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01.15.19

Links 15/1/2019: MX Linux MX-18 Continuum Reviewed, Mageia 7 Artwork Voting

Posted in News Roundup at 10:48 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Desktop

    • Entroware Launches Hades, Its First AMD-Powered Workstation with Ubuntu Linux

      With Hades, Entroware debut their first AMD-powered system that’s perfect for Deep Learning, a new area of Machine Learning (ML) research, but also for businesses, science labs, and animation studios. Entroware Hades can achieve all that thanks to its 2nd generation AMD Ryzen “Threadripper” processors with up to 64 threads, Nvidia GPUs with up to 11GB memory, and up to 128GB RAM and 68TB storage.

      “The Hades workstation is our first AMD system and brings the very best of Linux power, by combining cutting edge components to provide the foundation for the most demanding applications or run even the most demanding Deep Learning projects at lightning speeds with impeccable precision,” says Entroware.

    • Linux hardware vendor Entroware has unleashed Hades, their first AMD CPU desktop

      For those looking to splash out a bit on a new desktop, the Linux hardware vendor Entroware have unleashed Hades, a powerful new desktop computer with Linux pre-loaded.

      This is their first AMD Ryzen powered desktop with multiple choices between the CPU and GPU, although they’re still only providing NVIDIA GPUs with the Hades. For those looking at the ultimate performance, they’ve gone with the AMD Threadripper so it really is a bit of a beast.

    • Chromebook owners may soon be able to choose which Linux distro to use

      Midway through 2018, Google wowed many Chromebook users by allowing them to run desktop Linux apps on Chrome OS. Though this support currently works through a virtualized Linux, based on Debian, Google has been continuously improving the support. Features like graphics acceleration are lined up for future addition. And the company isn’t stopping there. It now plans to allow device managers to choose a Linux distro on which it runs.

    • Librem laptops now at Version 4

      We are excited to announce Version 4 of our Librem laptops! Our Librem 13 and Librem 15 will now be upgraded with a 7th Gen Intel Core i7-7500U Processor with integrated HD Graphics that still works with coreboot. In addition, the Librem 15 display will be upgraded to 4K resolution. Upgraded models are available now for purchase whether you pick Librem 13: the road warrior or Librem 15: the desktop replacement.

    • Purism Announces 4K Librem 15 Linux Laptop, Updated CPU and GPU for Librem 13

      Purism is known for manufacturing and shipping security and privacy-focused laptops powered by Linux-based operating systems. They have their own GNU/Linux distribution called PureOS, based on the popular Debian GNU/Linux distribution, which they ship pre-installed with all their Librem laptops.

      The company announced today a new hardware promotion where you can buy the Librem 13 and Librem 15 high-end laptop series with updated CPU and graphics, including the 7th Generation 3.50GHz Intel Core i7-7500U processors with two cores and four threads, with integrated Intel HD Graphics 620.

    • Purism Announces New Laptops Based On 7th Gen Intel CPUs, 4K Option

      hile Purism remains very busy with their Librem 5 smartphone efforts, today they have announced their fourth version of the Librem 13/15 laptops.

      With Version 4 of the Librem laptops, they have upgraded the Librem 13 and Librem 15 to Intel 7th Gen CPUs… Yes, 7th Gen from 2016. Granted, that’s done in order to retain Coreboot compatibility with their hardware, but a bit sad to see such dated processors used while the Librem 13 pricing starts off at the same $1399 and the Librem 15 at $1599. In particular, Purism is going with the i7-7500U which is dual-core plus Hyper Threading Kabylake in comparison to Intel’s newer Core i7 mobile parts being true quad-core processors plus Hyper Threading, among power efficiency improvements, etc.

    • Purism Announces Version 4 of Its Laptops, KDE Frameworks 5.54.0 Now Available, Debian 10 Default Theme Chosen, Linux Kernel 5.0-rc2 Is Out and Mozilla to Disable Flash in Firefox 69

      Purism announced the fourth version of its Librem laptops today. The Librem 13 and 15 will be “now be upgraded with a 7th Gen Intel Core i7-7500U Processor with integrated HD Graphics that still works with coreboot. In addition, the Librem 15 display will be upgraded to 4K resolution. Upgraded models are available now for purchase whether you pick Librem 13: the road warrior or Librem 15: the desktop replacement.” Note that the base cost will remain the same despite these updates (the Librem 15 is $1599, and the Librem 13 is $1399).

    • Purism’s newest Librem laptops ship with newer (but still old) chips

      Purism’s first smartphone is set to launch this year, but the corporation got its start making laptops that ship with free and open source software and privacy-oriented features like physical kill switches for the mic, camera, and wireless radios.

      Now Purism is updating its laptop lineup with new models sporting upgraded processors. And by upgraded, I mean the Librem 13 and Librem 15 laptops now ship with a 7th-gen Intel Core i7-7500U processor… a chip that was first released in late 2016.

      [...]

      These are obviously laptops for a niche market — folks willing to pay a premium for privacy, security, and software freedom. But if you’re in that market, I suppose it’s nice to have the option to pick up a model with a new(er) processor… even if it’s a little overdue (Purism had originally planned to make the switch to 7th-gen Intel chips in 2017) .

      The Purism Librem 13 version 4 features a 13.3 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel matte display, an Intel Core i7-7500U processor, and at least 4GB of RAM and 120GB of solid state storage (it supports up to 16GB/6TB (2TB NVMe + 4TB SSD).

    • Exclusive: Dell Opens Up About Its Linux Efforts And Project Sputnik

      The XPS 13 was pivotal in my personal switch to using Linux full-time, but I’m not a developer. I initially received the XPS 13 as a review sample with Windows 10. It ticked all my boxes for being a lightweight machine with a dazzling display to use for writing, research and general everyday use. It became exponentially better once I installed Ubuntu 18.04 on it because the sound and Wireless connections were more stable than Windows, updating the machine was a nag-free experience and the operating system was elegant and stayed out of my way.

      I bring this up because prior to being immersed in the world of Linux, I may not have considered buying a “Developer Edition” of the XPS 13 — or any other Dell offering with that name attached to it. It doesn’t necessarily have a consumer-friendly name, yet it’s an ideal device for non-developers who want a rock solid, reliable (and yea, pretty sexy) laptop without the bloat and instability of Windows 10.

      Couldn’t Dell shift more of these units if its Ubuntu-powered XPS 13 shipped under a more mainstream name?

    • APEX in Android Q: What Could Be The Biggest Thing Since Project Treble

      The idea behind APEX by itself is rather common in everyday GNU/Linux distributions: package updates targeting specific sections of the Linux library set. But that’s something Google never tried to do given that Android has used a RO (read-only) partition where all the system libraries and frameworks are stored versus the usual RW (read-write) partitions used in most Linux distributions, rendering the standard upgrade process unsuitable.

    • Chrome OS 73 finally lets you add top-level folders other than Downloads

      While Google has had a rudimentary file manager for Chrome OS for years, it has long lagged behind the functionality of those on other desktop-class operating systems. Starting with Chrome OS 73, however, Google will make a major step forward in catching up, as it allows users to add top-level folders as they choose.

    • Google is Adding ‘Apt Search’ to the ChromeOS App Launcher

      Chrome OS’s ability to run Linux apps continues to mature.

      Having recently revealed plans to let device managers specify a Linux distro for use with the feature comes word of another key feature tasked with making ‘Linux (beta) for Chromebooks’ more user-friendly.

    • Linux Steam Integration 0.7.3 Released With Annoyance Fixes

      Solus founder Ikey Doherty who is back working for Intel on the Clear Linux team and brought the Linux Steam Integration (LSI) into that fold has issued a new release of this software for improving the Steam integration on Linux.

  • Server

    • Kubernetes vs. Docker: A Primer

      The differences and similarities between two of the most influential open source projects of 2018.

      Kubernetes versus Docker is a topic that has been raised numerous times in the cloud computing industry. Whether you come from a non-technical background and need a quick introduction or if you need to make a business decision, I hope that the following few words will clarify this matter once and for all.

      We need to look beyond the hype that surrounds both Kubernetes and Docker. What these words mean is important to grasp before running your business on top of them.

    • VR Development Guide: Choosing the Right Engine

      Creating virtual 3D worlds has been a dream of programmers for many decades. Virtual reality, once a faraway fiction, is becoming a reality. Failures such as Nintendo’s infamous Virtual Boy are now a distant memory, and major successes including PSVR and Google Cardboard have become the norm for the emerging technology. In fact, Statista projects incredible growth for virtual reality, estimating that the market will expand to $40 billion by 2020.

      [...]

      If you’re looking for the lowest cost possible, you’ll want to investigate completely free engines. Video game engines such as Godot may be serviceable, but virtual reality compatibility is not completely assured. You’ll have to devote more time and resources into editing the engine your needs.

      Completely open source virtual reality-ready engines are also available for use. Apertus VR is one such example. It’s a set of embeddable libraries that can easily be inserted into existing projects. OSVR is another virtual reality framework that can help you begin developing your own virtual reality games. Both OSVR and Apertus VR are fairly new creations, however, and you may experience bugs and other issues you would not encounter with Unity or Unreal.

    • 10 Database ‘Must-Haves’ for Microservices in 2019

      A monolith application can have one database for all functions; however, in a microservices architecture, different services can each operate within its own separate database, which can lead to a dramatic increase cost. An open source database gives users the chance to download a free copy, play with the database and see if it is a right fit before making a major financial commitment. Thanks to the flexibility open source options offer, it’s no wonder Gartner predicts open-source-based database products will account for more than 20 percent of total database revenue by 2020. To ensure success, the key is to make sure the open source option is top quality, reliable, and validated by an industry leader.

    • Eight Application Design Principles to Cope with OpenShift Maintenance Operations

      Most Red Hat OpenShift maintenance operations follow the same pattern: one or more nodes are temporarily taken off the cluster to perform the required maintenance and then they are re-added to the cluster when complete. This cycle repeats until the maintenance operation has been performed on all nodes..

      In order to gracefully remote a node from the cluster, that node must first be drained. Draining the node means killing all of the pods in it, until the node is completely empty.

      In this post, we will look at a set of design principles that facilitate applications coping with this necessary OpenShift maintenance pattern.

    • CES 2019 | IBM unveils first commercial quantum computer

      At CES, IBM unveiled the world’s first quantum computer that commercial customers have access to. Although there is still a long way to go before the technology can really be used by everyone, this is a huge step forward.

    • DevOps for the hybrid cloud: Red Hat Ansible Tower 3.4

      With the growth of the cloud and containers, DevOps has become increasingly important. Old-school sysadmin methods and means simply aren’t up to managing server instances that can spin up at a moment’s notice when needed. Red Hat knows that better than many companies, so its latest release, Red Hat Ansible Tower 3.4, goes even further in automating today’s IT stack.

    • The Slow But Inevitable Shift To Cloudy Infrastructure

      Architectural transitions for layers in the IT stack at hyperscalers can happen in a matter of years, and cloud builders and HPC centers can move at almost the same speed. But for the vast number of enterprises, it takes a long time to change their stacks, in part because they are more risk averse and in part because they have more – and more diverse – applications to support to run their businesses.

      This, we think, is one of the reasons why the transition from bare metal to cloudy infrastructure is taking so long in the enterprise, even as it has long since taken over at the hyperscalers and cloud builders and is making significant headway – mostly due to the advent of containerized environments that are significantly less heavy than clusters that are virtualized with full-on hypervisors – in the HPC realm.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

    • Linux Thursday – Jan 13, 2019 – Lingering Cough Edition
    • Episode 50 | This Week in Linux

      On this episode of This Week in Linux, Linus Torvalds announced that the Linux 5.0 Kernel is coming soon. We got some Linux Mobile news from UBports Ubuntu Touch and Purism Librem 5. Then in App News, Bash 5.0 is out and we’ll check out some new interesting apps like a new Password Manager and subtitles syncing tool. In distro news, we’ll look at some news from Clonezilla Live, Funtoo, and Fedora. Later in the show we’ll check out some Security News for Metasploit and a new 2FA phishing tool. Then we’ll finish out the show with some Linux Gaming news for Super Tux Kart and A Story About My Uncle. All that and much more!

  • Kernel Space

    • Linus Torvalds Says Things Look Pretty Normal for Linux 5.0, Releases Second RC

      Linux creator Linus Torvalds announced today the general availability for testing of the second RC (Release Candidate) of the upcoming major release of the Linux kernel, Linux 5.0.
      According to Linus Torvalds, things are going in the right direction for Linux kernel 5.0 series, which should launch sometime at the end of February or early March 2019, and the second Release Candidate is here to add several perf tooling improvements, updated networking, SCSI, GPU, and block drivers, updated x86, ARM, RISC-V, and C-SKY architectures, as well as fixes to Btrfs and CIFS filesystems.

      “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,” said Linus Torvalds in a mailing list announcement.

    • AMD Raven 2 & Picasso AMDGPU Firmware Binaries Added To Linux-Firmware

      Now available via the official linux-firmware tree are the AMDGPU firmware binaries needed for initializing the forthcoming Raven 2 and Picasso AMD APUs.

      Since a few months back AMD posted the initial open-source driver support for Picasso APUs as well as Raven 2 APUs. That kernel driver support was merged for the Linux 4.20 kernel and the necessary IDs are also present now in the Mesa drivers for rounding out the driver support. But for making this open-source driver support are also the necessary firmware bits needing to be in place.

    • ZOL 0.8 Nears With RC3 Release – Big Update For ZFS On Linux

      ZFS On Linux (ZOL) 0.8 is going to be a big release… No, a huge release. But for ensuring it’s going to be a successful release, a third release candidate was just issued for further vetting of all the new code.

      ZFS On Linux 0.8 is bringing a lot of new features including native encryption support, device removal, direct I/O, sequential scrub, pool checkpoints, and a lot of other new features for the first time with this Linux port of the Sun/Oracle ZFS file-system.

    • Intel Sends Out First Batch Of Display/Graphics Driver Updates For Linux 5.1 Kernel

      While the Linux 5.0 kernel won’t even debut as stable until around the end of February, as is standard practice, it’s open season for new feature improvements of the changes developers want to end up queuing into the “-next” branches ahead of the Linux 5.1 cycle. The Intel open-source driver developers on Monday sent in their initial batch of graphics driver changes for this next kernel cycle.

      Rodrigo Vivi of the Intel Open-Source Technology Center sent in their initial Linux 5.1 Intel DRM driver material today to DRM-Next for its vetting until the Linux 5.1 merge window at the start of March.

    • Graphics Stack

      • Lczero Neural Network Chess Benchmarks With OpenCL Radeon vs. NVIDIA

        Yesterday I posted a number of Lczero chess engine benchmarks on NVIDIA GPUs using its OpenCL back-end as well as its CUDA+cuDNN back-end, which offered massive performance gains compared to CL on the many tested NVIDIA GPUs. With the CUDA+cuDNN code performing so much better than OpenCL, some wondered whether NVIDIA was intentionally gimping their OpenCL performance. Well, here are results side-by-side now with Radeon GPUs on OpenCL.

      • RADV Vulkan Driver Picks Up Memory Budget Information For Mesa 19.0

        With Mesa 19.0 entering its feature freeze this week, the race is on for developers to land their last minute additions to this next quarterly installment of Mesa. Valve developer Samuel Pitoiset has landed support in the Radeon “RADV” Vulkan driver for the new memory budget extension.

      • VKD3D Tapping Vulkan Transform Feedback For Direct3D 12 Stream Output

        Wine’s VKD3D project for working towards Direct3D 12 support mapped atop the Vulkan graphics API now has patches for utilizing transform feedback in order to implement Direct3D Stream-Output functionality.

        Similar to the DXVK support that was added last year when VK_EXT_transform_feedback was first introduced, VKD3D now has patches pending for similar Direct3D Stream Out functionality by utilizing this Vulkan extension.

    • Benchmarks

      • PlaidML Deep Learning Framework Benchmarks With OpenCL On NVIDIA & AMD GPUs

        Pointed out by a Phoronix reader a few days ago and added to the Phoronix Test Suite is the PlaidML deep learning framework that can run on CPUs using BLAS or also on GPUs and other accelerators via OpenCL. Here are our initial benchmarks of this OpenCL-based deep learning framework that is now being developed as part of Intel’s AI Group and tested across a variety of AMD Radeon and NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards.

        Over the weekend I carried out a wide variety of benchmarks with PlaidML and its OpenCL back-end ofr both NVIDIA and AMD graphics cards. The Radeon tests were done with ROCm 2.0 OpenCL and it was working out fine there without any troubles while also working fine with NVIDIA’s OpenCL driver stack. Benchmarks were done with a variety of neural networks, both training and inference, etc.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • More GNOME Performance Optimizations Being Tackled Thanks To Canonical

        While there has already been a lot of exciting GNOME performance improvements so far during the GNOME 3.32 cycle, even more could be on the way with there still being a number of open merge requests for enhancing the performance of the GNOME desktop.

        Since Ubuntu switched from Unity back to GNOME, Canonical has been contributing more upstream patches to the GNOME stack. Ubuntu/Canonical developer Daniel Van Vugt in particular has been spearheading many of the desktop performance initiatives. He has landed a number of improvements in recent months but he has many open merge requests still to be addressed.

      • Canonical Patches GNOME Bluetooth Vulnerability on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS, Update Now

        Security researcher Chris Marchesi recently discovered a security vulnerability, documented as CVE-2018-10910, in the BlueZ Linux Bluetooth stack, which made it incorrectly handle disabling Bluetooth visibility, allowing a remote attacker to possibly pair to Bluetooth devices.

        Canonical was quick to release today patched versions of the BlueZ components for the long-term supported Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (Bionic Beaver) operating system series, addressing the security vulnerability, which might also affects all of the derivatives of Ubuntu 18.04 LTS, including Xubuntu, Kubuntu, Lubuntu, and Ubuntu MATE.

      • GNOME Security Internship – Update 3

        As of now we allow a single keyboard even if the protection is active because we don’t want to lock out the users. But Saltarelli left a comment making me notice that an attacker would have been able to plug an hardware keylogger between the keyboard and the PC without the user noticing.

        To prevent this now we display a notification if the main keyboard gets unplugged and plugged again.

      • Theme changes in GTK 3

        Adwaita has been the default GTK+ theme for quite a while now (on all platforms). It has served us well, but Adwaita hasn’t seen major updates in some time, and there is a desire to give it a refresh.

        Updating Adwaita is a challenge, since most GTK applications are using the stable 3.x series, and some of them include Adwaita-compatible theming for their own custom widgets. Given the stable nature of this release series, we don’t want to cause theme compatibility issues for applications. At the same time, 3.x is the main GTK version in use today, and we want to ensure that GTK applications don’t feel stale or old fashioned.

      • GNOME Developers Are Testing A Revised GTK3 Theme

        GNOME developers are currently testing some changes to the Adwaita theme as a minor refresh to GTK3 applications.

        With the default GTK3 Adwaita theme not having been revised in a while, developers are looking at making some minor enhancements to “ensure that GTK applications don’t feel stale or old fashioned.” They are testing some changes over the next few weeks and are looking at merging a revised theme into the GTK 3.24.4 release.

      • GTK+ Developers Are Testing An Updated Adwaita Theme

        Along with the GTK+ 3.24.3 release, the GTK+ developers have released an updated, more vibrant Adwaita theme as “a trial”, with the possibility to include it in a future GTK 3 release.

  • Distributions

    • Solus 4 and Budgie 10.5 Desktop Will Finally Be Released in Spring 2019

      It’s been a year since the former leader of the Solus Project, Ikey Doherty, promised us the release of Solus 4, but after many trials and tribulations the team is now stable and ready to continue from where they left off. According to experience lead developer Joshua Strobl, the Solus 4 release is on its way very soon, as soon as Budgie 10.5 desktop environment hits the streets.

