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01.16.19

Links 16/1/2019: Deepin 15.9 Released and Mozilla Fenix

Posted in News Roundup at 6:59 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Linux Tools: The Meaning of Dot

    Let’s face it: writing one-liners and scripts using shell commands can be confusing. Many of the names of the tools at your disposal are far from obvious in terms of what they do (grep, tee and awk, anyone?) and, when you combine two or more, the resulting “sentence” looks like some kind of alien gobbledygook.

    None of the above is helped by the fact that many of the symbols you use to build a chain of instructions can mean different things depending on their context.

  • Desktop

    • Entroware Unleash Hades, A Powerful Linux Workstation

      British Linux computer company Entroware has unveiled its latest Linux-powered offering — and it’s something of a beast!

      The Entroware Hades is the company’s first workstation PC to offer AMD processors and multi-GPU configurations.

      The base model comes equipped with an octa-core AMD Ryzen 1900X, Nvidia GeForce GT 1030 (2GB) and 16GB RAM and a 120GB SSD.

    • Introducing The Elementary OS 5 Linux Community Challenge

      The basic premise of the elementary OS Challenge is simple: ditch Windows, macOS or your current Linux OS of choice and exclusively use elementary OS 5 Juno as your daily driver for two weeks. Explore the curated AppCenter and the bundled software to get all of your working and playing done. For email, for music, for coding, for gaming, for whatever.

      We’ll be taking this journey together, which hopefully means a two-way conversation to discuss the successes, discoveries, questions and potential stumbling blocks we encounter along the way.

    • Purism Upgrades Librem 13 And 15 Linux Laptops Without Raising The Price

      Purism also adopts coreboot, an open source replacement for a PC’s traditional (and proprietary) BIOS, thus diminishing the risk for certain security flaws. It also serves to better compliment PureOS, the company’s own Linux distribution which it bills as a “fully auditable operating system.”

    • CTL Announces $300 Rugged Chromebook Tablet for the Education Market

      The Chromebook Tablet (seriously though, why can’t get rid of the “book” in that title?) education revolution is here. Acer started it, ASUS got in on it, and now CTL is getting in the game. Here’s the skinny.

      You’d be forgiven if your first thought was “…who is CTL?,” because honestly, they’re not as well known as some of the other companies that are active in the Chrome OS market. Still, they make some fantastic Chromebooks and Chromeboxes (see, we don’t say “Chromebook Desktop,” so why aren’t they called Chrometabs?) designed to be more robust than the average Chrome OS device.

    • Chrome OS will soon let you search for and install Linux apps from the launcher

      We’ve talked a lot about Chrome OS‘ ability to install various Linux applications. From supporting the ability to install Debian packages to some kernel modules being backported so that older Chrome OS devices can support Linux apps. There has been a lot of activity in this area in the last 12 months. This added support is a big deal for a lot of people with some saying it’s the biggest change to Chrome OS since the added support of Android apps. Now, some new details have been discovered that suggest Chrome OS will soon let you search for and install these supported Linux apps directly from the launcher.

    • Chrome OS Launcher May Soon Be Able To Search For And Install Linux Apps

      The entire Crostini (Linux apps on Chromebooks) effort has moved along quite quickly when you think about it. In just 6 short months, we’ve gone from not having an official option for Linux apps (though Crouton is and was an amazing effort) to seeing a majority of Chromebooks gain baked-in access to Linux on Chrome OS.

      While we’re still eagerly awaiting a few big, missing features (audio and GPU acceleration), the core pieces are falling into place quite nicely and many users are already finding great workflows with their favorite Linux apps on Chrome OS.

    • Chrome OS may let users find new Linux apps from the App Launcher

      Chrome OS has always been based on Linux, but with its new beta support for Linux apps, the system has been opened to a wealth of powerful new applications otherwise inaccessible. The problem is, unless you’re already a Linux guru, you likely have no idea what those Linux apps are. Google is looking to fix this by making Linux apps you can install discoverable from the Chrome OS app launcher.

      In a new commit posted last night to Chromium’s Gerrit source code management, we see our first signs of returning behavior for Chrome OS’s app launcher. From the handy search tool, you will be able to search for Linux apps beyond just the ones you already have installed.

    • Chrome OS may allow Linux software to be installed from the launcher

      Chrome Story discovered a commit on the Chromium repo which adds the ability to search for and install Linux packages from the Chrome OS launcher. The bug tracker description reads, “Add APT search into Chrome OS App Launcher, so that uninstalled Linux packages and Apps can be searched for and installed via the App launcher.” The feature doesn’t appear to be live on Chrome OS Canary yet, but the flag will be called #crostini-app-search.

  • Server

    • Using Linux containers to analyze the impact of climate change and soil on New Zealand crops

      New Zealand’s economy is dependent on agriculture, a sector that is highly sensitive to climate change. This makes it critical to develop analysis capabilities to assess its impact and investigate possible mitigation and adaptation options. That analysis can be done with tools such as agricultural systems models. In simple terms, it involves creating a model to quantify how a specific crop behaves under certain conditions then simulating altering a few variables to see how that behavior changes. Some of the software available to do this includes CropSyst from Washington State University and the Agricultural Production Systems Simulator (APSIM) from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Australia.

    • MAAS 2.5 : Growing the ecosystem and support for KVM micro-clouds

      Our latest release makes for a very exciting point in the MAAS evolution. As datacenter (DC) infrastructure grows at unparalleled scale fueled by new applications and services such as connected autonomous cars, augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR) and IoT, the need for automated bare metal provisioning has never been more important. Multi-access edge computing and the ongoing shift to 5G will continue to drive cloud architectures ranging from small clusters deployed at actual radio towers all the way to thousands of nodes running in core data centres.

      The agility and speed of discovering, allocating and also repurposing bare-metal servers will be crucial to new services and an automated physical infrastructure lifecycle management. MAAS 2.5 brings new capabilities and improvements to how this can be achieved in a repeatable and reliable way.

    • Container Storage Interface (CSI) for Kubernetes GA

      The Kubernetes implementation of the Container Storage Interface (CSI) has been promoted to GA in the Kubernetes v1.13 release. Support for CSI was introduced as alpha in Kubernetes v1.9 release, and promoted to beta in the Kubernetes v1.10 release.

      The GA milestone indicates that Kubernetes users may depend on the feature and its API without fear of backwards incompatible changes in future causing regressions. GA features are protected by the Kubernetes deprecation policy.

    • Happy Birthday, Chef!

      With Chef, you can automate the way your infrastructure is configured, deployed, and managed. When you’re operating with a single machine, configuration management can be fairly simple. But what happens when your organization scales up? That’s where Chef comes in and saves the day — and a whole lot more.

      Chef ensures your configurations are standardized and continuously enforced in every environment and at any scale. It allows your infrastructure configurations to be testable, portable, and auditable, saving your organization time and monetary resources. You could say Chef is a superhero with all the saving it does.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux Foundation

      • Yahoo Japan and EMQ X Join the OpenMessaging Project

        The OpenMessaging project welcomes Yahoo Japan and EMQ X as new members.

        We are excited to announce two new members to the OpenMessaging project: Yahoo Japan, one of the largest portal sites in Japan, and EMQ X, one of the most popular MQTT message middleware vendors. Yahoo Japan and EMQ X join Alibaba, JD.com, China Mobile Cloud, Qing Cloud, and other community members to form a standards community with 13 corporation members.

        OpenMessaging is a standards project for messaging and streaming technology. Messaging and Streaming products have been widely used in modern architecture and data processing, for decoupling, queuing, buffering, ordering, replicating, etc. But when data transfers across different messaging and streaming platforms, compatibility problems arise, which always means much additional work. The OpenMessaging community looks to eliminate these challenges through creating a global, cloud-oriented, vendor-neutral industry standard for distributed messaging.

      • The Linux Foundation Announces 2019 Events Schedule

        The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization enabling mass innovation through open source, today announced its 2019 events schedule. Linux Foundation events are where the creators, maintainers and practitioners of the world’s most important open source projects meet. In 2018, Linux Foundation events attracted more than 32,000 developers, architects, community thought leaders, business executives and other industry professionals from more than 11,000 organizations across 113 countries. New events hosted by the Linux Foundation for 2019 include Cephalocon and gRPC Conf.

    • Graphics Stack

      • AMDVLK Weekly Code Drop Brings A DXVK Fix, VK_EXT_debug_utils Support

        AMD developers maintaining their official Vulkan driver have carried out another weekly code push to the open-source AMDVLK code-base.

        Overall the changes for this week’s worth of AMD Radeon Vulkan driver changes is fairly small, but there is a DXVK fix, one new Vulkan extension wired up, and a lot of low-level driver work.

      • NVIDIA 415.27 Linux Driver Released With GeForce RTX 2060 Support

        With NVIDIA today officially shipping the GeForce RTX 2060 as the new $349 USD Turing graphics card, the 415.27 Linux driver was released today to officially support this new graphics card.

        The GeForce RTX 2060 actually works with former 415 driver series releases, but would just be identified as a NVIDIA “Device” as opposed to the GeForce RTX 2060. The product string is now in this driver plus any other small tweaks to officially support this lowest-cost RTX Turing graphics card to date.

      • Mesa 18.3.2 release candidate

        The candidate for the Mesa 18.3.2 is now available. Currently we have:
        – 78 queued
        – 3 nominated (outstanding)
        – and 0 rejected patches

      • Mesa 18.3.2 Is Finally En Route With 78+ Changes

        It’s been more than a month since the debut of Mesa 18.3 and the emergency 18.3.1 release while due the holidays and the release manager being sick, the next point release fell off the tracks. Mesa 18.3.2 is now being crafted and should be out in the next few days. Given the time since the previous release, Mesa 18.3.2 is heavy on fixes.

        Emil Velikov announced the release today of Mesa 18.3.2 RC1 and plans for officially releasing this point update in the next day or two. This release candidate has 78 patches queued over the prior update.

      • Khronos Exploring New Industry Standard For Heterogeneous Communications

        From VR to autonomous vehicles to edge computing, The Khronos Group continues working on new industry standards for today’s expanding compute landscape. Today the organization announced they are soliciting industry feedback and creating an exploratory group for a new, open industry standard around High Performance Embedded Computing (HPEC).

      • Broadcom’s V3D Gallium Driver Picks Up New Features Ahead Of Mesa 19.0

        Lead VC4/V3D driver developer Eric Anholt of Broadcom has landed a batch of improvements to the next-generation V3D driver in Mesa 19.0.

        The latest round of work that was merged on Monday evening include SSBO / atomic counters support, support for the ARB_framebuffer_no_attachments OpenGL extension, support for more compute shader intrinsics, and other items.

      • AMDGPU Changes Begin Queueing Ahead Of Linux 5.1 Kernel Cycle

        The drm-next-5.1-wip branch has been created by open-source AMD developers as they begin vetting the changes they plan to submit to DRM-Next for inclusion in the Linux 5.1 kernel cycle when it kicks off around the start of March.

        With it just being over one week since the Linux 5.0 merge window ended and with this branch having just been setup the other day, there are just over 100 changes so far in this proving grounds for Linux 5.1 AMDGPU though nothing really dramatic.

    • Benchmarks

      • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760/960/1060 / RTX 2060 Linux Gaming & Compute Performance

        The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 is shipping today as the most affordable Turing GPU option to date at $349 USD. Last week we posted our initial GeForce RTX 2060 Linux review and followed-up with more 1080p and 1440p Linux gaming benchmarks after having more time with the card. In this article is a side-by-side performance comparison of the GeForce RTX 2060 up against the GTX 1060 Pascal, GTX 960 Maxwell, and GTX 760 Kepler graphics cards. Not only are we looking at the raw OpenGL, Vulkan, and OpenCL/CUDA compute performance between these four generations, but also the power consumption and performance-per-Watt.

      • 10GbE Linux Networking Performance Between CentOS, Fedora, Clear Linux & Debian

        For those curious how the 10 Gigabit Ethernet performance compares between current Linux distributions, here are some benchmarks we ramp up more 10GbE Linux/BSD/Windows benchmarks. This round of testing was done on two distinctly different servers while testing CentOS, Debian, Clear Linux, and Fedora.

        This is the first of several upcoming 10GbE test comparisons. For those article we are testing some of the popular enterprise Linux distributions while follow-up articles will also be looking at some other distros as well as Windows Server and FreeBSD/DragonFlyBSD. CentOS 7, Debian 9.6, Clear Linux rolling, and Fedora Server 29 were the operating systems tested for this initial round.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Essential System Tools: Krusader – KDE file manager

        This is the latest in our series of articles highlighting essential system tools. These are small, indispensable utilities, useful for system administrators as well as regular users of Linux based systems. The series examines both graphical and text based open source utilities. For this article, we’ll look at Krusader, a free and open source graphical file manager. For details of all tools in this series, please check the table at the summary page of this article.

        Krusader is an advanced, twin-panel (commander-style) file manager designed for KDE Plasma. Krusader also runs on other popular Linux desktop environments such as GNOME.

        Besides comprehensive file management features, Krusader is almost completely customizable, fast, seamlessly handles archives, and offers a huge feature set.

      • Plasma ergonomics – Lessons in life

        The bugsy trends aren’t unique to Plasma – this is the desktop all over. The agile thingie, the curse of quality and usability everywhere. Even looking at something like Windows, there are far more annoyances in Windows 8.1 than there were in Windows 7, and then a whole order of magnitude more still in Windows 10. These could be seemingly small things – and there sure ain’t enough testing to begin with – but they can mean a world to the end user. And if Plasma wants to be top dog, it needs to do everything better than the competition. Today, I uncovered a fresh handful issues, and that’s just a couple of extra months of rigorous usage. It will be interesting to see what happens a year or two down the road. Well, my Plasma journey continues. Stay tuned.

      • KDE Students Excel during Google Code-in 2018

        After many years of successful Google Code-in participation, this year we did it again! KDE attracted a number of students with exciting tasks for their eager young minds.

        Google Code-in is a program for pre-university students aged from 13 to 17 and sponsored by Google Open Source. KDE has always worked to get new people involved in Free and open source (FOSS) projects with the aim of making the world a better place.

        This year was no different. Our students worked very hard, and some of them already have their contributions committed to the KDE codebase!

        We designed tasks in a way that made them exciting for all students. Students who were not skilled in programming took on tasks of writing blogs or documentation. To help students who had no experience with FOSS or with the community, we set up introductory tasks for IRC and mailing lists, both of which are essential in FOSS as communication channels.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • GNOME 3.32 Desktop to Feature a Revamped Theme, Beta Coming Early February

        The GNOME Project is currently working hard on the next major release of their beloved desktop environment for Linux-based operating system, GNOME 3.32, due for release in Spring 2019, and they recently unveiled some changes to the default theme.

        GNOME’s Matthias Clasen talks in his latest blog article about some of the theme changes coming to the GTK+ 3 toolkit, which is the core of the GNOME desktop environment, revealing the fact that the upcoming GNOME 3.32 desktop environment would feature a revamped default Adwaita theme with more modernized elements.

        It’s been a while since GNOME’s default theme Adwaita saw some changes since it was completely revamped and modernized three years ago as part of the GNOME 3.16 series, but Clasen explains that it is a challenge to update Adwaita as most GTK+ apps are still using the stable GTK+ 3.x series and any major change could cause issues.

      • GNOME’s New GTK Theme is Ready for Testing

        Cast your minds back to December and, amid all the baubles and wrapping paper, you may recall us sharing some screenshots of a refreshed version of the Adwaita GTK theme, used by GNOME.

        Now, GNOME’s Matthias Clasen has spilled the beans on the refresh. In a post on the GTK blog Clasen reveals plans to test the improved Adwaita theme over the next three weeks and gather feedback on the changes.

        He describes the refresh as a ‘limited set of theme changes’, and moots their inclusion in a future GTK 3 release (feedback dependant).

  • Distributions

    • Blue Collar Linux: Something Borrowed, Something New

      Sometimes it takes more than a few tweaks to turn an old-style desktop design into a fresh new Linux distribution. That is the case with the public release of Blue Collar Linux.

      “The guidance and design were shaped by real people — blue collar people,” Blue Collar developer Steven A. Auringer told LinuxInsider. “Think useful and guided by Joe and Jane Whitebread in Suburbia.”

      Blue Collar Linux has been under development for the last four years. Until its public release this week, it has circulated only through an invitation for private use by the developer’s family, friends and associates looking for an alternative to the Windows nightmare.

    • Testing openSUSE, Manjaro, Debian, Fedora, and Mint Linux distributions on my new laptop

      Due to the recent unfortunate demise of a couple of my computers I found myself in need of a new laptop on rather short notice. I found an Acer Aspire 5 on sale at about half price here in Switzerland, so I picked one up. I have been installing a number of Linux distributions on it, with mostly positive results.

    • Reviews

      • Netrunner 19.01 Blackbird overview | The Bird has landed

        In this video, I am going to show an overview of Netrunner 19.01 Blackbird and some of the applications pre-installed.

