effects and use them in other projects. On the usability front the “Gain” effect is now in the correct “Audio correction” category and theming issues in the AppImage are now fixed. Speaking of AppImage, we now have a fully automated build system ready so devs can focus on coding gain.

        Don’t forget to check our nightly refactoring branch version which received many fixes during the holidays and is ready for another round of testing.

      • Ring in the new

        It’s the second week of 2019 already, which means I’m curious what Nate is going to do with his series This week in usability .. reset the numbering from week 1? That series is a great read, to keep up with all the little things that change in KDE source each week — aside from the release notes.

        For the big ticket items of KDE on FreeBSD, you should read this blog instead.

      • Okular: PDF Signature + Certificate support has landed

        Signature handling is a big step for us, but it’s also very complex, so i expect it to have bugs and things that can be improved so testers more than welcome.

        Compiling is a bit “hard” since it requires poppler 0.73 that was released a few days ago.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • GNOME Shell + Mutter 3.31.4 Deliver Desktop Performance Improvements

        While released too late for making it into GNOME 3.31.4 proper as the newest GNOME 3.32 development release, out today are GNOME Shell 3.31.4 and Mutter 3.31.4 and both of these components offer up performance fixes/improvements.

        GNOME Shell 3.31.4 improves the icon grid performance, which is for a bug opened for nearly one year about high CPU usage when scrolling the app grid. This was reported by Canonical’s Daniel van Vugt and even for a Core i7 Kabylake desktop CPU the app grid scrolling introduced high CPU overhead while now has the necessary fixes in place.

      • Librsvg is almost rustified now

        Since a few days ago, librsvg’s library implementation is almost 100% Rust code. Paolo Borelli’s and Carlos Martín Nieto’s latest commits made it possible.

      • Issue handling automation for GNOME

        I remember some time ago discussing with someone from GNOME how important is to make a good issue report, the conclusion came along the lines of “I have 10 seconds to read per issue, if the issue is not well done it’s most likely I won’t have time to read it”. It’s true most of us are focused on doing actual code, after all it’s what most of us enjoy and/or what we are paid for. So bug handling always takes a quite back place on our priorities.

        On the other hand, the management of issues is neccessary for a healthy project, specially if you are using it for planification, prioritization, feedback gatherer and interaction with other developers or teams. In general, a set of open issues that is representative, updated and properly reported helps the project progress and build a community around.

      • And Then They Were Gone: GNOME Reverts Back to Brown for Folder Icons

        Development is a perpetual, constantly changing and iterative landscape upon which changes can evaporate as fast as they made form.

        Case in point this week? A shocking design u-turn — said in jest, lest you panic — by GNOME designers, who’ve reverted back to brown folder icons in the promising new flat icon set it plans to debut in GNOME 3.32.

        Yes, the spiffy blue folders that, to my eyes at least, were a kindly-on-the-eye improvement over the beige directories that went before, are gone.

  • Distributions

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

    • Fedora

      • Laura Abbott: Kernel numbering and Fedora

        By now it’s made the news that the kernel version has jumped to version 5.0. Once again, this numbering jump means nothing except Linus decide that he wanted to change it. We’ve been through versioning jumps before (2.6 -> 3.x, 3.x -> 4.x) so practically we know how to deal with this by now. It still takes a bit of hacking on the kernel packaging side though.

        Fedora works off of a package git (pkg-git) model. This means that the primary trees are not git trees of the actual source code but git trees of a spec file, patches, and any other scripts. The sources get uploaded in compressed archive format. For a stable fedora release (F28/F29 as of this writing), the sources are a base tarball (linux-4.19.tar.xz) and a stable patch on top of that (patch-4.19.14.xz). Rawhide is built off of Linus’ master branch. Using 4.20 as an example, start with the last base release (linux-4.19.tar.xz), apply an -rc patch on top (patch-4.20-rc6.xz) and then another patch containing the diff from the rc to master on that day (patch-4.20-rc6-git2.xz). We have scripts to take care of grabbing from kernel.org and generating snapshots automatically so kernel maintainers don’t usually think too much about this.

      • Better loop mounts with NBD. Take your loop mounts to the next level with nbdkit

        I’ve been working at Red Hat for 12 years, on a whole variety of different things, all relating to free and open source software. Most recently I’ve been concentrating on virtualization and how we inspect and modify the disk images used by virtual machines. I’ve written a whole load of tools for this, such as guestfish, virt-builder and nbdkit.

        Before I started at Red Hat I was involved in three start-ups, respectively in: high-performance networking; schools & online communities; and online marketing.

      • Kernel 4.20 Test Day 2019-01-15
      • Help Pick a New Logo for Fedora

        The Fedora “Infinity” logo has been a staple part of the Linux landscape for as long as I’ve been using it — but that could be about to change.

        Fedora plans to update its famous logo and word mark with a fresher, more modern version that’s easier for designers to work with.

        To help decide, the distro is asking the wider Linux community for its feedback on “two different directions” they’ve come up with.

    • Debian Family

      • Understanding Debian GNU/Linux Releases

        The universe of the Debian GNU/Linux distribution comes with its own odds and ends. In this article we explain what a release of Debian is, how it is named, and what are the basic criteria for a software package to become part of a regular release.

      • New Debian Developers and Maintainers (November and December 2018)

        The following contributors got their Debian Developer accounts in the last two months:

        Abhijith PA (abhijith)
        Philippe Thierry (philou)
        Kai-Chung Yan (seamlik)
        Simon Qhuigley (tsimonq2)
        Daniele Tricoli (eriol)
        Molly de Blanc (mollydb)
        The following contributors were added as Debian Maintainers in the last two months:

        Nicolas Mora
        Wolfgang Silbermayr
        Marcos Fouces
        Scott Martin Leggett

      • DebConf19 is looking for sponsors!

        DebConf19 will be held in Curitiba, Brazil from July 21th to 28th, 2019. It will be preceded by DebCamp, July 14th to 19th, and Open Day on the 20th.

        DebConf, Debian’s annual developers conference, is an amazing event where Debian contributors from all around the world gather to present, discuss and work in teams around the Debian operating system. It is a great opportunity to get to know people responsible for the success of the project and to witness a respectful and functional distributed community in action.

        The DebConf team aims to organize the Debian Conference as a self-sustaining event, despite its size and complexity. The financial contributions and support by individuals, companies and organizations are pivotal to our success.

      • Nonce sense paper online

        When you create a cryptographic signatures using ECDSA (the elliptic curve digital signature algorithm), you need to come up with the nonce, a 256 bit random number. It is really important to use a different nonce every time, otherwise it is easy for someone else to take your signatures (which might be stored for everyone to read on the Bitcoin blockchain) and calculate your private key using relatively simple math, and with your private key they can spend all your Bitcoins. In fact, there is evidence that people out there continuously monitor the blockchains for signatures with such repeated nonces and immediately extract the money from compromised keys.

        Less well known, but still nothing new to the crypto (as in cryptopgraphy) community is the that an attacker can calculate the key from signature that use different, but similar nonces: For example if they are close by each other (only the low bits differ), or if they differ by exactly a large power of two (only the high bits differ). This uses a fancy and powerful technique based on lattices. Our main contribution here is to bridge crypto (as in cryptopgraphy) and crypto (as in cryptocurrency) and see if such vulnerabilities actually exist out there.

        And indeed, there are some. Not many (which is good), but they do exist, and clearly due to more than one source. Unfortunately, it is really hard to find out who made these signatures, and with which code, so we can only guess about the causes of these bugs. A large number of affected signatures are related to multisig transactions, so we believe that maybe hardware tokens could be the cause here.

      • Jonathan Dowland: Amiga floppy recovery project, part 3: preliminaries

        The first step for my Amiga project was to recover the hardware from my loft and check it all worked.

        When we originally bought the A500 (in, I think, 1991) we bought a RAM expansion at the same time. The base model had a whole 512KiB of RAM, but it was common for people to buy a RAM expander that doubled the amount of memory to a whopping 1 MiB. The official RAM expander was the Amiga 501, which fit into a slot on the underside of the Amiga, behind a trapdoor.

        The 501 also featured a real-time clock (RTC), which was powered by a backup NiCad battery soldered onto the circuit board. These batteries are notorious for leaking over a long enough time-frame, and our Amiga had been in a loft for at least 20 years. I had heard about this problem when I first dug the machine back out in 2015, and had a vague memory that I checked the board at the time and could find no sign of leakage, but reading around the subject more recently made me nervous, so I double-checked.

      • Debian Bug Squash Party Tokyo 2019-01
      • Mario Lang: Please delete me from Planet

        Wow. Hi Debian. Apparently, you’ve changed even more in a direction I personally never really liked. As a member of a minority group, I feel the need to explain that I highly dislike the way you are currently handling minority groups. And no, I dont feel you are ignoring them. You are giving a select view far too much attention for a technically focused project.

      • Derivatives

        • Deepin Linux 15.8: A functional and elegant desktop

          Thanks to a finely balanced ratio of aesthetics and ease of use, the developers of Deepin created the closest thing to a perfect desktop I have ever experienced. If you’re looking for a desktop operating system that will make all others seem like they’ve wound up behind the curve, it’s time you give Deepin Linux 15.8 a try. I have faith there’s no way you’ll be disappointed.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Tidelift Doubles Down On Supporting Open Source Enterprise Application Development

    As open source software continues to become increasingly important for enterprise application development, there is a need to help fund developer efforts.

    The basic premise of open source software is that the software is made available under an open permissive license, as defined by the Open Source Initiative’s Open Source Definition.

    Open source software doesn’t however necessarily mean software that is available for free, or without cost. That said, there is a lot of open source software is in fact freely available, where developers and maintainers have contributed time and effort and have not been compensated. Open source also isn’t just about complete software suites, but also about components and libraries that often are widely used and deployed within commercial enterprise applications.

  • Google Chrome Labs releases online and open source Etch-A-Sketch clone, Web-A-Skeb

    Web-A-Skeb works well in all major browsers, not just Chrome, including desktop and mobile, (and can even be installed as a progressive web app). It will certainly be a fun time waster for me for a few days. Interested web developers can check out the Web-A-Skeb source code on GitHub.

  • The Future Of Open Source Software: More Of Everything

    We have been awash in predictions for weeks now. That’s what we do every time the calendar completes another trip around the sun.

    And in most cases, as the year wears on and reality doesn’t always conform to the forecasts, that line from Yogi Berra (if he didn’t actually say it, who cares?) gets more and more relevant: Predictions are hard, especially about the future.

    But when it comes to the future of open source software, given the trend lines of the past few years, it seems pretty safe to say that a single word – more – will be present in just about everything that happens in 2019.

  • Events

    • Texas Linux Fest 2019 in Dallas

      A few years ago I started to suggest to TXLF staff that coming to Dallas was a good idea. I wanted there to be more tech conferences in Dallas, and I love the community organized nature of TXLF and similarly SCALE. Plus, it was Texas Linux Fest, it can’t always be in Austin! This year I was able to convince them to take the risk and try a year in Dallas. It is a huge risk, as it is likely that many sponsors and regular attendees might not be interested in traveling up I-35 to attend. Being in Dallas also opens up huge opportunity to reach new audiences and new sponsors. Now to prove that.

  • Web Browsers

    • Chrome

      • Google Chrome’s Ad Blocking Feature to Roll Out Worldwide on July 9

        Google has made an announcement that it is expanding its ad blocking feature in Chrome browser to the whole world starting July 9. The initiative of Ad-blocking was introduced with Chrome version 71 back in December in collaboration with the Coalition for Better Ads (CBA), which is an organization that works for the interests of the users of the internet and designs guidelines for ads to be shown on web pages.

