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01.14.19

Links 14/1/2019: Linux 5.0 RC2 and DXVK 0.95 Released

Posted in News Roundup at 6:03 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • First step to becoming a hacker: Linux!

    If you’re contemplating a career in cybersecurity and haven’t come up to speed on Linux, now’s the time to get ramped up and here’s one easy way to do it. This new book from no starch press was written with people like you in mind. Authored by OccupyTheWeb, the force behind Hackers-Arise, Linux Basics for Hackers provides everything from basic Linux command line skills through to scripting, manipulating logging, network scanning, using and abusing system services, and remaining stealthy in the process.

  • Desktop

    • ‘Linux for Chromebooks’ May Let Chromebook Owners Choose Which Distro to Use

      Last year Google wowed Linux geeks the world over with a feature that lets Chromebook users run desktop Linux apps on Chrome OS.

      The feature, dubbed ‘Crostini’ at the time, but now known by the catching title “Linux (beta) for Chromebooks”, continues to improve with each new dev update to Chrome OS (for instance, it will soon add graphics acceleration).

      But Google isn’t stopping there.

      The search giant now plans to extend the Linux (beta) for Chromebook feature to allow device managers to choose a Linux distro on which it runs.

      As one distro does not fit all, this is an important development for developers in particular.

      Someone working in the worlds of Red Hat want or prefer a set of tools, setups or distro-specific software configured in a certain way. Similarly, someone working with Snap apps on Ubuntu may prefer having an Ubuntu more beneficial while hacking around with Ubuntu specific technologies.

    • Global PC shipments fell for seventh straight year in 2018

      Global PC shipments stood at 259.4 million in 2018, a fall of 1.3% from the previous year, according to the technology research firm Gartner, which said two key trends had affected the industry during the year.

  • Server

    • DigitalOcean Alternatives

      Monocultures are a bad idea. Especially, in the cloud oriented era, where companies are growing more and more dependent on their cloud providers. The IT and DevOps teams have tools built specifically to leverage AWS, or Azure, or DigitalOcean or some other cloud provider. While this is great in the short run, it lowers the barrier of entry and allows users to leverage the powerful infrastructure of the Fortune 500 companies. Over the long run, however, companies can grow dependent upon specific vendors and this can lead to a monopolistic market.

    • Containers Killed The Virtual Machine Star

      We predict new enterprise application development will pass a tipping point in 2019 and shift away from legacy virtual machines (VMs) and strongly toward containers and Kubernetes container orchestration.

    • What AWS can learn from Google’s roaring Kubernetes success

      A quick look at the Kubernetes commit log suggests that interest in contributing to the open source container engine may be fading. That quick, superficial look, however, would be incorrect. Wildly so.

      What that decline in commits to the core Kubernetes engine actually shows is that Google and the growing Kubernetes community are doing nearly everything right to ensure its long-term success.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux 4.20.2
    • Linux 4.19.15
    • Linux 4.14.93
    • Linux 4.9.150
    • Linux 4.4.170
    • Linux 3.18.132
    • Linux 5.0-rc2

      So the merge window had somewhat unusual timing with the holidays, and
      I was afraid that would affect stragglers in rc2, but honestly, that
      doesn’t seem to have happened much. rc2 looks pretty normal.

      Were there some missing commits that missed the merge window? Yes. But
      no more than usual. Things look pretty normal.

      What’s a bit abnormal is that I’m traveling again, and so for me it’s
      a Monday release, but it’s (intentionally) the usual “Sunday
      afternoon” release schedule back home. I’m trying to not surprise
      people too much.

    • Linux 5.0-RC2 Kernel Released
    • Linux Foundation

    • Graphics Stack

      • FOSDEM 19 Is Happening In Just Three Weeks, There Will Once Again Be A Graphics Room

        If you are able to make it to Brussels, Belgium in three weeks, the wonderful FOSDEM event is taking place as easily one of the best open-source/Linux events in the world and it’s free to attend.

        FOSDEM 2019 is taking place 2 to 3 February this year and once again at the ULB Solbosch Campus in Brussels. This year there are keynotes about blockchain, cloud, and other hot topics. All of the usual main tracks and developer rooms are again taking place.

      • Vulkan 1.1.98 Brings A Dozen Fixes

        Last weekend there was the Vulkan 1.1.97 specification update with five new extensions including some notable ones like memory priority and buffer device address while out today is the much more mundane Vulkan 1.1.98.

        The Vulkan 1.1.98 update doesn’t feature any new extensions but has some basic fixes and clarifications to this graphics/compute API specification and associated documentation. Of the roughly dozen changes, no real standouts but just lots of ongoing improvements.

    • Benchmarks

      • GCC vs. Clang Compiler Performance On NVIDIA Xavier’s Carmel ARMv8 Cores

        Since receiving the powerful NVIDIA Jetson AGX Xavier with its ARMv8 Carmel cores on this Tegra194 SoC a while back, it’s been quite a fun developer board for benchmarking and various Linux tests. One of the areas I was curious about was whether GCC or Clang would generate faster code for this high performance ARM SoC, so here are some benchmarks.

        This CPU compiler benchmarking was done with the NVIDIA Jetson AGX Xavier while running the Ubuntu 18.04 LTS default L4T file-system and comparing the default GCC 7.3.0 against LLVM Clang 6.0 compiler options as officially supported by Ubuntu LTS Bionic Beaver. These are also the compiler versions supported by NVIDIA with their Tegra software on this Linux 4 Tegra sample file-system. The NVIDIA Tegra Xavier (T194) SoC as a reminder has eight “Carmel” ARMv8 CPU cores that are custom designed by NVIDIA. Tests on other more common ARMv8 cores with these different compilers will be coming up in future Phoronix articles with Clang 8 and GCC 9 releasing later this quarter. Rounding out this powerful Jetson AGX Xavier is the Volta GPU with 512 CUDA cores, 16GB of LPDDR4 system memory, 32GB of eMMC storage, two NVDLA deep learning accelerators, and a 7-way vision processor, granted those aren’t the focus of today’s testing.

      • LCZero Chess Engine Performance With OpenCL vs. CUDA + cuDNN vs. FP16 With Tensor Cores

        A Phoronix reader pointed out LCZero (Leela Chess Zero) a few days ago as an interesting chess engine powered by neural networks and supports BLAS, OpenCL, and NVIDIA CUDA+cuDNN back-ends. Particularly with the FP16 cuDNN support, this chess engine can be super fast on NVIDIA’s latest Turing GPUs with tensor cores.

        With LCZero’s build process being sane for its different back-ends and the program turning out to be benchmark-friendly and meeting my requirements, it’s now available via the Phoronix Test Suite with a simple phoronix-test-suite benchmark lczero (granted, the back-end support may obviously vary depending upon your hardware/driver support) and more details over on OpenBenchmarking.org.

  • Applications

    • Nanonote 1.0.1

      The first release of Nanonote, my minimalist note-taking app, was a bit rushed: I broke indentation shortly before tagging version 1.0.0… meh.

      So here is version 1.0.1. It fixes the indentation and adds the ability to indent or unindent whole lines with Tab and Shift+Tab, in addition to the existing Ctrl+I and Ctrl+U shortcuts.

      In addition to these changes, the build system can now generate Debian and RPM packages, making the application easier to install.

    • Get started with Joplin, a note-taking app

      There seems to be a mad rush at the beginning of every year to find ways to be more productive. New Year’s resolutions, the itch to start the year off right, and of course, an “out with the old, in with the new” attitude all contribute to this. And the usual round of recommendations is heavily biased towards closed source and proprietary software. It doesn’t have to be that way.

      Here’s the first of my picks for 19 new (or new-to-you) open source tools to help you be more productive in 2019.

    • Kodi v18 Leia RC5

      As mentioned in the RC4 release article, a final release was close on the horizon. To that end we hereby present you the last Release Candate (RC5) before we call it a wrap on v18.0. It will not be absolutely perfect but we have to go forward at some point. Don’t worry as we will of course continue working on fixing any issue that might surface in the regeular v18 point releases afterwards.

    • Kodi 18 Leia Nearly Released, But For Now An RC5

      Kodi 18 Leia RC5 is available this weekend as what should be the last release candidate before this major release is out of this widely-used, cross-platform HTPC software.

      Kodi 18 RC5 was issued today rather than the final release in order to serve up some last minute fixes and encourage a final round of testing. Kodi 18 RC5 has multiple crash fixes, takes care of some Android issues, various other platform-specific bug fixes, and other issues resolved.

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Wine or Emulation

      • DXVK 0.95 Released With Big Performance Win For Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

        The DXVK project for mapping Direct3D 10/11 atop Vulkan for Wine/Proton (Steam Play) users continues inching closer to its eventual 1.0 milestone.

        DXVK 0.95 is the latest release out today for Linux gamers relying upon the project for a faster Windows Direct3D game running experience. DXVK 0.95 does bring minor reduction to the CPU overhead, but the biggest benefactor to this release is Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.

      • DXVK 0.95 is out with various D3D10 stability fixes, CPU overhead reduction and more game fixes

        DXVK, the excellent project that Valve has been funding has a fresh brew out to continue the exciting progress made.

        For those just joining us or newer followers: DXVK is a “Vulkan-based translation layer for Direct3D 10/11 which allows running 3D applications on Linux using Wine”. It’s what helps make Valve’s Steam Play run your games that do not have Linux support.

    • Games

      • Godot 4.0 Game Engine To Work On Vulkan Port, Big Rendering Improvements

        While Godot 3.1 isn’t even out yet, our eyes are already looking forward to Godot 4.0 for 2D and 3D rendering improvements, but most notably Vulkan API support.

        Godot Engine lead developer Juan Linietsky has tweeted his rendering TODO list moving forward for this increasingly-used open-source game engine. The biggest item on the list is porting to Vulkan for Godot 4.0, which doesn’t yet have a release timeline. Other Godot 4.0 rendering changes anticipated are shader cache support and the ability to have bindless textures while not altering the engine’s current rendering design too much.

      • Hero of the Kingdom III should now work on newer Linux distributions

        Hero of the Kingdom III, a casual RPG from Lonely Troops released back in August last year but it seems it came with a few issues for those on newer distributions.

        In a post on Steam, the developer did note originally about the limited Linux support. Earlier this month, they updated it to replace the older 32bit version with a 64bit version which seems to have solved the problems. Nice to see some good support there!

      • Rogue Empire, a dungeon-crawling RPG is leaving Early Access later this month with Linux support

        Rogue Empire, a dungeon-crawling RPG from Portal Entertainment is ready to leave Early Access on January 25th.

      • SDL Picks Up An Initial OpenSL ES Implementation For Android

        Helping to make the SDL cross-platform library more attractive for mobile/Android developers, the latest SDL2 code has an initial OpenSL ES implementation.

        OpenSL ES is the Khronos Group’s effort as an industry-standard sound library for embedded hardware while offering up 3D positional audio support, optional integration with OpenMAX, audio effects, and other advanced sound capabilities.

      • SuperTuxKart, the open source Mario Kart clone, achieves beta status with network support

        While I appreciate hardware makers and game developers pushing the boundaries of what gaming can be, it is important to remember one important fact — fun trumps all. In other words, it doesn’t matter how much processing power a computer or console has, or how beautiful a game’s graphics are, if it isn’t fun to play! That’s probably a big reason why retro-gaming is so popular these days.

      • Free public Itch alpha of space shooter Gravity Ace is up for grabs

        If you would cry happy tears at the thought of a modern successor to 80s games like Thrust and Gravitar, then brace yourself for a river. Developer John Watson is making that dream a reality with his first commercial release, Gravity Ace. And you can try it for free!

        John is clearly pining for the 80s and decided to do something about it when he launched a first alpha of Gravity Ace on Itch just 3 months ago. He’s the sole dev on the project and is developing on Linux using the excellent Godot Engine 3.

      • ArmA 3 Chernarus Winter – Jolly Good Fighting

        You know it. ArmA 3 is the only FPS worth playing. For nearly two long decades, the Operation Flashpoint franchise has dominated the genre of serious war simulation, with nothing else coming close. A golden standard to realism. And fun, too.

        A big part of the joy factor comes from the community maintaining the thousands of maps, scenarios, mods, and other add-ons that make the game superb and fresh. Feeling nostalgic? Operation Flashpoint stuff at your disposal rendered in modern graphics. There you go. ArmA 2 maybe? That can be arranged. After all, Chernarus has always been a darn good map, and it had that Cold War feel that Altis and Stratis don’t really offer. So you can imagine my delight when I discovered the Winter edition!

      • Volcanoids, the steampunk survival game with massive drills has a Linux version ready for Early Access

        As promised by the developers of Volcanoids, the Linux version of their very interesting first-person steampunk survival game is live and ready for when they hit Early Access.

        It’s currently only available to a limited selection of testers, you can join their Discord Channel to find out how to get early testing access. They’re setting the minimum supported distribution to Ubuntu 18.04, with OpenGL by default while they continue to polish up Vulkan support.

        Since I have access, I’ve put a few hours into it and honestly I came away pretty impressed by it. The whole idea of it is really unique with your steampunk-style drill that you travel around in and upgrade.

        Naturally, since it’s not even in Early Access yet it has plenty of rough edges which they’re gradually smoothing-out as time goes on.

      • Arc Savior, another space combat game will be supported on Linux after release6

        Arc Savior, a new space combat game from developer Squid Monkey Studios is releasing later this month and it looks quite interesting. Turns out the developer is going to support Linux too.

      • The cute and quirky puzzle-exploration game ‘Pikuniku’ is coming to Linux

        Pikuniku from the studio Sectordub and Devolver Digital is releasing January 24th and it will support Linux at release.

        I’ve been following it for a while as it looks really quite sweet, with a simple and quirky style to it. After popping a message to their official Twitter to ask about Linux support, they replied simply to say that “Yes” it will. Seems Steam and GOG already show this too, which is great.

      • Darwin Project no longer works in Steam Play, due to Easy Anti-Cheat

        After spending a good few hours enjoying the Battle Royale game Darwin Project [Steam] on Linux thanks to Steam Play, it has come to an abrupt end.

        I wrote about it working only recently in December. Much to my surprise, it only really needed a quick manual adjustment to pick the region you wish to matchmake in. Then it worked pretty much like any other game, exactly what Steam Play is supposed to do and I was happy.

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • KDE Frameworks 5.54 Released for KDE Plasma 5.15, Adds Android Notifications

        The KDE Project announced the general availability of the KDE Frameworks 5.54.0 open-source software suite for current and upcoming releases of the KDE Plasma desktop environment.
        Consisting of more than 70 addon libraries for the open-source and cross-platform Qt application framework, the KDE Frameworks software suite features numerous components essential to the KDE Plasma desktop environment.

        The KDE Frameworks 5.54.0 a monthly update that adds numerous improvements, as well as various new features in an attempt to stabilize the software suite. Also, this release is just in time for the upcoming KDE Plasma 5.15 desktop, due for release on February 12.