      • What’s New in MX Linux 18 Continuum

        MX Linux 18 codename Continuum has been released, this release features Xfce 4.12 as default environment include xfce4 component, based on Debian 9.6 scratch and powered by Linux Kernel 4.19 series, which means that it offers support for the latest hardware components available on the market.

        MX Tools graphical tool to make user easy to access most system tasks was improved. selectable themes for installed system grub boot menu and Plymouth boot-splash via MX-boot-options, system-keyboard and system-locale options allow easy access to configuration of system default keyboard and locales management.

      • Microsoft is killing Windows 7, so you should switch to Netrunner 19.01 ‘Blackbird’ Linux distro now!

        Windows 7 is an excellent operating system. It is a no-nonsense computing experience that just works. There are no ugly live tiles or forced updates. Conversely, Windows 10 is largely trash. Don’t get me wrong, Microsoft’s latest operating system isn’t all bad, but it has many poor design choices, and the intrusive telemetry makes it feel like you are being spied on when using your own computer. Worst of all, it has proven to be very buggy — it has been deleting important user files! That is scary stuff…

        Many Windows users passed on both Windows 8.x and Windows 10, opting to stay on Windows 7. You know what? I don’t blame them. Unfortunately, starting today, the Windows 7 death clock begins ticking away. You see, in exactly one year, Microsoft will end support for Windows 7. While the operating system will still function, it is foolish to use an unsupported OS. These folks will have to decide if they want to “upgrade” to Window 10 or opt for something entirely different. Today, Netrunner 19.01 “Blackbird” — a Linux-based operating system that is reminiscent of Windows 7 — is finally released. If you don’t want to run Windows 10 on your PC, you should definitely give Blackbird a try before the Windows 7 support ends.

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • Video: Five Things to Know About SUSE Linux Enterprise for HPC

        The need to analyze massive amounts of data and transaction-intensive workloads are driving the use of HPC into the business arena and making these tools mainstream for a variety of industries. Commercial users are getting into high performance applications for fraud detection, personalized medicine, manufacturing, smart cities, autonomous vehicles and many other areas. In order to effectively and efficiently run these workloads, SUSE has built a comprehensive and cohesive OS platform. In this blog, I will illustrate five things you should know about our SUSE solutions for AI over HPC.

      • Managing compliance for Linux systems with SUSE Manager

        Many industries and governments require compliance with security standards to ensure security, identity, confidentiality, and data integrity. These standards specify a minimum security level and also mandate measures such as logging and auditing to reveal any hints of unauthorized use. Some of the most widely adopted standards are:

    • Slackware Family

      • New VLC and Flash

        AV1 is a new video codec by the Alliance for Open Media, composed of most of the important Web companies (Google, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, Microsoft, Mozilla…). AV1 has the potential to be up to 20% better than the HEVC codec, but the patents license is totally free. VLC supports AV1 since version 3.0.0 but I never added the ‘aom‘ decoder/encoder to my vlc package, since ‘aom’ is the reference implementation of the video format and it does not really perform.
        The VideoLAN and FFmpeg communities are collaborating on ‘dav1d’ to make this a reference optimized decoder for AV1. Now that ‘dav1d’ has an official release I thought it would be cool to have in the VLC package. Mozilla and Google browsers already have the support for AV1 video playback built-in, so… overdue here.

      • KDE Plasma5 – Jan ’19 release for Slackware

        Here is your monthly refresh for the best Desktop Environment you will find for Linux. I just uploaded “KDE-5_19.01” to the ‘ktown‘ repository. As always, these packages are meant to be installed on a Slackware-current which has had its KDE4 removed first. These packages will not work on Slackware 14.2.

        It looks like Slackware is not going to be blessed with Plasma5 any time soon, so I will no longer put an artificial limitation on the dependencies I think are required for a solid Plasma5 desktop experience. If Pat ever decides that Plasma5 has a place in the Slackware distro, he will have to make a judgement call on what KDE functionality can stay and what needs to go.

    • Fedora

    • Debian Family

      • What Are Various Debian Installation Discs

        Ever got confused by the amount of disc made available for downloading on Debian servers? Worry not, if this is your approach looking around the Internet for an explanation why and what are those various discs for installing Debian on your beloved computer, you are at the right place. I’ll try to be quick and concise so you can get on with Debian installation within 2 minutes read :)

      • Derivatives

        • Deepin Linux 15.9 Released with Support for Touchscreen Gestures, Faster Updates

          Packed with all the updates that have been released through the official channels since Deepin 15.8, the Deepin 15.9 update is here to add support for multiple touchscreen gestures, including click, double click, long press to open the context menu, as well as slide up and down, an on-screen keyboard, and faster updates thanks to a new Smart Mirror Switch function.

          The Deepin 15.9 release also brings some performance optimizations by making power management more efficient and convenient to laptop and desktop users alike. “Whether your computer is connected to power supply or not, you can easily change the monitor and computer suspend time for different scenarios,” explained the devs in today’s announcement.

        • DEEPIN 15.9 – CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENTS MAKE WONDERFUL PERFORMANCE

          deepin is a Linux distribution devoted to providing beautiful, easy to use, safe and reliable system for global users.

          deepin is an open source GNU/Linux operating system, based on Linux kernel and mainly on desktop applications, supporting laptops, desktops and all-in-ones. deepin preinstalls Deepin Desktop Environment (DDE) and nearly 30 deepin native applications, as well as several applications from the open source community to meet users’ daily learning and work needs. In addition, about a thousand of applications are offered in Deepin Store to meet users’ various needs. deepin, developed by professional operating system R&D team and deepin technology community (www.deepin.org), is named from deepin technology community, which means deep pursuit and exploration of the life and the future.

          In deepin 15.9, many known bugs are fixed and the existing functions are optimized. Compared with deepin 15.8, deepin 15.9 adds support for touchscreen gestures and onscreen keyboard, optimizes the using frequency algorithm for application sequence in Launcher mini mode, and introduces a new function – Smart Mirror Switch, hoping to bring users more stable and efficient experiences.

          Since deepin 15.8, deepin have used a rolling update strategy to release the updates on a regular basis. That is to say, deepin 15.9 covers all the system updates after deepin 15.8.

        • Deepin 15.9 Released With Usability Improvements, Bug Fixes

          The popular China-based Deepin Linux distribution derived from Debian and featuring its own Qt5-based desktop environment is out today with version 15.9.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Get started with Cypht, an open source email client

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

  • SuiteCRM Announce the Release of SuiteCRM 7.11
  • Open Source for Enterprise Trends in 2019

    We know that open source is well established as the place where software innovation happens. Today enterprises are looking at open source even more closely for pro-active, adaptive and innovative technologies to deliver better customer experience. As we move into 2019, we see open source technology further making its mark in some of the key trends we are already experiencing.

  • Open source search engines attract developers
  • Alibaba Acquires Open Source Firm Data Artisans for $130M
  • Apache Flink Advances Enterprise Apps Aspirations With Alibaba

    There are a lot of different types of tools that are needed to enable modern enterprise apps. The ability to process data streams in real-time is one such needed tool and it’s what the open source Apache Flink project enables.

    Apache Flink is an open-source stream processing framework for distributed, high-performing, always-available and accurate data-streaming applications. The lead developer and commercial organization behind Flink has been data Artisans, which was created by the core developers behind Flink itself. Data Artisans and by extension Apache Flink are getting a major vote of confidence, thanks to Chinese internet giant Alibaba.

  • Google Summer of Code mentor projects sought
  • Genode To Focus On Making Sculpt OS Relevant & Appealing In 2019

    The Genode operating system framework based on a micro-kernel design and various original user-space components continues going strong a decade since its start. But it hasn’t achieved too much appeal outside of its niche even when it began working on “Sculpt” as an operating system for general purposes use-cases and supporting common PC/laptop hardware. But they hope to change that in 2019.

    Genode has published their 2019 roadmap and for this year they want to make “Sculpt OS relevant and appealing for a broader community.”

  • How Enterprise IT Pros Can Contribute to Open Source Projects

    Undoubtedly, your company uses open source software. But the powers that be might express reluctance when developers want to create or maintain projects on company time. Here is a roadmap to help you convince them otherwise—starting with an internal open source project office.

    Open source innovation has a methodology all its own, and it doesn’t follow traditional business processes. The big difference is that open source development is collaborative rather than competitive. This attitude may come naturally to IT people, but not to managers and rarely to people in the C-suite….

    To change the corporate attitude about permitting developers to be embedded in open source projects, you need to get other departments to see the benefits in their own terms.

    One way to handle this is by finding allies outside software development circles. For instance, human resources execs could be on your side if you can convince them that companies that support open source development are more attractive to prospective employees. A CFO who is motivated by financial cost savings can “do the numbers” for you to, for argument’s sake, demonstrate that investing in a developer who spends 20 hours weekly working on an open source project is still more cost effective than purchasing a not-quite-right IT application.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Augmented Reality and the Browser — An App Experiment

        We all want to build the next (or perhaps the first) great Augmented Reality app. But there be dragons! The space is new and not well defined. There aren’t any AR apps that people use every day to serve as starting points or examples. Your new ideas have to compete against an already very high quality bar of traditional 2d apps. And building a new app can be expensive, especially for native app environments. This makes AR apps still somewhat uncharted territory, requiring a higher initial investment of time, talent and treasure.

        But this also creates a sense of opportunity; a chance to participate early before the space is fully saturated.

        From our point of view the questions are: What kinds of tools do artists, developers, designers, entrepreneurs and creatives of all flavors need to be able to easily make augmented reality experiences? What kinds of apps can people build with tools we provide?

        For example: Can I watch Trevor Noah on the Daily Show this evening, and then release an app tomorrow that is a riff on a joke he made the previous night? A measure of success is being able to speak in rich media quickly and easily, to be a timely part of a global conversation.

      • Adios, Amigo

        Firefox Test Pilot is flying off into the sunset on January 22nd, 2019. Currently active experiments will remain installed for all users, and will be available on addons.mozilla.org after this date. Non-extension experiments like Firefox Lockbox and Firefox Send will continue in active development as standalone products. In fact, both products will have significant launches in the near future. Stay tuned for updates in the coming months.

      • Evolving Firefox’s Culture of Experimentation: A Thank You from the Test Pilot Program

        For the last three years Firefox has invested heavily in innovation, and our users have been an essential part of this journey. Through the Test Pilot Program, Firefox users have been able to help us test and evaluate a variety of potential Firefox features. Building on the success of this program, we’re proud to announce today that we’re evolving our approach to experimentation even further.

      • Mozilla Fenix: New Android browser’s intriguing details start to surface

        The new non-Firefox browser for Android is apparently targeted at younger people, with Mozilla developers on GitHub tagging the description, ‘Fenix is not your parents’ Android browser’.

        Fenix mockups found by Mozilla contributor Sören Hentzschel and Ghacks suggest the makers of Fenix are turning the Firefox Android browser on its head, currently toying with the idea of putting the URL bar and home button down at the bottom of user interface.

        News of Fenix as a possible replacement surfaced in the middle of 2018 after someone spotted the new Mozilla mobile project on GitHub. Activity on the project has picked up in recent months.

      • Firefox Fenix for Android mockups

        Mozilla is working on a new web browser for Android to replace the currently available Firefox for Android mobile browser.

        Firefox users who use the browser on Android may have noticed that development slowed down in recent time. Updates are still released regularly but they address issues such as slowdowns, crashes, or security issues for the most part.

        The core reason for that is that Mozilla’s working on Fenix, a new mobile browser for Android. Fenix is based on Android Components and GeckoView. In other words, Fenix will be powered by built-in components on Android and Mozilla’s GeckoView.

      • Keep Smart Assistants from Spying on You with Alias, Security Advisory for Old scp Clients, Major Metasploit Framework Release, Mozilla Working on a New Browser for Android and VirtualBox 6.0.2 Is Out

        Mozilla is working on a new Android browser called Fenix. According to ZDNet, this “new non-Firefox browser for Android is apparently targeted at younger people, with Mozilla developers on GitHub tagging the description, ‘Fenix is not your parents’ Android browser’.” In addition, mockups suggest that Fenix developers are “currently toying with the idea of putting the URL bar and home button down at the bottom of user interface.”

  • SaaS/Back End

    • Community collaboration makes for some great OpenStack solutions

      If you follow the evolution of OpenStack, you know how it’s finding its way into all sorts of workloads, from high-level research to car manufacturing to all-new 5G networks. Organizations are using it for everything from the mundane to the sublime and sharing what they’re learning with the OpenStack community.

      Some of the examples offered up at the recent OpenStack Summit Berlin showed that OpenStack is a full-fledged part of the IT mainstream, which means there are a wealth of ideas out there for your own implementation.

  • Moodle

    • In 2019, Nothing Will Bolster Collaborative Open Source, User-Centered Design & Development In Learning Like The Moodle Users Association

      In LMS and learning technologies, there are few like the Moodle Users Association. Across the spectrum, developers and entrepreneurs keep looking for community engagement. When they do, the usual ideas come to mind. Surveys or social media interactions seem enough to call it a day. In some cases, large participants can influence the development roadmap and single-handedly affect the experience for everyone. Moodle offers all these avenues of interaction. But it also offers the MUA Process Development Cycle, a unique process of transparency and effectiveness that continues to polish and grow and audience. People with little more than a good idea and willingness for effort can make great impact.

    • The 101 on Moodle

      We have all sorts of management systems to help make our work and lives easier to, well, manage. While content management systems help us organise our blogs, portfolios and social media, learning management systems (LMS) get our virtual education filing system sorted in one nook of the Web. One can liken Moodle to a ‘virtual classroom without the germs and threat of detention’.

  • BSD

    • Trident 18.12-RELEASE Available

      This version is based off the 18.12-stable branch of TrueOS (FreeBSD 13-CURRENT), using the new TrueOS distribution framework with several add-ons by Project Trident itself. The packages with this release were created from the TrueOS ports tree as-of January 7th. We are planning to release regular updates to packages every week or two depending on the state of the ports tree at any given time. In this release, both the Chromium and Iridium browsers have also been fixed and function normally again.

      18.12-RELEASE has been a long time in development, and we wish to say a bit “Thank You!” to everybody who has been helping test out the pre-release versions, find issues, submit fixes both to us and to upstream FreeBSD/TrueOS, and in general being a wonderful and supportive community! We look forward to continuing to work with all of you in making Project Trident amazing!

    • Google Is Hiring More LLVM/Clang Developers

      Android and Chrome are among their software now shipping in production that relies upon LLVM Clang rather than GCC or other alternatives, among other Google software projects. LLVM/Clang is also used by various internal projects at Google. Over the years Google developers have contributed back many improvements to upstream LLVM ranging from their Lanai processor back-end to security improvements to other language tooling on LLVM to performance optimizations.

    • LLVM 9.0 Is Now Open For Development, Releasing In Late 2019

      The code for the upcoming LLVM 8.0 release (Clang 8.0 included) is now branched and the release candidate process will begin shortly. That means LLVM 9.0 is now open for development on its master branch.

      Developers behind this compiler stack are planning to get out of the official LLVM 8.0.0 release by the end of February. The first release candidate is imminent and one or two more can be expected in February based upon how the testing proceeds.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • 2019 OSI Board Elections

      The Open Source Initiative (OSI) is managed by a member-elected Board of Directors that is the ultimate authority responsible for the organization. The Board’s responsibilities include oversight of the organization, including its operations, staff and budget; setting strategic direction and defining goals in line with the mission, and; serving the community through committees and working groups. The eleven person Board is composed of Directors elected by OSI Individual Members (5) and Affiliate Members (5). The General Manager of the OSI also serves on the Board as a Director (ex officio). The results of elections for both Individual and Affiliate Member Board seats are advisory with the OSI Board making the formal appointments to open seats based on the community’s votes.

      As a true corporate board, Board members must agree to, and comply with, the OSI Conflict of Interest Policy, and all Directors are expected to participate regularly in monthly Board meetings, any special meetings that may arise and the ongoing discussions related to the OSI specifically and open source generally.

    • Purism Supports Software Freedom Conservancy

      We live in a dangerous world where privacy and security are more important than ever. In order for software to be trusted, the source code must be available to verify — a simple trust and verify model. Purism is proud to release all of our source code under Free Software licenses that not only empower users but are vital to protect their privacy and security. We favor licenses with strong copyleft like the GNU General Public License version 3, and will release software under the GPLv3 or an FSF-approved license we inherit. Our code can be studied, verified, and shared, whether you use our Librem line of products or not.

      Software Freedom Conservancy is a vital and important part of the Free Software ecosystem that we at Purism and billions of people worldwide rely upon. Without organizations that protect and enforce the terms expressed in software licenses, our digital rights are at risk. Conservancy continues to play a central role in legal battles to safeguard these freedoms.