        The initiative of optimizing ads for the consumers had begun with U.S., Canada, and Europe earlier. Now the CBA is planning to improve the user experience on the internet worldwide by expanding its Better Ads Standards to all countries and Google is complying with them. From July 2019, Chrome will filter these 12 types of ads that cause an intrusive experience for the users. These include pop up ads and ads with autoplay videos.

    • Mozilla

      • Designing the Flexbox Inspector

        The new Flexbox Inspector, created by Firefox DevTools, helps developers understand the sizing, positioning, and nesting of Flexbox elements. You can try it out now in Firefox DevEdition or join us for its official launch in Firefox 65 on January 29th.

        The UX challenges of this tool have been both frustrating and a lot of fun for our team. Built on the basic concepts of the CSS Grid Inspector, we sought to expand on the possibilities of what a design tool could be. I’m excited to share a behind-the-scenes look at the UX patterns and processes that drove our design forward.

      • WebRender newsletter #35

        Bonsoir! Another week, another newsletter. I stealthily published WebRender on crates.io this week. This doesn’t mean anything in terms of API stability and whatnot, but it makes it easier for people to use WebRender in their own rust projects. Many asked for it so there it is. Everyone is welcome to use it, find bugs, report them, submit fixes and improvements even!

        In other news we are initiating a notable workflow change: WebRender patches will land directly in Firefox’s mozilla-central repository and a bot will automatically mirror them on github. This change mostly affects the gfx team. What it means for us is that testing webrender changes becomes a lot easier as we don’t have to manually import every single work in progress commit to test it against Firefox’s CI anymore. Also Kats won’t have to spend a considerable amount of his time porting WebRender changes to mozilla-central anymore.

      • thank u, next

        I don’t believe that has any chance of changing; when I’ve tried to express my frustrations, I’ve only gotten disciplined. Mozilla is not interested in hearing what I have to say. And that’s fine, but when I take a step back and think about things, that means it’s time to go, for both my sake and Mozilla’s. So I’ve just put in my two weeks’ notice.

      • Mozilla Firefox 64.0.2 Now Available for Download on Windows, Linux, and macOS

        Mozilla has recently released another update for Firefox browser on all supported desktop operating systems.
        Now at version 64.0.2, Mozilla Firefox continues to be one of the most popular browsers out there, and according to NetMarketShare data, it’s the second most-used application in this particular software category after Google Chrome.

        As a result, Mozilla is very committed to keeping Firefox always up-to-date, and the company releases frequent updates to resolve bugs and improve general performance.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)


    • ZFS On Linux Runs Into A Snag With Linux 5.0

      While the Linux 5.0 kernel has a lot of enticing features and improvements, if you rely upon ZFS On Linux (ZOL) you will probably want to hold off on trying the Linux 5.0 release candidates at this time.

      ZFS On Linux currently fails to build against the Linux 5.0 kernel sources. This isn’t due to a trivial API change but rather the 5.0 kernel is no longer exporting the __kernel_fpu_begin and __kernel_fpu_end symbols, which the ZOL kernel module relies upon as part of the file-system’s checksums.

      There isn’t a simple solution for this immediately, especially one that doesn’t involve using GPL symbols, due to license compatibility issues with the out-of-tree ZOL kernel code. But surely with time and new code a solution can come about as it doesn’t look like the upstream kernel developers are interested in any maneuvering to help out ZOL specifically (or rarely out-of-tree modules for that matter).

    • [Older] The future of ZFS in FreeBSD

      The sources for FreeBSD’s ZFS support are currently taken directly from Illumos with local ifdefs to support the peculiarities of FreeBSD where the Solaris Portability Layer (SPL) shims fall short. FreeBSD has regularly pulled changes from Illumos and tried to push back any bug fixes and new features done in the context of FreeBSD. In the past few years the vast majority of new development in ZFS has taken place in DelphixOS and zfsonlinux (ZoL). Earlier this year Delphix announced that they will be moving to ZoL

    • FOSS Clothing | BSD Now 280

      A EULA in FOSS clothing, NetBSD with more LLVM support, Thoughts on FreeBSD 12.0, FreeBSD Performance against Windows and Linux on Xeon, Microsoft shipping NetBSD, and more.

  • Licensing/Legal

    • Simplifying and Harmonizing Open Source for More Efficient Compliance

      Using open source code comes with a responsibility to comply with the terms of that code’s license, which can sometimes be challenging for users and organizations to manage. The goal of ACT is to consolidate investment in and increase interoperability and usability of, open source compliance tooling, which helps organizations manage compliance obligations.

      Software widely includes an assortment of open source code with multiple licenses and a mix of proprietary code. Sorting and managing all these can be a major hassle, but the alternative is potential legal action and damaged relations with the open source community.

      The projects in ACT are poised to boost existing Linux Foundation compliance projects like OpenChain, which identifies recommended processes and make open source license compliance simpler and consistent, and the Open Compliance Program, which educates and helps developers and companies understand their license requirements. ACT provides tooling to help support efficient workflows.

    • Copyleft Conf: Registration is Open

      Conservancy is very excited to share the schedule for the first ever Copyleft Conf with you! Copyleft Conf is a one day event, taking place in downtown Brussels at Digityser. Registration begins at 9:30am and we’ll be finishing by 6pm. We’ll have talks, a panel and participatory discussions near the end of the day.

      Participants from throughout the copyleft world — developers, strategists, enforcement organizations, scholars and critics — will be welcomed for an in-depth, high bandwidth, and expert-level discussion about the day-to-day details of using copyleft licensing, obstacles facing copyleft and the future of copyleft as a strategy to advance and defend software freedom for users and developers around the world.

    • MongoDB Lets Rip at AWS After Amazon’s DocumentDB Launch

      AWS has launched a fully managed document database service, Amazon DocumentDB that supports MongoDB workloads, with instance prices starting at $0.277.

      The company said it was launching the service – which aims to poach customers away from New York-based MongoDB’s own offering – as its users found MongoDB’s database service “challenging” to build highly available and scalable applications on.

      The release – the latest instance of a cloud provider controversially packaging open source-based offerings into a managed service – was immediately derided by MongoDB as “an incomplete imitation” of its own database service Atlas.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Access/Content

      • Peer-reviewed physics for Wikipedia: PLOS ONE Topic Pages

        Wikipedia pages on physics have a huge impact. The numbers speak for themselves. The page “Quantum computing” is viewed in excess of 3,000 times every day. “Nanotechnology” is viewed in excess of 2,000 times per day. Even a topic like “Monte Carlo method” is viewed 2,000 times per day. I could teach every semester for my entire lifetime and not reach as many students as these Wikipedia pages reach in a single day.

        Science Wikipedia pages aren’t just for non-experts. Physicists – researchers, professors, and students – use Wikipedia daily. When I need the transition temperature for a Bose-Einstein condensate (prefactor and all), or when I want to learn about the details of an unfamiliar quantum algorithm, Wikipedia is my first stop. When a graduate student sends me research notes that rely on unfamiliar algebraic structures, they reference Wikipedia. The influence on academics is even directly apparent in their publications: Language from Wikipedia articles has been found to influence the language of academic papers after just a couple years.

      • PLOS ONE Topic Pages: Peer-Reviewed Articles That Are Also Wikipedia Entries: What’s Not To Like?

        The two-pronged approach of these “Topic Pages” has a number of benefits. It means that Wikipedia gains high-quality, peer-reviewed articles, written by experts; scientists just starting out gain an important new resource with accessible explanations of often highly-technical topics; and the scientists writing Topic Pages can add them to their list of citable publications — an important consideration for their careers, and an added incentive to produce them.

        Other PLOS titles such as PLOS Computational Biology and PLOS Genetics have produced a few Topic Pages previously, but the latest move represents a major extension of the idea. As the blog post notes, PLOS ONE is initially welcoming articles on topics in quantum physics, but over time it plans to expand to all of physics. Let’s hope it’s an idea that catches on and spreads across all academic disciplines, since everyone gains from the approach — not least students researching their homework.

  • Programming/Development

    • PyCharm 2018.3.3
    • ARMv8.5 Branch Target Identification Support Lands In GCC 9 Compiler

      A late addition to the GCC 9 code compiler are new additions around ARMv8.5 as the latest revision to the AArch64 specification.

      Back in November saw initial ARMv8.5 commits for GCC9 while merging yesterday were more of the ARMv8.5 changes for squaring away this minor 64-bit ARM revision. The main addition yesterday was introducing Branch Target Identification (BTI). ARMv8.5′s BTI has already been supported in LLVM/Clang and is part of ARM’s Spectre Variant Two mitigations. Branch Target Identification when enabled marks valid targets of indirect branches and the CPU will trap an instruction in a protected page that is trying to perform an indirect branch to an instruction other than a marked BTI.

      Over the course of a few patches on Wednesday, that code is now in place for ARMv8 BTI with GCC 9.

    • PHP 7.3.1 Lands A Bunch Of Fixes For This Fastest PHP Release Yet

      For those that wait for a point release or two before upgrading to a new PHP release on your development box or web server, PHP 7.3.1 is out today as the first bug-fix release since last month’s big PHP 7.3 release.

    • Fall 2018 ISO WG21 C++ Standards Committee meeting trip report

      The fall C++ meeting was held in San Diego, CA. As usual, Red Hat sent three of us to the meeting: myself from the Concurrency and Parallelism Study Group (SG1), Jason Merrill from the Core Language Working Group, and Jonathan Wakely from the Library Working Group (LEWG).

      SG1 had a fairly full plate but finished the week with a bit of breathing room to spare. This article describes the major topics discussed this week in SG1.

    • Git per-branch permissions

      We’ve had Git hosting support in Launchpad for a few years now. One thing that some users asked for, particularly larger users such as the Ubuntu kernel team, was the ability to set up per-branch push permissions for their repositories. Today we rolled out the last piece of this work.

      Launchpad’s default behaviour is that repository owners may push anything to their own repositories, including creating new branches, force-pushing (rewriting history), and deleting branches, while nobody else may push anything. Repository owners can now also choose to protect branches or tags, either individually or using wildcard rules. If a branch is protected, then by default repository owners can only create or push it but cannot force-push or delete; if a tag is protected, then by default repository owners can create it but cannot move or delete it.

    • Open Source Contributor Experience

      We will be covering what contributor experience is, how we help the project, the projects we are current working on (if the talk were today: mentoring, automated workflows, new contributor onboarding, communication pipelines, etc.), and how folks can get involved

    • End of the line for Java 8 public updates – Commercial users at a crossroads

      2018 was a year of uncertainties and misunderstandings for the Java world as people struggled to understand the differences between Oracle JDK vs Oracle’s OpenJDK builds vs OpenJDK builds, the costs involved, whether it’s a good thing to jump on the Java release train or not and the list goes on.

      Some Java Champions joined forces to untangle the Java releases and support confusion; they created a Google Doc which summarizes all the changes Oracle is making, as well as the options Java SE users can choose from. Although the most common provider of Java SE implementations is Oracle JDK, there are others out there such as Azul, Eclipse, IBM, Red Hat, Oracle, SAP, and the list goes on. In short, you can still get the Oracle JDK, Oracle’s OpenJDK builds and OpenJDK by other providers for free.

    • 10 Most Popular Programming Languages In 2019: Learn To Code

      For beginners in the world of programming, the biggest dilemma is to decide where to begin or which language one should master for career benefits. At times, professional coders also face a situation where learning a new language seems more fruitful.

      Whatever may be the reason, here is a list of the most popular programming languages across the world to know which languages are ruling the charts. This list of top programming languages is based on the data sourced from TIOBE Programming Community Index, which is a popular indicator of the popularity of programming languages.

