No, Software Patents Are Not Poised to Make a Comeback Under New US Patent Office Rules

Posted in America, Deception, Patents at 6:41 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Condé Nast has lost Joe Mullin (shown below) to the EFF and it shows

Joe Mullin

Summary: Poor understanding of the difference between patent courts and patent offices is to blame for widely-spread misinformation from Ars Technica (part of Condé Nast)

“Software patents poised to make a comeback under new patent office rules,” said this headline from corporate media stationed near Wall Street (its parent company anyway). When I first saw that I had to giggle a little; I never saw this author’s name before, so I assumed little experience in this particular area. I should probably know the names, having dedicated about a decade of my life studying and writing about software patents in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). I wrote about 5,000 articles about it (more than I wrote about the EPO — somewhere around 3,000 articles). This site’s patent expert actually left and joined the EFF about a year ago, leaving perhaps somewhat of a skills vacuum and lack of understanding.

“By broadening the scope of granted patents to include some abstract patents all he’s going to achieve is reduced certainty (presumption of validity) of US patents.”“Software patents poised to make a comeback under new patent office rules,” says the headline. Sites like Slashdot and BoingBoing have since repeated it verbatim. Even lesser-known sites keep repeating this dramatic statement. Misreporting and misleading headline is what it is; see this explanation from last Sunday. “New rule narrows landmark 2014 Supreme Court decision limiting software patents,” says the summary, but actually only a court can impact this decision. Courts go by the rules of higher courts, not some Trump-connected lackey like Iancu, who is serving patent maximalists like himself. By broadening the scope of granted patents to include some abstract patents all he’s going to achieve is reduced certainty (presumption of validity) of US patents. This self-harming move is hardly being celebrated even by trolls; they know it’s the courts that matter. Courts have changed nothing and Watchtroll has complained about it a lot over the past week.

IP Kat Has Turned From EPO Critic (to the Point of Being Blocked by the EPO) to EPO Whitewasher That Gags EPO Whistleblowers

Posted in Europe, Patents at 6:21 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It had gotten so bad and so blatant that IP Kat even zapped an entire thread (about 40 comments) sceptical of António Campinos because it disliked the views, not the tone (nothing rude about it)

CIPA meeting with Stephen Jones
Stephen Jones (just after he had left IP Kat) stood next to Battistelli to promote the Unified Patent Court (UPC)

Summary: The EPO tried to forcibly gag (block) IP Kat like it blocks Techrights (since 2014); failing that, the EPO got the blog to just act as a whitewashing operation for Team Campinos (more or less the same as Team Battistelli)

THE MEDIA is totally, utterly, completely failing Europe. And meanwhile the European Patent Office’s (EPO) corruption is spreading, reaching well outside Europe. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) increasingly adopts similar tricks. As Benjamin Henrion put it some hours ago: “Software Patents are back with new USPTO guidelines, using the insane EPO technical effect blackhole…”

He was focusing on software patents in Europe, but there are so many other aspects to it. The above statement isn’t entirely accurate and we’ll respond to this in our next article (focused on the US).

Weickmann & Weickmann’s Jörg Prechtel has just boasted that “Possible Coverage of European patents is still expanding” (that’s his promotional headline) and it’s a recipe for disaster not just in the EU or Europe at large; the EPO is an international organisation which increasingly services countries outside the EU, not to mention patent trolls from countries like the US. We wrote about it before. These people even lead EPO events; patent trolls are now admired by the EPO.

It worried us when 2-3 years ago management of IP Kat changed; some people whose business includes serving patent trolls took key positions in the blog and not too long afterwards there was never-ending UPC propaganda, “Merpel” ran away with ‘her’ tail between ‘her’ legs and later on people’s comments that dared bring up EPO scandals simply didn’t get through moderation; then we saw some of them deleted individually (after they had been approved). It culminated in mass deletion of an entire thread (about 40 comments) about Campinos. The ‘new’ IP Kat showed its true spots (or colours). Nothing has changed since.

This is what the authors of IP Kat wrote yesterday: “It is yet to be seen whether the EPO’s new president, Antonio Campinos, will be effective at healing the rifts created by Battistelli.”

It has been 6 months. He fixed nothing. How much longer should one wait? Notice the fluffy paragraphs in question and the adorable photo of Campinos (which they added next to these):

Will the EBA be convinced by these arguments? It does seem that it is high time for this issue to be laid to rest. However, the EBA is not obliged to accept the referral from the President as admissible as we saw in G 1/14. Furthermore, an opinion by the EBA following a referral by the President will have no bearing on the TBA decision giving rise to the referral, given that the appeal proceedings have already concluded.

The President’s referral to the EBA took place under the fraught political backdrop of Battistelli’s controversial presidency, in which the independence of the EBA and BA was arguably brought into question. Did the EBA really have the freedom to objectively form an opinion on questions referred by the President? It is yet to be seen whether the EPO’s new president, Antonio Campinos, will be effective at healing the rifts created by Battistelli.

An opinion by the EBA in G 1/18 may be issued in the coming year…

These people lack independence from Campinos; we wrote about it many times. Campinos did absolutely nothing to assure them of independence; to make matters worse, he left Judge Corcoran to rot, some suspect on the verge of suicide (those are speculations). DG3 is still controlled directly and indirectly by Campinos, a patent maximalist with a short fuse and reportedly the same temper problems as the fellow Frenchman who gave him this job.

Read this early comment on the puff piece with a smiling Campinos: “Just wondering how much time and money this will cost to decide, as far as I understand it, only the question of whether DG3 should keep the appeal fee or not when an entity messes up their appeal filing?”

And a later comment said:

There is another hurdle the Enlarged Board of Appeal (EBoA) has to take before it can deal with the referred question.

Art. 112(1)(b) EPC stipulates: ”the President of the European Patent Office may refer a point of law to the Enlarged Board of Appeal where two Boards of Appeal have given different decisions on that question.”

The EBoA always first had to investigate the condition of “different decisions” (French: “décisions divergentes”; German: “voneinander abweichende Entscheidungen”). In the case at hand, it would not be too difficult to decide that there are no “different decisions”. In that case, the EBoA may choose not answer the referred question. In G 3/08 (Patentability of programs for computers) the EBoA came to the conclusion that the referral by the President was not based on “different decisions” but nevertheless answered the referred question. However, there is no obligation to do so. In G 3/08, the EBoA came to the conclusion (based on Art. 31 Vienna Concention) that the notion “different decisions” has to be understood restrictively in the sense of “conflicting decisions”.

The EBoA in view of the beloved person filing the referral at the end of his reign, may find arguments not to answer the question.

As we said at the turn of the new year, in 2019 we intentionally reduce focus on legalese and particular legal cases (grasping them is very time-consuming and potentially boring to readers), but the one thing we’ll say is that IP Kat only ever covers EPO in a positive context/connotation (several more decent contributors were said to have left the blog at the turn of the new year). It moreover gives the false impression that things have improved just because it’s quiet (gagging of staff representatives). In that regard it’s almost complicit. IP Kat is now part of the problem.

Linspire ‘Reborn’ is Still Working for Microsoft and Facilitating Surveillance on GNU/Linux Users

Posted in GNU/Linux, Linspire, Microsoft at 4:56 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Avoid, avoid, avoid…

Linspire in Google Trends

Summary: GNU/Linux spyware scandals may be back (and it’s not about Canonical and Amazon but Linspire and Microsoft); Microsoft is meanwhile exposing innocent kids to pedophiles and it refuses to explain or defend this

TECHRIGHTS barely covered Microsoft for more than half a decade, due for the most to patent focus, notably EPO scandals (since 2014) and the demise of software patents after Alice (also since 2014). Later tonight we’ll explain why the USPTO cannot bring such patents back; only courts can.

Written by Michael Larabel earlier this weekend was this article about a new plan:

The resurrected Linspire Linux distribution formerly known as Lindows is planning to enter the Linux server market as well as an upcoming “Office 365″ edition.

More than a decade ago we wrote many articles about Linspire after it had signed a patent deal with Microsoft, causing us to inevitably suggest a boycott. Why is Linspire still in Microsoft’s pockets? And perhaps worse — why does it help the spy agencies spy on GNU/Linux users? Have these people lost their minds again? For a moment I believed that the new efforts were motivated by a morally reformed team, but it doesn’t seem so anymore.

Thanks to Edward Snowden we now have pretty undeniable evidence that it is linked to the NSA. In the name of “combating child abuse” Microsoft engages in surveillance — even GDPR-violating (i.e. illegal in the EU) surveillance — on everything one does online. Even Office. This was widely publicised in the media some years ago. It said that in the name of “protecting kids” Microsoft would scan every single picture a user has. Does it help? Does it work?

“In the name of “combating child abuse” Microsoft engages in surveillance — even GDPR-violating (i.e. illegal in the EU) surveillance — on everything one does online.”No, it’s nonsense.

Microsoft “loves children” a little bit too much (naked even). It’s probably not deliberate, but as some journalists are putting it (to quote a new headline), “Microsoft Refuses to Answer Key Questions About Child Porn in Bing’s Search Results” (stay classy!).

Some have reported that Microsoft not only presents such results, but also recommends them (leading errand searchers to child pornography by means of refined search terms).

“Microsoft’s Bing search engine is facing heat for reportedly including images of child pornography in its search results,” it says in the summary and there are many similar articles. So Microsoft is finally good at something; It’s good when you’re a pedophile…

“Microsoft has clearly not changed…”Microsoft’s connection to child porn is rather irksome and it’s definitely not about neutrality or free speech because, as TechDirt put it three days ago, Microsoft “LinkedIn Is Helping The Chinese Government Silence Critics” and Microsoft has already been censoring search results for China (somehow the media only blasts Google for merely thinking about doing the same).

Microsoft has clearly not changed; as we pointed out in our latest daily links, for example, “Microsoft Deactivated Some Windows 7 PCs With an Update” (as many had feared and repeatedly warned). There is no ‘new’ Microsoft.

Links 12/1/2019: Wine 4.0 RC6, X-Plane 11.30, SuperTuxKart 0.10 Beta, LibreOffice 6.2 RC2

Posted in News Roundup at 3:07 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



Free Software/Open Source

  • What metrics matter: A guide for open source projects

    “Without data, you’re just a person with an opinion.”

    Those are the words of W. Edwards Deming, the champion of statistical process control, who was credited as one of the inspirations for what became known as the Japanese post-war economic miracle of 1950 to 1960. Ironically, Japanese manufacturers like Toyota were far more receptive to Deming’s ideas than General Motors and Ford were.

  • 5 open source tools to upgrade your next Kubernetes project

    Kubernetes is one of the most popular technologies around today. So, it’s no surprise that there are an awful lot of open source libraries, tools, and other assorted goodies out there on GitHub.

    We like to keep an eye on what’s fresh for developers, so today we’re taking a look at five different Kubernetes tools for developers. From serverless functions to local development, GitHub has thousands of open source tools to enjoy. Here are five interesting ones we want to take a closer look at!

    As always, this list is subjective and is based off our own experiences. If you think we’ve totally missed out on a crucial Kubernetes tool that you use every day, let us know in the comments below!

  • Keeping Your Episodic Contributors to Open-Source Projects Happy

    Community managers have long been advised to nurture top contributors, but it is also important to consider infrequent and casual (episodic) contributors. There are more potential episodic contributors than habitual ones, and getting the most out of your episodic contributors can require reconsidering your strategies for retaining and incorporating contributors.

    There are several reasons you should care about episodic contributors, other than just numbers. Getting more people involved can help more people learn about a project, and new people also bring new ideas. Furthermore, many tasks can be done effectively by episodic contributors, freeing habitual contributors to perform other work. Smaller communities might benefit from contributions to documentation or translations, while communities of all sizes can use extra temporary help when running an event.

  • Top Open Source Tools for Staying on Time and on Task

    Keeping up to date with multiple daily activity calendars, tons of information, and long must-do lists can be a never-ending challenge. This week’s Linux Picks and Pans reviews the best open source Personal Information Managers (PIMs) that will serve you well on whatever Linux distribution you run.

    In theory, computer tools should make managing a flood of personal and business information child’s play. In practice, however, many PIM tool sets are isolated from your other devices. This, of course, makes it difficult, if not impossible, to share essential information across your smartphone, desktop, laptop and tablet.

  • Investment in open source software is soaking up investment by IT firms

    Traditional IT providers have seen the light and are shifting their focus to new technologies supporting open source software development.

    In recent months, the HPE’s, Cisco’s and VMware’s of the industry are offering their core customers cloud services previously dominated by the big three providers: Amazon, Microsoft and Google.

    The latest buzzword is DevOps, and it refers to a merging of the responsibilities between data centre operations teams and developers.

  • Events

    • Get your tickets while they’re hot!

      For the fourth year running, foss-north is taking place. Now bigger than ever.

      It all started as a one day conference in a room with too much people in it. We gathered ten speakers and started something that continues to this day.

  • Web Browsers

    • Chrome

      • Etch a Sketch lives on in browser-based Chrome Labs project

        Everyone who remembers the Etch A Sketch slabs of yesteryear remembers how difficult it was to translate your vision onto its “magic screen,” and how proud you felt upon success. Now, Google’s Chrome Labs has translated that experience (quite literally) for the digital age with the fun Web A Skeb project. It’s a browser-contained version of an Etch A Sketch that you can use to draw and doodle—if you can get the hang of its dials.


        Google’s Chrome Labs lets developers make weird, fun, and interesting projects to show the power that a simple Web browser has. Those involved have produced things like the open source image compression tool Squoosh, the Web actor library Clooney, and Project VisBug, a Chrome extension that lets users edit webpages using design tool interactions and hotkeys.

        Web A Skeb is available not only in Chrome but in other desktop and mobile browsers as well. It’s actually a bit easier to draw on mobile, since you can use both of your thumbs to turn the dials at the same time. Those interested can check out the source code on GitHub.

    • Mozilla

      • 01 – They fixed it

        This is a new chapter. I’ll try to move forward in a semi-regular basis. The work done by the awesome core engineers of Mozilla is essential. Some of the things they fix or explain have direct impact on the web compatibility work. A couple of years ago at Mozilla Hands. I gave a lightning talk called “They fixed it”. I quickly put forward to the audience all the (webcompat) cool bugs which had been fixed by Core engineers.

  • LibreOffice

    • LibreOffice 6.2 community focus: Design

      LibreOffice 6.2 is due to be released at the end of this month, and many communities in the project have been working hard on new features. Today we talk to Heiko Tietze, The Document Foundation’s UX designer, about the upcoming release…

    • LibreOffice 6.2 RC2 is ready for testing

      The LibreOffice Quality Assurance ( QA ) Team is happy to announce LibreOffice 6.2 RC2 is ready for testing!

      LibreOffice 6.2 will be released as final at the beginning of February, 2019, being LibreOffice 6.2 RC2 the forth pre-release since the development of version 6.2 started in mid May, 2018. See the release plan. Check the release notes to find the new features included in this version of LibreOffice.

      LibreOffice 6.2 RC2 can be downloaded from here, and it’s available for Linux, MacOS and Windows.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

    • AWS, MongoDB database collision stirs open source tensions

      AWS’ introduction of the DocumentDB managed database service sparks competition with the backers of the popular MongoDB database, as well as debate over the nature of open source licensing.

      DocumentDB is a fully managed document database service that is compatible with MongoDB workloads. Rather than build on MongoDB’s core code base, it implements an API that supports workloads from MongoDB 3.6 and earlier. This effectively emulates the responses that a MongoDB client expects from a MongoDB server, and customers can use their existing MongoDB drivers and tools, AWS said.

      MongoDB is the fifth-most popular database today, according to ranking site DB-Engines.com. Its parent company provides commercial support for the service, which went public in October 2017 and is now valued at more than $4 billion.

    • Ockam Open Sources its IoT SDK
    • Global Industry Leaders to Showcase Real-World Digital Transformations at 2019 Alfresco Day San Francisco
  • Funding

    • Tidelift: We Support the Long Tail of Open Source Projects

      The open source community has mature business models to support big projects like Linux, but what about everything else? Businesses depend on a plethora of open source projects supported by ad hoc teams of volunteer labor. These projects lack underlying business models to ensure ongoing support — and get developers paid for their work.

      Tidelift is looking to solve that problem by contracting with private developers to maintain and secure open source projects, as well as sort through the confusing tangle of licensing to ensure that businesses are using open source correctly.

      Businesses, meanwhile, subscribe to open source packages supported by Tidelift.

  • BSD

    • New console font Spleen made default

      This new font brings more easily readable text to the higher resolution screens that are commonly seen on newer machines, while still filling the complete screen with a reasonable number of characters. If you like the Spleen font, you can use it in your xterminals by installing the fonts/spleen port with doas pkg_add spleen. More details can be found on Frederic’s website. Those who prefer the old (or other) fonts while in console mode are invited to read the wsconsctl(8) manpage.

    • 2018 Recap

      Unfortunately I didn’t spend as much time as I wanted doing stuff for FreeBSD, but it also wasn’t tragic. I did some commits which meant I placed 28th out of 218 active FreeBSD commiters this year. This year I also did my 200th commit!

    • The New LLVM Repository Is Now Officially Available Via Git On GitHub

      The LLVM project has long been transitioning from Subversion-centered development to using Git around GitHub. The new “LLVM monorepo” Git setup is now considered finalized.

      A few days ago I wrote about the LLVM transition to Git nearly being finalized while the announcement hit the wire yesterday of its success. James Knight who has been working on this initiative announced, “The new official monorepo is published to LLVM’s github organization. At this point, the repository should be considered stable — there won’t be any more rewrites which invalidate commit hashes (barring some _REALLY_ good reason…).”


    • Bash 5 Adds New Shell Variables

      The fifth major version of Bash, the UNIX/Linux scripting shell has arrived. The new release has fixed a variety of bugs from the previous version, and has also added new features and improvements to better conform to POSIX specifications.

      Bash is the GNU Project’s Bourne Again SHell, a complete implementation of the POSIX shell spec. It also comes with interactive command line editing, job control on architectures that support it, csh-like features such as history substitution and brace expansion.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Access/Content

      • Wikipedia is using Google Translate to make its articles available in more languages

        Wikipedia’s goal is to make the world’s knowledge accessible to everyone on the planet, but it would be the first to admit that its efforts are skewed somewhat toward those who read English. To help fix this, the Wikimedia Foundation (which runs Wikipedia) announced today that it’s partnering with Google to take advantage of the company’s AI translation skills.

  • Programming/Development

    • Hack Laptop Brings Linux to Desktop for Everyone Learning to Code

      If you have a pre-teen interested in coding, $300 in loose cash and $10/month to spend on a subscription service, the new ‘Hack’ computer might be what you’re looking for.

      Most learn-to-code devices are geared toward a younger crowd, often disguised as toys. The Hack Laptop is simply an ASUS computer. It has a 1920×1080 HD display, 64GB storage, 4GB RAM, and an Intel N5000 processor. It runs Endless OS, which is a version of Linux, and that’s where the real magic begins.

      Instead of some learn-as-you-go app, the Hack Laptop is itself a teaching tool. With that $10/month subscription, students get new challenges that entice them to hack the device itself. The challenges invite them to pick apart code, and a feature dubbed ‘flip to hack’ reverts to the user interface so students can see their user-facing changes in real-time.