      “I’m hoping that Budgie 10.5 will be ready for release in the next few weeks, which also means Solus 4 will also be released, finally moving us away from the Solus 3.x release and subsequent ISO refresh and opening the door to our previously announced change in our In Full Sail blog post to how we release new versions of Solus,” said Joshua Strobl.

    • 2019: To Venture Ahead

      Solus is a project which does not shy away from continuously improving and rethinking entire aspects of our architecture and experiences on our quest for technical excellence, whether that is introducing new tooling and experiences or changing existing ones. 2019 is going to be a transformative year for Solus.

      To make it easier to discover what we’re going to be working throughout the year and the time-frames for when development of those items will occur, we are going to be breaking up these sections into quarters, and within each quarter the projects themselves.

    • Solus Plans For A Busy 2019 With Budgie 10.5/11, Solus 4, Sol & Ypkg 3

      The Solus project has laid out some of their grand plans for the year from their GTK-based Budgie desktop environment to seeing the release of the highly anticipated Solus 4 Linux distribution to working on new software components further out in the year.

    • Top 5 Best Ubuntu Alternatives

      If you asked younger Linux users to tell you what their first Linux distribution was, we bet that Ubuntu would be the most common answer. First released in 2004, Ubuntu has helped establish Linux as a viable alternative to Windows and macOS and convinced millions that not all good things in life cost money.
      If you asked younger Linux users to tell you what their first Linux distribution was, we bet that Ubuntu would be the most common answer. First released in 2004, Ubuntu has helped establish Linux as a viable alternative to Windows and macOS and convinced millions that not all good things in life cost money.

    • MultiBootUSB

      There is a new tool available for Sparkers: MultiBootUSB.

    • Reviews

      • MX Linux MX-18 Continuum – Time x Space x Fun

        MX Linux MX-18 Continuum is a pretty good distro. It has a lot of really cool points, and some superbly nice and unique ones, too. It looks good, it gives you everything out of the box, it comes with a fast installation that will preserve your data, and you get the excellent MX Tools and Package Installer as a bonus. It’s also rock stable, very frugal, the performance is dog’s bollocks, and consequently, you get a really neat battery life. Overall, it’s better than its predecessor in most areas.

        But then, there were also some problems. Mostly cosmetic, just like in the past. But I am not happy about things not working – media playback from the phone, topmenu plugin, those kind of things. By now, I’m expecting perfection. I know it’s hard making always better and smarter products, but it’s the only way. All in all, Continuum is a great distro, don’t get me wrong, but it must not let complacency and randomness spoil its game. 8.5/10 this time, and if you’re looking for a nice distro to test and try, this is by far one of the more refreshing and fun systems I’ve used in a long time. Just be on the lookout for an odd bug. Lastly, we shall soon commence testing on the old Nvidia-powered machine. And that would be all.

      • MX Linux 18 “Continuum” Review
    • Screenshots/Screencasts

    • PCLinuxOS/Mageia/Mandriva Family

      • Mageia 7 Artwork Voting

        The artwork contest is now closed, firstly, all of the people that gave their time to make and submit so many excellent pieces deserve our thanks, it is really appreciated, they will make Mageia 7 look excellent.

        So now we need to start voting on which of these images we want to have included, primarily for the signature background, but also as additional background and screensavers.

        As we have so many images to choose, there are two votes, one for the background and one for the screensavers, in both cases you can choose up to 20 images that you like, to vote, just put an “x” in a new column next to the image you want.

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • Looking for a reason to attend SUSECON? I’ve got 5!
      • SUSE Linux for Arm is now available for all customers

        Subscriptions for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for Arm and SUSE Manager Lifecycle for Arm are now available directly to customers through the Corporate price list or through the SUSE Shop https://www.suse.com/shop/
        Previously, SUSE subscriptions for the Arm hardware platforms were only available to SUSE Partners due to the relative immaturity of the Arm server platform. Now that we have delivered four releases of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for Arm and have customers running SUSE Linux on Arm servers as diverse as the tiny Raspberry Pi and the high performance HPE Apollo 70 servers, we are now ready to sell subscriptions directly to customers.

      • And the Race is On! 2018-2019 openSUSE Board Elections Enter Campaign Phase

        Marina is a very active Italian openSUSE Advocate, involved in the Project since 2009, deeply involved in LibreOffice. She relocated to Munich last June, where she is working for CIB mainly on its LibreOffice team as Senior Migrations & Deployments Engineer. You may read more about Marina on her Wiki User page.

        Marina joins an already impressive line-up of Quality Candidates who announced they were stepping up during the past week, adding to what will be very tough decisions for the Voters in the upcoming Elections. Official openSUSE Members in Good Standing are qualified to vote in the Elections, and they will have to make difficult choices for who should take the three open Board Seats, choosing between Marina, incumbent Christian Boltz aka cboltz, Dr. Axel Braun aka DocB, incumbent Sarah Julia Kriesch aka AdaLovelace, Sébastien Poher aka sogal, Vinzenz Vietzke aka vinzv, and Nathan Wolf aka futureboy and CubicleNate on IRC.

        Sarah and Sébastien’s run for the Board was announced in last Wednesday’s openSUSE News, while the Candidacies of Christian, Dr. Braun, Vinzenz, and Nathan were announced in the next day’s news article.

    • Fedora

      • Updating release schedule tasks

        One thing that I noticed as I got settled in to this role last summer is that the Fedora release schedule tasks look a lot like they did when I first started contributing almost a decade ago. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. but I suspect it’s less because we’re still getting releases out in the same way we did 10 years ago and more because we haven’t captured when reality has drifted from the schedule.

      • PHP with the NGINX unit application server
      • Contribute at the Fedora Test Day for kernel 4.20
      • Deepin Desktop Option Approved For Fedora 30

        Last month we mentioned that Fedora 30 was possibly picking up a Deepin Desktop Environment option for this Qt5-based desktop developed by the Deepin Linux distribution.

        Assuming the packaging work remains in good shape, the Deepin desktop option will be found in the May release of Fedora 30. The Fedora Engineering and Steering Committee (FESCo) has formally approved of Deepin being offered by Fedora 30.

    • Debian Family

      • “futurePrototype” will be the default theme for Debian 10

        After the Debian Desktop Team made the call for proposing themes, a total of eleven choices have been submitted, and any Debian contributor has received the opportunity to vote on them in a survey. We received 3,646 responses ranking the different choices, and futurePrototype has been the winner among them.

      • Here’s the Default Theme and Artwork for Debian GNU/Linux 10 “Buster”

        Created by Alex Makas, the “futurePrototype” artwork set was selected the winner of the artwork proposals for Debian GNU/Linux 10 “Buster” and will be used as the default theme for the upcoming operating system. The “futurePrototype” artwork set consists of a wallpaper, login theme with the Debian Buster logo, as well as a theme for the GRUB bootloader.

        “After the Debian Desktop Team made the call for proposing themes, a total of eleven choices have been submitted, and any Debian contributor has received the opportunity to vote on them in a survey,” said the Debian team in an announcement. “We received 3,646 responses ranking the different choices, and futurePrototype has been the winner among them.”

      • Debian 10 Buster Enters Transition Freeze, New Theme Announced

        Debian 10 “Buster” continues moving along for its hopeful stable release later in 2019. The first freeze is now underway while the new artwork/theme for Debian 10.0 has been decided.

        12 January marked the transition freeze for Debian Buster. New transitions and big ticket changes are no longer permitted. Coming up next month on 12 February will be the soft freeze after which only “small, targeted fixes” will be allowed into the Buster archive. Finally, on 12 March is when the full freeze will take place for Buster. Once that full freeze is in place, changes need to be manually reviewed and approved by the release team. Details on the Buster freezes can be found here.

      • Freexian’s report about Debian Long Term Support, December 2018

        Like each month, here comes a report about the work of paid contributors to Debian LTS.

      • CasparCG Server for TV broadcast playout in Debian

        The layered video playout server created by Sveriges Television, CasparCG Server, entered Debian today. This completes many months of work to get the source ready to go into Debian. The first upload to the Debian NEW queue happened a month ago, but the work upstream to prepare it for Debian started more than two and a half month ago. So far the casparcg-server package is only available for amd64, but I hope this can be improved. The package is in contrib because it depend on the non-free fdk-aac library. The Debian package lack support for streaming web pages because Debian is missing CEF, Chromium Embedded Framework. CEF is wanted by several packages in Debian. But because the Chromium source is not available as a build dependency, it is not yet possible to upload CEF to Debian. I hope this will change in the future.

      • Derivatives

        • Debian-Based Netrunner 19.01 “Blackbird” Officially Released with New Dark Look

          The development team behind the Netrunner Linux project announced today the official release and general availability of the Debian-based Netrunner 19.01 operating system.

          Dubbed Blackbird, Netrunner 19.01 comes ten months after the Netrunner 18.03 “Idolon” release with a fresh, dark new look and feel with a more 3D-looking design, which was created using the Kvantum theme engine and the Alpha-Black Plasma theme. The new theme comes with some bling too as there’s now a light glow for the “Minimize all Windows to show Desktop” function.

          “Around this time of the year, we thought we could try something more vivid and colorful to lighten up the shortened days. So instead of going with the previously used “material look”, we thought of something different. Blackbird ships with a new Look and Feel Theme called “Netrunner Black” that is based on a dark, yet not too harsh contrasting visual,” reads today’s announcement.

          In addition to the new dark look and feel, the Netrunner 19.01 “Blackbird” release adds support for Web Apps, which are links to websites that can be easily added as launchers from the applications menu, the Plasma-Integration addon to the Mozilla Firefox web browser, which enables media controls and visual feedback for downloads, as well as Plasma integration for GTK+ apps.

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • VLC is adding AirPlay support and will reach 3 billion downloads

    VLC, the open-source video player app, is announcing two major milestones from CES today. The development team, Videolan — along with Jean-Baptiste Kempf, one of the lead developers — told Variety at CES that it’ll be adding AirPlay support, allowing users to transmit videos from their iPhone (or Android) to their Apple TV.

  • Faucet: An open source SDN controller for high-speed production networks

    Thanks to open source software, we can now take control over and modify the behavior of almost every component in an IT system. We can modify everything from the networking stack in the kernel all the way down to web server code in user space to make improvements or implement new features.

    The final hurdle to having complete control over our hardware and software stack is the physical network hardware. These devices are usually built from the open source tools we love, but they are presented as black boxes that can’t easily be modified by network operators.

  • Getting started with Sandstorm, an open source web app platform

    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 third of my picks for 19 new (or new-to-you) open source tools to help you be more productive in 2019.

  • Key Resources for Effective, Professional Open Source Management

    At organizations everywhere, managing the use of open source software well requires the participation of business executives, the legal team, software architecture, software development and maintenance staff and product managers. One of the most significant challenges is integrating all of these functions with their very different points of view into a coherent and efficient set of practices.

  • An open source world

    HotPicks is one of, if not the most popular section of Linux Format and while the reader survey tells me that, I don’t actually understand why! My gut feeling is that people love the choice, variety and freedom HotPicks delivers every issue. I guess the truth is the sheer variety of open source means it can be hard to discover the best tools for the job and HotPicks offers a way to discover the best each issue… so say hello to our HotPicks Special!

    It’s a guide to this vast open source world and isn’t that what this magazine is here for? So we’re running a best open source software list for 2019. We’ve not done anything like this for over two years, so it’s more than time we help people discover new software that’s just waiting for an apt install to download. The availability of open source is a curse and blessing. It makes some see it as free of value while the sheer abundance makes it hard for others to cut through the noise and get to the tools they need.

  • Open source may be the key to securing IoT [Ed: The writer is selling insecurity and FOSS FUD for a living]

    As a society, we like things that are smart. Your TV, phone, thermostat, even your water bottle now tracks your habits and interacts with you via applications.

    We demand that our connected devices do more for us, collecting data to help us make more informed decisions, offer us more options, and just be downright better. Unfortunately, far too often in the quest to gain more features from our various devices, security concerns are lost along the way.

    Internet of Things (IoT) devices face risks that the industries producing them are generally unprepared to deal with. Time after time, we see new breaches that target vulnerabilities in IoT products which should make us increasingly cautious about buying them, with good reason.

  • Events

    • Why teachers should get out of their comfort zones and into the open

      If ever there was an experience that brought the above quotation home for me, it was my experience at the All Things Open conference in Raleigh, NC last October. Thousands of people from all over the world attended the conference, and many (if not most), worked as open source coders and developers. As one of the relatively few educators in attendance, I saw and heard things that were completely foreign to me—terms like as Istio, Stack Overflow, Ubuntu, Sidecar, HyperLedger, and Kubernetes tossed around for days.

    • A design chat with DevConf.cz ’19 UX speakers

      At the end of January, Red Hat’s User Experience Design team heads to Brno, the second largest city in the Czech Republic, to attend DevConf.cz, the 11th annual, free, Red Hat sponsored community conference for contributors to open source.

      This trip marks our team’s first appearance at the Brno conference, and we’re excited to see interest in user experience from the open source development community. I sat down with some of the team to talk a bit about why UX matters and how development teams can shift their thinking to build more usable and intuitive user experiences.

    • Girlscript Summer of Code Is Here

      Heard of Open Source but don’t know how to begin? Wish to work on real projects but don’t know where to get started?

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Moving to a Profile per Install Architecture

        With Firefox 67 you’ll be able to run different Firefox installs side by side by default.

        Supporting profiles per installation is a feature that has been requested by pre-release users for a long time now and we’re pleased to announce that starting with Firefox 67 users will be able to run different installs of Firefox side by side without needing to manage profiles.

      • This Week In Servo 123

        In the past three weeks, we merged 72 PRs in the Servo organization’s repositories.

      • TenFourFox FPR12b1 available

        TenFourFox Feature Parity 12 beta 1 is now available (downloads, hashes, release notes). As before, this is a smaller-scope release with no new features, just fixes and improvements. The big changes are a fix for CVE-2018-12404, a holdover security fix from FPR11 that also helps improve JavaScript optimization, and Raphael’s hand-coded assembly language AltiVec-accelerated string matching routines with special enhancements for G5 systems. These replace the C routines I wrote using AltiVec intrinsics, which will be removed from our hacked NSPR libc source code once his versions stick.

        Unfortunately, we continue to accumulate difficult-to-solve JavaScript bugs. The newest one is issue 541, which affects Github most severely and is hampering my ability to use the G5 to work in the interface. This one could be temporarily repaired with some ugly hacks and I’m planning to look into that for FPR13, but I don’t have this proposed fix in FPR12 since it could cause parser regressions and more testing is definitely required. However, the definitive fix is the same one needed for the frustrating issue 533, i.e., the new frontend bindings introduced with Firefox 51. I don’t know if I can do that backport (both with respect to the technical issues and the sheer amount of time required) but it’s increasingly looking like it’s necessary for full functionality and it may be more than I can personally manage.

  • SaaS/Back End

    • ‘Cloudera brand going nowhere,’ says CEO Reilly

      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% 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 it was not known how the new company would be branded, but it has now been confirmed it will be called Cloudera, with the Hortonworks branding hitting the scrapheap.

    • Alibaba Acquires Open Source Firm Data Artisans for $130M

      Berlin-based Data Artisans provides distributed systems and large-scale data processing solutions for enterprises. The startup offers its dA Platform, which consists of Apache Flink and dA Application Manager. Its customers include Netflix, ING and Uber. The Chinese e-commerce giant has been working with Data Artisans since 2016 and is one of the biggest users of Apache Flink.

  • Databases

    • Comparing 3 open source databases: PostgreSQL, MariaDB, and SQLite

      In the world of modern enterprise technologies, open source software has firmly established itself as one of the biggest forces to reckon with. After all, some of the biggest technology developments have emerged because of the open source movement.

      It’s not difficult to see why: even though Linux-based open source network standards may not be as popular as proprietary options, they are the reason smart devices from different manufacturers can communicate with each other. In addition, many argue that open source development produces applications that are superior to their proprietary counterparts. This is one reason why the chances are good that your favorite tools (whether open source or proprietary) were developed using open source databases.

  • LibreOffice

    • First Quarter Without Work For TDF

      I did pour volunteer work for LibreOffice and its antecessor for about sixteen years. I worked in different roles for the open source project during this long periode. The project consumed a lot of my spare time. But then I experienced a ‘nice’ communication experience inside the community, that showed me a lack of respect for my project work, its value and also for my person. Thus I decided to completely stop my pour volunteer work within the project three month ago. The LibreOffice extensions and templates website (extensions.libreoffice.org) lost its maintainer and project reviewer since that time.

    • Community Member Monday: Mohamed Trabelsi and Jim Raykowski

      I’ve been living in Kobe, Japan for three years now. I was Master student at Kobe Institute of Computing for two years, then I did internship for six months at iCRAFT Corp, a Japanese IT company in Kobe. And now I work as a Network Engineer at the same company.

      Outside of work, I’m usually playing soccer, watching movies, traveling around Japan with some friends and family, and going for some volunteering activities nearby.

    • Report on the New LIbreOffice Help Pages Online Editor

      The Javascript editor used is CodeMirror and was carefully selected by Mike Saunders who also set the initial confguration for working with XML and our XML dialect XHP, as well as configured the autocompletion features.

      The XHP snippets were originally designed for the KDE Kate editor and ported to the online editor.

    • LibreOffice 6.2 community focus: Localisation

      Last week, we talked to the design community about their preparations for the upcoming LibreOffice 6.2 release. Today we hear from Sophie Gautier, who helps out with localisation (l10n) – that is, translating the software’s user interface, documentation and website into other languages…

  • CMS

    • What I learned at WordCamp about the new WordPress Gutenberg editor

      I am one of the 75 million (or so) WordPress users. Are you?

      There’s a good chance you are (or will be), as it has been one of the most popular content management systems (CMSs) for many years—32.6% of all websites are powered by WordPress, according to W3Techs. The latest version, WordPress 5.0, released on December 6, 2018, includes the new Gutenberg editor, which takes a new approach to content creation in the software.

      I recently attended WordCamp Toronto, where many of the speakers focused on Gutenberg. WordCamps are a series of one-day, community-driven, and informal WordPress conferences held around the world. Here’s some basic information you need to know.

    • Google Partners With Automattic to Setup a Publishing Platform For Their News Initiative

      Automattic, the parent company of WordPress.com, has received $2.4 million in funding for Newspack initiative. Half of the funding has come from Google through its Google News Initiative that the company launched last year. The remaining funding came from multiple investors that include Lenfest Institute of Journalism, ConsenSys, Civil Media, and John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

      The main aim is that journalists should be more focused on writing news rather than the design of the website. Automaticc will work in collaboration with News Revenue Hub and Spirited Media. The collaboration will help to find out new features that can help in the success of publishers. Constant feedback will be taken regarding Newpack so that the product can turn out to be a hit for everyone.

    • Worked On The Migration Of A Second Plone Addon

      I finished my migration of a first Plone addon some a week ago sucessfully and started with migration of a further addon, collective.dexteritytextindexer to Python 3 compatibility. I was able to migrate the source code of the addon itself, but run into issues with the behaviors test script. The tests ran successful on Plone 4.3 to 5.2 and Python 2.7, but failed on Plone 5.2 on Python 3.

  • Healthcare

    • A national electronic health record for primary care

      Selecting open-source software may avoid dependence on the owners of a proprietary product, because the source code will remain freely available and any vendor can provide support and customization services to users. Examples of open-source electronic health record software in use currently include OSCAR, developed at McMaster University and widely used in Canada, and OpenEMR, developed through a collaboration in the United States.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • Funding

    • Open Source Startup ‘Tidelift’ raises $25m in series B funding

      It’s always a great thing to know that more startups are now trying to tackle open source sustainability.

      Well, if you didn’t know already, Tidelift is a startup which aims to support the developers and maintainers by monetizing the open source software while also helping them to secure it and improve it.

  • BSD

    • Linux vs BSD: Is BSD better than Linux?