    • “discover feature relationships” – new EDA tool
    • Python NumPy Tutorial

      In this lesson on Python NumPy library, we will look at how this library allows us to manage powerful N-dimensional array objects with sophisticated functions present to manipulate and operate over these arrays

    • SD Times news digest: Codeberg.org launches, Scapy vulnerability found, and Nim in 2018

      Security company Imperva has discovered a vulnerability in the Python network tool, Scapy, that opens it up to DoS attacks. Scapy used a heuristic algorithm to identify the type of network packet it is inspecting, and the algorithm relies on port numbers which can easily be spoofed. This particular vulnerability occurs if Scapy is led to believe that a network packet is a RADIUS packet, which doesn’t have input validation on the length field, leading to an infinite loop.

    • Best way to Install PIP for Python in Mac, Windows, and Linux

      Python has always been known for its simplicity and ease of use. It’s like any other powerful programming language in which a programmer can use third-party libraries or frameworks to get rid of the hassle of coding from scratch.

      You can find readymade libraries or frameworks on a central repository called PyPI (Python Package Index).

      But the sad part is downloading, installing and managing them can be frustrating sometimes.

      So this is why many Python developers depend on a special type of tool called PIP for Python to make everything much faster and easier.

    • Tradista Joins Eclipse Foundation
    • The best programming languages to learn in 2019: Top coding skills that pay you the most
    • PHP version 5.6.40, 7.1.26, 7.2.14 and 7.3.1


  • Science

    • The outlook is dim for Americans without college degrees
    • India scientists dismiss Einstein theories

      Hindu mythology and religion-based theories have increasingly become part of the Indian Science Congress agenda.

    • Proceedings Start Against ‘Sokal Squared’ Hoax Professor

      Portland State University has started disciplinary proceedings against Peter Boghossian, an assistant professor of philosophy who co-authored a series of bogus research papers that parody what the authors dismiss as “grievance studies.”


      After their ruse was revealed, the three authors described their project in an October article in the webzine Areo, which Pluckrose edits. Their goal, they wrote, was to “to study, understand, and expose the reality of grievance studies, which is corrupting academic research.” They contend that scholarship that tends to social grievances now dominates some fields, where students and others are bullied into adhering to scholars’ worldviews, while lax publishing standards allow the publication of clearly ludicrous articles if the topic is politically fashionable.

    • Professor Who Authored Hoax Papers Says Portland State University Has Launched Disciplinary Proceedings Against Him

      Boghassian, who teaches philosophy of education at PSU, conspired with two colleagues to submit more than two dozen satirical papers to feminist theory and race-studies journals, in an effort to prove those disciplines are academically fraudulent. That hoax, revealed in October, made Boghossian and his cohorts the international toast of “free thinkers” who claim college campuses are paralyzed by political orthodoxy.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Trump’s Labor Department Wants to Drug-Test Applicants for Unemployment Benefits

      What if you lost your job? It could happen to anyone, right?

      In 2016, 19.9 million people were laid off or discharged. What if you needed unemployment benefits to sustain you between jobs? That’s not unreasonable either. There were 1.83 million people collecting unemployment benefits last spring. But what if you had to take and pass a drug test in order to collect those benefits, even if you lost your job for reasons unrelated to drug use? Well, that is exactly what the Trump administration is proposing.

      This month, the Department of Labor finished soliciting feedback on a proposed federal rule, which the ACLU opposed, that would encourage states to conduct blanket drug testing for those seeking unemployment insurance. Never mind that current law already denies unemployment benefits to people terminated for drug use. And don’t worry that such blanket drug testing is probably unconstitutional.

      The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches by the government. Courts have said drug testing is a search and subject to Fourth Amendment protections. So unless there are probable cause and individualized suspicion, there should be no search. Exceptions to this rule have been made when the government can show it has a “special need” and that need outweighs individual privacy rights, but that is not the case here either. Simply put, the government is on very shaky ground if it thinks it can subject the unemployed to blanket drug testing.

      Courts have rejected government attempts to mandate suspicionless drug testing for other public assistance programs. The ACLU successfully challenged Florida’s mandatory drug testing for those seeking Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The ACLU also successfully argued that a public technical college did not have special needs that justified drug testing all incoming students, even if some of those students pursued studies that posed some safety risk.

      And as if being unconstitutional were not enough, broad drug testing programs for unemployment benefits is bad policy. Opening the door for states to drug test for unemployment insurance imposes huge human and financial costs. The proposed rule itself acknowledges that state funding for unemployment insurance is at an all-time low and that drug testing is an expensive endeavor that produces negligible results. In 2016, in 13 states that spent $1.6 million collectively to drug test TANF applicants, only 369 people tested positive out of around 250,000.

    • Confronting Pharma Greed That Is ‘Literally Killing People,’ Sanders and Khanna Unveil Bills to Lower Drug Prices

      Confronting the rampant and deadly greed of the pharmaceutical industry, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) joined Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and several other Democratic lawmakers on Thursday to introduce a package of legislation aimed at dramatically reducing the nation’s sky-high prescription drug prices.

      “The United States pays by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs,” Sanders declared in a statement. “This has created a healthcare crisis in which one in five American adults cannot afford to get the medicine they need.”

      “If the pharmaceutical industry will not end its greed, which is literally killing Americans, then we will end it for them,” the Vermont senator added.

      The Democratic lawmakers unveiled their legislation at a press conference in Washington, D.C. Watch:

    • Time To Put A Stop To The Abuse Of Orphan Drug Regulation- The Latest Scandal

      Today, the Dutch Medical Journal (Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde) reported on the case of lutetium-octreotaat, a cancer drug developed by researchers in the Dutch Erasmus medical centre in Rotterdam. For the last 18 years, the hospital pharmacy made the medicine to treat their patients, keeping prices relatively low. But now the drug is being marketed by Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis, and its price has skyrocketed to Euro 23,000 an infusion from an original price of Euro 4,000 an infusion. This takes the price of a complete treatment of 4 infusions to nearly Euro 100,000, a price point at which health insurers no longer wish to reimburse its use. How was is possible that a medicine developed by Dutch physicians in an academic setting got in the hands of a Swiss pharmaceutical company that is now using its market exclusivity in the EU to defend its monopoly price?

      Research journalist Lucien Hordijk looked into these questions for the Dutch Medical Journal. This blog is based on his article [in Dutch]. The answer revolves around the EU regulation on “orphan drugs” – originally designed to encourage the development of treatments for rare diseases – that is being abused to drive up prices. And the privatisation of publicly funded research without sufficient safeguards for affordability.

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Mike Pompeo’s Cairo Speech Denounced as Ahistorical ‘Imperial Hogwash’

      n his remarks, Pompeo said while Trump remains committed to withdrawing all U.S. troops from Syria, the administration would not rest until “every last Iranian boot” was also removed from the country. The U.S. government, he added, will “not ease our campaign to stop Iran’s malevolent influence and actions against this region and the world.”

      With a straight face, and failing to acknowledge the long and well-documented history of U.S. invasions and anti-democratic interference in the region, Pompeo claimed the U.S. under Trump “has reasserted its traditional role as a force for good in” the Middle East.

    • Heathrow Airport grounds flights after drone is spotted

      The rozzers are supposedly investigating the drone appearance, but there’s no word on when flights will be back up and running….or should that be flying.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Legal defence fund launched to protect Wikileaks’ Julian Assange

      A legal defence fund is being launched for Julian Assange amid fears the WikiLeaks founder is under “increasingly serious threat”. The Courage Foundation, which offers legal support for whistleblowers and journalists, said Mr Assange had become “isolated” inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, with “severe restrictions” on his communications and visitors. The organisation said his expulsion from the embassy may be imminent, putting him at risk of extradition to the United States. The foundation said in a statement: “The US government has pursued a Grand Jury investigation into WikiLeaks since 2010, with major politicians and public figures calling for Assange’s arrest or execution.

    • Legal aid fund launched for WikiLeaks founder Assange

      A British charity helping whistleblowers around the world on Thursday launched a legal aid fund for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, warning his expulsion from Ecuador’s embassy in London “may be imminent”.

      The Courage Foundation said Assange’s position in the embassy, where he has been living since seeking refuge there in 2012, was “under increasingly serious threat”.

      Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno last month said that “the way has been cleared for Mr Assange to take the decision to leave in near-liberty”.

      Moreno said Britain had guaranteed that the 47-year-old Australian would not be extradited to any country where his life would be in danger.

    • Legal Aid Fund Launched for WikiLeaks Founder Assange

      The 251,000 classified cables from US embassies around the world — released by WikiLeaks in 2010 and published by leading international newspapers — embarrassed the Bush administration in Washington and caused ructions in its bilateral relations with other countries.

    • Mairead Maguire Nominates Julian Assange for Nobel Peace Prize

      Mairead Maguire, has today written to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in Oslo to nominate Julian Assange, Editor-in-Chief of Wikileaks, for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.

      In her letter to the Nobel Peace Committee, Ms. Maguire said:

      “Julian Assange and his colleagues in Wikileaks have shown on numerous occasions that they are one of the last outlets of true democracy and their work for our freedom and speech. Their work for true peace by making public our governments’ actions at home and abroad has enlightened us to their atrocities carried out in the name of so-called democracy around the world. This included footage of inhumanity carried out by NATO/Military, the release of email correspondence revealing the plotting of regime change in Eastern Middle countries, and the parts our elected officials paid in deceiving the public. This is a huge step in our work for disarmament and nonviolence worldwide.

    • Legal fund launched for Julian Assange

      A legal defence fund is being launched for Julian Assange amid fears the WikiLeaks founder is under threat of being expelled from the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

    • Exclusive: Julian Assange?s Living Conditions Deteriorate ? More Akin to Stasi-Era Dissident Than an Award-Winning Publisher With Asylum

      Julian Assange’s current living conditions in the Embassy of Ecuador in London are more akin to those of a political dissident in China or Stasi-era Germany — not a journalist claiming political asylum from a country that once promised to protect his right to publish information.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Bill McKibben: We’re Headed for Hell, or Some Place Like It

      BILL MCKIBBEN: Yeah. I mean, this is an exciting moment, right? This was sort of at the beginning of a new idea–not that new. People have been talking in one way or another about a big, some kind of big infrastructure program that would deal with both our economic woes and our climate crisis. But it feels a little more real now. Clearly there’s something in the air. Part of that something in the air is smoke from the wildfires, and that helped galvanize people’s attention. Part of it’s this chain of reports that have come out from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the federal–even Trump’s federal government saying that climate change is a horrible, pressing problem. So we may be in a moment of some action.

    • From Yellow Vests to the Green New Deal by Joseph E. Stiglitz

      It’s old news that large segments of society have become deeply unhappy with what they see as “the establishment,” especially the political class. The “Yellow Vest” protests in France, triggered by President Emmanuel Macron’s move to hike fuel taxes in the name of combating climate change, are but the latest example of the scale of this alienation.

      There are good reasons for today’s disgruntlement: four decades of promises by political leaders of both the center left and center right, espousing the neoliberal faith that globalization, financialization, deregulation, privatization, and a host of related reforms would bring unprecedented prosperity, have gone unfulfilled. While a tiny elite seems to have done very well, large swaths of the population have fallen out of the middle class and plunged into a new world of vulnerability and insecurity. Even leaders in countries with low but increasing inequality have felt their public’s wrath.

    • A Green Future Is One Without War

      Donald Trump and his base — the leftover scraps of Jim Crow, the broken shards of racist hatred that once were the American mainstream and made the country seem “great” to those who weren’t its victims — have, it appears, a crucial role to play in our future.