    • FSF Blogs: The FSF is 5,000 members strong — thanks to you

      Your support is just what we need to push the free software movement to new frontiers. Our ever-growing base of members, donors, and activists are the backbone of our work and free software. Without you, we wouldn’t have been able to raise over $440,000 for software freedom. With the 488 new members, we now have more than 5,000 active FSF members. Thanks to you, we’ll be able to expand the staff of the FSF, increasing our organizational capacity, ability to work on issues that matter, and build the community; certify more Respects Your Freedom products to ensure that your devices run free software out of the box, and continue enforcing the GNU General Public License and leading other copyleft efforts; build our technical infrastructure and provide greater support for the many projects that rely on the FSF; create new items for our catalog of cool new swag and engaging publications from the GNU Press Shop; ramp up the fight against DRM; and create a better future for free software.

    • Software user should advocate user freedoms: Richard M Stallman

      Stallman will also deliver a lecture at Technopark on Wednesday.

    • Arm Posts Initial Ares CPU Tuning Support For GCC, Helps SPEC Performance By ~1%

      Arm continues plumbing the open-source GNU compiler toolchain support for their next-generation “Ares” high-performance server/HPC core.

      Back in November they presented the initial Ares compiler patches for GCC. Those patches presented Ares as an ARMv8-based design that has statistical profiling, dot product, and FP16 extensions by default. We’ve also seen other Ares toolchain patches by Arm developers like the recent GNU Assembler support.

  • Licensing/Legal

    • Fedora Decides To Not Allow SSPLv1 Licensed Software Into Its Repositories

      Back in October, MongoDB announced the Server Side Public License v1 (SSPLv1) as their new license moving forward for this document-oriented database server over their existing AGPL code. SSPL was met with much controversy upon its unveiling and Fedora’s legal team has now ruled it an invalid free software license for packaged software in its repositories.

      The intent of MongoDB developing the Server Side Public License was to ensure that public cloud vendors and other companies using their software as a service are giving back to the community / the upstream project. SSPL v1 was based on the GPLv3 but lays clear that a company publicly offering the SSPL-licensed software as a service must in turn open-source their software that it uses to offer said service. That stipulation applies only to organizations making use of MongoDB for public software services.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • ANAVI Thermometer open source temp and humidity sensor board

        Anavi Technology has this month launched a new product via the Crowd Supply in the form of the ANAVI Thermometer, an ESP8266-powered, open source, wireless dev board equipped with temperature and humidity sensors. The Anavi Thermometer Development board is fully compatible with the Arduino IDE, PlatformIO, and Home Assistant via the MQTT messaging protocol. Watch the demonstration video below to learn more about the open source dev board and its features.

        The development team behind the ANAVI Thermometer explain more about its hardware and specifications:

  • Programming/Development

    • Samba 4.10 RC1 Released: Adds Offline Domain Backups, Now Defaults To Python 3

      Samba 4.10 release candidate 1 was announced today as the open-source SMB implementation with support for Windows Server and Active Directory domains.

      The Samba 4.10 release is bringing export/restore features for Group Policy Objects (GPO), pre-fork process model improvements, support for offline domain backups with the samba-tool domain backup command now supporting an offline option, support for group membership statistics within a domain, Python 3 is now considered the default Python implementation while Python 2 support is retained, JSON logging improvements, and other work.

    • newt-lola

      Bison and Flex (or any of the yacc/lex family members) are a quick way to generate reliable parsers and lexers for language development. It’s easy to write a token recognizer in Flex and a grammar in Bison, and you can readily hook code up to the resulting parsing operation. However, neither Bison nor Flex are really designed for embedded systems where memory is limited and malloc is to be avoided.

      When starting Newt, I didn’t hesitate to use them though; it’s was nice to use well tested and debugged tools so that I could focus on other parts of the implementation.

      With the rest of Newt working well, I decided to go take another look at the cost of lexing and parsing to see if I could reduce their impact on the system.

    • Kano Scores a Disney Partnership, Announces a Star Wars Kit for Later This Year

      Kano creates killer little sets to teach kids how to code and beyond (like the awesome Harry Potter Coding Kit), and today the company is announcing a Disney partnership. The first product will be a Star Wars kit.

      While other info is scant at the time, Kano says the Star Wars kit will be out “in the second half of 2019.” Alex Klein, Kano’s CEO and co-founder, only teased other details, saying that “Collaborating with Disney is a blessing. We can combine connected, creative technologies with some of the most memorable stories ever told.”

    • GDA and GObject Introspection: Remember 1
    • No really, pathlib is great
    • Top Seven Apps Built With Python
    • Turn video into black and white with python
    • Happy Mu Year 2019!
    • Python 101: Episode #42 – Creating Executables with cx_Freeze

      In this screencast, we will learn how to turn your Python code into a Windows executable file using the cx_Freeze project.

    • PyCoder’s Weekly: Issue #351 (Jan. 15, 2019)
    • How To Learn Go Programming Language

      First appeared in November 2009, Go is a statically typed, compiled programming language designed at Google. You might have just heard about this programming language in the past couple of years but recently, Go has started to gain significant popularity in the coding world.

      Being light-weight, open source, and suited for today’s microservices architectures, Go is an amazing choice for a language. Also known as Google’s Golang, this language was developed by some of the brilliant minds from Google who created the C programming language. Today, it is one of the fastest growing languages and it’s absolutely a great time to start learning and working with GO.

    • Review: The 6 best JavaScript IDEs

      Back in the ancient days when Java Swing was new and exciting, I enjoyed using Eclipse for Java development, but soon moved on to other Java IDEs. Five-plus years ago, when I did some Android development with Eclipse, I found the experience OK, but poky. When I tried to use Eclipse Luna with JSDT for JavaScript development in 2014, it constantly displayed false-positive errors for valid code that passed JSHint.

    • A Complete List of The Best Data Science Programming Languages

      Data science is one of the fastest-growing fields in America. Organizations are employing data scientists at a rapid rate to help them analyze increasingly large and complex data volumes. The proliferation of big data and the need to make sense of it all has created a vortex where all of these things exist together. As a result, new techniques, technologies and theories are continually being developed to run advanced analysis, and they all require development and programming to ensure a path forward.

    • PyFilesystem is greater than or equal to Pathlib

      I was reading a post by Trey Hunner on why pathlib is great, where he makes the case that pathlib is a better choice than the standard library alternatives that preceded it. I wouldn’t actually disagree with a word of it. He’s entirely correct. You should probably be using pathlib were it fits.

    • How to build an API for a machine learning model in 5 minutes using Flask

      As a data scientist consultant, I want to make impact with my machine learning models. However, this is easier said than done. When starting a new project, it starts with playing around with the data in a Jupyter notebook. Once you’ve got a full understanding of what data you’re dealing with and have aligned with the client on what steps to take, one of the outcomes can be to create a predictive model.

      You get excited and go back to your notebook to make the best model possible. The model and the results are presented and everyone is happy. The client wants to run the model in their infrastructure to test if they can really create the expected impact. Also, when people can use the model, you get the input necessary to improve it step by step. But how can we quickly do this, given that the client has some complicated infrastructure that you might not be familiar with?

    • What is Small Scale Scrum?

      Agile is fast becoming a mainstream way industries act, behave, and work as they look to improve efficiency, minimize costs, and empower staff. Most software developers naturally think, act, and work this way, and alignment towards agile software methodologies has gathered pace in recent years.

      VersionOne’s 2018 State of Agile report shows that scrum and its variants remain the most popular implementation of agile. This is in part due to changes made to the Scrum Guide’s wording in recent years that make it more amenable to non-software industries.

    • This Week in Rust 269
    • Async IO in Python: A Complete Walkthrough

      Async IO is a concurrent programming design that has received dedicated support in Python, evolving rapidly from Python 3.4 through 3.7, and probably beyond.

      You may be thinking with dread, “Concurrency, parallelism, threading, multiprocessing. That’s a lot to grasp already. Where does async IO fit in?”

      This tutorial is built to help you answer that question, giving you a firmer grasp of Python’s approach to async IO.

Leftovers

  • VR’s 300m-euro engines that couldn’t

    The paper explained that the Vectron locomotives’ automatic access control systems have not performed as expected in the local rail environment, but for unknown reasons unexpectedly activate the emergency brake system. The defect is so serious that it has short-circuited commissioning of the new engines for use on commuter and freight trains.

  • Science

    • How We’ll Forget John Lennon

      Last month Hidalgo and colleagues published a Nature paper that put his crafty data-mining talents to work on another question: How do people and products drift out of the cultural picture? They traced the fade-out of songs, movies, sports stars, patents, and scientific publications. They drew on data from sources such as Billboard, Spotify, IMDB, Wikipedia, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and the American Physical Society, which has gathered information on physics articles from 1896 to 2016. Hidalgo’s team then designed mathematical models to calculate the rate of decline of the songs, people, and scientific papers.

      The report, “The universal decay of collective memory and attention,” concludes that people and things are kept alive through “oral communication” from about five to 30 years. They then pass into written and online records, where they experience a slower, longer decline. The paper argues that people and things that make the rounds at the water cooler have a higher probability of settling into physical records. “Changes in communication technologies, such as the rise of the printing press, radio and television,” it says, affect our degree of attention, and all of our cultural products, from songs to scientific papers, “follow a universal decay function.”

      Last week I caught up with Hidalgo to talk about his Nature paper. But I also wanted to push him to talk about what he saw between the mathematical lines, to wear the social scientist’s hat and reflect on the consequences of decay in collective memory.

    • Men React to Repeated Painful Experiences Differently than Women Do

      A painful experience is not one you are likely to forget—you don’t need to a trunk slammed onto your finger multiple times to realize that it’s a situation you’d like to avoid. According to a study published Thursday (January 10) in Current Biology, one painful ordeal in a particular setting is enough to make pain less tolerable in that same place in the future—but only if you’re male.

    • China’s Moon Lander Grows The First Plant On Moon

      Despite the challenges, this experiment is a giant leaf for mankind (pun intended) as it suggests that humans have realistic chance of growing plants during space missions for food and other resources.

      It could also relieve the cargo load for long term missions to Moon and other planets. While growing full-fledged extraterrestrial farms is beyond our capacity at the moment, this milestone makes the idea seems more achievable.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Desalination Is Booming. But What About All That Toxic Brine?

      This is the controversial idea behind large-scale desalination—great, big, expensive facilities that turn saltwater into a liquid that won’t kill you. The classic criticism of desal is that it takes a tremendous amount of energy to process seawater, and we really shouldn’t be burning any more fossil fuels than we need to be. But a less chattered-about problem is the effect on the local environment: The primary byproduct of desal is brine, which facilities pump back out to sea. The stuff sinks to the seafloor and wreaks havoc on ecosystems, cratering oxygen levels and spiking salt content.

    • Americans more likely to die of opioid overdose than car crash, says council report

      More than 49,000 people died due to opioid overdoses in 2017, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Last fall, the Senate passed legislation to combat the opioid crisis.

    • Another Misdemeanor Deal in Flint Water Investigation

      Seven people now have resolved their cases with misdemeanor pleas.

      Flint’s water was contaminated with lead when the city switched sources in 2014 and didn’t treat water to reduce corrosion. A former state health director and a state doctor are awaiting trial on involuntary manslaughter charges related to a Legionnaires’ outbreak that was blamed on the water.

    • Michigan’s ex-drinking water regulator takes deal in Flint water investigation

      It’s a break for Liane Shekter Smith, who was facing felony charges, including involuntary manslaughter, in an investigation of Flint’s lead-tainted water and a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak.

      Smith pleaded no contest Monday to disturbance of a lawful meeting and agreed to testify against others, if necessary. Special prosecutor Todd Flood praised her “candor and truthfulness.” Defense attorney Brian Morley says the case likely will be dismissed in six to 12 months.

    • Flint water investigator calls for independent oversight of Michigan DEQ

      What happened in Flint can happen anywhere, Hall said. In light of emerging public health concerns over PFAS contamination across the state, he said it’s clear that questions of water quality in Michigan aren’t going anywhere. Hall considers Flint to be a “canary in the coal mine” that illustrates the risk that every American community faces given what he calls the fundamental lack of environmental protections ensured by state and federal law.

    • A Trump County Confronts the Administration Amid a Rash of Child Cancers

      Their questions led them to an old industrial site in Franklin, the Johnson County seat, that the federal government had ordered cleaned up decades ago. Recent tests have identified a carcinogenic plume spreading underground, releasing vapors into homes.

      Now, families in a county that voted overwhelmingly for President Trump are making demands of his administration that collide directly with one of his main agendas: the rolling back of health and environmental regulations.

    • Benefits of limiting toxins obviously outweigh cost — except at Trump’s EPA

      When they thought no one was looking on the Friday before the New Year, Trump’s EPA decided to cheat the American public in favor of polluters, by exaggerating the price tag of environmental regulations while minimizing their benefit.

      In rolling back the tight Mercury and Air Toxics Standards finalized under President Obama, the Trump administration created a fundamental shift in the federal regulatory framework as it seeks to undo each building block of environmental regulation developed over EPA’s 49-year history.

    • Some Fear Groundwater Near Georgia Military Bases Is Toxic

      “Given that there are concentrations of these compounds on site, over time they’re going to move off of the site. That’s just common sense,” said Jamie DeWitt, an associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at East Carolina University. “No contaminant obeys property lines.”

      Nationwide, the Air Force has acknowledged contaminating drinking water in communities close to its bases in more than a dozen other states.

      [...]

      The contamination, which is linked to a class of chemicals known collectively as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, was laid out in a series of site inspection reports completed by the Air Force last year.

    • Wild monkeys with killer herpes are breeding like crazy in Florida

      A quick reminder: there’s a band of feral monkeys running wild in Central Florida that carries a type of herpes lethal to humans. The mischievous simians—who are not shy around people—can transmit deadly disease with just a scratch, nip, or fling of poo.

      Last year, experts warned that the rhesus macaques are a public health threat. It now seems that the monkey business is likely to get worse, with a wildlife expert revealing that their population is set to double in the next few years.

    • Will Michigan Governor End State Funding for Anti-Choice Clinic Network?

      Real Alternatives, a network for so-called crisis pregnancy centers has reaped millions of taxpayer funds from Republican-controlled legislatures and GOP governors. The funds include nearly $2.6 million from Michigan over the past five years to run the Michigan Parenting and Pregnancy Support Program, which it received while failing to provide health services to pregnant people, according to the Campaign for Accountability, a nonprofit group focused on public accountability.

      [...]

      Not only does Real Alternatives use taxpayer funds in support of anti-choice pregnancy clinics that seek to dissuade people from seeking abortion care, but it has time and again failed to meet goals for service, according to a complaint the Campaign for Accountability filed Monday. Real Alternatives, after pledging to administer 8,000 visits and serve 2,000 people in Michigan in its first year of operation, “only managed to oversee a mere 785 visits and serve only 403 women,” per the complaint. In over four and a half years, Real Alternatives has only provided service for 3,771 pregnant people, according to the Campaign for Accountability.

      Real Alternatives has prioritized “payments for ineffective advertising and pay increases for its executives, with no comparable increase in the number of women being served,” according to the Campaign for Accountability. The organization charged that Real Alternatives “appears to be skimming state funds by withholding 3% of [state] funding intended for subcontractors for its own private, unspecified use, even though RA’s administrative expenses are separately provided for in the [state] contract.”

    • Two New Lawsuits Allege Surgical Errors During Heart Transplants at St. Luke’s in Houston

      Two new lawsuits have been filed against Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center by patients who say they suffered serious injuries as a result of surgical errors during heart transplants at the troubled Houston hospital.

      The suits, both filed Friday in Harris County District Court, bring to five the number of malpractice complaints involving heart transplants that have been leveled against St. Luke’s or its doctors since a Houston Chronicle and ProPublica investigation last year documented deaths and unexpected complications in the once-renowned program.

      In August, the federal government cut off Medicare funding for heart transplants at St. Luke’s, citing its failure to make changes needed to improve outcomes. The hospital is appealing.

      In one of the lawsuits filed last week, Lazerick Eskridge alleges that Dr. Jeffrey Morgan sewed a major vein closed during his heart transplant in February 2017, causing blood to back up into his head and requiring an emergency repair in the operating room. That led to several serious complications and resulted in a three-month hospital stay, according to the lawsuit.

  • Security

    • An ancient OpenSSH vulnerability

      ities in the scp clients shipped with OpenSSH, PuTTY, and others. “Many scp clients fail to verify if the objects returned by the scp server match those it asked for. This issue dates back to 1983 and rcp, on which scp is based. A separate flaw in the client allows the target directory attributes to be changed arbitrarily. Finally, two vulnerabilities in clients may allow server to spoof the client output.” The outcome is that a hostile (or compromised) server can overwrite arbitrary files on the client side. There do not yet appear to be patches available to address these problems.

    • 36-Year-Old SCP Clients’ Implementation Flaws Discovered

      A set of 36-year-old vulnerabilities has been uncovered in the Secure Copy Protocol (SCP) implementation of many client applications that can be exploited by malicious servers to overwrite arbitrary files in the SCP client target directory unauthorizedly.