      Well, the world of operating systems isn’t that tiny. There is yet another class of operating system, which most users don’t know about, or haven’t used it ever in their life. It is BSD. BSDs are yet another class of operating system which is also popular among some individual users, or some organizations with some unified goal. If we keep the scene of Windows out of the picture, for now, most users might consider BSD and Linux to be quite similar, with some small differences, or do not have any conception about BSD altogether. And if you are on the verge of installing a new operating system on your computer, which is going to be better for you!

  • Licensing/Legal

    • arter97’s custom kernel and vendor images greatly improve the Xiaomi Mi Pad 4’s performance

      Xiaomi (and a lot of Chinese OEMs) have had a difficult time complying with the rules of the GNU GPL when it comes to releasing the kernel source code for their Android products. The company said they would start doing this 3 months after the release of a new product, but that wasn’t the case with the Xiaomi Mi Pad 4. The device launched in June of last year and, as of October, they had yet to comply with the GPL. Thankfully, they finally released it (a month after we reported on their tardiness) and it has helped developers work their magic on the device.

    • Amazon Web Services’ DocumentDB Takes Aims At MongoDB Workloads

      DocumentDB uses version 3.6 of the MongoDB application programming interface (API) to interact with MongoDB clients.

      That version, dating back to 2017, is covered by the open source Apache licence, a move intended to circumvent MongoDB’s new licensing structure, based on the specially created Server Side Public License (SSPL).

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • EdX Starts the Process to Release “Ironwood”, the Next Version of its Open Source Platform

      The first step will be to create the master branches in the appropriate repos – edX Architect, Ned Batchelder announced. This task is expected for January 18th.

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • Palitra open source retouching module for photographers

        Photographers looking for an affordable, configurable, open source retouching module may be interested in the new Palitra hardware created by Bitgamma and now available to purchase via the Crowd Supply website from just $25. Watch the demonstration video below to learn more about the Palitra photographic retouching hardware and its features.

        Palitra has been designed to be used for photo retouching, vector art creation, general image manipulation, debugger control, as an addition to your IDE, controlling your media player, video editing, music creation, sound engineering or any task that relies on multiple keyboard shortcuts.

      • ULX3S: An Open-Source Lattice ECP5 FPGA PCB

        The hackers over at Radiona.org, a Zagreb Makerspace, have been hard at work designing the ULX3S, an open-source development board for LATTICE ECP5 FPGAs. This board might help make 2019 the Year of the Hacker FPGA, whose occurrence has been predicted once again after not quite materializing in 2018. Even a quick look at the board and the open-source development surrounding it hints that this time might be different.

  • Programming/Development

    • Insert audio into a video with python and FFmpeg
    • Python Testing with pytest: Fixtures and Coverage
    • Creating GUI Applications with wxPython Kickstarter
    • Probabilistic Programming in Python
    • Teaching Digital Archaeology With Jupyter Notebooks
    • State of C Programming Language in 2019

      In four years’ time, C will reach its 50th birthday, an anniversary also shared with PL/M and Prolog. Unlike those two, C remains immensely popular, it’s in the top ten of virtually every programming language popularity survey.

      Linux is mostly written in C. Python‘s CPython implementation, Perl, Matz’s Ruby, about half of R, the MyISAM code for MySQL and even the first Java compiler were all written in C. The kernels of most operating systems (including Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android) all feature C.

      Now we have a new C standard, C18, that was ratified a few months ago. A mere 198 Swiss Francs will buy the ISO/IEC 9899:2018 standard, all 520 pages of it; you can view the final draft of it for free, though, on openStd.org (PDF) to get a sense of the document. It’s only really of use if you are a compiler writer who wants to be 100 percent conformant, or just curious.

    • Remove audio from video with Python and FFmpeg
    • Dockerizing Python Applications

      Docker is a widely accepted and used tool by leading IT companies to build, manage and secure their applications.

    • Improve Your Code With Atomic Functions

      In your studies, you may have encountered the terms “atomic function” and “Don’t Repeat Yourself (DRY)”. Today, I’m going to demonstrate how these concepts work together to provide easily maintainable, easily testable, and beautiful code.

      In your studies, you may have encountered the terms “atomic function” and “Don’t Repeat Yourself (DRY)”. Today, I’m going to demonstrate how these concepts work together to provide easily maintainable, easily testable, and beautiful code.

    • So… let’s talk Pyramid

      Last year, I started working on a project that I truly believe(d) might change the world (cliche, right?). Like most developers, my first instinct at the outset was to make certain crucial decisions about the overall architecture of the project in view. First question that came to mind was the language to use for the backend of the web app, at least at the outset.

      To be clear, I am quite a Pythonista as I love everything about the language. Although I’m pretty much familiar with Java, Javascript and a little bit of Elixir, I knew there was no way I could go wrong with Python since I was going to be the only developer working on the project for months and I needed to churn out code quickly.

    • Speed Up Your Python Program With Concurrency

      If you’ve heard lots of talk about asyncio being added to Python but are curious how it compares to other concurrency methods or are wondering what concurrency is and how it might speed up your program, you’ve come to the right place.

    • The starting of new pygame project

      Hello, welcome back, due to busy managing the offline business as well as writing article for another website, therefore, no post had been created in the past few days.

    • Qt 6 To Begin Early Stages Of Development In Git

      While Qt 6.0 isn’t due out for the better part of two years still, early patches planned for Qt 6 are expected to begin taking shape within a Git staging branch.

      Lars Knoll laid out plans today to have a Qt 6 branch start for qtbase, since that’s where most of the early stage Qt6 development will begin taking place. Already he’s been collecting some patches from fellow developers and at least having this branch early will serve as a basis for staging until the Qt 6.0 development really heats up.

      The current Qt5 “dev” code would regularly merge into the Qt6 code-base, functions planned for removal in Qt6 would need to be first marked as deprecated by the Qt5 code, and binary compatibility breakage can begin.

    • Intel Looking To Drop Their Nios II Backend From LLVM

      One of the lesser known compiler backends/targets by the LLVM compiler is Nios II, which is for the 32-bit embedded FPGA processor designs.

      Of course, Intel acquired Altera back in 2015 and has been focusing upon the Intel Stratix hardware as their current FPGA focus. For Nios II coverage there’s long been an out-of-tree GCC-derived compiler while the LLVM back-end hasn’t received much attention. It seems the LLVM support for Nios II isn’t widely used as the Intel developers are now looking to drop this back-end.

      In fact, the Nios2 LLVM back-end with being broken for months before it was noticed. Additionally, the experimental target has never been full-featured to the extent that the Intel compiler developers would rather just drop the code.

    • Apple Opens Up Swift/C LSP Based On Clangd

      Built atop LLVM’s clangd server, Apple recently open-sourced SourceKit-LSP as a language server protocol for Swift and C-based languages. This allows for better integration with various IDEs and development tools.

      Language Server Protocols are a standardized protocol for communicating between integrated development environments / IDEs and servers providing various programming language specific features. These LSPs can be re-used by different development tools / editors while providing the necessary functionality for code completion, code formatting, syntax highlighting, and other features that are language-specific and better off re-used across projects rather than needing to be re-implemented each time.

    • Writing Golang as a Python Dev

      I’ve gone through the Golang tutorial once before but in the last month or so, I fully dove into it. I started by writing a simple hello world web application. I found the implementation of the webserver so neat that most of the uses I’d have for a framework is redundant. The in-built libraries already take care of handling most of the use-cases I have. I did a couple of views and a couple of templates. It seems to be working well.

      As someone coming from Python, I keep tripping over types. I started my professional career with PHP and then moved to Python. Both of these languages aren’t very strongly typed by default. So it’s been fun to find errors and fix them. I learn more and more that I can’t be lazy.

Leftovers

  • Science

    • How science is fighting nonscience

      This sense of duty is now brewing a steady myth-busting movement in India where scientists, academics and other groups like the Breakthrough Science Society (BSS) are resorting to hard data, petitions and marches to tame the rabidly mutating beast called ‘pseudo-science’.

    • Pakistan Demands Google Take Down Petition For Academic Freedom… Saying It Represents Hate Speech

      That doesn’t seem to be hate speech, now, does it? So, once again, we have “hate speech” rules being used in an attempt to punish people the government doesn’t like.

      This, of course, is not a defense of “hate speech,” but this pattern is undeniable. The nature of hate speech is such that it is frequently used by the powerful against marginalized groups. And, by definition, marginalized groups are rarely in power in the government, so it frequently does little to actually protect such groups. However, when there is no real definition of “hate speech” and it is quickly turned into “anything we don’t like,” it enables powerful governments to silence and punish anyone.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Salt-free drinkable water comes at a cost

      Around the arid world, some 16,000 desalination plants are now purifying seawater and brackish aquifers, producing 95 million cubic metres of fresh, salt-free drinkable water daily. This is almost half the daily flow over Niagara Falls.

      But there is a potentially-polluting price to pay: for every litre of fresh water, the same desalination plants produce around 1.5 litres of toxic brine. That adds up to enough in the course of a year to cover the whole of the US state of Florida to a depth of more than 30 cms.

      A new study urges nations to explore better solutions – and new ways to exploit the minerals in the wastewater and support efforts to advance the declared UN sustainable development goal of reliable, safe water on tap for everybody in the world.

      A second study confirms that the sustainable development goal of clean water and sanitation for everybody by 2030 is likely to cost around $1 trillion a year – and up to 8% more if the advances are matched by efforts to contain climate change and limit global warming to the agreed UN target of well below 2°C above historic levels by 2100.

    • Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?

      In a Washington Post column Megan McArdle suggests that we pay people to donate their kidneys as a way on increasing the number of donors and reducing the number of people who must rely on dialysis. Needless to say, to many folks it is attractive to get market relationships into ever more aspects of our lives. However, if we are interested in getting more kidneys, rather than just getting more money for the health care industry, this is likely a bad way to go.

      There was a great study done a few years back with child care centers in Israel. As it was, the vast majority of parents picked up their children on time because they knew that being late meant a teacher had to stay late. The study examined what happened if centers charged a small fee to parents for being late to pick up their kids. It turned out that the fee significantly increased the frequency with which parents picked up their kids late.

    • As Corporate Power Threatens Americans’ Right to Water, Groups Offer UN Body List of Issues to Raise With US

      When it comes to ensuring the human right to clean water, the United States has a long way to go.

      That’s the thrust of a new letter (pdf) to the United Nations Human Rights Committee as the body gets ready to review how the U.S. is faring in its implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty seen as part of the “International Bill of Human Rights.”

      “Since the U.N. recognized the human right to water in 2010, things have not become substantially better for people struggling in the U.S. with unsafe water, high bills, or the effects of industrial pollution from fracking and factory farms,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Civil and political rights must encompass the human right to water, which is increasingly under threat by corporations that seek to use and abuse our water supplies for profit.”

      The letter, submitted by Food & Water Watch and co-signed by the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water, Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise, and In the Public Interest, was sent Monday, the deadline for organizations to send to the committee areas they feel should be included on the “List of Issues Prior to Reporting.” As the ACLU has explained, “In 2017, the U.S. agreed to receive a List of Issues Prior to Reporting from the U.N. Human Rights Committee which will form the basis for the U.S. government’s periodic report to the committee.”

    • St. Luke’s in Houston Replaces Its President, Other Top Leaders After Series of Care Lapses, Recent Deadly Error

      Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center has ousted its president, its chief nursing officer and a top physician following numerous reports of substandard care, including a recent mistake that led to a patient’s death, the Houston hospital announced Monday.

      The departures come in the wake of a yearlong investigation by the Houston Chronicle and ProPublica that documented an outsized number of deaths and unusual complications following heart transplants at St. Luke’s. In August, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services terminated federal funding for heart transplants at the hospital, citing its failure to make changes needed to improve outcomes.

      The news organizations also reported on poor outcomes following heart bypass surgery, repeated complaints about inadequate nursing care, a recent rise in the number of deaths after liver and lung transplants, and a physician’s allegation that he was retaliated against after raising concerns that some of his patients had received unnecessary medical treatments in intensive care units.

      The hospital board’s decision to replace top management comes in direct response to a recent error in which an emergency room patient died after receiving a blood transfusion with the wrong blood type, the hospital said in a news release announcing the changes.

    • ‘Do As I Say, Not As I Do:’ Rand ‘Socialized-Medicine-Is-Slavery’ Paul Headed to Canada for Some Surgery

      Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), one of the most vocal libertarians in Congress, is reportedly headed to Canada later this year to receive hernia surgery and it’s pretty clear that a lot people on Monday are going to be calling him out for this.

      While building a career on promoting the libertarian myth of what Paul and others like to call the “free market,” the “irony of it” was just too rich that he would travel to Canada, which enjoys a socialized, single-payer healthcare system, to have the procedure performed.

    • ‘Make No Mistake. People Will Die’: Backlash Against ‘Relentless War on Medicaid’ Waged by Trump

      Following reporting that the Trump administration is planning an attack on Medicaid by seeking key changes in how the program is financed—changes it wants to make without Congressional approval—Democratic lawmakers and healthcare advocates are warning the proposal means healthcare for millions of Americans will be threatened as states will be forced to “make draconian cuts.”

      The plan, Politico reported Friday citing “three administration sources,” would involve states being able to opt for block grants instead of receiving open ended funding as they do now, for supposedly “more flexibility to run the low-income health program that serves nearly 75 million Americans, from poor children, to disabled people, to impoverished seniors in nursing homes.”

    • Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?

      There have been several pieces in recent weeks about the drop in birth rates in recent years. Birth rates declined in the recession and they have not recovered even as the economy has improved.

      As these pieces point out, economics plays a big role in the drop in birth rates. Young adults often are having difficulty finding and keeping jobs that provide a decent wage. This was certainly true in the downturn, but it is still often the case even now with the unemployment rate at 50-year lows.

      In addition, the United States badly lags other rich countries in providing support to new parents. We are the only wealthy country that does not guarantee workers some amount of paid parental leave or sick days. While many companies offer these benefits, millions of new parents, especially those in lower paying jobs, cannot count on any paid leave. (It is important to note that many states and cities have required paid family leave and/or sick days in the last two decades, making up for the lack of action by the federal government.)

      Child care is also a huge problem for young parents. Quality care is often difficult to find and very expensive. This leaves many young parents, especially mothers, struggling to provide care for their children even as they hold down a job.

      These are real and important policy concerns. People should be able to have children without undue hardship. We also want to make sure that children have decent life prospects. Having parents that are not overstressed and access to good quality child care are important for getting children on a good path is school and their subsequent careers and lives.

      For these reasons, leave policy and child care need to be near the top of the policy agenda. However, the fact that people are having fewer kids is not a good rationale for supporting these policies. A stagnant or even declining population is not a public policy problem.

      The pieces noting the prospect of a declining population usually treat it as self-evident that this is a bad development. It isn’t. The prospect of fewer traffic jams and less crowded parks and beaches does not sound especially scary.

      There are some who see a declining population as a threat to the United States status as a world power. It’s not clear that this is especially true. Indonesia ranks 4th in world population with 270 million people, more than four times the population of the United Kingdom, but Indonesia does not usually get listed among the world’s most powerful countries. More importantly, many of us don’t necessarily like everything the United States does as a world power, so doing somewhat less of it may not be a bad thing.

      If we focus on the economics of a stagnant or declining population the standard story is that we will have a smaller number of workers to support each retiree. This is true, other things equal, but also not an especially big deal.

    • Protecting Birth Control for Millions of Women, Judge Blocks Trump’s “Insidious” Coverage Rollback

      “Because of this injunction, women in 13 states can still access birth control under the ACA,” Dr. Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood, wrote on Twitter. “Birth control is critical healthcare that helps millions lead the lives they want. We should be finding ways to increase access, not limit it.”

      Women’s rights groups were quick to point out that the fight to protect birth control throughout the entirety of the U.S. continues, as the judge rejected a request to block the rules nationwide.

      Celebrating the judge’s decision as “excellent news,” Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) noted that it is only a limited and “temporary reprieve” and declared that “we must keep fighting to protect birth control coverage.”

      “These rules from the Trump administration were some of the most insidious in its ongoing effort to undermine women’s health,” DeGette wrote.

      The judge’s ruling protects contraceptive coverage in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

      As Amanda Michelle Gomez of ThinkProgress pointed out, “A similar lawsuit is playing out in a Pennsylvania federal courthouse—meaning, there’s a chance for another court to issue a nationwide injunction.”

    • Where Abortion Fights Will Play Out In 2019

      With Democrats now in control of the U.S. House of Representatives, it might appear that the fight over abortion rights has become a standoff.

      After all, abortion-rights supporters within the Democratic caucus will be in a position to block the kind of curbs that Republicans advanced over the past two years when they had control of Congress.

      But those on both sides of the debate insist that won’t be the case.

      Despite the Republicans’ loss of the House, anti-abortion forces gained one of their most sought-after victories in decades with the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Now, with a stronger possibility of a 5-4 majority in favor of more restrictions on abortion, anti-abortion groups are eager to get test cases to the high court.

    • The Return of Reefer Madness

      Nationwide, marijuana legalization is becoming more normal. Colorado’s dispensaries are hailed as an economic success story, and other states are following suit—New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has indicated he’ll support legalization after New York City’s choice to gradually decriminalize the drug. The trend is global: Canada recently joined Uruguay in fully legalizing cannabis, and Lebanon is also mulling legalization.

      Marijuana legalization has always had its opponents—including the alcohol lobby, which wants to protect its monopoly on legal intoxicants, and the prison/industrial complex, which fears a decrease in the number of nonviolent drug offenders who keep jail cells full. Now the reactionaries have another champion athwart history: former New York Times journalist Alex Berenson.

  • Security

    • Cyber security threats will keep getting worse in 2019: claim

      Following a high level of systemic security breaches in 2018, security incidents will keep getting worse in 2019 with identify theft, phishing scams and personal data breaches hitting a new high, according to predictions from one global VPN service provider.

    • Home Affairs perpetuating myths about encryption law: CA chief

      A document issued by the government-funded Australian Cyber Security Growth Network, aimed at providing “information to industry about key economic concerns” over the encryption law that was passed in December, has been dismissed by the Communications Alliance as a bid by the Home Affairs Department to perpetuate myths about the legislation.

    • Document on ‘key perceptions’ of encryption law based on small sample

      The Australian Cyber Security Growth Network, a government body, has issued a document on what it claims are “key perceptions” about the Australian encryption law — officially known as the Assistance and Access Bill 2018 — among industry stakeholders.

    • We are now closer to the Y2038 bug than the Y2K bug

      We crossed the boundary 42 minutes ago. Sorry I’m late. perl -e ‘use Date::Parse; print localtime((0×80000000 + str2time(“1 jan 2000 0:00 GMT”)) / 2) . “\n”;’ Wed Jan 9 17:37:04 2019

    • Windows 7 Only Has One Year of Security Patches Left

      Microsoft will stop supporting Windows 7 with security updates on January 14, 2020. It’s like Windows XP all over again—but much worse. Many more people are sticking with Windows 7 than stuck with XP.

    • Data Of PM Modi’s Website Compromised, Hacker Claims

      he well-known French security researcher and hacker, who goes by the name of Elliot Alderson on Twitter, has claimed that the website of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been hacked. In the past, he has also highlighted the underlying security issue in Aadhaar app and database.

    • Multiple Critical Security Vulnerabilities Discovered In Linux Systemd

      Researchers have discovered some serious security flaws threatening Linux. These vulnerabilities exist in Linux systemd component. According to the researchers, the vulnerabilities pose a risk to all systemd-based Linux distros.