      • KDE Frameworks 5.54.0

        KDE Frameworks are over 70 addon libraries to Qt which provide a wide variety of commonly needed functionality in mature, peer reviewed and well tested libraries with friendly licensing terms. For an introduction see the KDE Frameworks web page.

        This release is part of a series of planned monthly releases making improvements available to developers in a quick and predictable manner.

      • KDE Frameworks 5.54 Released With KWayland Improvements, KIO Supports TLS 1.3
      • This week in Usability & Productivity, part 53

        I totally missed that last week marked the one-year anniversary of my documentation and guidance of KDE’s Usability & Productivity initiative. I think we’ve achieved a lot over the course of that year!

        Note that this is NOT an exhaustive log of everything that happened this week in the entire KDE community, or even in all of Plasma. The actual number of commits and improvements is always vast and enormous–too much to comprehend, really. The KDE Community is staggeringly productive.

        Rather, this is always a curated list of only the user-facing improvements I believe are directly relevant to the Usability & Productivity initiative. And speaking of it, this week we got an interesting assortment of new features, bugfixes, and UI improvements–many of which I didn’t mention but will ultimately be appreciated when taken together

      • KDE’s Okular Will Now Display & Verify PDF Digital Signatures

        KDE developers continue being very productive this winter working on various improvements to their desktop stack.

        In addition to KDE developers doing a great job on improvements, contributor Nate Graham also continues doing a splendid job summarizing these enhancements to KDE on a weekly basis.

      • Facebook AccountKit with Qt/C++ on Android

        Facebook’s AccountKit is an authentication service that can use your email or phone number to login to your services, it doesn’t require that the user has a Facebook account, just a valid email or phone.

        The cool thing about it is that it sends SMS for free, and although sending SMSs is cheap being free of charge is something you might want to look when creating a new App, in fact here in Brazil some big Apps do make use of it.

        So long story short story I wanted to add this to my Qt Android App.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • GNOME 3.32 Will Do A Better Job Picking The Primary GPU – Helping Out USB Displays, Etc

        The work around better GPU/infrastructure handling for GNOME 3.32 continues with the most recent work merged this weekend being for better handling by Mutter over deciding the primary GPU of the system in multi-GPU systems whether it be multiple graphics cards, notebooks with dual GPUs, or systems with a USB-based external display adapter.

        Emilio Pozuelo Monfort of Collabora has been working on a primary GPU rework to better decide how GNOME chooses the primary GPU of the system. The primary change of this work appears to be ensuring that the primary GPU is capable of hardware rendering and that Mutter doesn’t accidentally choose a GPU only backed by LLVMpipe or other software renderer. There is also a new fallback for CPU-based copying from secondary GPUs with a software renderer, which is said to provide better performance and help with synchronization.

      • ‘Celluloid’ is the new name of GNOME MPV

        Celluloid is the name of a “transparent flammable plastic made in sheets from camphor and nitrocellulose, formerly used for cinematographic film” i.e. movies — perfect choice for a movie player, no?

        There also isn’t a lot (if any) similar software using the name, either. Similar names can create all sort of problems, ranging from packaging conflicts to promotional crossed-wires.

        Naturally there is, of course, a new icon to represent the newly-renamed app on users’ desktops.

        The Celluloid icon is modelled after a frame of celluloid film and has a generic play icon and seekbar overlaid to denote that it’s a player.

      • GNOME Outreachy mentorship

        There was people interested in all of three projects, but for the Books app we don’t have any real contribution so there was no real applicants.

        I’ve two good proposals for Fractal and for Gtranslator, so I approve both and the Outreachy people approve these two interts. So we get two new devs working in GNOME for three months as interns.

        This is something great, paid developers working in my proposals is a good thing, but this implies that I need to do the mentor work for these two interns during the three months period, so it’s more work for me :/

        But I think this is a really important work to do to bring more people to the free software, so I’ve less time for hacking, but I think it’s good, because the fresh blood can do the hacking and if, after the Outreachy, one of the interns continues collaborating with GNOME, that will be more important for the GNOME project that some new features in one app.

      • GNOME Internet Radio Locator version 1.6.0

        GNOME Internet Radio Locator 1.6.0 is now freely available for GNOME 3.

        The 1.6.0 release is a stable release with Internet radio stations from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, England, Scotland, France and Belgium, as well as U.S.A., Canada, Mexico and Guatemala, mapped for GNOME Maps and city text search interface with auto-completion for 76 world cities that are featured in this release.

      • GNOME Internet Radio Locator 1.6.0 Released

        GNOME Internet Radio Locator 1.6.0 is now freely available for GNOME systems. The 1.6.0 release is a stable release with Internet radio stations from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, England, Scotland, France and Belgium, as well as U.S.A., Canada, Mexico and Guatemala, mapped for GNOME Maps and city text search interface with auto-completion for 76 world cities that are featured in this release.

  • Distributions

    • Freespire 5.0 “Coho” Planned for Mid-November 2019, Linspire 9.0 Comes Late 2020 [Ed: They have just shown their hand/cards]

      The development team behind the Freespire and Linspire GNU/Linux distributions have announced their roadmap for new releases during the 2019-2020 period.

      With the recent launch of Linspire 8.0, the development team kicks off the new year with big plans for the next major versions of their Linspire and Freespire operating systems. They recently informed Softpedia about the Linspire and Freespire development roadmap for 2019 and 2020.

    • [Netrunner 19.01 Released and] New Forums Software

      Starting today we have switched the old mybb forum to a new forums software called Discourse.

      For security reasons, anyone who already registered an account before needs to set a new password by selecting “Forgot password” from the Login popup:

    • Netrunner OS 19.01 Run Through
    • Reviews

      • Review: Reborn OS 2018.11.28 and TinyPaw-Linux 1.3

        Reborn OS is a distribution from the Antergos and Arch Linux family of distributions. Like Antergos, Reborn uses the Cnchi system installer and provides a wide range of desktop environments and extra features we can enable at install time. Reborn’s website mentions the project offers support for running Android applications through the Anbox compatibility software, works with Flatpaks, and can run the Mycroft personal desktop assistant.

        I had previously tried Reborn OS back in October of 2018 and gave up trying to install the distribution because Cnchi kept running into problems downloading packages, telling me it had run into “error: 0″. Since failure to download packages during the installation rendered it impossible to set up Reborn, I had to abandon the project.

        Shortly after my truncated review appeared, one of the Reborn developers got in touch and reported that the problem with Cnchi had been fixed and invited me to try the distribution again. I gave the project a few months (and updated releases) to mature and then decided to give Reborn another test drive.

        The Reborn ISO file is a 1.6GB download. Booting from the media brings up the Budgie desktop environment and shows us a welcome window. The welcome window appears to be borrowed from Antergos and displays buttons which will provide us with information. Some buttons link to the project’s on-line source code repository, others offer to show us available software, another gives us a quick overview of the operating system.

        Using the welcome window I ran into my first problem with Reborn. Clicking some of the buttons caused the operating system to lock up. For example, browsing the software list caused the system to freeze, necessitating a reboot. When I clicked on the source repository link, the Firefox browser opened, displayed the page and then the system locked up, again forcing a hard reset of the computer.

    • Fedora

      • A new logo for the Fedora distro

        Let’s talk about the logo that the Fedora community is talking about and analyzing. I’m really too happy that the Fedora Project, one of my favorite Linux distro, is evaluating a new logo proposal.

        Fedora was my first distro and I will undoubtedly be tied to her for the lifetime. It has served me faithfully every time on laptops, desktops, servers, and PIs. At this time, there are two proposals that have received greater care and interesting, they are further skimming and reworking of a long process to rebrand the old logo.

      • Systemd 241 Being Prepared With “System Down” Security Fixes

        While systemd 240 was released right before Christmas, it looks like systemd 241 will soon be released in order to address the recent “System Down” security vulnerabilities.

        In case you missed it from earlier in the week, three vulnerabilities were discovered in systemd’s journald: two memory corruption bugs and an information leak due to an out-of-bounds read. These vulnerabilities have been in systemd the past several years and and could enable a local root shell in a matter of minutes on i386 systems or in about an hour on x86_64. Well, except for the likes of Fedora and openSUSE systems that make use of GCC’s stack clash protection. Details on those vulnerabilities via Qualys.

      • NeuroFedora updated: 2019 week 2

        We had our first meeting of the year. The full logs from our meeting are available here on the Fedora mote application. I have pasted the minutes of the meeting at the end for your convenience.

        The meeting was broadly for the team to come together and discuss a few things. We checked on the status of current tasks, and discussed our future steps. We’ve got to work on our documentation, for example. There’s a lot to do, and a lot of cool new things to learn—in science, computing, and community development. If you’d like to get involved, please get in touch.

    • Debian Family

      • Upgrading Debian From Stable To Testing

        I reckon you’ve been a long time user of Debian stable and now wants to change some few aspects of your computer….oh wait! I mean huge aspects of your computer operating system. Now you want to upgrade to Debian testing because you’d like new features, get access to cool software, and importantly test that newly updated software too ;) Well, in that case, lucky you! I am happy to guide you on how to accomplish that on your computer. Moreover, if you are a total newbie to Debian operating system, don’t worry, I’ve made sure to explain about basic stuff first so you can get a clear perspective on what the content of this topic is.

      • DocKnot 2.00

        This is a new major release of the utility I use to generate package documentation. It’s the start of a restructure that will eventually let me merge more of my package maintenance tools into this package…

      • Derivatives

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • VLC passes 3 billion downloads, will get AirPlay support and improved VR features soon

    In 1996, a group of students at Ecole Centrale Paris wondered if there was a way to efficiently stream videos across the campus. Their curiosity quickly turned into an academic project and paved the way to the early development of a media player application called VLC.

    Over the past 23 years, the VLC media player has become a household name, offering a helping hand to users who are struggling to play a video file that other applications won’t support. It is available on nearly every computing platform, a rarity in the apps ecosystem. Today, VLC reached another rare milestone: It has been downloaded more than 3 billion times across various platforms, up from 1 billion downloads in May 2012.

  • VLC readies Android to Apple TV streaming as media player hits 3 billion downloads

    VLC, developed by French non-profit VideoLAN, passed the milestone on Friday. VideoLAN president Jean-Baptiste Kempf told Variety that VLC will soon gain AirPlay support, allowing Android phones to stream video to Apple TV devices. It’s also working on VR support for watching content with headsets like the HTC Vive.

    VideoLAN is aiming to add AirPlay support in the next major release, VLC 4, according to The Verge. This builds on last February’s release of VLC 3, which enabled streaming to Chromecast devices and was the last release to support Windows XP. Prior to that, the media player hadn’t received a major update for three years.

    VLC reached two billion total downloads in 2016, and, according to Kempf, today a quarter of downloads are coming from mobile devices.

    According to VideoLAN’s statistics page, there are 164 million downloads of the VLC Android app, 78 million downloads of the Android beta VLC app, and 28 million downloads of the iOS VLC app.

  • RAN disaggregation focus of AT&T, Nokia partnership

    5G is often described as the first generation of cellular “born in the cloud,” which describes a dynamic, flexible network that’s increasingly automated through the use of NFV and SDN tools. This gives operators more flexibility while also lower equipment costs by swapping out proprietary hardware for commercial off-the-shelf hardware running largely open source software.

    AT&T has been preaching this particular gospel for some time as evidenced by, among other things, its ECOMP (now ONAP) automation platform, which was developed internally then made open source via the Linux Foundation. Now the AT&T is working with vendor Nokia to hone its focus on opening up the radio access network.

  • Outlook 2019: Trends that will drive the IT Industry

    Open source plays a crucial role in all the top strategic technology trends that are reshaping the IT world.

  • Not Business as Usual: Open Source Changes IT Operations

    Organizations that adopt open source find that the old ways of doing IT operations just don’t work anymore. They need to make changes.

    Open source drives IT shops to be more focused on creativity and providing added value to the business. Additionally, open source changes IT’s vendor relationships, as well as how organizations go about recruiting talent.

  • Open Source Software? Here are some great suggestions for you

    Considering how today’s world is driven by capitalism, the idea of open source software may somewhat feel like an anomaly for many. It’s hard to imagine a community of developers happily working on software for years — usually for no money or the barest minimum of donations.

    However, they are real, and you may be surprised how some of these open source software can be up to the task just like the proprietary ones you may be used to.

  • Why the Film Lab of the Future is Open Source

    We are approaching the peak capacity for film photography labs. The machines are old, the parts are scarce, the demand is high. The measly Kodak Pakon Scanner, terrible it may be, fetches absurdly high prices.

    The two brands and workflows that need to be replicated are Fujifilm and Noritsu. A theoretical duopoly, but here lies the problem: Fuji is dead. When will Noritsu follow suit? All the remaining hardware is on life support, waiting to die. The state of the film lab is much the same as the state of premium compacts of the 90s.

    We need to think long term, and the sooner the better, how will film processing work in 20 years? What about 50 years? The solution is inevitably open source, some sort consortium between photo labs and other interested parties on a commitment for free and libre IP on parts and technology for scanners/processors. “Free as in speech, not beer.” Because we know that the proprietary model will not work in this going forward as indicated in the death of Fuji machinery, tooling, and support.

  • Five Forces Driving the Rise of Fascism in 2019

    The New Year’s Day inauguration of avowed authoritarian strongman Jair Bolsonaro as president of Brazil signaled an ominous start to 2019. Brazil, as the fifth-largest country by landmass (larger than the Australian continent), the sixth-largest by population (larger than Russia) and the ninth-largest economy (larger than Canada), represents global fascism’s biggest gain in recent history. The rise of Bolsonaro follows the recent consolidation of power by reactionary nationalists Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey, Viktor Orbán in Hungry and Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines.

    We start out 2019 with neo-fascists and assorted other “populists” and ethnonationalists holding office in 11 European nations and scoring recent double-digit vote tallies in Finland, Sweden, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands. Marine Le Pen’s French ethnonationalist National Front garnered one-third of that country’s 2017 vote for president. Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of Poland’s governing PiS Party, described migrants arriving in Europe as being physically different than Poles, with an ability to carry “various parasites and protozoa, which don’t affect their organisms, but which could be dangerous here.” Duterte celebrated New Year’s Eve boasting of his childhood molestation of his family’s maid. Bolsonaro praised genocide against Native Americans and, on his first day in office, issued an executive order putting agribusiness interests in charge of Indigenous reserves. He also told a fellow member of Brazil’s congress, on the floor of that house, that she wasn’t good enough for him to rape and promised to jail his opposition. 2019 is promising to be ugly.

    In the United States, while Republicans lost ground nationally, reactionaries solidified domination of the party, with moderates and constitutionalists retiring or losing primaries in 2018. Despite a large popular vote loss, Republicans added two seats to their Senate majority, giving them continued power to appoint activist right-wing judges.