      Session Control Protocol (SCP), also known as secure copy, is a network protocol that allows users to securely transfer files between a local host and a remote host using RCP (Remote Copy Protocol) and SSH protocol.

      In other terms, SCP, which dates back to 1983, is a secure version of RCP that uses authentication and encryption of SSH protocol to transfer files between a server and a client.

      Discovered by Harry Sintonen, one of F-Secure’s Senior Security Consultants, the vulnerabilities exist due to poor validations performed by the SCP clients, which can be abused by malicious servers or man-in-the-middle (MiTM) attackers to drop or overwrite arbitrary files on the client’s system.

    • scp client multiple vulnerabilities

      Many scp clients fail to verify if the objects returned by the scp server match those
      it asked for. This issue dates back to 1983 and rcp, on which scp is based. A separate
      flaw in the client allows the target directory attributes to be changed arbitrarily.
      Finally, two vulnerabilities in clients may allow server to spoof the client output.

    • Software Security is a Civil Right!
    • Security isn’t a feature

      As CES draws to a close, I’ve seen more than one security person complain that nobody at the show was talking about security. There were an incredible number of consumer devices unveiled, no doubt there is no security in any of them. I think we get caught up in the security world sometimes so we forget that the VAST majority of people don’t care if something has zero security. People want interesting features that amuse them or make their lives easier. Security is rarely either of these, generally it makes their lives worse so it’s an anti-feature to many.

      Now the first thing many security people think goes something like this “if there’s no security they’ll be sorry when their lightbulb steals their wallet and dumps the milk on the floor!!!” The reality is that argument will convince nobody, it’s not even very funny so they’re laughing at us, not with us. Our thoughts by very nature blame all the wrong people and we try to scare them into listening to us. It’s never worked. Ever. That one time you think it worked they were only pretended to care so you would go away.

      So it brings us to the idea that security isn’t a feature. Turning your lights on is a feature. Cooking you dinner is a feature. Driving your car is a feature. Not bursting into flames is not a feature. Well it sort of is, but nobody talks about it. Security is a lot like the bursting into flames thing. Security really is about something not happening, things not happening is the fundamental problem we have when we try to talk about all this. You can’t build a plausible story around an event that may or may not happen. Trying to build a narrative around something that may or may not happen is incredibly confusing. This isn’t how feature work, features do positive things, they don’t not do negative things (I don’t even know if that’s right). Security isn’t a feature.

      So the question you should be asking then is how do we make products being created contain more of this thing we keep calling security. The reality is we can’t make this happen given our current strategies. There are two ways products will be produced that are less insecure (see what I did there). Either the market demands it, which given the current trends isn’t happening anytime soon. People just don’t care about security. The second way is a government creates regulations that demand it. Given the current state of the world’s governments, I’m not confident that will happen either.

    • Metasploit, popular hacking and security tool, gets long-awaited update

      The open-source Metasploit Framework 5.0 has long been used by hackers and security professionals alike to break into systems. Now, this popular system penetration testing platform, which enables you to find, exploit, and validate security holes, has been given a long-delayed refresh.

      Rapid7, Metasploit’s parent company, announced this first major release since 2011. It brings many new features and a fresh release cadence to the program. While the Framework has remained the same for years, the program was kept up to date and useful with weekly module updates.

    • Security updates for Tuesday
    • Bellevue’s Polyverse brings on significant “strategic investors” as it raises $2M for its secure Linux product and courts the Pentagon

      Polymorphic Linux fools memory-based attack software, a growing type of attack that takes advantage of vulnerabilities in widely used software, as opposed to older methods of delivering malware onto a network through a compromised email attachment. It does this by “scrambling” some of the basic system information those in-memory attacks use to target Linux applications, creating a unique version of Linux by producing “individually unique binaries that are semantically equivalent,” according to Polyverse material.

      “If you’re running the same software the Russians have, you’re in trouble,” Gounares said. “They’re getting your copy of Linux, they are studying it, they are finding those flaws, and today those economics favor them” given how many machines they can access if they discover a zero-day flaw in something as widely used as Linux or Windows, he said.

    • Microsoft scores five-year $1.76bn contract with the Pentagon

      The $1.76bn (£1.57bn) deal was announced by the Pentagon as an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity arrangement – in other words, between now and the end of January 2024, Microsoft will offer what is needed, payable on a per task basis, across different cost centres.

    • Nine defendants charged in SEC [cracking] scheme that netted $4.1 million

      Two of the defendants, federal prosecutors in New Jersey said, breached SEC networks starting in May 2016 by subjecting them to hacks that included directory traversal, phishing attacks, and infecting computers with malware. From there, the defendants allegedly accessed EDGAR (the SEC’s Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system) and stole nonpublic earnings reports that publicly traded companies had filed with the commission. The [intruders] then passed the confidential information to individuals who used it to trade in the narrow window between when the files were stolen and when the companies released the information to the public.

    • Security updates for Wednesday
    • Reproducible Builds: Weekly report #194

      Here’s what happened in the Reproducible Builds effort between Sunday January 6 and Saturday January 12 2019…

    • ES File Explorer Has A Hidden Web Server; Data Of 500 Million Users At Risk
    • The Evil-Twin Framework: A tool for testing WiFi security

      The increasing number of devices that connect over-the-air to the internet over-the-air and the wide availability of WiFi access points provide many opportunities for attackers to exploit users. By tricking users to connect to rogue access points, hackers gain full control over the users’ network connection, which allows them to sniff and alter traffic, redirect users to malicious sites, and launch other attacks over the network..

      To protect users and teach them to avoid risky online behaviors, security auditors and researchers must evaluate users’ security practices and understand the reasons they connect to WiFi access points without being confident they are safe. There are a significant number of tools that can conduct WiFi audits, but no single tool can test the many different attack scenarios and none of the tools integrate well with one another.

      The Evil-Twin Framework (ETF) aims to fix these problems in the WiFi auditing process by enabling auditors to examine multiple scenarios and integrate multiple tools. This article describes the framework and its functionalities, then provides some examples to show how it can be used.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • New federal rules would let drones fly at night and over crowds

      The Federal Aviation Administration proposed Monday to relax rules governing commercial drone operations. Since 2016, the FAA has allowed the commercial operation of unmanned aerial vehicles weighing less than 55 pounds under certain limited circumstances. New rules proposed this week would relax two of the restrictions in the 2016 rules: drones will now be allowed to operate at night, and they’ll be able to operate over people.

    • Russian Federal Penitentiary Service employee still at work after driving car into mother and two children

      On September 4, 2018, an employee of the Federal Penitentiary Service, or FSIN, in the Russian republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia ran his car into three pedestrians at approximately 40 miles per hour. 31-year-old Murat Botashev, a junior inspector in a pretrial detention facility, claimed that he was hurrying home after work, but one witness to the incident testified that Botashev appeared to be racing another car. Mediazona described the crash and its consequences in a detailed report.

      Elina Khapaeva was walking with her two young children when Botashev’s Lada Priora hit them. The children, described as six-year-old Rustam and four-year-old Veronika in Mediazona’s report, were severely and permanently injured. Their mother will require plastic surgery. To protect their privacy, the children’s real names have not been revealed.

    • ‘Meduza’ fact check: The secretary of Russia’s Security Council says there was only one terrorist act in the country last year. Is he right?

      “Terrorist activity in this country has decreased by more than 20 times over the course of five years. In 2018, five crimes motivated by terror and one terrorist act were committed in this country. This decrease in the threat of terror is related to the meticulous work of special services and law enforcement in our country, which has resulted in the prevention of 36 crimes motivated by terror as well as 20 terrorist attacks,” said Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, in an interview with The Russian Gazette. Patrushev believes these statistics demonstrate that Russia is in a more stable situation than Europe, where “terrorist activity has increased.”

      [...]

      The best-known case in which a terrorist attack was reclassified under a different statue in Russian law was a shooting at Kerch Polytechnic College. Vladislav Roslyakov, a student at the college, triggered several improvised explosive devices there and fired at those who remained inside. Twenty people were killed as a result of the attack, and more than 40 were injured. Roslyakov committed suicide after the shooting.

      In the hours following the attack, Russia’s Investigative Committee brought forward terrorism charges. However, after law enforcement determined the attacker’s identity, the Committee reclassified its investigation under a different statute that governs the murder of two or more people. The Committee wrote that its decision was based on “the general picture of the crime.”

    • Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion

      It’s a messy, though typical picture. US President Donald Trump wants to pull out forces in Syria. When announced in December, jaws drooped and sharp intakes of breath were registered through the Washington establishment. Members of the military industrial complex were none too pleased. The President had seemingly made his case clear: US blood and treasure will not be further drawn upon to right the conflicts of the Middle East.

      His national security advisor, John Bolton, prefers a different message: the US will not leave north-eastern Syria till the militants of Islamic State are defeated and the Kurds protected. If this was a message of intended confusion, it has worked. The media vultures are confused as to what carrion to feed upon. The US imperial lobby is finding the whole affair disruptive and disturbing. Washington’s allies attempt to read the differences between policy-by-tweet and policy by representation.

      Trump’s pre-New Year announcement suggested speediness, a rapid removal of US forces supposedly indispensable in Making America Great Again. Once made, US troops were to leave in a matter of weeks – or so went a certain wisdom. “They’re all coming back, and they’re coming back now,” ventured the president. But Bolton suggested otherwise. US personnel, he suggested, would remain in al-Tanf to counter Iranian influence. Timetables could be left to the talking heads.

    • Trump’s Syria Exit Tweet Provokes Washington Panic

      President Trump’s unexpected December 19 twitter announcement ordering a 30-day timetable for the withdrawal of the 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria and 7,000 of the 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan provoked a bipartisan panic in Washington. Defense Secretary “Mad Dog” James Mattis, “the butcher of Fallujah,” resigned in protest stating, according to the New York Times, that “Leaving Syria in 30 days would jeopardize the fight against the Islamic State, betray our Syrian Kurdish Arab allies on the ground, and cede the eastern part of the country to the Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian allies.”

      The former commander of American-led troops in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010, General Stanley McChrystal, warned that “Trump’s approach to national security was reckless.” Eight years earlier the same McChrystal, working under the Obama administration, pilloried then Vice President Joseph Biden for publicly revealing that Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and other Gulf State monarchies had systematically provided weapons to and trained Al Qaida and other terrorist groups to invade Syria for the purpose of removing the Bashar Assad government. Biden soon after apologized for his “indiscrete” statements but never repudiated their validity.

      Brett McGurk, U.S. representative to the so-called global coalition fighting ISIS, also resigned from Trump’s team stating “Fighters with ISIS were on the run, but not yet defeated as Trump had said.”

      Pressing the panic button to the hilt, New York Times reporter, Vivian Lee opened her December 26 article with: “Turkey is threatening to invade Syria to eradicate Kurdish fighters. Syrian forces are rolling toward territory the Americans will soon abandon. Israel is bombing Iran-backed militias deep inside Syria and Russia could soon move to crush the last vestige of the Syrian anti-government insurgency.”

      Joining the chorus of Trump naysayers was none other than former State Department Director of U.S. Policy Planning,

    • UK government fighting to keep details of counter-extremism radio shows secret

      The British government is attempting to prevent publication of material that would show how counter-extremism propaganda is being channelled covertly through radio dramas broadcast in the UK.

      Lawyers for the government are resisting an attempt to force disclosure of documents that would expose the role the Home Office’s secretive Research, Information and Communications Unit (RICU) has played in the creation and production of supposedly independent radio shows.

      RICU, part of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT) within the Home Office, is known to have been producing and disseminating communications for around a decade as part of the British government’s controversial Prevent strategy. The unit goes to great lengths to obscure the extent of its operations.

      Government lawyers are arguing that any disclosure – under the UK’s Freedom of Information Act – that revealed details of RICU’s secret involvement in radio drama would jeopardise national security.

      “The relevant information clearly concerns matters which have the potential to expose the United Kingdom and its citizens to a national security threat,” they said in a submission to the Information Tribunal, the court that is set to rule on an appeal in the case.

    • Suspect arrested in terror attack allegedly planned for Putin’s visit to Serbia

      Armin Alibashich, 21, has been arrested in the Serbian city of Novi Pazar on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack, the Serbian news outlet Blic reported.

      Alibashich was allegedly stopped because his backpack looked suspicious. A rifle with an optic sight was found inside. A search of the young man’s home revealed components of improvised bombs and symbols related to the terrorist group ISIS.

    • US Army Documents Reveal Massive Support For ‘Long Road Home’ Miniseries, Possible Fraud At Military’s Entertainment Liaison Office

      The National Geographic drama series, “The Long Road Home,” tells a version of the story of the battle for Sadr City in 2004, a key moment in Iraq War, and newly-released emails and other documents from the United States Army detail the extensive military support for the TV series and how the Pentagon repeatedly bent its own rules on providing assistance to entertainment productions.

      Until April 2004, Sadr City was one of the quietest areas of Baghdad and coalition troops stationed there saw little action. That all changed on the night of April 4, known as ‘Black Sunday.’ Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of a prominent Shia militia, had his newspaper shut down by Paul Bremer, leader of the Coalition Provisional Authority.

      A few days later, one of al-Sadr’s top lieutenants was arrested. This sparked a vicious retaliation from the Sadrist movement, which ambushed a routine U.S. Army patrol in Sadr City and then attacked the forces sent in to retrieve them. It was a harbinger of what was to come, as the multi-form insurgency against the Western occupation of Iraq rapidly grew in size and violence in the following years.

    • Trump Wants to Punish California Wildfire Victims by Withholding FEMA Funds

      Just after California Governor Gavin Newsom delivered a fiery inauguration speech that positioned the state firmly against the worst elements of the Trump administration, the president swiped back via his favorite medium: Twitter and empty threats.

      Trump claimed that he told FEMA to “send no more money” to the state, which is recovering from the worst wildfires in its history; 2018 was a hot, dry, deadly and scorched year.

      But the president’s hatred for California isn’t new. And, more broadly, conservatives make a point of regularly sniping at the state and “San Francisco values” — whatever that’s supposed to mean.

    • ‘US Administrations Have Been Intervening in Venezuela Since at Least the Early 2000s’ – CounterSpin interview with Alexander Main on Maduro’s reelection

      When it comes to Venezuela, elite US media don’t hide their feelings. And their feelings are all the same. Headlines on last year’s reelection of Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro differed only in tone, including the disdainful: “As Venezuelans Go Hungry, Their Government Holds a Farcical Election,” from the Economist; the decisive: USA Today‘s “Maduro Is Turning Venezuela Into a Dictatorship,” or Foreign Affairs’ more somber version, “Venezuela’s Suicide; Lessons From a Failed State.” There’s Forbes’ vaguely threatening “Why Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela May Wish He Lost the Presidential Election,” and Foreign Policy’s unashamed “It’s Time for a Coup in Venezuela.”

      But they’re all pretty much variations on a theme that’s hard to unhear, given that media bang it out so loudly and repeatedly. Here to help us sort fact from froth is Alexander Main. He’s director of international policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He joins us by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome to CounterSpin, Alex Main.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Journalism Is Dangerous Work

      The unnerving sense of insecurity surrounding the field of journalism is more intense, of course, in places like Somalia and Saudi Arabia. But US journalists are increasingly finding solidarity with colleagues struggling to expose the truth in other countries. In an era of soft oppression and anti-media demagoguery, no journalist anywhere can afford to let their guard down.

    • WikiLeaks takes on The Guardian for alleging ties to Paul Manafort: ‘Legal action will now commence’

      Bolstered by online donors fronting the money for legal costs, WikiLeaks on Monday announced its plans to pursue a lawsuit against The Guardian newspaper over an article that alleged the antisecrecy group had ties to President Trump’s former election campaign manager, Paul Manafort.

      “WikiLeaks fund to sue the Guardian for publishing fabricated front page stories has hit $50,000. Thanks to all 1270 donors so far. Legal action will now commence (but more is required to complete),” WikiLeaks said on Twitter.

      Published by The Guardian on Nov. 27, 2018, the article alleged that Manafort held “secret talks” with WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange during the 2016 U.S. presidential race, essentially creating a direct link between Mr. Trump’s election campaign and the website responsible for releasing stolen documents damaging to his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

      No other outlets have corroborated The Guardian’s claims, and WikiLeaks and Manafort separately flatly rejected the article as false and libelous.

    • ‘Perfect accuracy’: WikiLeaks hits back at ‘neocon’ app NewsGuard, which labeled it untrustworthy

      NewsGuard claims to help combat fake news online and defend against “disinformation” but its links to the US government have caused some to call its objectivity into question.

      In a tweet responding to the news that Microsoft has partnered with NewsGuard to add it as an extension to its Edge web browser by default, WikiLeaks claimed the news-rating app was “pushing US security state news imperialism across the world” and reminded users that WikiLeaks has a “perfect” record on accuracy. Since its beginnings, no documents published by WikiLeaks were ever found to be inauthentic.