      President Trump is the increasingly naked truth. He’s what we have wound up with: a raw, uncensored scapegoating and fear-mongering that’s too much for most of the American public. And thus the political center, the military-industrial-media consensus that has ruled the country for the past four and a half decades, pushing progressive values to the margins of American politics, is unraveling. Centrist compromise, which birthed the Trump presidency, can’t mask the truth anymore.

      It’s time to evolve.

      If we don’t, we’re stuck in the mire of racism, exploitation, empire and war. We’re stuck in the dead past, which has given us the current state of Planet Earth: a planet at war with itself in multiple ways. We’re stuck in a dead past and a dying future.

      This is the context, I believe, in which we should evaluate the Green New Deal, which may well be the most brightly shining political ideal to emerge on the national horizon in my Boomer lifetime. Here’s how one of the Deal’s arch enemies, Justin Haskins of the Heartland Institute, described it recently in the Washington Examiner:

      “Make no mistake about it: This is one of the most dangerous and extreme proposals offered in modern U.S. history. It’s the sort of thing you’d see in the Soviet Union, not the United States. If we don’t stop the Green New Deal, our economy may not survive. This isn’t a battle we can afford to lose.”

    • Victory for Free Speech and Animal Welfare as Federal Judge Strikes Down Iowa ‘Ag-Gag’ Law

      The legal groups that brought the case challenging Iowa’s ag-gag law and other animal rights advocates celebrated the win in court, which follows similar victories in Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming.

      “Ag-gag laws are a pernicious attempt by animal exploitation industries to hide some of the worst forms of animal abuse in the United States,” Animal Legal Defense Fund executive director Stephen Wells said in a statement on Wednesday. “Today’s victory makes it clear that the government cannot protect these industries at the expense of our constitutional rights.”


      Journalist, animal rights advocate, and constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald declared in a tweet that the decision was “a huge win for free speech and a free press, and a major—and richly deserved—defeat for the pervasively corrupt agricultural industry, that has tried to use their control over governments to criminalize the exposure of their heinous practices.”

    • Democratic Leaders Failed Their First Big Test on Climate

      The science on climate change is clear: All countries desperately need to restructure fossil fuels out of their economies.
      Naturally, the Trump administration has recklessly ignored this evidence. In every way, it’s tried to make it easier to extract and burn fossil fuels — and harder to hold polluters of all stripes accountable.
      But what about the other side in Washington? Unfortunately, Democratic leaders are also acting like they don’t understand the urgency of the problem.
      After the election, youth activists occupied the offices of Democratic leaders to demand a special congressional committee to plan for a Green New Deal.
      A Green New Deal means addressing climate change through a mobilization on the scale of the original New Deal, which helped end the Great Depression. It means tackling climate change alongside other social and economic inequalities — in part by creating jobs in solar and wind energy, efficient buildings, public transportation, clean water, and public health.

    • ‘As World Teeters on Brink of Climate Catastrophe,’ 600+ Groups Demand Congress Back Visionary Green New Deal

      “As the world teeters on the brink of climate catastrophe, we’re calling on Congress to take large-scale action,” said Bill Snape of the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), which signed the letter (pdf) to lawmakers. “Americans want a livable future for their children, and that requires keeping fossil fuels in the ground while greening the economy on a wartime footing.”

      Angela Adrar of Climate Justice Alliance, another signatory, emphasized that “such a new, green economy needs to be guided by the leadership and knowledge of those most burdened by pollution, poverty, and other forms of institutional violence waged by the corporations causing this global ecological crisis.”

  • Finance

    • Trump gave AT&T a $20B tax break and killed Net Neutrality, now they’re prepping mass layoffs

      The same year that Trump’s FCC Chairman Ajit Pai killed broadband privacy and cheated Network Neutrality to death, the Trump tax plan delivered a $20B windfall to AT&T — both Trump and Pai claimed that the measures would stimulate the economy and trickle down to the rest of us.

      Now, AT&T is saying thank you to America by prepping mass layoffs in ten of its operational hubs in New York, California, Texas, New Jersey, Washington State, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, and Washington, DC. They’ve also cut investment in broadband rollout.

    • AT&T Preps for New Layoffs Despite Billions in Tax Breaks and Regulatory Favors

      Thanks to a reduction of future AT&T tax liabilities in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, AT&T saw profits of $29.5 billion in 2017, up from $13 billion in 2016. The permanently-lower tax rate should net AT&T an additional $3 billion annually in perpetuity, the CWA report states. Similar windfalls have been enjoyed by Verizon, which has also responded not with raises or hiring, but staff reductions.

    • AT&T’s Planning Yet More Layoffs Despite Tens Of Billions In Tax Breaks And Government Favors

      Telecom monopolies have a pretty good racket going. They’ll consistently demand all manner of tax cuts, subsidies, and other government perks in exchange for A: jobs that never actually materialize, or B: broadband network expansions that somehow never actually arrive. The nation’s telcos in particular have received countless billions in taxpayer subsidies to expand their broadband networks, yet time and time again we’ve shown how they’ve wiggled out of these obligations, leaving huge swaths of America left outside of the reach of fast, inexpensive, competitive broadband (that’s particularly true in poor urban and rural areas).

      Yet somehow, we here in America never quite learn the lesson. Case in point: you might recall that in late 2017 AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson told anybody who’d listen that the Trump era tax cuts (which granted AT&T a $20 billion one-time windfall and $3 billion in extra cash every year thereafter) would create upwards of 7,000 new high-paying jobs paying $70-$80k. The CEO also tried to claim that as a direct result of the tax cuts it would be doling out $1000 bonuses to roughly 200,000 employees.

    • The Shutdown Causes Some Parents To Pay Twice for Child Care

      17 days into the second-longest government shutdown in U.S. history, the ripple effects are being felt across the country. Roughly 800,000 federal employees and 2,000 contractors are going without pay, and the consequences don’t end there.

      As federal worker Sam Shirazi noted on Twitter, the shutdown has created a child care emergency for some families: “I’m a furloughed Federal employee, but the #GovernmentShutdown doesn’t just affect me. My daughter’s daycare is in the Commerce Dept and is closed during the shutdown, but we still have to pay our weekly invoice.”

      Nearly 100 child care centers serving federal employees, along with some civilians, operate across the U.S. The spaces are leased by the General Services Administration, which pays $5.6 billion in rent every year. According to the GSA, nearly 7,500 children receive care each day at such facilities, approximately two thirds of whom are children of federal employees. The facilities run on parent fees; the service is not provided by the government.

    • Is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Right that Tax Justice is Key to our Democratic Prospect?

      There is surprisingly widespread support for higher taxes on the rich. Americans have typically felt that one should keep what one earns. Many are also convinced that they will one day become rich, hence the popularity of lotteries, which reflect and help sustain that belief. Dean Baker, co-founder of the Center for Economic Policy and Research, has argued repeatedly that the best egalitarian strategy is to remove the elements of monopoly power in the so called free market so that incomes might be fairly distributed. I believe this argument is sound, but ending such practices as patent monopolies for drugs might be an even harder reach now than enacting a more just tax structure.

      The degree of inequality in both wealth and income is the most extreme in our history. Nomi Prins, former Goldman Sachs executive and long time critic of big finance puts it thus: “i(I)fyou really want to grasp what’s been happening, consider that, between 2009 and 2017, the number of billionaires whose combined wealth was greater than that of the world’s poorest 50% fell from 380 to just eight. And… despite claims by the president that every other country is screwing America, the U.S. leads the pack when it comes to the growth of inequality. As Inequality.org notes, it has “much greater shares of national wealth and income going to the richest 1% than any other country.”

    • National Parks Overflow with Trash, Human Waste as Gov’t Shutdown Approaches 3 Weeks

      National parks around the country have seen overflowing toilets and trash piling up since the government shutdown began nearly three weeks ago. Park experts are now warning that the damage may take years to undo. We speak with Jonathan Asher, government relations manager at The Wilderness Society.

    • ‘Grow Up, Do Your Job, End This Shutdown’: Federal Workers Hold Massive DC Rally Against Trump

      As the president continues his “temper tantrum” over $5.7 billion in funding for his “ridiculous” wall along the U.S.-Mexico border—which Democratic lawmakers and the majority of Americans have consistently opposed—the 800,000 federal employees who aren’t getting paid during the shutdown are calling on the GOP-led Senate to pass spending legislation approved by the Democratic House to reopen the government, with or without Trump’s support.

      Workers, union leaders, and members of Congress gathered at AFL-CIO’s D.C. headquarter to deliver speeches, and marched to the White House carrying signs that said #StopTheShutdown and “Congress: Do your job so we can do ours.”

      “Stop holding 800,000 federal employees and their families hostage!” one employee from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) said in a rally speech that captured the demonstrators’ main message to Trump and McConnell.

      The Republican Senate majority leader has been accused of subservience to the president and has refused to allow senators to vote on a bill to end the shutdown, despite frustration even among members of his own party.

    • Shutdown Antics Obscure Big Moment in Russia Investigation

      Foreign intervention in U.S. election not nearly as interesting as table-slamming petulance.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Inside Facebook’s ‘cult-like’ workplace, where dissent is discouraged and employees pretend to be happy all the time

      This account is based on conversations with more than a dozen former Facebook employees who left between late 2016 and the end of 2018. These people requested anonymity in describing Facebook’s work culture, including its “stack ranking” employee performance evaluation system and their experiences with it, because none is authorized by Facebook to talk about their time there. This stack ranking system is similar to the one that was notoriously used by Microsoft before the company abandoned it in 2013, the former Facebook employees said.

    • Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg will tackle questions about tech influence on future society
    • News networks should not air Trump Wall speech without fact-checking first

      On the same day that he continued his never-ending attack on the free press, President Trump is asking the media to give him prime-time air to address the nation.

      They shouldn’t.

      It is a disservice to the American people to broadcast, without context or real-time fact-checking, someone who is using the airwaves for the sole purpose of lying to the American people about an overtly racist agenda.

      In 710 days, Trump has made 7,645 false or misleading claims. He is a proven, pathological liar. He lies about things large and small. He lies when he doesn’t even need to. He even lies when there is indisputable evidence proving he is wrong.

    • A Fake Nude of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Was Debunked By Foot Fetishists

      “As the internet has grown, it’s become increasingly segregated and debunking false information is more difficult,” jokes_on_you told me. “For all I know, there are Facebook groups and forums where the veracity of this image isn’t doubted and there are definitely countless other fake images floating around. It’s relatively easier to ban the big names (e.g. Alex Jones) from media sites but it’s impractical to police everything that goes on. Now we also have governments and well-funded organizations with sophisticated online strategies to promote unrest or certain political positions. This issue will get worse before it gets better.”

    • ‘Shock Doctrine’ Author Naomi Klein Worries ‘What Next?’ If Trump Succeeds in Inventing a ‘National Emergency’

      As a result of creating a fake crisis in order to appease his far-right base and achieve a policy goal that has majority public opposition, President Donald Trump continues to threaten to declare a “national emergency” as a way to commandeer military funds in order to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

      But even as experts debate whether or not Trump has the authority to make such a declaration—and consensus that an immediate legal battle would ensue—author and activist Naomi Klein on Thursday morning expressed worry that if the president is allowed to get away with such anti-democratic maneuvers, what would stop him from repeating the tactics in the future.

      Klein’s statement of concern came in response to a new story on the issue by Charlie Savage at the New York Times – one which noted that “If the president does invoke emergency powers to circumvent Congress, it would be an extraordinary violation of constitutional norms — and establish a precedent for presidents who fail to win approval for funding a policy goal.”