  • The next steps for the #MeToo movement

    Over the past year and a half, the #MeToo movement, with decades of anti-rape activism behind it, has elevated the public consciousness around sexual assault. Society’s most elite, powerful men in Hollywood, in business and in politics, are being called to account for their actions. Never before has sexual violence been discussed on such an expansive platform. Still, this reckoning has been relegated to the most prestigious, leaving the plight of everyday Americans and especially those most marginalized, out of the conversation.

    With the grassroots organizing around the 2020 presidential election looming, there is an opportunity to hold national and local leaders responsible for supporting those impacted by sexual violence. To do so, advocates need to connect the dots for political leaders: sexual violence is not a single issue, it is all encompassing.

    With the issue of economic inequality, for example, those who make low wages, have little benefits and live paycheck to paycheck, are the most vulnerable to abuse by their bosses, coworkers, or even landlords. Their lack of economic power means they are more likely to stay in a workplace where they are sexually harassed or abused — in order to survive. Complicating this power imbalance further is immigration status, which can cause many to stay silent in fear of deportation. In looking closer at immigration, sexual abuse at the border extends well beyond violence amongst migrants and the people hired to bring them to the United States; there have been documented cases of sexual assault committed by Border Patrol agents.

  • Get started with Wekan, an open source kanban board

    There seems to be a mad rush at the beginning of every year to find ways to be more productive. New Year’s resolutions, the itch to start the year off right, and of course, an “out with the old, in with the new” attitude all contribute to this. And the usual round of recommendations is heavily biased towards closed source and proprietary software. It doesn’t have to be that way.

    Here’s the second of my picks for 19 new (or new-to-you) open source tools to help you be more productive in 2019.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Tor pulls in record donations as it lessens reliance on US government grants

        Tor, the open-source initiative that provides a more secure way to access the internet, is continuing to diversify its funding away from its long-standing reliance on U.S. government grants.

        The Tor Project — the organization behind the service which stands for “The Onion Router” — announced this week that it brought in a record $460,000 from individual donors in 2018. In addition, recently released financial information shows it raised a record $4.13 million from all sources in 2017 thanks to a growth in non-U.S. government donors.

        The individual donation push represents an increase on the $400,000 it raised in 2017. A large part of that is down to Tor ally Mozilla, which once again pledged to match donations in the closing months of the year, while an anonymous individual matched all new backers who pledged up to $20,000.

      • Mozilla Disabling Adobe Flash By Default In Firefox

        Back in 2017, Adobe announced that it would stop updating and distributing flash support by the end of 2020. Now, many popular browsers are gradually incorporating the change.

        One of them is Mozilla Firefox, which will be disabling support for the Adobe Flash plugin by default, starting in Firefox 69. In a bug listing, Jim Mathies, Senior engineer at Mozilla Security, mentions that the company will disable Flash by default in Nightly 69.

  • SaaS/Back End

    • Cloudera CEO outlines the ‘new Cloudera Data Platform’

      As expected, the newly merged Cloudera and Hortonworks will operate under the Cloudera brand, and is aiming to start moving customers to a new, unified Cloudera Data Platform, while also committing to hybrid and multi-cloud deployments and remaining ’100 percent open source’.

      Back in October last year the rivals announced that they would be merging via an “all-stock merger of equals” bringing together two once red-hot heavily VC-backed unicorns that have both struggled to effectively monetise their open source-backed data solutions.

      At the time we didn’t know how the new company would be branded but now we know it will be called Cloudera, with the Hortonworks branding hitting the scrapheap. This reflects what we wrote at the time: “Cloudera is the alpha dog in this negotiation, with Cloudera stockholders due to own approximately 60 percent of the equity of the combined company and Cloudera’s CEO Tom Reilly leading the newly joint business, with Bearden joining the board of directors.”

    • Cloudera completes Hortonworks merger, creates open-source ‘powerhouse’

      Cloudera has completed its planned US$5.2 billion merger with Hortonworks, creating an open-source powerhouse to build the industry’s first enterprise data cloud in the process.

      “Today, we start an exciting new chapter for Cloudera as we become the leading enterprise data cloud provider,” said Tom Reilly, chief executive officer of Cloudera.

      “This combined team and technology portfolio establish the new Cloudera as a clear market leader with the scale and resources to drive continued innovation and growth.

      “We will provide customers a comprehensive solution-set to bring the right data analytics to data anywhere the enterprise needs to work, from the Edge to AI, with the industry’s first Enterprise Data Cloud.”

    • Alibaba Snaps Up data Artisans for €90 million: Open Sources “Blink”

      Streaming analytics market projected to reach $47 billion by 2025

      Alibaba has bought Berlin-based startup Data Artisans for a reported €90 million (£80 million) in a deal that will see the $39 billion (by 2017-2018 revenues) Chinese juggernaut take its in-house Apache Flink code developments open source.

      Data Artisans was founded in 2014 by the creators of data stream processing engine Flink. It won Intel Capital funding for its Series A round in 2016 and appears to have also had Alibaba backing in an unreported Series B.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

    • Ockam provides easy to deploy identity, trust, and interoperability for IoT developers [Ed: Ockam is Azure surveillance.]
    • SD Times Open-Source Project of the Week: Ockam [Ed: Ockam is connected to the NSA surveillance complex through Microsoft (their “dedicated technical partner”), so it's hardly surprising SD Times promotes this given its history.]
    • How to Install MS SQL on Ubuntu Server 18.04 [Ed: Jack Wallen explains how to install proprietary malware on Ubuntu; this Microsoft blob doesn't even run on GNU/Linux but on DrawBridge (also proprietary)]
    • Should Construction Become Open-Source?
    • How open source software took over the world [iophk: "article full of mistakes"]

      While the products of these Gen 3 companies are definitely more tightly controlled by the host companies, the open source community still plays a pivotal role in the creation and development of the open source projects. For one, the community still discovers the most innovative and relevant projects. They star the projects on Github, download the software in order to try it, and evangelize what they perceive to be the better project so that others can benefit from great software. Much like how a good blog post or a tweet spreads virally, great open source software leverages network effects. It is the community that is the source of promotion for that virality.

    • A EULA in FOSS clothing?

      Now, what Jay said is true to a degree in that (as with many different kind of expression), software has code specific to it; this can be found in 17 U.S.C. § 117. But the fact that Jay also made reference to digital books was odd; digital books really have nothing to do with software (or not any more so than any other kind of creative expression). That said, digital books and proprietary software do actually share one thing in common, though it’s horrifying: in both cases their creators have maintained that you don’t actually own the copy you paid for. That is, unlike a book, you don’t actually buy a copy of a digital book, you merely acquire a license to use their book under their terms. But how do they do this? Because when you access the digital book, you click “agree” on a license — an End User License Agreement (EULA) — that makes clear that you don’t actually own anything. The exact language varies; take (for example) VMware’s end user license agreement:
      [...]

  • BSD

    • DragonFlyBSD Continues Gutting Its i386 Code

      The DragonFlyBSD operating system dropped its i386 install support back in 2014 with DragonFlyBSD 4.0 and since then has been focused on x86_64-only. Over the past two years or so they have gutted much of their i386-specific code from their kernel that is no longer needed for today’s modern processors while over the weekend they got back to doing some more of that cleansing.

      Rounds 69 and 70 were merged this weekend on weeding out the i386 code that is no longer needed within their kernel.

  • Licensing/Legal

    • CLA proliferation and the Island of Dr. Moreau

      The community response to license proliferation over the last many years has been positive, and I am pleased to see that the majority of open source projects are choosing to select from a certain set of options (e.g., GPL, LGPL, AGPL, BSD, MIT, Apache 2) that are all well-understood by engineers and lawyers. As such, there is no time wasted interpreting their terms and a low-friction ecosystem is fully enabled.

      Once a project adopts an open source license, it usually adopts the standard “inbound=outbound” model; a phrase coined by Richard Fontana. Fontana describes the inbound=outbound model as contributions that are understood to be licensed under the applicable outbound project license, making it easy for contributors to participate in projects without intimidation and red tape. This is a very simple model that dovetails well with a smart license choice detailed above.

      Unfortunately, many open source projects have chosen not to adopt inbound=outbound and, instead, require some form of a contributor license agreement (CLA). CLAs vary in scope and purpose. A good description of CLAs and Developer Certificates of Origin (DCOs; discussed below) may be found in Ben Cotton’s article “CLA vs. DCO: What’s the difference?”

    • Kernel source for Nokia 5.1 and 6.1 Plus, 7.1, Redmi Note 6 Pro, and LG G7 released
    • Kernel source for the Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro, Nokia 6.1 Plus/5.1 Plus/7.1, and LG G7’s Android Pie release are live
    • Nokia 5.1 Plus too] HMD releases kernel source code for the Nokia 7.1 and Nokia 6.1 Plus

      The Nokia 7.1 and 6.1 Plus are mid-range Android One devices that were recently updated to Android 9.0 Pie. Following the update, HMD Global has published their kernel source code on its website.

      [...]

      If HMD Global allows the rest of its Android phones to be bootloader unlocked too, it might just make them a more attractive option for the enthusiast crowd, who want to be able to run their favorite custom ROMs on their smartphones. And though the manufacturer is currently doing a good job of keeping its devices updated, if that support’s ever to slow down, it sure would be nice to have the ability to root and unlock — just in case.

    • Amazon fires open-source shot with DocumentDB launch

      In a move that will surely upset the open-source community, AWS has launched a new database offering compatible with the MongoDB API called DocumentDB.

      The cloud giant describes its new product as a “fast, scalable, and highly available document database that is designed to be compatible with your existing MongoDB applications and tools.” However, it is essentially a replacement for MongoDB that uses its API but none of its code.

      According to AWS, its customers have found it difficult to build fast and highly available applications that are able to scale to multiple terabytes with hundreds of thousands of reads and writes per second. So instead, the company built its own document database that is compatible with Apace 2.0 open source MongoDB 3.6 API.

    • The week in tech: NHS long-term plan, Amazon vs. open source, plus more

      However, Amazon claimed that customers find it challenging to “build performant, highly available applications on MongoDB that can quickly scale to multiple Terabytes (TBs) and hundreds of thousands of reads and writes-per-second because of the complexity that comes with setting up and managing MongoDB clusters.”

      This is controversial, as Amazons’ announcement comes just months after MangoDB presented a new licence aimed at stopping tech giants taking advantage of their database.

  • Programming/Development

Leftovers

  • UX rant: The nightmare horrorshow that is the Apple TV remote

    I’ve been an Apple guy since the beginning. My first laptop was a Powerbook 100 with a built-in plastic trackball. But unlike the vast majority of Apple products, which are marvels of engineering and design, the remote on the fourth and fifth generation Apple TVs still leaves me in shock at what a nightmare horror-show the thing is.

  • Blue Whale: What is the truth behind an online ‘suicide challenge’?

    The first tasks were fairly innocuous: “Wake up in the middle of the night” or “Watch a scary film”. But day by day, the tasks grew more sinister.

    “Stand on the ledge of a tower block.”

    “Cut a whale into your arm.”

    The final challenge? A demand that the user kill themselves.

    The challenge was alleged to have started in Russia, but reports of it soon spread to other countries: Ukraine, India and the United States.

    Hundreds of deaths were reported to be linked to the so-called “suicide game”.

  • Are Men the Victims?

    I’m sure that there are many straight white men who see these things as problems but just don’t say anything about it. If you don’t want to go to the effort of writing a blog post then please consider signing your name to someone else’s. If you are known for your work (EG by being a well known programmer in the Linux community) then you could just comment “I agree” on a post like this and that makes a difference while also being really easy to do.

    Another thing that would be good is if we could change the hard drinking culture that seems connected to computer conferences etc. Kara has an insightful article on Model View Culture about drinking and the IT industry [10]. I decided that drinking at Linux conferences had got out of hand when about 1/3 of the guys at my table at a conference dinner vomited.

  • The Time Is Now: We Need an Active Approach to Blockchain Inclusion

    However, the diversity gap in tech is widespread. And that doesn’t exclude this space. It’s important to recognize this and to take tangible steps towards closing the gap.

    Consistent reminders to take actionable measures are important. Take this as another – what can you do in your community or workplace to break down barriers, to educate, to foster growth?

    Going a step further, a vast majority of the population doesn’t understand blockchain technology.

    Now, we’re still early, but if this technology is to reach a place where it can be impactful on this scale, it’s crucial to bring more people in and to build real understanding. And this isn’t just technologists, it’s necessary for lawyers, designers, economists, policymakers and more to be well informed and deeply engaged.

  • Science

    • Man says CES lidar’s laser was so powerful it wrecked his $1,998 camera

      A man attending this week’s CES show in Las Vegas says that a lidar sensor from startup AEye has permanently damaged the sensor on his $1,998 Sony camera. Earlier this week, Jit Ray Chowdhury, an autonomous vehicle engineer at the startup Ridecell, snapped photos of a car at CES with AEye’s lidar units on top. He discovered that every subsequent picture he took was marred by two bright purple spots, with horizontal and vertical lines emanating from them.

    • S’Not Joking, This Marine Biologist Is Collecting Whale Snot For Science

      We’ve all seen or watched the majestic moment a whale comes to the water’s surface and strikes a blow.
      Here’s something that may alter that image for you: that visible spray is not actually water. It’s snot — or exhalation from a whale’s blowhole — and an Aussie marine biologist is collecting samples of it in the name of science.

      Dr Vanessa Pirotta has been passionate about the world’s largest animal since she was young, but her career in whale conservation has taken off with advances in drone technology.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Judge Blocks Trump Birth Control Coverage Rules in 13 States

      A U.S. judge in California on Sunday blocked Trump administration rules, which would allow more employers to opt out of providing women with no-cost birth control, from taking effect in 13 states and Washington, D.C.

      Judge Haywood Gilliam granted a request for a preliminary injunction by California, 12 other states and Washington, D.C. The plaintiffs sought to prevent the rules from taking effect as scheduled on Monday while a lawsuit against them moved forward.

      But Gilliam limited the scope of the ruling to the plaintiffs, rejecting their request that he block the rules nationwide.

    • Democrats Roll Out Big Health Care Proposals in the States

      Riding the momentum from November’s elections, Democratic leaders in the states are wasting no time delivering on their biggest campaign promise — to expand access to health care and make it more affordable.

      The first full week of state legislative sessions and swearings-in for governors saw a flurry of proposals.

      In his initial actions, newly elected California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced plans to expand Medicaid to those in the country illegally up to age 26, implement a mandate that everyone buy insurance or face a fine, and consolidate the state’s prescription drug purchases in the hope that it will dramatically lower costs.

    • Ecuador Rejects Information on Deterioration of Assange’s Health

      The government of Ecuador rejected information circulating on social networks about the supposed deterioration of the health conditions of computer scientist Julian Assange, asylum in the Embassy of Quito in London since 2012.

      According to an official statement issued by the General Secretariat of Communication, the accusations are totally false and seek to affect the treatment of the case.

      The executive’s position responds to revelations by the journalist Eva Golinger, according to which, the Australian cyber-activist was cut off the heating and the bed was removed, from the room he occupies in the diplomatic mission, where he sleeps on a mat on the floor.