    • ‘Real journalists act as agents of people, not power’

      I had spent much of 1971 based in Calcutta reporting on the seven million refugees coming from what was then East Pakistan. Their journey was along what we reporters called a “corridor of pain”. The previous year, I had witnessed the devastation caused by the great tidal wave that engulfed the unprotected Bay of Bengal. What had struck me was the lack of real concern by the government in Islamabad, which sent the army to impose martial law on the people of East Bengal.
      This was a dangerous corner of the world for ordinary people and dissenters from the colonial power that touched all their lives; it was also an inspirational place where, it was clear to me, a free Bangladesh was struggling to be born.
      I like Bengali people; I admired their resilience and warmth and wit. In the summer of 1971, a young idealistic lawyer, Moudud Ahmed (who later rose to high office in Bangladesh), led me at night across the Radcliffe Line that divided India from East Pakistan. We marched behind an armed guide bearing a green and red Bangladeshi flag and we listened to people’s moving accounts of Pakistani atrocities and saw their destroyed villages.
      My subsequent report in the London Daily Mirror and my colleague Eric Piper’s photographs provided substantial evidence that the Islamabad government was waging genocidal war in Bengal.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • The U.S. Oil and Gas Industry Is Drilling Us Towards Climate Disaster

      As the 116th Congress commences, in the wake of dire reports from climate scientists, the debate over U.S. climate policies has taken a welcome turn towards bold solutions. Spurred on by grassroots pressure from Indigenous communities, the youth-led Sunrise Movement, and communities from coast to coast fighting fossil fuel infrastructure, Capitol Hill is alive once again with policy proposals that edge towards the scale required to address the crisis we’re in.

      A new study released today by Oil Change International and 17 partner organizations makes it clear that managing a rapid and equitable decline of U.S. fossil fuel production must be a core component of any comprehensive climate policy.

    • Studies Show Ice Melting and Ocean Warming Both Happening Much Faster Than Previously Thought

      A multitude of new climate studies has painted a picture of the numerous factors that are simultaneously leading to rising sea levels, which could increase by more than 10 feet by the end of the century.

      Scientists at University of California, Irvine found significant acceleration in the melting of ice across Antarctica, compared with how fast the ice was melting in the 1980s.

      On social media, author and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben was among those who issued a reminder that despite daily news regarding the Trump administration, the climate crisis remains “the biggest story” affecting the entire planet.

    • Virginia Air Board Member Who Approved a Controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline Permit Has Links to a Dominion Gas Partner

      A member of a Virginia state permitting board who last week approved a highly controversial certification for Dominion’s planned Atlantic Coast pipeline has business ties to a company currently collaborating with Dominion on a related gas project, DeSmog has found.

      William (Trip) Ferguson joined three other Air Pollution Control Board members to unanimously approve a permit for Dominion’s Buckingham compressor station. The planned station, which will propel the natural gas as it moves through the 600-mile interstate pipeline, will be built in Union Hill, a largely African-American community settled by free blacks and emancipated slaves after the Civil War.

      The plan has sparked a years-long opposition campaign by activists and concerned residents of Union Hill. Last week’s final approval was met by outrage, as protesters — many chanting “Shame! Shame!” — accused the governor-appointed board of foisting a noxious infrastructure project onto a reluctant community while ignoring critical environmental justice concerns.

      Now, a DeSmog investigation raises questions about the degree of Ferguson’s impartiality when approving this project.

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

      Legislators in Washington are currently proposing a Democratic Green New Deal (hereafter DGND) project that continues to implement neoliberal policy, including anti-union measures and fiscal benefits for the 1%. (cf. Corporations See a Different Kind of “Green” in Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal” by Whitney Webb, 12/18/18, Mint Press News) This would most likely include either quasi-privatization of infrastructure, known in popular press discourse as public-private partnerships, or outright privatization, passed off in public relations as a fair exchange of infrastructure ownership for installation and maintenance of renewable energy implements and devices, such as solar panels or windmills.

      It also appears that the DGND includes within its framework further weakening of labor union and worker protections. Whitney Webb writes “Another indication that there is nothing ‘progressive’ about the Ocasio-Cortez-backed plan is the fact that it is stocked with neoliberal buzzwords that are catnip to modern-day American robber-barons. For instance, the plan states that it must ‘include additional measures such as basic income programs, universal health care programs and any others as the select committee may deem appropriate to promote economic security, labor market flexibility and entrepreneurism…’ [emphasis added] The term ‘labor market flexibility’ is a neoliberal buzzword that disguises a corporation’s ability to hire and fire at will as an exercise in ‘flexibility’ as opposed to an exercise of corporate power. As Investopedia notes, ‘A flexible labor market is one where firms are under fewer regulations regarding the labor force and can, therefore, set wages, fire employees at will and change their work hours.’”

      This is another opening for the Green Party to take advantage of. Right now, the pseudo-alternative press outlets that function as auxiliaries and free public relations agents of the Democratic Party’s Progressive caucus, from Vox to Jacobin Magazine to The Nation, are promoting a multi-media meta-narrative that articulates an argument for a Popular Front with the Democratic Party to oust Donald Trump in 2020.

      While there certainly are undeniable and painful aspects to the Trump administration that have fascistic features, one element missing from all of these social democratic venues and reporters/analysts is a true socio-political diagnosis of fascism as a symptom and outgrowth of austerity policies. This is probably because austerity has been most successfully and brutally promoted in the past decade by the political candidates these social democratic venues have regularly and unfailingly endorsed. The Democrats willfully enable the growth of fascist political trends with financial policies that incubate white nationalism within the public over an immiseration that has a very real material basis. This immiseration is borne out in metrics regarding suicides, birth rates, substance abuse rates (most notably being the opioid epidemic), and the precarity of finances that demonstrate many are living paycheck-to-paycheck and are one major accident away from bankruptcy. While this loss of quality of life does not mean that so-called whites are in any way close to facing the kinds of struggles that African Americans and Indigenous people deal with, it does demonstrate that the ‘wages of whiteness,’ as W.E.B. Du Bois explained white privilege, are coming up short and no longer delivering in the fashion they once did.

    • The World Will End in Fire

      Proclaiming that the end is nigh has now become the labor of the very opposite of a deluded religious devotee. And the question framed by Robert Frost of whether the world will end in fire or ice is no longer in dispute. The world will soon end in fire, possibly the fire of the Pentagon’s “usable” nuclear weapons, certainly the fire of anthropogenic climate collapse. Not only will the world not end in ice, but the vanishing of ice from the earth is helping to rapidly render this planet uninhabitable for humans and many other species.

      As we observe up-close in Dahr Jamail’s new book The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption, great masses of ice are melting away. Glacier National Park will soon lack any glaciers. Greenland, that ice-covered land falsely labeled green and distorted by northern prejudice to appear larger than Africa on most western maps, is being transformed into something you can spray through a hose . . . or drown in. Ice that most of us have never seen, but upon which our lives depend, is disappearing, not just quickly, but at a rate that is constantly becoming quicker, and even quicker, and quicker still.

      The permafrost in the Arctic, Jamail tells us, is thawing and releasing methane, and could at any moment release methane equivalent to several times the total carbon dioxide released by humans ever. Barring that catastrophe, the feedback loops or vicious cycles are real and underestimated. When the glaciers melt, the streams warm up or dry up, ecosystems collapse, forests burn, and the glaciers melt more. By 2015, forests in California had become climate polluters rather than CO2 reducers. Jamail finds that every single worst case scenario predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) regarding temperature, sea level, severe weather, and CO2 in the atmosphere has fallen short. In fact, Jamail explains why the IPCC is generally not just excessively conservative but 10 years out of date. That figure places the IPCC’s late-2018 report claiming that humanity had 12 years left in which to change its ways and avert disaster in a harsh light.

    • Natural gas is now getting in the way; US carbon emissions increase by 3.4%

      But it appears that emissions have increased 3.4 percent in 2018 across the US economy, the second-largest annual increase in 20 years, according to Rhodium Group’s preliminary data. (2010, when the US started recovering from the recession, was the largest annual increase in the last two decades.)

    • Without Trump, local governments spend millions to protect against climate change

      Frustrated by what they see as the Trump administration’s decision to de-emphasize the danger posed by climate change, local government officials, non-profit leaders and university researchers are busily forging ahead with limited resources in a piecemeal approach they say is better than nothing. They’re hardening buildings, digging bigger storm drains and changing zoning laws to keep homes from being built in low-lying areas prone to flooding.

    • India’s love for hydroelectric power is misplaced: It isn’t renewable, river flow is erratic and mega dams dangerous

      Due to the variety of reasons discussed above, governments across the world are progressively becoming more cognizant of the adverse impacts of dams. Many countries, such as the United States of America, Brazil, China and Peru, are now actively taking steps to de-commission existing dams, or to abort plans for commissioning future dams. Similarly, it has been recommended that unsafe and unproductive dams in India should be de-commissioned.

      Policymakers should desist from shifting the goalposts by re-classifying large hydro as a source of renewable energy. In view of the large environmental and social costs of energy from large hydro, it may be more prudent at this juncture to reduce dependence on large hydro, and if required, signal this through a reduction in the NDC target of 175GW to 125GW.

    • Hazy figures cloud Indonesia’s peat restoration as fire season looms

      Activists have also questioned figures that suggest the target of restoring 24,000 square kilometers (9,300 square miles) of peatland by the end of 2020 has been almost achieved, saying there’s little transparency about the bulk of the required restoration, being carried out by pulpwood and plantation companies.

    • Breakthrough as world’s largest palm oil trader gives forest destroyers nowhere to hide

      The world’s largest palm oil trader, Wilmar International, has published a detailed action plan to map and monitor all of its suppliers. If implemented, this would put the palm oil giant, which supplies 40% of the world’s palm oil, one step closer to finally eliminating deforestation from its supply chain and would have a major impact on the rest of the industry.

    • WHO study likens palm oil lobbying to tobacco and alcohol industries

      The palm oil industry is deploying tactics similar to those of the alcohol and tobacco industries to influence research into the health effects of its product, a study published by the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.

      Evidence of the health impact of palm oil is mixed, with some studies linking consumption to several ailments, including increased risk of death from heart disease caused by narrowing arteries, the report said.

    • MPOC lambasts WHO over negative remarks on palm oil lobbying

      The authors of the study, published in the WHO’s bulletin, claimed that they found nine pieces of research showing overwhelmingly positive health associations, but four of them were authored by the MPOC.

      Kalyana said back in the 1980s, palm oil was said to pose a risk for heart disease because of its higher saturated fat content and the industry had to step in and sponsor a global research to learn the truth.

    • Ocean Warming Is Accelerating Faster Than Thought, New Research Finds

      Scientists say the world’s oceans are warming far more quickly than previously thought, a finding with dire implications for climate change because almost all the excess heat absorbed by the planet ends up stored in their waters.

      A new analysis, published Thursday in the journal Science, found that the oceans are heating up 40 percent faster on average than a United Nations panel estimated five years ago. The researchers also concluded that ocean temperatures have broken records for several straight years.

    • What warmer oceans mean for the planet

      Our oceans are much warmer than we previously thought, according to a new study. They are also heating up faster than was believed, driven by climate change caused by humans.

    • ‘No Life Without Water’: Kabul Faces Water Crisis as Drought, Population Strain Supply

      Water is not only scarce in Kabul, but most of it is undrinkable, according to the National Environmental Protection Agency.

      Around 70 percent of the city’s groundwater is contaminated by waste and chemicals from leaky household septic tanks and industrial plants that can cause diarrhea or other illnesses if the water is not boiled or purified properly.

    • Government resolves to cancel land titles in wetlands

      The minister’s pronouncement comes barely two months after authorities in Masaka halted all activities taking place in wetlands, forests and other water catchment areas.

    • Study: Number of monarch butterflies in California declined by 86 percent in one year

      The group’s most recent count, over Thanksgiving weekend, recorded less than 30,000 butterflies — an 86-percent decline since 2017 alone.

    • We’re losing monarchs fast—here’s why

      The epic 3,000-mile monarch butterfly migration may become a thing of the past. Each fall, monarchs travel from their summer homes in the northern U.S. and Canada to winter habitats in California and Mexico. But the 2018 Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count found that the number of west-coast monarchs spending the winter in California had plunged to only 20,456 butterflies—a drop of 86 percent since last year. And the number of eastern monarchs overwintering in Mexico this year has dropped 15 percent since last year, for a total decline of more than 80 percent over the past 20 years, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

      This year’s count is only the latest in a string of bad news for the charismatic butterfly that makes one of the longest known insect migrations. The culprit? Humans. The twin forces of human-caused climate change and habitat loss are now threatening North American monarch butterflies with extinction.

    • Meteorological Institute confirms 2018 was hottest year in Finland’s history

      In a bulletin released by the Institute this morning, they reveal that overall, 2018 was a full 2 degrees warmer than usual as an average. Meanwhile, the peak temperature of the year, which was recorded as 33.7 degrees Celsius in Vaasa on 18 June, was one of the highest ever reached.

    • Fewer Americans are biking to work despite new trails, lanes and bicycle share programs

      Around the country, city transportation officials wish there were more bicyclists like Dandino, as they seek to cut traffic congestion, promote health and identify alternatives to cars. But after rising for several years, the percentage of commuters turning to bikes has declined for the third year straight, U.S. Census Bureau figures shows.

    • Washington Could Become the First State to Compost the Dead

      The method is called “recomposting” and claims to be cheaper and more environmentally friendly than traditional burial or cremation. It involves rapidly decomposing a body and converting the remains into soil. That nutrient-rich material can then be used to grow trees, flowers, and other new life.

      The alternative practice hinges on a bill that state senator Jamie Pedersen plans to introduce next month, according to NBC. It would legalize recomposting in Washington where burial and cremation are currently the only acceptable ways to dispose of human remains.

    • These species went extinct in 2018. More may be doomed to follow in 2019.

      A disturbing trend is that mainland species are starting to go extinct, rather than island species: “Ninety percent of bird extinctions in recent centuries have been of species on islands,” said Stuart Butchart, BirdLife’s chief scientist and lead author on the paper.

      “However, our results confirm that there is a growing wave of extinctions sweeping across the continents, driven mainly by habitat loss and degradation from unsustainable agriculture and logging,” he said.

    • Top Oil Lobbyist Wants Government Open to Keep Rolling Back Environmental Rules

      Although the partial U.S. government shutdown, now marching into its fourth week, isn’t hurting the oil and gas industry, according to Mike Sommers, the head of the American Petroleum Institute (API) says he wants the shutdown to end so that the Trump administration can get back to actively helping the industry by meeting federal deadlines for rolling back environmental regulations.

      Nevertheless, there are signs the Trump administration is still at work on that fossil fuel-friendly agenda in some places, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), despite the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

    • A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s on Us

      The ancient cinder cone I’m perched on reminds me that St. Paul was, oh, so long ago, one of the last places woolly mammoths could be found in North America. I’m here doing research for my book, The End of Ice. And that, in turn, brings me back to the new reality in these far northern waters: as cold as they still are, human-caused climate disruption is warming them enough to threaten a possible collapse of the food web that sustains this island’s Unangan, its Aleut inhabitants, also known as “the people of the seal.” Given how deeply their culture is tied to a subsistence lifestyle coupled with the new reality that the numbers of fur seals, seabirds and other marine life they hunt or fish are dwindling, how could this crisis not be affecting them?

      While on St. Paul, I spoke with many tribal elders who told me stories about fewer fish and sea birds, harsher storms and warming temperatures, but what struck me most deeply were their accounts of plummeting fur seal populations. Seal mothers, they said, had to swim so much farther to find food for their pups that the babies were starving to death before they could make it back.

      And the plight of those dramatically declining fur seals could well become the plight of the Unangan themselves, which in the decades to come, as climate turbulence increases, could very well become the plight of all of us.

    • Trump’s Border Wall Threatens Rare Butterflies and Native Bees

      Numerous experts have expressed fear that the wall would have devastating effects on birds, jaguars, fish, butterflies and potentially thousands of additional species.

      Now a new research project reveals that dozens of beautiful native bee species, most of which are rarely seen in the United States, could also be hurt or wiped out by the border wall. Bees perform crucial work as pollinators of plants that feed birds and other animals. If their numbers are reduced or species are lost altogether, it could cause a cascade of harmful environmental impacts.

      The bees, identified by nature photographers Paula Sharp and Ross Eatman along with a team of scientists, were found at the National Butterfly Center, a nonprofit that works to conserve and study wild butterflies in Mission, Texas. The Trump administration plans to build the border wall through more than half of the privately held 100-acre property.

    • Bernie Sanders: As World Faces Climate Crisis, 95% of EPA Workers Furloughed During Trump Shutdown—’How Insane Is That?’

      Bundled up in a winter coat, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) stood outside the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters in Washington, D.C. to raise alarm that the arm of the government “that should be leading the effort in this country and around the world to combat climate change” is barely operating due to President Donald Trump’s temper tantrum over border wall funding.