    • How to Make Linux Microservice-aware with Cilium and eBPF

      My name is Thomas Graf. Before I start, I would like to know a little bit about what your interests are; who is involved with the upside of things platform, kind of less the dev side, just pure platform? Who is really into kind of development and Dev-ops? So, first of all, I’ve been asked to stay behind a podium, so whenever you see me walk in front just give me a sign, and push me back. Apparently, the video camera is not able to catch me if I’ve walked forward too much.

      So what I’m here to talk about is, is BPF, Berkeley Packet Filter, and how BPF can be used to turn and Linux into what we call a Micro Service Operating System. What makes me qualified to talk about this? So I’ve spent about 15 years working on the Linux kernel. About 10 years of that, I’ve mostly focused on working and security from a subsystem perspective. So I helped write potentially the biggest monolith ever, 12 million lines of source code by now. I worked on all of the networking subsystem pretty much, a lot of security user space stuff, Netlink, prior to and so on and so on.

    • Clean Architectures in Python: the book

      I’m excited to announce that the success of the post on clean architectures encouraged me to expand the subject and to write a book that I titled “Clean Architectures in Python. A practical approach to better software design”.

      The book contains a complete introduction to TDD and clean architectures, two topics that I believe are strictly interconnected. The book is 170 pages long and it is complete, at least for a first edition, but I am already planning to add content that could not fit in this release for several reasons (mostly because still unclear in my mind).

    • pinp 0.0.7: More small YAML options

      One new option was suggested (and implemented) by Ilya Kashnitsky: the bold and small subtitle carrying a default of ‘this version built on …’ with the date is now customisable; motivation was for example stating a post-publication DOI which is indeed useful. In working with DOI I also finally realized that I was blocking displays of DOIs in the references: the PNAS style use \doi{} for a footer display (which we use e.g. for vignette info) shadowing the use via the JSS.cls borrowed from the Journal of Statistical Software setup. So we renamed the YAML header option to doi_footer for clarity, still support the old entries for backwards compatibility (yes, we care), renamed the macro for this use — and with an assist from LaTeX wizard Achim Zeileis added a new \doi{} now displaying DOIs in the references as they should! We also improved some internals as e.g. the Travis CI checks but I should blog about that another time, and documented yet more YAML header options in the vignette.

    • ActiveState Adds Beta Functionality for Open Source Language Automation
    • Intel Looking To Add SYCL Programming Support To LLVM/Clang

      SYCL, the single-source programming model developed by the Khronos Group and based upon standard C++, might soon be supported by the LLVM Clang compiler thanks to Intel.

    • Joachim Ansorg for next week’s PyCharm Plugins webinar

      JetBrains IDEs have a lot that’s “integrated” into the “development environment.” At some times, it seems daunting: there’s an infinity of features, with useful new things to learn at every corner. At other times, though, there’s something missing, something unique to what you do or how you do it.

      Fortunately the IntelliJ platform for IDEs has a powerful plugin model. In fact, most of PyCharm is done as plugins, either specific to PyCharm or reusable across all IntelliJ IDEs. Getting started can be daunting though, which is why we set up this webinar, to show writing a simple-but-useful PyCharm plugin.

    • Wing Python IDE 6.1.3

      This minor release improves management of the Python Shell when the project environment changes, adds 2FA card selector capability in remote host configuration, improves support for virtualenv and PEP 8 reformatting, updates the How-To for Autodesk Maya, improves auto-completion in regex.py and some other third party modules, streamlines remote agent installation, and makes about 30 other improvements. See the change log for details.

    • Python Software Foundation: 2018 in review!
    • Python Bytes: #112 Don’t use the greater than sign in programming
    • Learning (and teaching) Python in a vacuum
    • Knative: Deep Dive, from Installation to Deployment
    • Teaching to read Haskell

      Half a year ago, I left the normal academic career path and joined the DFINITY Foundation, a non-profit start-up that builds a blockchain-based “Internet Computer” which will, if everything goes well, provide a general purpose, publicly owned, trustworthy service hosting platform.

      DFINITY heavily bets on Haskell as a programming language to quickly develop robust and correct programs (and it was my Haskell experience that opened this door for me). DFINITY also builds heavily on innovative cryptography and cryptographic protocols to make the Internet Computer work, and has assembled an impressive group of crypto researchers.

      Crypto is hard, and so is implementing crypto. How do we know that the Haskell code correctly implements what the cryptography researchers designed? Clearly, our researchers will want to review the code and make sure that everything is as intended.

      But surprisingly, not everybody is Haskell-literate. This is where I come in, given that I have taught Haskell classes before, and introduce Haskell to those who do not know it well enough yet.

    • Reduce video frame rate with Python and FFmpeg
    • The State Of C++20 Features In GCC’s libstdc++

      With GCC 9 being released in just a short time and being now onto the final stage of development, besides fixing regressions the developers are also getting the documentation in order.

      As part of getting the documentation squared away for the upcoming GCC 9.1 release, committed today was the documentation showing the status of the C++20 support within their libstdc++ C++ standard library.

      Besides the GNU Compiler Collection itself moving along with its preliminary C++20 features, the libstdc++ library has also been working to stay in-step as new functionality gets worked out for this next planned update to the C++ programming language.

    • GCC 9 Compiler Tuning Benchmarks At Various Optimization Levels, Vectorize Options

      With the mention earlier this week of GCC potentially enabling the vectorize options at the -O2 optimization level, I carried out some fresh GCC 9 development benchmarks at various optimization levels for reference.


  • Ice Matters: A Meditation on Snow

    Most speak of floods in the age of climate change, when the cooked and the roasted take precedence over the snowed in and the freezing, and the parliaments of lost islands shall be convened in the sea. Comparatively cruel fates should never be entertained, but the difference here is worth noting. Flooded islands lost to the rise of sea levels; submerged hopes done by the relentless pounding of storms and water; destroyed civilisations drowned by the supposed folly of the human species. These take a privileged if morbid position in the discussion on environmental catastrophe and climate change.

    The more neglected aspect of modern discussion is the ice factor, and with that, its attendant literature. The chill produces its own mental states, a specific way of seeing. Away from the humidity and the heat, from the tropical sighs and the going-troppo sense of the heat lies another form of threat, beauty and appreciation. Call it ice, cold, the freeze.

    History is replete with its minor and major ice ages, its cold snaps that do last beyond the minor calculations of a meteorologist. Cold, in short, makes history, altering the course of wars and civilisations. The Little Ice Age (sometime between the 16th to 19th centuries) features as political weaponry and historical debate, a period that managed to fill diaries and scripts with concern and speculation about glacial doom or imminent redemption for the human species.

    Predictions and assessments become matters of concern and conjecture. Martin Mlynczak of NASA’s Langley Research Centre suggested last September that the sun’s inactivity could lead to the lowering of temperatures of the thermosphere (a layering of the earth’s atmosphere at some 300 miles above the surface). “High above the Earth’s surface, near the edge of space, our atmosphere is losing heat energy. If current trends continue, it could soon set a Space Age record for cold.” This led, erroneously, to the suggestion that a “grim ‘mini Ice Age’,” would make its presence felt. “The ‘imminent mini ice age’ myth,” writes environmental scientist Dana Nuccitelli with tired resignation for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, “rears its ugly head in the conservative media like clockwork every year or two.”

    From the solidity of ice, its image of hardened bodies, snow bitten parts and paralysis, comes that poetic, if overly sentimentalised spin-off: snow. Snow remains a source of poetic reflection, a linguistic and cultural house of richness. The Danish author, Peter Høeg, delved into the theme of snow as the backdrop to understanding a crime in Smilla’s Sense of Snow. Snow acts as the illustrative vehicle and device. “I think more highly of snow and ice than love,” reflects the protagonist, Smilla Jaspersen. “I have a good relationship with ice.” Ice is a measure of existence: it comes in the form of field ice, frazil ice, pancake and porridge. Inuit terms for snow become a matter of interest: qanik covers large flakes; apuhiniq frozen drifts. To understand snow and its forms is to understand life.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Memorial Sloan Kettering Curbs Executives’ Ties to Industry After Conflict-of-Interest Scandals

      Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, one of the world’s leading research institutions, announced on Friday that it would bar its top executives from serving on corporate boards of drug and health care companies that, in some cases, had paid them hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

      Hospital officials also told the center’s staff that the executive board had made permanent a series of reforms designed to limit the ways in which its top executives and leading researchers could profit from work developed at Memorial Sloan Kettering, a nonprofit with a broad social mission that admits about 23,500 cancer patients each year.

      The conflicts at Memorial Sloan Kettering, unearthed by The New York Times and ProPublica, have had a rippling effect on other leading cancer institutions across the country. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, both of whose executives sit on corporate boards, are among the institutions reconsidering their policies on financial ties.

      In the wake of reports about board memberships held by Memorial Sloan Kettering officials last fall, Dr. Craig B. Thompson, the hospital’s chief executive, resigned in October from the board of Merck. The company, which makes the blockbuster cancer drug Keytruda, had paid him about $300,000 in 2017 for his service.

      The announcement on Friday was one of several steps the cancer center said it was considering as part of an institutionwide overhaul of its corporate relationships and conflict-of-interest policies. The cancer center has hired Deloitte as well as two law firms, Ropes & Gray and Debevoise & Plimpton, to help conduct its reviews.

    • Health Care Industry Spends $30B A Year Pushing Its Wares, From Drugs To Stem Cell Treatment

      Hoping to earn its share of the $3.5 trillion health care market, the medical industry is pouring more money than ever into advertising its products — from high-priced prescriptions to do-it-yourself genetic tests and unapproved stem cell treatments.

      Spending on health care marketing nearly doubled from 1997 to 2016, soaring to at least $30 billion a year, according to a study published Tuesday in JAMA.

      “Marketing drives more testing. It drives more treatments. It’s a big part of why health care is so expensive, because it’s the fancy, high-tech stuff things that get marketed,” said Steven Woloshin, co-director of the Center for Medicine and Media at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. His study captured only a portion of the many ways that drug companies, hospitals and labs promote themselves.

      Advertising doesn’t just persuade people to pick one brand over another, said Woloshin. Sophisticated campaigns make people worry about diseases they don’t have and ask for drugs or exams they don’t need.

    • Warning: A ‘Shrinking Window’ of Usable Groundwater

      e’re living beyond our means when it comes to groundwater. That’s probably not news to everyone, but new research suggests that, deep underground in a number of key aquifers in some parts of the United States, we may have much less water than previously thought.

      “We found that the average depth of water resources across the country was about half of what people had previously estimated,” says Jennifer McIntosh, a distinguished scholar and professor of hydrology and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona.

      McIntosh and her colleagues — who published a new study about these aquifers in November in Environmental Research Letters — took a different approach to assessing groundwater than other research, which has used satellites to measure changes in groundwater storage. For example, a 2015 study looked at 37 major aquifers across the world and found some were being depleted faster than they were being replenished, including in California’s agriculturally intensive Central Valley.

      McIntosh says those previous studies revealed a lot about how we’re depleting water resources from the top down through extraction, such as pumping for agriculture and water supplies, especially in places like California.

      But McIntosh and three other researchers wanted to look at groundwater from a different perspective: They examined how we’re using water resources from the bottom up.

      The study may help close the gap about what we know and don’t know regarding how much water is available deep underground, as well as its quality.

    • Single Payer Not Single Payer

      The corporate class answers — not single payer.

      The people say — single payer — get rid of all the other payers. Get rid of the insurance companies. And while you’re at it, get rid of the health maintenance organizations and accountable care organizations and value based programs and for profit hospitals feeding at the public trough..

      The corporate class says — keep those corporations at the trough.

      The corporate class says — better yet, public option for all.

      The people say — we want Canadian style health care.

      The corporate class says — Medicare buy in.

      The people say — everybody in, nobody out.

      The corporate class says — Medicare Advantage for everyone.

      The people say — single payer.

      The corporate class throws up a smoke screen with — universal health care.

      The corporate class wants anything but single payer.

      Why? Because single payer threatens corporate power.

    • Shooting the Messengers: How Plants are Unfairly Blamed for Wasteful Human Water Practices in the U.S. West

      When the subject is a particular “invasive” plant species, common assumptions about its undesirable impacts are not always scientifically documented or even true. Add to this an inherent bias in the field of invasion biology for interpreting nearly all effects of non-native plants as detrimental without considering the possibility of positive outcomes and you’re sure to get villains nearly every time.

      Let’s look at two well-known examples of so-called “invasive” plants that are under the gun: Tamarisk, aka Saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) and Russian Olive, aka Oleaster (Elaeagnus angustifolia). In the western United States, these two trees are now the third and fourth most frequently occurring woody riparian plants, and the second and fifth most abundant species along rivers. To eradicate them would entail destroying a significant amount of healthy vegetation (with no little amount of collateral damage to other flora) and would incur a hefty cost. Congress authorized $80 million for Saltcedar removal between 2005 and 2009, which included herbicide, but that is pennies compared to what would be needed for everything.[1] So the case for removal needs to be strong.

    • The Opioid Crisis, Made in the USA

      Writer Chris McGreal and host Robert Scheer zero in on the book “American Overdose: The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts” in this week’s episode of “Scheer Intelligence.”

      Scheer and McGreal, the book’s author and a correspondent for The Guardian and other news outlets, discuss how the opioid addiction crisis is largely an American epidemic. As McGreal notes, “Eighty-five percent of the world’s prescription painkillers are consumed in the United States, which is five percent of the world’s population.”

      Scheer and McGreal discuss how these legally prescribed drugs are so destructive, and arrive at “another unique American aspect” in play, which is that in the U.S., “health care is an industry … in which patients are not seen as people but as clients.”

      Big Pharma looms large in this crisis. According to McGreal, the pharmaceutical industry “persuaded the medical establishment that everybody needed access to these drugs, and so they got them inserted into hospitals through a program called ‘Pain as the 5th Vital Sign.’ ” And then there’s the Food and Drug Administration, which has lost sight of its stated mission of protecting consumers.

      These and other factors—such as insurance companies cutting corners to cut costs, as well as patients conditioned to see themselves as clients and to follow a “pill for every ill” mentality—have exacted an immense cost, whether gauged in terms of health or wealth, in the blatant pursuit of profit. All the symptoms point to a sick system, with the drug industry free, at its heart, from anything resembling effective interventions from government or consumer sectors.

    • Healthy Food Just Got a Big Boost in the New Farm Bill

      Fresh fruits and vegetables just got a whole lot more affordable for people who use SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly known as food stamps. The 2018 Farm Bill passed both houses of Congress with bipartisan support and was signed into law Dec. 20 by President Trump—although SNAP’s funding beyond February depends on Congress and the president enacting a new budget and ending the government shutdown. If that happens, the new law allocates $250 million over five years to healthy food incentive programs, such as Double Up Food Bucks.

      According to Oran Hesterman of the nonprofit Fair Food Network, which launched the Double Up program in five Detroit farmers markets in 2009, the simplicity and benefits of the program have helped it spread rapidly. It works like this: When someone spends SNAP money on fruits and vegetables, the program matches the purchase, so $10 of SNAP money buys $20 worth of fresh produce. The buyer, farmers, and local economy all benefit.

      The program had a breakthrough in the 2014 Farm Bill, which allocated $100 million for healthy food incentive programs. Those programs can now be found nationwide, with the Double Up model in place in 26 states.

    • When Medicine Makes Patients Sicker

      Despite the jackhammer-like rhythm of a mechanical ventilator, Alicia Moreno had dozed off in a chair by her 1-year-old’s hospital bed, when a doctor woke her with some bad news: The common stool softener her son, Anderson, was given months earlier had been contaminated with the bacterium Burkholderia cepacia.

      Suddenly, Anderson’s rocky course made medical sense. B. cepacia was the same unusual bacterium mysteriously found in the boy’s respiratory tract, temporarily taking him off the list for a heart transplant. The same bacterium resurfaced after his transplant and combined with a flu-like illness to infect his lungs. He’s been on a ventilator ever since.

      The tainted over-the-counter medicine, docusate sodium, routinely prescribed to nearly every hospitalized patient to avert constipation, caused Anderson to suffer “serious and dangerous life-threatening injuries,” a lawsuit filed by his family alleges. The drug was eventually recalled, but only after a Texas hospital staff noticed an uptick in B. cepacia infections, prompting a six-month investigation that led back to the tainted drug and its Florida manufacturing plant.

  • Security

    • A DNS hijacking wave is targeting companies at an almost unprecedented scale

      The attacks, which security firm FireEye said have been active since January 2017, use three different ways to manipulate the Domain Name System records that allow computers to find a company’s computers on the Internet. By replacing the legitimate IP address for a domain such as example.com with a booby-trapped address, attackers can cause example.com to carry out a variety of malicious activities, including harvesting user’s login credentials. The techniques detected by FireEye are particularly effective, because they allow attackers to obtain valid TLS certificates that prevent browsers from detecting the hijacking.

    • Worries mount as cybersecurity agency struggles amid shutdown

      Former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials and lawmakers fear the shutdown, now in its 20th day, could have both short- and long-term effects, hurting the new Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) efforts to get off the ground and potentially pushing existing talent out the door.

    • Underclocking the ESP8266 Leads to WIFI Weirdness

      Now it was time for another of those basic questions. What would happen if you did the same thing to a second ESP8266? Much to his surprise, [CNLohr] discovered that the two devices could still communicate successfully as long as their BBPLL clock speed was the same. From an outsider’s perspective it looked like gibberish, but to the two ESPs which had been slowed by the same amount, everything worked as expected even though the 802.11 standards say it shouldn’t.

      So what can you do with this? The most obvious application is a “stealth” WiFi connection between ESP8266s which wouldn’t show up to normal devices, a communications channel invisible to all but the most astute eavesdropper. [CNLohr] has made all the source code to pull this trick off public on GitHub, and it should be interesting to see what kind of applications (if any) hackers find for this standards-breaking behavior.

    • Security updates for Friday
    • [Older] What’s a certificate?

      Let’s assume that two people, Alice and Bob, want to exchange some secret information. Let’s go further, and say that Bob is actually Bobcorp, Alice’s bank, and she wants to be able send and receive her bank statements in encrypted form. There are well established ways to do this, and the easiest way is for them to agree on a shared key that they use to both encrypt and decrypt each others’ messages. How do they agrees this key? Luckily, there are some clever ways in which they can manage a “handshake” between they two of them, even if they’ve not communicated before, which ends in their both having a copy of the key, without the chance of anybody else getting hold of it.

    • Metasploit Framework 5.0 Released!

      Metasploit 5.0 offers a new data service, introduces fresh evasion capabilities, supports multiple languages, and builds upon the Framework’s ever-growing repository of world-class offensive security content. We’re able to continue innovating and expanding in no small part thanks to the many open source users and developers who make it a priority to share their knowledge with the community. You have our gratitude.

      We are happy to announce the release of Metasploit 5.0, the culmination of work by the Metasploit team over the past year. As the first major Metasploit release since 2011, Metasploit 5.0 brings many new features, as well as a fresh release cadence. Metasploit’s new database and automation APIs, evasion modules and libraries, expanded language support, improved performance, and ease-of-use lay the groundwork for better teamwork capabilities, tool integration, and exploitation at scale.