      [...]

      On the other hand, the president, Lenin Moreno, considers the Assange case as an ‘inherited problem’ and has expressed disagreement with keeping him in the mission.

      Last December, experts from the United Nations Organization on Human Rights spoke about their situation. They reiterated a request to the United Kingdom to comply with its international obligations and allow the informant to leave the Ecuadorian mission.

    • Farmers are using drones to help save time and money

      The work of a farmer is never done. Maintaining acres upon acres is a lot of work. But with a large drone like this farming could get easier for farmers like Ryan Decker.

    • New York Fights Worst Measles Outbreak Since the 1990s

      At Clarkstown Pediatrics in Nanuet, New York, babies are on an accelerated measles vaccination schedule, getting their first shots six months early and their second dose right away.

      It’s part of a statewide effort to stop several outbreaks of measles from turning into an epidemic. The state has had 170 cases of the highly infectious virus since September, making it the worst year for measles since the 1990s.

      Pockets of unvaccinated children have provided fertile ground for the measles virus to take hold. Although measles was eliminated in the U.S. the virus has been brought back by travelers to Israel, which has been battling an epidemic of measles for months. The victims: mostly members of close-knit Orthodox Jewish communities across the state.

  • Security

    • A Worldwide [Cracking] Spree Uses DNS Trickery to Nab Data

      Iranian [crackers] have been busy lately, ramping up an array of targeted attacks across the Middle East and abroad. And a report this week from the threat intelligence firm FireEye details a massive global data-snatching campaign, carried out over the last two years, that the firm has preliminarily linked to Iran.

    • SELinux Isn’t Scary

      Back in the before times, during the era of RHEL/CentOS 4, SELinux was barely worth the security it offered. It was unwieldy, caused access problems even in Permissive mode, and the command line tools and documentation were esoteric at best when they even existed.

      It’s been a few years since that time, however, and significant development has been done to get SELinux into a much more usable and user-friendly state. At this point, most of the fears surrounding SELinux are based on old experiences, and it behooves everyone to re-examine those fears to see if they’re still realistic.

      Usability often has to trump security. As an example, we now have the ability to just tap a credit card on a machine and have the purchase approved. There are significant security risks involved, but as long as those risks are known and minimized (for example, by limiting the amount that can be purchased in this way), usability can win.

    • Access 97 Database Error Was Caused By Windows January 2019 Update, Microsoft Confirms

      Microsoft’s issues with the recent Windows 10 Updates never seem to end. From deleting user files to granting admin privileges to any user, the bugs have been plenty. Access 97 had a bug discovered recently which breaks access to its databases. Guenni from Borncity discovered the bug yesterday and highlighted it on his blog post.

      The Windows January 2019 Update was the cause behind the bug, Microsoft confirmed today. Microsoft added the Access 97 bug to the “known issue” section. The January update aimed to fix a vulnerability in Jet Database Engine shipped with Windows. “As a result of this patch, open databases in Access 97 MDB format fail with a database error “unknown database format” – if the database contains field names with a length greater than 32 characters”, as Borncity reports. While this bug only affects Microsoft.Jet.OLEDB.4.0 providers, there were only a few workarounds. Microsoft added the following paragraph to the known issue section, highlighting the bug.

    • It WASN’T the update, says Microsoft: Windows 7 suffers identity crisis as users hit by activation errors

      Microsoft has said that activation errors seen by Windows 7 users should not be chalked up to Tuesday’s patch, but rather were an entirely different cockup.

      Windows Activation Technologies is the Jiminy Cricket of Windows 7, chirping at you if it thinks you might not be paying for your licensing. Combining Jiminy with the Key Management Service (KMS) on Windows 7, as many enterprise customers likely do (even though Microsoft wishes they wouldn’t), hasn’t caused too many headaches.

      Until this week.

      A tweak to the Activation Servers saw happily licensed Windows 7 users suddenly presented with “Windows is not genuine”-type notifications from 10:00 UTC on January 8, surprising BOFHs already dealing with loss of folder sharing for some users thanks to the January update.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee disputes report blaming ‘Putin’s chef’ for murder of three journalists in Africa

      On January 11, Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee published a press release summarizing its own leading theory about the July 2018 murders of Orkhan Dzhemal, Alexander Rastorguyev, and Kirill Radchenko, arguing that Dossier Center’s report, shared with journalists a day earlier, is merely an attempt to avoid responsibility for sending three journalists into harm’s way. Federal investigators say they believe the reporters’ deaths were the result of a robbery gone bad, and could have been avoided if the film crew and the Investigations Management Center took the proper safety precautions.

      Specifically, the Investigative Committee claims that the journalists’ driver, Bienvenu Duvokamoy, has no ties whatsoever to any local gendarmes. This directly contradicts claims by the Dossier Center, which says it has phone records showing that gendarme Emmanuel Touaguende Kotofio called Duvokamoy at least 47 times in the three days the journalists were alive in CAR. Kotofio reportedly tailed the Russian journalists throughout their stay in the country.

    • A Moscow municipal deputy is attacked, continuing a trend that began last October

      Early on January 9, Moscow Lomonosov District municipal deputy Kirill Chirkin was attacked in the street. The Communist Party politician says he believes he was targeted because of his public work. “When I fell into the snow, they said something like, ’Slow down, deputy Chirkin,’” the local lawmaker wrote on Facebook. “Ironically, they attacked me in the same place where I’ve tried to get more street lights installed. The fixtures are now there, but the cables haven’t been connected,” Chirkin added.

    • The Chickens Come Home to Roost….in Northern Syria

      The fact is, the U.S. interventions in the Middle East since 9/11—-especially the illegal, immoral war on Iraq based on lies—has, as regional leaders predicted it would, generally “destabilized” the area, and nearby regions.

      [...]

      In attempting to reconfigure and dominate the Middle East, the neocon-led George W. Bush administration triggered a process that now leads—perhaps inevitably—to division within the U.S.’s own camp. The obvious, embarrassing division between idiot Bolton’s iterations in Cairo and Tel Aviv, and his boss’s idle blabbering about pulling out of Syria, results from the illogic of the whole U.S. enterprise in the first place.

      You cannot simply announce that you—as the world’s “exceptional” nation—are entitled to impose your (myth of) “democracy” (= smiling submission to capitalist-imperialist domination) on all other nations, in which effort your nurtured allies since the 1940s are supposed to collude.

      But no, dumb-ass! You cannot reconcile the differences between Turkey and the Kurds, or any of the other fundamental conflicts in the Middle East, on the basis of your warped consciousness of “national interests” and contemptuous ignorance of history. You cannot prevent the vicious assault of the Bush-Cheney regime on the Middle East—-continued by the cowardly continuance of Bush-Cheney policy by Barack Obama and his bloodthirsty secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, throughout the region culminating in the absolute wreckage of North Africa’s most advanced, affluent state—from leading the chickens home to roost.

      You cannot prevent your unforgivable, savage interventions in the Middle East from shattering your own long-cherished alliances with client states whose interests actually now oppose your own. Welcome to imperial decline, you dumb-ass Bolton, you moronic sociopath Donald Trump. Chickens are jumping up and down in the chicken-coop, agitated, reorienting. The sky is falling, this time, really.

    • Person of interest in Voronenkov murder shot and kidnapped in Moscow

      On the evening of January 10, a man was shot and kidnapped outside the Moscow café Bazilik near Prospekt Mira. Interfax and other sources have reported that the man was Yury Vasilenko, a person of interest in the murder of former Duma deputy Denis Voronenkov. Vasilenko has both Russian and Ukrainian citizenship and is described by multiple sources as a major figure in organized crime.

    • Feds: Ex-SEAL pilot with CIA links fingered alleged major SC marijuana supplier

      An ex-Navy SEAL with CIA ties who used his private airplane to deliver thousands of pounds of marijuana around the country, including Columbia, told federal agents that his major supplier was a California man.

      Christopher Daugherty, the California man identified by the ex-SEAL, now is in federal custody at a jail in the Columbia area.

      Details of Daugherty’s alleged role in the marijuana-smuggling operation — and how federal agents used ex-SEAL J.D. Smith to arrest Daugherty — were disclosed at a hearing Thursday at the U.S. Courthouse in Columbia. There, a defense attorney tried to convince a federal magistrate judge that Daugherty should be allowed to make bond and get out of jail.

    • US advocacy group sues CIA to release Khashoggi files

      The Open Society Justice Initiative, a New York-based law centre, has filed a lawsuit against the CIA to obtain records related to the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

      In mid-November, the CIA concluded that Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the assassination of Khashoggi, a critic of the royal family and columnist for the Washington Post, at the country’s consulate in Istanbul.

      The Justice Initiative is now suing the agency under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in order to compel the US intelligence agency to release its findings on the crown prince’s involvement in the Khashoggi case.

      James Goldston, the initiative’s executive director, said on Wednesday after the lawsuit was filed that making the information public would help ensure accountability for the late journalist, who was killed by Saudi government agents on 2 October.

      “After more than three months, the circumstances surrounding the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi remain unclear,” Goldston said in a statement.

    • ‘We’ve all seen enough Hollywood movies’- Meduza speaks to one of the journalists who believes the Magnitogorsk apartment building collapse was terrorism

      Before dawn on December 31, a 10-story apartment building in the city of Magnitogorsk suddenly collapsed. The authorities say it was a gas leak that killed 39 people. A day after the tragedy, on the evening of January 1, a local minibus caught fire and exploded, claiming the lives of its three passengers. Almost immediately, two news outlets — Znak.com and the Chelyabinsk news website 74.ru — published stories claiming that the apartment explosion had been a terrorist attack and the minibus incident was a firefight between police and the supposed bombers. That same night, when police evacuated a nearby apartment building, Znak.com reported that the authorities were searching for a fourth suspect. Russia’s law enforcement agencies have not verified these reports, and officials have repeatedly stated that no bomb fragments were discovered at the collapsed apartment building. Meduza special correspondent Ilya Zhegulev spoke to Znak.com deputy chief editor Dmitry Kolezev to discuss sources, trust, and journalistic ethics.

    • Russia might open a military base in the Central African Republic

      A military cooperation agreement between Russia and the Central African Republic signed last August would allow Moscow to open an official base, CAR Defense Minister Marie-Noëlle Koyara told the news agency RIA Novosti in a new interview. The Berengo Palace, where Russian military instructors are currenting training local troops, does not qualify as a military base, Koyara argued, even though “people have already started seeing it as exactly this.”

    • REVEALED: How Gulf states hatched plan with Israel to rehabilitate Assad

      Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have hatched a plan with Israel to welcome Syrian President Bashar al-Assad back into the Arab League to marginalise the regional influence of Turkey and Iran, Middle East Eye can exclusively reveal.

      The diplomatic initiative was agreed at a secret meeting held in a Gulf capital last month which was attended by senior intelligence officials from the four countries including Yossi Cohen, the director of Mossad, Gulf sources with knowledge of the meeting have told MEE.

      The meeting was also convened in response to a noticeable “cooling” of relations between US President Donald Trump and Riyadh since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.

      Trump has publicly stood by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom the CIA and members of the US Congress hold responsible for Khashoggi’s killing.

    • Russia’s Arrest of American Is Payback for Maria Butina, CIA Veterans Say

      Russia says it arrested a U.S. citizen spying in their country. But former CIA officers say that, far from a counterintelligence coup, the American’s detention is most likely payback for the U.S. arrest of confessed Russian agent Maria Butina.

      In a short statement Monday, Russia’s Tass news agency said authorities arrested American Paul Whelan “in Moscow while on a spy mission” and that he faces a sentence of up to 20 years in prison if convicted. A State Department spokesperson said the department has been “formally notified of the detention” and has requested access to Whelan.

      “This wasn’t planned yesterday. It was probably planned back after [Butina] was arrested,” Dan Hoffman, a former Moscow station chief for the CIA, told The Daily Beast. “They want to deter future U.S. actions against other private citizens.”

    • Ex-CIA official: Putin took shot across Trump’s bow
    • ‘Batman’ Writer Tom King Responds to Allegations That He Lied About His CIA Past
    • Juan Cole on Trump Foreign Policy in 2019: How will it Change the World?

      Let me just say a few things about the interview I gave at Arirang a couple of weeks ago, embedded below. I argue that Trump is becoming increasingly impatient with being held back by the Washington Establishment, and that he has gradually shed everyone who could curb his impetuous decision-making. His National Security Adviser, H. R. McMaster is gone, and replaced by the irascible John Bolton, with whom Trump has nothing in common. (Bolton was pressed on Trump by Newt Gingrich, who is not exactly an administration insider, and perhaps by big-money campaign donors like Sheldon Adelson who want someone on the inside to make the case for going after Iran.) McMaster had been a general, and Trump couldn’t overrule him as easily as he does Bolton, who I think may not be in that position very many more Scaramuccis.

      Trump has now divested himself of Jim Mattis, the steady hand at the Pentagon, and John Kelly, who tried to keep random staffers with cult-like agendas from just wandering into the Oval Office to light fires under Trump over crackpot issues.

      Trump increasingly is able to dominate his acting cabinet secretaries and his firing of Sessions and his pushing out Mattis have probably made the remaining members of the cabinet more reluctant to stand up to him, given that most of them seem to be grifters who are making or have the prospect of making big bucks from their current jobs, so why would they risk them for nothing? (It is not as if they really would be able to change Trump’s mind about much).

    • Pakistani army shoots down Indian drone

      The Pakistani Army said late Wednesday that it has shot down an Indian drone in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir area, marking the second drone brought down in two days.

      [...]

      The incidents came at a time when relations between the two neighbors are tense over cross-border firing.

      The army said Monday that Indian forces killed a woman and injured nine civilians along the LoC during a cross LoC firing.

      Pakistan and India had declared ceasefire along the LoC in 2003, but both accuse each other of ceasefire violations.

    • US airstrikes kill four civilians in Afghanistan

      U.S. airstrikes killed at least 4 civilians in Afghanistan on Monday, a local said.

      Army regiment spokesman Mohamed Hanif Rezai told Anadolu Agency that the NATO-led U.S. drone strike targeted a Taliban camp in the Kurgan district of northern Faryab province.

      Rezai said 14 militants were killed in the airstrikes, adding he has no further information about civilian casualties.

      Local resident Ihsan Makhdoum told Anadolu Agency that he lost his father and three relatives in the attack.

    • U.S. drone strikes kill 4 civilians in northern Afghanistan

      U.S. airstrikes have killed at least 4 civilians in Afghanistan.

      The strikes took place on Monday, according to local sources.

      Army regiment spokesman Mohamed Hanif Rezai was quoted by theAnadolu Agency as saying that the NATO-led U.S. drone strikes targeted a Taliban camp in the Kurgan district of northern Faryab province.

      Rezai said 14 militants were killed in the airstrikes, however he said he had no information about any civilian casualties.