    • Security updates for Monday
    • Researchers Reveal Play With Docker Security Vulnerability
    • Linux’s Systemd Hit With Three Security Holes
    • Government Shutdown Means Government Website Security Certs Aren’t Being Renewed

      As Netcraft notes, some of those sites you can’t even get around the security warning, such as certain DOJ sites:

      In a twist of fate, the usdoj.gov domain — and all of its subdomains — are included in Chromium’s HSTS preload list. This is a prudent security measure which forces modern browsers to only use secure, encrypted protocols when accessing the U.S. DoJ websites; however, it will also prevent users from visiting the HTTPS sites when an expired certificate is encountered. In these cases, modern browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox deliberately hide the advanced option that would let the user bypass the warning and continue through to the site.

    • Vulnerabilities found in building access system used by schools, governments

      Tenable Research discovered four zero-day vulnerabilities in PremiSys access control system from IDenticard (PremiSys IDenticard). The first, a hardcoded backdoor account, “allows attackers to add new users to the badge system, modify existing users, delete users, assign permission, and pretty much any other administrative function.”

      The ability to “give an attacker unfettered access to the badge system database, allowing him/her to covertly enter buildings by creating fraudulent badges and disabling building locks” is troubling considering tens of thousands of customers, ranging from K-12 schools, universities, government agencies, medical centers, and Fortune 500 companies, rely on IDenticard for secure key card access.

    • Open-Source Metasploit Framework 5.0 Improves Security Testing

      Among the most widely used tools by security researchers is the open-source Metasploit Framework, which has now been updated with the new 5.0 release.

      Metasploit Framework is penetration testing technology, providing security researchers with a variety of tools and capabilities to validate the security of a given application or infrastructure deployment. With Metasploit, researchers can also test exploits against targets to see if they are at risk, in an attempt to penetrate the defensive measures that are in place. The 5.0 release of Metasploit introduces multiple new and enhanced capabilities, including automation APIs, evasion modules and usability improvements.

      “As the first major Metasploit release since 2011, Metasploit 5.0 brings many new features, as well as a fresh release cadence,” Brent Cook, senior manager at Rapid7, wrote in a blog post.

      [...]

      Metasploit 5.0 now also brings improved usability for security researchers to test multiple targets at scale.

      “While Metasploit has supported the concept of scanners that can target a subnet or network range, using an exploit module was limited to only one host at a time,” Cook wrote. “With Metasploit 5.0, any module can now target multiple hosts in the same way by setting RHOSTS to a range of IPs or referencing a host’s file with the file:// option.”

      Usability also gets a boost with improved performance, including faster startup and searching capabilities than in previous versions of Metasploit. Additionally, with Metasploit 5.0, researchers are now able to write and use modules in any of three programming languages: Go, Python and Ruby. Overall, development for Metasploit 5.0 benefited from an updated process that included a stable branch that is used by Rapid7 and other distributions for everyday use and an unstable branch where new development can be rapidly added before it’s ready for broader consumption.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • The Memo That Helped Kill a Half Million People in Syria

      A memo sent to Hillary Clinton that WikiLeaks made public in 2016 has not gotten the attention it deserves. Now is the time. After President Donald Trump tweeted that he was pulling American troops out of Syria, Clinton joined his vociferous critics who want more war in Syria.

      “Actions have consequences, and whether we’re in Syria or not, the people who want to harm us are there & at war,” Clinton tweeted in response to Trump. “Isolationism is weakness. Empowering ISIS is dangerous. Playing into Russia & Iran’s hands is foolish. This President is putting our national security at grave risk.”

      Actions indeed have consequences.

      The memo shows the kind of advice Clinton was getting as secretary of state to plunge the U.S. deeper into the Syrian war. It takes us back to 2012 and the early phase of the conflict.

      [...]

      The time stamp on the email is “2001-01-01 03:00” even though Clinton was still a New York senator-elect at that point. That date is also out of synch with the timeline of nuclear diplomacy with Iran.

      But the body of the email gives a State Department case and document number with the date of 11/30/2015. But that’s incorrect as well because Clinton resigned as secretary of state on Feb. 1, 2013.

    • Investigators find evidence tying last July’s murder of three Russian journalists in Africa to ‘Putin’s chef’

      Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s investigative project Dossier Center has reportedly completed a five-month study of the circumstances surrounding the murder of three Russian journalists in the Central African Republic, concluding that a local gendarme is likely involved in the triple homicide. The suspect allegedly followed the journalists, and remained in constant contact with their driver and with someone who works at one of Evgeny Prigozhin’s companies. Meduza retells the independent television network Dozhd’s summary of the report.

    • Who’s Running John Bolton to Start a war with Iran? He worried even Mad Dog Mattis

      National Security Adviser John Bolton lied his face off when he told Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on his recent Mideast junket that he was sure Iran’s leaders are dedicated to acquiring deliverable nuclear weapons. Nuclear security expert Joe Cirincione shredded Bolton over his false assertion, which is contradicted by UN inspectors and US intelligence.

      Bolton made sure to tell Netanyahu this so that Netanyahu could quote Bolton in his own fantasy-filled and inflammatory speeches urging an attack on Iran.

      [...]

      Mattis reportedly felt it would have been legitimate to strike back against the Iraqi militia inside Iraq, but unwise to initiate a cross-border conflict involving a state.

      Ironically, when Mattis first met Bolton, he joked that he had heard that he was “the Devil.” He appears to have been making fun of normal people concerned about Bolton’s excesses. So then toward the end of his tenure Mattis found out that we weren’t wrong about Bolton, and he had been foolish to be so insouciant.

    • The US Media has Lost One of Its Sanest Voices on Military Matters

      I hate television “experts”, the infamous “analysts” who know all – and support all – about the military, the televisual ex-generals with vain presidential ambitions and the infamous American “think tank” personnel whose right-wing, pro-Israeli beliefs are carefully shielded from viewers by the US networks who employ them. I always characterise the antiseptic and pseudo-academic institutions to which they belong as the “Institute for Preposterous Affairs”.

      The Fisk “IPA” contains hundreds of robotic folk who will churn out claptrap about “key players”, “stakeholders” and “moderate allies” and, of course, “world terror”. They turn up on CNN, Fox and Russia Today. And, of course, the BBC.

      But William Arkin was always a bit different. This ex-US marine intelligence author of ground-breaking work on secret CIA “black sites” and equally secret US weapons dumps (nuclear and non-nuclear) has a respectful audience at both Harvard and Maxwell US Air Force Base. And when he quits, I take notice.

      Here’s a guy the Reagan administration wanted to send to prison for revealing the location of US and Soviet nuclear weapons, and who – in his own words – “had to fight editors who couldn’t believe that there would be a war in Iraq”. He’s just resigned his job as a talking head. Goodbye NBC News. That’s what I call a real story.

      And here’s what Arkin told his colleagues about the American military when he left NBC last week. “There is not a soul in Washington,” he wrote to them, “who can say that they have won or stopped any conflict. And though there might be the beloved perfumed princes in the form of the [David] Petraeuses and Wes Clarks, or the so-called warrior monks like James Mattis and HR McMaster, we’ve had more than a generation of national security leaders who have sadly and fraudulently done little of consequence.

      Arkin’s draw – for me, at least – is that he doesn’t suck on the rubber tube of Wikileaks or social media whistle-blowers. He prefers to dig down through the pages of dull, boring real military information available in serious army and air force journals and official government documents. I came across his work when a reader in Japan sent me pages from Arkin’s book Code Names: Deciphering US Military Plans, Programs, and Operations in the 9/11 World.

      I was investigating just how Israel was able to maintain its massive aerial bombardments of Lebanon and Gaza without running out of “smart” bombs, cluster munitions and air-to-ground missiles. Even Nato ran low on ammunition in the 1999 Serbian War. But not Israel when it was blasting its enemies – including lots and lots of civilians – in the Middle East.

    • Lessons From Rojava

      This holiday season was unusually kind to the anti-imperialists among us or at least it could have been. Trump shocked the world the week before Christmas by actually putting America first for a change and calling for the immediate withdrawal of the some 2000 troops still illegally occupying North Eastern Syria. Regardless of his motives, which I’m sure had very little to do with anything vaguely resembling the Christmas spirit, it’s hard to deny that this executive decision would have been a decisive win for peace.

      Hard but not impossible. The doves of the progressive left have enthusiastically jumped through their own pinched assholes to stomp on McGovern’s grave with talking points straight out of Karl Rove’s playbook. Sadly, their onslaught of non-stop pro-war agit-prop, aided and abetted by the double-speak of Mad Man Bolton and the other rabid war junkies of Trump’s own administration, may have worked. The perpetually spineless Trump has moved the goal post for the pull-out from 30 days to 90 days to 3 months to ‘maybe later, we’ll see…’

    • Extraplanetary Extravagance

      If you think our government’s war policy has become out-of-this world cuckoo, consider the spaciness being proposed by the cosmonauts on Spaceship Trump.

      Spending $700 billion a year on maintaining the five branches of the U.S. war machine (not counting the costs of actually fighting all the wars they get into) isn’t enough, they now tell us. So prepare to soar — militarily and budgetarily — into a boundless war theater where none have gone before: Yes, outer space!

      It seems that Captain Trump himself woke up one morning and abruptly announced that he was bored with the fusty old Army, Air Force, etc., so he wanted a shiny new sixth military branch to play with.

      Queue the space music sound effects — we’re getting a “Space Force” to carry America’s war-making power to a cosmic level.

      Trump’s loyal lieutenant, Mike “Yes-Man” Pence, promptly saluted, calling Trump’s whim “an idea whose time has come.” America’s military leaders rolled their eyes at this folly, but they’ve since snapped to attention and are preparing to launch Cap’n Trump’s grandiose space dreams.
      In a melodramatic speech, Pence declared that the new Space Command will “seek peace, in space as on Earth.” Hmmm… that’s not very comforting.

    • The Russian Embassy’s (rather conspiratorial) theory of the Skripals’ poisoning

      The Russian Embassy to the United Kingdom has published a press release in response to local media reports about the lives of Sergei and Yulia Skripal since their poisoning. According to The Telegraph, the two Russians are no longer being held in isolation, but medical experts have continued to observe them closely.

      The Russian Embassy pointed to a different detail of the Skripals’ case that has come to light in news reports. “To this day, the investigation has not permitted the public to know where S. and Y. Skripal were and what they did after they left home on the morning of March 4 and drove toward the laboratory at Porton Down with their telephones apparently turned off,” the press release claims.

      British media outlets had already reported in the spring that the Skripals’ telephones were turned off for four hours on March 4. At around the same time, police forces used local sightings of the Skripals’ car to propose and publish the route they may have taken. The vehicle was sighted in the London Road neighborhood, which is located between Salisbury and Porton Down.

      The embassy’s press release does not mention the fact that London Road is also the location of the cemetery where Sergei Skripal’s wife, Lyudmila, and his son, Alexander, are buried. The cemetery was closed for a month after the attack on the Skripals and tested for toxic substances. No traces of the chemical weapon Novichok that was allegedly deployed against the Skripals were found in the cemetery.

    • FBI arrests Russian national for illegal defense trade in Florida

      Vladivostok businessman Dmitrii Makarenko owns six companies, including one currently constructing Kalina Mall, a large new shopping complex in the city. A man by the same name was arrested in the Northern Mariana Islands on December 29 and charged in the United States with money laundering and conspiracy to export defense articles without a license.

      The Guam Daily Post reported that an indictment and an arrest warrant were issued against a Russian citizen named Dmitrii Makarenko on June 15, 2017, in a Florida district court. Makarenko allegedly placed multiple orders for military-grade defense equipment such as ammunition primers, night vision devices, and thermal vision devices to be acquired by his co-defendant, Vladimir Nevidomy. According to the indictment, Nevidomy was born in Ukraine and lived in Hallandale Beach, Florida. He also owned a corporation called Primex Group, Inc., in Miami-Dade County. Nevidomy procured military-grade items from U.S. vendors and shipped them to Russia for Makarenko, the indictment states. Nevidomy entered a guilty plea in June and was sentenced to 26 months in prison.

    • Love in a Cold War Climate

      It’s not a Hollywood movie. That’s clear from the start. Cold War (2018), the feature film made by the Polish-born director, Pawel Pawlikowski, is in black-and-white. The characters have names like Wiktor, Kaczmarek and Mazurek, and the actors include Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot and Borys Szyc to give just a few from a large cast of characters. There isn’t a James, a Barbara or a Marilyn among them, though Kulig turns in a credible performance as a kind of Polish Marilyn Monroe who makes her way up the ladder of success and then throws it all away.

      No American or British director has made a movie titled “Cold War,” but many American and British directors have taken slices from the big Cold War pie and hurled them at the big screen, some with logic and beauty. Think of Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949), which is set in Vienna right after the end of World War II and that stars Orson Welles as Harry Lime, the American hustler and human rat out to make a profit at everyone else’s expense.

      Think also of Stanley Kubrik’s Dr. Strangelove (1964) with Peter Sellers, George C. Scott and Sterling Hayden, which persuaded audiences to laugh at the nuclear apocalypse and not cower under it.

    • How the West uses mainstream liberalism to promote mass murder

      Women now occupy the three top positions of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). They also manage four of the country’s five largest arms contractors. And they oversee the country’s nuclear stockpile.

      NowThis described the CIA’s new appointments as “another stride towards progress”. MSNBC ran with the headline The military-industrial complex is now run by women while asking “who runs the world?” with an apparent sense of pride. Politico, meanwhile, called women taking over of the “military-industrial complex” a “watershed” moment.

    • Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East

      A black rubber inflatable boat was found abandoned earlier this week on the shingle at Dungeness on the Kent coast. Eight men, reportedly Iranians or Kurds, were later found close to the beach or in the nearby village of Lydd.

      An Iranian living in south London was later charged with helping the migrants to cross the Channel illegally from France to the UK.

      Sea crossings by small numbers of asylum seekers are highly publicised because the short but dangerous voyage makes good television.

      The number of migrants over a period of months is in the low hundreds, but politicians believe that the impact of their arrival is high, as was shown by the home secretary, Sajid Javid, rushing back from holiday and declaring the crossings “a major incident”.

      Nobody forgets the effect of pictures of columns of Syrian refugees, far away from UK in central Europe, had on the Brexit referendum in 2016.

    • Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness

      You have to wonder if the Department of Homeland Security is insecure or just lame.

      On New Years’ Eve, I was about to board a flight to Hamburg, when a pair of its officers stopped me to ask a few questions. My mistake was not to demand to know their names, their jobs, and if I was under arrest. Instead, I calmly answered their irrelevant queries. Nothing they asked related to anybody’s homeland.

      The three pieces of paper that one officer handed to me did not concern me or my travel plans. They were sections of the United States Code regarding “subversive activities” at US military sites. I was headed here to Germany to attend the appeal court hearing of a nuclear weapons abolitionist, Gerd Büntzly, whom I joined in 2017, along with three other US citizens, in a protest at the German Air Base Büchel. There are 20 US nuclear weapons at the base (so-called B61-3s or B61-4s) but it’s a German base. The US Air Force just works there under the name “702nd Munitions Support Squadron” to cynically guard, support and train German pilots in use of the US H-bombs upon order of the president. A US flag flies over the base’s entrance next to its German counterpart.

      Gerd, 68, a music teacher, violinist, and orchestral arranger from Herford, Germany, intends to testify at his own appeal that nonviolent resistance at the Büchel base is a lawful act of crime prevention, because Germany and the United States deploy US nuclear bombs in violation of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and other treaties both countries have ratified.

      The NPT prohibits any transfer of nuclear weapons to or from other states that have signed it. To rationalize its nuclear lawlessness, the United States claims: (1) Its hydrogen bombs in Germany are under USAF control at the base until war starts; and (2) The NPT doesn’t apply in wartime (Ha!) when the bombs would be transferred to German Tornado fighter jets flown by Germany’s Tactical Air Force Wing 33 in Büchel. Talk about subversive activities at a military base.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Hard drugs & messed mind: Assange defense hints at origins of ‘conspiracy theories’ by Louise Mensch

      Julian Assange’s legal defense team has questioned the testimony of Russiagate conspiracy theorist, Louise Mensch, recalling her confession of taking “hard drugs” in the past that could apparently affect her accusations.

      Monday’s tweet from the team defending Julian Assange slammed former UK conservative MP turned conspiracy theorist Louise Mensch. The attached article is apparently aimed to remind followers of what exactly the Wikileaks legal team thinks of the woman, who’s been smearing Assange for years.

      [...]

      The article is an Evening Standard story from 2012 which details Mensch’s admission that she had taken “class A” drugs in her 20s while working in the music industry which “messed with [her] head.” The defense campaign has previously fact-checked Mensch’s “insane” claims against Assange, many of which were shown to be patently false.

    • The U.S. government has amassed an ‘abundance’ of internal WikiLeaks Data

      The U.S. government has an ‘abundance of data to work with’ if it chooses to pursue a case against Wikileaks Founder, Julian Assange, including internal Wikileaks data.

      The data, covering the majority of the organization’s period of operations, from 2009 through 2017 has been seized by the federal government through search warrants, subpoenas, equipment seizures, and cooperating witnesses, as reported by Design, technology and science website, Gizmodo.

    • Guarding You From The News: NewsGuard Warns Against Reading WikiLeaks

      Purported “fake news” detecting browser extension NewsGuard has a biased system for rating news sources, unfairly giving WikiLeaks a purely negative review and a red X while verifying Fox News with a green check mark and little to no criticism.

      Sputnik previously reported on Microsoft’s launching of the app back in August 2018, noting at the time that it was purported to be “Enhancing digital media literacy and transparency” by Microsoft Vice President for Customer Security & Trust Tom Burt, who called it a “powerful tool to reduce the impact of disinformation campaigns.”

      [...]

      The page describes WikiLeaks as “A publisher of confidential corporate and government documents, usually acquired from leakers and hackers. WikiLeaks has published government secrets as well as sensitive personal information, and strategically published hacked emails, traced to the Kremlin, that hurt Democrats ahead of the 2016 presidential election.”

    • WikiLeaks hits $50,000 in donations, enough to start suing Guardian over Assange-Manafort ‘scoop’

      WikiLeaks says it has collected enough funds to file a lawsuit against the Guardian for publishing an uncorroborated story about alleged meetings between former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Julian Assange.
      The whistleblowing website has thanked all its supporters who contributed to its GoFundMe campaign, launched on November 27 following the publication of an article by the Guardian, which claimed that US President Donald Trump’s disgraced former campaign manager Paul Manafort had held secret talks with Julian Assange at least three times in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where the Australian has been holed up since 2012.

      The donations have recently hit the $50,000 threshold, enabling the whistleblowing site to formally launch proceedings against the renowned British newspaper, WikiLeaks said, calling on its supporters to keep the money flowing.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • A Farewell to Glaciers, Coral Reefs and Rainforests

      Dahr Jamail, staff writer at Truthout, has been writing about the global emergency of climate change for nearly a decade. In his latest book, The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Destruction, Jamail shares his firsthand accounts of returning to beloved spaces in the natural world. He observes the drastic ways in which they’ve been destroyed due to humanity’s relentless burning of fossil fuels, and mourns over how many of them are unlikely to recover over the duration of human existence.

    • EPA Criminal Action Against Polluters Hits 30-Year Low

      The Environmental Protection Agency hit a 30-year low in 2018 in the number of pollution cases it referred for criminal prosecution, Justice Department data show.

      The EPA said in a statement that it is directing “its resources to the most significant and impactful cases.”

      But the 166 cases referred for prosecution in the last fiscal year is the lowest number since 1988, when Ronald Reagan was president and 151 cases were referred, according to Justice Department data obtained by the nonprofit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility advocacy group and released Tuesday.

    • The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party

      While these are important principles to advocate for, they remain simply slogans without economic policy propositions to present a concrete illustration of what the Green Party is advocating for. Slogans remain slogans unless they are elaborated upon by concrete material demands using those particular lenses of analysis so to provide an example of the eco-socialist praxis promoted in the Green Party’s 2016 platform document. Reparations and restorative justice for these genocides cannot be addressed solely with a jobs program. However, it does provide some preliminary coordinates. Furthermore, recall the words of Combahee River Collective, “If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression,” meaning that the liberation of Black and Indigenous is the kernel of emancipation for all.