    • Microsoft Deactivated Some Windows 7 PCs With an Update

      Some Windows 7 admins recently started their days with a rude awakening. They arrived to find that many, in some cases thousands, of PCs were no longer activated. Quick sleuthing determined the problem was recent Windows updates, KB4480870 and KB4480960.

    • How to Fingerprint Unlock Windows PC with Android Device

      There’s a lot of ways to control your PC with your Android device. Remote viewers, apps that act like keyboards for your PC, etc. But you still need to manually log-in your computer with your keyboard. Or do you?

      An app created not too long ago allows you to unlock your Windows PC using the fingerprint function on your phone. It supports x86 and x64 PCs for Windows Vista, 7, 8, and 10. It requires your phone and Windows PC be on the same network, of course, though Wi-Fi tethering counts.

    • Side-Channel Attack Targets Windows, Linux
    • Linux system faces a couple of memory corruption bugs
    • Security Think Tank: How to use SDN, containers and encryption – and some warnings

      Now that the Christmas and New Year festivities are finished, it is time take a serious look at the networks that underpin your company’s activities and how to prevent rogue code (malware, ransomware, viruses) from running amok. Can software-defined networks and containerisation of services provide a valuable helping hand?

      If you are running virtualised servers in your network, you have probably found that it is easier to create a new virtual server running a dedicated application than running multiple applications on one server.

    • GNU Binutils load_specific_debug_section Integer Overflow Vulnerability [CVE-2018-20671]

      A vulnerability in the load_specific_debug_section function in GNU Binutils could allow a local attacker to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (DoS) condition on a targeted system.The vulnerability is due to insufficient validation of user-supplied input by the load_specific_debug_section function, as defined in the objdump.c source code file of the affected software. An attacker could exploit this vulnerability by executing the objdump command to cause an integer overflow condition, which could trigger a heap-based buffer overflow condition. A successful exploit could allow the attacker to execute arbitrary code or cause a DoS condition.Proof-of-concept (PoC) code that demonstrates an exploit of this vulnerability is publicly available.The vendor has confirmed the vulnerability and released a software patch.

    • GNU Binutils demangle_template Function Integer Overflow Vulnerability [CVE-2018-20673]
    • Investigate and fight cyberattacks with SIFT Workstation

      SANS has a smorgasbord of DFIR training, and we also offer a free Linux distribution for DFIR work. Our SANS Investigative Forensic Toolkit (SIFT) Workstation is a powerful collection of tools for examining forensic artifacts related to file system, registry, memory, and network investigations. It is also available bundled as a virtual machine (VM), and includes everything one needs to conduct any in-depth forensic investigation or response investigation.

    • Supreme Court refuses to hear Fiat Chrysler appeal in Jeep hacking case

      A year later, they were back to show what they could have done if they’d continued to work on the attack in secret, as malicious hackers might have done. Namely, in spite of Fiat-Chrysler’s patch, Miller and Valasek came up with yet another attack in which they managed to spin a steering wheel 90 degrees while the car was traveling at 60 mph. Another year, another Jeep stuck in a ditch next to a cornfield.

      The plaintiffs in the class action suit, filed against the US subsidiary of Fiat-Chrysler and the manufacturer of the uConnect software, contend that the company knew about the vulnerability for three years and failed to fix it.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Anything War Can Do, Peace Can Do Better

      William James’ idea of the need to create a moral equivalent of war first struck me, decades ago, when I read about it, as about as sensible an idea as inventing a new way to punch yourself in the face. This was not purely because times have changed, because weapons have become more powerful, because the earth’s climate is collapsing, or because nonviolent activism has become widely understood as requiring courage, sacrifice, camarderie, dedication, discipline, and strength, without any of the counterproductive murder, maiming, destroying, occupying, hating, looting, pillaging, or stupidity.

      My reaction to the idea that we need to invent something else as good as war to replace its wondrous benefits was also based on the understanding, available to any child, of how unfathomably better peace is than war.


      In a town I used to live in, Siena, Italy, the town hall has in it a series of frescoes by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, often decribed as depicting good and bad governance. But that makes one think of a contrast between your admired local mayor and, say, the U.S. Congress. The major contrast depicted is in fact that of peace and war, which are literally and symbolically the content (the figure of peace is labeled with the word “Pax”) as well as the old name of the painting. We see peace in the city and countryside, and war in the city and countryside. And, no matter how much people love to shout “No justice, no peace” the reality depicted here is that in the absence of peace, any question of justice is ludicrous.

      Gittings describes the city at peace. It includes no soldiers. “[T]he houses are well kept with flower pots in their windows; there are craftsmen at work, a tailor, a cobbler, a goldsmith, and a wine shop with people playing chess, while the fields outside are well cultivated, with a watermill, sheaves ready for threshing, farmers driving in their pigs to the market, and a hunting party out with their dogs.”

      Gittings on the city and countryside at war: “[B]elow the flying figure of Fear, we see a city with empty streets and rough soldiers, houses in disrepair, women being raped, and, outside the city gates, abandoned fields, buildings set alight, and looters at work. The horned figure of Tyranny rules over the scene, with Justice bound at his feet.”

      The purpose of contrasting peace with war on the walls of the room where Siena’s elected officials made public policy was the same as the purpose of hanging Picasso’s Guernica inside the United Nations building in New York (while the opposite purpose is served by covering that painting up during votes on backing wars).

    • Dealbreakers: The Democrats, Trump and His Wall

      After all the votes were counted and the dust finally settled, it became clear that Democrats scored huge victories in the midterm elections last November. This wasn’t clear right away because some of the contests in “red” states were close, but the “blue wave” actually did materialize.

      Even for those of us who thought at the time that the only good thing about the Democratic Party is that the Republican Party is seriously worse, this was good news.

      It was bad news for Donald Trump. He wasn’t technically on the ballot and neither were the family members and others he turns to for advice or the ignoramuses he dug up to do the actual governing when malign neglect just isn’t enough, but they all lost big time.

      What is bad for them is good for the nation and the world. Trump could start a nuclear holocaust in a fit of pique, and his environmental policies are nearly as dangerous. His presidency poses a clear and present danger to life on earth “as we know it.”

      The situation was dire before he came on the scene, but he made the problems he inherited worse – not just quantitatively, but qualitatively too. Hegel was right about quality emerging out of quantity.

    • No Mere ‘Stunt’: Experts Warn Trump Emergency Declaration Would Spark ‘Constitutional Crisis’

      “This is a constitutional crisis, plain and simple,” Stephen Miles, director of Win Without War, wrote in a series of tweets on Thursday following Trump’s brief visit to the border, where he said he will “most likely” make good on his threats to declare a national emergency.

      “The constitution gives Congress solely the power to appropriate funds,” Miles added. “They have done so and Trump is planning to unilaterally take those funds and use them for another purpose for his own political agenda… If he can claim anything is a crisis to get what he wants, there is no meaningful balance of power.”


      “What this all adds up to is a potential crisis much graver than whatever immigration emergencies the president has in mind: A legally ignorant president forcing our troops to choose between his commands and the rule of law in a petty political struggle over a domestic political question,” Ackerman concluded.

      While it is not at all clear when or even if the president will declare a national emergency, Kristen Clarke—president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights Under Law—echoed Miles and others in arguing that the move would spark a constitutional crisis.

      “If Trump invokes ‘emergency’ powers to build his wall, this would thrust the nation into a constitutional crisis,” Clarke wrote. “No president in the last two centuries has invoked emergency power to fund a policy goal after failing to secure approval from Congress.”

    • Richard Dearlove Helped Blair Kill Millions. The Security Services are a Danger to Our State and Society

      When Sir Richard Dearlove was Head of MI6, the Blairites adored him as he approved the lying Dossier on Iraqi WMD which led to wars, invasion, the death of millions and the destabilisation which continues to wreck the entire Middle East. Now, as he writes to Tory constituency chairman advocating the hardest of hard Brexits, had they any capacity for self-reflection the Blairites would probably be thinking it was after all not such a great move of Tony to appoint the hardest of hard right nutters to head our overseas intelligence service.

      In my last post, I noted how evidence against me was actually manufactured when I opposed the policy of torture and extraordinary rendition. I have explained ad nauseam that, having been in a senior position in the FCO at the time, I know that Blair’s dossier on Weapons of Mass Destruction was a tissue of deliberate lies, and not just an honest mistake; furthermore it is impossible to read the Chilcot report without coming to that conclusion.

      The UK has security services which operate dishonestly and illegally. Interestingly, I cannot say that they are currently out of the control of the UK government; the evidence is rather they are willing to engage in every dirty and dishonest trick at the behest of corrupt politicians like Blair.

      Dearlove regularly features in the media shilling for maximum Cold War. His letter yesterday on the dangers of intelligence and security co-operation with the EU, as undermining NATO and the UK/US/Five Eyes intelligence arrangements, is simply barking mad. There is no evidence of this whatsoever. He makes no attempt to describe the mechanism by which the dire consequences he predicts will follow. Amusingly enough, although those consequences are dire to Dearlove, to me they are extremely desirable. If I thought that May’s withdrawal agreement would undermine NATO and the CIA, I would be out on the streets campaigning for it.

    • Bordering on Fascism: Scholars Reflect on Dangerous Times

      My fellow U.S.-Americans, we stand at a moment of no small peril.

      Contrary to much of what one hears from liberals, Donald Trump’s “insane” border-wall gambit may be something of a winning play for him.

      Yes, the whole stunt is built on a fetid pile of falsehoods. The level of bullshit emanating from Trump’s mouth and Twitter feed on this matter is remarkable even by his standards.

      There is NO reasonable argument for constructing a 1000-mile steel (or concrete) wall along the U.S. border with Mexico – a boundary already possessing 654 miles of existing barrier. There is NO “national security” crisis at the U.S.-Mexican border. There is NOTHING remotely like an influx of terrorists across the border. The U.S. did NOT detain “nearly 4000 suspected terrorists” at the southern border in 2018.There is NO increase in attempted illegal entry, which is at a 20-year low. Building such a wall will do NOTHING to make the United States safer from terrorist attacks, dangerous drugs, and gang violence.

      The federal government is NOT currently “building the wall.” “A lot of the wall is [NOT] already built.” Existing southern border barriers have NOT in fact caused “declining illegal entry.”

      The two migrant children who died in federal custody near the border were NOT “already very sick” when U.S. officials became responsible for them.

    • Who or What Brought Down Dag Hammarskjöld?
    • The Secret Logistics of America’s Global Deep State

      On December 29th, Sillitoe had headlined “Guarded warehouse near airport and mysterious cargos from Baghdad; what is the US embassy in Helsinki up to?” and he opened:

      Why does the US Embassy in Helsinki need a big warehouse near Malmi Airport and what are the contents of thousands of kilograms of cargo sent to Helsinki from Baghdad?

      A dilapidated warehouse in Malmi is being used by the US Embassy for unknown operations after a Wikileaks release revealed its location.

      The anonymous looking building on Takoraudantie is notable only for the new 427 meter perimeter fence that according to the Wikileaks’ database was ordered by the US Embassy in April 2018.

      Situated across the street from the main entrance of Malmi Airport, the warehouse with its 3 meter high security fence appears an unlikely location for official embassy business. Neighbouring companies include a car yard and a tyre warehouse.

      Helsinki Times visited the perimeters this weekend. Security personnel, young Finns in uniforms with American flags on their arms, appeared nervous and suspicious when asked to comment on the warehouse. …

    • Media Worried US Won’t Occupy Syria Forever

      In December, President Donald Trump said that he planned to withdraw the US troops from Syria, which number between 2,000 and 4,000. Trump’s claim was widely condemned in corporate media, demonstrating the commentariat’s shared belief in American benevolence toward other peoples, in Washington’s alleged right and duty to decide other countries’ fates, and in the forever war the US supposedly has to wage in the Middle East.

    • United States Doesn’t Even Make Top 20 on Global Democracy Index

      A new index released this week offers a sobering look at how democracy is faring in the United States.

      According to the 2018 edition of The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index, the U.S. doesn’t even make the list of top 20—its demonstrably “flawed democracy” notching it the 25th spot.

      The ranking is based on 60 indicators spanning five interrelated categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture. Each category gets a 0-10 score, with the final score being the average of those five.

      Topping out the index are Norway, Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand, and Denmark. They are each declared “full democracies,” as their scores, all above 9.22, were easily above the 8.2 threshold. With a final score of 7.96, the United States, in contrast, earned the “flawed democracy” label. The country’s highest score was 8.22, which it earned back in 2006 and again in 2008.

      North America still holds the claim for the highest average score of any region, but that’s thanks to Canada’s 9.15, which landed it the number 6 spot overall. Twenty countries (12 percent) were designated as full democracies, 14 of which are located in Western Europe.

    • Is There an End to the Tragic Fate of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon?

      The influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanon that started in 2011 following the outbreak of the Syrian civil war has created a serious problem not only for Lebanon but the refugees themselves. Lebanon currently has the largest number of refugees per capita in the world, with one refugee per four Lebanese. The stress on Lebanon’s health and social services has been considerable and demands urgent and practical solutions.

      Crowded conditions in the camps favor the spreading of respiratory and intestinal infections, particularly among children. Chronic conditions are common among older adults, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory infections. Essential medicines for chronic conditions are frequently lacking. A high prevalence of depression and cognitive disorders is frequent among the elder refugees.

      Although both the Lebanese government and the Lebanese people have shown considerable understanding and willingness to help, the problems created by the influx of refugees has reached such a dimension that it has strained the relationships between the Syrians and the Lebanese and also between their governments.

      The statistics are numbing. UNHCR, the UN Office for Refugees, estimates in 1 million the number of Syrian refugees who have been registered in Lebanon in 2016. However, this figure is probably an underestimate, since the UNHCR has stopped registering new refugees since May 2015, and doesn’t include individuals waiting for registration.

      More recent estimates identify 1,500,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon. This number includes 31,502 Palestinian refugees who were living in Syria. Although the majority of Syrians now living in Lebanon are Arabs, various ethnic and religious minorities are included among them, such as Syrian Armenians, Syrian Turkmen and Syrian Kurds.

    • Peace Cannot Be Achieved by Force, It Can Only Be Achieved By Understanding

      On Sunday I decided to push myself to step out of my comfort zone even more than I usually do. So I made the effort to go to Temple B’nai Israel in order to engage with the multireligious and mutilracial group of 22 Oklahomans who traveled to a tumultuous part of the world, Israel and the Palestinian territories to explore the intricacies and complexity of the seemingly unending conflict. The Israel-Palestine conflict has made people on both sides of the divide despondent, bitter, resentful, and suspicious of one another. But yesterday, all I heard from people of the three Abrahamic traditions, Jews, Christians, and Muslims, was the emphasis on humanity, restoration of dignity, human rights, and the revivification of democracy, which would enable the two sides to build bridges across religious, political, and ideological divides.

      One of the first travelers I talked with was Michael Korenblit, President of the Respect Diversity Foundation. Instead of a casual conversation or debate, I asked Michael two specific questions to which he responded eloquently. The first question I posed was, Given the increasing polarization in today’s global world, Is it possible to stop demonizing the “other against whom the “self” is defined?

    • Peace in Afghanistan Will Come at a Price

      The U.S. is now trying desperately to pull its forces from Afghanistan. Seventeen years of war is long enough. The human toll has been heavy, with more than 2,200 American lives lost and 20,000 soldiers wounded. This figure doesn’t include the Afghan and Pakistani men, women and children who have suffered. Imperial powers still have to learn that it is easy to jump into another country that is weak and unstable—but to get out is a tougher job. And waging war in Afghanistan has never been a cakewalk for any outsider.

      Moves are afoot there to work out a compromise, but the U.S. government has no understanding of how the present moves will change the diplomatic contours of Southwest Asia, the hub of America’s longest war in history. An American negotiator of Afghan origin, Zalmay Khalilzad, has been talking to the Taliban since August 2018.

      Although the United States has been a major actor in this arc of instability and conflict, it is now turning to regional powers for help in pulling its chestnuts out of the fire. Donald Trump has done his utmost to revive the stalled peace process first launched in 2011 by the Obama administration. But the current president’s ham-handed approach has burdened him with problems of his own making.

      Not realizing the sensitivities of the situation, Trump went on the warpath against Pakistan soon after he entered the White House in 2017. Having decided that Pakistan was the real culprit—“the wrong enemy” (to quote Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan) working against American interests in Afghanistan—Trump proceeded to adopt a mixed policy toward the Afghan conflict that has left him blowing hot and cold.

    • Africa’s Place in the Radical Imagination

      How does a geographic area occupy both a physical existence and a figment of our imagination, now even further tangled in Wakanda fantasies? What is the cultural, political, affective, discursive space in which impression or illusion (or desire) takes primacy over materiality?

      Our leftist politics are as much an act of generating new futurities as they are destroying and remaking new structures and/or repurposing existing ones. But often, in the process of dreaming that constitutes our radicalisms, we retreat into ahistorical and erasing revisionisms as opposed to situating our political visions within some concrete foundation. Within radical politics, Africa often exists far more comfortably as an abstracted symbol, a site of the ultimate myth-making within political imaginaries — a phenomenon to which those in the African diaspora are not immune — than it does as a geographically bounded plexus of messy and sometimes contradictory material realities.

    • Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard Is Running for President With Focus on ‘War and Peace’

      The 37-year-old Iraq War veteran was born in American Samoa and is the first Hindu to serve in Congress. Prior to being elected to the U.S. House in 2012, Gabbard served as a Honolulu City Council member and member of the Hawaii House of Representatives.

      As many political observers speculated, it seems Gabbard intends to make American wars a primary focus of her bid for the Democratic Party’s nomination in what is expected to be a crowded field.

    • Pompeo’s US Jingoism and Anti-Iran Warmongering Rejected by Mideast Public

      Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a major and extremely embarrassing foreign policy speech in Cairo on Thursday, which is probably inconsequential since his major talking points departed from the positions of his president, Trump. Also, aside from some generals and kings and princes, nobody in the region agrees with anything he said.

      Pompeo’s message to Egypt is that the US plays a positive role in the Middle East and that Obama was wrong to attempt to get out of the region and re-balance toward the Pacific Rim. The US, Pompeo implied, should have taken a stronger hand during the Arab Spring to keep the Muslim religious Right from coming to power, and should have forestalled the rise of ISIL in Iraq and Syria by staying in Iraq. The US, he said, does not want to occupy any country against its will, in contrast to Iran. (Fact check on Pompeo: Iran is not occupying any countries in the Middle East but has given some military assistance to Syria at the request of Damascus. The US aggressively invaded Iraq without a casus belli and occupied it for nearly a decade against its will.) Pompeo attempted to whip up anti-Iran sentiments as part of his vision of a grand alliance of the US and the Arab world (and, shhh, Israel) against Iran and Hizbullah.

      Pompeo’s is the Christian Zionist strain of American foreign policy. It is not shared by his boss, Donald J. Trump, and it in important respects departs from the dovish position of Pompeo’s main financial backers, the Koch Brothers (big oil billionaires), whose Cato Institute probably would advise against deepening US military involvement in the Middle East in order to push back Iran.

      We don’t have flash polls in the Middle East so as to be able to tell how Pompeo’s speech was received. But we do have some good recent polling by Zogby in 8 countries of the Middle East, and it doesn’t suggest that the Egyptian public agrees with some of Pompeo’s assertions.