    • In 2018, US Killed Dozens in Its ‘Illegal’ Drone War in Yemen

      In 2018, the US Air Force carried out dozens of airstrikes in Yemen, many of which killed civilian bystanders. US drone strikes in particular have surged in undeclared war zones under President Donald Trump, but alongside the Air Force strikes are CIA operations nobody knows about ‒ not even the drone pilots’ commanders.
      The US Air Force carried out 36 airstrikes in Yemen in 2018, US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a Monday press release. Those strikes killed between 31 and 42 people, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has reported.

    • US carried out 36 airstrikes in Yemen last year

      U.S. Central Command issued a statement on Monday, January 7 outlining the number of counterterrorism strikes it conducted in Yemen last year. According to CENTCOM, 36 airstrikes were sanctioned across the country in 2018, targeting al-Qaeda and Islamic State belligerents.

      The U.S. conducted 10 airstrikes in January, six in February, seven in March, four in April, two in May, two in June, two in July, one in August, and two in September, according to Central Command. No airstrikes were conducted in the months of October, November or December.

    • SHOCKER: Nobel secretary regrets Obama peace prize, Obama’s drones killed numerous civilians

      Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 to former president Barack Obama failed to achieve what the committee hoped it would, its ex-secretary Geir Lundestad told the Associated Press.

      Mr. Lundestad wrote in his memoir, Secretary of Peace, “No Nobel Peace Prize ever elicited more attention than the 2009 prize to Barack Obama.”

      He added, “Even many of Obama’s supporters believed that the prize was a mistake. In that sense the committee didn’t achieve what it had hoped for.”

      Mr. Lundestad served as a non-voting member of the committee as its secretary from 1990 to 2015.

    • ‘A Reckless Advocate of Military Force’: Demands for John Bolton’s Dismissal After Reports He Asked Pentagon for Options to Strike Iran

      “It definitely rattled people,” a former U.S. official said of the request, which Bolton supposedly made after militants aligned with Iran fired mortars into the diplomatic quarter of Baghdad, Iraq that contains the U.S. Embassy in early September. “People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran.”

      “The Pentagon complied with the National Security Council’s request to develop options for striking Iran,” the Journal reported, citing unnamed officials. “But it isn’t clear if the proposals were provided to the White House, whether Mr. Trump knew of the request, or whether serious plans for a U.S. strike against Iran took shape at that time.”

      The Journal’s report, which comes just days after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered an “arrogant tirade” of a speech vilifying Iran, sparked immediate alarm among critics of the Trump administration’s biggest warmongers—who, over the past several months, have been accused of fomenting unrest in Iran and laying the groundwork for war.

      Daniel W. Drezner, a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, called the news “a reminder that when it comes to Iran, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo are batshit insane.”

    • Venezuela military personnel increasingly jailed, tortured amid coup fears, report says

      Amid fears of military coups and assassination plots, the Venezuelan government has increasingly been detaining and torturing military personnel and their families, a new report finds. The increased abuses against the armed forces — one of the linchpins of President Nicolás Maduro’s political survival — underscore the challenges he’ll face as he begins a new six-year term on Thursday.

      The report released Wednesday, which is produced by Human Rights Watch and Venezuela’s Foro Penal, documented almost three dozen cases where military officers, their family, spouses or acquaintances were arbitrarily detained and often tortured as the government reacted to suspected coup plots.

      In most cases, the detainees were taken without warrants, held in isolation, choked, starved and beaten, the report found.

    • Rebel drone bombs Yemen military parade, kills at least 6

      A bomb-laden drone flown by Yemen’s Houthi rebels flew into a military parade on Thursday outside of the southern port city of Aden, killing at least six troops from a Saudi-led coalition and their allies in a brazen attack threatening U.N.-brokered peace efforts to end the yearslong war tearing at the Arab world’s poorest nation.

    • Game of Drones: What Experimental Wargames Reveal About Drones and Escalation

      Faced with the shootdown of a military aircraft, how would U.S. decision makers respond? What if that aircraft were a drone? Much recent work argues that drones make the use of force more likely. The dominant argument is that removing pilots from harm’s way lowers the risk to friendly forces, making it easier for states to deploy drones and escalate crises. But how might drones affect what comes next? How might they shape escalation and the use of force after initially being deployed? A key determinant of whether a conflict will escalate is how actors respond to attacks on their military assets. Drones — military assets that can be attacked without hurting enemy personnel — change the calculus of retaliation.

      I developed an innovative approach to explore these dynamics: the experimental wargame. The method allows observers to compare nearly identical, simultaneous wargames — a set of control games, in which a factor of interest does not appear, and a set of treatment games, in which it does. In my experiment, all participants are exposed to the same aircraft shootdown scenario, but participants in treatment games are told the downed aircraft is a drone while those in control games are told it is manned. This allows policymakers to examine whether drones affect decision-making.

      The experimental wargames revealed that the deployment of drones can actually contribute to lower levels of escalation and greater crisis stability than the deployment of manned assets. These findings help explain how drones affect stability by shedding light on escalation dynamics after an initial drone deployment, something that few existing studies on drones have addressed.

      My findings build upon existing research on the low barrier to drone deployment by suggesting that, once conflict has begun, states may find drones useful for limiting escalation. Indeed, states can take action using or against drones without risking significant escalation. The results should ease concerns of drone pessimists and offer valuable insights to policymakers about drones’ effects on conflict dynamics. More broadly, experimental wargaming offers a novel approach to generating insights about national security decision-making that can be used to inform military planning and policy development.

    • Israel launches drone strike on Hamas posts in eastern Gaza in response to bomb attacks

      Israeli army’s combat drones attacked on Friday evening two Hamas lookout military posts in the eastern Gaza Strip, close to the border with Israel, said eyewitnesses and medical sources in Gaza.

      The two sites were destroyed and no injuries have been reported, said Hamas security sources.

      The drone attack came just after Hamas threw around 17 homemade bombs at Israeli soldiers stationed on the border between eastern Gaza and Israel in the afternoon, an Israeli military spokesman was quoted by media as saying.

    • US expands its drone war kills Somalian militants

      US forces have conducted a series of air strikes in Somalia in recent days, including one announced Wednesday that officials said killed six jihadists.

      The strikes come as part of an ongoing mission in which US forces are working with African Union and Somali national security forces to fight the Shabaab movement.

    • The Real Story Behind the Havana Embassy Mystery

      The most dire diplomatic crisis of the Trump administration, or maybe just the weirdest, began without much notice in November 2016, some three weeks after the new president was elected. An American working at the U.S. Embassy in Havana—some call him Patient Zero—complained that he had heard strange noises outside his home. “It was annoying to the point where you had to go in the house and close all the windows and doors and turn up the TV,” the diplomat told ProPublica. Zero discussed the sound with his next-door neighbor, who also worked at the embassy. The neighbor said, yeah, he too had heard noises, which he described as “mechanical-sounding.”

      Several months later, a third staffer at the embassy described suffering from hearing loss he associated with a strange sound. Before long, more and more people at the embassy were talking about it. They, too, started to get sick. The symptoms were as diverse as they were terrifying—memory loss, mental stupor, hearing problems, headaches. In all, some two dozen people were eventually evacuated for testing and treatment.

    • NBC and MSNBC Blamed Russia for Using “Sophisticated Microwaves” to Cause “Brain Injuries” in US “Diplomats” in Cuba. The Culprits Were Likely Crickets.
    • Why is Sudan’s Genocidal Regime a CIA Favorite?

      One of the most respected American diplomats to work in Africa, Princeton Lyman, was set to meet in September 2012 with members of a Sudanese plot to overthrow President Omar al-Bashir, who is accused of genocide in Darfur.

      For hours Lyman waited in an opulent hotel overlooking the Nile River in Cairo for Salah Gosh, Sudan’s former director of national security and at one time a CIA collaborator, who was a participant in the plan.

      As the State Department’s special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Lyman had tentatively exchanged messages with the plot’s members for months. Lyman described the group to me as military men who felt “they had been professionally betrayed” by Bashir’s leadership. The Sudanese men reached out to Lyman in early 2012 as discontent was growing inside the military. Accused of genocide, funding terrorism, and waging war against South Sudan, Khartoum was seen as a problem-child of a global order. No longer, said the army officials, who wanted to see if the Americans would recognize a military takeover in Sudan, even though under U.S. law such recognition was illegal.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • American whistleblower wins Sweden’s Olof Palme Prize

      American military analyst Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the US government’s secret war plans for Vietnam in 1971, is set to receive Sweden’s prestigious Olof Palme Prize.

    • Corporate media smears WikiLeaks and Julian Assange

      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.

    • GoFundMe for Julian Assange asks for $500,000

      A GoFundMe on behalf of Julian Assange appeared online Jan. 10, but it’s reached only a fraction of its $500,000 goal, raising $801 so far.

      “Julian Assange’s safety is in serious jeopardy. He is now threatened with imminent arrest and extradition from the United Kingdom to the United States where he faces life in prison. He and his campaign team urgently need your help. Elements in the US government are aggressively pressuring Ecuador to withdraw his asylum status – the time for action is now!” the campaign states.

      Assange has been at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012; he fears he will be arrested and extradited to the U.S. since he failed to appear in U.K. court in 2012 following a 2010 arrest.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • The Biggest Issues for Wildlife and Endangered Species in 2019

      Wildlife didn’t have an easy go of it in 2018. We lost the last male northern white rhino, the vaquita porpoise continued its slide toward extinction, poachers kept targeting pangolins and other rare creatures, and through it all the Trump administration kept trying to whittle away at key protections for endangered species.

      So with that rough bit of recent history, what does 2019 hold?

      Well, in most cases it won’t be pretty. There will be more blood, more habitat loss, more legislative attacks and more extinctions — but at the same time, there will also be signs of hope and progress on many levels.

      Here are some big issues that experts say we should be watching in 2019…

    • Drone to monitor maneater leopards in Rajaji reserve

      A joint team of Rajaji Tiger Reserve (RTR) and the Wildlife Institute of India (WWI) would be deploying a drone to monitor maneater leopards in the reserve area.

      Forest officials said the monitoring via drone would help understand the behaviour of a maneater leopard and avert man-animal conflicts in the area.

      The decision was taken in the backdrop of 24 incidents of man-animal conflicts reported in last three years in Motichur, Raiwala and Haripukalan areas in which 21 people were killed by leopards.

    • The Tears of Justin Trudeau

      On January 7th the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) swept into a non-violent checkpoint set up by the Unist’ot’en and Gidimt’en clans of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. Fourteen people were violently arrested in the ambush by the militarized colonial forces. The camp was set up by hereditary leaders to defend the ancestral lands of the Unist’ot’en and other clans from the unwanted incursions of TransCanada and its Coastal Gaslink pipeline. Following the incident Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had the temerity to extol the neoliberal scheme behind the incident as something that is good for the earth. In a speech to supporters he said: “We moved forward on the LNG Canada project, which is the largest private sector investment in Canada’s history, $40-billion, which is going to produce Canadian LNG that will supplant coal in Asia as a power source and do much for the environment.” After being pressed in a radio interview about the brutal raid Trudeau said of the arrests that it is “not an ideal situation, but at the same time, we’re also a country of the rule of law.” Apparently he does not consider Article 10 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to be law. It states: “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their land or territories.” It may be difficult for ordinary people to choke out hypocritical, ahistorical fallacies without missing a beat, but the Prime Minister has a gift for spouting empty platitudes that fly in the face of reality and he isn’t alone.

      There is something familiar about Trudeau’s lamentation on this situation as well as his appeal for the rule of law. This is because neoliberal leaders around the world have used similar justifications for the violence of the corporate state. And while Trudeau has attempted to brand himself a leader on reconciliation with First Nations and for addressing climate change he has demonstrated time after time his true allegiance is to the corporate state. Last year he pledged 4.5 billion dollars of tax payer money to purchase the controversial, badly aging and perpetually leaking Kinder Morgan pipeline from the Alberta Tar Sands to BC. Protests and a court decision have stymied this for the moment, but in taking this action he has joined a cadre of world leaders who only pay lip service to indigenous concerns, ecological impacts and the science of climate change while steamrolling ahead toward a dystopic future. Of course like any neoliberal politician Trudeau ultimately does the bidding of the fossil fuel industry which works tirelessly behind the scenes writing and directing policy, like the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) who has an army of lobbyists that outnumber any other group in Ottawa.

    • California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal

      As global warming makes California warmer and drier, its wildfires worsen and more people have died. California has the biggest economy in the United States and now has the 5thlargest economy in the world. What California does affects the globe.

      For three years the New York state assembly had passed the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA) to make New York invest in clean, non-fossil energy; create union-paying green jobs; and invest in low-income and communities of color. This year with the N.Y. state senate going Democrat and Governor Cuomo’s just announced support of CCPA, New York will likely have a state Green New Deal soon.

      California still produces a lot of oil–only Texas and North Dakota produce more oil. During Governor Brown’s time in office he has signed over 20,000 permits for oil drillings with 77% of the new oil wells near low-income and communities of color. Governor Newsome has taken a strong stance saying that California needs to transform two oil platforms offshore into wave/tidal platforms to generate energy and that the state needs more offshore wind generators for energy. Still many communities in the state live next to oil drilling using toxic chemicals that spew out toxic air and water pollution daily. The state needs to immediately ban fracking oil using huge amounts toxic chemicals, ban oil drilling within 2500 feet of homes and schools, and develop a plan to end use of fossil fuels within 10 years.

      California’s legislature has in 2018 passed a law requiring every new home to have solar panels, a 2ndlaw to ban any new offshore oil drilling, and a 3rd law to make the states’ electricity grid 100% carbon-neutral by 2045 long after the state experiences climate catastrophe. California needs an immediate Green New Deal that calls for government investment in massive tree planting to stop air pollution and conversion to green energy such as solar, geothermal, and wind power; a tax on profits of fossil fuel companies that is invested in renewable energy-and-energy efficiency and ending oil drilling. low interest rates for green investment such as electric cars; and green jobs crucial to building a low-carbon infrastructure.

      The 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps had its workers plant millions of trees that stopped the environmental catastrophe in the Midwest. In Korea, Japan’s 35-year occupation left large tracts of its forests logged. In 1961 South Korea started a huge tree planting program that had resulted in 11 billion new trees by 2008. In 2018 Pakistan’s government started a program to plant 10 billion trees while China has 60,000 soldiers planting trees to reforest an area the size of Ireland. California can immediately create its own CCC hiring the homeless and unemployed to plant millions of trees across the state that will reduce C02 levels.

  • Finance

    • Top 10 Cryptocurrencies according to Market Capitalization

      A cryptocurrency is a virtual currency that uses strong cryptography and ensures the secure financial transactions. The decentralized control of each cryptocurrency works through distributed ledger technology that serves as a public financial transaction database.

    • Universal Basic Income: Why a So-Called ‘Solution’ for Disappearing Jobs Makes Serfs of Us All

      The idea is that UBI could replace vanishing jobs and give all Americans a cushion. Give every American a set amount of money per month, often suggested at the $500 or $1,000 level, to spend as they wish.