      Furthermore, we need to be conscious of the explicitly racialized nature of the Roosevelt New Deal. In order to maintain his political coalition, Roosevelt intentionally crafted the balance of power in that coalition to favor the fascist southern Dixiecrats. He added measures to all of his New Deal programs to maintain the allegiance of southern politicians and voters. For instance, the National Labor Relations Act, which legalized the right to unionize and created the National Labor Relations Board to adjudicate labor disputes, intentionally excluded the majority of Black and Brown workers by barring domestic (butlers, maids, cooks, nannies, etc.) and agricultural workers from the right to form a union.

    • Warming may mean sea levels 30 cms higher

      The world’s oceans are warming increasingly fast. The planet could face sea levels 30 cms higher in 80 years.

      While 2018 was probably only the fourth warmest year for global surface temperatures, it is likely to have been the hottest year ever for the oceans. The previous such year was 2017, and before that 2016.

      And if global warming follows the pattern predicted by computer simulations, then at present rates the extra temperature of the oceans will cause a thermal expansion – warm water is always less dense than cold water – by 30 centimetres by the end of the century.

      That is 30cms of sea level rise on top of all the extra rising sea water delivered by melting ice caps and glaciers on the world’s continents.

    • Jenny Jones responds to Government’s new air pollution strategy

      Green Party Baroness Jenny Jones, who has put forward a Bill to make clean air a human right, said:

      “Air Pollution is a public health emergency responsible for hundred of thousands of premature deaths, but this new government strategy continues the same slow motion progress of the last two decades. As much as I welcome the long term goals of meeting World Health Organisation guidelines, I’m more concerned that we are nine years behind meeting the pollution limits for NO2 that we set ourselves back in at the turn of the century.

    • The Green New Deal Is Happening in China

      One of the Trump administration’s talking points about global warming is that we’re reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while the countries that remain in the Paris accord are not. Well, the first part of this story is clearly not true, as data for 2018 show a large rise in emissions for the United States. The second part is also not very accurate, as most other countries are taking large steps to reduce emissions.

      At the top of the list is China. The country has undertaken a massive push to convert to electric powered vehicles and clean energy sources.

      China’s progress in this effort is truly extraordinary. In the case of electric cars, it has used a carrot-and-stick approach where it offers consumers large subsidies for buying electric cars while also requiring manufacturers to meet quotas for electric car production as a percent of their total fleet of cars. It has also invested in the necessary infrastructure, ensuring that there are a large number of charging stations widely dispersed across the country so that drivers don’t have to worry about being unable to recharge their cars.

      The result has been a massive increase in the sale of electric cars. Electric car sales are projected to be 1.1 million this year, almost equal to sales in the rest of the world combined. The country expects sales to continue to rise rapidly, with annual sales hitting 11.5 million in 2030. By comparison, electric car sales are expected to be just 480,000 in the United States this year, less than half the number in China.

      There is a similar story with solar and wind energy. China added more solar capacity last year than the rest of the world combined. In 2018 it already surpassed the goal it had set for 2020. It is now looking to double its capacity over the next two years.

      China also has almost as much wind power capacity as the rest of the world combined. Its capacity is more than three times as great as in the United States. However, even with the extraordinary growth in clean energy, wind and solar together still account for less than 20 percent of China’s generation capacity and less than half the amount of electricity produced by burning coal.

      China’s enormous progress in promoting electric cars and clean energy should tell us a great deal about the potential in these areas in the US.

      Nonetheless, China’s enormous progress in promoting electric cars and clean energy should tell us a great deal about the potential in these areas in the United States. While China’s economy has grown rapidly over the last four decades, on a per person basis its income is still less than one-third that of the United States.

      This means that a relatively poor country was able to make massive gains in reducing greenhouse gas emissions compared with its baseline growth path. The focus on electric cars and clean energy also did not impair the country’s growth in any obvious way.

    • New Year, New Books: The 14 Best Environmental Books of January

      Books coming out this month look at saving snow leopards and killer whales, Buddhist and Muslim solutions to climate change, and new ways to grow food.

    • Wood burners and open fires face restrictions in new clean air plan

      Wood burning stoves, open fires and farms all face new restrictions as the government sets out what it calls a “world leading” plan to tackle air pollution.
      In their Clean Air Strategy, published today, the government promises to set a “bold new goal” to reduce particulates across much of the country by 2030.
      But green groups say the scheme is vague and severely lacking in detail.
      They believe the plan proposes nothing new to tackle roadside dirty air.
      The new strategy, which is focused on tackling air pollution in England, has been launched just days after the family of a nine-year-old girl who died from asthma were given permission to apply for a fresh inquest into her death.

    • A Call for the Food Movement to Get Behind the Green New Deal

      The final months of 2018 will likely be remembered as the decisive moment when the global grassroots awakened to the life-or-death threat posed by global warming. With violent weather and climate disasters becoming the norm, and international scientists finally shedding their customary caution to report that we must drastically slash (by at least 45 percent) global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, hundreds of millions of ordinary people across the world seemed to simultaneously wake up.

      Young climate activists under the banner of the Sunrise Movement in the U.S. and the Extinction Rebellion.

      in the UK and other countries, sat in at politicians’ offices. They blocked streets and roadways. They emanded immediate and bold action.

    • ‘Shameful’: Colorado Supreme Court Denounced for Siding With Big Oil Profits Over Public Health in Youth-Led Suit

      “It is so disappointing for the youth and the people of Colorado to hear the decision from the Colorado Supreme Court today,” said Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, an 18-year-old plaintiff in the youth-led suit against the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).

      “To know that the judges in the highest court of my state believe that the interests of the oil and gas industry come before the public health, safety, and welfare of my fellow Coloradans is shameful,” Martinez added. “But I want you all to know that this fight for climate justice is far from over. My fellow plaintiffs, youth around the world, and I will continue to stand up for our right to a healthy future.”

      Emma Bray, a 19-year-old plaintiff from Denver, said in a statement the ruling will not stop the growing youth movement for bold climate solutions.

      “Not a single person, company, or corporation can silence the young generation’s voices,” Bray declared. “We will continue the fight for our Earth and our future, despite the mountains we need to climb and the setbacks that we will overcome. Regardless of the court’s decision in our case, the fight will continue.”

  • Finance

    • Labor in the Age of Trump

      Without going into the long history of how the Democratic Party slowly co-opted union leadership (with some exceptions), the labor movement is at an existential crossroad. If it stays the course, protesting, rallies, lobbying their congress member, backing the Clintonites and not the Sanders’s disciples in elections, it will soon die as quickly as President Reagan busted PATCO. What is happening now with the shutdown is the crucible of life and death for labor in America.

      800,000 workers are furloughed or working without pay. We see on the news the individual horror stories of these workers. Their future isn’t just uncertain, it has been forever changed. So many others have yet to fall into the abyss that awaits them, even with a quick settlement at this point. This is not the time to show one’s outrage by singing from the same psalm books. Joe Hill would not have it. Nor Mother Jones or E.V. Debs! Where are they today? They were the mythical heroes of the past; leaders who inspired us to do what? We don’t sing in our taverns great leftist labor songs. Very few prominent, stirring movies. Matewan, Norma Rae. Some others, yes, but it just isn’t our culture. And it has brought us to today.

    • On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years

      UTLA has never denied that part of the money needed has to come from Sacramento, and has made efforts towards this end. But we demand that LAUSD meet us halfway. LAUSD can’t resolve the entire problem, but it can resolve some of it. When it is willing to do that, our strike will end.

    • LAUSD Teachers’ Strike: Day 1
    • Tens of Thousands of L.A. Teachers Cut Class to Strike

      On an average day in Los Angeles, a mere hint of drizzle can throw the whole city disproportionately out of whack, to put it mildly. Not so on Monday, when even heavy showers couldn’t deter some 30,000 Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) public-school instructors from cutting class and taking to the streets in the first teachers’ strike the city has seen in 30 years.

      The L.A. strike is the latest in a series of collective actions orchestrated over the last 11 months by educators around the country, which thus far have included statewide teachers’ strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona, as well as walkouts in Colorado, Washington, Kentucky and North Carolina. Last summer, 98 percent of LAUSD members were spurred to vote in favor of striking after failing to reach agreement with district officials about issues such as inadequate pay, overflowing classrooms and a glaring lack of full-time nurses and librarians and other key staffers in L.A.’s public schools.

      More to the point, as one striking member of the LAUSD put it in a Huffington Post piece, “We’re walking out because we feel like we’re part of a rigged game set up to undermine public education.” This take on the state of the nation’s educational system may be bleak, but it’s apparently not rare—and projections are looking dire for teachers, their students and other members of the extended public-school community. In December, the Wall Street Journal reported that “[t]eachers and other public education employees, such as community college faculty, school psychologists and janitors, are quitting their jobs at the fastest rate on record,” according to government data.

    • LA Teachers Strike Is About Charter Schools and High Stakes Testing

      On Monday more than 30,000 teachers at 900 schools in Los Angeles, California, will be on strike.

      And unlike the wave of teachers strikes last year in red states like West Virginia, this time educators are taking to the streets due to the policies of Democrats.

      At issue are things like lowering class sizes and providing more nurses, librarians and counselors.

      But behind these issues lies one of the most important facts about our country.

      When you get right down to it, there is very little difference between many Democratic policymakers and their Republican counterparts.

      You think Betsy Devos is the opposite of Arne Duncan? Wrong.

      You think Barack Obama is the opposite of Donald Trump? Wrong again.

      Though there are differences, those often amount to differences of degree.

    • Beginning Walkout, Los Angeles Teachers Find Support From Sanders—But Not Corporate Democrats

      As more than 30,000 educators and supporters prepared Monday to protest the Los Angeles school district’s overcrowded classrooms, low teacher salaries, and refusal to hire sufficient support staff, observers noted how the lines being drawn reflect divisions within the Democratic Party regarding education policies: corporate-backed privatization versus strengthening public schools.

      Education Secretary Betsy DeVos attacked teachers across the country for going on strike last year over their chronically low wages, claiming Oklahoma teachers were allowing “adult disagreements” to get in the way of “serving the students”—ignoring the fact that educators there walked out of classrooms last April largely because funding cuts had left schoolchildren with dilapidated textbooks and insufficient supplies.

      But the fight over the future of education and teachers’ rights in Los Angeles is revealing rifts among Democrats and progressives, with former Education Secretary Arne Duncan also expressing support for the school district while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) stands firmly on the side of the educators.

    • LA Teachers Demand Moratorium on Charters as Strike Begins

      About 33,000 unionized teachers in the nation’s second-largest school district are walking out of classrooms across more than 1,000 Los Angeles schools today in their first strike in 30 years. The teachers are demanding much more than simply higher pay, smaller class sizes and additional support staff such as nurses, counselors and librarians. They’re also calling for a moratorium on new charter schools in the district.

      Schools are remaining open despite the strike, with the district reassigning more than 2,000 administrators and hiring more than 400 substitute teachers to take the place of striking teachers.

      The United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) and the Los Angeles Unified School District remain at an impasse over critical issues affecting working conditions in classrooms serving more than 640,000 students. The strike, originally slated for last Thursday, was moved to today after the school district raised a legal technicality over whether the union had provided adequate formal notice. The LA Superior Court on Thursday agreed that it had, paving the way for today’s strike.

      The union balked at the district’s last-ditch offers last week to change their contract, noting that the alteration could end up actually increasing class sizes after one year. The negotiating team for the school district, led by District Superintendent Austin Beutner, said it agreed to provide $130 million to increase support staff to schools and to rein in class sizes.

      The district has offered teachers a 6 percent raise spread out over the first two years of a three-year contract. However, the union’s demand is a 6.5 percent raise, and it also takes issue with the fact that the district’s offer of a wage increase would be contingent upon cutting future teachers’ health care benefits.

    • LA Teachers’ Strike: “The Country Is Watching”

      It is possible that they’re simply too disorganized to be capable of making UTLA a real contract offer. To be fair to LAUSD, they have had an unstable superintendent situation, some of which wasn’t their fault.

      We started negotiations for this contract back in April of 2017 when Michelle King was the superintendent. She went on medical leave due to cancer late that summer, and Vivian Ekchian became acting superintendent. King stepped down in January. The Los Angeles Times said “Because senior officials have praised her performance, Ekchian is likely to be a candidate for the permanent job.”

      However, the billionaire-funded charter lobby poured money into some of the school board elections, and we ended up with pro-charter majority, who then appointed Beutner, who took office in May. Ref Rodriguez, once the leader of the charter school-backed majority that took over the board, resigned and pled guilty to a felony. It’s been a chaotic situation Then again, by now they’ve had plenty of time to get organized.

    • Nation’s Largest Mental Health Organization Urges Supported Housing Reforms

      In 2014, Garaufis issued an order to move as many as 4,000 people out of adult homes — group living arrangements where mentally ill people were found to have suffered neglect and financial exploitation at the hands of home operators.

      ProPublica and Frontline spent more than a year examining the proposed alternative, known as supported housing — independent apartments where adult home residents were expected to live on their own with minimal support from social service agencies. We found that some of the most vulnerable people who made the transition slipped through the cracks, including six whose deaths raised questions and two dozen more who were not able to care for themselves, ending up in unsafe or inhumane living conditions. We showcased the journey of Nestor Bunch, who was hospitalized multiple times and beaten nearly to death while in supported housing.

    • Protest Song Of The Week: ‘Old Man’ By Stella Donnelly

      Lyrics such as, “We sat there silently while you kept your job. And your place and your six-figure wage” highlight the current reckoning taken place. Survivors, who were formerly silent, are now speaking out. The systematic structures that gave the powerful cover are collapsing.

      The chorus poses the potent questions, “Oh, are you scared of me, old man? Or are you scared of what I’ll do?” It then adds the stinging denouncement, “You grabbed me with an open hand. The world is grabbin’ back at you.”

      The fact that women are empowered to speak up not only gives past survivors an opportunity to seek long-awaited justice, but Donnelly also highlights that it is the survivors speaking out, who will help protect the future for younger women (“Cause it’s our words that’ll keep our daughters safe”).

    • As Gov’t Shutdown Drags On, IRS Continues to Aid the Rich & Corporations While Targeting the Poor

      As 800,000 federal workers remain furloughed or working without pay in the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, we look at how the Trump administration has restarted a division of the Internal Revenue Service to help corporate lenders. The Washington Post reports that an appeal from the mortgage industry has resulted in hundreds of IRS staffers returning to the agency to carry out income verifications for lenders. This process earns the $1.3 trillion mortgage banking industry millions of dollars in fees. We speak with Paul Kiel, a reporter for ProPublica and contributor to the series “Gutting the IRS.” His recent piece for the series is titled “Who’s More Likely to Be Audited: A Person Making $20,000—or $400,000?”

    • Prominent Investor Optimistic, Awaits Crypto Adoption In 2019

      Kyle Samani, an optimistic, leading Bitcoin and crypto investor, expects the adoption of blockchain products during 2019.

    • China Offers Trump a Trade Peace Deal. It May Not Be Enough.

      China is buying American soybeans again and has cut tariffs on American cars. It is offering to keep its hands off valuable corporate secrets, while also allowing foreign investors into more industries than ever before.

      Beijing hopes all of that will be enough to let President Trump declare victory and end the trade war between the two largest economies. But the offer combines some real concessions, like lower tariffs, with nebulous promises, and it will be hard to ensure that China sticks to its commitments.

      That could make it a tough sell in Washington. The Trump administration’s trade hawks are still pushing for a lot more, while even the doves fret that the new promises need effective enforcement to make sure that China follows through, according to people with a detailed knowledge of American policymaking.

      Many American officials and businesses complain that China has long wiggled out of commitments — accusations that China denies. And the more hawkish wing of the administration contends that Beijing’s assurances have been so vague that it is hard to discern any meaningful progress, a position some analysts support.

    • This is Crypto Life: TRX Pump Following BitTorrent Announcement Returned TRON The $126M Acquisition Cost

      The cryptocurrency community has expressed noted negativity surrounding the details of Tron’s acquisition of BitTorrent and the subsequent plans to issue the so-called BTT Token.

    • How Megaprojects Perpetuate Income Inequality Is A Major Issue For Next Chicago Mayor

      Throughout Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s two terms, residents saw an incredible amount of money and resources pour into the coffers of big corporations to encourage economic development. Hundreds of millions of dollars were handed over to entities to encourage economic growth, however, entire swaths of the city—particularly in areas heavily populated by people of color—have seen little return on investments made with their tax dollars.

      “Development that does not address displacement is not development, it is whitewashing our neighborhoods and our communities,” said Amisha Patel of the Grassroots Collaborative at a November press conference at the site of a proposed mega-development in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. The project has been dubbed “Lincoln Yards” by its owner, real estate developer Sterling Bay.

      Sterling Bay bought the property, which sits along the North Branch of the Chicago River, for an estimated $100 million in 2012. In the last few months, Sterling Bay has unveiled several drafts of its big plans for the development, which include 12 million square feet of office, residential, retail, hotel and entertainment space, and a small smattering of parkland. In total, the project could cost more than $5 billion.

    • Thousands of Russians have joined something called the ‘Union SSR’ trade union, calling themselves Soviet citizens and refusing to pay their bills

      A former oil trader founded an organization called the “Union SSR” trade union, whose members believe the Soviet Union never legally collapsed

      If you call the telephone number listed on the website for the “Union SSR” trade union, a friendly woman answers the phone. For some reason, the first question she asks is “What do you do for a living?” Then she invites you to join. In her words, the organization’s focus is “helping people.” Membership in the group has some unusual perks, including not paying for electricity and other public utilities, “in accordance with the officially functioning social contract.”

      The “Union SSR” trade union is the brainchild of St. Petersburg native Sergey Dyomkin, who says he got his start as an oil trader selling Russian fuel abroad, after serving in the army in the 1990s. He later managed the construction company “Mostekhnostroi,” working with Russian Railways and as a permanent subcontractor for the Baltic Construction Company. According to the Spark-Interfax database, Sergey Dyomkin owns the company “RSD” in Russia’s Lipetsk region and served as director of a company that dealt with services related to electrical grids. In 2012, that latter business bid on a contracts to maintain the air conditioners at the Moscow University of the Interior Ministry and provide interior design services to the office of Yakutia’s permanent representative in Moscow. (Dyomkin confirms that he owns RSD but denied any ties to the second firm.)

    • Dreams Deferred: How Enriching the 1 Percent Widens the Racial Wealth Divide

      This report looks at the trends in household wealth among Black, Latino and White households over the past three decades. It relies on data from the Federal Reserve Board’s most recent triannual Survey of Consumer Finances. The Racial Wealth Divide Over the past three decades, a polarizing racial wealth divide has grown between White households and households of color. Since the early 1980s, median wealth among Black and Latino families has been stuck at less than $10,000. Meanwhile, White household median wealth grew from $105,300 to $140,500, adjusting for inflation.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Tulsi Gabbard’s Presidential Campaign Likely To Challenge US Military Industrial-Complex

      Democratic Representative Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii announced she will launch a presidential campaign for 2020. Her campaign is likely to distinguish itself from other Democratic campaigns by making wars and broader United States foreign policy a major issue.

      Gabbard was elected to the Hawaii state legislature in 2002. She joined the Hawaii Army National Guard a year later and voluntarily deployed to Iraq, where she completed two tours of duty in 2004 and 2005.

      She was elected to the House of Representatives in 2012, and according to her own website, she was “one of the first two female combat veterans to ever serve in the U.S. Congress, and also its first Hindu member.”

      During Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, Gabbard gained notoriety after she resigned from her position as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee so she could openly support Sanders. She spoke at Sanders campaign rallies to help him distinguish his foreign policy from the much more hawkish foreign policy of Hillary Clinton.