    • Can Trump Declare a National Emergency to Build the Wall?

      So that’s actually two different questions. The first question is, can President Trump declare a national emergency when there’s no actual emergency? The second question is, does that mean he can build the wall? It’s important to separate those two questions.

      In terms of whether he can concoct and declare a national emergency, it’s certainly an abuse of power, and particularly in this instance. Not only is there no emergency, it’s anything but an emergency. It’s really business as usual, except maybe a bit better in terms of the levels of illegal border crossing. But, also, the way in which he’s trying to use emergency powers, which is to get around the expressed will of Congress, is particularly offensive.

      Congress has made clear that it is not willing to authorize or to fund this wall. So to use emergency powers to get around that, he’s not only concocting a state of emergency, he’s doing so to really undermine the constitutional allocation of powers. That’s tremendously problematic.

      But when you get to the legal question, then you have to look at the National Emergency Act, which Congress passed in 1976. And when Congress wrote that law, it chose not to define “national emergency” and not to create any criteria or requirements that had to be met.

      For that reason, even though it’s clear to you and me and to most reasonable people, that there is no emergency here, many judges might be reluctant to say this doesn’t qualify as a national emergency.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Corporate media smears WikiLeaks and Julian Assange

      Virtually identical articles were featured this week in some of the most prominent publications around the world, including the London Times, the Washington Post and the Australian. All of them centred on personal smears against Assange and attempts to downplay the immense threat to democratic rights posed by the US-led vendetta against him.
      The pretext for the venomous outpouring was the publication of a confidential email sent by WikiLeaks to media organisations, rebutting 140 falsehoods about Assange that have appeared in the press. The document demanded that the recipients of the email refrain from presenting the defamatory statements as facts.
      A version of the email was first published online on January 7 by Emma Best, a self-styled “transparency activist.” Best’s “activism” has included numerous denunciations of WikiLeaks that echo the talking points of the US government and its intelligence agencies. She came to media prominence by “leaking” private online discussions between WikiLeaks supporters last year.
      The tenor of the coverage that followed Best’s blog post is summed up by a sampling of media headlines: “Julian Assange fails the smell test” (Washington Post), “WikiLeaks Doesn’t Want Reporters Covering Julian Assange’s ‘Poor Personal Hygiene’” (Observer), “WikiLeaks wants people to stop saying Julian Assange bleaches his hair, eats with his hands, or has bad hygiene” (Business Insider Australia), and “WikiLeaks doesn’t want you to say Julian Assange lives in a cupboard ‘under the stairs’” (Mashable).

    • Julian Assange ‘is living in conditions akin to a Stasi-era dissident’ as visitors to Ecuadorian embassy have their phones checked and all conversations recorded says friend of the Wikileaks founder

      Julian Assange is living in ‘conditions akin to a political dissident in Stasi-era Germany’ as supporters raise fears about his residency at the Ecuadorian embassy.

      A visitor of the WikiLeaks founder claimed she had her phone checked and all of their conversations recorded during trip to see him in London.

      American friend and political commentator Cassandra Fairbanks said going to the embassy was ‘more invasive than visiting someone in a federal penitentiary’.

      She said the pair were forced to ‘pass notes’ amid fears that their conversations were being taped by the Ecuadorians ‘under pressure from the US’.

    • WikiLeaks’ Assange should surrender to UK rather than stay at embassy indefinitely – Ecuador FM

      While securing safety assurances from the British side would be ideal, “you cannot continue insisting on something that will not happen,” Valencia stressed, noting that Ecuador believes that it will be “most positive” for Assange to leave the diplomatic compound and face the British law – and by extension a possible extradition to the US.

      Assange has been stranded at the Ecuadoran embassy in London since 2012 when the diplomatic mission shielded him from a UK court trial for skipping bail. The move was meant to protect him from possible extradition to the US, where, Assange believes, he would face an unfair trial and a long detention for publishing American secrets. The concern was fueled last year after court papers in the US in an unrelated case mentioned a secret indictment against Assange.

      The WikiLeaks editor was granted political asylum and Ecuadoran citizenship by the Latin American country’s previous president Rafael Correa. But under the new leadership of President Lenín Moreno Ecuador sought rapprochement with the US, which apparently affected the conditions for Assange. He was eventually denied means of communication and visiting rights, effectively turning his embassy stay into solitary confinement.

    • 1 – Under the News Radar 2018 – The fight to save Julian Assange

      The first big news stories that was missed in 2018 was the fight to protect Julian Assange.

      Led by the President of the Internet Party, Suzie Dawson, the fight to keep Assange from being kicked out of the Ecuadorian Embassy and get his internet connection back on occurred without the mainstream media even bothering to cover it most of the time.

      Assange matters because he is one of the greatest investigative journalist whistleblowers on the planet, and his continued confinement is akin to torture.

    • Ecuador Believes Assange Should Surrender to UK Authorities – Foreign Minister

      Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Jose Valencia suggested that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has found shelter at Ecuador’s embassy in London, should surrender to the UK authorities.

      The whistleblower has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy since 2012. The UK authorities have maintained a warrant for Assange’s arrest, issued after he breached bail conditions linked to an investigation in Sweden. The Swedish authorities have since dropped their investigation. Assange is fearing potential extradition to the United States, as WikiLeaks has published a number of classified documents, allegedly leaked from US government agencies.

    • Legal aid fund is launched for Julian Assange amid fears WikiLeaks founder is under ‘increasingly serious threat’ and has become ‘isolated’ inside Ecuadorian embassy in London

      A legal defence fund is being launched for Julian Assange amid fears that 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.

      Mr Assange, 47, has been holed up under asylum inside the embassy since 2012 when he was accused of sexual assault by two women in Sweden.

    • Ecuador denies Assange’s embassy conditions deteriorated

      Ecuador has denied media reports that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had been made to sleep on the floor and denied heating at the country’s London embassy.

      In a statement, the presidency’s communication secretary dismissed the claims as “TOTALLY FALSE,” and said the embassy’s heating system “is working normally.”

    • Julian Assange latest: WikiLeaks founder told to SURRENDER to US and face justice

      Foreign Minister José Valencia FM Mundo’s office tweeted on Thursday: “The situation currently has two options for Mr. Assange, to stay indefinitely, or to surrender [to arrest and extradition the US] and we believe the latter (surrender) is the most positive for him”.

      Mr Valencia also warned Mr Assange that while he sought assurances from the UK that he would not face extradition, he “cannot continue insisting on something that will not happen.”

      The minister stressed that Ecuador believed it would be “most positive” for Assange to leave the diplomatic compound and face the British law.

      By extension he could face a possible extradition to the US.

    • This Leaked Hillary Clinton Memo Killed Half a Million People

      A Hillary Clinton memo that Wikileaks made public in 2016 has not gotten the attention it deserves. It takes us back to 2012 and the early phase of the Syrian war.

      At that point, it was largely an internal affair, although Saudi arms shipments were playing a greater and greater role in bolstering rebel forces. But once the Obama administration decided in favor of intervention, the conflict was quickly internationalized as thousands of holy warriors flooded in from as far away as western China.

      The 1,200-word memo by then-Secretary of State Clinton begins with the subject of Iran, an important patron of Syria.

    • The U.S. Government Has Amassed Terabytes of Internal WikiLeaks Data

      Late last year, the U.S. government accidentally revealed that a sealed complaint had been filed against Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.

    • Watch the 12th Vigil for Julian Assange Here

      Julian Assange is a wanted man because he published classified information that revealed the crimes and corruption of government officials around the world, not just in the United States.

      But it is the U.S., the supposed beacon of freedom and democracy (and press freedom) around the world that has indicted him and wants him extradited to the United States for the crime of publishing.

    • Awkward! WikiLeaks calls out US concern for journalists with reminder of Collateral Murder video

      WikiLeaks has called out VP Mike Pence over his concern for jailed Reuters journalists, reminding him of the Reuters staff killed by US fire in the infamous Collateral Murder video leaked by Chelsea Manning.

      Vice President Mike Pence tweeted his disappointment at a Myanmar court decision to reject the appeal of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who have been sentenced to seven years in jail for breaking the Official Secrets Act.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • USDA Allows Animal Neglect and Abuse at Poultry Slaughter Plants

      Undercover investigations at federal poultry slaughter plants over the past decade have documented numerous instances of intentional abuse to animals, including throwing birds against walls, burying live birds in piles of dead birds, breaking birds’ legs by violently slamming them into shackles and jabbing birds with metal hooks to remove them from their cages.

      The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) has reviewed records supplied by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), revealing evidence of mistreatment of birds destined for slaughter. One especially concerning problem identified by AWI is the suffering and death of large numbers of birds because they were knowingly neglected or abandoned for extended periods at the slaughterhouse or en route to the slaughterhouse. The problem appears to be particularly acute during extreme weather conditions.

    • Scientists Call for Drastic Drop in Emissions. U.S. Appears to Have Gone the Other Way.

      The signals are blaring: Dramatic changes to our climate are well upon us. These changes — we know thanks to a steady drumbeat of alarming official reports over the past 12 months — could cripple the U.S. economy, threaten to make vast stretches of our coastlines uninhabitable, make basic food supplies scarce and push millions of the planet’s poorest people into cities and across borders as they flee environmental perils.

      All is not yet lost, we are told, but the demands of the moment are great. The resounding consensus of scientists, economists and analysts tells us that the solution lies in an unprecedented global effort to immediately and drastically drop carbon emissions levels. That drop is possible, but it will need to happen so fast that it will demand extraordinary commitment, resolve, innovation and, yes, sacrifice. The time we’ve got to work with, according to the United Nations, is a tad more than 10 years.

      And so it stings particularly badly to learn from a new report released this week by the Rhodium Group, a private research company, that U.S. emissions — which amount to one-sixth of the planet’s — didn’t drop in 2018 but instead skyrocketed. The 3.4 percent jump in CO2 for 2018, projected by the Rhodium Group, would be second-largest surge in greenhouse gas emissions from the United States since 1996, when Bill Clinton was president.

    • Migrant birds face risk in earlier springs

      Biologists have identified another tale of conflict and bloodshed as African migrant birds compete with European natives for resources in a fast-warming world.

      Death rates among male pied flycatchers – African carnivores that migrate each spring to the Netherlands to breed – have risen in the 10 years between 2007 and 2016, as winters have warmed and springs have arrived earlier.

      And in some years, almost one in 10 of the male migrant flycatchers has been found pecked to death by great tits that have already taken up residence in nest boxes that both species favour.

      Jelmer Samplonius, then of the University of Groningen and now at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and a colleague report in the journal Current Biology that they became interested in the competition between the migrant Ficedula hypoleuca and the European garden bird Parus major because both compete for the same resources.

    • How Tre Arrow Became America’s Most Wanted Environmental “Terrorist”

      That Tre Arrow, a tree-hugging vegan who espouses non-violence and lives by the airy and some nebulous philosophy of Gaia, would top the FBI’s Most Wanted list, only reaffirms the notion that the Bureau’s energy is being exerted in specious directions.

      On August 12, 2008, after a tumultuous seven-year investigation, Arrow was sentenced in Federal court to six-and-a-half years for lighting three cement haulers ablaze at the notorious Ross Island Sand and Gravel in Portland, Oregon, as well as firebombing two trucks and one front loader owned by Ray Schoppert Logging Company near the timber town of Estacada, Oregon. The acts were in protest of the Eagle Creek timber sale in Mt. Hood National Forest in the late 1990s.

      Located in a roadless area within Oregon’s Clackamas River watershed, the streams that snake through the old growth groves of Eagle Creek provide drinking water for over 185,000 people in the greater Portland area. Critics of the plan to log Eagle Creek argued that the forest’s steep slopes were in the “transient snow zone” and would likely lead to future landslides and mass flooding, which would ultimately spoil water quality during the region’s frequent rain-on-snow events. Arrow was one of the most creative and articulate activists opposing the sale.


      In the fall of 2000, Jacob Sherman became intensely involved in Ralph Nader’s presidential campaign and was active in several progressive organizations on campus. Over the course of Sherman’s first term at Portland State, he was drawn to issues ranging from a living-wage to the independence struggle of the Zapatistas in Chiapas. Sherman and Arrow became close. By winter quarter Sherman not only adopted a few of Arrow’s granola routines, such as refusing to bathe and going barefoot, he also began mimicking his forms of protest.

      In the Portland suburb of Clackamas, Sherman helped to lead a protest in February of 2001 against an old growth timber sale that was to take place in the Mt. Hood National Forest. Like the action Tre Arrow had carried out almost a year earlier, Sherman climbed to the top of the logging company’s building and rallied the crowd that amassed below. “Sherman initially refused to come down from the roof,” the FBI later wrote in a court affidavit, “but later agreed to cooperate with authorities in lieu of being arrested.”

      As the FBI and media outlets would later tell it, Sherman was under the persuasive sway of Tre Arrow. He was seen as an obedient pawn who followed Arrow into battle, which was ignited two months later at Ross Island Sand & Gravel in Southeast Portland. On the night of April 15, 2001, three of the company’s rigs were destroyed by fires sparked from gas-filled milk jug bombs. Investigators later learned that Sherman sent Craig Rosebraugh an anonymous note a week later claiming responsibility, and blamed the company for “stealing soil from the earth.” Rosebraugh released a press statement, claiming members of the ELF had been responsible.

    • Trouble in the High-Rise Hothouse

      Feeding 10 billion people in a world stressed by the rapidly changing climate is going to require constant innovations in how food is produced—a new green revolution, just this time not involving methods that wreck soil and water. But while vertical farms might work as a technical concept, thriving as businesses is another matter.

    • A tomato for everyone: ‘Sunviva’ for the good of all

      Plant breeders at the University of Göttingen and Agrecol have launched a joint initiative to protect seeds as common property

    • Demand for Democratic Governors to Follow Suit After Trump-Backed DeSantis Moves to Ban Fracking in Florida

      Following the announcement by Florida’s newly-sworn in Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis that he is moving to ban fracking, an advocacy group called on new Democratic governors in other states to stand up for the climate as well as water safety and quickly follow suit.

      DeSantis unveiled on Thursday an executive order—absent any mention of climate change—which included directing the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to “take necessary actions to adamantly oppose [...] hydraulic fracturing in Florida.”

      Calling fracking “an inherently dangerous process that threatens drinking water safety and human health wherever it occurs,” Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter said the new order prioritized “the health and safety of Floridians over corporate polluter profits.” Moreover, Hauter said it’s a move that should be emulated by other newly-minted Democratic governors.

      “Gov. DeSantis’s decision follows on the heels of another Republican governor’s decision to ban fracking, when Gov. Larry Hogan did so in Maryland in 2017. DeSantis and Hogan, along with [Democratic New York] Governor Cuomo’s ban on fracking in New York, exemplify the fact that common-sense environmental protections need not be a partisan issue. As the Trump administration and even many Democratic governors continue to double-down on oil and gas fracking,” Hauter continued, “it is more important than ever that local and state leaders of both parties do all in their power to halt the fossil fuel extraction destroying our climate and poisoning our air and water.”

    • Isle de Jean Charles Tribe Turns Down Funds to Relocate First US ‘Climate Refugees’ as Louisiana Buys Land Anyway

      The announcement that the State of Louisiana had purchased land for a resettlement project spearheaded by the Isle de Jean Charles Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe (IDJC) reached the Tribe’s executive secretary, Chantel Comardelle, via an emailed press release. The news hit her like a slap in the face.

      Despite being involved with the project from the beginning, she received no direct notification. She assumed the State hadn’t told IDJC Tribe Chief Albert Naquin directly either and relayed the news to him. Both took offense for not being notified directly.

      The way Comardelle received the news is indicative of why the IDJC Tribe recently told the federal government, which is funding the move of America’s so-called first “climate change refugees,” that the tribal community is turning down the $48 million federal offer and withdrawing from the State’s Isle de Jean Charles resettlement project.

      “The State has no respect for our culture,” Comardelle said during a phone call shortly after the January 10 announcement celebrating the $11.7 million land deal.

    • “Shameful” Trudeau Accused of Violating First Nations Rights Over Gas Pipeline

      There are moments that define a politician. There are legacies that they leave. But the reality of high office is often so different from the easy promises of opposition.

      As a poster boy politician, who entered office promising a new type of politics, Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, embodied fresh hope for many who wanted a distinctive difference from the toxic politics of his nefarious neighbour further south.

      And one of those issues he promised a brighter future on is Indigenous Rights.

      Trudeau is full of fine words and promises, for example, saying last year: “Our government is working in partnership with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples to advance meaningful reconciliation and build a future where Indigenous peoples succeed and prosper.”

  • Finance

    • Money is no Object

      Chances are, most of what you’ve learned about taxes and the economy is wrong. In fact, the key principles at work in our economic system are very different from what we’re taught.

      If you find you’re one of those who’s been misled, it’s not your fault. A system such as ours – where eight individuals control as much wealth as half of all humanity – can only be maintained with force and deception. As the industrialist Henry Ford is said to have opined, “It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.”

    • Neoliberalism: Free Market Fundamentalism or Corporate Power?

      I’ve been hearing about neoliberalism for a long time now and never could make much sense of it. It turns out the story we tell about neoliberalism is as contradictory as neoliberalism itself. Two currents within the critique of neoliberalism offer different analyses of the current economy and suggest different strategies for dealing with the gross exploitation, wealth inequality, climate destruction and dictatorial governance of the modern corporate order.

      These opposing currents are not just different schools of thought represented by divergent thinkers. Rather they appear as contradictions within the critiques of neoliberalism leveled by some of the most influential writers on the subject. These different interpretations are often the result of focus. Look at neoliberal doctrine and intellectuals and the free market comes to the fore. Look at the history and practice of the largest corporations and the most powerful political actors and corporate power takes center stage.

      The most influential strain of thought places “free market fundamentalism” (FMF) at the center of a critical analysis of neoliberalism. The term was coined by Nobel Prize winner and former chief economist of the World Bank itself –Joseph Stigliz. FMF is usually how neoliberalism is understood by progressives and conservatives alike. In this view, an unregulated free market is the culprit and the oft cited formula — de-regulation, austerity, privatization, tax cuts — is the means used to undermine the public commons.

    • Trump Can Relate, But Not to Us

      It’s not all taxpayers he doesn’t care about. Only the 800,000 federal employees who are not getting paid. As far as the rest of us are concerned, he wants to limit the impact as much as he can. As Russell Voigt, the acting director of the office of Management and Budget said: “The administration is trying to make the shutdown as painless as possible consistent with the law.” The effort is not, however, directed at federal employees. Just the rest of us.

      In late December, IRS employees received an undated e mail entitled “IRS Employee Emergency News.” It advised employees that “due to the lapse in appropriations most IRS operations are closed. An IRS-wide furlough began on December 22, 2018 for everyone except already identified excepted employees. Non-excepted employees are furloughed and placed in a non-pay and non-duty status until further notice. . . . Employees will be given four hours to close out work requirements and receive formal furlough notification.” That was followed by the good news that they would receive their December 31 pay checks.

      The notice concludes saying that: “As an IRS employee affected by the government shutdown, there can be temporary hardships in meeting your financial obligations. This may occur regardless of when pay resumes for you as a furloughed or excepted employee.” The message provides information the employees may wish to share with creditors in trying to figure out how to deal with their inability to make payments. It further provides two phone numbers the employee can call for updates. The recorded message on one of the numbers advises the caller that the shutdown began December 22 and advises the caller that the caller has been placed in “nonpaid and non-duty status.” The other number rings with no response.