      The Times article was headlined, “Trump’s Emergency Powers Threat Could End Shutdown Crisis, but at What Cost?” To which Klein answered: “At a huge cost. What further roll back of rights (e.g. curfews, ‘no protest zones’), not to mention intensified state violence and surveillance, become possible under the banner of ‘emergency?’ What is to stop him from declaring emergencies again and again if this works?”

    • In Mueller Probe, the Bodies Are Washing Up on the Beach

      While most of the national media spent Tuesday wondering which portion of his ass the president would be showing during his Oval Office address, a pair of very shiny Robert Mueller pennies happened to drop. The first happens to be the strangest and the funniest, but isn’t that just the way these days: It can’t just be bad, can it? It has to be bad and also utterly humiliating for someone.

      That someone, in this case, is whichever attorney on Paul Manafort’s legal team filed a redacted document with the court that wasn’t really redacted — the portions to be hidden are revealed with a simple copy and paste — and exposed potentially damning information to the public at large. Manafort, Donald Trump’s now-convicted former campaign manager, was answering Mueller’s accusation that he intentionally lied to investigators. Thanks to his attorney’s error, the accusations that Trump’s campaign actively colluded with Russia during the election would seem to be all but verified.

      Oops. As Esquire blogger Charles P. Pierce is wont to say, “Nothing But The Best People” is never not going to be funny.

    • Plagued by Misconduct Claims, Will Columbus’s Vice Unit Be Held Accountable?

      Adult film star Stormy Daniels’s July 2018 arrest in Ohio by the vice unit of the Columbus Police Department (CPD) turned out to be, according to emails a CPD whistleblower provided to the Fayette Advocate, a pre-planned political stunt by vice detectives — one of whom later bragged about it to colleagues. Daniels and two others later sued for false arrest.

      Then, in August, the unit was again in the spotlight because a vice detective shot a sex worker eight times after claiming she stabbed his hand in his unmarked car. In September, another whistleblower familiar with local strip clubs informed city officials of extortion, selective enforcement and entrapment by the vice unit, bringing a large package of documents to corroborate the allegations.

      In late September, the chief of the CPD asked the FBI to take over the investigation, which was announced as a “comprehensive review” of the vice unit on September 6, two weeks after the shooting, and which now includes the state attorney general’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the state auditor.

      On September 27, Detective Andrew Mitchell, who led the sting on Daniels, was relieved of duty. On December 13, the CPD put a third vice detective involved in the sting on desk duty. The next day, the CPD announced that the vice unit will resume limited operations with a “select” group of officers, although the FBI probe remains ongoing. The unit will be handling liquor and nuisance complaints at after-hours clubs, instead of spending thousands on drinks and lap dances.

    • ‘So Frustrating’: Pelosi Accused of Shutting Bold Progressives Out of Powerful Committees

      Critics immediately pointed out that the bold progressives advocacy groups have been pressuring Pelosi to pick for seats on the Ways and Means and Appropriations committees—such as Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ro Khanna (Calif.), and Pramila Jayapal (Wash.)—were entirely absent from the House Speaker’s list of assignments.

      “No one here I think would be described as a progressive firebrand,” the Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis wrote of the committee appointments.

      Among the number of progressive snubs was Pelosi’s choice of Wall Street-friendly Rep. Tom Souzzi (D-N.Y.)—a self-described fiscal conservative—over Ocasio-Cortez for a spot on the Ways and Means Committee, the House tax-writing body that has the power to shape—or completely stonewall—Medicare for All and other bold legislation.

      “So frustrating,” Ady Barkan, a progressive activist who is dying of ALS, said in response to Pelosi’s assignment list.

      Referring to the delivery by Markos Moulitsas, the establishment-friendly founder of the liberal Daily Kos, of thousands of roses to Pelosi’s office on Wednesday, one progressive strategist told the Huffington Post’s Daniel Marans: “Progressives handed Nancy Pelosi 7,000 roses today in her office. She returned the favor by shutting them out of key committees that really [control] the money in her House.”

    • Trump’s Border Visit Comes as Shutdown Talks Fall Apart

      President Donald Trump is taking the shutdown battle to the U.S.-Mexico border, seeking to bolster his case for the border wall after negotiations with Democrats blew up over his funding demands.

      Trump stalked out of his meeting with congressional leaders — “I said bye-bye,” he tweeted soon after — as efforts to end the partial government shutdown fell into deeper disarray. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers now face lost paychecks on Friday.

      During his stop Thursday in McAllen, Texas, Trump will visit a border patrol station for a roundtable on immigration and border security and will get a security briefing on the border. But Trump has expressed his own doubts that his appearance and remarks will change any minds, as he seeks $5.7 billion for the wall that has been his signature promise since his presidential campaign.

      McAllen is located in the Rio Grande Valley, the busiest part of the border for illegal border crossings.

      The unraveling talks prompted further speculation about whether Trump would declare a national emergency and try to authorize the wall on his own if Congress won’t approve the money he’s seeking.

      “I think we might work a deal, and if we don’t I might go that route,” he said.

    • Networks Should Have Outright Refused to Run Trump’s Address

      Way back in 2014 — a century ago, it feels like — President Barack Obama requested time on major networks for an Oval Office address on immigration reform.
      Fearing the subject was too “political,” the broadcast networks declined, plying viewers instead with The Big Bang Theory and Bones. Few Americans saw the speech. Immigration reform withered on the vines, which were then burned to the ground in the next election.

    • Russian to Conclusions? NYT Misreports Manafort’s Ukraine Ties as Russian

      The New York Times is so eager to find proof that Paul Manafort was the definitive go-between for the 2016 Donald Trump presidential campaign and Russian actors that it tweeted out a claim a court filing unsealed Tuesday proved the connection, when the connections named were Ukrainians, not Russians.

      The Times article on Tuesday is based on information from a court filing unsealed that day showing that Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, asked his associate in Ukraine, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, to pass information about Trump’s polling numbers to Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov, two Ukrainians connected to the Ukrainian Party of Regions, the party of deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

    • If Trump Declares a National Emergency, He’ll Be Breaking the Law

      Congress refuses to enact legislation containing the nearly $6 billion that Donald Trump is demanding for an unnecessary wall on the southern US border. In response, Trump is considering whether to declare a national emergency, take money Congress has appropriated for other purposes, and divert it to build his wall. But under US law, the president cannot usurp the spending power the Constitution grants only to Congress.

      Desperate to appease his right-wing base and Fox News pundits, Trump backed off his commitment to sign a bill that would have reopened the government that has been shuttered for 20 days. Although Congress unanimously supported that bill, Trump is stubbornly holding out for money to build his wall, continuing to hold the American people hostage. One quarter of the federal workforce has not been paid, airline safety is imperiled, the Food and Drug Administration is postponing food safety inspections and national parks are being desecrated while Trump plays wall politics.

    • ‘You Still Have Time to Contact Your Senators’: Pressure to Block Anti-Boycott Bill Mounts as McConnell Aims for Thursday Vote

      After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) delayed until Thursday afternoon the second procedural vote on a bill that would punish boycotts of Israel, Palestinian rights groups that have condemned the legislation as “unconstitutional” kept up urgent calls for Americans to pressure their senators to block the measure again.

      “You still have time to contact your Senators to again defeat this unconstitutional bill that encourages states to punish people for boycotting for Palestinian rights,” declared Josh Ruebner, policy director at the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

      The procedural vote on the legislation—S.1—is expected to come as early as 1:45 pm ET on Thursday.

    • Progressives Slam DCCC for Tapping Only Pro-Business Centrists for Leadership Roles—Ignoring Energy of Left-Wing Movement

      Corporate Democrats have made it known that although progressive candidates represent the views of the majority of Democratic voters on a number of high-priority issues including healthcare and the climate crisis, the party leadership will continue to marginalize progressives in the 2020 congressional elections—angering groups including the Justice Democrats and Our Revolution.

      Progressive organizations championing Medicare for All and a Green New Deal slammed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) on Thursday for selecting a leadership team consisting of seven representatives of the pro-business New Democrat Coalition.

      Following her election as chairwoman of the DCCC, Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) selected three so-called “centrist” Democrats to head the committee’s candidate recruitment team and three pro-corporate representatives to lead its Frontline panel, which will defend vulnerable incumbents in 2020.

    • Trump Threatens Emergency Declaration Ahead of Border Visit

      President Donald Trump threatened on Thursday to declare a national emergency to circumvent Congress if he can’t reach a deal with Democrats to fund his promised border wall. He headed to the U.S.-Mexico border to draw further attention to his case after negotiations with lawmakers blew up.

      The partial government shutdown dragged into a 20th day with hundreds of thousands of federal workers off the job or working without pay as the wall fight persisted.

      Asked about a national emergency declaration, Trump said as he left the White House for Texas, “I’m not prepared to do that yet, but if I have to I will.” He contends such a declaration would allow him to direct the military to begin wall construction.

      “So we’re either going to have a win, make a compromise —because I think a compromise is a win for everybody— or I will declare a national emergency,” he said.

      It’s not clear what a compromise might entail. Trump says he won’t reopen the government without money for the wall. Democrats say they favor measures to bolster border security but oppose the long, impregnable walling that Trump envisions. He is asking $5.7 billion for wall construction.

    • Corporate Press Stoops to Absurdity to Balance Trump’s Border Wall Lies – Factcheck false equivalence, the sequel

      Last month, FAIR (12/7/19) examined the absurd false equivalence that some factchecking sites, including the Washington Post’s Fact-Checker, sometimes engage in by comparing imprecise or accidental misstatements by left-wing politicians with the unprecedented and willful lies and conspiracy theories emanating from the current occupant of the Oval Office.

      Coincidentally, the Post rolled out a new, even more extreme “Bottomless Pinocchios” rating (12/10/18)—which only Trump has qualified for, 14 times—three days after our post. And just this week, one of the targets of the Post’s false balance, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, addressed and linked to the column (cross-posted at Salon) on Twitter (1/7/19), to illustrate her comments about factchecking during a recent interview on CBS News’ 60 Minutes (1/6/19).

    • Report: Americans Over Age 65 Are More Likely to Share Fake News

      Americans over age 65 are four times more likely to share articles from suspected fake news domains than those ages 18 to 29, according to a new study published in Science Advances. The study found that overall, sharing fake news sites is “a relatively rare activity,” although, as The Guardian observes, “American Facebook users over 65 shared nearly seven times as many articles from fake news domains as those aged between 18 and 29.”

      Age is the biggest predictor of whether a person will share fake news online and, according to researchers from Princeton and New York University, the practice is most prevalent among older generations, regardless of gender, income or race.

      “In fact,” as The Verge points out in its coverage of the study, “age predicted their behavior better than any other characteristic—including party affiliation.”

    • Pennsylvanians Should Know How the State Police Is Monitoring Social Media

      The Pennsylvania State Police is blocking access to its social-media-monitoring policy by claiming it could harm “public safety.”
      “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.”

      That’s a line that is used so much that it’s become almost trite. But it’s oft-repeated because it is so true. And here in the Keystone State, the Pennsylvania State Police is doing everything in its power to block access to its policy on monitoring social media. So we’re headed to the state Supreme Court to get it.

      The ACLU of Pennsylvania’s attempt to obtain the state police’s social media monitoring policy has been a two-year odyssey that started in March 2017. Using the state’s Right-to-Know Law, we submitted a request for the policy. In response, the state police’s open records officer sent us a nine-page document that was so heavily redacted that it was nonsensical. Some pages showed only the headers of some sections. Other pages were completely blacked out. No reasonable person could conclude that such a response was transparent or in the spirit of open records.

      Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law allows a person to appeal a denial or a partial denial of a request to the commonwealth’s Office of Open Records, an independent state agency that is intended to be a neutral arbiter in disputes over requests. After reviewing the state police’s social media policy in camera — a legal term that means the review is conducted privately and not as part of the public record — the OOR agreed with us that the policy should be an open record and that the state police’s claim that it could deny the request under the “public-safety” exception in the law was not plausible.

    • Michael Cohen to Testify Publicly Before Congress

      President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, will testify publicly before a House committee next month in a hearing that could serve as the opening salvo of a promised Democratic effort to scrutinize Trump, his conflicts of interest and his ties to Russia.

      The House Oversight and Reform Committee announced Thursday that Cohen will appear before that panel Feb. 7, a little more than a month after the Democrats took the House majority.

      The hearing marks the latest step in Cohen’s transformation from a trusted legal adviser to the president to a public antagonist who has cooperated extensively against him. Although Democrats say the questioning will be limited to avoid interfering with open investigations, the hearing is still likely to pull back the curtain on key episodes involving Trump’s personal life and business dealings, including hush-money payments to women and a proposed Moscow real estate deal, that federal prosecutors have been dissecting for months.

      Cohen is a pivotal figure in investigations by special counsel Robert Mueller into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign and by federal prosecutors in New York into campaign finance violations related to payments to buy the silence of a porn actress and a former Playboy Playmate who say they had sex with Trump. Federal prosecutors have said Trump directed those payments during the campaign.

      Trump has denied having the extramarital affairs.

    • Hundreds of Federal Workers Resort to GoFundMe to Cover Expenses as Trump Shutdown Drags On

      Cleckley is one of about 1,000 public employees who have turned to the website to raise money in order to pay for their housing and other necessities while Trump refuses to relent in his demand that Congress free up $5.7 billion to pay for a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, a key component of his xenophobic, fear-mongering anti-immigration agenda.

      A number of families who set up fundraisers noted that they live paycheck to paycheck, as 78 percent of Americans do, and that they have already started to feel the financial effects of the shutdown. The federal employees’ use of GoFundMe mirrors one of the most common uses of the site—by Americans who need to raise money to pay their medical bills in the nation’s for-profit system.


      “President Trump is taking paychecks away from thousands of American workers and throwing families into crisis every day he refuses to reopen the government,” said Brown. “The president must end his shutdown and put Americans back to work.”

    • 4 Reasons the Corporate Media Refuses to Talk About Things That Matter

      The media recently was all over Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib for calling Donald Trump a “m@therf*cker” in the context of wanting to impeach him. It got lots and lots of coverage, over a period of several days, while the really big work the Democrats were doing in the House is largely ignored, along with most other consequential issues of the day.

      Ever since the media began, in a big way in the 1980s, to ignore actual news and go for highly dumbed-down or even salacious stories, many of us who work in the media have been astonished by this behavior by the network and cable news organizations and the major newspapers.

      They used to report the details of policy proposals in great detail (see this report from the 1970s about Richard Nixon’s proposal for universal health care, comparing his with Ted Kennedy’s, for example). But since the Reagan era, the networks have largely kept their coverage exclusively to personality, scandal, and horse race.

      Why would that be? Why, since the late 1980s, has the “news” lost any semblance of actual news and detail, and degenerated into a cleaned-up version of the National Enquirer?

      For example, on January 3, the House of Representatives passed one of the most sweeping political reform bills since the Nixon era, including automatic voter registration, 15 days of nationwide early voting, and an end to gerrymandering. Not to mention a totally revolutionary code of ethics for the Supreme Court.

      But was there any coverage of these details—or even of the bill itself—in the media? Even though there’s no way it would pass the Senate, it’s worthy of discussion and debate.

    • Trump backtracks further on border wall promises, says he ‘never meant Mexico would write a check’

      President Donald Trump backed further away from his long-held promise to make Mexico pay for a wall along the US border on Thursday, contradicting one of his oldest political promises.

      During a question and answer session with reporters before heading to McAllen, Texas, on Thursday, Trump claimed he never meant Mexico would pay for the wall directly.

      “When during the campaign, I would say Mexico is going to pay for it, obviously I never said this and I never meant they’re going to write out a check,” Trump said. “I said they were going to pay for it, they are, they’re paying for it with the incredible deal we made called the United States-Mexico-Canada, USMCA deal.”
      But as far back as Trump’s presidential announcement, the president made it clear that Mexico would be funding the wall.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Ethics committees are silencing academics

      Last year, what became widely known as ‘Sokal Squared’ — that is, the submission of numerous fake papers to academic journals — was heralded as exposing the credulity, confirmation bias and low research standards within disciplines labelled ‘grievance studies’. To some, this was an exemplary hoax, both hilarious and critical. To the perpetrators – Helen Pluckrose, James Lindsay and Peter Boghossian – it was a serious investigation, a ‘probe’ intended to shed light on ‘a corruption of scholarship that puts politically motivated research ahead of honest inquiry’.

    • HASSAN: The Saudi-Netflix affair shows little has changed

      The world knows what can happen to Saudi citizens whom its authorities see as dissidents. Raif Badawi still languishes in prison after a blasphemy conviction. The terrible demise of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi shows that journalists’ lives can be at risk over what they say about Saudi Arabia or its monarchy, even outside its borders.

    • 30 Years After the Rushdie Fatwa, Europe Is Moving Backward

      The Charlie Hebdo murders on Jan. 7, 2015, were an especially instructive case in point. On that day, the brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi burst into the magazine’s offices and executed 12 people, including cartoonists and journalists. Before fleeing, the brothers shouted, “We have avenged the Prophet Mohammed!” whom Charlie Hebdo had lampooned in several disrespectful cartoons. These executions might not have been too shocking to 18th-century Europeans. (In 1766, Jean-François de la Barre was decapitated and then burned along with a copy of Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary for his “monstrous, execrable blasphemies against God … and the Church.”)

      Today’s European leaders, by contrast, were quick to condemn the attack and reassert their commitment to free speech. European Council President Donald Tusk expressed his shock at the “brutal attack against our fundamental values, against freedom of expression which is a pillar of our democracy.”

      But despite the unanimous rhetorical support for free speech after Charlie Hebdo, blasphemy bans have become more firmly anchored in some parts of the continent in recent years. In a recent case, the European Court of Human Rights even reaffirmed that European human rights law recognizes a right not to have one’s religious feelings hurt. The court based its decision on the deeply flawed assumption that religious peace and tolerance may require the policing rather than the protection of “gratuitously offensive” speech. Accordingly, it found that Austria had not violated freedom of expression by convicting a woman for having called the Prophet Mohammed a “pedophile.”

    • Facebook removes ads promoting Britain First petition to halt Maidstone Mosque

      Britain First says it intends to sue the social media giant for political discrimination.

    • ‘Hate Speech’ Convictions Soar Tenfold As Sweden Cracks Down On Migration Critics

      Head of online hate speech monitoring group “Näthatsgranskaren” Tomas Åberg receives tax funds for mass reporting pensioners and others who write critically about migration on Facebook.

    • Jenna Jameson quits Twitter after being attacked for her Jewish faith, adult film past
    • Someone’s finally going to jail over the Panama Papers: a Turkish journalist who reported true facts from them

      Ünker published the true (and undisputed) facts about former Binali Yıldırım and his sons, whose ownership of Maltese companies was revealed in the leaks. Despite the truth of the matter, Ünker was convicted of “defamation and insult.”

    • Chinese Police Now Performing Door-To-Door Twitter Censorship

      The Chinese government doesn’t have much interest in utilizing social media companies’ online portals to target content it doesn’t like. And there’s plenty of content the government doesn’t like. Between the Great Firewall and its obsessive tracking of citizens through pervasive surveillance tech and “Citizen Scores,” there’s really not much left for American social media companies to do.

      The data contained in social media company transparency reports appears to indicate the Chinese government is capable of censoring content without outside assistance. Only Google’s shows a significant amount of requests from the Chinese government. Facebook hasn’t seen anything in years. And Twitter’s report sports a gaudy “N/A” when it comes to content takedown requests from the Chinese government.

    • EU Court Adviser Says Google Shouldn’t Have To Enforce A French RTBF Request Anywhere But In Europe

      The “Right to Be Forgotten” — a European construct that allows people to erase their internet history at the drop of a takedown request — should only apply in countries affected by the law. That would seem to be obvious but, so far, it hasn’t played out that way. There has been insistence by a few judges and governments that delisting orders should cover anywhere Google’s search engine can be used, rather than just in the originating country.

      The abusable system has led to questionable delisting requests, which almost always results in the person making the dubious request generating even more URLs to target with the next round of takedowns. That’s the nature of the internet, and that’s why some judges think content delisted in one country should be made unavailable everywhere in the world.

      For a while, it appeared the EU was inclined to agree with French regulators who believed they should be able to control the distribution of content worldwide from an office in Paris. Fortunately, it doesn’t appear these regulators will get to control the internet. Reuters reports the EU court is probably going to end up siding with Google in this dispute.

    • What Are Federal Employees’ Rights to Protest the Government Shutdown?

      Standing up for your First Amendment right to protest can be challenging — especially if you’re a government employee.

      Since Dec. 22, nearly 800,000 government employees nationwide have been affected by the partial federal government shutdown, putting a stop to work and paychecks. Despite President Trump’s claim that federal workers “agree 100 percent with what I’m doing,” many have wondered about their right to protest during the shutdown — and whether there could be workplace retaliation for doing so.

    • Iowa ‘Ag-Gag’ Law Aimed At Suppressing Journalism Against Agribusiness Is Ruled Unconstitutional

      A federal court in Iowa ruled the state’s corporate-backed “ag-gag” law, which targets journalists and activists, is unconstitutional.

      Ag-gag laws are essentially farm secrecy statutes that were proposed and passed in multiple states to suppress and criminalize speech about industrial agricultural production.

      Previously, federal courts in Idaho, and Utah found the laws violate constitutional rights.

      In Iowa, a lawsuit was filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI), Bailing Out Benji, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and the Center for Food Safety against the state’s ag-gag law that was passed in 2012.

    • Google Still Says Our Post On Content Moderation Is Dangerous Or Derogatory

      Back in October, we wrote about how Google had declared — with no details — that an earlier post we had done was “dangerous or derogatory” and that it would no longer allow AdSense ads on that page. The real irony? The original post (which contains nothing dangerous or derogatory) was about the “impossible choices” platforms have to make when moderating speech on their platforms. So, what better example than “moderating” an article about how internet platforms will always be bad at content moderation.

      We had requested a “review” of the designation when we first got it, and Google initially rescinded the decision, before reinstating it a few weeks later. We appealed again… and were rejected. That’s when I wrote the article. Soon afterwards, some people from Google reached out to discuss what happened. As I’ve said all along — and as I said directly to people at Google — the company has every right to make these calls however they want. I certainly understand how it’s impossible to craft reasonable rules that can be applied at scale without making “mistakes” (and I still maintain this is a mistake). My one request was that the company be a bit more forthcoming about why we were dinged, so that, at the very least, if there was a real issue, we could make a determination on our own about whether or not we agreed and if there was anything worth changing. I didn’t get a response to that specific request and I can guess why: given how much content needs to be moderated, it would likely add significant overhead that probably isn’t worth it for any “edge cases.”

      Either way, we left things alone. If Google doesn’t want to put AdSense on that page, fine. Adsense pays next to nothing anyway. But, what’s weird is that over this past weekend, Google decided to complain to us again about the same damn page. I had simply assumed that once we left things as is that page was on some sort of permanent “bad” list. But, for whatever reason, the company decided that it was urgent to alert us that the page they already (stupidly) called “dangerous and derogatory” was now being declared “dangerous and derogatory” once again. Because we got a new notification, I clicked the appeal button once again, and on Monday morning the company rejected our appeal. Again, that’s Google prerogative, though it looks kinda silly. Why even bother us to tell us that this page you already decided (incorrectly) is a problem is still a problem? We’re not changing anything, so just don’t put ads on it and stop bugging us about it.