      As leaders from tech to social movements are well aware, we are about to enter the age of self-driving Ubers, increasingly smart supply chain and warehouse technology, and news reports being generated and delivered by AI. It doesn’t matter how many workplaces unionize or how many stomp their feet and demand jobs: a lot of people currently employed won’t be in the foreseeable future.

      Richard Branson, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg have all pointed to UBI as a solution for the fact that tech is taking over entire industries. Besides being a prong in the “Green New Deal,” the city of Stockton, California, is implementing a trial run beginning in February by giving 100 residents $500 a month.

      Never mind that in 1972, when the idea of UBI was gaining popularity, the guaranteed amount discussed was $1,000. It seems absurd that, given inflation and massive cost of living increases over the last 45 years, $500 a month is what’s being discussed.

      And rarely, if ever, is it pointed out that, in fact, the idea of giving everyone money is so they can spend money. That seems to go without saying, of course, but that point should be made: Our capitalist system requires everyone in this country spend money.

      More important to resolve is how the disappearance of traditional job structures requires a reevaluation of our time and our roles. With fewer people alternating between work and leisure, what is a meaningful way to spend time that society values—and how do we recognize these roles? How is that time rewarded? Answering questions like these will quickly put the question of income in its proper place.

    • “Free Trade” Is Today’s Imperialism by the 1 Percent

      Opposition to “free” trade is clearly growing — both the progressive and the corporate elements of the Democratic Party are now critical of agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Less clear are the alternatives to free trade that might emerge. As progressives continue to build power inside and outside of the Democratic Party, we must clarify our understanding of the international political economy, and imagine and begin to build real alternatives to free trade. Building these alternatives must become an essential component of a more progressive US foreign policy.

      The conventional wisdom says that if you oppose free trade, you must support protectionism or economic nationalism. This is misleading. There is no such thing as “free” trade. People create all of the systems that govern our political economy. These systems inevitably favor certain human activities over others, and we can design them to act any way that we want. The important question is: For whom are trade policies “free”? Put another way: Who do trade policies favor?

    • Longest Shutdown Ever

      This is bad governance. Our constitution makes clear that Congress, not the president, has the “power of the purse.” This shutdown is a brazen power grab by the president, and so far, too many members of Congress have been willing to cede this power to the president when they could end it today with enough votes. So, the shutdown continues.

      Most Americans favor immigration, and oppose a wall, as I wrote this week in Fortune. According to a poll from business insider, most Americans would rather see our shared resources put toward infrastructure, healthcare, or educationthan a wall at the border.

      Where will it end? In recent days reports have focused on the possibility of the president declaring a national emergency. According to news reports, he would use the declaration to repurpose funding from either militaryfunds or disaster fundsfor Puerto Rico, Texas and California. If he takes from the military, he’s admitting he thinks the military doesn’t need the funds. If he takes from disaster funds, he’s just plain heartless.

      This is unconscionable, and it’s dangerous for our democracy. The president’s powers have been limited from the outset of our democracy to guard against authoritarianism, and a declaration of national emergency will almost certainly be met by lawsuits and congressional investigation.

    • More solutions needed for campus hunger

      A new federal report does a good job of explaining what many researchers have been saying for a decade – food insecurity among college students is a serious national problem.

      As one University of California, Berkeley student revealed in an interview for a 2018 research article I helped write: “Food is always on my mind: ‘Do I have enough money? Maybe I should skip a meal today so I can have enough food for dinner.‘”

      However, when it comes to offering up solutions, the new report from the Government Accountability Office comes up short.

      My experience as one who has researched campus hunger goes back to 2014, when colleagues and I conducted the first public university system wide survey of campus hunger. We found that over 40 percent of University of California students – about half of all undergraduates and one out of every four graduate students – faced food insecurity. That is more than three times the national household rate of 12 percent. Food security is generally defined as access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.

    • Russia or the USSR? A new quiz from Meduza based on the last Soviet population census

      Thirty years ago this January, the USSR held what would be its last ever population census. Meduza studied this Soviet artifact and compared it to the most recent Russian census (conducted in 2010). The result of our heroic labor is this quiz, where you must guess which statistics describe the late Soviet Union and which describe the Russian Federation of nine years ago. Sounds pretty easy? Let’s see about that.

    • Garment Workers in Bangladesh Promised a Raise After Strike

      Garment manufacturers in Bangladesh said they would raise wages for a majority of workers after a week of strikes over low pay. Police have used tear gas, rubber bullets and batons during demonstrations in the streets that left one textile worker dead and dozens more injured.

      Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi announced Sunday that workers in six out of seven pay grades would receive a raise. In December, the minimum monthly wage in Bangladesh was raised to taka 8,000, or $96, but not all garment workers saw a raise. Union leaders are asking for wages of taka 16,000 taka, or about $191, per month.

      Amirul Huq, who represented union workers in negotiations facilitated by the government, said the strike would come to an end. “The discrepancies in the wage structure have been resolved by the prime minister’s intervention,” he said. “We welcome the new wages. As trade unions, we have the right to protest, but that does not mean vandalizing factories or blocking roads. Workers will go back to work.”

    • The ‘Private Governments’ That Subjugate U.S. Workers

      Corporate dictatorships—which strip employees of fundamental constitutional rights, including free speech, and which increasingly rely on temp or contract employees who receive no benefits and have no job security—rule the lives of perhaps 80 percent of working Americans. These corporations, with little or no oversight, surveil and monitor their workforces. They conduct random drug testing, impose punishing quotas and targets, routinely engage in wage theft, injure workers and then refuse to make compensation, and ignore reports of sexual harassment, assault and rape. They use managerial harassment, psychological manipulation—including the pseudo-science of positive psychology—and intimidation to ensure obedience. They fire workers for expressing leftist political opinions on social media or at public events during their off-hours. They terminate those who file complaints or publicly voice criticism about working conditions. They thwart attempts to organize unions, callously dismiss older workers and impose “non-compete” contract clauses, meaning that if workers leave they are unable to use their skills and human capital to work for other employers in the same industry. Nearly half of all technical professions now require workers to sign non-compete clauses, and this practice has spread to low-wage jobs including those in hair salons and restaurants.

      The lower the wages the more abusive the conditions. Workers in the food and hotel industries, agriculture, construction, domestic service, call centers, the garment industry, warehouses, retail sales, lawn service, prisons, and health and elder care suffer the most. Walmart, for example, which employs nearly 1 percent of the U.S. labor force (1.4 million workers), prohibits casual conversation, which it describes as “time theft.” The food industry giant Tyson prevents its workers from taking toilet breaks, causing many to urinate on themselves; as a result, some workers must wear diapers. The older, itinerant workers that Amazon often employs are subjected to grueling 12-hour shifts in which the company electronically monitors every action to make sure hourly quotas are met. Some Amazon workers walk for miles on concrete floors each shift and repeatedly get down on their hands and knees to perform their jobs. They frequently suffer crippling injuries. The company makes injured employees, whom it fires, sign releases saying the injuries are not work-related. Two-thirds of workers in low-wage industries are victims of wage theft, losing an amount estimated to be as high as $50 billion a year. From 4 million to 14 million American workers, under threat of wage cuts, plant shutdowns or dismissal, have been pressured by their employers to support pro-corporate political candidates and causes.

      The corporations that in effect rule the lives of American workers constitute what University of Michigan philosophy professor Elizabeth Anderson refers to as “private governments.” These “workplace governments,” she writes, are “dictatorships, in which bosses govern in ways that are largely unaccountable to those who are governed. They don’t merely govern workers: they dominate them.” These corporations have the legal authority, she writes, “to regulate workers’ off-hour lives as well—their political activities, speech, choice of sexual partner, use of recreational drugs, alcohol, smoking, and exercise. Because most employers exercise this off-hours authority irregularly, and without warning, most workers are unaware of how sweeping it is.”

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Calling Out ‘Crisis of Leadership’ Under Trump, Ex-Obama HUD Chief Julián Castro Enters 2020 Presidential Race

      In a Saturday morning speech at San Antonio’s Plaza Guadalupe, Castro denounced President Donald Trump’s immigration policies—including his demand for billions of dollars in border wall funding that’s produced the longest government shutdown in U.S. history—and his charaterization of refugees from Central and South America arriving at the Southern border as “a national security crisis.”

      “There is a crisis today. It’s a crisis of leadership. Donald Trump has failed to uphold the values of our great nation,” 44-year-old Castro told the crowd. “Yeah, we have to have border security, but there is a smart and a humane way to do it. And there is no way in hell that caging babies is a smart or a good or a right way to do it. We say no to building a wall and say yes to building community.”

      “As president, my first executive order will recommit the United States to the Paris climate accord.”
      —Julián Castro, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate

    • Former Obama Housing Chief Julian Castro Joins 2020 Campaign

      Assailing President Donald Trump for “a crisis of leadership,” former Obama Cabinet member Julian Castro joined the 2020 presidential race Saturday as the rush of Democrats making early moves to challenge the incumbent accelerates.

      Castro, who could end up being the only Latino in what is shaping up to be a crowded Democratic field, made immigration a centerpiece of his announcement in his hometown of San Antonio, less than 200 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.

      Two days after the president visited the border to promote his promised wall, Castro mocked Trump for claiming that the U.S. faces an “invasion” from its ally to the south. “He called it a national security crisis,” Castro said. “Well, there is a crisis today. It’s a crisis of leadership. Donald Trump has failed to uphold the values of our great nation.”

    • American History for Truthdiggers: From Isolationism to a 2nd World Conflagration

      Isolationism. Appeasement. Few words in American history have a more pejorative meaning than these. To this day, anti-war political figures are broadly described as naive isolationists ready to let the world burn in chaos; furthermore, current attempts at diplomatic compromise often are likened to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s perceived appeasement of Germany’s Adolf Hitler in 1938. At times such comparisons hold water. Usually they don’t. Each era and its prevailing context carry along contingent events and millions of decision makers with agency of their own. Rarely does one period bear any real resemblance to another. Few if any contemporary adversaries constitute the threat and pure evil of a Hitler. Fewer international compromises are as ill-fated as that made at Munich in 1938.

      Still, we are told, the era between World War I and World War II continues to offer supposedly incontestable truths and lessons to be learned. In 1945 most Americans left the Second World War convinced—for the first time in our national history—that the U.S. must engage with and lead the world of nations. Furthermore, never again could a democratic nation compromise with or placate an authoritarian adversary. This, we are told, is the key lesson of the 20-odd years separating the two wars (1918-39). In certain instances, perhaps, the internationalists have been proved right. Then again, with the United States now engaged in countless wars and operating military bases around the globe, one must admit that the triumph of interventionism has had its cost, both to the budget and our republican ideals.

    • Pence’s Pickle: How to Bargain When No One Speaks for Trump

      Progress made, said one.

      Not so, said the other.

      We’ll meet again, said one.

      Waste of time, said the other.

      Such has been the life lately of Mike Pence, the loyal soldier dispatched by President Donald Trump to lead negotiations over the partial government shutdown.

      The vice president has been one of the administration’s most visible emissaries during the shutdown fight, meeting with lawmakers, sitting for interviews and leading staff-level talks. But he’s been repeatedly—and very publicly—undermined and contradicted by his boss, who’s demanding billions from Congress to build a wall along the southern border.

    • I Wrote My Way Out: A Jubilant Hamilton Comes to Puerto Rico

      Marking the 264th birthday of the “ten-dollar Founding Father without a father,” Lin-Manuel Miranda has brought his musical “Hamilton” to a still-ravaged Puerto Rico as part of a fundraising effort to “bring the artistic pulse of the community back to life” after 2017′s Hurricane Maria. A fierce Trump critic and defender of Puerto Rico, where his parents were born and he maintains close ties, Miranda is reprising the title role to retell the unlikely story of Alexander Hamilton, first Secretary of the Treasury, born on the island of Nevis in the British West Indies and survivor of a hardscrabble childhood on St. Croix – “Immigrants. We get the job done.” Asks the show’s resentful Aaron Burr: “How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a/Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten/Spot in the Caribbean by providence, impoverished, in squalor/Grow up to be a hero and a scholar?” Miranda answers the question with an electrifying mix of hip hop, jazz, verve. (Yes, it’s as good as the hype.) Now, the show notes, “262 years later, Alexander Hamilton has made it home to the Caribbean.”

      Friday, Miranda kicked off a 24-performance, three-week residency at San Juan’s Centro De Bellas Artes in hopes of raising $15 million for the Flamboyan Arts Fund, with a large number of $10 seats will go to island residents through a lottery. Miranda has wanted to bring “Hamilton” to Puerto Rico for years. Citing then-and-now parallels, from his own father’s story to Hamilton’s leaving after a hurricane destroyed his island, he views its new venue as the “closing of a poetic circle” – especially given that the eloquence of Hamilton’s account of the hurricane inspired neighbors to pay for his education in America. “In the wake of Maria, (our) stories are important,” he says. “Artists (tell) those stories in a way that resonates.” After an emotional opening night met with multiple standing ovations, a tearful Miranda draped himself in a Puerto Rican flag. Earlier, he said he hoped Hamilton would bring both money and awareness to the island he loves: “(People) are going to see blue tarps…and how much work is left to be done.”

    • Ocasio-Cortez’s Climate Genius Stroke: Her #GreenNewDeal Is the Most Serious Response to the Crisis Yet

      This line of attack, I would guess, is going to fall flat too, because as the last few weeks have shown, Ocasio-Cortez is in fact more right on the biggest questions than anyone else in the House of Representatives. Call her Ocasio-Cortex; where it matters, she seems to understand issues at a deeper level than most pols.

      The best example is climate change, the issue of our time, where her Green New Deal plan has provided a badly needed new opening. Early this week, a research group published new data on U.S. carbon emissions, showing they’d risen sharply over the past year.
      Even scarier: We’re basically producing the same amount of carbon as we did in 1990, when we first learned of the climate crisis.

      Essentially, through Democratic and Republican administrations, we’ve done far too little. There are a few comprehensive state-level plans: California is acting, and environmental justice groups in New York State, for instance, have painstakingly put together a Climate and Community Protection Act that’s a model for others.

      But at the federal level, where it really counts, we’ve fallen farther and farther behind the physics of climate change.

      Which brings us back to Ocasio-Cortez. Her plan for a Green New Deal—endorsed “in concept” in recent days by one presidential aspirant after another—is among the first Washington efforts to approach climate change at the right scale.

      The call to get off fossil fuel by the 2030s is hard but technically achievable; the guarantee of a job in the renewable industry to anyone who wants one would actually provide the labor required to make a transition of this magnitude.