      In a video shared to social media on Tuesday, the senator called on Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) to stop blocking votes on legislation approved by the House that would end the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

      While pointing to warnings from scientists that without an urgent transition away from burning fossil fuels, “the planet that we will be leaving our children and grandchildren will be increasingly unhealthy and uninhabitable,” Sanders noted that during the shutdown, 95 percent of EPA employees are furloughed and many are considered “nonessential.”

    • Warmer waters leave Irish anglers fishless

      Unusually high temperatures in 2018 have left many Irish anglers frustrated as fish struggle to survive in the Emerald Isle’s lakes and rivers, with the rising heat also causing an increase in methane emissions.

      Now changes in climate could threaten the anglers’ activities, putting in jeopardy what is a multi-million euro leisure industry.

      Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), a state agency, says that a heat wave across Ireland in the summer of 2018 caused temperatures in the country’s lakes and rivers to rise to what it describes as lethal levels for a number of freshwater fish species.

      The IFI’s findings, reported in the Irish Times newspaper, indicate that the two most affected species were salmon and trout – both prized by the freshwater fishing community.

      “The 2018 summer water temperatures need to be considered in the context of climate change predictions”, Cathal Gallagher, the IFI’s head of research, told the Irish Times.“If temperatures continue to increase, sensitive cold water fish species will be at risk.”

    • With US ‘Drilling Towards Disaster,’ Report Warns Anything Less Than Urgent Green New Deal Will Be ‘Too Little, Too Late’

      These are just two alarming findings from a report (pdf) published Wednesday by Oil Change International (OCI), which warns that—unless radical action on the scale of a Green New Deal is taken—U.S. fossil fuel production could single-handedly imperil the world’s ability to adequately confront the climate crisis before it’s too late.

      “Our findings present an urgent and existential emergency for lawmakers in the United States at all levels of government. The oil and gas industry is expanding further and faster in the United States than in any other country at precisely the time when we must begin rapidly decarbonizing to prevent runaway climate disaster,” said Kelly Trout, senior research analyst at OCI and co-author of the report, which was produced in collaboration with 350.org, Friends of the Earth, and over a dozen other progressive organizations.

      “This report should be a wake-up call for elected officials who consider themselves to be climate leaders,” Trout added. “We need a complete overhaul of our economy with a Green New Deal, and that overhaul must include standing up to the fossil fuel industry in order to take us off this path of devastation for our climate and communities. Anything less than a full, swift, and just managed decline of fossil fuel production is too little, too late.”

      Titled “Drilling Towards Disaster,” OCI’s report estimates that the continued expansion of massive fossil fuel extraction and pipeline projects throughout the U.S. under President Donald Trump has put the nation on track to account for 60 percent of global growth in fossil fuel production between 2019 and 2030—the year by which United Nations experts say the world must cut carbon emissions in half to avert planetary catastrophe.

    • Former Coal Lobbyist Andrew Wheeler Faces Senate Confirmation as EPA Administrator

      Acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief — and now Trump cabinet nominee — Andrew Wheeler heads into Senate confirmation hearings at 10 a.m. EST Wednesday, as the longest government shutdown in U.S. history has left the EPA mostly shuttered.

      Wheeler, a former coal, petrochemical, and LNG (liquefied natural gas) lobbyist, has run America’s top environmental agency since ex-EPA chief Scott Pruitt resigned this summer under at least a dozen internal investigations.

      The Pruitt investigations — now abandoned, the EPA’s Office of Inspector General reported in November — ranged from concerns Pruitt tried to use EPA staff to help arrange a potential Chick-fil-A franchise deal for his wife (and to help him buy a used Trump Hotel mattress), enlisted environmental law enforcement staff as his own unjustified 24/7 personal security detail (and to pick up his dry cleaning), and a $50 per night condo deal struck with a lobbyist.

      Wheeler now faces confirmation hearings before the Republican-controlled Senate, as he did during his confirmation hearing to become deputy administrator. He won 53 votes at that time, including the votes of three Democrats, two of whom were voted out in 2018. Nonetheless, Senate Republicans would have enough votes to approve Wheeler’s confirmation even if he draws no bipartisan support.

    • Keeping Global Warming Below 1.5°C May Still Be Possible With Immediate Action, New Study Shows

      While that goal is described by some as “daunting,” critics of the Paris accord—which is backed by every nation on Earth except the United States under President Donald Trump—and its recently established rulebook have concluded that neither go far enough. Beyond those squabbles, though, there is a general consensus among the world’s scientists that tackling the climate crisis requires “rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented” societal reforms.

      Specifically, the new research shows that if carbon-intensive infrastructure is phased out from this point forward, there is a 64 percent chance of keeping global temperature rise within this century below 1.5°C. However, the window of opportunity is closing quickly. According to the report, “delaying mitigation until 2030 considerably reduces the likelihood that 1.5°C would be attainable even if the rate of fossil fuel retirement was accelerated.”

      “It’s good news from a geophysical point of view. But on the other side of the coin, the [immediate fossil fuel phaseout] is really at the limit of what we could we possibly do,” lead researcher Christopher Smith, of the University of Leeds, told the Guardian. “We are basically saying we can’t build anything now that emits fossil fuels.”

      While the findings suggest the world still has the option to meet the Paris agreement’s ambitions, there are some limitations to the research. As the Guardian pointed out, “the analysis did not include the possibility of tipping points such as the sudden release of huge volumes of methane from permafrost, which could spark runaway global warming.”

  • Finance

    • China’s growth data may mask economic risks: research group

      Economists in China and abroad have long suspected data is massaged upward, often noting that full-year gross domestic product hits Beijing’s pre-set targets with suspicious regularity.

    • “A Fight for the Soul of Britain”: Theresa May’s Brexit Deal Goes Down in Historic Defeat

      Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal was crushed Tuesday in the biggest defeat for a sitting British government in modern history. After months of build-up, May’s plan for withdrawing Britain from the European Union was voted down 432 to 202, fomenting political uncertainty about the future of Britain, as well as May’s leadership. On Wednesday, Parliament will vote on a no-confidence motion in May’s government. We speak with Paul Mason, New Statesman contributing writer, author and filmmaker. His latest piece for the New Statesman is titled “To avoid a disastrous failure, Labour must now have the courage to fight for Remain.”

    • Steny Hoyer Deploys ‘Republican-Lite Talking Points’ to Oppose 70% Tax Rate on Ultra-Rich That Most Americans Want

      Speaking to the news outlet Cheddar, Hoyer scoffed and smirked when asked on Tuesday whether he would support the proposal—even as he undermined his own point, admitting that a 70 percent tax rate for the rich has in fact existed in the U.S. in the past.

      Despite his stated view that “we need to get the deficit down” and “pay for our priorities and our needs,” Hoyer claimed that asking Americans making more than $10 million per year—as Ocasio-Cortez proposed—”is not reasonable to attain either politically or frankly, I think, from a policy standpoint.”

      Justice Democrats communications director Waleed Shahid compared Hoyer’s statement to “mealy-mouthed Republican-lite talking points in place of a vision of Democratic governance.”

    • Student veterans deserve better than the DeVos agenda

      Periodic crackdowns by Congress over the years have made it harder for unscrupulous providers to prey on veterans and waste taxpayer dollars. One important requirement was to ensure schools weren’t being paid to leave students to learn on their own. But this could soon change, as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos embarks on an ambitious — and scary — effort to deregulate higher education and open the floodgates of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal aid to those who care more about making a quick buck than making sure students get what they’re paying for.

    • How Cities Make Money by Fining the Poor

      That night, Tillman says, she conducted an informal poll of the 20 or so women in her pod at the Alcorn County jail. A majority, she says, were incarcerated for the same reason she was: an inability to pay a fine. Some had been languishing in jail for weeks. The inmates even had a phrase for it: “sitting it out.” Tillman’s face crumpled. “I thought, Because we’re poor, because we’re of a lower class, we aren’t allowed real freedom,” she recalled. “And it was the worst feeling in the world.”

      No government agency comprehensively tracks the extent of criminal-justice debt owed by poor defendants, but experts estimate that those fines and fees total tens of billions of dollars. That number is likely to grow in coming years, and significantly: National Public Radio, in a survey conducted with the Brennan Center for Justice and the National Center for State Courts, found that 48 states increased their civil and criminal court fees from 2010 to 2014. And because wealthy and middle-class Americans can typically afford either the initial fee or the services of an attorney, it will be the poor who shoulder the bulk of the burden.

    • It’s Time For A Homes Guarantee

      Our nation is in a full-blown housing emergency. Today, a person working full time in a minimum-wage job cannot afford a two-bedroom apartment – anywhere in the United States. More than half of all Americans spend a third or more of their income on housing. Only one in five households that qualify for federal housing assistance receives it.

      And right now, thanks to President Trump’s irresponsible government shutdown, hundreds of thousands of households may face eviction and homelessness.

      So we have to ask again, with even greater urgency, the question we put to HUD Secretary Ben Carson when we confronted him in Las Vegas last spring: “Where will we live?”

      This is the humanitarian crisis we should be talking about: the one that’s right under our noses, and is growing larger every day. Most people – especially low-income families and communities of color – live one emergency away from an eviction. More than three million families and individuals are already experiencing homelessness, including over one million children.

    • Unpaid federal workers get help from food banks during government shutdown
    • The 2019 government shutdown is just the latest reason why poor people can’t bank on the safety net

      I conduct a lot of in-depth interviews with people like a woman I’ll call Angie as part of my work as a political scientist who studies poverty and public policy. When I asked the low-income mother of two, who works multiple jobs but still struggles to care for her family, about her experience with government assistance programs, she expressed dismay over benefit cuts.

      “The people who make these rules … they don’t have any poor people in their family,” she told me. “That is why they are willing to chop so many services for the poor.”

      People living in poverty are now bracing for that kind of chopping as a result of the partial government shutdown that began in December. By the three-week mark, most safety-net benefits were still being funded. But should the impasse drag on, that could change.

      In my view, the added economic hardship brought on would highlight an enduring aspect of American public policy: Government benefits can be unreliable. They can be cut or eliminated arbitrarily.

    • Arne Duncan’s Attack on Los Angeles Public Teachers Shows He Doesn’t Care About Real Student Needs

      Literally tens of thousands of Los Angeles public schoolteachers and support staff are on strike this week, demanding that the wealthy elites who run LA’s school district address the desperate need for more resources and supports for their students. But just weeks before the strike began, former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote an op-ed in The Hill essentially telling educators to back off their demands because there’s not enough money to fund them – even though those public school educators live in one of the wealthiest states in the nation.

      Let’s be clear. Arne Duncan has never taught a day in his life. He sent his children to an elite private school with small class sizes and great resources. He landed his job as CEO of Chicago Public Schools through insider ties—where he pushed policies that hurt our public school students’ access to the very same resources his own children had. He’s pushed endlessly for school privatization, and he’s been a national proponent of the teacher blame game as a way to dodge the real need for more resources for public education. Now he wants to silence Los Angeles teachers who are demanding the very supports for their students that Duncan’s children received—in a state with the fifth largest economy on the planet.

      “We need the opposite of what [Arne] Duncan brought to the table in Chicago and what he proposes in Los Angeles.”

    • 3 Reasons to Pay Attention to the LA Teacher Strike

      The first mass teacher labor action of 2019 is unfolding in California as the United Teachers Los Angeles walked out for the first time in 30 years.

      This strike, which began on Jan. 14, isn’t just important to people in Los Angeles. Here are three reasons the nation should pay attention.

      1. The Los Angeles case is different

      The Los Angeles strike stands out because of the size of the district.

      With 640,000 students, and about 500,000 enrolled in the district’s public schools, Los Angeles represents the second largest school district in the United States. The only bigger district is New York City.

      The Los Angeles strike involves 34,000 teachers. To compare, the statewide 2018 teacher strike in West Virginia – where I am researching teacher strikes and teacher shortages – involved about 20,000 teachers and affected approximately 270,000 students.

      Also, the political context is different. When West Virginia teachers walked out of the classroom, they were battling a conservative state legislature in a largely rural, majority-white state. Los Angeles is urban, far more diverse, and located in a state that has voted mostly Democratic in presidential elections since 1992.

      Los Angeles Unified School District’s student population is 73 percent Latino, 10.5 percent white, 8.2 percent black and 4.2 percent Asian. The district serves over 150,000 students whose first language is not English.

      The situation for the Los Angeles teachers union is also different in several ways. For instance, it is engaged in an active fight against the rapid growth of charter schools. Los Angeles is home to the largest number of charter schools in the U.S. with 277.

      Since 2008, the charter industry in Los Angeles has grown 287 percent. According to the Los Angeles teachers union, this is effectively siphoning US$550 million per year from the district’s traditional public schools.

    • LA Teachers’ Strike: When Just One Man Says, “No”

      So said Kirk Douglas as Spartacus, the leader of the renowned ancient slave revolt, in the movie Spartacus. The closer we came to a strike, the more furious the conservative establishment’s attacks on United Teachers of Los Angeles became. Their fear is palpable.

      Teachers are supposed to submit to the massive underfunding of our schools and tackle the problems in our usual way–self-sacrifice. This means working insane hours, trying to do what can’t be done, and spending our own money to buy what Los Angeles Unified School District will not. It means being blamed for the district’s shortcomings and the negative effects poverty has on our overwhelmingly impoverished student body.

      Finally, we said “No.”

      Our strike is so obviously popular that teachers unions’ more sensible opponents have refrained from attacking us, instead mouthing platitudes about “what’s good for the children.” But not so with the more open enemies of unions, teachers, and public schools.

    • ‘This Model of Education Is Not Sustainable’

      The Los Angeles teachers are on strike for the first time since 1989, demanding a change to conditions that have become intolerable. They’re demanding reduced class sizes; more counselors, nurses, and psychologists; less testing; a cap on charter schools; and an increase in statewide, per-student funding to raise California from its current, dismal rank of 43rd in the nation for such spending. Before voting to strike, they spent 20 months bargaining with the superintendent, Austin Beutner, who was chosen by LA’s elected school board, only to hit a stalemate on the major demands. A few months earlier, Beutner had accused the union of bargaining in bad faith, but to talk to the teachers—about the experience each day of teaching in LA’s schools, about their reasons for striking—was to understand that they had put their faith in a school system that continued to fail them.

    • #TacosForTeachers: crowdfunding to feed LA’s teachers as they strike against privatization and austerity

      Teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District (America’s largest district) are walking the picket line this week in the pouring rain, demanding an end to the billionaire dark-money backed privatization movement that funnels public education funds to the shareholders of racially segregated, underperforming charter schools.

      The Democratic Socialists of America have started a GoFundMe to provide taco truck meals to the striking teachers. It was originally intended to raise $1,000 and feed a couple schools’ worth of teachers, but it’s reached $24,000 as of this writing.

    • “Public Education Is Not Your Plaything”: L.A. Teachers Strike Against Privatization & Underfunding

      Los Angeles public school teachers are on strike for the first time in three decades. On Monday morning, tens of thousands of teachers braved pouring rain on the picket line for the strike’s first day. Some 20,000 people marched through downtown Los Angeles, demanding smaller class sizes, higher pay, the regulation of charter schools and more nurses, counselors and librarians. Over 31,000 members of United Teachers Los Angeles are striking. We speak with Cecily Myart-Cruz, strike leader and National Education Association vice president at United Teachers Los Angeles, and Eric Blanc, a reporter covering the strike for The Guardian and Jacobin. He is author of the forthcoming book “Red State Revolt: The Teachers’ Strike Wave and Working-Class Politics.”

    • Caroline Lucas: We need a People’s Vote no matter who’s in Number 10

      Responding to events in Parliament tonight, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said:

      “This is game over for Theresa May. But it’s only the end of the beginning of this whole Brexit saga.

      “MPs don’t want Theresa May’s deal, they rightly reject no deal, and they can’t have a fantasy renegotiation.

    • Ocasio-Cortez Forced to Explain Marginal Tax Rates to ‘Far-Right Former Governor’ Scott Walker

      “What Walker leaves out of the story,” joked Washington Post political reporter Dave Weigel, “is that the student had already made $9,999,990 on house work that year and the extra $10 pushed him into the top bracket.”

      “How is it even possible that you don’t know how marginal tax rates work?” the progressive advocacy group Credo Mobile asked Walker.

      And while the Patriotic Millionaires, a group wealthy individuals which advocates for higher taxes on people in their tax bracket, offered to share their resource materials to Walker so that he might better understand how the marginal rate works, their progressive allies at the Tax March also wanted to help.

      “Hey Scott Walker, it’s clear that you don’t understand marginal tax rates and we can’t have you mis-informing America’s children,” the group tweeted. “Check out our newest explainer video, it will get you up to speed.”

    • Britain’s May Faces No-Confidence Vote After Brexit Plan Crushed

      British lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s divorce deal with the European Union on Tuesday, plunging the Brexit process into chaos and triggering a no-confidence vote that could topple her government.

      The defeat was widely expected, but the scale of the House of Commons’ vote — 432 votes against the government and 202 in support — was devastating for May’s fragile leadership.

      It followed more than two years of political upheaval in which May has staked her political reputation on getting a Brexit deal and was the biggest defeat for a government in the House of Commons in modern history.