    • Tax Dollars Can Buy Happiness

      Corporatists castigated two lawmakers in recent weeks for daring to offer economic Xanax prescriptions to cure rampant American economic anxiety.

      “Stupid,” is what they branded new Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as she became the youngest woman ever to serve in the U.S. House.

      “Unlikeable” is what they excoriated U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren with as she began exploring a run for the presidency.

      Right-wingers and 1 percenters had to crush Ocasio-Cortez, Warren and others whose ideas promote dignified jobs with living wages, universal health insurance, affordable access to pre-K and college degrees and a national sense of social cohesiveness.

    • Can Cooperatives Save Us From the Next Economic Crisis?

      In the summer of 2009, economists reported that one-third of the capital equipment in the United States stood idle while some 17 percent of the workforce were either unemployed, forced into part-time jobs, or “discouraged” from even seeking work.

      The Great Recession revealed just how much surplus capital and surplus labor was simply lying about, even in a time of urgent need. In this context, it’s no surprise that people started looking for ways to put labor and capital back together. Interest spiked — especially in worker-owned enterprises — and cities from New York to Madison, Oakland and Jackson, started investing in worker-owned businesses and business incubators.

      Nathan Schneider, a journalist and media professor, has reported on worker-owned cooperatives from Kenya to Kentucky. In his new book, Everything for Everybody, he looks back at the history of what he calls “the radical tradition” that just might put Americans back to work and into the economic driving seat.

      Can collectively-owned co-ops take on the robber barons? Many of them are taking a whack at the pillars of monopoly capitalism, from Uber to Amazon. But, as Schneider discovered, it’s not easy to shape a new economy in the belly of the old one.

      This September in New York, I had a chance to talk with Nathan, who’s written for Harper’s, The Nation, The Catholic Worker and others.

    • 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 US-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 DC 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 US 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.

    • Trump Is Terrified of the Far-Right Echo Chamber

      The government isn’t shut down because of President Trump’s unbelievable cluelessness as a dealmaker. It’s shut down because of his many fears.

      I don’t mean his pretend fears. Surely Trump doesn’t really believe his own racist nonsense about the U.S.-Mexico border being a sieve for homicidal maniacs and walk-to-work terrorists, and he can’t be too worried about a humanitarian crisis that is largely of his own creation. I’m talking about his real fears — the ones that must keep him up at night.

      Trump is afraid of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Matt Drudge, Laura Ingraham and the rest of the far-right echo chamber. (He sees Sean Hannity as more of a house pet.) He’s afraid of his shrunken but loyal base, which could abandon him if he doesn’t give them a wall. He’s afraid of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and the federal, state and local prosecutors in New York who are investigating various Trump enterprises. And he’s afraid of losing his coercive hold over the Republican senators who one day could sit in judgment of his fate.

      Not one of these intertwined fears is irrational. Trump must realize he has painted himself into a corner but sees no alternative. According to news reports, the president knew his hostage-video Oval Office address on Tuesday and his photo op at the border on Thursday would make no difference. He must also be aware that the GOP leadership in Congress can’t hold the line forever.

    • How Trump’s Insults and Lies are Harming America

      Who is going to be the first reporter to stand up at a president’s media harangue and ask the simple question “what benefit is there to the United States in insulting allied countries and their leaders?” Might anyone ask him why international approval ratings for his country are “much lower than during Barack Obama’s presidency.”

      And perhaps most important, who will look at him and demand “Mr President, why did you tell a lie about [insert subject here]?”

      One of the most outrageous and instantly detectable lies he has told was during a speech to soldiers in Iraq on December 26 when he said “you just got one of the biggest pay raises you’ve ever received . . . It’s great. You know what? Nobody deserves it more. You haven’t gotten one in more than 10 years – more than 10 years. And we got you a big one. I got you a big one. I got you a big one. They had plenty of people that came up. They said, ‘You know, we could make it smaller. We could make it 3 percent. We could make it 2 percent. We could make it 4 percent.’ I said, ‘No. Make it 10 percent. Make it more than 10 percent.’”

    • ‘The Right Thing to Do’: Senate Dems Demand Back Pay for Furloughed Government Contractors

      As the so-called #TrumpShutdown tied for the longest in U.S. history on Friday, Congress sent a bill to the president’s desk stipulating that federal employees be provided with back pay, as is customary, once the shutdown concludes. Contract workers, however, are not included in the bill.

      “Low-wage service contract workers perform jobs that are absolutely vital to the government, such as food service, security, and custodial work,” the letter explains. “Many of these workers live paycheck-to-paycheck, and cannot afford to pay their rent and other bills if the shutdown continues.”

      “Providing back pay to these low- and middle-income contractor employees who are furloughed by their employers is the right thing to do, and it is in the federal government’s best interest to provide funding to the extent necessary to ensure that contractors deliver back pay to their workers,” the letter charges.

    • The GOP tax cut is just as bad as we feared it would be

      A little more than a year after President Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans enacted their tax cut costing $1.9 trillion, all of the bad outcomes critics predicted from the law are coming true: Benefits are flowing disproportionately to the wealthy and big corporations while working families are paying the price. But as we unhappily mark the law’s first anniversary, a further, unanticipated consequence has emerged that threatens the health care of tens of millions of Americans.

      Just as we warned, the so-called Tax Cut and Jobs Act has exploded the deficit, giving the GOP an excuse to slash crucial services like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to pay for it. Corporations are using their tax-cut windfall to splurge on stock buybacks that only further enrich their CEOs and wealthy shareholders instead of giving their workers a raise or investing in new plants and equipment. And multinational corporations like General Motors and Harley Davidson are responding to the law’s perverse incentives by outsourcing jobs.

    • Trump’s Deja Vu China Trade War

      The past three days US and China negotiators have met in Beijing to try one last time before a true trade war erupts between them in March 2019. Higher level trade negotiators will follow up in Washington in coming weeks. What follows is the first of a 2-part history and analysis of Trump trade strategy, which addresses events from the initiation of Trump’s trade offensives in March 2018 to December 2018, with predictions for 2019. In part 1, US trade policy under Trump in 2018 is compared with similar US trade offensives under Nixon in the 1970s, targeting Europe, and Reagan in the 1980s targeting Japan. The historical parallels situate US trade policy as an important, often over-looked element in the evolution of US Neoliberalism.

      “Trade War! Trade War! When Trump pre-announced on March 2 his plan to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, the mainstream press immediately began hyping the line that trade war was looming on the horizon. Panicking, investors ran like lemmings over the stock market cliff after the steel tariff announcement; US allies huffed and puffed, promising tit-for-tat tariff responses on US agricultural goods or commercial aircraft; Trump’s traditional elite advisors, like Gary Cohn, former CEO of Goldman Sachs investment bank and head of Trump’s economic council, resigned later that week—no doubt in part due to frustration and disagreement over Trump’s unilaterally announced tariff.

    • Southwest Airlines Herb Kelleher – One of a Kind!

      When Herb Kelleher, the joyous, fun-loving Founder and retired CEO of Southwest Airlines soared past permissible flight levels for passenger aircraft on his way to heaven last week, the accolades in the exuberant obituaries were also sky-high.

      Listen to former American Airlines CEO Bob Crandall: “He was a man of great imagination. He was a man of diligence. He paid careful attention to the details. And he was a man of integrity. I think we will look back on Herb Kelleher as an example of the kind of people who ought to be our leaders.”

      Herb (everyone called him Herb), was much more than a super-successful creator of a low-fare, no-frills, high-pay, unionized, constantly profitable airline (since 1973) that never laid off any workers, with consistently high customer-approval ratings, and the most solid financial stability in a boom-bust, managed industry. In overturning the stagnant, brusque ways of the industry, he challenged his industry, with four Boeing 737s in 1971 flying between Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston, and overcame a cartel-like industry. After beating back numerous lawsuits by other airlines trying to stop his fledging enterprise – he rewrote the book on management for a large company.

      For starters, he put employees, not consumers, first. That seemed not effective to me at first. But then came his explanation. You treat employees well in all ways, occupationally and personally, they’ll treat airline passengers well and safely, which makes the airline prosper for the shareholders. He did all three, having fun along the way. More than a few of his pilots, attendants, and other staff became—as workers/shareholders— millionaires.

      Making money was not his first personal priority – making work pleasurable and exciting and giving employees discretion to bring the best from themselves – not playing rigidly by rule books – save him the most professional gratification.

      After a while it probably did not surprise him that his wealth grew and grew to an estimated $2.5 billion.

    • The Limits of Social Democracy Will Test the US Left

      Most the country thinks the economy favors the rich at the expense of everybody else. Who is to blame? Who to vote for? Those questions are greatly disputed. Still, a strong majority of the country feels they are being screwed.


      Still, in celebrating social democratic policies — namely the New Deal and the Nordic Model — on his way to becoming, by some metrics, the most popular politician in the country, Sanders has fundamentally shifted the discourse within Democratic Party. When former Obama cabinet member Julian Castro announced he was running for president, he was asked by MSNBC’s Chris Hayes what he would do first if elected. “Health care,” he said, before pressed for specifics. “I believe we need Medicare for All.” This is nothing short of remarkable. In the last five Democratic primaries, only three candidates have supported Medicare for All (Sanders in 2016, Dennis Kucinich in 2004 and 2008, and Mike Gravel in 2008).

      It is not just health care where this influence is seen. Many prominent Democrats, including potential presidential candidates, have been adopting progressive stances, in some cases mirroring Sanders’s own tactics and policies. For instance, Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Kristen Gillibrand have announced they would reject certain donations from corporate PACs. They have all co-sponsored Sanders’s Medicare for All bill in the Senate as well. In 2016, even Hillary Clinton took a sharp left on some issues like minimum wage and trade, presumably in an attempt to adjust to a leftward shift among many members of the Democratic base. In the 2018 midterms, 44 percent of primary candidates described themselves as progressive, according to the Brookings Institution, up from 29 percent in 2016.

    • 10 Years Ago Today, Hal Finney Started ‘Running Bitcoin’

      Part of the speculation about Hal Finney being Satoshi Nakamoto was due to the fact that Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto lived in the same town as him for ten years. Both Finney and Dorian Nakamoto denied involvement in the creation of Bitcoin.

      Today, tweets about Bitcoin number in the thousands. At the time, however, Finney might have just been trying to get his followers involved in the project. Early messages about the cryptocurrency were very inviting. No one had any clue that it would become an economic force global markets are still trying to adapt to.

      When mainstream financial analysts first came across Bitcoin, they often dismissed it as something that couldn’t possibly stand the test of time. Today, however, no one thinks cryptocurrencies are going anywhere, although the mantra of “Bitcoin maximalism” seems to be fading as dozens of other cryptos develop strong market capitalizations.

    • Federal Workers’ Woes

      It’s not all taxpayers he doesn’t care about. Only the 800,000 federal employees who are not getting paid. As far as the rest of us are concerned, he wants to limit the impact as much as he can. As Russell Voigt, the acting director of the office of Management and Budget said: “The administration is trying to make the shutdown as painless as possible consistent with the law.” The effort is not, however, directed at federal employees. Just the rest of us.

      In late December, IRS employees received an undated email entitled “IRS Employee Emergency News.” It advised employees that “due to the lapse in appropriations most IRS operations are closed. An IRS-wide furlough began on December 22, 2018 for everyone except already identified excepted employees. Non-excepted employees are furloughed and placed in a non-pay and non-duty status until further notice. …Employees will be given four hours to close out work requirements and receive formal furlough notification.” That was followed by the good news that they would receive their Dec. 31 paychecks.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • ‘Extremists’ Like Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Are Actually Closer to What Most Americans Want

      “Far left.” “Too liberal.” “Out of the mainstream.” Google U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. You’ll see descriptions like these.

      “Socialist.” “Radical.” “Extreme.” Google U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the whirling, twirling, dancing phenom out of the Bronx. You’ll see words like those.

      But are even Ocasio-Cortez’s positions all that “fringe” in 2019?

      I don’t think so.

      On “60 Minutes” Sunday, Ocasio-Cortez talked about a 70 percent tax rate for Americans earning more than $10 million a year. She said this would fund a Green New Deal: big money for renewable energy and technologies to avert climate catastrophe.

      That’s soak-the-rich, prosperity-killing insanity, conservatives claimed.

    • Why ‘Fact-Checking’ Gives Liars a Free Pass

      For the most part, the press reports the disagreement between parties as legitimate differences in opinion, long after it’s become obvious that one side is lying. For example, for decades, now, Republicans have been justifying giant tax giveaways to the rich and corporations under the guise of trickle-down, supply-side, job-creators or some other claim that what’s good for the rich is good for all of us. But it’s literally never been demonstrated. In fact, the data shows that there is no correlation whatsoever between the top marginal tax rate and economic growth. None. Zero. Nada, Zilch. The same is true for job creation.

      Yet nominally liberal outlets like NPR have been allowing serial liars like Paul Ryan to claim the connection exists without noting it doesn’t. Oh, I suppose it’s possible that Ryan is an idiot, not a liar, but either way, NPR, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and a host of other “liberal” outlets report on Ryan’s or Trump’s or McConnell’s claims as if they were plausible, then report on the Democrats’ rejection of the trickle down as if it, too were simply one of many possibilities, leaving out the obvious reality that there’s an objective truth out there that shows one claim to be a lie, the other true. The fact that Democrats are often complicit with Republicans in passing policies that favor the rich makes the press’s failure all the more serious.

    • ‘NewsGuard’ app gives news sites ‘trust’ ratings & targets alternative media. What could go wrong?

      NewsGuard rates the news using a color-coded ranking system designed and monitored by a “SWAT team” of analysts who it claims have no “political axes to grind.” So far, the app has rated more than 2,000 popular news websites, but plans to eventually provide ratings for the 7,500 most-read news and information sites in the US, before ultimately going global.

      The app uses “9 criteria” to determine whether a particular site is rated green, yellow or red. To attain a green rating, a site must gather and present information “responsibly,” must not publish “false content,” and must clarify and correct errors. Avoiding “misleading headlines” and disclosing “ownership and financing” can also help secure a green rating, or “nutrition label” as NewsGuard refers to its assessments.

      Partnering with Microsoft, NewsGuard is trying to have its rankings installed by default in US public school and university libraries, as well as on smartphones and computers. Hawaii is the first US state to have installed NewsGuard on its public library computers.

      NewsGuard claims on its website that it “will be available on mobile devices when the digital platforms such as social media sites and search engines or mobile operating systems add our ratings and Nutrition Labels directly.” In other words, plans are afoot to get NewsGuard integrated into social media sites like Facebook and Twitter directly, rather than NewsGuard remaining a downloadable app that people can choose to use or not.

    • Why Are the Media So Eager to Declare Trump’s Syria Withdrawal Dead?

      Corporate media have converged around a narrative that the president has been forced to walk back his decision. But while a withdrawal will undoubtedly prove more challenging than the president originally anticipated, this verdict simply does not reflect the facts on the ground.

      When John Bolton spoke in Jerusalem earlier this month, leading news outlets reported that Trump’s national security adviser had declared that withdrawal would not be completed unless and until specific conditions had been met or objectives achieved. The New York Times announced that “Bolton Puts Conditions on Syria Withdrawal, Suggesting a Delay of Months or Years,” claiming that he “told reporters that American forces would remain in Syria until the last remnants of the Islamic State were defeated and Turkey provided guarantees that it would not strike Kurdish forces allied with the United States.”

      The Associated Press story, which was picked up by The Washington Post, proved similarly categorical. “U.S. troops will not leave northeastern Syria until Islamic State militants are defeated and American-allied Kurdish fighters are protected,” a top White House aide is quoted as saying. The article also notes that Bolton was “signaling a pause to a withdrawal abruptly announced last month and initially expected to be completed within weeks.”

      Those stories were written on the assumption that Bolton was enunciating yet another policy on Syria withdrawal. There is now good reason to believe that no such new policy decision has been made. The Wall Street Journal has quoted a defense official as saying, “Nothing has changed. We don’t take orders from Bolton.”

      The Times and AP failed to provide the actual text of Bolton’s statement, much less any analysis of it in context of his statements.

    • F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia

      In the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests, according to former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.

      The inquiry carried explosive implications. Counterintelligence investigators had to consider whether the president’s own actions constituted a possible threat to national security. Agents also sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.

      The investigation the F.B.I. opened into Mr. Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice.

    • FBI Investigated Whether Trump Secretly Worked for Russia: Report

      Law enforcement officials became so concerned by President Donald Trump’s behavior in the days after he fired FBI Director James Comey that they began investigating whether he had been working for Russia against U.S. interests, The New York Times reported Friday.

      The report cites unnamed former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.

      The inquiry forced counterintelligence investigators to evaluate whether Trump was a potential threat to national security, and they also sought to determine whether Trump was deliberately working for Russia or had unintentionally been influenced by Moscow.

    • Shutdown Becomes Longest Federal Closure in U.S. History

      The partial government shutdown became the longest closure in U.S. history when the clock ticked past midnight Friday as President Donald Trump and nervous Republicans scrambled to find a way out of the mess.

      A solution couldn’t come soon enough for federal workers who got pay statements Friday but no pay.

      The House and Senate voted to give federal workers back pay whenever the federal government reopens and then left town for the weekend, leaving the shutdown on track to become one for the record books once the clock struck midnight and the closure entered its 22nd day. And while Trump privately considered one dramatic escape route — declaring a national emergency to build the wall without a new stream of cash from Congress — members of his own party were fiercely debating that idea, and the president urged Congress to come up with another solution.

    • Dubious History

      In the introduction to his magnificent critique of American historical education, James Loewen starts provocatively: “High school students hate history. When they list their favorite subjects, history always comes in last. They consider it ‘the most irrelevant’ of twenty-one school subjects commonly taught in high school. Bo-o-o-oring is the adjective most often applied.”

      Since the initial publication of “Lies My Teacher Told Me” in 1995, I have regularly read this passage to my UCLA students in my course on the history of social protest. The overwhelming majority of my students have enthusiastically concurred with Loewen.

      Many decades ago, I too sat in my high school history class, listening to Mr. Jones drearily reciting an unremittant litany of historical facts, mostly without context, intended to be memorized and regurgitated for future examinations. I also drifted off into my own world, thinking about things that teenage boys think about.

      This book is subtitled “Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong.” In this third edition published last year, the text retains sociologist Loewen’s sharp critique of the 12 American history textbooks he surveyed in his first edition as well as the six books he examined for the second edition. He found, as he describes, “an embarrassing blend of bland optimism, blind nationalism, and plain misinformation, weighing in at an average of 888 pages and almost five pounds.” He showed persuasively how American history textbooks—these ponderous tomes—lied to millions of American students by sugarcoating historical events and persons, encouraging mindless patriotism and faith in unending American progress, and negated any serious critical thinking.

    • ‘Not a Good Answer’: Privacy Advocates Reject Democratic Proposal for ‘Technological Wall’ With Expanded Border Surveillance

      Progressives in recent weeks have applauded Democrats’ refusal to bend to President Donald Trump’s demands for a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, a key component of his xenophobic anti-immigration agenda. But on Friday, digital rights advocates called on Democratic lawmakers to expand their fight against the wall into a fight for all human and constitutional rights—instead of suggesting alternative “border security” proposals that would infringe on civil liberties.