    • Durbin Calls for Senate Hearings to Probe ‘Serious Questions’ About Why Trump Is ‘So Chummy’ With Putin

      “Why is he so chummy with Vladimir Putin?” Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said of President Donald Trump’s relationship with his Russian counterpart after a series of recent reports provoked more “serious questions” about their interactions, and as public anticipation continues to build over the forthcoming results of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

      In an interview with ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Durbin noted key details about Putin’s past and his actions as Russia’s president: “This man who is a former KGB agent, never been a friend of the United States, invaded our allies, threatens us around the world, and tries his damnedest to undermine our elections. Why is this President Trump’s best buddy? I don’t get it.”

      Durbin, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called on Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the new committee chairman, to hold investigative hearings into whether Trump has been “compromised by” Russia. As the senator from Illinois said, “It’s within his power to hold these investigations, and he should.”

    • NRA May Have Illegally Coordinated With GOP Senate Campaigns

      The National Rifle Association appears to have illegally coordinated campaign ads with Republican candidates in key Senate races, according to Federal Communication Commission (FCC) records obtained by The Trace.

      According to the report, the NRA’s ads on behalf of Missouri Senate candidate Josh Hawley and Montana Senate candidate Matt Rosendale in 2018, as well as North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr in 2016, were all authorized by the same media consulting firm that they candidates used for their ads. (Hawley and Burr won their races, but Rosendale lost to Democratic Sen. Jon Tester.) The scheme appears to be in violation of laws barring independent groups from working in concert with political campaigns.

      According to the FCC records, at least 10 purchases by both the NRA and three Senate campaigns were made by the same person, National Media CFO Jon Ferell.

      The Trace reported that the company used the “assumed or fictitious name” Red Eagle Media to buy ads for the NRA while using the name American Media & Advocacy Group to buy ads for the Senate candidates.

      The Trace previously reported in December that President Trump’s 2016 campaign had the same type of scheme with the NRA. In that case, the campaign and the NRA hired different National Media affiliates to approve ads on their behalf. National Media employees using different corporate names placed ads for both Trump and the NRA around the country.

    • The Forgotten Referendum – Ireland 1998

      The problem with making decisions by the blunt and heavy tool of referenda is now very apparent. One self evident difficulty is how to cope with contradictory results. Scotland had two referenda in two years. In the first the Scottish people voted narrowly to remain part of the United Kingdom, in the second they voted heavily to remain part of the European Union. The two results are now incompatible. So how did the referenda help to set the legitimate course of political action? They did not.

      There is another incompatible referendum which has gone virtually unmentioned in the UK. Following the Good Friday agreement, Ireland had a referendum in 1998 to amend its constitution to allow it to subscribe to the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Ireland amended its constitution to remove its unfettered claim to its entire historic territory, in favour of a contingent peaceful process. Mutual EU membership and no border control was absolutely intrinsic to that agreement and to what the Irish voted for in their referendum. The vote, incidentally, was by much the same margin as Scotland’s vote to remain in the EU. So in resiling from its EU accession due to its referendum, the UK is negating referendum votes in Scotland, in Northern Ireland and in the Republic. The UK cannot arrogantly claim its referendum is more important than Ireland’s. The famous “backstop” is to maintain at least the shadow of the arrangements on the basis of which Ireland voted in 1998.

    • William Arkin On Homeland Security’s Creeping Fascism And Why The CIA & FBI Won’t Save Us From Trump

      Longtime NBC reporter and analyst William Arkin announced he was leaving the network last week in a blistering letter that took aim at the mainstream media for encouraging perpetual warfare and bolstering the national security state. In his letter, Arkin writes of Trump, “Of course he is an ignorant and incompetent impostor. And yet I’m alarmed at how quick NBC is to mechanically argue the contrary, to be in favor of policies that just spell more conflict and more war. Really? We shouldn’t get out Syria? We shouldn’t go for the bold move of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula? Even on Russia, though we should be concerned about the brittleness of our democracy that it is so vulnerable to manipulation, do we really yearn for the Cold War? And don’t even get me started with the FBI: What? We now lionize this historically destructive institution?” We speak with Arkin in New York City. He is the author of many books, including “Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State.”

    • Who Are Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists?

      As the United Kingdom marches, shuffles, even stumbles towards the exit door of the European Union a small Northern Ireland party commands an increasing share of media attention. The name Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has become associated with a new lexicon of the exiting process; hard border, backstop, supply and demand.

      But what is the DUP?

      As Ireland’s long struggle to be independent from its neighbour makes its own history there has been an accompanying counter move to maintain a connection, now called the union, with the political structure that today the world knows as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

      Like the tip of an iceberg drifting towards warmer, southern climes, unionism occasionally exhibits signs of meltdown. Although, at periods throughout is history it encounters colder currents which help consolidate it in a solid state.

      Towards the end of the 19th century the struggle for Irish independence took on a parliamentary character. This movement rose under the banner of Irish Home Rule. For some it was seen as a dangerous threat to the integrity of Britain and its empire. The island of Ireland was to have its own parliament, still with the British crown at its head. Home Rule was perceived by some as a clever mechanism to maintain that imperial integrity, thereby maintaining the integrity of British capital.

      Others saw Home Rule as a stepping stone to an independent Irish republic. The republics of the USA and France had gained a special place in the psyche of many Irish men and women. From this witches cauldron of confusion, conflict and God forbid, consensus, was distilled the perfect antidote, Unionism.

    • Facebook Is a Social Menace

      Back in 2011, The Onion’s now-defunct TV series ran a sketch in which then–CIA director Leon Panetta bestowed a “medal of intelligence commendation” on “the Overlord,” Mark Zuckerberg, for inventing the “single most powerful tool for population control” the agency had ever enjoyed. These days, Facebook is fulfilling the predictions of even its most dystopian satirists; the only thing The Onion got wrong was the CIA’s competence. According to a devastating investigation last December by The New York Times, Facebook is running a de facto spy agency—not for the US government, but for anyone willing to purchase its data.

      Among the recent revelations: Facebook sells the names of its users’ “friends” without consent and allows certain corporations to read and delete private messages. It also sells the names and contact information of users and then lies about it; permits the companies that purchase its data to conceal this fact; and allows these same companies to ignore the preferences of people who disable their sharing settings.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Turkish “Paradise Papers” reporter sentenced to 13 months in prison

      Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the 13-month jail sentence and fine of 8,660lira (1,400 euros) that an Istanbul court imposed yesterday on Pelin Ünker, a Turkish journalist involved in the Paradise Papers investigation, and calls for her acquittal on appeal.

    • Turkish Journalist Sentenced To Prison Over Paradise Papers’ Investigation

      RSF describes Turkey as “the world’s biggest prison for professional journalists.”

    • Facebook Is a Social Menace

      According to Josh Bolten, a former Bush chief of staff, Kaplan’s mandate at the company is to “demonstrate to people that Facebook is being fair,” because “a lot of people on the right are suspicious of most media outlets and social-media platforms.” Note the circular logic: The mere suspicion of anti-right-wing bias is used to ensure more right-wing programming, and each new win by the right ensures its increasingly ambitious demands. It’s hard to imagine an easier ref for conservatives to work than Zuckerberg and Facebook. Unfortunately, there’s never been a more effective means—or a more ominous political moment—to spread misinformation, disinformation, and incitements to violence.

    • Twitter Users in China Face Detention and Threats in New Beijing Crackdown

      The Chinese police, in a sharp escalation of the country’s online censorship efforts, are questioning and detaining a growing number of Twitter users even though the social media platform is blocked in China and the vast majority of people in the country cannot see it.

      The crackdown is the latest front in President Xi Jinping’s campaign to suppress [Internet] activity. In effect, the authorities are extending their control over Chinese citizens’ online lives, even if what they post is unlikely to be seen in the country.

    • To Cover China, There’s No Substitute for WeChat

      It’s not an exaggeration to say I live in and work on WeChat, the messaging app that’s the equivalent of WhatsApp plus Facebook plus PayPal plus Uber plus GrubHub plus many other things. As my iPhone battery use record shows, I spend about one-third of my daily nine-hour phone time on WeChat. That doesn’t include the two to three hours I use WeChat’s web version.

    • This New Crowdfunding App Won’t Ban Racist, Scammy, or Political Campaigns

      Cryptocurrency payment processor BTCPay Server has launched its own peer-to-peer crowdfunding application. Described as “an app built inside BTCPay Server” in a comprehensive and very dry explainer video, the crowdfunding platform has two main value propositions. It doesn’t charge any fees, and it’s immune to censorship.

      The platform looks similar to centralized crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and indeed BTCPay Server compares it to both, calling it a “bitcoin alternative.” Unlike BTCPay Server’s new app, though, these centralized crowdfunding sites take both a fee for profit and a payment processing fee. Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Patreon all take five percent for the former and about three percent for the latter. They rely on payment processors like Stripe and PayPal—companies that have the ability to ban certain groups or individuals from using their services.

    • Russia’s censorship agency has accused the BBC of posting materials that ‘broadcast terrorist ideologies’

      Roskomnadzor, the Russian government agency responsible for monitoring mass media and communications, has announced that it found materials “that broadcast the ideological positions of international terrorist organizations” on the website of the BBC’s Russian Service.

      The regulatory body cited a quote from a speech given by Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, an Islamic State leader, as an example of the materials under scrutiny.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Big Brother Nation: The Case for Ubiquitous, Open-Sourced Surveillance in Smart Cities

      Powerful surveillance cameras have crept into public spaces. We are filmed and photographed hundreds of times a day. To further raise the stakes, the resulting video footage is fed to new forms of artificial intelligence software that can recognize faces in real time, read license plates, even instantly detect when a particular pre-defined action or activity takes place in front of a camera.

      As most modern cities have quietly become surveillance cities, the law has been slow to catch up. While we wait for robust legal frameworks to emerge, the best way to protect our civil liberties right now is to fight technology with technology. All cities should place local surveillance video into a public cloud-based data trust. Here’s how it would work.

    • I was wrong about Google and Facebook: there’s nothing wrong with them (so say we all)

      It’s always difficult admitting you’re wrong. But sometimes, it’s exactly what you have to do in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. So, today, I admit that I was wrong about Google, Facebook, and surveillance capitalism in general being toxic for our human rights and democracy.

      You see, it simply cannot be true given how they are endorsed by some of the most well-respected groups and organisations in the world. All the evidence points to Google and Facebook being good actors who are not a threats to our privacy.

    • People start to wake up to the pervasive third-party tracking that comes with 90% of Android apps

      According to Feuer, 80% of users agreed to allow access to their locations because details about how the app uses geolocation data were buried within a 10,000-word privacy policy that few read, and that was not made explicit when they downloaded the app.

      Despite the outrage, the report in the New York Times is only the tip of the iceberg. Back in October, a group of researchers found that 90% of the 959,000 apps from the US and UK Google Play stores that they studied had at least one tracker; 170,000 apps had more than twenty trackers. Apps aimed at children were particularly bad from this point of view. Although troubling, it’s hard to tell how serious that tracking is from raw numbers alone – it might be quite harmless. That makes new research from Privacy International welcome. It looks in greater detail at the 400,000 apps on the Google Play store that researchers found could share data with Facebook. Facebook is the second most important tracking company after Google, which itself is able to track users of some 800,000 apps.

    • Amazon Dash button breach German consumer law
    • Court says Amazon ‘Dash’ buttons violate German law

      A German court ruled on Thursday that Amazon’s thumb-sized ordering devices known as “Dash” buttons do not give sufficient information about the product ordered or its price, breaking consumer protection legislation.

    • MacKenzie Bezos and the Myth of the Lone Genius Founder

      TMZ reports that the couple did not have a prenup. Washington, where they live, is a community property state, meaning that all property and debts acquired during the 25-year marriage could be equally split if the Bezoses can’t negotiate an agreement. Amazon, for the record, is 24 years old. But thinking about the divorce as an opportunity for MacKenzie to become the richest woman in the world is a strange way of describing her situation, as Bloomberg points out. She is already the richest woman in the world, because she’s half of the richest couple on Earth.

    • Hands off our porn habits

      I get that kids should not be watching vast amounts of porn – it is not healthy. But we already have a mechanism for deciding what kids can and can’t do. It’s called ‘parents’. Sadly the idea that parents might actually take responsibility for their children is fast dying out. But, actually – it’s what parents are there for, it’s the point of them. Parents can arrange to have sites blocked from their kids’ phones and computers already. They can talk to their kids not just about sex, but also about smoking and drinking and everything else. They don’t need the government to get involved. And if they do – it’s because they’re not fulfilling their role properly in the first place.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Facebook-executive swatting sends significant police response to his home

      The publication also said that the caller stayed on the phone with police as they responded and that the executive was briefly handcuffed as police searched his home.

    • Police get report of a shooting only to find out it was a prank

      The Facebook executive, who is in his late 30s, appeared calm when he was handcuffed outside his two-bedroom house on Emerson Street.

      Villaescusa said the man, who came out of the house after police ordered him out over a loudspeaker, told police that he didn’t know what was going on.

    • How a [cracked] phone may have led killers to Khashoggi

      Jamal Khashoggi probably thought the messages he was sending to fellow Saudi dissident Omar Abdulaziz were hidden, cloaked in WhatsApp security. In reality they were compromised — along with the rest of Abdulaziz’s phone, which had allegedly been infected by Pegasus, a powerful piece of malware designed to spy on its users.

      Abdulaziz, as CNN reported last month, is suing the creators of Pegasus, Israel-based cyber company NSO Group, accusing them of violating international law by selling the software to oppressive regimes.

    • Jamal Khashoggi and the Decline of ‘America’s Moral Voice’

      But, the state of affairs seems bleak: Congress says it wants action, but does not take action; the White House absolves the Saudi crown prince of any and all guilt, and Secretary of State Pompeo has also chosen to ignore the CIA consensus rather than publicly contradict the president.

      While follow-up action is not typically the byproduct of a memorial service, this memorial service was different. It transpired to say, We’re still here. We’re still demanding answers.

    • Covert British Military-Smear Machine Moving Into US

      The leaked documents revealed a secret network of spies, prominent journalists and think-tanks colluding under the umbrella of a group called “Integrity Initiative” to shape domestic opinion—and to smear political opponents of the right-wing Tory government, including the leader of the opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbin.

    • Rahaf al-Qunun: Thai official retracts asylum comments, as teen deletes Twitter account

      ABC reporter Sophie McNeill tweeted Friday that Qunun was “safe and fine” but had been “receiving a lot of death threats. She will be back on Twitter but for now she’s apparently having a short break.”

    • Violence Against Women: A Pandemic No Longer Hidden

      Recently, in Argentina, the denunciation by actress Thelma Fardin that she was raped by the well-known Argentine actor Juan Darthés when she was 16 and he was a 45-year-old man forced him to leave the country in shame. In Sao Pablo, Brazil, where Darthés was hired to work in a restaurant, he was met by the loud complaint of a large group of Brazilian women.

      Worldwide, the most common kind of gender violence is domestic violence, which occurs in the home or within the family. It affects women regardless of age, education, or socioeconomic status. Although generally women are the victims, men are also abused by their wives or partners. Violence also occurs among same-sex partners.