      Moments after the result was announced — with Speaker John Bercow bellowing “the noes have it” to a packed Commons chamber — May said it was only right to test whether the government still had lawmakers’ support to carry on. Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn quickly obliged, saying May’s government had lost the confidence of Parliament.

      Lawmakers will vote Wednesday on his motion of no-confidence. If the government loses, it will have 14 days to overturn the result or face a national election.

    • Richard Wolff: The Next Economic Crisis Is Coming

      Every time I sit down with economist Richard Wolff, he demonstrates why the field of economics is so necessary in the cultural critique of our American empire. In my recent interview with him, we discussed why the thriving economy touted by President Donald Trump hasn’t translated into real gains for the majority of Americans. We also went over what is hidden by the economic indicators that allow the financial industry to celebrate while so many Americans are still suffering.

      Professor Wolff talked with me on my show “Redacted Tonight: VIP” on RT America. Enjoy this excerpt from the interview.

    • As Poll Shows Majority Back 70% Tax Rate for Ultra-Rich, Ocasio-Cortez’s “Radical” Proposal Proves Extremely Mainstream

      Conducted by The Hill in partnership with the market research firm HarrisX, the poll found that 59 percent of the U.S. public supports raising the marginal tax rate on the richest Americans to 70 percent. The poll also found a “surprising amount of support” for the proposal among Republicans, with 45 percent backing the idea along with 71 percent of Democrats.

      “Oh? What’s that? The majority of Americans respect when you break down reasonable policy proposals that are designed to combat runaway income inequality and help fund priorities they value most?” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter in response to the new survey. “We can win public sentiment, stand our ground, and not be scared by GOP [mis]information.”

      “I don’t think it’s surprising,” Ocasio-Cortez said of the poll results in an interview with The Hill. “What we see, overall, is that the vast majority of Americans know that income inequality is one of the biggest issues of our time.”

    • Wednesday Papers: Theresa May’s Brexit plan falls by 230 votes

      Financial Times: Theresa May’s Brexit deal suffered a crushing defeat on Tuesday night in the House of Commons after MPs rejected the Prime Minister’s flagship policy by an overwhelming 230 votes.

      The Independent: The pound plunged and then rallied against the euro after Theresa May’s Brexit deal was overwhelmingly rejected by Parliament; sterling fell 0.74% against the euro to hit €1.1133 but it then recovered, rising 0.37% to €1.1257.

      The Daily Telegraph (Comment): We risk talking the UK economy into recession with all those Brexit scare tactics.

      The Independent: The International Air Transport Association has warned of potentially higher air fares, and reiterated that some flights from the UK could be cancelled if the country crashes out of the European Union.

    • Racism Poisons the Entire Brexit Debate

      It appears sadly impossible not to comment on Brexit at the moment; the astonishing scale of the government defeat in Parliament yesterday and the appalling self-serving behaviour of politicians on all sides compels attention.

      The first and most obvious point is this; had Theresa May any honour, she would simply resign after her major political objective was rebuffed so dramatically by the legislature. But honour appears to be entirely out of fashion, so I shall not refer to it again today.

      Parliament now appears ready to vote that it has confidence in the government when, clearly, it does not. This is because MPs wish to keep their jobs and careers intact. So from hereon the UK proceeds under the lie that it has a government which has a majority in Westminster for its views.

      Even more remarkably, Theresa May has no intention of seeking a proposal that could command a majority. She seeks to move forward with cross-party discussions which exclude the leadership of other parties. She also insists that such discussions must be limited by her infamous “red lines” – but within those constraints, there is no deal materially different to the deal Parliament has just rejected which will ever be available.

    • Angela Merkel Says There’s Still Time for Brexit Negotiations

      Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila is urging all British citizens living the Nordic country to immediately register at Finland’s immigration service to make sure they receive a living permit in case of no-deal Brexit.

      Sipila told Finnish news agency STT Wednesday that the temporary permit will be issued so that the 5,000 Britons currently living in the country of 5.5 million can continue their stay if Britain exits the European Union without a deal.

      He said the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit has increased as a result of the British parliament’s decision to reject Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal Tuesday.

      The Finnish government’s social benefits office Kela said there may be major changes to what social benefits British citizens in Finland may be entitled to in case of a Brexit without an agreement, but did not provide details.

    • How Illinois Bet on Video Gambling and Lost

      WITH THE LAST STREAKS OF DAYLIGHT fading on a mild October evening, the cars pulled up in waves at Piero’s Italian Cuisine, an old-school Las Vegas hotspot known for its osso buco.
      Cadillacs with tinted windows. Taxis and rideshares. A black Bentley limousine and a white minivan. Men and women emerged, most casually dressed, there for the first of a series of posh, private events hosted by the video gambling industry during the 2018 Global Gaming Expo, North America’s largest gambling trade show. They included gambling executives, lobbyists — and about a dozen Illinois lawmakers.
      The politicians had flown to Las Vegas to learn about the latest developments in the gambling industry and to discuss its expansion in Illinois, including proposals that would, among other items, license six new casinos in the state, legalize sports betting and increase the wagering limit on video gambling machines. The plans, lawmakers have said, would brighten the state’s gloomy financial picture without having to raise taxes or cut spending.

    • How We Analyzed Video Gambling in Illinois
    • Do You Know Someone Struggling With Video Gambling? ​Help Us Understand Video Slot and Poker Addiction in Illinois.
    • Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World

      World Bank president Jim Kim is an ex-leftist who claims that in the mid-1990s he wanted to shut down the Bank. At the time, it was an entirely valid, realistic goal of the 50 Years is Enough! Campaign and especially the World Bank Bonds Boycott. Kim’s co-edited Dying for Growth (2000) book-length analysis of the Bank’s attacks on Global-South public health offered very useful ammunition.

      However, not only did Kim subsequently make an ideological U-turn, as we see below, but more importantly, among the casualties of the 9/11 attacks were many such movement-building efforts aimed at a common international enemy. The global justice scene faded quickly as a result of new divisions between social activists and U.S. labor patriots, the shift by internationalists into anti-war mobilizing, and the ascendance of NGO-led World Social Forum talk-shopping. Other more hopeful recent leftist waves also ebbed: Latin America’s Pink Tide and 2011’s Occupy moment in many sites across the world. Perhaps the recent revival of social-democratic politics in the two core (Anglo-American) sites of neoliberalism will make this post-2001 lapse appear as an only temporary setback.

      If so, one inevitable site to identify neoliberalism’s coldest logic – and sometimes most brute-force muscles – is the World Bank, an institution often engaged in self-delegitimization. So if activists across the globe do not currently have a central site of resistance, nevertheless countless battles are being waged at any given time against Bank projects and ideology. The battle over its leadership is worth close attention.

      After founding an impressive NGO (Partners in Health) and pursuing Harvard anthropology and public health scholarship during the 1990s, Kim went on to run the World Health Organization’s AIDS division (very well indeed, helping get generic medicines to millions), and then Dartmouth College (not so well). Improbably, in 2012 he then became World Bank president due to his proximity to Bill and Hillary Clinton. But he made mistake after mistake for six and a half years at 18th & H Sts, NW Washington, alienating all kinds of different constituencies. In the wake of his sudden resignation last week, practically no one has a good word to say about Kim.

    • ‘Change Is Coming!’ Congressional Dems Join Sanders in Proposing Bill to End ‘Starvation Wages,’ Ensuring $15 Per Hour for All Workers

      The bicameral Raise the Wage Act would increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour, where it’s stood since 2009, to $15 by 2024. The proposal would also bar employers from paying tipped workers below the minimum wage and stipulate future pay increases for low-wage workers to keep up with median wage growth and cost of living.

      The House bill has 181 co-sponsors, while 31 Democrats joined Sanders in co-sponsoring the Senate version.

      “Just a few short years ago, we were told that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour was ‘radical.’” said Sanders in a statement. “But a grassroots movement of millions of workers throughout this country refused to take ‘no’ for an answer. It is not a radical idea to say a job should lift you out of poverty, not keep you in it. The current $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage is a starvation wage. It must be increased to a living wage of $15 an hour.”

      The grassroots movement the senator referred to was the group Fight for $15, which began its fight for a minimum wage increase in 2012 and has since grown into a global movement in hundreds of cities. Fight for $15 celebrated the bill’s introduction, with members gathering in Washington, D.C. as the legislation was proposed.

    • Masters of Our Domain: Foxconn and State Minions Seize Land

      A government’s right of eminent domain is typically used to condemn and buy up property that stands in the way of projects purportedly serving direct public needs, such as roads or large-scale public transit. But in Wisconsin, the rationale has been harnessed at the expense of the public good.

      The village of Mt. Pleasant, for example, is using Wisconsin’s eminent domain laws to force out homeowners on land coveted by the Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn for a television and computer-screen plant in southeastern Wisconsin, about twenty miles south of Milwaukee. The nearly four-square-mile project is already slated to receive up to $4.5 billion in state and local subsidies. It will also be exempt from paying taxes due to Wisconsin’s existing laws, will benefit from an exemption to smog control regulations (thanks to former EPA chief Scott Pruitt), and the waiving of water quality protections for wetlands and Lake Michigan.

    • Amazon Dash Buttons Ruled Illegal In Germany For… Making It Too Easy To Buy Stuff

      You can count me among those who don’t see the value in those Amazon Dash buttons that got plenty of attention a few years back, allowing those who had the little single-button devices to re-order some consumable product with the push of a single button. Even if lots of people made fun of them at launch, Amazon has expanded them to many more brands. So, even if I don’t see the value, it appears plenty of people do. Except, in Germany, they’re now illegal, because apparently some people are upset that they make things too easy to order.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Inside Megyn Kelly’s troubled exit from NBC

      The former Fox News host lasted just 18 months at NBC News, but Page Six learned during the course of her negotiations that the sticking point over her exit deal was not her astronomical salary — but her non-disclosure agreement to keep quiet about the network and its staff, which she eventually signed.

    • White House Shifts Shutdown Strategy, Attempts to Bypass Pelosi

      Shifting strategy, the White House invited rank-and-file House Democrats to lunch Tuesday with President Donald Trump, bypassing Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team in an effort to get centrist and freshman lawmakers on board with funding Trump’s long-promised U.S.-Mexico border wall.

      Pelosi approved of lawmakers attending the meeting, telling her team that the group can see what she and others have been dealing with in trying to negotiate with Trump to end the partial government shutdown, now in its 25th day with no resolution in sight.

      Pelosi predicted that after meeting with Trump the lawmakers will want to make a “citizen’s arrest,” according to the aide, who wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss the meeting and spoke on condition of anonymity.

      Lawmakers invited to the White House include centrist Democrats from districts where Trump is popular, including freshmen.

    • Once a ‘Laughingstock’ on Voting Rights, Reform Package Moves New York Toward More ‘Inclusive Democracy’

      Voting rights advocates celebrated Monday night as state lawmakers in New York—long considered a “national laughingstock” on voting rights—took a major step toward creating a “strong, inclusive democracy” by passing election reform legislation.

      The legislative package—which Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo indicated he will sign into law—includes provisions on early voting; the consolidation of state and federal primaries to one day; same-day registration; pre-registration for teenagers; portable registration; and “no excuse” absentee voting.

    • Trump’s Government Shutdown Furthers Native Genocide

      As the US government shutdown goes into day 25, it is now the longest US shutdown ever. While many are suffering from this crisis created by Trump’s demands for his wall, Indigenous people are faring the worst. Treaty-guaranteed rights to health care, food and other services are going unmet, endangering the lives of Native people.

      Indian Health Services (IHS) and the USDA Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations aren’t receiving the necessary funds to operate. Indian Health Services provides medical care to members and citizens of state and federally recognized Indigenous nations within the occupied US. While the reservation-based Indian Health Services facilities have received some funds, all urban Indian Health Services facilities have gone unfunded. This is particularly devastating, given that 70 percent of Native people are urban-based.

      Kerry Hawk Lessard, a Shawnee descendant and executive director of Native American Lifelines — an Indian Health Services agency that serves Native people in the Baltimore and Boston metropolitan areas — has had to make some heartbreaking decisions. Lifelines serves its communities through the purchase of care reimbursements for medical expenses, dental, behavioral health, and cultural and community-based services. Before the shutdown began, Indian Health Services owed two months of reimbursements totaling $130,000 to Lifelines, according to Lessard. The agency had to immediately operate on its reserves and suspend services when the shutdown began. “You have this right to health care that your ancestors paid for with land and blood and genocide,” Lessard told Truthout.

    • Democrats’ Attacks on AOC Are Silly and Self-Defeating

      A number of Democratic lawmakers appear to be ganging up on Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, accusing her of undermining unity in her own party. But underneath their lectures about being a team player lies a deeper concern: that she might have the power to remold the party in her own image.

      In a much-talked-about Politico article published on Friday, close to a dozen Democratic members of Congress and staffers criticized the Bronx-born freshman for her brash political style. It was a remarkable report—Ocasio-Cortez has barely been in Congress two weeks, and several of her colleagues were willing to express blunt rebukes of her, many of them on the record. “She needs to decide: Does she want to be an effective legislator or just continue being a Twitter star?” said one Democratic lawmaker.

      [...]

      Ocasio-Cortez isn’t a normal freshman. She toppled a Wall Street-backed ten-term incumbent who was the fourth-most powerful Democrat in House leadership, and did it with virtually no money or political experience. A democratic socialist, she quickly revealed a preternatural ability to discuss left-wing ideas as if they were mere common sense, earning praise from scholars as Reaganesque in her ability to communicate. Telegenic and media savvy, she goes viral without a hint of effort, and is pioneering novel forms of political engagement like the Instagram town hall. And as a young Puerto Rican woman, she has become the iconic face of a rapidly diversifying Democratic caucus that’s beginning to look more like the constituencies it represents.

      While Ocasio-Cortez’s critics say she only represents one district and nothing more, her ability to bend the news cycle to her will day after day, to generate weird, obsessive criticism from right-wing media, and to electrify the left nationwide suggests that her message is resonating far more widely.

    • A Democrat Who Votes With Trump 69% of the Time Should Be Primaried

      In the 2018 midterm election, when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley upset long-time incumbent Democrats who had grown out-of-touch with their deep blue districts, progressives revealed enormous energy for change in the Democratic Party primary electorate.

      The result: A former bartender from the Bronx now has more Twitter followers than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and is reshaping the Democratic Party and another is bravely taking to the floor of Congress to condemn Trump’s government shutdown. When new members know there’s a progressive base they need to respond to, they embrace progressive policies.

      Democratic voters are not afraid of primary challenges, so the party shouldn’t be either. A 2018 poll conducted by the progressive think tank Data for Progress and data analytics firm YouGov Blue showed that 54% of Democrats agree that, “Democrats should provide a clear, positive agenda to contrast with Trump and the Republican culture of corruption. Primary elections ensure the strongest Democrats emerge to advance that agenda.”

    • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Jumps Into 2020 Presidential Race

      Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand entered the growing field of 2020 Democratic presidential contenders Tuesday, telling television host Stephen Colbert that she’s launching an exploratory committee.

      “It’s an important first step, and it’s one I am taking because I am going to run,” the New York senator said on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” She listed a series of issues she’d tackle as president, including better health care for families, stronger public schools and more accessible job training.

      Gillibrand, 52, has already made plans to campaign in Iowa over the weekend, more than a year before the leadoff caucus state votes.

    • As With Any Animal That Is Rabid: Bobby Rush Is Really Not Down With Steve King Or White Supremacy

      We’re glad that after 27,624 abhorrent remarks over nine terms in Congress, Iowa Rep. Steve “Anchor Babies” King’s GOP colleagues finally noticed he’s a racist and moved to strip him of his power on House committees. Their disingenuous protestations – from Kevin McCarthy intoning “that language has no place in America” to Mitch McConnell tsk-tsking he “has no tolerance for such positions” – struck many as the rhetorical equivalent of issuing thoughts and prayers to combat racism. Nonetheless, King took the criticism with the grace of any Nazi, blasting a “political decision that ignores the truth” and whining about the “assault on my freedom of speech.” Observers were unmoved – “Your hood is showing…Eat shit, corn Hitler” – maybe because they’ve witnessed his atrocities over 20 years in office as he fought to restrict abortion, uphold “traditional marriage,” make English Iowa’s official language, keep races separate, protect civilization from “somebody else’s babies” and liken those babies to “dirt,” all while deeming Obama a “very urban” son of Kenya and displaying a Confederate flag on his desk. Given all that, many wondered what a white dude had to say to get fired.