      Fight for the Future launched a campaign Friday to fight against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) suggestion on Thursday that a so-called “technological wall” would be an appropriate alternative to Trump’s planned concrete or steel wall.

    • 800,000 Federal Workers Get the Bad News: ‘Net Pay $0’

      Federal employees received pay stubs with nothing but zeros on them Friday as the effects of the government shutdown hit home, deepening anxieties about mortgage payments and unpaid bills.

      All told, an estimated 800,000 government workers missed their paychecks for the first time since the shutdown began.

      Employees posted pictures of the pay stubs on Twitter and vented their frustration as the standoff over President Donald Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion for a border wall entered its 21st day. This weekend, it will become the longest shutdown in U.S. history.

      “I saw the zeros in my pay stub today, and it’s a combination of reality setting in and just sadness,” air traffic controller Josh Maria told The Associated Press after tweeting a screenshot of his pay stub. “We’re America. We can do better than this.”

      The missed paychecks were just one sign of the mounting toll the shutdown is taking on Americans’ daily lives. The Miami airport is closing a terminal this weekend because security screeners have been calling in sick at twice the normal rate. Homebuyers are experiencing delays in getting their loans.

      Roughly 420,000 federal employees were deemed essential and are working unpaid. An additional 380,000 are staying home without pay. While furloughed federal workers have been given back pay in previous shutdowns, there is no guarantee that will happen this time.

    • Trump’s Wall With Mexico Follows in the Footsteps of Authoritarian Leaders Throughout History

      Instead of leading the world away from its worst impulses, as America did for most of the 20th century, President Donald Trump’s demands for a wall on the U.S. southern border look to be leaning closer to the autocratic acts and optics of tyrannical regimes.

      Throughout history, autocratic leaders have relied on walls to control their people. From the fierce tyrant who first began building China’s Great Wall in roughly 220 BC to Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev (my great-grandfather as it happens) who ordered construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, walls have represented undemocratic forces.

      This symbolism alone should have given a president pause. Instead, Trump continues his vehement demands — and insisted on forcing a partial government shutdown once Congress balked.

    • Fact-Checking Has Flourished. But It’s More Complicated Than It Looks

      Our chaotic political moment seems to have cast doubt on the trustworthiness of almost any information emanating from anywhere. As a result, the fact-checking trend in journalism — an externalized form of the procedures journalists apply to their own work all the time — has flourished in the past couple of years.

      Anyone who learned to distinguish fact from opinion in elementary school would have good reason to assume that the two can be as neatly broken up in the realm of politics, with the factual information subjected to universal standards of historical and mathematical rigor, and then labeled true or false.

    • Young politicians hustle to keep followers under House social media rules [iophk: "if the companies are being used for official government communications they must immediately cease censorship, including filtering, non-chronological sorting, and shadow-banning"]

      She’s not the only lawmaker juggling multiple accounts. Members of Congress were sworn into office on January 3rd and many freshman have already set up new social media accounts, starting fresh and rebuilding the massive followings they created on the campaign trail. These official accounts must clearly state in their bios that the person it represents is a member of Congress, according to the longstanding guidelines in the Members’ Congressional Handbook. Many of the social media darlings from the past election, like Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), have tweeted out messages citing these ethics rules, asking for fans to follow them to new accounts as they embark on their first year under the Capitol dome.

    • ‘New Party, Who Dis?’: Ocasio-Cortez Takes No Guff From ‘Irrelevant’ Joe Lieberman

      In a jab at former Democratic (and Independent) lawmaker and “corporate shill” Joe Lieberman—who has continued to lobby for powerful private interests after leaving Senate just as did while serving in the body—Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) responded to his criticism of her brand of progressive politics by indicating his total irrelevance to the Democratic Party’s future.

      Cleverly, she did so by feigning not to know who Lieberman even was. “Who dis?” she joked in response to a tweet highlighting a Fox News story titled: “Ocasio-Cortez Isn’t the Future of the Democratic Party: Joe Lieberman.”

    • Government by Extortion

      News outlets are treating the Trump shutdown as a power struggle between two willful forces, the president and the Democrats — rather than the president’s disturbing rule-or-ruin strategy. Let’s call it what it is: extortion, an attack on our democracy and the fundamental principle of majority rule.

      Under our constitution, the executive branch cannot simply decree that government money will be spent on something. Congress must pass a law authorizing the government to spend the money.

      So the only way to build Trump’s is to introduce a bill in Congress — and pass a law — allocating money for a border wall. Surveys show that most Americans oppose a wall, and Trump doesn’t have the votes in Congress for the $5 billion he wants to start building one (much less the $22 to $70 billion the whole thing could cost.)

      So he decided he’ll take his ball and go home. The shutdown will go on for months or years, he now says, until he gets his way.

      Except that it’s not his ball. It’s ours.

    • The “Lima Group” Pretense to be an International Body is Irresponsible and Dangerous

      At this time sixty years ago Cuba had just won its revolution through a popular uprising that overthrew a dictator. Two years later in 1961 the US masterminded a false flag invasion of Cuba that failed. Later, in 1962 the Organization of American States (OAS) turned against Cuba and expelled it from the organization isolating the country until 2009 when the OAS invited Cuba to join again. Cuba declined. The US has maintained a progressively squeezing unilateral trade and financial blockade on the island since 1960.

      Since that January 1, 1959 Canada has taken mostly an independent stance on Cuba and has maintained diplomatic and commercial relationships with the country. Even today when the US government places Cuba as a member of the “troika of tyranny” together with Nicaragua and Venezuela, the Canadian government is practicing a formal association with the Cuban government still overtly declared socialist. It may well be in order to protect the extensive interests built over time without the competition of US businesses. But that is a different topic.

      Today in a different socialist revolution in Venezuela we have a reversed situation.

    • Nicaragua – The Irony of the NICA Act Being Signed into Law by Trump

      On December 20, 2018, President Donald Trump signed H.R. 1918, the Nicaragua Human Rights and Anticorruption Act of 2018. It was introduced by Miami based, ardent anti-socialist Congresswomen Ros-Lehtinen in the House of Representatives on April 20, 2017 as the Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act (NICA) of 2017. Its short title was ramped-up to remove some of the irony of its passage, given the United States own abysmal electoral system, since the official title remains “to oppose loans at international financial institutions for the Government of Nicaragua unless the Government of Nicaragua is taking effective steps to hold free, fair, and transparent elections, and for other purposes.” The law as listed in the December 11th Congressional Record now recites a litany of slanderous unsubstantiated allegationsvoiced by Washington funded and/or controlled Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s), “human rights” organizations and news media outlets. Yet, the standard Nicaragua is held to and is in compliance with is actually violated routinely in the U.S.

      Before elaborating on the irony mentioned above and in the article’s title, it’s first necessary to outline: some of President Ortega’s accomplishments; how Washington’s ruling elite perceives them; and lastly, why Washington’s efforts against President Ortega failed to install its coup, just like it did in the 1980’s under the Reagan administration. Then, it will be clear how poorly Trump and the U.S. fair in comparison to New York state-sized socialist Nicaragua.

      However, this irony might not be obvious at first due to the virtual news blackout on any information supportive of President Daniel Ortega and Nicaragua’s revolutionary Sandinista government. While this is to be expected in mainstream corporate news media, it remains disconcerting to see in alternative news media. The unfortunate reality is that many alt-news outlets have been infiltrated and compromised by the power of neoliberal funding, if not actual CIA operatives. As such, the burden remains squarely on the reader to always be analytical and question each piece of written work. Perhaps alt-news media is reasonable on some issues; however, most are not when it comes to Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) states and viable socialist models.

    • Will Trumpism Outlive Trump?

      It is not crazy to say that right now the only ones who would like to see Trumpism outlive Trump are the Trumpians.

      Democratic Party? There’s a seam in the Democratic Party which may rip open and may not but it’s one in which both sides want to end Trump’s presidency and the damage that presidency has done totally dissolved and expunged from the record of U.S. history.

      Republican Party? It can go either of two ways: seek to hold on to that 35% of the population tied to Trump the way Beliebers are tied to Justin Bieber, or seek to become once again the party of globalized, free trade, free market capitalism advocating Neoliberal economic policies and Market Rule rather than the arbitrary, capricious rule of a 21st century Mad George III.

      Democrats risk fueling the fires of Trumpism if they ignore what the accelerants were that fired up the Trumpians — Trump being only the match — in the first place. Treating the Trump followers as obstacles scheduled for extinction rather than as part of the damage done by Trump and therefore in need of recuperation would seem to guarantee of a return under a new charlatan celebrity, never a shortage in the U.S.

      Democratic Socialism, a banner that Bernie Sanders and now Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez choose to fly under, is a red flag to Trump’s followers and if it gains momentum in the party will work to keep some form of Trumpism alive. Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal appellation makes more sense because it puts her in a position to review the socialist aspect of FDR’s New Deal and its economic benefits to the working class as well as focus on global warming as THE most crucial issue to be responded to politically.

      There are several reasons why Trumpism will not outlive Trump, and most have to do with the positions Democrats or Republicans can take.

    • Trump Is Building a Great Case for His Own Impeachment

      According to the Oxford English Dictionary, there are approximately 228,000 words in the English language. After Donald Trump’s nonsense visit to the US-Mexico border, pretty much all of them are failing me.

      It began before he even got on the plane. “When during the campaign I would say, ‘Mexico is going to pay for it,’ obviously, I never said this,” he told a gaggle of reporters, “and I never meant they are going to write out a check.” In a December 13 tweet, and about 11 billion times before that, he said, “I often stated, ‘One way or the other, Mexico is going to pay for the Wall.’”

      So, yeah, that set the tone. During the same confrontation with the press, Trump also said: “The wall that we’re doing is very, very hard to penetrate.”

      And: “If we don’t make a deal, I mean, I would say 100% but I don’t want to say 100%. … It would be very surprising to me that I would not declare a national emergency.”

      Followed by: “I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency. I haven’t done it yet. I may do it. If this doesn’t work out, probably I will do it. I would almost say definitely.”

      As Trump winged his way to the Rio Grande, the one question on everyone’s mind was whether or not he intended to follow through on his threat. “Trump would be on shaky ground if he were to declare a national emergency and divert funds to build his wall,” wrote Marjorie Cohn for Truthout as the president was still in transit. “Any attempt by Trump to declare an emergency in order to justify diverting funds for his wall to help the military enforce immigration law would violate the Posse Comitatus Act.”

    • There Are More Important Things Than The Truth

      We are living in times of mass inequality. The concerns of a “decent” and “civil” society in the age of Trump ring hallow to all of us struggling to get by. The rich are alarmed by Donald Trump because he lies, and lies proudly. The rich know that in order to stay rich at a criminal rate, they need sophisticated propaganda. Donald Trump is stupid. Crisis for the rich.

      Yet, not really. Donald Trump’s detractors are educated, but stupid. In fact, they may be, in their own way, even more hopeless than the Trump fascists, seeing as they are more sure of themselves, despite being completely wrong. Donald Trump is scolded for his uncivil lying. He is fact-checked at every turn. I wonder what they get out of fact-checking Donald. Who reads a Donald Trump fact-check and changes their mind? If you like Trump, you will know that the fact-checking is fake news, although your impression of real news is likely to be the openly fascist Fox News, who has kept truth out with a steel wall. Fox almost seems to racially profile truth, as if all truth is bad. There is a clear prejudice there. If you don’t like Trump, you will read a Trump fact check and find out that Trump has been lying—something you already knew but just felt good about confirming.

      Liberals are only concerned about truth because it is the one thing that separates them and the conservatives. Liberals lie, and lie a lot of course, but let me explain this “opinion” of mine. The liberal media’s crime is not lying—as Donald Trump claims. Their main crime is the omission of the class struggle. Their main crime is being funded by the 1% and reporting in the interests of the 1%. If the liberal media lied at the same clip as Donald Trump, what would they call Trump? They couldn’t call him a liar.

    • Trump vs. the Anti-Trumps: It’s the System That Needs Changing Not Just the Personnel

      Playing Trump’s game is almost irresistible. At least, most of his opponents seem unable to resist it.

      The name of Trump’s game is Personalistic Moralism. The President’s politics are not policy-free, but policies in his political universe are inextricably wedded to personal moral characteristics. If you want the Wall (“border security”), for example, that means you are strong, tough, and protective. You are knowledgeable about the physical and cultural dangers posed by immigrants, and you care for your fellow Americans. But what if you don’t want the Wall? In this case, you are weak, effeminate, ignorant, uncaring, and secretly in favor of “open borders.”

      This, by the way, is the text. The subtext, resting on the understanding that the main advocates of plentiful immigration since the nineteenth century have been employers seeking cheap labor, is that those who favor the Wall want to protect native American workers, while those who don’t care only about their profits. Of course, Mr. Trump worships great wealth and the system that produces it. But his basic political instinct, shared with Far Right ideologues going back to Edmund Burke and Charles Maurras, is to criticize mere moneymaking when it conflicts with ethno-national solidarity and a professed concern for “native” workers.[1]

      Trumpism gives a perverse new meaning to the old Movement slogan, “The personal is political.” It is a mistake, therefore, to consider the President an unprincipled politician with an unfortunate tendency to insult, demean, and threaten his opponents. Because his own moral character invites contempt, it is easy to forget that Trump is above all a certain type of political moralist. For him, virtue or vice (defined in terms of strength/weakness, masculinity/femininity, loyalty to the national tribe/globalism, and so forth) produce virtuous or vicious policies. For him, politics is, at bottom, a struggle to defeat immoral and contemptible opponents.

      Conflict specialists have long been familiar with this sort of Manichean thinking. If you ask the parties to a serious dispute to name the causes of their conflict, each party will almost always point to their opponents and answer, “They are!” President Trump’s opponents, however, do not seem to understand that in making attacks on his character their primary strategy they are playing his game, in his stadium, according to his rules. By doing so, they reinforce the stereotypes of them that Trump has successfully marketed to his base. Most important, this sort of personalism excludes a form of discourse that is absolutely essential to solving the problems that, unsolved, gave Trump the presidency. I am talking about the discourse of systems and system-change.

    • Everything the Western Mainstream Media Outlets Get Wrong When Covering Poor Countries

      If you want to find out what’s happening in a poor country, be sure to add tourists to your Google News search.

      “Canadian and Italian tourists feared kidnapped in Burkina Faso,” was the recent headline in the BBC, a day after clashes there claimed 46 lives. The BBC didn’t cover the clashes online, nor did they cover a terrorist attack there a few days prior, or the country’s trade deals with China. If the tragic events had happened in Europe though, the media would have been all over it.

      We see similar scenarios with the recent media coverage of tourists robbed in Brazil (just as a president who is arguably more racist, sexist, and homophobic than Trump has taken power – yes, it’s possible), of a tourist murdered in Morocco, and the killings in a Mexican tourist resort.

    • Grassroots Progressives Launch Campaign to Oust Corporate Democrat Who Votes With Trump 70% of the Time

      Justice Democrats—which helped Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) topple powerful Wall Street Democrat Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) last year—launched the Primary Cuellar Fund on Friday with the goal of recruiting a primary candidate who is committed to progressive solutions that are more in line with the interests of voters in Texas’ left-leaning 28th congressional district.

      “In the last election cycle, Justice Democrats revealed enormous energy in the Democratic Party primary electorate for change when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and [Rep.] Ayanna Pressley [D-Mass.] upset long-time incumbent Democrats who had grown out-of-touch with their deep blue districts,” Alexandra Rojas, executive director of Justice Democrats, said in a statement. “We’re now leading a grassroots candidate recruitment effort to find a real Democrat to run against Cuellar.”

      “District 28 and South Texas is in a special position to lead the nation on immigration, renewable energy, and healthcare, yet Henry Cuellar has failed to do this by instead voting with Donald Trump nearly 70 percent of the time,” added Danny Diaz, a community organizer who lives in the 28th district.

    • The Austere Neoliberal Globalist Agenda

      Reading this Briefing Note on ‘The Integrity Initiative’ is akin to a ‘mind of the gap’ between what passed off as ‘News’ in the Corporatist Mainstream Media and what genuine investigative journalism as serves ‘Democracy as an Alternative’ is all about; it is as to go from a Corporatist diet where ‘watered down gruel’ the norm for the masses to a veritable banquet of richly nutrient ‘culinary delight’ as would be unpermitted as unshared by private interests; with rationale as to the quote from Dickens above.

    • The Lost Path of Malcolm Turnbull

      A federal election is due in Australia later this year. By all reasonable predictions the right wing, conservative Liberal-National coalition is due to lose after five years in power and two electoral victories under two different leaders. As some readers may be aware, this is the second half of a tumultuous twelve years in Australian politics, which has seen five prime ministers over six reigns – Rudd, Gillard, Rudd from the centre left, progressive Australian Labor Party followed by Abbot, Turnbull and now Scott Morrison, who deposed Turnbull in a back-room deal from within their party. This is compared to the years 1983 – 2007 when there were only three prime ministers.

      The other recent development has been the fracturing of the upper house, which has seen the rise of micro-party representatives from across the political spectrum. Many are single-issue parliamentarians that have benefitted from complicated preference flows that come with the proportional representation method of election. This has been compounded by the boom and bust of Nick Xenophon’s team, which promised so much as a minor, centrist platform; and the ongoing trouble of the Greens, who are left of the ALP but currently mired in factional problems, growing pains, and a dearth of leadership. When coupled with recent developments like the digital culture, it is little wonder that many in Australia’s political class are somewhat bereft.

      There are, of course, many ways to think through what comes next. Needless to say, that these benefit from thinking dialectically, and, involve attending to the historical possibilities before us. Part of that means recognising the policies and debates that the ALP has promised to bring to the table once elected. This includes bread and butter Labor issues like health, education, and industrial rights. Yet, it also includes unsettled debates about identity from the republic to our role as a global citizen, and, other big vision items that have not been on the table since Paul Keating’s departure as prime minister in 1996.

    • Is Anyone Really Offended by the “F-Word”?

      I don’t think anyone in Washington is actually offended by Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s use of profanity.

      If you haven’t heard, Rep. Tlaib, a freshman Democratic representative from Michigan, said of the president, “We’re going to go in there and impeach the motherf—er” to a group of progressive supporters in Detroit.

      The remark could offend for two reasons: its intent or its salty language.

      The first reason, the intent, is the more substantial of the two. Actually impeaching the president is more consequential for the nation than having a potty mouth. But a single member of Congress cannot impeach the president all by herself.

      The leadership of the Democratic Party has always been cautious around the topic of impeaching Trump. Whether they want to or not, or think it would be justified, doesn’t matter much. Previously, they couldn’t do it. Republicans controlled the House, and Republicans would not vote to impeach.

    • Amid Report Dems Trying to “Rein In” Ocasio-Cortez, Congresswoman Responds With Fiery Comic Book Reference

      After Politico put out a story on Friday characterizing a group of Democrats in the House as “exasperated” over the manner in which Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has used her media savvy and unabashed progressivism to challenge party norms, the newly-elected congresswoman let it be known that those who want to “rein in” her brand of politics are not likely to find success.