      Gabbard was overwhelmingly re-elected in 2018. She won 83 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary election.

    • Big Changes Are Coming to Iowa’s 2020 Caucuses

      The Iowa Democratic Party is preparing to implement the most sweeping and radical changes to its first-in-the-nation caucuses in 50 years, including potentially adopting online elements that could increase participation by upward of 100,000 voters, according to party leaders.

      “We have spent many, many months and thousands of hours of conversations with a whole lot of different folks about what is the best solution. And we’re in the process right now, literally this month, of crafting that into a draft of a delegate selection plan,” Iowa Democratic Party executive director Kevin Geiken said Thursday.

      “We’re down to about three choices,” he said. “We’re down to an absentee ballot system. We’re down to a proxy system. We’re down to a tele-caucus system. I would venture to say that we are even down to two potential solutions, because the absentee ballot process is so complicated logistically that I just don’t think that is a viable solution for us.”

      Iowa party officials have not formally decided what options to pursue, he emphasized. But a detailed discussion with Geiken and Democratic National Committee officials is strongly pointing to the likelihood that Iowans will be able to participate in 2020’s caucuses using online tools.

    • As Congresswoman ‘Keeps Kicking Ass’ on Social Media, Ocasio-Cortez Rejects Idea ‘Some Subjects Too Complex for Everyday People’

      According to numbers from CrowdTangle compiled by Axios, Ocasio-Cortez, who was sworn in less than two weeks ago, had 11.8 million total interactions on Twitter—retweets plus likes—between Dec. 11 and Jan. 11. The congressional Democrat with the second most Twitter interactions was Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), with 4.6 million.

      “I inherently reject the paternalistic idea that some subjects are too complex for everyday people to engage,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Monday, explaining her messaging approach that has, in just a few months, driven previously obscure or marginalized solutions like the Green New Deal and a 70 percent top marginal tax rate into mainstream political discourse.

      “When I meet everyday people, they are eager to learn more, ask great questions, and embrace nuance,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “If we present compelling, solid info plus commonsense arguments, we can win.”

      Based on CrowdTangle’s figures, below is a Twitter engagement ranking among the congressional Democrats included in the new analysis, as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former President Barack Obama, and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas). For Harris, Sanders, and Warren, the figure is the combined number of interactions on their personal and official accounts.

    • New Analysis Shows Why Democrats Are Wrong to Fear Bold Embrace of Medicare for All

      On the same day a new poll showed an overwhelming majority of Americans think the nation’s healthcare system is “in state of crisis,” a new analysis shows that Democrats should listen to those Americans—and end their reluctance to run on the promise of a bold solution like Medicare for All while propping up the for-profit system.

      A new Gallup survey released Monday showed that 70 percent of respondents saw the U.S. healthcare system as having “major problems” or being in a “state of crisis.” Eighty-four percent of Democrats expressed these concerns about the system in which many families are forced to pay high premiums and and deductibles, with worse health outcomes than in other high-income countries, while 56 percent of Republicans agreed.

    • Will the Longest Shutdown in US History End in a Power Grab?

      On Saturday, the government shutdown reached day 22 and became the longest government shutdown in US history.

      Since the 1970s, government shutdowns have been a way of life in Washington, occurring every few years. The current intractable shutdown over the president’s demand for $5 billion for a border wall has been marked by repeated failed negotiations, and it’s increasingly hard to see where this could all end.

      President Trump has repeatedly floated the idea of declaring a national emergency in order to circumvent normal budget processes and get the money for the wall. And in recent days, analysts have increasingly suggested that this may be the most plausible way to end the shutdown, which has forced 800,000 government employees to either stay home or work without pay.

      Past shutdowns have always ended with negotiated deals. Using a declaration of emergency to end a government shutdown — regardless of whether it even worked at all — would be an unprecedented and authoritarian move that could open the door to a host of alarming future scenarios in which a president might use this power to shut down electronic communication or freeze bank accounts.

    • From Beto to Oprah, undeclared 2020 candidates already backed by outside groups

      As a growing number of potential 2020 Democratic candidates weigh their chances, various PACs have appeared hoping to demonstrate grassroots support and “draft” their favored candidate into running.

      Already attracting a lot of attention is unsuccessful 2018 Senate candidate and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas). A Politico report claims he is “leaning toward running for president,” and several unaffiliated PACs have been launched since November 2018 with the intention of getting O’Rourke to run.

      The Draft Beto PAC, launched on Nov. 23, 2018, is headquartered in Brooklyn, New York and lists Nathan Lerner as its treasurer. Lerner is an Obama 2012 alum and executive director of the Build the Wave grassroots organization and PAC. He also co-founded the DraftBeto.org website. The Draft Beto PAC has no financial data listed as no filing deadlines have passed since it was registered with the FEC.

      Another organization, The We Want Beto Unofficial Street Team 2020 PAC, also launched in 2018. Based in Eaton Rapids, Michigan, the PAC lists Christopher Hopcraft as its treasurer. Hopcraft appears to be a business owner in Michigan and the founder of The World Trade Center Oak Project, according to a Facebook account matching the name in the FEC filing. A website describes the group as an “unofficial activist group dedicated to seeing Texas Representative Robert Francis ‘Beto’ O’Rourke nominated as the contender for President by the Democratic Party.” The PAC has no financial data because no filing deadlines have passed since it was registered.

    • The Twitter Smearing of Corbyn and Assange

      The U.K.-financed Integrity Initiative, managed by the Institute for Statecraft, is ostensibly a “counter disinformation” program to challenge Russian information operations. However, it has been revealed that the Integrity Initiative Twitter handle and some individuals associated with this program have also been tweeting messages attacking Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. This takes on special meaning in light of the numerous U.K. military and intelligence personnel associated with the program, documented in an important briefing by academics in the Working Group on Syria Propaganda and Media.

      Several journalists have been named as associated with the Integrity Initiative, either in program “clusters” or having been invited to an Integrity Initiative event, in the documents that have been posted online. (For more on this see section 7.1 of this briefing note, the “UK” section of the “Xcountry” document and journalists invited to speak at an Integrity Initiative event in London in November 2018.)

    • Corporate Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear

      After having been a mainstream TV news pundit, I’m unfortunately addicted to cable news (mostly MSNBC and CNN) and all the blather and repetition—laughably overhyped as “breaking news.” Even when it’s the same news that’s been breaking… and breaking… for hours or days.

      But I’m more bothered by the repetition of pundits and the narrowness of discussion, resulting in a number of unexamined clichés. Although the Democratic race for president has barely launched, mainstream media bias is already in orbit.

      [...]

      The absence of pundits firmly allied with the progressive wing of the party leads to un-rebutted establishment clichés, such as: “Democrats who are too progressive can’t win the votes of moderate and swing voters.” This line persists despite Hillary Clinton, the candidate of supposed moderation and realism, having lost the White House to the most disliked candidate in the history of polling. And despite Clinton’s narrow losses in Michigan (by 11,000 votes), Wisconsin (23,000 votes) and Pennsylvania (44,000 votes)—with survey data indicating that the number of voters who supported the unabashedly progressive Sanders in primaries and then voted for Trump in the general—was far larger than Clinton’s margin of defeat: 48,000 voters in Michigan, 51,000 in Wisconsin and 117,000 in Pennsylvania.

      It’s not hard to find these swing voters. I co-produced a soon-to-be-released documentary, “The Corporate Coup D’Etat,” and our film team easily located and interviewed working-class people in Ohio who voted for both Obama and Bernie . . . and then chose Trump over Hillary in November 2016.

    • After a Weekend of Explosive Revelations, How Much More Is Trump Hiding?

      That comment specifically refers to a question posed to the president by Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro in reference to the big Times story on Friday reporting that in the wake of the firing of James Comey in May 2017, and Trump’s suspicious behavior surrounding that event, the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation into the president himself. We don’t know whether that probe is still active, but one can safely assume that it was folded into special counsel Robert Mueller’s portfolio along with a number of other investigations that had been opened into Russian spying, sabotage and cyber-propaganda over the course of the presidential campaign.

      Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir took a deep dive into the details and political implications on Saturday, particularly noting the fact that while many of us have concluded that there was plenty of evidence Trump was compromised and this was just the last straw, the right just sees this as more evidence of a “Deep State coup.” Any hopes that there will soon be a bipartisan consensus on this is as remote as ever.

      But that wasn’t the only Russia story that hit this weekend. The Washington Post reported that Trump’s infamous private meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the past two years are even more suspicious that we were led to believe. This seems to have especially alarmed some of the people who know about such things:

      The Atlantic’s Natasha Bertrand pointed out that Laufman is the former chief of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section of the National Security Division at the Department of Justice. He oversaw parts of the Russia investigation before leaving DOJ last year.

    • Trash In Aisle 1600

      Make it stop. When a sports team – in this case, the Clemson Tigers college football champions – degraded themselves to put on their best suits and fly several hundred miles and make their laborious way through the requisite security maze in order to be honored with a visit to the White House, what they got for their questionable trouble was tables stacked with cold Big Macs, chicken nuggets, french fries and other congealed fast food that had been personally “catered” by the tacky, purportedly billionaire POS in residence, who likes his foodmade by the grossly underpaid, often brown-skinned workers at Macdonald’s and Wendy’s but just doesn’t want to let any more of them into his pristine white country. Inexplicably wearing his coat inside – does this racism make me look fat? – he gestured to his greasy spread and boasted to his assembled, blank-faced guests it was all “good stuff.” “We have 300 hamburgers and many, many French fries,” he proudly proclaimed. “We have everything that I like.” From LeftSentThis: “Nothing says full-circle-Americana like a white supremacist in a house built by enslaved Africans – who were exploited and fed garbage – hosting predominantly black Clemson collegiate athletes exploited by the NCAA industrial complex (being) fed fast food.” Word.

    • The Faux Political System by the Numbers

      It’s sort of funny in a diabolical way: Trump a Russian agent. That’s the line that readers might expect from a remake of Back to the Future 1, 2, or 3, or a possible article from the National Enquirer… the stuff of science fiction, or fiction, or gossip. But the FBI, our national police, seem to have not much else to do than to cook up schemes of intrigue and espionage.

      There is something going on in the dimension of real politics and it can be expressed by the equation mr=ip squared, where m stands for mild, r stands for a reformer, i stands for identity, and p stands for politics. Try it with, say, a mild, but genuine reformer like Ralph Nader and see how the formula works, or an even milder reformer like Bernie Sanders and the result will be the same. Come to the political and economic table in the U.S. in the 21st century, propose mild reforms such as consumer protection, or addressing the effects of climate destruction, and the few and the wealthy, the oligarchs and plutocrats, will stop you in your tracks.

      Senator Bernie Sanders is the mildest of reformers, say with issues of student debt or of income inequality, but over the past few weeks his 2016 presidential campaign has been rocked by allegations of sexism (New York Times, January 2, 2019). No matter that the senator has apologized repeatedly and was committed to rooting out any semblance of sexism in his recent senate race in Vermont and in any potential future bids for higher office.

      The Women’s March slated for January 19, 2019, has already seen the headwinds of reactionary change banging at its door. A noble cause, the major organization behind the march has seen allegations of anti-Semitism leveled at it. The march has splintered into smaller groups that in some cases will march under a banner highlighted by specific identities. The formula mm=ip squared could be applied to the march, where mm stands for mass movement and ip equals identity politics squared. A casual observer might conclude that these candidates and causes begin to self-destruct under their own particular weight of issues, but the nefarious hand of other forces cannot be discounted. Dirty tricks is the name of the game with powerful forces on the right. COINTELPRO, the F.B.I.’s counterintelligence program of the 1960s and 1970s, comes to mind. However, sometimes dirty tricks cannot explain intolerance.

    • Green Party: Corbyn’s support would make People’s Vote unstoppable

      Amelia Womack, deputy leader of the Green Party, will today call on Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour front bench to throw their weight behind the campaign for a People’s Vote on Brexit.

      Womack will make the call during a speech at a rally for a People’s Vote in Parliament Square today at about 4pm [1].

      She is expected to call on Labour to “listen to its members” after a poll found 72% back a People’s Vote [2].

    • Democrats Are Afraid Of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Too. And That’s A Good Thing.

      In the last few days, both Politico and the New York Times have reported that freshman Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has ruffled the feathers of fellow congressional Democrats. Chief among the reasons for the tension? Ocasio-Cortez’s apparent support for progressive primary challenges against centrist Democrats.

      It’s one of the most significant ideas the young New York congresswoman has brought with her to Washington.

      That’s because turning the Democratic Party into a truly progressive force will require turning “primary” into a verb. The corporate Democrats who dominate the party’s power structure in Congress should fear losing their seats because they’re out of step with constituents. And Democratic voters should understand that if they want to change the party, the only path to do so is to change the people who represent them. Otherwise, the leverage of Wall Street and the military-industrial complex will continue to hold sway.

      These days, with fingers to the wind, incumbents often give lip service to proposals that have wide public support nationwide, such as Medicare for All (70 percent) and higher taxes on the wealthy (76 percent). But big gaps remain between what most congressional Democrats are willing to fight for and what their constituents actually want.

    • Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd

      Montana’s Legislature convened its regular 90-day session last week. And while the thousands of bills introduced run the gamut from great ideas to really bad ones, Montana Senate President, Bozeman Republican Scott Sales, went over the edge into pure theater of the absurd when he suggested sending $8 million of Montanans’ state tax dollars to build Donald Trump’s equally absurd $5.7 billion border wall for a non-existent “emergency.”

      The Montana Legislature has some very well-defined constitutional duties, primarily to write the state laws under which all Montanans live, pass bills establishing taxation to raise revenue for government operations and to appropriate money for the implementation of those operations.

      The Montana Constitution provides no authority or mandate to send Montana taxpayers’ dollars to the president for the expenses of federal government. In fact, Article 5, Section 11, (4) specifically states that: “A general appropriation bill shall contain only appropriations for the ordinary expenses of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, for interest on the public debt, and for public schools.” That is followed by (5), which states: “No appropriation shall be made for religious, charitable, industrial, educational or benevolent purposes to any private individual, private association, or private corporation not under control of the state.”

      In the meantime, as Trump’s shutdown achieves the dubious record as the longest in federal government history, the impacts on Montana’s furloughed federal workers and government agencies are escalating. The Washington Post, in an article on the shutdown’s effects on individual states, listed Montana as one of the top-ranked states for furloughed federal employees. These are our neighbors, Montana citizens, who are in the middle of winter without receiving their paychecks — nor are federal government contractors who run Montana businesses and pay Montana taxes.

    • Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative

      Is there such a plane of blissful, balanced information, deliberated and debated upon? No. Governments mangle; corporations distort. Interest groups tinker. Wars must be sold; deception must be perpetrated. Inconsistencies must be removed. There will be success, measured in small doses; failure, dispatched in grand servings. The nature of news, hollow as it is, is to fill the next segment for the next release, a promiscuous delivery, an amoral ejaculate. The notion a complicated world can somehow be compressed into a press release, a brief, an observation, is sinister and defeating.

      The believers in an objective, balanced news platform are there. Grants are forked out for such romantic notions as news with integrity, directed to increase “trust in news”, which is tantamount to putting your trust in an institution which has been placed on the mortician’s table. The Trump era has seen a spike in such funding, but it belies a fundamental misconception about what news is.

      Funny, then, that the environment should now be so neatly split: the Russians (always) seen to distort from a central programme, while no one else does. The Kremlin manipulates feeble minds; virtuous powers do not. The most powerful nation on the planet claims to be free of this, the same country that boasts cable news networks and demagoguery on the airwaves that have a distinct allergy against anything resembling balanced reporting, many backed by vast funding mechanisms for political projects overseas. Britain, faded yet still nostalgically imperial, remains pure with the BBC, known as the Beeb, a sort of immaculate conception of news that purportedly survives manipulation. Other deliverers of news through state channels also worship the idol of balance – Australia’s ABC, for one, asserts that role.

      We are the left with a distinct, and ongoing polarisation, where Russia, a country relatively less influential than other powers in terms of heft and demography, has become a perceived monster wielding the influence of a behemoth on the course of history. Shades and shadows assume the proportions of flesh and meat. The fact that the largest country on the planet has interests, paranoias and insecurities other countries share is not deemed relevant but a danger. Russia must be deemed the exception, the grand perversion, a modern beast in need of containment.

    • Beware the Emergency State

      It’s all happening according to schedule.

      The civil unrest, the national emergencies, “unforeseen economic collapse, loss of functioning political and legal order, purposeful domestic resistance or insurgency, pervasive public health emergencies, and catastrophic natural and human disasters,” the government’s reliance on the armed forces to solve domestic political and social problems, the implicit declaration of martial law packaged as a well-meaning and overriding concern for the nation’s security…

      The government has been planning and preparing for such a crisis for years now.

      No matter that this crisis is of the government’s own making.

      To those for whom power and profit are everything, the end always justifies the means.

      This latest brouhaha over President Trump’s threat to declare a national emergency in order to build a border wall is more manufactured political theater, a Trojan Horse intended to camouflage the real threat to our freedoms: yet another expansion of presidential power exposing us to constitutional peril.

    • The Trump Dictatorship

      The only redeeming aspect to Trump’s presidency is he brings us back to basics. And what could be more basic than the difference between democracy and dictatorship?

      Democracy is about means, not ends. If we all agreed on the ends (such as whether to build a wall along the Mexican border) there’d be no need for democracy.

      But of course we don’t agree, which is why the means by which we resolve our differences are so important. Those means include a Constitution, a system of government based on the rule of law, and an independent judiciary.

      A dictatorship, by contrast, is only about ends. Those ends are the goals of the dictator – preserving and accumulating personal power. To achieve those ends, a dictator will use any means necessary.

      Which brings us back to Trump.

    • The Republican Party Is a Pack of Cowards

      Let me see if I have this straight: Over the course of this past weekend, the president of the United States of America was exposed as being the target of a 2017 counter-intelligence investigation by the FBI. The FBI initiated its unprecedented investigation after Donald Trump fired then-Director James Comey but before Robert Mueller was tapped to begin his own investigation, because the agency feared the president might be working for the Russian government.

      Hours later, The Washington Post revealed that Trump has made a practice of confiscating notes taken by the translators during meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and furthermore sworn those translators to absolute secrecy: Not even officials within Trump’s own investigation were allowed to see what he and Putin had discussed.

      “As a result,” reported The Post, “US officials said there is no detailed record, even in classified files, of Trump’s face-to-face interactions with the Russian leader at five locations over the past two years. Such a gap would be unusual in any presidency, let alone one that Russia sought to install through what US intelligence agencies have described as an unprecedented campaign of election interference.”

      Yeah, no, that’s not at all creepy. It all sounds exactly as innocent as Jared Kushner attempting to open back-channel communications with Russian officials during the 2017 transition, with Kushner suggesting they use Russian diplomatic facilities and equipment in order to try and thwart National Security Agency monitoring. Exactly as not creepy as that.

      Another week, another barrage of horrors from the White House, and still the Republicans in Congress and the party apparatus refuse to say or do anything that could so much as so much as ruffle the coif of Russia’s favorite TV star. Even the faintest meeps of displeasure are muffled now that senators like Bob Corker and Jeff Flake have gone home to lick their wounds.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Culture Ministry rejects Russian pop star’s proposal to increase music censorship

      The actor and singer-songwriter Dima Bilan has offered to create a new government agency that would determine the quality of musical works before they are released, the BBC Russian Service reported. Bilan, who placed second in the Eurovision song contest in 2006 and won in 2008, argued for his proposal during a festival in Abu Dhabi.

      “What’s happening right now in Western music is chaos. If we can somehow stick to our national traditions anyway so that we don’t fall into a pile of absolute trash and lawlessness, it might be worth putting together some kind of framework […] I’m open-minded, but what’s happening right now is overkill,” the musician said.