      One other note on all of this: while the folks at Google (understandably) couldn’t tell us why the story was dinged in the first place, they did note that it might be because of user comments — and pointed me to this post about “managing the risk of user comments.” What struck me as somewhat astounding about that article is that it is Google more or less taking the exact opposite stance it normally takes on intermediary liability. While Google (correctly) fights for intermediary liability protections in government policy around the globe, here it says that if you have any kind of user generated content on your site — such as comments — then you are responsible for that content.

    • For Second Time During Shutdown, Four Democrats Vote With GOP to Punish Boycotts of Israel

      Despite being given a rare opportunity to change their widely denounced vote from earlier this week, four Senate Democrats once again sided with the GOP on Thursday in support of a motion to end debate on “unconstitutional” legislation that would punish those who choose to defend Palestinian rights by backing the international campaign to boycott Israel.

      Much to the relief of civil libertarians and Palestinian rights groups, the motion ultimately failed to reach the 60 votes needed to pass, as every other member of the Democratic caucus teamed up to block Senate Bill 1 (S.1)—a slate of four measures that includes the so-called “Combating BDS Act” and legislation to authorize $38 billion in military aid to Israel.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Amazon Alexa is coming to your smart toilet, but only if you’re rich

      At CES this year there was a significant upgrade to the humble loo

    • A women’s sex toy won an award from CES, until they stole it back

      Lora DiCarlo’s first product, the Osé Robotic Massager, won the “honoree” designation in the robotics and drones category of the CES Innovation Awards, according to the company’s founder, Lora Haddock. The awards are supposed to be determined by an independent panel that ranks a series of products, with any product that gets a high enough score becoming an honoree.
      “Sex tech has been at CES for years”

      But after ranking high enough and winning the designation, Lora DiCarlo was apparently told that its product didn’t comply with the rules. The show’s and award’s organizer, the Consumer Technology Association, allegedly cited rules saying products that are “immoral, obscene, indecent, profane or not in keeping with CTA’s image will be disqualified.” It then backtracked and said the product simply didn’t fit in the robotics and drones category

    • CES rescinds own award from sex toy because sex toys are obscene
    • I Gave a Bounty Hunter $300. Then He Located Our Phone

      T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T are selling access to their customers’ location data, and that data is ending up in the hands of bounty hunters and others not authorized to possess it, letting them track most phones in the country.

    • Samsung Phone Users Perturbed to Find They Can’t Delete Facebook

      Winke bought his Samsung Galaxy S8, an Android-based device that comes with Facebook’s social network already installed, when it was introduced in 2017. He has used the Facebook app to connect with old friends and to share pictures of natural landscapes and his Siamese cat — but he didn’t want to be stuck with it. He tried to remove the program from his phone, but the chatter proved true — it was undeletable. He found only an option to “disable,” and he wasn’t sure what that meant.

      “It just absolutely baffles me that if I wanted to completely get rid of Facebook that it essentially would still be on my phone, which brings up more questions,” Winke said in an interview. “Can they still track your information, your location, or whatever else they do? We the consumer should have say in what we want and don’t want on our products.”

    • Mark Zuckerberg’s 2019 Resolution: to Host Public Discussions on Tech
    • Mark Zuckerberg wants to fix tech in the new year

      And he plans to ask those questions on his companies’ platforms for everyone to see, perhaps speaking alongside other Silicon Valley executives.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • #SaveRahaf: Activists’ Lightning Campaign Made Saudi Teen’s Flight a Global Cause

      Within hours, a campaign sprung up on Twitter dubbed #SaveRahaf. Spread by a loose network of activists around the world, within 36 hours it prompted Thailand’s government to reverse a decision to force the young woman onto a plane that would return her to her family.

      Qunun was allowed to enter Thailand and on Tuesday was beginning the process of seeking asylum in a third country through the U.N. refugee agency.

    • Saudi Woman Who Fled Family Is Granted Refugee Status

      After a tense 48-hour standoff that was followed around the world on social media, the Thai Immigration Bureau agreed to let her leave the airport under the protection of the United Nations agency, also known as UNHCR.

    • UN panel urges Saudi Arabia to stop torture, free activists

      The panel called for their release and that of six other activists, including blogger Raif Badawi. Badawi has been publicly flogged for expressing dissenting opinions online and is serving a 10-year sentence handed down in 2014 for breaking technology laws and insulting Islam.

    • For Tech Firms, Power Lies in the Coding

      Lenin is said to have distilled politics into two words: “Who? Whom?” If the previous four chapters are close to the mark, then we’ll need to think hard about the who and whom of power in the future. That’s the purpose of this short chapter.

      Turning first to whom, it seems clear that most of us will become subject to technology’s power in two main ways. The first is when we engage technology for a particular purpose. That might be when we use a social media, communications, or shopping platform, or ride in a self-driving car. Almost everything we do will be mediated or facilitated by digital platforms and systems of one sort or another. Most of the time we won’t have a choice in the matter: in a fully cashless economy, for example, we’ll have no option but to use the digital payment platform or platforms. The second is as passive subjects — when, for instance, surveillance cameras track our progress down a street. Just going about our lives we’ll necessarily, and often unconsciously, engage with technology. Even when we try to avoid it by switching off our personal devices, then technology integrated into the world around us will often act on us in the background.

      The question of who is a little more vexed. In modern times we’ve typically seen the distinction between the state and everyone else as the central cleavage in political life. This was the result of four assumptions. First, that only the state could force you to do things. Second, that it was the state (and not private firms) that did most of the work of scrutiny. Third, that the media (and not the state) properly enjoyed the power of perception-control. Fourth, that the power of perception-control was ultimately a less potent form of power than force and scrutiny. As we’ve seen, none of these assumptions are likely to hold in the digital lifeworld.

    • A Twenty-First-Century Incredibility Chasm

      In one of the Bible stories about the death of Jesus, local collaborators with the Roman Empire haul him before Pontius Pilate, the imperial governor of Palestine. Although the situation is dire for one of them, the two engage in a bit of epistemological banter. Jesus allows that his work is about telling the truth and Pilate responds with his show-stopping query: “What is truth?”

      Pilate’s retort is probably not the first example in history of a powerful ruler challenging the very possibility that some things might be true and others lies, but it’s certainly one of the best known. As the tale continues, the Gospel of John proceeds to impose its own political truth on the narrative. It describes an interaction that, according to historians, is almost certainly a piece of fiction: Pilate offers an angry crowd assembled at his front door a choice: he will free either Jesus or a man named Barabbas. The loser will be crucified.

      “Now,” John tells us, “Barabbas had taken part in an uprising” against the Romans. When the crowd chooses to save him, John condemns them for preferring such a rebel over the man who told the “truth” — the revolutionary zealot, that is, over the Messiah.

      What, indeed, is truth? As Pilate implies and John’s tale suggests, it seems to depend on who’s telling the story — and whose story we choose to believe. Could truth, in other words, just be a matter of opinion?

      Many of my undergraduate philosophy students adopt this perspective. Over the course of a semester, they encounter a number of philosophers and struggle to understand what each is arguing and what to think when they contradict each other. I do my best to present scholarly assessments of the strengths and weaknesses of these varying approaches, but all too often students find themselves drowning in a pool of epistemological confusion. If a philosophy can be criticized, they wonder, how can it be true? The easiest solution, they often find, is to decide that truth is indeed just a matter of opinion, something that has only become easier now that Donald Trump sits in the Oval Office.

      A more difficult route out of the morass would be to trust themselves to evaluate the claims of competing theories of how life works and decide, however tentatively, which seems most convincing. But it’s precisely the skills needed to evaluate such competing claims that many of them lack. Often, they doubt that such skills even exist. In this, they are not unlike President Trump who is frequently astonished to learn things that ought to be part of an ordinary citizen’s knowledge base. (Apparently, until he personally stumbled upon the fact, for example, “nobody knew that health care is complicated.”) Their answer to most questions is some version of “nobody knows” or indeed can know; truth, in other words, is just a matter of opinion.

    • The Media Did Not Make Up Native Anger Over Elizabeth Warren

      On Friday, HuffPost published a piece headlined “Mainstream Media Is Blowing Its Coverage Of Elizabeth Warren’s DNA Test.” I encourage you to read it in full.

      The thesis of the piece, written by Jennifer Bendery, essentially boils down to this: The mainstream media failed to talk to some tribal chiefs and Native leaders when covering the fallout from Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s decision to take a DNA test, and thus failed to realize that the test, the six-minute video reveal, and the subsequent fallout over both are all overblown issues that people in Indian Country don’t really care about that much.

    • There Are Thousands of Cyntoia Browns: Mariame Kaba on Criminalization of Sexual Violence Survivors

      Cyntoia Brown was granted full clemency by Republican Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam on Monday after serving 15 years in prison. The decision follows months of intense public pressure and outrage over her case. Brown was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of first-degree murder for shooting her rapist as a teenager. She had been sexually trafficked and repeatedly abused and drugged. The shooting happened when Brown was just 16 years old, but she was tried as an adult. We speak with Mariame Kaba, organizer and educator who has worked on anti-domestic violence programs, anti-incarceration and racial justice programs since the late 1980s. Kaba is the co-founder of Survived and Punished, an organization that supports survivors of violence who have been criminalized for defending themselves. She’s also a board member of Critical Resistance.

    • After 17 ‘Shameful’ Years of Guantanamo Prison, Rights Group Demand ‘Stain’ on Nation’s History Be Shuttered

      On the eve of the 17th anniversary of Guantanamo Bay’s opening, human rights advocates made yet another call Thursday for the prison to be closed and the dozens of prisoners held there to be transferred—calling attention back to an institution that has long since faded from American headlines.

      Guantanamo Bay’s continued operation and its place in the so-called “War on Terror,” started by the George W. Bush administration and maintained by both the Obama and Trump administrations, has been a “stain” on the United States’ human rights record, said Amnesty International.

      “While the prison should have been relegated long ago as an appalling chapter in U.S. history, Guantánamo continues to operate 17 years later as a symbol of Islamophobia that embodies the fear-mongering and xenophobia that defines Trump’s presidency,” said Daphne Eviatar, director of security for the organization.

    • Will Brazil’s New President Usher In a Return to Dictatorship?

      Jair Bolsonaro began his tenure as president of Brazil in the new year exactly as human rights and environmental activists feared he would—by issuing executive orders aimed at indigenous groups, Afro-Brazilians descended from enslaved people and the LGBTQ community. He declared that his inauguration meant “liberation from socialism, inverted values, the bloated state and political correctness.”

      Like his counterpart in the United States, Bolsonaro enjoys making pronouncements over social media, using his Twitter account prolifically. Many fear that Brazil’s rabidly right-wing, pro-business, pro-gun and pro-military president will usher in an era reminiscent of the two-decade-long dictatorship, the horrors of which are still fresh in the memories of many Brazilians. Bolsonaro has even spoken admiringly about the years between 1964 and 1985, describing the dictatorship as “a very good period.”

      Ivo Herzog is the board president of the Vladimir Herzog Institute, named after Ivo’s father, a Brazilian journalist who was tortured and assassinated during the dictatorship. In an interview from Sao Paolo, Herzog explained that “the best way for you to understand Bolsonaro is that his mentor is Donald Trump.” Indeed, Bolsonaro has echoed much of Trump’s racist and misogynist rhetoric and has mirrored his agenda on the environment, business, the military and even, to an extent, foreign policy. His slogan— “Brazil Before Everything”—mimics Trump’s “America First” mantra. Trump is only too eager to embrace him, tweeting on the day of Bolsonaro’s inauguration, “The U.S.A. is with you!”