      Instead of letting the article go unmentioned, Ocasio-Cortez invoked a quote by the comic book protagonist Rorschach, created by Alan Moore.

    • New Analysis Shows Push for Green New Deal Hindered by Silence of Corporate Media

      A new analysis by one of the nation’s top public interest advocacy groups shows that even as the planet and humanity face an existential threat due to the climate crisis, most corporate media outlets in the U.S. have largely ignored the urgent need for a Green New Deal and the growing political movement demanding it.

      Following the midterm elections in November, the youth-led Sunrise Movement flooded congressional offices and demanded that representatives back a Green New Deal and the creation of a House select committee that would be tasked with drafting legislation to create one, successfully convincing 45 members of Congress to support the proposal.

      But despite the energy behind the plan, 82 percent of Americans in a Yale/George Mason poll said they had never heard of the Green New Deal, and researchers behind the new Public Citizen study are blaming corporate news networks for failing to educate the public about the proposal.

    • Give Children the Vote, Strengthen Democracy

      In December 2018 David Runciman, Head of Politics at Cambridge University, made the radical proposal that children as young as six should be allowed to vote in elections to deal with the age bias in contemporary democracies. Allowing children to vote he said, would give a ‘jolt of energy’ to democracy. While the thought of six year olds voting sounds extreme and will no doubt be broadly dismissed, there is a strong democratic argument for lowering the eligible age from 18, which is the standard voting age in most countries and allowing children to vote.

      In response to Professor Runciman’s suggestion The Guardian newspaper asked a group of children “aged 6-12 what [political] policies would get their vote.” Their intelligent, straightforward answers are inspiring and in accord with the views of many of us. Freed from ideology and party politics these children see the issues clearly and speak in an unencumbered way, direct from the heart.

      Thomas Atkinson is 10 and lives in Belfast. “The other day I saw someone sitting on the pavement. He looked about 20. Why is that happening? He needs a job and a home – and there are so many jobs that need doing. Like, for example, the environmental problems. There is plastic on the beaches all around Bangor. We need people to clear that.” Petra Pekarik is 11 and lives in London. She is a Hungarian citizen – “it doesn’t make sense to me that Britain is putting up barriers. I feel the opposite should be happening, and we should be taking barriers away.” She says that in school they talk a lot about fairness, but in society “there are some people who are so special, and other people who don’t even have a home. Sometimes I see people living on the street and I think, why are they there? It’s important because we are all the same: these people aren’t different, they’re people. We are all people.” And Tom Ashworth, who is 9 and lives in Ambleside: “Climate change is the big issue politicians need to work on…. We can’t just let this happen and do nothing – it’s got to be stopped. We have to stop doing the things that cause climate change. It’s really important right now…. We need to stop wasting food and everything else we’re wasting.” The only six-year-old spoken to, Wilfie Tudor-Wills from London, said that, “there should be more houses in London. There are a lot of people in this city and they need places to live…. there should be less pollution, because it’s bad for your lungs.” And, given the chance to speak to the UK Prime Minister, Teresa May, he would “tell her to get more people to have electric cars because they’re better for the world. And also I’d like there to be more parks.”

      The other children who were questioned gave answers that are just as insightful, but the views of these children, like all children their age go largely unheard. Children under 18 are commonly, and as these children’s comments demonstrate, mistakenly, thought to lack the understanding to participate in current affairs and as a result are denied the most basic democratic right, that of voting in an election; be it local or national. But at 18, everything changes; it is apparently the age when adulthood begins and with it full citizenship. Previously it was 21.

    • Joe Biden Should Spare Us All the Trouble

      There is a moment in “Hamlet” when the titular Danish prince orchestrates a coup: A play within the play is staged, its proceedings aimed squarely at provoking the evil King Claudius. This puts the audience at an even stranger remove. We are watching the assorted castle dignitaries watching a play of their own, one that dimly reflects the central drama of “Hamlet” itself.

      That’s a bit what it feels like to read coverage of Joe Biden as he struts the stage, a skull between his hands, utterly anguished over whether or not to run for president in 2020. I certainly understand why a born ham like Biden would relish the role, even if he is a bit long in the tooth to play Hamlet. I even can understand why his story has our modern-day courtiers in the Beltway so enraptured, lovingly capturing every development and half-step toward the announcement of his candidacy.

      What’s less clear is whether all parties involved know that Joe Biden 2020 is not a saga worthy of Shakespeare. At best, it’s that shabby show within a show for an audience of royal hangers-on—a drama that only gestures toward the human struggles currently tearing America apart, as cast upon the wall of some high-vaulted castle room.

    • Not One Network Should Have Aired Trump’s Hate Speech

      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.

      Flash forward to January 8, 2019.

      At 8:31 a.m., President Trump tweeted — again — that the “Fake News Media” was “truly the Enemy of the People.” Hours later, at 1:44 p.m., he announced that he was going to give a speech on the “National Security crisis on our Southern Border.”

      By 9 p.m. the next night, all major networks, derided only the day before as “the real Opposition Party,” were carrying the speech.

      How Obama’s address was “too political” for Big Bang Theory night but this one — in the middle of a government shutdown of the president’s own creation — wasn’t is beyond me.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Media Watchdog Condemns Killing Of Afghan Journalist

      Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the killing of Afghan journalist Javid Noori, who was shot dead by the Taliban in his native province of Farah in Afghanistan’s west.

    • LinkedIn Is Helping The Chinese Government Silence Critics

      The social networks of the world aren’t doing much to make the world a better place. Facilitating communications across borders is great — a definite net gain for the world’s citizens. But these platforms insist on distributing globally while thinking locally, making their operations subject to censorial governments in the countries where they do business.

      Facebook’s refusal to stand up to various authoritarian governments arguably made it an accessory to the fact in genocide. Twitter tends to sit back and let Turkey’s government vanish away criticism of President Erdogan and his actions. Google appears to be one of the few countries responsive to the Chinese government’s demands for content deletion, which is probably due to its ability to get past the country’s Great Firewall as well as its temporarily suspended construction of a Chinese government-controlled search engine.

    • Vietnamese Government Whines Facebook Isn’t Helping It Censor Critics Quickly Enough

      If this doesn’t work (and it won’t), the government is going to do other vague things (“necessary economic and technical measures”) to hurt Facebook and “ensure a clean and healthy network environment.” One “necessary economic measure” is somehow blocking Facebook from collecting money for “hatred advertising,” whatever the hell that is.

      What the government really wants is direct control. The Financial Times reports the government is demanding Facebook physically set up shop in Vietnam as the new law requires. Having a local office makes it that much easier for men with guns to follow up on ignored content removal requests. For exactly this reason, Facebook should never create a Vietnam office, unless it’s going to do it patent troll-style and rent out an empty office and tell the Vietnamese government all content removal requests must be mailed to the nearest strip mall with a Mailboxes, Etc.

      The Vietnamese government doesn’t have much leverage as it loves having access to Facebook to deliver its version of events, as well as give its 10,000 full-time internet monitors something to look at. So, it’s not going to kick Facebook out. It’s just going to keep demanding fees it can’t collect while claiming anything anti-government is a threat to the nation’s safety.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Chinese businessman arrested in Poland for spying

      Poland’s security services say a Chinese businessman and a Polish man, both employed in telecoms, have been arrested for spying.

      The Chinese national, Wang Weijing, works for Huawei, according to a source with knowledge of the case.

      The company told the BBC it was aware of the situation and was looking into it.

      Huawei has faced scrutiny over alleged links to China’s intelligence services.

      Its chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou – the daughter of its founder – was arrested in Canada last month and faces extradition to the US on charges of breaking Iran sanctions.

    • Women’s Sexuality Is Still Taboo for Tech—at Least at CES [Ed: Those are surveillance devices that spy on women]

      A robotic vibrator, developed in consultation with Oregon State University’s robotics department, was initially accepted into the show and given an innovation award, only to later be excluded because it didn’t fit into an existing product category, according to the Consumer Technology Association, which runs CES. (Before its award was revoked, it was honored in the category of robotics.) The device was also called “immoral” and “profane,” according to statements CTA made to the press.

    • Saudi asylum seeker to leave for Canada Friday night: Thai immigration chief

      A Saudi teenager who fled to Thailand saying she feared her family would kill her has been granted asylum in Canada…

    • Bell Canada asks Canadians for permission to harvest and sell their browsing, location, viewing and other data

      Now, Bell has reached a new low: they’ve sent out opt-in agreements asking Canadians to grant them permission to “track everything they do with their home and mobile phones, internet, television, apps or any other services they get through Bell or its affiliates… customers’ age, gender, billing addresses, and the specific tablet, television or other devices used to access Bell services…number of messages sent and received, voice minutes, user data consumption and type of connectivity when downloading or streaming.”

    • Bell wants permission to gather and track customer data

      Bell Canada began asking its customers in December for permission to track everything they do with their home and mobile phones, internet, television, apps or any other services they get through Bell or its affiliates.

      In return, Bell says it will provide advertising and promotions that are more “tailored” to their needs and preferences.

    • “Keep looking out for him is our message”

      Four months after Dutch cyber security expert Arjen Kamphuis disappeared in Norway, his friends and family believe that he is still alive and that he chose to disappear himself. He previously also disappeared from the radar, they said to newspaper AD.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Google Board Sued for Hushing Claims of Executive Misconduct

      The investors claimed the board failed in its duties by allowing harassment to occur, approving big payouts and keeping the details private. The complaint targeted the company’s top executives and committee members, including co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, venture capitalist John Doerr, investor Ram Shriram and Alphabet Chief Legal Officer David Drummond, among others.

    • Lawsuit Claims Google Board Covered Up Sexual Misconduct

      A shareholder lawsuit filed Thursday claims that Alphabet’s board of directors, including Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt, covered up sexual harassment by numerous Google executives, including Andy Rubin, whose $90 million exit package was approved by the board after an internal investigation found sexual harassment claims against Rubin credible.

      At a press conference in San Francisco, attorneys representing Alphabet shareholder James Martin said that Page and Brin, the company’s cofounders, were among the people directly involved in the cover-up and should compensate shareholders for the value lost when Alphabet shares declined after the payments to Rubin and others were revealed.

    • Combating Racism With Exposure

      When I started volunteering at a youth detention center, whose incarcerated population was entirely African American and Latino, I was told by an Africana Studies professor I respected that I should focus on my own community — white people — instead. He said this after I asked whether my presence in the detention center was fostering cross-racial solidarity. Despite respecting his knowledge and experience, I took exception to his advice then and still do now.

      My reason for taking exception is purely strategic: I am not sure that a white person can convince another white person to be less racist. This is, in effect, what it means to be a “white ally” in the grassroots left. White allies take their marching orders from people of color, and then reenter their own (presumably white) communities to conduct missionary work in reverse: instead of racist attempts to “civilize” darker-skinned peoples, white allies conduct anti-racist attempts to civilize their lighter-skinned neighbors. This is well intentioned but somewhat misguided in my opinion.

      I am a believer in the mere-exposure effectbecause it worked for me. To give just one example, I studied abroad in China as an undergraduate student and grew so accustomed to seeing mostly Han Chinese people everywhere that, upon my return home, diverse crowds of Americans seemed strange to me. People were larger, louder, and more intimidating than ever before.

      But Chinese people not only became more familiar, they became more attractive. A similar change occurred in my psyche when I lived and worked in areas with more African Americans than whites.

      I am not arguing that racism can be eradicated solely by (positive or neutral) exposure or that racist white people never encounter people of color on the streets or at work — but I am positing that exposure is a necessary condition for abolishing racism. Racism cannot be resisted in the abstract: it must be addressed practically and contextually. If ‘Racist Rick’ were replaced in his job some time ago by a person of color, and this was his onlyexperience with an individual from said community of color, he would likely remain racist — especially if the media he consumes, the education he recalls, and the friends he keeps cast further suspicion on the black community. He would need a positive experience to shift his thinking.

    • Technology And The Never-Ending Drive To “Progress”

      Where Windows 10 now automatically updates itself and where website builders do almost all the work of automating the process of creating an online presence, we are caught in a gyre of perpetually updating softwares which now act on their own, notifying us by email that updates were performed. It is as if our collective and slow march towards “progress” were happening irrespective of our acquiescence. Certainly, such innovations are the dream child of capitalism: the need to upgrade is built into the system such that one must keep purchasing in order to use the product purchased x months before. It is capitalism as a metaphorical intravenous support system in which the customer is turned into a repeat client.

    • Best and Worst

      “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

      Actually, I think this yin-and-yang contradiction exists right now, today – and probably existed at every moment since the beginning of recorded history.

      These are America’s worst times under a ludicrous president who has uttered 7,600 countable lies and shut down part of the federal government in a temper tantrum. But life also is good, with full employment, booming prosperity and superb personal freedoms.

      Writers like Chris Hedges are correct that right-wing greed is pulling America apart in ever-worse inequality, and that industrial pollution causes global warming that threatens the planet. But writers like Steven Pinker are correct in claiming that our “better angels” cause life to improve constantly, with fewer wars, fewer murders, fewer rapes, fewer cruelties, fewer ethnic persecutions and relentless retreat of other evils.

      It is the best of times, it is the worst of times – and it always was.

    • Cuba: Trump Turns the Vise

      Obama even became the first U.S. President to visit Cuba since 1928.

      However, since the election of Donald Trump many of these gains have been reversed.

    • Sexual Predators in the Era of Trump

      Long after the Trump presidency passes into the historical graveyard, it will be recalled for the scandals involving sexual abuse that occurred during his tenure. These scandals bespeak the sexual pathology that long characterized the president himself.

      A series of revelations about men who take advantage of underage girls has placed the issue of sexual predators at the center of public debate. These include the financier Jeffrey Epstein and the entertainer R Kelly as well as the male sex tourists traveling overseas to have sex with trafficked young girls.

      Lifetime is airing a six-part documentary series, Surviving R. Kelly, that tells the gruesome story of how the entertainer sexually abused African-American girls and women for decades. Willa Paskin, reviewing the series for Slate, notes: “We chose to ignore his deeds, downplay them, or remain willfully ignorant of them so we could go on enjoying his music. … We made a deal with the devil on the cheap — let us keep this song! — and had 16-year-old girls pay the exorbitant price.”

      Kelly’s sexual exploitation of teenage girls were first revealed in the mid-90s by Jim DeRogatis, the Chicago Sun-Times pop-music critic. He long covered Kelly musical career, but in 2002 he received two videos from an anonymous source that depicting the pop star engaging in sex with young girls. Working with his colleague Abdon Pallasch, over the years they interviewed innumerable people involved in the case, including dozens of young women Kelly allegedly sexually exploited. DeRogatis’ articles and the two videos led to criminal charges against Kelly. He went to trial in 2008 and was found not guilty on all 14 charges.

    • What the Government Shutdown Really Means for Federal Prisoners

      Pay no attention to stories about prisoners feasting during the shutdown. The reality is that the shutdown only makes prison conditions worse.
      Last week, USA Today ran a hit piece on federal prisoners with the tabloid headline, “Government shutdown: Federal inmates feast on Cornish hens, steak as prison guards labor without pay.” Not to be outdone, The Washington Post followed this up with their own shameful story under the headline, “‘I been eatin like a boss’: Federal prisoners served steak by unpaid guards during shutdown.” The problem here is twofold. First, the shutdown has nothing to do with the food served to federal prisoners and, second, the food descriptions are wildly exaggerated.

      I should know. I was a federal prisoner from 2007 to 2013 and ate thousands of meals during that time. Twice a year — usually Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day — federal prisoners receive “special” meals for the holidays. These meals are rare, highly anticipated, and a touch above the low-quality food prisoners get the rest of the year. While the article used “steak” in the headline for impact, it was a little more accurate in the article, referring to the meal as roast beef. Mind you, this roast beef is not the corner delicatessen version but a grey, rubbery, low-cost version.

      As offensive and archaic as these articles were, the worst aspect is they conflate a long-standing holiday meal tradition within the Bureau of Prisons with President Trump’s government shutdown. There is no fairness in blaming federal prisoners for the situation BOP staff find themselves in due to Trump’s shutdown — but it sure makes for good clickbait. Unfortunately, the government shutdown has very real impacts on federal prisoners, which the reporters ignored in their attempt to generate outrage.

      With budgets frozen, daily life in prison will become even more miserable. Delays in mail being delivered; unstocked commissaries; shuttered gyms; and no classes, visits, transfers, or library access take a toll on peoples’ well-being and the relative peace in the federal prison system. I recall during potential shutdowns in the 2000s that even toilet paper was being parceled out at the rate of one roll per week.

    • Appeals Court: First Amendment Violation To Ban Members Of The Public From Gov’t Officials’ Facebook Pages
    • AG Nominee William Barr Endorsed “More Incarceration”

      After the tenure of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, advocates for civil rights, decarceration and police accountability are frustrated and furious.

      Sessions jump-started the failed war on drugs, rescinded protections for transgender students and workplace protections for LGBTQ people, undermined federal efforts to hold local police accountable for racism and violence, and defended the Trump administration’s ill-fated family separation policy that helped create the humanitarian crisis on the southern border. The list goes on.

      Sessions was forced out of office in November for reasons that have nothing to do with civil rights. Indeed, next week’s Senate hearings on President Trump’s nomination of William Barr to be his successor are likely to focus on Barr’s views of presidential power and whether he would interfere with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian election meddling.

      However, advocates warn that Barr’s record on issues from drug policy to immigration and women’s rights is cause for grave concern. So is a striking endorsement of mass incarceration that Barr issued while serving as attorney general during the height the drug war in the early 1990s.

    • Roaming Charges: Que Syria, Syria

      But hold on. Was it all a just put-on to distract from Trump being outfoxed on live TV by Chuck and Nancy? Did anyone check with John Bolton? Apparently not, because Bolton reassured an anxious Bibi Netanyahu that the US was going to be staying in Syria until all remnants of ISIS were crushed into the dust (along many more innocent bystanders), US-backed Kurdish fighters in Rojava were protected from any assaults by Turkey or Assad and Iran pulled its fighters out of Syria. Notably, Trump didn’t fire Bolton for his apparent impertinence. Instead, he seemed to wilt, saying “I never said, we were leaving now.” But whenever Trump says “I never said,” you know he said it.

      Some would have you believe that Bolton is an outlier, a Deep State implant. But Bolton was handpicked by Trump to replaced the hated McMaster as National Security Advisor. Bolton was Trump’s man. He says what Trump can’t or won’t.

    • CBP Will Search You And Your Property If You’re Paying Too Much Attention To An Agent. Or Too Little.

      There’s a lot of talk about border security recently. Rather strangely, it involves CBP officers going without paychecks for an indefinite amount of time as government funding is held hostage in exchange for border wall/fence money.

      Not that the CBP needs to remain near the wall/fence. It’s able to hassle people within 100 miles of the border, which also includes international airports and has the capability to sweep up most of America’s population. And that’s just CBP officers. The CBP’s drones are being lent out to anyone who wants to use one as far inland as they want to use it.

      The CBP performs a whole lot of searches. Over the past couple of years, the CBP has vastly increased the number of electronic searches it performs, needing little more than “because it’s there” to perform at least a surface scan of a device’s contents. Deeper digging requires extra paperwork, but a staggering amount of exceptions to the Fourth Amendment apply at the borders which, as we noted earlier, covers far more than points of entry.