    • The lawmaker behind some of Russia’s latest draconian legislation offers his own questionable ideas about defamation and corruption

      The legislation banning online content that disrespects the authorities is my initiative, but it so happens that the Kremlin also supports it. It’s illegal to insult state officials in the street, so why should it be allowed on the Internet? The same restrictions exist in Germany and Belgium. (Germany does indeed ban “criminal defamation” of public officials, the head of state, and the state itself, including symbols of the state, imposing penalties as high as five years in prison. There is no special punishment for this activity when it’s online, however. Belgian law only imposes penalties on defamation of state officials when the offense is carried out in the victim’s presence — including over the telephone. Russia, moreover, already criminalizes insulting state officials in public, with a maximum punishment of one year of community service.)

      The word “gosdura” (state-idiot) can only be used in a joke. Where there is humor, far more is permissible. “Reporting corruption does not qualify as disrespecting the authorities — that’s 100 percent the case.” Navalny is wrong: I’m not corrupt, and I’ve declared all my assets. And even if I left something out, “that isn’t corruption.” (Senator Klishas argues that state officials who fail to declare all their property aren’t guilty of corruption. “Corruption means breaking the law. It means receiving certain material benefits in exchange for actions that serve others’ interests,” he explained. Admittedly, this is exactly how anti-corruption legislation in Russia defines the concept. The same law, however, says that auditing income declarations and penalizing officials for inaccuracies is one of the government’s main measures to prevent corruption.) Navalny simply miscalculated the size of my estate in Switzerland.

    • How a NeoCon-Backed “Fact Checker” Plans to Wage War on Independent Media

      Soon after the social media “purge” of independent media sites and pages this past October, a top neoconservative insider — Jamie Fly — was caught stating that the mass deletion of anti-establishment and anti-war pages on Facebook and Twitter was “just the beginning” of a concerted effort by the U.S. government and powerful corporations to silence online dissent within the United States and beyond.

      While a few, relatively uneventful months in the online news sphere have come and gone since Fly made this ominous warning, it appears that the neoconservatives and other standard bearers of the military-industrial complex and the U.S. oligarchy are now poised to let loose their latest digital offensive against independent media outlets that seek to expose wrongdoing in both the private and public sectors.

      As MintPress News Editor-in-Chief Mnar Muhawesh recently wrote, MintPress was informed that it was under review by an organization called Newsguard Technologies, which described itself to MintPress as simply a “news rating agency” and asked Muhawesh to comment on a series of allegations, several of which were blatantly untrue. However, further examination of this organization reveals that it is funded by and deeply connected to the U.S. government, neo-conservatives, and powerful monied interests, all of whom have been working overtime since the 2016 election to silence dissent to American forever-wars and corporate-led oligarchy.

    • Federal Court Says Iowa’s Ag Gag Law Is Unconstitutional

      As farms have found themselves scrutinized for their practices, there’s been a legislative desire to cover questionable actions under the protective garb of opacity. Ag lobbyists have successfully pushed for laws criminalizing the exposure of facts. As a bonus, they’ve also secured legislation labeling animal rights activists and others concerned about farm animal well-being as “terrorists.”

      The victories have been short-lived. Anyone not completely consumed by self-interest would recognize the laws violate the First Amendment by preventing fact-gathering or dissemination of observations by those who’ve bluffed their way onto farms precisely to uncover abusive practices. Courts are overturning these laws, but that’s not stopping anyone from writing new ones just as unconstitutionally sound. Fortunately, a recent federal court decision [PDF] adds to the ammo opponents of these laws can use to bring them down.

    • The Internet is Facing a Catastrophe For Free Expression and Competition: Sweden, Germany, Poland and Luxembourg Could Tip The Balance

      Taken together, these two rules will subject huge swaths of online expression to interception and arbitrary censorship, and give the largest news companies in Europe the power to decide who can discuss and criticise their reporting, and undermining public-interest, open-access journalism.

      The Directive is now in the hands of the European member-states. National ministers are going to decide whether or not Europe becomes a global exporter of censorship and surveillance. Your voice counts: when you contact your ministers, you are speaking as one citizen to another, in a national context, about issues of import to you and your neighbours. Your national government depends on your goodwill to win the votes to continue its mandate. This is a rare moment in European lawmaking when local connections from citizens matter more than well-funded, international corporations.

    • A Nazi Romance Movie Versus Memes: When Copyright Shuts Down Criticism

      In theory, here is how copyright and speech are supposed to interact: copyright grants certain exclusive rights—including the right to make and sell copies of a work—for a limited period of time. The idea is that this will incentivize creativity and innovation by providing people a way to make money selling their creations.

      However, exclusive ability to make use of words, images, etc. naturally runs against free speech rights. So, in order to mediate this conflict, we have the right to make use of copyrighted material without permission and payment under certain circumstances. That’s fair use, and it’s really important.

      One important form of fair use is criticism. The most effective, clear way to criticize something is to share part of it and then break down what is wrong with it. If the goal is to save people from spending money on something that is bad, then people have the right to not only say something is not good, but show why.

      And using copyright to try to stop people from critiquing your work is obviously in bad faith. It is also a very obvious way to censor speech.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • U.S. Judge Rules Fingerprint, Face Unlock Are Protected Just Like Passwords

      The Fifth Amendment of the US constitution forbids police from forcing you to disclose your phone’s PIN or password, but courts have ruled that protection doesn’t apply to a fingerprint or face unlock. Now, that might be changing.

      Here’s how it went down: a warrant was filed in Oakland requesting a raid and seizure of personal property, which included access to all mobile devices—even ones that are locked with biometric data. But a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dropped the hammer, ruling the request was too much, claiming it was “neither limited to a particular person nor device.” In other words, the police wanted a blanket option to force unlocking of all devices on the property, and the judge simply that it was too much.

    • GoDaddy is sneakily injecting JavaScript into your website and how to stop it

      I recently started having issues with the admin interface of a website I run and decided to check the browser console to see if any errors were being displayed there. There were and among them was an error stating that a JavaScript map file being loaded (and failing) that I did not recognise. This meant that the actual JavaScript file itself was already loaded via my website. This set off all sorts of alarms for me and I started to dig in further.

    • Project Alias hacks Amazon Echo and Google Home to protect your privacy

      Fungi of the rain forest can be nasty parasites. Eager to reproduce, they’ll infect a far larger, more powerful insect, taking control of its brain, and using its strength against it–animating the zombie insect to climb to the far reaches of the rain forest canopy. The insect dies, of course, but the spores are released in the perfect spot, giving the fungus its best chance of living on.

      Project Alias is the technological equivalent to parasitic fungus. But instead of latching onto an insect, it latches onto a Google Home or Amazon Alexa device–taking control of their strengths for its own purposes. Project Alias serves as a gatekeeper between you and big corporations. It effectively deafens the home assistant when you don’t want it listening, and brings it to life when you do.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • A new report reveals the hidden mechanisms authorities use to restrict protests in Russia

      Article 31 of the Russian Constitution states that citizens of the Russian Federation “shall have the right to assemble peacefully.” However, when protests are not approved by local authorities, those who join them can face arrest, professional consequences, and even criminal charges. The anti-corruption protests that swept Russia on March 26 and June 12, 2017, as well as the Voters’ Boycott marches of January 28, 2018, largely fell into this category of “unsanctioned” demonstrations, and hundreds of people were detained by police during each event. According to the media project OVD-Info, which reports on and combats political persecution in Russia, the process by which local governments approve or reject public gatherings remained until very recently an almost total secret—one that allowed authorities to maintain control over “how a public event proceeds, how the media covers different gatherings, and sometimes even the fates of those who participate in protests.” Natalya Smirnova and Denis Shedov of OVD-Info recently released a 75-page investigative report in Russian detailing the inconsistent norms and frequent pitfalls that await protest organizers at every stage of that process. We at Meduza read the report so you don’t have to.

    • Here is the Progressive Agenda

      Clintonite corporatists still control the Democratic National Committee despite their long string of failure at the polls. But the overwhelming majority of Democratic Party voters—72%—are self-identified progressives.

      44% of House primary candidates in 2018 self-IDed as progressive. If you’re after the Democratic nomination for president you have to be—or pretend to be—progressive. Even Hillary Clinton claimed to be “a progressive who gets things done.”

      All the top likely contenders for 2020 claim to be progressive—but they would prefer that voters ignore their voting records and unsavory donors. “Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris have spent the past two years racing to the leftmost edge of respectable opinion,” reports New York magazine. “In recent weeks, they have also all reached out to Wall Street executives, in hopes of securing some funding for their prospective presidential campaign.” It does no good for your heart to be in the right place if your ass is owned by bankers.

      “You don’t just get to say that you’re progressive,” Representative Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told progressive donors recently.

      Jayapal, a Washington Democrat, called the 2020 election a chance to “leverage our power.” She says it’s critical “that we have some very clear guidelines about what it means to be progressive.”

      Here are those guidelines.

      You can’t be a progressive unless you favor a big hike in the minimum wage. Elizabeth Warren, the first pretty-much-declared candidate for 2020, wants $15 an hour. But she told a 2013 Senate hearing that it would be $22 if it had kept up with increases in worker productivity. The official inflation rate makes that $24 today. And according to the real inflation rate (the official number as it was calculated before the Labor Department downgraded the calculation in 1980 and 1990) at ShadowStats.com, $22 in 2013 comes to at least $35 today.

    • Bricks in the Wall

      The point was less to actually build “the wall” than to constantly announce the building of the wall. “We started building our wall. I’m so proud of it,” Donald Trump tweeted. “What a thing of beauty.”

      In fact, no wall, or certainly not the “big, fat, beautiful” one promised by Trump, is being built. True, miles of some kind of barrier — barbed wire, chain-link and steel-slat fencing, corrugated panels, and, yes, even lengths of what can only be described as concrete wall — have gone up along the U.S.-Mexico border, starting at least as far back as the administration of President William Taft, early in the last century. Trump has claimed repairs and expansions of these barriers as proof that he is fulfilling his signature campaign promise. Plaques have already been bolted onto upgrades in existing fencing, crediting him with work started and funded by previous administrations.

      And yet Trump’s phantasmagorical wall, whether it ever materializes or not, has become a central artifact in American politics. Think of his promise of a more than 1,000-mile-long, 30-foot-high ribbon of concrete and steel running along the southern border of the United States as America’s new myth. It is a monument to the final closing of the frontier, a symbol of a nation that used to believe it had escaped history, but now finds itself trapped by history, and of a people who used to believe they were captains of the future, but now are prisoners of the past.

    • Matthew Whitaker Is Shaping Immigration Law Per Trump’s Agenda

      On December 3, 2018, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker took the statistically rare step of “self-referral”: He assumed authority over a question of immigration law on which the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) had ruled, in its own normal course and purview, in 2017.

      The BIA, the appellate panel that reviews decisions of the immigration courts, had, in the case Matter of L-E-A, dealt with the question that Whitaker is now positing for himself, issuing his referral less than a month after his November 7 appointment by President Trump as acting attorney general. In his own words, the inquiry is: “Whether, and under what circumstances, an alien may establish persecution on account of membership in a ‘particular social group’ … based on the alien’s membership in a family unit.”

      According to The New York Times, pending before US Citizenship and Immigration Services is an asylum application for Victorina Morales and her family. Morales is an undocumented housekeeper who worked illegally at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, for more than five years. Her application is based on her membership in a family unit — coincidentally or not, strikingly similar to the question Whitaker has now certified to himself. The White House declined to comment on The New York Times’s article about Morales, printed December 7, 2018.

      It was expected that a decision would be rendered after January 18, 2019: the deadline that Whitaker had set for briefs. Whitaker postponed the deadline amid the ongoing government shutdown, and plans to revise the briefing schedule at an undetermined time, once the government reopens.

    • 5.5 Million Women Build Their Wall

      On Jan. 1, 5.5 million women in the Indian state of Kerala (population 35 million) built a 386-mile wall with their bodies. They stood from one end to the other of this long state in southwestern India. The women gathered at 4 p.m. and took a vow to defend the renaissance traditions of their state and to work towards women’s empowerment. It is not an exaggeration to say that this was one of the largest mobilizations of women in the world for women’s rights. It is certainly larger than the historical Women’s March in Washington, D.C. in 2017.

      Kerala’s government is run by the Communists. It is not easy for a left-wing government to operate in a state within the Indian union. The Central Government in New Delhi has little desire to assist Kerala, which suffered a cataclysmic flood last year. No assistance with the budgetary burdens of relief and reconstruction, and no help with financing for infrastructure and welfare services. The Communist government has a wide-ranging agenda that runs from its Green Kerala Mission — a project for stewardship of the state’s beautiful environment — to its fight for women’s emancipation. The Left Democratic Front government believes that dignity is a crucial a goal as economic rights, and that it is centrally important to fight against everyday humiliation to build a truly just society.

      Over the course of the left’s government in Kerala, it has pushed ahead the agenda against everyday humiliation. For instance, in 2017, the government provided free sanitary pads for young women in school. The logic was that during their periods, young women who could not afford sanitary pads avoided school. Prejudices against menstruation had become a barrier to equal education. The government called this project “She Pad,” which benefited students and teachers. Pinarayi Vijayan, the Chief Minister of Kerala, said of the effort, “Menstrual hygiene is every girl’s right. The government is hoping that initiatives like these will help our girls to lead a life of confidence.”

    • The Groveland Four: Florida Pardons Men Falsely Accused in Jim Crow-Era Rape Case in 1949

      Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has granted posthumous pardons to four young African-American men accused of raping a white woman near Groveland, Florida, in 1949. Two men were brutally murdered as a result of the false accusations. The case is now seen as a racially charged miscarriage of justice emblematic of the Jim Crow South. The story of the “Groveland Four,” now 70 years old, has continued to haunt the state of Florida. We speak with Gilbert King, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America,” and Carol Greenlee, daughter of Charles Greenlee, one of the Groveland Four.

    • Russian media conglomerate co-founder takes leave of absence following rape and assault allegations

      On January 3, Yekaterina Fedorova, a journalist for the Radio Europe/Radio Free Liberty project Sibir.Realii, alleged in a Facebook post that Aleksey Migunov physically and sexually assaulted her in her home on October 13, 2018. Migunov is a co-founder of PrimaMedia, a conglomerate of news agencies covering several eastern and southern Russian regions. He is currently on voluntary leave.

      According to Fedorova, she and Migunov met in 2015, worked together for a period of time, and maintained contact afterward. On October 13, she wrote, they arranged to meet in a café, but Migunov arrived drunk and ordered additional alcoholic beverages for both of them despite Fedorova’s opposition. She alleged that Migunov then insisted on walking her to her apartment, began hitting and biting her, and forced himself on her. Fedorova wrote that she photographed her face but did not turn to the police, saying she feared additional humiliation and suspected that Migunov “could cover up anything.” She described injuries on her skin and ears and concluded, “I am not OK.”

      On January 6, Migunov responded to the allegations. He negated Fedorova’s version of events unequivocally, writing that “there was no violence and no rape whatsoever.” Migunov wrote that offering details regarding his account of that evening would be contrary to his upbringing but accused Fedorova of “manipulations of facts” and “numerous lies” stemming from personal conflicts of interest. He also reported receiving messages from men who had “paid their way out” after similar encounters with Fedorova, who mentioned one past instance of harassment in her own post.

    • The Kremlin’s TV pundits are hip rappers, too, ‘bro’

      Do you enjoy cringing? If so, you’re invited to watch a new “rap” performance by the state television pundit Dmitry Kiselyov, who made a guest appearance on one of his network’s comedy shows this Thursday to promote his upcoming rap festival in Crimea.

      In early December 2018, Kiselyov spent nearly 15 minutes of his prime-time news show defending rappers from a nationwide police crackdown, going so far as to recite some poetry by Vladimir Mayakovsky, whom he credits with inspiring Russia’s rap tradition (contrary to popular belief that the genre was imported “from Black America”). Dressed as “MC Kiselyov,” he rapped about “scolding America,” “sticking a gas pipeline on [Western] sanctions,” and mocked Theresa May and Angela Merkel for frowning more, thanks to Russia’s self-assertive foreign policy.

    • As Senate Hearings Begin, Calls to Block ‘Trump Enabler’ William Barr From Becoming Next AG

      “William Barr is Brett Kavanaugh all over again: A bigoted nominee hand-picked to give Donald Trump a pass when it comes to the Russia investigation,” declared Heidi Hess, co-director of Credo Action, which is circulating a “Reject William Barr” petition that has so far garnered over 100,000 signatures. “Democrats should demand that Barr affirm publicly under oath that he will defend and publicly release the Mueller report and, more importantly, that the president is not above the law.”

      Formerly the Attorney General under President George H.W. Bush, Barr was nominated in December to succeed former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who Trump fired just hours after the November midterm elections.

      And while Sessions was fiercely opposed by civil rights groups as he carried out Trump’s racist agenda during his tenure as head of the Justice Department, Vanita Gupta—president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights—argued that Barr’s record and extremist views raise the alarming prospect that, if confirmed, he could be “Jeff Sessions 2.0.”

    • William Barr Has a Long History of Abusing Civil Rights and Liberties in the Name of ‘National Security’

      Barr’s ideas of secret trials, profiling, and discrimination must face congressional scrutiny during his confirmation hearings.
      On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin hearings on William Barr’s nomination to be the next attorney general of the United States, offering senators an opportunity to scrutinize his record and views.

      Such scrutiny is especially crucial in the Trump era. As we’ve seen throughout his time in office, from imposing the Muslim ban to the recent shutdown fight over border wall funding, President Trump has tried to use “national security” as a pretext to justify discriminatory or otherwise illegal policies.

      That’s why his nomination of William Barr should concern everyone — because Barr has a long record of doing the same thing during the George H.W. Bush administration. If confirmed to be Trump’s attorney general, Barr could enable the president to act on many of his worst instincts.

    • This Is How American Democracy Ends

      For the time being, President Trump has toned down his threat to declare a national emergency to pay for his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Addressing a White House roundtable Friday afternoon, Trump continued to insist that he has the “absolute right” to issue an emergency decree. But, he added, “I’m not going to do it so fast.”

      While Trump’s announcement is welcome news to anyone concerned with human rights and rational immigration policy, it’s important to remember that our 45th commander in chief can’t be trusted. As long as the president’s lips move, there’s a good chance he’s lying.

      Even if he wasn’t prevaricating on Friday, he could change his mind in a moment, egged on by the likes of Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh over the airwaves, and encouraged by GOP senatorial apparatchiks such as South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, who has become one of the president’s loudest enablers.

      The problem, however, isn’t just that we have a mendacious crypto-fascist in the White House who looks to other crypto-fascists for counsel and succor. The problem is that the National Emergencies Act (NEA), passed in 1976 and which Trump would invoke to get his way, makes it easy for any president to declare emergencies. Trump’s threat to deploy extraordinary powers to counter a fake crisis on our southern boundary should spark a clarion call to reexamine, repeal and replace the NEA.

    • Sixth Circuit Appeals Court Latest To Say It’s Cool If The FBI Broke The Law During Its Playpen Investigation

      The seventh Appeals Court to weigh in [PDF] on the FBI’s Network Investigative Technique deployed in the Playpen child porn investigation has weighed in. Unfortunately, it makes the Sixth Circuit the seventh appeals court to find the FBI’s warrant problematic, but willing to apply the “good faith” band-aid.

      The problem with the application of the “good faith exception” is it assumes good faith on behalf of the FBI. There’s no reason to believe the FBI acted in good faith, though. While it was in the process of obtaining a single warrant allowing it to search computers all over the world, it was well aware Rule 41 limited searches to the jurisdiction where the warrant was obtained. It knew this because the DOJ was in the process of asking the Supreme Court and Congress to change Rule 41 to remove the jurisdiction limits while it was pursuing this investigation.