      Although physical violence and sexual violence are easier to see, other forms of violence include emotional abuse, such as verbal humiliation, threats of physical aggression or abandonment, economic blackmail, and confinement at home. Many women report that psychological abuse and humiliation are even more devastating than physical violence because of the negative long-lasting effects on their self-confidence and self-esteem.

      In many countries violence against women, especially in the domestic setting, is seen as acceptable behavior. Even more disturbing, a large proportion of women are beaten while they are pregnant. Comparative studies reveal that pregnant women who are abused have twice the risk of miscarriage and four-times the risk of having low-birth-weight babies than non-battered pregnant women.

    • The Age of Technology Requires Us All to Reimagine Politics

      In Future Politics: Living Together in a World Transformed by Tech, Jamie Susskind makes accessible the often head-scratching world of technological development and how it intersects with everyday politics. In this interview, Susskind discusses some of the factors contributing to the exponential integration of tech in our daily lives and how we can take control away from market-driven tech firms by achieving a greater understanding of the technology that surrounds us.

      [...]

      Those who write code will increasingly write the rules by which the rest of us live our lives. So, when you take a ride in a self-driving car, you will be subject to the rules coded into that vehicle: It may refuse to go over the speed limit, or park in a particular spot. It may automatically pull over for the police in circumstances where you would have been inclined not to, had you been driving. In the future, digital technologies are going to be everywhere, touching every aspect of our lives. So too will the rules in those technologies.

      You can’t ask a technology to do something it’s not coded to do, which is why a tweet of more than 280 characters simply won’t send, or a DVD made for use in North America simply won’t play on DVD players manufactured in Europe. As more and more of our lives — and our freedoms — are lived out through technologies, we will be increasingly subject to the rules coded into those technologies.

    • The Embarrassing Secret Behind These Tech Giants’ Diversity Figures

      Palantir Technologies said it must hide the number of women and people of color it employs so competitors won’t “steal” them.

      That’s the argument the data-mining company made to the federal government, blocking release of its diversity statistics for more than a year.

      Well, we finally got Palantir’s 2015 diversity numbers through a public records battle with the government. It turns out that Palantir didn’t have such great diversity after all. The company had no female executives and only one woman, who was white, among its managers.

      Palantir told the U.S. Department of Labor, in a letter it also tried to keep secret, that “competitors could identify where Palantir has made significant progress in hiring women and minorities and target recruitment strategies at specific job categories to steal this talent from Palantir.”

      But Palantir doesn’t compare well, even in an industry infamous for its lack of diversity. Of the biggest tech companies in Silicon Valley, only 10 other companies had no female executives in 2015. That’s out of 167 of the largest tech companies in the San Francisco Bay Area, according to an analysis by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and the Center for Employment Equity. The company was in the bottom four for its percentage of female managers and the only one that had no women of color in management.

    • Did CIA Director Gina Haspel run a black site at Guantánamo?

      An attorney for the accused architect of the Sept. 11 attacks told a judge in a secret session last year that CIA Director Gina Haspel ran a secret agency outpost at Guantánamo, an apparent reference to a post-9/11 black site, according to a recently declassified transcript.

      The claim by Rita Radostitz, a lawyer for Khalid Sheik Mohammed, appears in one paragraph of a partially redacted transcript of a secret hearing held at Guantánamo on Nov. 16. Defense lawyers were arguing, in a motion that ultimately failed, that Haspel’s role at the prison precludes the possibility of a fair trial for the men accused of orchestrating the 9/11 attacks who were also held for years in covert CIA prisons.

    • Millennial News Site Thinks the CIA Being Run Entirely by Women Is a Progressive Victory

      NowThis, a news website that primarily caters to left-of-center millennials and Gen Z-ers, tweeted this on Wednesday: “The CIA’s highest level positions are now all held by women—another stride towards progress.” The tweet even included a flexed bicep emoji, a symbol of progress that invokes Rosie the Riveteer.

      [...]

      I’m highlighting this tweet because it speaks to intersectionality’s corruption of the modern progressive movement. Intersectionality, of course, is the academic tradition from the late 1980s that stressed group-based oppression: particularly racism and sexism. Over the years, proponents of intersectionality have added other areas of concern: everything from transphobia and homophobia to size-ism and able-ism. It’s not that the intersectional thinkers are necessarily wrong—transphobia exists, and it’s bad—but rather that a monomaniacal focus on group-based oppression can be naïve. Haspel taking over the CIA, for instance, might be a blow to sexism in some very narrow sense, but it does nothing to remedy the CIA’s appalling record on civil liberties, something progressives purport to care about.

      This is not the first time generic yaaassss slay kween feminism has been used to obscure Haspel’s appalling awfulness: My colleague Scott Shackford made a note of The Advocate’s coverage, which commended the CIA director for making “herstory” in a tweet that practically demands a barf emoji response.

    • Groundbreaking Edinburgh theatre project to explore CIA ‘War on Terror’ abuses

      A SCOTTISH theatre company is set to launch a groundbreaking artistic project exploring the CIA’s secretive extraordinary rendition programme during the war on terror years.

      The rendition programme after the 9/11 attacks saw terror suspects transported around the world to keep them outside of judicial oversight, and to circumvent human rights protections against various forms of detention and interrogation.

    • Ex-convict creates prisoners’ rights group denying prison torture, and sues human rights activist Olga Romanova for two million rubles

      Olga Romanova is the leader of Rus’ Sidyashchaya (“Rus’ Imprisoned”), and Lev Ponomarev leads a movement called Za Prava Cheloveka (“For Human Rights”). Both organizations aim to defend human rights in Russia, especially for those imprisoned in the country. On January 10, Inga Krivitskaya’s lawsuit against them was heard in Moscow’s Khoroshevsky Court. Krivitskaya, who was formerly imprisoned in an IK-2 prison colony in the Russian Republic of Mordavia, has accused Romanova and Ponomarev of defamation and is demanding two million rubles in compensation. Krivitskaya claims that the two activists spread false information about her by reporting that she “colluded with the prison’s administration, took part in beatings of imprisoned women, and took packages away from their recipients.” The former prisoner denies all of these claims and says nobody was tortured in the colony where she was held. She has also created her own organization to provide aid to prisoners, but its name is the same as that of Romanova’s group.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Testimony sheds light on dynamics of Qualcomm’s negotiations with Apple, Samsung, VIA Telecom

      On Day 4 of the FTC v. Qualcomm trial (Friday, January 11) in the Northern District of California, testimony covered the whole range of issues from market definition to anticompetitive harm to potential justifications. But the most interesting parts related to the dynamics of Qualcomm’s negotiations with such industry players as Apple, Samsung, and VIA Telecom, as well as a past power struggle between Qualcomm’s patent licensing and chipset divisions. When I just said “interesting,” I primarily meant that it satisfies our curiosity as to what happened behind the scenes years ago and ultimately led to the mess we’re learning more and more about. It’s key to distinguish at all times between what’s really outcome-deteminative to the #ftcqcom antitrust case and what’s at best secondary, or even totally irrelevant, to the decisions Judge Lucy H. Koh will make after the ongoing bench trial. She’s so much focused on the facts and the law that whitewashing and badmouthing won’t help or hurt the way such tactics might affect a jury’s feelings toward the parties.

      Then-VIA Telecom’s (now Intel’s) Mark Davis described efforts to reach an agreement on IP matters with Qualcomm as more of a “dictation than negotiation,” just because of Qualcomm’s power and its approach to other parties. While VIA Telecom, according to the testimony, was too small to pick a fight and decided to buy the “ticket” that Qualcomm offered to its “walled garden,” Apple’s vice president of procurement, Tony Blevins, talked about the “watershed moment” that made Apple realize it had to formulate a strategy for independence from Qualcomm. So what had happened? Cristiano Amon, now Qualcomm’s president, told Mr. Blevins, according to the testimony, that Apple didn’t have a choice but to accept Qualcomm’s terms (a mix of patent licensing and chip supply terms). Mr. Blevins testified he usually doesn’t get involved with licensing negotiations, but in Qualcomm’s case licensing and chip supply were “hopelessly entangled,” so it was the only supplier with whom he also had to discuss license terms as part of the equation. On the bottom line, what Qualcomm demanded appeared unreasonable to him, and Apple, which typically wants to have (again, according to Apple’s testimony) two to six suppliers for any given one of the iPhone’s roughly 1,000 components, gets nervous–Mr. Blevins said–when market forces and competition no longer seem to work. Mr. Blevins stressed it’s not just about pricing but also about quality, reliability, and innovation, to name but a few other aspects.

    • Bipartisan concerns over Qualcomm’s efforts to avoid competition from Intel expressed in filings with ITC

      When an antitrust defendant faces a strong case, and when that case tackles the core of a business model, a company may very well get desperate and try alternative routes in order to avoid a judicial decision that quite probably isn’t going to be pretty from Qualcomm’s perspective. Qualcomm has not yet presented its own case-in-chief. The FTC will rest its case on Tuesday (as per the current schedule), and then Qualcomm will be in the driver’s seat for a few days. But Qualcomm’s lawyers have cross-examined the FTC’s live witnesses, and Qualcomm’s lead counsel Bob van Nest made an opening statement laying out his defensive strategy. Day 2 went better for Qualcomm than the other three days, but all in all the FTC still controls the center of the chess board, with Qualcomm clinging to a last line of defense: trying to build a basis to argue that the FTC failed to prove actual anticompetitive harm. After four trial days, including testimony by Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf and Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon, it appears increasingly unlikely that Qualcomm can fundamentally challenge the FTC’s allegations and theories. Qualcomm’s lawyers are trying many things, and they’re trying smart and hard, but it’s largely just like scratching at the periphery of the issues.

    • Trademarks

      • [Old] In a Decade Long Racketeering Case, an Unconventional Trademark Battle is at Play

        But the authorities are not just pursuing the Mongol members, themselves, but one of their biggest assets, as well: their arsenal of trademarks.

      • [Old] Despite Outlaw Image, Hells Angels Sue Often

        In its rule-bound world, only full members are permitted to wear the provocative death’s-head patch or the two words of the club’s name, which, like the logo, is trademarked by the organization. Separately, the group sells so-called support merchandise to the public on club websites and at Hells Angels parties and charity events. Recently the club opened a retail store in Toronto.

        Designations such as 81 (H and A are the eighth and first letters of the alphabet) and Big Red Machine (Hells Angels’ colors are red and white) are on an array of goods, including T-shirts (children’s sizes available), beanies, tank tops, bikinis, underwear, pins, cigars, key chains, window decals and calendars.

      • [Old] Violent biker gang stripped of emblem

        The goal, according to Thomas O’Brien, U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, where the Black Rain indictment was filed, is to empower police who spot anyone wearing a Mongols patch to “stop that gang member and literally take the jacket right off his back.” It’s an unprecedented approach that has civil liberties advocates nervous, and trademark experts skeptical.

        And yes, the Mongols’ trademark is real: “Mongols” in arching sans serif type is Trademark No. 2916965. The name appears on the back of their biker vests with a cartoon image of a grimacing rider sporting sunglasses and a topknot. The image is worn as a center patch, one of three that make up the gang’s entire insignia: the cartoon rider, the word “MONGOLS” above, and the member’s geographic chapter below.

      • Jury decides to strip Mongols biker gang of trademark logo

        A California jury decided Friday that the Mongols motorcycle gang should be stripped of its trademarked logo in a first-of-its-kind verdict, federal prosecutors said.

        The jury in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana previously found Mongol Nation, the entity that owns the image of a Mongol warrior on a chopper, guilty of racketeering and conspiracy.

      • California Jury Agrees To Strip Trademarked Logo From Mongols Biker Club

        Last month the same jury had convicted the Mongol Nation, the leadership group that owns the logo, of racketeering and criminal conspiracy related to drug dealing and violent crimes by individual members. Federal prosecutors have long considered the Mongols to be a criminal gang.

      • California jury decides to strip Mongols biker gang of trademark logo

        The first-of-its-kind ruling is intended to prevent members from wearing the cherished patches.

    • Copyrights

      • A 12th century tale of an orphan work (it’s all about the teeth)

        The story, as just recounted in the journal, Science Advances (“Medieval women’s early involvement in manuscript production suggested by lapis lazuli identification in dental calculus”) must rank among the more fascinating instances of such an inquiry, bringing together dental records, trade flows and pigments to suggest the role of women creators in medieval times. Kat readers are invited to don their history hat and read on.

        The question is much debated to what extent women were engaged in the creative industries in Europe in the High and Late Middle Ages (1000-1500), prior to the modern notion of authorship. Still, we know that works, mostly religious in nature, were being created, laboriously by hand. So what better place to look for evidence of the contribution of women to these creative efforts than in the monasteries, which housed both men and women. But extant manuscripts from that period are few and are not likely to include author/creator attribution. Given this paucity of direct attribution, how about looking for answers … well, in dental records?

      • CBS Targets ‘Copyright Infringing’ Kodi Addons

        CBS has requested TVAddons to remove three addons which can display their programming in the popular Kodi media player. TVAddons swiftly complied, but the site refuses to flag the developer under its repeat infringer policy, because it doesn’t see the addons as infringing.

      • Sky Complaint Shuts Down KodiTips’ Facebook Page

        KodiTips, a popular website dedicated to tips and information for the popular Kodi platform, has had its Facebook page shut down following a copyright infringement complaint by Sky. The operator of the site informs TF he has no idea how he infringed their rights.

      • ISPs Call For Piracy Notice Standard to Deal With Millions of Warnings

        A broad coalition including Canada’s major ISPs is requesting several changes to the country’s copyright law. They want a standard for copyright infringement notices, so the millions of requests can be handled more easily. In addition, they call for a useful deterrent to stop rightsholders from sending piracy settlements requests.

      • Bird Scooter tried to censor my Boing Boing post with a legal threat that’s so stupid, it’s a whole new kind of wrong

        Last month, I published a post discussing the mountains of abandoned Bird Scooters piling up in city impound lots, and the rise of $30 Chinese conversion kits that let you buy a scooter at auction, swap out the motherboard, and turn it into a personal scooter, untethered from the Bird company.

        In response, Bird sent us a legal threat of such absurdity that we are publishing it in full, along with a scorching response from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, as a kind of celebration of truly world-class legal foolishness.

      • Happy Mutants Response to Bird Takedown Letter Jan 11 2019
      • EFF flips Bird the bird, says Boing Boing post doesn’t violate copyright law

        According to a new letter published Friday by an Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyer, the scooter startup Bird significantly overstepped when it recently demanded that Boing Boing remove a post describing personal “conversion kits” that enable the removal of Bird’s proprietary hardware from a seized scooter.

      • Major ISP Backs Plan to Strip ISP of Licenses For Piracy Failures

        A controversial anti-piracy bill that would see Philippines-based ISPs stripped of their licenses for providing access to ‘pirate’ sites, has received backing from one of the country’s largest ISPs. Globe Telecom described the proposed legislation as “an important first step” in the fight against piracy.

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