      The ACLU’s FOIA lawsuit has resulted in the production of a couple of lengthy documents from the CBP. These documents detail search procedures and the CBP’s long list of justifications for performing these searches. There are 1,200 pages in the newly-released stash. 1,100 of them are the CBP’s “Enforcement Law Course” [PDF]. The other 100 are a Powerpoint [PDF] containing “legal update training.”

      The CBP has studied every Fourth Amendment-related legal decision to compile a long list of things officers can use to predicate a warrantless search. This multi-jurisdictional paper chase results in the expected internal contradictions, resulting in the CBP being able to argue both sides of a flipped coin can give them permission to perform a search. Here’s a quick summation of some of the documents’ contents by Max Rivlin-Nadler of The Intercept.

    • To Fund ‘White Supremacist Vanity Project,’ Trump Eyes Relief Funds Earmarked for Actual Disasters

      While scientists warn that the climate crisis will continue to cause increasingly damaging weather events and disasters in U.S. communities, President Donald Trump made clear Friday his focus on a separate, invented “crisis” as he ordered officials to consider redirecting billions of dollars in disaster relief funds to pay for a wall at the southern U.S. border.

      According to the Associated Press, the White House asked the Army Corps of Engineers to examine its budget, including $13.9 billion in emergency funds, to determine how much money it could spend to help build the wall Trump promised his supporters.

      The emergency funds had been set aside for California in the wake of devastating wildfires that tore through 1.8 million acres in the state this year, as well as Puerto Rico, Texas, and Florida as they continue to recover from 2017 and 2018′s hurricanes and prepare for similar storms in the coming years.

    • A Potentially Tectonic Event Shakes up the Mumia Abu-Jamal Case

      In a huge potential break in the long-running and controversial case of Philadelphia journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, currently serving a life-without-parole term in a Pennsylvania state prison at Mahonoy, PA for murder conviction, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office says it has discovered six banker storage boxes of materials about the case in a locked storeroom of the DA’s offices at 3 South Penn Square.

      The boxes, spotted by Krasner himself during a search of the previously locked storeroom for an office desk, reportedly had the name “McCann” scrawled on their facing side, apparently referring to Edward McCann, the long-time head of the DA’s homicide litigation unit (McCann left the DA’s office in 2015). When the boxes were removed from under the desk, it was discovered that the name “Mumia” was written on the their hidden ends.

      Five of the boxes were reportedly numbered 18/29, 21/29, 23/29, 24/29 and 29/29. The sixth box had no number on it. The department’s Mumia case record is stored in boxes numbered 1-32 and includes boxes similarly numbered to those found in the storeroom.

      The newly located cardboard crates, which contain case files, evidentiary material and other materials relating to the Mumia case, are going to be provided to the defense for their inspection, according the DA’s office.

    • Slowly Catching Up to Developed World, Newsom’s Plan for California Would Provide Longest Paid Family Leave in US

      In what some are calling a “bold” and “groundbreaking” move—at least by U.S. standards—California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday proposed the nation’s longest paid family leave as part of his new state budget plan.

      “The administration is committed to expanding the paid family leave program with the goal of ensuring that all newborns and newly adopted babies can be cared for by a parent or a close family member for the first six months,” according to the governor’s budget summary (pdf), which notes that such schemes lead to “positive health and educational outcomes for children, greater economic security for parents, and less strain on finding and affording infant child care.”

      That proposal and other family-friendly policies contained in the plan were celebrated by the California Legislative Women’s Caucus.

    • Government Shutdown Threatens Section 8 and Food Stamps

      As we enter day 19 of the government shutdown, the ripple effects are growing across the country, with 800,000 government workers going without pay. Affected agencies are operating with skeleton crews, and that spells trouble for people counting on tax refunds and government benefits that require people in the office — and funds — to administer.

      For two extremely successful government programs that help lift people out of poverty and address basic needs, this reckoning may be especially soon. And it may not come as a surprise that the Trump administration was unaware of these potential consequences of the shutdown – something the president appears determined to prolong to advance his political agenda, even at the expense of suffering Americans.

      One is the housing choice program, sometimes known as Section 8, which provides financial assistance that allows low-income renters access to a greater array of housing options. The program uses vouchers to make up the difference between what renters can afford and what’s available.

      While tenants who use vouchers often face discrimination, and the waitlists are sometimes long, millions of people across the U.S. count on vouchers to help them access housing.

    • Debbie Weingarten on the Borderlands, Alexander Main on Maduro’s Reelection

      Whether as a boondoggle, a cartoon or a mindless chant for the two-minute hate—”building a wall” at the US/Mexico border is an abstraction for many Americans, a political plot point. Among those for whom it is not that? People who live in the borderlands—and those who listen to those who do. We’ll talk with reporter Debbie Weingarten about the walls that already exist on the Southern border.

    • Deaths of Women in Custody During Hurricane Florence Could Have Been Prevented

      Law enforcement and corrections officials must have emergency plans in place to protect any person in their custody when extreme weather strikes.

      Amid rising floodwaters from Hurricane Florence in September, two women in the custody of the Horry County Sheriff’s Office were left to drown in the back of a transport van.

      The facts are as straightforward as they are damning. The two deputies, Joshua Bishop and Stephen Flood, transporting Nicolette Green and Wendy Newton to a hospital for mental health treatment disregarded roadblocks indicating flooded roadways. Floodwaters quickly overtook the van, and it was soon submerged. The women remained trapped as the water filled the van’s locked compartment.

      This tragic loss of life was both predictable and preventable.

      The sheriff’s department fired both officers in October, and on Jan. 4, prosecutors announced criminal charges against them. This is an important step toward individual accountability for the wrongful deaths of these two women. But criminal charges alone remain an imperfect and short-sighted remedy. In order to ensure a similar tragedy never happens again, the failures that led to the deaths of Green and Newton must be identified and addressed on a systemic level.

      When people are taken into custody — whether as patients receiving mental health treatment, as was the case with Green and Newton, or as immigrant detainees, pretrial detainees, or convicted prisoners — they are at the mercy of the state. Once in custody, people must depend on the state for their most basic needs: food, medical care, mental health treatment, and physical protection. The state is constitutionally obligated to meet those fundamental needs. The deputies driving Green and Newton, however, failed to meet this basic charge.

      People with serious mental illness, like Green and Newton, are even more vulnerable when placed into custody. Across the country, there are about 35,000 patients in state psychiatric hospitals. And there are nearly 10 times that number — more than 350,000 people — with serious mental illness incarcerated in state prisons and jails. In fact, approximately 20 percent of jail detainees and 15 percent of state prisoners live with a serious mental illness.

      Yet when natural disasters strike, too often states disregard the needs of the most vulnerable people in their care. In the case of Green and Newton, the transporting deputies deliberately and inexplicably declined to follow the safe route mapped out for them. In other situations, officials similarly have failed to follow protective protocols designed to ensure the safety of the community, simply because the people in their care were in custody.

      These are not isolated incidents, but familiar patterns that must be addressed.

    • William Barr’s Unsolicited Memo to Trump About Obstruction of Justice

      Barr’s critique of the Mueller investigation raises serious questions about his views of presidential power. Senators should demand answers.
      Last month, news broke that in June 2018, President Trump’s current nominee for attorney general, William P. Barr, sent an unsolicited 20-page memo to the Justice Department critiquing special counsel Robert Mueller’s current investigation into Russian election interference.

      Barr, who previously served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, penned the memo as “a former official deeply concerned with the institutions of the Presidency and the Department of Justice.” The memo questions the scope of Mueller’s investigation, and it argues that Mueller should not be permitted to demand answers from the president about possible obstruction of justice based on attempts by Trump to pressure former FBI Director James Comey to drop his investigation of Trump’s ex-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

      The fact that Barr sent Trump this memo, and may have subsequently been rewarded with a nomination to join Trump’s cabinet, raises serious concerns. To start, the memo’s legal theories advance an overly expansive view of presidential power. More specifically, the memo prompts questions about whether Barr would order Mueller to halt further inquiry into possible obstruction by the president if the Senate confirms him. It even raises questions about whether Barr deliberately sought to curry favor with Trump by taking a position favorable to him in order to secure a top government position.

    • It’s Time to End the Language of Oppression

      Since the founding of the United States, language has been central to dehumanizing Black and brown people to justify violence and injustice. That oppression has lived in the racist polemics of the nation’s most prominent politicians and the dividing rhetoric of dog-whistle doublespeak.

      For our ancestors and those of us fighting for Black and indigenous liberation – the power of language has brought the world beautiful poetry, storytelling and intellect in service of our freedom. At the same time, we have seen words weaponized socially and politically to secure white supremacy and to uphold patriarchy. These words are the tools that build a foundation of inequality that undergirds this nation.

      These weapons are not new and neither is the resistance against them. Social and political movements have long recognized the power of words and pushed back. In every social movement I can remember, language has been the tool for change from which all other tools and initiatives flow. From Stokely Carmichael’s call for Black Power to the invocations of the disability rights movement, the capacity to change language holds within it the capacity to change minds. That is because language is the people’s weapon as well.

      In 2005, the late Eddie Ellis and I wrote a letter that sought to inform the field of criminal justice about the importance of language. Though discussed in different terms at the time, there was growing awareness and resistance confronting the mass criminalization of Black and brown communities that has expanded over the past four decades. As more activists and advocates entered the conversation, the words “convict,” “superpredator,” and “monsters” rang out loudly in the speeches of every politician and reformer.

    • How Thousands of Child and Adolescent Brides Enter America

      Thousands of requests by men to bring in child and adolescent brides to live in the United States were approved over the past decade, according to government data obtained by The Associated Press. In one case, a 49-year-old man applied for admission for a 15-year-old girl.

      The approvals are legal: The Immigration and Nationality Act does not set minimum age requirements for the person making the request or for that person’s spouse or fiancee. By contrast, to bring in a parent from overseas, a petitioner has to be at least 21 years old.

      And in weighing petitions, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services goes by whether the marriage is legal in the spouse or fiancee’s home country and then whether the marriage would be legal in the state where the petitioner lives.

      The data raises questions about whether the immigration system may be enabling forced marriage and about how U.S. laws may be compounding the problem despite efforts to limit child and forced marriage. Marriage between adults and minors is not uncommon in the U.S., and most states allow children to marry with some restrictions.

    • Stop Defending Abusers. Listen to Black Women.

      Starting last week, Lifetime Network has been showing a six-episode docu-series titled “Surviving R. Kelly” that gives more details about what many of us have been saying for years: Robert Kelly is a serial rapist. For many Black women, the last few days have seen a blur of unintentional (and intentional) denials of our reality and triggering social media posts.

      The de-prioritization of Black women’s and girls’ experiences isn’t new to us.

      My mind cannot help but drift to the lack of outrage for 17-year-old Nia Wilson, who was attacked by 27-year-old John Cowell last year and died at the scene.

      Cowell’s identity as a white man when paired with Wilson’s Black female identity engaged many Black men in a conversation on white supremacy. But as R. Kelly continued to abuse girls and women, those same Black men remained silent.

    • Marching Towards a Fighting Women’s Movement

      From the beginning, the Trump administration has waged a ruthless assault on women — from our right to workplaces free of sexual harassment to the ability to make our own decisions about reproductive rights.

      It was hardly a surprise that, once in office, the candidate who was exposed on tape bragging about sexual assault would also be the president who denied the claims of survivors and nominated Brett Kavanaugh, an opponent of abortion also accused of sexual violence, for the Supreme Court.

      Since the 2016 election, Trump and the conservatives who emboldened by him have acted like they have a mandate, running roughshod over abortion rights. And 2019 promises to be another year of attacks.

      Already, three states are poised to enact so-called “heartbeat” abortion bans, joining three others that have outlawed abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur as early as six weeks into pregnancy and well before many people even realize they’re pregnant.

      Two more states are preparing for constitutional amendments granting rights to the fetus, and another state plans to ban abortions altogether — and make violations punishable by life imprisonment of patients and providers. And the year has only just begun.

      But at the same time, Trump and the right wing that loves him haven’t gone unopposed.

      From the very first full day of Trump’s presidency after his inauguration, hundreds of thousands of people traveled to Washington, DC, to make sure to show their opposition to the Misogynist-in-Chief.

      And if they weren’t in Washington, they were taking part in protests around the country. Together, these made January 21, 2017, the single largest day of protest in US history.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Verizon Promises Not To Over-Hype 5G, Immediately Proceeds To Over-Hype 5G

      We’ve talked a lot about how while fifth-generation wireless is a good thing (in that faster, more reliable networks are always good), it’s been comically over-hyped by cellular carriers and network hardware vendors. It has also been accompanied by what appears to be a race between cellular carriers to broadly misrepresent what 5G is capable of, and where and when it will actually be available. AT&T, for example, began changing the 4G icons on user phones to “5GE,” despite the fact actual 5G isn’t even out of the oven yet.


      This idea that a universe of smart city and smart car innovation is only possible via 5G has always been misleading in and of itself. Yes, faster, more resilient networks are good, but there’s nothing inherently magical about 5G that will make it somehow forge innovation out of whole cloth. Most existing 4G networks can generally do most of what 5G can (especially with the latest MIMO antenna or other upgrades), 5G networks will just be faster and more resilient with lower latency. 5G is not some mystical panacea. It will, however, probably be used to justify Verizon’s higher prices, to be sure.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Patent trolls celebrate as Trump’s new rules breathes fresh life into parasitic grifter capitalism

      Then along came Alice: the 2014 Supreme Court ruling in Alice v. CLS Bank, which gutted “with-a-computer” patents and threatened to euthanize every software patent troll at the stroke of a pen.

      There was only one snag: the judges of the Federal Circuit — who, for reasons best understood by them, love patent trolls — kept ignoring Alice, forcing the victims of patent trolls to repeatedly go to the Supreme Court to get the Federal Circuit judge to uphold the law.

      Now, Trump’s Patent Office is issuing new guidance that all but undoes Alice and reasserts the Federal Circuit’s troll-friendly doctrine, taking patent trolls off life-support and teeing them up to once again begin draining $29 billion/year from actual business, making actual things that actual people need.

    • Patent case: Glasswall Solutions Ltd. v. Clearswift Ltd., USA

      In affirming a decision of the federal district court in Seattle, Washington to dismiss the patent infringement case brought by Glasswall Solutions Limited against Clearswift Ltd., the Federal Circuit held that the patent claims are an abstract idea and merely require the conventional manipulation of information by a computer.

    • Obviousness without a Motivation to Combine

      The PTAB’s obviousness finding is based upon two prior art references. However, the references are not being combined so-to-speak. Rather, the Board found that the first reference (O’Brien) teaches all limitations of the lossless encoding scheme in Realtime’s claim 1. The second reference (Nelson) was used essentially to show that the “string encoding” described in O’Brien was the same as the “dictionary-based encoding” in Realtime’s claims.

    • Congress Weighs In On Qualcomm and Apple At The ITC

      The big Qualcomm news this week was the start of the FTC v. Qualcomm antitrust trial in front of Judge Koh.1

      But Qualcomm’s first ITC case against Apple has also had significant developments—even though the ITC is shut down and the case is on hold.

      In particular, a number of members of Congress have addressed comments to the ITC. These Senators and Representatives express their concern with Qualcomm’s request to exclude their competitor’s products and the serious impacts it would have on U.S. competitive conditions and on national security. I understand that other Congressional letters are expected once the ITC re-opens submissions. As the ITC’s filing system isn’t necessarily user-friendly, I have collected the current Congressional submissions in this post (and will update with additional submissions as I obtain them).

    • Netherlands: CDVI SA v. Impro Technologies Europe B.V.,

      The court solved the question of inventive step using the problem-solution approach, defining the objective technical problem without including a pointer to the solution of the problem.


      Consequently, the patent was held invalid.

    • Trademarks

      • Naperville, IL Development Project Forced To Drop Name To Avoid Public Confusing It With City 1.7K Miles Away

        Lots of trademark disputes are stupid. Lots of trademark disputes portray a great deal of hand-wringing that is laughable at best. And lots of trademark disputes end up being settled despite not being even remotely valid. But very few trademark disputes have to do with the naming and promoting of commercial developments when the geography that separates them is over 1,700 miles.

        But that’s the case in the recent news that the City of Naperville in Illinois has dropped the name of its Water Street District development due to a complaint by the city of Henderson in Nevada.

    • Copyrights

      • Bird Rides Inc. Demands Takedown of News Report on Lawful Re-use of Scooters

        Every now and then we have to remind someone that it’s not illegal for people to report facts that they dislike. This time, the offender is electric scooter rental company Bird Rides, Inc.

        Electric scooters have swamped a number of cities across the US, many of the scooters carelessly discarded in public spaces. Bird, though, has pioneered a new way to pollute the commons by sending a meritless takedown letter to a journalist covering the issue. The company cites the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and implies that even writing about the issue could be illegal. It’s not.

        Bird sent a “Notice of Claimed Infringement” over this article on Boing Boing, one of the Internet’s leading sources of news and commentary on social, educational, political, artistic and scientific development in popular culture. The article reports on the fact that large numbers of Bird scooters are winding up in impound lots, and that it’s possible to lawfully purchase these scooters when cities auction them off, and then to lawfully modify those scooters so they work without the Bird app.

        The letter is necessarily vague about exactly how the post infringed any of Bird’s rights, and with good reason: the post does no such thing, as we explain in a letter on behalf of Happy Mutants LLC, which owns and operates Boing Boing. The post reports on lawful activity, nothing more. In fact, the First Amendment would have protected it even if reported on illegal conduct or advocated for people to break the law. (For instance, a person might lawfully advocate that an electric scooter startup should violate local parking ordinances. Hypothetically.)

        So, in a sense, it doesn’t matter whether Bird is right or wrong when it claims that it’s illegal to convert a Bird scooter to a personal scooter. Either way, Boing Boing was free to report on it.

      • Scooter Company Bird Sends Absolutely Bullshit Copyright Threat Letter To Cory Doctorow For Reporting On Modifying Scooters

        Of all the stupid things a lawyer can do, it’s difficult to think of many more stupid than to send a totally and completely bogus copyright infringement claim, arguing (incorrectly) a violation of DMCA section 1201 (the anti-circumvention part of the DMCA) to Cory Doctorow. Among many other things, Cory is one of the leading voices about the problems of 1201 and has fought for years to dismantle it. And thus a case that actually challenged 1201 might be interesting, but in this case, there’s no valid 1201 case at all.

        As explained in an EFF blog post, Bird, one of the bigger app-based scooter rental services out there, sent a completely bullshit “Notice of Claimed Infringement” to Doctorow and the parent company of Boing Boing, Happy Mutants. Over what? Over a BoingBoing post from last month that reports on how people are offering $30 conversion kits to turn a former Bird scooter into one that you yourself can use. Specifically, the article talked about how many Bird scooters were being impounded, and could potentially be sold off at some point to people who might want to convert one on the cheap into a personal electric scooter.

        The letter–sent by Bird’s “Sr. Corporate Counsel”, Linda Kwak (whose experience appears to be focused on employment law, not copyright law)–makes a number of ludicrous claims. Thankfully, Doctorow and BoingBoing have EFF to back them up and respond forcefully to this kind of threat, with a response written by EFF senior staff attorney Kit Walsh.

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