    • William Barr Was an Ardent Champion of Mass Incarceration

      The last time he was attorney general, Barr proclaimed that only prisons reduce crime, and that we need a lot more of them.
      In 1992, a little less than a year into his new job, Attorney General William P. Barr added to the zeitgeist of “tough-on-crime” policies when he issued the Bush administration’s “24 Recommendations to Strengthen Criminal Justice.” Barr’s harsh approach, which included expanding capacity for pretrial detention and offsetting the cost of such expansion with the labor of inmates, was distilled by the Office of Policy and Communication and given an unequivocal title, “The Case for More Incarceration.” At the time, there were about 850,000 people incarcerated across America’s state and federal prisons — the highest number to that point.

      With Barr’s confirmation hearings for attorney general scheduled for next week, his writings on criminal justice deserve careful scrutiny from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, especially as the nation increasingly rejects policies that led to the current crisis of mass incarceration. Barr was an ardent champion of policies that have transformed America into the world’s leading incarcerator, and there’s little reason to believe that his opinions have changed. The Senate Judiciary Committee must inquire as to whether he still believes that prison expansion is the best response to crime.

      Barr’s thesis in “The Case for More Incarceration” wasn’t subtle: “There is no better way to reduce crime than to identify, target, and incapacitate those hardened criminals who commit staggering numbers of violent crimes whenever they are on the streets.” Barr blamed “a small group of hardened, chronic offenders” and “violent predators” for America’s pain.

    • Corporate Media Miss Distinction Between Pro- and Anti-Genocide

      The ideological and operational differences between those who want to start a race war and those who want to stop one ought to be galactically obvious. To find out why they’re not—at least to corporate journalists—I spoke with Daryle Lamont Jenkins, the founder of the Nazi-exposing One People’s Project. After he trained participants in anti-fascist investigation at a conference I’d helped organize at the University of Alberta in September, I asked him what corporate journalists got wrong about fascists and anti-fascists.


      Given the abundance of white supremacist violence that corporate media typically underplays or misrepresents, up to and including mass murder (FAIR.org, 3/29/18), Goldberg’s article was strikingly short on examples of Antifa’s “willingness to use violence.”

      And it’s not just any speech that Antifa activists oppose: It’s the call for racist violence and murder. There’s a basic pattern to genocides, beginning with speech dehumanizing the eventual victims by comparing them to vermin, claiming they’re sexually deviant, and accusing them of moral, cultural and often intellectual inferiority. Such claims can justify, for instance, widespread imprisonment, and weekly or daily state execution of their population in the streets, or the kidnapping of thousands of their children, or their mass expulsion.


      But despite a litany of lies from various prominent personalities about a threat to free speech, the white supremacist voice is growing only louder. In her GQ article, “How Free Speech Warriors Mainstreamed White Supremacists” (5/8/18), Mari Uyehara cites the Anti-Defamation League finding a 258 percent increase in white supremacist propaganda at US colleges between autumn 2016 and autumn 2017, and demonstrates the clear hypocrisy of right-wing so-called “Free Speech Warriors,” who are thunderously silent on attempts to criminalize the speech of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the Israeli occupation of Palestine (New Arab, 8/3/17).

      Those FSWs are equally silent now about how the government of Brazil, the world’s sixth-most populous country, is attacking free speech in universities. Amy Erica Smith reports in Vox (10/27/18) that even before the second round of the presidential election, Brazilian police staged (sometimes warrantless) raids at universities across the country to seize “materials belonging to students and professors” that allegedly violated electoral advertising laws, which forbid “publicity in public spaces.” While many seized materials name no candidates, police did confiscate a Universidade Federal Fluminense flag reading “UFF School of Law—Anti-Fascist” and handbills titled “Manifest in Defense of Democracy and Public Universities.”

      While armed racists, Islamophobes and antisemites are not invincible, they remain extremely dangerous, as Gregory Bush demonstrated by killing Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones in Kentucky on October 24, and Robert Bowers showed by massacring 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue on October 27.


      The lesson for counter-fascists is clear: Expect no medals, but rather corporate media condemnation, for attempting what countless soldiers in “the Greatest Generation” sacrificed their lives for: the defeat of fascism.

    • Whoah. In Time Travel Marvel, Slimy Grifter Donald Trump Tries To Scare People Into Building Bogus Wall 60 Years After Slimy Grifter Walter Trump Did

      The saga of our Racist-Buffoon-In-Chief’s “great, great” wall lumbers onward. On the 20th day of his hostage-taking temper tantrum, Trump visited the site of his fictional border “crisis,” where illegal crossings are at their lowest level since 1971, experts cite “no credible evidence” of terrorists entering, media reported “no sign of a crisis,” residents insisted they feel safe and there’s no crime by migrants or anyone else, landowners are prepping to fight possible construction of a wall, and San Diego’s KPBS revealed all eight steel and concrete wall prototypes solicited last year by Homeland Security were deemed during tests “vulnerable to at least one breaching technique” – aka they didn’t work – including Trump’s “absolutely critical” current favorite, a sleet slat design that testers simply cut through with saws.

      Away from the border, everyone else – the FBI, the TSA, border patrol agents – also oppose his stupid wall and the ruinous shutdown it’s sparked. So do federal workers who protested in D.C. even as Trump visited the border. There, he spoke briefly behind piles of drugs, cash and a few weapons meant to illustrate the “crisis” – except they were seized at legal ports of entry, rendering him “the high priest of fraud.” No, wait. Actually, that’s the moniker of one Walter Trump, who in a truly weird instance of surreal life imitating tacky improbable art appeared 60 years ago as a slimy con man on a CBS TV series called “Trackdown.”

    • Microsoft Bing Caught Serving Child Pornography And Suggesting More

      Microsoft search engine Bing served child pornography images when asked for it, according to an investigative report from AntiToxin. In fact, the popular search engine even suggested additional search terms on typing in queries that led to more illegal images.

    • Microsoft Bing not only shows child pornography, it suggests it
  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • And Now Professional Sports Teams Are Cutting The Cable Cord, Too

      In all of our coverage about cord-cutting, we have mostly focused on how the public is in large swaths ditching cable for over the air and internet alternatives. Aside from that, we’ve also commented on stories where the networks are looking for new ways to measure viewership of their content given all the cord-cutting that has already occurred. The common theme, however, is that cord-cutting is not some fad and is a full on thing among the public.

      And also, it turns out, among some relevant companies as well. I’ve made the point for a long time that professional sports are the last thread to which cable is clinging. Once the larger leagues out there realize that they can just stream games on their own “networks”, cable is over. But perhaps it won’t necessarily go at the league level. At least in the case of Major League Soccer, one team has decided to cut the cord themselves and go full streaming.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Qualcomm offered Samsung and MediaTek a “covenant to sue last” instead of a chipset license

      No one ever doubted that Qualcomm is an innovator. Any disagreements anyone has with them relate exclusively to how much leverage they can rightfully get from their patents and how they can leverage their market position in premium baseband chipsets. But Qualcomm’s lawyers also seem quite innovative in their field. Only Qualcomm could come up with the idea of offering a “covenant to sue last” to companies who requested a license.

      “Covenant to sue last.” Not a straightforward license. Not a covenant not to sue (which at least means you’ll be left alone). But a promise to sue someone only if all other alleged infringers have previously been sued. It’s like saying: “We very much do reserve the right to come after you, but we’ll deal with your competitors first. You may have to defend yourselves at some point, but if that happens, you’ll at least be our most favored adversary timingwise. Now, in exchange for this tremendous favor, we want you to commit to all sorts of things that render you less competitive.”

      As I mentioned in my report on Huawei’s testimony on Day 2 of the FTC v. Qualcomm antitrust trial in the Northern District of California, Qualcomm appears to be extremely afraid of patent exhaustion. Patent exhaustion–which protects the downstream from assertions of patents already licensed somewhere upstream–can result from an authorized sale (such as selling a chipset that substantially embodies certain patented inventions) as well as from a license (such as licensing a chipset maker who then sells the licensed product to device makers). Qualcomm is concerned about both exhaustion avenues, but in this post it’s all about the second scenario (licensing).

    • Copyrights

      • Video games as a separate type of work for copyright registration purposes

        Under current international copyright treaties there is no copyright protection afforded to video games as a separate category of work. The protection that has been applied to video games under copyright has been granted in several countries, but only in the form of other types of works such as computer programs, audiovisual, multimedia, musical, artistic and literary works, among others. For instance, the source code of a video game has been protected in some countries, such as Colombia, under the provisions of computer programs or literary works, whereas the video and music portions of the games are protected under the rules applicable to audiovisual or multimedia works, and the video game scripts are protected as literary works.

      • 6 Best Torrent Search Engine Sites To Find Any Torrent [2019 Edition]

        If you have been living close to the torrent ecosystem, you might realize the fact that there exist tons of torrent sites where you can search torrent files. But if you remember, when FBI nabbed the operators of KAT, many people heard the term torrent search engine for the first time.

        Amid the rising scrutiny, many torrent sites have started calling themselves a search engine for torrents, saying they only provide a way for people to search torrents. It’s a category of torrent sites that don’t host any torrent files but provides a way for the users to find torrents on other torrent sites.

      • Building CC’s Network at scale for a new era of growth and opportunity

        How can we build a Global Network at scale, empower members and communities to lead, and drive a new era of growth and opportunity for Creative Commons and its community? CC has been engaged with this question over the past few years as we rebuild our Global Network to work better together. Today, we’re celebrating 306 individual members and 42 institutional members! Membership is distributed across 68 countries, and 31 chapters – a truly global movement for the Commons.

        Structured membership has been the key to the network’s growth. With a network site and robust vouching system, our members are self-organizing in platforms, committees, and chapters with clear, inclusive pathways for contribution.

      • UK Govt. Says Police Anti-Piracy Unit Will Be Funded Beyond June 2019

        A report from a UK tabloid, which suggests that funding for the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit might be in question, has been refuted by the Intellectual Property Office. The paper claims that the unit might be funded by industry players but commitments had “fallen through”. The IPO says that there are no such plans and it intends to continue funding the unit.

      • ARIN Wants Mandatory IP-address Whois Registry to Police Piracy (Update)

        The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) asked Canada’s Government to require ISPs and other large companies to maintain a Whois database of IP-addresses and numbers. The database, which is already in place, covers recipients of large blocks of IP-numbers, not individuals. This helps to track down copyright infringers but, according to ARIN, its future is at risk.

      • How Etsy Sellers and Big Business Make Money on Public Domain Art

        On Etsy, there are thousands of listings for downloadable prints and lithographs that are in the public domain. The concept is pretty simple: these merchants round up and download the most visually beautiful art in the public domain, and then sell prints on Etsy. But some of them don’t even go that far and just sell digital files of the art. Then, the buyers can print out the prints at whichever size they want and use them as they please.

      • Sony Says it Will ‘Fix’ Kodi Problem in Next Update

        Following reports that Sony has ‘banned’ Kodi from its newer TVs, the company has advised TorrentFreak that a technical problem is to blame. The electronics giant says it will fix the issue in its next software update. The Kodi team, however, remain skeptical over Sony’s explanation.

      • India Proposes Prison Sentences for ‘Cam’ Piracy

        The Indian Government has proposed an update to the Cinematograph Act to target camcording piracy. Under the new proposal, pirates will face up to three years in prison. The new plans follow repeated calls from the local movie industry, Hollywood, as well as the US Government.

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