      The Appeals Court grants good faith anyway, despite this background. It does do us (and the appellant) the favor of discussing good faith in light of the DOJ’s simultaneous attempt to codify searches it was already performing, but just because the discussion is expanded a bit doesn’t mean it makes much sense. Here’s the opening of the Sixth Circuit’s federal forgiveness pitch…

    • McDonald’s Is Serving Up Sexual Harassment

      We’re helping to launch litigation against McDonald’s, which female workers across the U.S. say has ignored harassment in its restaurants.
      McDonald’s isn’t just a fast-food restaurant. It’s an American institution, with sales of $37.6 billion in 2017. And we don’t just flock there as customers. The company employs more than 1 million people at its U.S. corporate offices and more than 14,000 franchise stores. Indeed, according to one estimate, nearly 13 percent of all Americans have worked for the company at some point in its history.

      But in the past few years, female McDonald’s employees have begun speaking out about the ugly cost of serving up Big Macs: egregious sexual harassment. Most recently, in May 2018, 10 women working in McDonald’s restaurants stretching from California to Florida filed charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — the first step toward a federal civil rights lawsuit — alleging a wide range of unchecked harassment, perpetrated by supervisors and co-workers. And on Sept. 18, 2018, thousands of McDonald’s workers in 10 cities protested the company’s culture of harassment by walking off the job. As one striking worker from Chicago put it at the time, “You will hear us today. We will not stay silent anymore.”

      On Monday, the ACLU joined forces with the Fight for $15 movement and the law firms of Altshuler Berzon LLP and Outten & Golden LLP to lay the groundwork for the next wave of EEOC harassment charges against the company. As one of the country’s largest employers and the most profitable fast-food chain, McDonald’s must be held accountable.

      The misconduct documented in the pending EEOC charges runs the gamut from sexually explicit comments to improper touching. In Chicago, for instance, a manager asked a female employee, “How many dicks can you fit in your hole?” Women have reported unwanted hugging, back rubs, spanking, and intentional “brushing up” against them. Some said they were trapped in supply closets and pestered for dates. One woman alleged that a male manager she worked with threatened to expose his genitals to her.

    • ‘Not Qualified’: Critics Decry Bigoted Views of Trump’s Pick to Replace Kavanaugh on DC Circuit Court

      President Donald Trump is hoping to fill Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s former seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit with a former law professor whose early writings on the government and justice betrayed misogynist and bigoted views—leaving critics concerned on Monday that the president is remaking the country’s second-highest court in his own image.

      As Buzzfeed reported, Neomi Rao is currently an administrator in Trump’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs who has never served as a judge. Before her career in government and as a law professor, Rao attended Yale University, graduating in 1995. During her time at Yale and just after graduating Rao wrote a number of troubling essays and articles about rape survivors, the poor, and race relations.

    • Majority of Americans Blame Trump for Shutdown, Polls Find

      Last month, President Trump said he would be “proud” to shut down the government if Democrats didn’t vote for a federal budget that included money for a U.S.-Mexico border wall. “I will be the one to shut it down,” he said in a Dec. 11 meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Ten days later, he abandoned that promise. In a video Tweet, Trump said, “Call it a Democrat shutdown. Call it whatever you want.” Now, 24 days into the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, a new poll suggests that despite his attempts at deflection, most Americans blame the president.

      Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed say they believe Trump is at least partially responsible, according to the latest HuffPost/YouGov tracking poll—an increase from the 49 to 51 percent who said the same thing in the early weeks of the shutdown. And the longer the shutdown continues, the more those polled see it as a danger. The portion of respondents who believe the shutdown is “very serious” jumped to 50 percent last week, up from 29 percent in the version of the survey taken right before Christmas.

    • China Sentences Canadian to Death, Raises Diplomatic Tension

      A Chinese court sentenced a Canadian man to death Monday in a sudden retrial in a drug smuggling case that is likely to escalate tensions between the countries over the arrest of a top Chinese technology executive.

      The court in northeastern Liaoning province announced that it had given Robert Lloyd Schellenberg the death penalty after rejecting his plea of innocence and convicting him of being an accessory to drug smuggling. It gave no indication that the penalty could be commuted, but Schellenberg’s fate could become intertwined in diplomatic negotiations over China’s demand for the top executive’s release.

      Schellenberg was detained more than four years ago and initially sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2016. But suddenly last month, an appeals court agreed with prosecutors who said the sentence was too lenient, and scheduled Monday’s retrial with just four days’ notice.

    • TSA Strike? As Trump and GOP Refuse to End Shutdown, Call Grows for Federal Workers to Rise Up

      As the current partial government shutdown has become the longest in U.S. history—even with the latest polls showing President Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans increasingly seen as the ones to blame for the crisis—it remains to be seen how the Democrats, with no reason to give ground, can apply enough pressure to bring the current impasse to an end.

      But according to journalist and activist Barbara Ehrenreich and veteran labor organizer Gary Stevenson, it’s possible that the best bet—and in their minds, a key opportunity—is for the hundreds of thousands of federal employees now furloughed or forced to work without pay to take matters into their own hands.

      While acknowledging how “painful” the shutdown has been for federal workers and their families locked out of work for more than three weeks, Ehrenreich and Stevenson argue in a New York Times op-ed published Monday that the current political deadlock between the two major political parties is “also an opportunity for labor to take a stand.”

    • Number of No-Shows Jumps Among Airport Security Screeners

      The number of airport security screeners failing to show up for work around the country is soaring as the partial government shutdown goes into its fourth week.

      No-shows among screeners jumped Sunday and again Monday, when the Transportation Security Administration reported a national absence rate of 7.6 percent compared with 3.2 percent on a comparable day a year ago. Monday marked the first business day after screeners did not receive a paycheck for the first time since the shutdown began.

      At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s busiest, some passengers waited more than an hour to get through checkpoints. The airport reported the long lines on its website Monday morning, showing the hour-plus waits at all three checkpoints in the domestic terminal.

    • Amos Oz and the Real Israel

      It is important to understand that his support for two states made Oz a “moderate” among Zionists and consigned him to the political margins of Israeli politics. Mainstream Israeli politics could not abide his assertion that a real peace required that the Palestinians have their own separate “Arab state” in the West Bank and Gaza, alongside Zionist Israel. Likewise, the support for a two-state solution automatically set him against the maximalist formula—a Zionist state from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River—propounded by a hardline conservative element of the Zionist movement. The position of this element has become the political standard for an increasing number of Israeli Jewish citizens.

      Oz’s opposition to the maximalist Zionist position made him ipso facto a serious opponent of the Israeli occupation. The occupation, insatiably expansive as it has proven to be, was the death knell of the two-state dream, and Oz despised the Israeli politicians who refused to make the necessary compromises for such a peace. He thought of them as “cowards” and they thought of him as a “traitor.”

      Oz “felt himself a man possessed of moral clarity but denigrated for it in a country that could not make the difficult decisions he felt necessary.” Nonetheless, he remained a patriot. He confessed, “I love Israel even when I can not stand it.”

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Frontier Hammered By Minnesota AG For Its Refusal To Repair Its Broadband Network

      For years we’ve explored how the nation’s phone companies don’t really even want to be in the broadband business. They routinely refuse to upgrade their networks, yet often lobby to ensure nobody else can deliver broadband in these neglected footprints either. Telcos in particular have a bizarre disdain for their paying customers, delivering the bare minimum (slow DSL) at the highest rates they can possibly charge without a full-scale consumer revolt. It’s not surprising then that many telco DSL customers are fleeing to cable, assuming they even have a second option for broadband.

      This dynamic often results in some absurd dysfunction. Like in West Virginia, where incumbent telco Frontier has repeatedly been busted in a series of scandals involving substandard service and the misuse of taxpayer money. The graft and corruption in the state is so severe, state leaders have buried reports, and, until recently, a Frontier executive did double duty as a state representative without anybody in the state thinking that was a conflict of interest.

    • AT&T Execs Think It’s Really Funny They Misled Consumers About 5G Availability

      So earlier this month, we noted how AT&T had pissed off competitors and consumers alike by pretending its existing fourth generation wireless network (4G) was actually 5G. More specifically, AT&T has been changing the “4G” icon on its customers phones to say “5G E,” despite the fact that actual 5G service at scale is still probably several years away. Technically, AT&T simply took some of the improvements it recently added to its 4G networks (like better MIMO antennas and more efficient 256 QAM technologies), and decided to call this “5G Evolution” in a bid to pretend it was the first to launch actual 5G.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • How is the USPTO Operating During the Federal Government Shutdown?

      Absent a more creative solution, the current Federal Government shutdown will continue until a new appropriations law is passed by Congress and signed by the President (or veto-overridden). The Patent Office (USPTO) is caught-up in this, but in a little bit of a quirky way.

      The USPTO is a fee funded agency. Generally, patent applicants pay the USPTO, and the USPTO uses that money to pay the examiners. However, Congress has not provided USPTO with authority to simply spend whatever it collects. Rather Congress declares annual appropriation amounts that may be spent – if collected. If the USPTO brings-in more funds than appropriated then it can put those funds in a “Patent and Trademark Fee Reserve Fund” held by the US Treasury.

      And, under the Patent Act, the USPTO can only spend funds that have been appropriated to the Agency. As a consequence, the USPTO cannot spend new-money coming in the door and it cannot spend money in the aforementioned Reserve Fund (that is empty anyway).

    • After mixed Day 5 of FTC v. Qualcomm antitrust trial, irrelevant German ruling to be handed down later

      Day 5 of the FTC v. Qualcomm antitrust trial just concluded. It was the most eventful and interesting day of the first half of this bench trial. The morning and the early afternoon were a total disaster for Qualcomm, but toward the end Qualcomm had its strongest hour to date.

    • PTAB Issues Final Written Decision in Cannabis Patent IPR

      On January 3, 2019, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) issued a Final Written Decision in Insys Development Co., Inc. v. GW Pharma Ltd. (IPR2017-00503), a landmark inter partes review (IPR) decision involving a cannabis patent. Although the PTAB found claims 1 and 2 to be unpatentable as obvious, the remaining 11 claims that were challenged survived and remain valid (and potentially enforceable).

      At issue in this IPR was U.S. Patent No. 9,066,920 (“the ’920 Patent,” entitled “Use of one or a combination of phyto-cannabinoids in the treatment of epilepsy”), which was originally assigned to GW Pharma Ltd. and Otsuka Pharmaceuticals Co., Ltd.

    • Bruno Latour, Mario Biagioli, and the Rhetoric of “Balance” in IP Law (and Climate Change)

      Thus, we might think Latour would be sympathetic to so-called climate change deniers, who greet with skepticism the science community’s conclusions about humans’ impact on global warming. As Szalai puts it in her review, Latour “has spent a career studying how knowledge is socially constructed.” So, surely, “[the] kind of postmodernism” that lies behind the “conservative tradition” of “performing a skepticism so extreme that it makes the ancient Greek skeptics look like babes in the woods[]” would appeal to him. But it’s not so, Szalai writes. To the contrary, Latour sees “[s]uch pretensions to reality-creating grandeur” as “amount[ing] to little more than a vulgar, self-defeating cynicism.” Perhaps even Bruno Latour, in the end, was a “realist” — at least when it comes to some things.

      Revisiting Latour’s skepticism of facts, I can’t help but wonder (although I think I know) what Latour would say about patents. This brings me to a gem that I was lucky to get ahold of over break: an article by esteemed historian of science and expert on the Scientific Revolution, and now a law professor at the University of California Davis School of Law, Mario Biagioli. Adding another layer of irony, everything in this post will be colored by fact that Mairo is a long-time mentor and supervised my undergraduate thesis in the Department of History of Science at Harvard. His paper, Patent Republic, tracing the development of the patent system from the Venetian Republic to early America, inspired me to study IP.

      We might initially assume Biagioli’s article, entitled Weighing intellectual property: can we balance the costs and benefits of patenting?, is another article addressing the costs and benefits of IP, and bemoaning the deficits in the empirical evidence. Biagioli’s conclusion that “we are unable to measure the benefits that IP has for inventors or the costs it has for the public” might remind readers, for example, of Mark Lemley’s now-famous critique of what Lemley calls “faith-based IP.” Lemley argued provocatively that despite, or because of, inconclusive evidence on the utilitarian benefits of IP, such as promoting innovation and disclosure of technical information, “more and more scholars have begun to retreat from evidence … justifying IP as a moral end in itself rather than on the basis of how it affects the world.”

      [...]

      I am reminded of how IP proponents and IP opponents use the Lockean proviso. Does Locke’s maxim that people develop “natural rights” in the fruits of their labor, but only so long as there is “enough, and as good, left in common for others,” provide a reason to weaken intellectual property rights, or counterintuitively help to justify them? While some might think only the former, Robert Merges would likely suggest the proviso is representative of a “midlevel principle” in favor of “proportionality” in calibrating IP rights—i.e., the requirement that “the grant or reward be proportional to effort or contribution.” Professor Merges’ Proportionality Principle can help to justify continued protection of intellectual property rights so long as the commitment to proportionality is upheld.

      To give another classic example, Biagioli points to William Nordhaus’ article on how to calculate the optimal patent term. (Biagioli, 4). In Invention, Growth and Welfare (1969), Nordhaus conceptualized patents as a “trade-off” between the goal of more innovation, and the goal of free competition and avoiding monopolies. What Nordhaus sought, literally, was the proper balance between longer patents, on the one hand, and higher prices and more deadweight loss, on the other.

    • Iran Ranks 21st in Nanotechnology Patent Registrations in 2018

      In 2018, 13,050 5 patent applications have been filed in two American and European offices, with Iran registering 42 patents and growing 68 percent year-on-year to be placed in the 21 place.

      Since 2010, Statnano.com has used scientific methods and an appropriate search to extract nanotechnology statistics and information from reputable sources to publish them. It is the reference of researchers and policy makers in the world.

    • Trademarks

      • Netflix sued by Choose Your Own Adventure publishers over Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

        The publisher of the Choose Your Own Adventure book series is suing Netflix over its interactive Black Mirror episode Bandersnatch. Chooseco filed its lawsuit against Netflix today in a Vermont court, accusing Netflix of willfully infringing on the “Choose Your Own Adventure” trademark and claiming that the episode is so dark it will tarnish the books’ reputation.

      • Netflix hit with a Choose Your Own Adventure lawsuit over Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

        According to the official complaint, which can be seen at the bottom of this story, Netflix has been in negotiations with Chooseco over a license for the series since 2016, but Chooseco says Netflix never actually gained permission to use it. After the release of Black Mirror: Bandersnatch late last month, Chooseco has filed a complaint against Netflix for $25 million in damages, as the company says that Netflix’s new movie benefits from association with the Choose Your Own Adventure series, without the company ever receiving the trademark.

        This isn’t the first time that Chooseco has dealt with Netflix. In the complaint, Chooseco says that it sent a cease-and-desist request to the streaming company at least once over the Choose Your Own Adventure trademark in the past.

      • Netflix sued over ‘Black Mirror’ movie by ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book publisher

        The two companies were in licensing negotiations in early 2016, but Netflix never received permission to use the trademark, according to the lawsuit.

        The publisher also objected to the association with violence in the film, according to the outlet.

    • Copyrights

      • 10 Best Kodi Live TV Addons For Streaming Live Channels | Working Addons 2019

        Kodi is one of the most popular media players mainly because of its versatility. With the help of Kodi addons, you can use the XBMC owned media player for streaming movies, music and even games. It is an open source software that is free to use, and with new Kodi repositories coming by the day, the versatility of Kodi is increasing.

        Considering the ever-increasing cost of cable TV, you can also watch live on Kodi without paying anything (here are some free TV show sites as well). Kodi is a major reason behind the soaring trend of cord cutting as the software allows you to stream tv channels from around the world.

      • Top 15 Free Movie Download Websites For 2019 [Totally Legal Streaming]

        e are here with a list of some free movie download websites where you can get some quality entertainment without paying any money. This list includes the likes of The Internet Archive, Pluto TV, Public Domain Torrents, Retrovision etc. So, let’s talk about them in detail and discuss their strengths —

      • EU Parliament Puts Out Utter Nonsense Defending Copyright Directive

        The Legislative Affairs Committee (JURI) in the EU Parliament, who are in charge of pushing through the EU Copyright Directive put out a “Q and A” page about the Copyright Directive in the lead up to the next round of trilogue negotiations between the Parliament, the EU Council and the EU Commission. As you may recall, when we left things, everything was at a standstill with no one willing to agree on anything. Some are suggesting even worse proposals than have been seen before. The record labels and movie studios are threatening to drop their support of the bill if the EU actually gives incredibly minor “safe harbors” for internet platforms. The whole thing is a mess, and the easiest thing to do would be to just drop Articles 11 and 13 and focus on cleaning up the rest of the Directive. But that’s not what’s happening.

        Negotiations have continued in the background, and where things stand now, the EU is going to fundamentally change how the internet works and not in a good way. They have basically agreed that internet companies will be liable for what users post — in direct contradiction of current EU law found in the E-Commerce Directive. This will mean filters will become effectively mandatory (in a bit of hilarious theater, the agreement says it does not require filters… but there is literally no way to comply with the law without filters). Very, very, very, very limited safe harbors are still being negotiated over, and are “at risk” of being dropped altogether. Ditto a provision that will make the rules not apply to smaller platforms. Also, still on the table is a “notice and staydown” proposal that says if something does get through, platforms can never let it through again (how this will handle situations where one copy is infringing and another is non-infringing is ignored entirely).

      • Music Groups Waste No Time Using Australia’s New Copyright Law To Shut Down Stream Ripping Sites

        Late last year, after Australia proposed amending its copyright laws, which included some subtle language changes, the country approved the amendments and we immediately warned that this would be abused, feature-creeped, and otherwise utilized by the content industries to restrict access to the internet in favor of their own bottom lines. One of the subtle language changes mentioned above consisted of going from allowing site-blocking of sites where their “primary purpose” was infringing activity to allowing blocking of sites where their “primary effect” was infringing activity. This change was an important one, because it puts the onus for whether a site can be blocked on how users use the tool, rather than how it was intended to be used. And, of course, there is simply more subjectivity in “primary effect” than there is in “primary purpose”, leading us to warn that this would be abused.

      • It’s Copyright Week 2019: Join Us in the Fight for Better Copyright Law and Policy

        Copyright affects so much about our daily lives, often in ways people don’t even realize. It obviously impacts the movies we watch, the books we read, and the music we listen to. But it also impacts everything from who can fix a tractor to what information is available to us to when we communicate online. That means that copyright law and policy should be made to serve everyone.

        Unfortunately, that’s not the way it tends to work. Instead, copyright law is often treated as the exclusive domain of major media and entertainment industries. They’ve been able to shape a law that affects us all to suit their desires, making it harder and harder to access, use, and work with content, information, and devices that we have rights to.

        That doesn’t mean we can’t change the status quo. Seven years ago this week, a diverse coalition of Internet users, non-profit groups, and Internet companies defeated the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), bills that would have forced Internet companies to blacklist and block websites accused of hosting copyright infringing content. These were bills that would have made censorship very easy, all in the name of copyright protection.

        This year sees another positive development in the world of copyright: January 1, was the first day in decades that saw new works enter the public domain in the United States. In theory, copyright is supposed to grant exclusive rights for a limited period—enough time for creators to make money off of their works, incentivizing them to create them. Once copyright expires, works enter the public domain, where anyone can make any use of them, perpetuating the cycle of culture building on itself that drives innovation and creation.

      • ISP Wants Trial to Decide if it Failed to Terminate Repeat Infringers

        The piracy liability lawsuit between a group of RIAA labels and the Texan ISP Grande Communications is heating up. The ISP is in a tough spot after Magistrate Judge Austin recommended to drop its right to a safe harbor defense. The company disagrees, and asks the court to leave the safe harbor decision for trial, pointing out that Rightscorp’s piracy notices can’t be trusted.

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