      Now we know: In the wrong political moment, he had to gripe that what’s wrong with white supremacy anyway? King’s final-straw offense moved the Congressional Black Caucus to demand early on he be stripped of his committee roles. Then came the rare, fire-and-brimstone call for censure from senior Caucus member and longtime Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush, who denounced King’s “pattern of despicable comments” and declared, “This must come to a screeching halt right now.” To be clear, this is not Rush’s first rodeo: A former Black Panther Defense Minister, he co-founded the Illinois Panthers in 1968 and took over as leader after the 1969 murder of Fred Hampton by Chicago police and the FBI. A few years ago, Rush got thrown off the House floor for wearing a hoodie to protest the killing of Trayvon Martin; he still cites his revolutionary roots, is clearly done with the scummy likes of King, and used as radical language as one is likely to hear in the genteel, euphemistic confines of Congress when he said of King,“He has become too comfortable with proudly insulting, disrespecting, and denigrating people of color. As with any animal that is rabid, Steve King should be set aside and isolated.”

    • Warning of ‘Catastrophic Event,’ Air Traffic Controllers Union Official Says Flying ‘Absolutely’ Less Safe Due to Trump Shutdown

      “Each day that this shutdown continues, the situation gets worse and worse,” Trish Gilbert, executive vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, told CNN in an interview. “There are several complicated, complex layers in our system to ensure that it maintains the critical safety components that we all rely on when we fly. What we don’t want to see is a catastrophic event occur, and for us to come to you and say we told you that controllers are working longer hours, and now they don’t have their support staff.”

      “They’re going to work unpaid, so they’re not sleeping at night,” Gilbert said of air traffic controllers. “They’re looking for other jobs; maybe they’re driving Uber before or after their shift. This is unacceptable.”

      Asked if people should be concerned about flight safety as the shutdown continues with no end in sight, Gilbert answered in the affirmative, declaring: “I would say it is less safe today than it was a month ago, absolutely.”

      “We do not have the professionals on the job. We are working with bare-bones crews. We have controllers there doing what they do very, very well, but how long can you expect them to do it without all of the systems behind them to keep the system safe and the planes in the air?” Gilbert continued. “This is a horrible game of chicken that we’re in the middle of, and we need to get out of it, and we need to get out of it today.”

    • Brief History Notes on Mexican Immigration to the U.S.

      The historical ties of Mexican immigrants to the U.S., specifically the Southwest, distinguishes people of Mexican origin from other immigrant groups, especially those from Europe. While Mexican immigrants continue to be demonized and characterized as “criminals,” “drug dealers,” “rapists,” “illegal aliens” and “invaders” by American leaders and millions of white citizens, they have essentially become “foreigners in their own land.”

      In his infamous article, “The Hispanic Threat,” the late Dr. Samuel P. Huntington of Harvard claimed that Latinas/os in general and individuals of Mexican origin in particular represented an existential threat to the U.S. By studying history, however, we can easily dismiss racist labels and false narratives by small-minded American leaders, scholars and citizens. Moreover, we can learn the true history about the actual invaders. For instance, in progressive history books, like Dr. Ronald Takaki’s A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America, we learn that white Americans gradually migrated into what is now known as Texas during the 1820s. While the Mexican government allowed for whites to settle in this foreign territory, the authorities did so under the assumption that the Americans adopt Mexican customs, learn Spanish and intermarry with the native population. This originally occurred without much conflict, which reveals the openness of the Mexican government and its people towards foreigners.

      By 1826, according to Takaki, then-President John Quincy Adams offered the Mexican government $1 million for Texas, where the Mexican government refused. Once Mexico outlawed slavery in 1830, however, American slaver owners, along with other white settlers, rebelled and formed The Republic of Texas in 1836. By 1845, it was annexed into the United States.

      It appears to me that the white settlers or gringos took the Mexicans literally when the hosts generously said, “Mi casa es su casa.”

    • Joe Biden, Crime Fighter from Hell

      I just listened to Joe Biden’s seventeen-and-a-half minute 2003 eulogy for his political friend Strom Thurmond, the former Dixiecrat segregationist from South Carolina who became a Republican in 1964. It’s clear Biden liked the man, who he worked closely with to pass crime bills in the early 1980s. As Thurmond’s replacement as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden went on to push the now-controversial bill he proudly touts as “the 1994 Biden Crime Bill.” This is the bill about which, in 2015, former President Bill Clinton told an NAACP convention concerned about the mass incarceration of African Americans: “I signed a bill that made the problem worse. And I want to admit it.” According to a 2015 NY Times story, “Today, about 2.2 million Americans are locked up in federal and state prisons and local jails, twice as many as when Mr. Clinton took office.”

      Biden’s long eulogy is full of warmth and wit and, for a liberal like Biden, driven by a spirit of forgiveness and, more important, a pragmatic sense of political synthesis between the dead man’s racist past and what Biden claims as his political mission, the pursuit of civil rights. He had been asked by Thurmond himself to give it. The problem is, when we forgive past shortcomings or evils in order to get over hurdles to make change possible so we can move on to better things, there needs to be true atonement, or it can’t work. And even if one argues that Strom Thurmond in old age was ready to atone in some way and to really move on, it’s crystal clear from the current state of Thurmond’s chosen Republican Party — still notorious for its cynical Nixonian “southern strategy” — that honest atonement is far from the order of the day; that, in fact, a dishonest, dog-whistle reanimation of that racist past is still alive in the heart of Thurmond’s Republican Party.

      In 1981, when Biden and Thurmond began to work together, Thurmond, who had been in politics since 1933, may have become a kindly old man with very real personal desires to atone. And the savvy, new Senator Joe Biden, 40 years his junior, may have figured out how to exploit those personal issues in order to accomplish legislation he found advantageous to his own and Democratic power needs. But this is 2019, and in the current political environment, Joe Biden’s clearly documented instincts for appeasing the conservative right to juice-up eroding Democratic power would be a coward’s way of regaining power. What’s needed is a new, courageous and pragmatic vision.

    • Trump Violates Law by Taking Putin Notes

      The Washington Post has reported that Trump “has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, including on at least one occasion taking possession of the notes of his own interpreter, and ordering the linguist not to discuss what had transpired with other administration officials.

      As a result, U.S. officials have 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.

      This is unprecedented in Presidential history, and truly chilling. After all, fourteen U.S. intelligence agencies have already concluded that Russia interfered with the 2016 elections, and Trump and his campaign is under investigation for possible conspiracy and obstruction of the probe.

      Without a written record, there is no way for the American public, Robert Mueller, or even top Trump national security advisors to know what he discussed with Putin on multiple occasions, what promises he may have made to the Russians, or even what instructions he may have received from Putin.

    • ‘Like I said: A puppet’: Hillary Clinton repeats her allegation that Trump is working on behalf of Russian interests

      Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, reiterated her claim that President Donald Trump is a “puppet” of Russia in a rare tweet addressing Trump on Monday.

      “Like I said: A puppet,” she added to a retweet of a now viral video from an October 2016 presidential debate in which she first asserted that Trump was a “puppet” of Russia.

      When Trump said Russian President Vladimir Putin had “no respect” for Clinton, she hit back by saying, “that’s because he’d rather have a puppet as president,” prompting Trump to reply, “no puppet, you’re the puppet!”

    • A Great Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons

      Unlike the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, the Speaker of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, given the essential place and nature of debate in the Commons, is expected (procedurally at any rate) to be a kind of neutral referee in recurrently adversarial situations.

      The Speaker of the House of Commons does not have to come from the party that wins the general election– speakers are elected by the entire House, and any MP can be a candidate in this election.

      Historically, though no longer, the Speaker’s position has sometimes been deadly for its holders: seven Speakers of the Commons have been executed.

      Incidentally, some of my American friends, upon being informed by me of this piece of arcane Ukanian parliamentary history, and knowing that the US retains the death penalty, say this would be a fate befitting the recently retired Republican Speaker of the US House of Representatives, the widely-denounced hypocrite Paul Ryan, and several others as well.

      John Crace, the superb parliamentary sketch-writer of The Guardian, said in a recent piece that many Tory Brexiteers would have the current Speaker, John Bercow (a Tory who has been in this position since 2009), meet the same fate as his seven executed predecessors.

      Given that their role is to enforce routine rules of procedure, Speakers of the Commons rarely have the chance to make momentous interventions.

    • Did ‘The Sopranos’ Anticipate the Rise of Trump?

      In “The Sopranos’ ” controversial and relentlessly scrutinized final episode “Made in America,” Tony’s misfit son AJ makes a reluctant announcement: he’s going to fight in Afghanistan because he believes the Army will improve his career prospects. “My ultimate goal is to qualify for helicopter pilot training,” he tells an incredulous Tony. “Afterwards go to work for Trump or somebody. Be their personal pilot.” (AJ ultimately accepts a position at “Little” Carmine Lupertazzi’s production company, which is developing a movie about a private detective who gets sucked into the internet.)

      Twelve years later, the U.S. is still fighting in Afghanistan and Donald Trump has improbably ascended to the White House, his family’s criminal undertakings offering their own source of fascination for the American public. To borrow a phrase from “Sopranos” character Bobby Baccalieri, maybe Quasimodo predicted all this. Either way, the series has proved remarkably prescient in its assessment of America as a culture and a society.

      “I think the thematic heart of the show—corruption, consumption and waste—are subjects that are on people’s minds to a far greater degree now than they were in the late ’90s,” New York Magazine’s Matt Zoller Seitz tells Truthdig. “And I hate to be so blunt, but we have a kind of gangster president.”

      In their new book, “The Sopranos Sessions,” Seitz and co-author Alan Sepinwall offer a critical reexamination of the HBO drama—one that explores how the series revolutionized serial television, aesthetically and thematically. “The show’s mercurial unpredictability was electrifying,” they write in their introduction. “Pre-Sopranos, TV was widely dismissed as a medium for programs that didn’t ask the viewer to think about anything except what was coming on next, and that preferred lovable characters who didn’t change and had no inner life. The ideal network series was filler between commercials.”

    • Applause as AOC, Porter, Pressley, and Tlaib Head to House Financial Services Committee

      Following outrage last week after Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) shut out progressives from some of the chamber’s most powerful committees, news that freshman Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) are headed to the Financial Services Committee was met with applause.

      Congratulating the quartet, Social Security Works called it “scary news for Wall Street and great news for the rest of us!”

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Roku defends hosting Infowars

      Roku has been receiving angry tweets from users over the past few days after many noticed that Infowars continues to be available on the TV streaming device, as first reported by DigiDay. Infowars, known for its hateful content, was effectively de-platformed last year after being booted from Apple’s App Store, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, dramatically limiting its ability to reach viewers.

    • Roku explains why it allowed Infowars on its platform

      Because of Jones’ claims, the Sandy Hook families have received death threats and have been continually harassed, even offline. Jones has also promoted other theories that led to violence, like Pizzagate.

    • Infowars Must Turn Over Internal Documents to Sandy Hook Families, Judge Rules

      The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are relatives of five children and three adults who were killed, and one F.B.I. agent who responded to the shooting. Their complaint said the families have faced “physical confrontation and harassment, death threats, and a sustained barrage of harassment and verbal assault on social media.”

    • Court To Revenge Porn Bro Suing Twitter: You Agreed To Twitter Picking The Courtroom Every Time You Created A New Alt Account

      Craig Brittain’s $1 billion lawsuit against Twitter is still rolling slowly towards its inevitable dismissal. Bringing with him his usual legal expertise — which includes badly misreading the Knight Institute v. Trump decision and asking for some weird hybrid judgment/injunction/perma-unbanning — Brittain has so far forced Twitter to… move his case to another venue. (via Eric Goldman)

      Twitter invoked the forum selection clause of its terms of service — terms Brittain agreed to time and time again as he created new accounts only to have them permanently suspended later. The terms say Twitter can move your lawsuit to its preferred venue (California federal court) and if you don’t like it, well… you can just not use Twitter and/or sue Twitter.

      Brittain’s attempt to avoid having his Arizona lawsuit moved to California contains some rather novel legal arguments.

    • Texas Speech Pathologist Fired for Refusal to Sign Pro-Israel Oath

      A 2018 report shows that American citizens are actively being stripped of their First Amendment rights. As Glenn Greenwald, reported, 26 states have enacted Israel loyalty oath requirements for contract workers, and 13 other US states have similar bills pending. Greenwald’s reported cited figures from Legal Palestine, an independent organization that protects the civil rights of people in the US who speak out for Palestinian freedom.

      The laws allow the state governments to sanction and impose limits on citizens who participate in political boycotts of Israel. The First Amendment is supposed to protect citizens from being punished for expressing their political beliefs, Greenwald reported, but for Bahia Amawi, a children’s speech pathologist in Texas, this has not been the case.

    • St. Petersburg court upholds customs seizure of Masha Gessen’s new book about modern-day Russian ‘totalitarianism’

      In November, Russian lawyer Sergey Golubok received a letter from the Pulkovskaya customs agency asking whether a book he had ordered on Amazon contained “signs of propagandizing certain views and ideologies.” The book in question was journalist and political analyst Masha Gessen’s The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, which won the 2017 National Book Award for nonfiction. After the book was temporarily seized and then returned to Golubok, he filed a legal complaint about the incident. Kommersant reports that while the attorney’s complaint was unsuccessful, the accompanying court proceedings revealed how Russian customs services decide whether to search incoming packages.

      Golubok argued that the customs agency’s actions violated his right to private correspondence: the Russian Constitution prohibits government agents from opening private mail without a warrant. However, customs representatives successfully argued that a package is “a good or commodity” rather than a letter and therefore does not fall within that right. Golubok has appealed the court’s decision, and his appeal will be heard on January 22.

    • UK Welcomes Extremists, Bans Critics Of Extremists

      We have also seen time and again how extremist clerics such as the Pakistani clerics Muhammad Naqib ur Rehman and Hassan Haseen ur Rehman have been allowed to enter the UK despite their track records of supporting the murder of people merely suspected of having blasphemed against, or apostasised from, Islam. Nevertheless, while the UK government continues to allow clerics such as these to enter Britain, it develops an ever-growing banned list of people who are not Muslim but who have been critical of aspects of Islam. It is almost as though the UK government has decided that while extremist clerics can only rarely be banned, critics of such clerics can be banned with ease.

    • European Court of Human Rights Promotes Human Wrongs

      Unfortunately, while good news is coming from Dublin, the same cannot be said for Strasbourg, where the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) — a supranational judicial body entitled to scrutinize the compliance of national pieces of legislation with the European Convention of Human Rights — recently upheld the criminal conviction of an Austrian woman, Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff. Her “crime” was supposedly having defamed the Islamic Prophet Muhammad.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Our Devices Getting Creepier, Nosier and More Invasive, by Daily Editorials

      In a March 8, 2017, story, the Daily Telegraph of London reported that TVs, like computers, are “being hacked and turned into spying tools.” TV manufacturer Vizio has been accused of spying on its customer base, and Wikileaks released documents that appeared to show the CIA had technology to transform smart TVs into “bugging devices.”

      Meanwhile, Jon Webb of the Evansville Courier & Press in Indiana reported on Jan. 2 that such voice-activated assistant devices as Amazon Echo and Google Home “eavesdrop on you all the live-long day.” He described an incident last spring when an Echo employee recorded a conversation between a husband and wife in Portland, Oregon — and proceeded to send a recording to one of his co-workers.

      The product is supposed to be activated when someone says the word “Alexa.” Amazon claimed in a statement that its product “woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like ‘Alexa,’” and continued to misinterpret the discussion to the point of unintentionally sending off a recording. Was it an accident? Perhaps, but it’s unnerving that something like this can happen.

    • Ajit Pai Refuses To Brief Congress On What He Plans To Do About Wireless Location Data Scandals

      So last week yet another location data scandal emerged for the wireless industry, highlighting once again how carriers are collecting your location data, then selling it to a universe of sometimes shady partners with little to no oversight or accountability. Like the Securus and LocationSmart scandals before it, last week’s Motherboard report highlighted how all manner of dubious dudebros (and law enforcement officers) have been abusing this data for years, and the Ajit Pai FCC has yet to so much as mention the problem, much less spend a single calorie addressing it in any meaningful way.

      Shortly after the scandal broke last week, Frank Pallone, the Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, asked Pai (pdf) to brief Congress on the steps the agency was taking to address the wireless sector’s long-standing failure to adequately address location data abuse. Pai’s response? Yeah, no thanks.

    • Ajit Pai Refuses to Brief Congress About Why Bounty Hunters Can Buy Cell Phone Location Data

      Last week a Motherboard investigation revealed that cell phone providers and location aggregators have allowed real-time smartphone location data to be sold to bounty hunters, landlords, and used car salesman, among others. Soon after the story broke, Frank Pallone, the Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, asked Pai for an emergency briefing on the issue. Monday, Pai refused that request, according to Pallone’s office.

    • Ajit Pai gives carriers free pass on privacy violations during FCC shutdown

      Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai refused a Democratic lawmaker’s request to immediately address a privacy scandal involving wireless carriers, saying that it can wait until after the government shutdown is over.

      A Motherboard investigation published last week found that T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T are still selling their mobile customers’ real-time location information to third-party data brokers, despite promises in June 2018 to stop the controversial practice.

    • Federal Judge Says Compelling People To Unlock Phones With Their Fingerprints/Faces Violates The 5th Amendment

      The advent of biometric “passcodes” — fingerprints and facial recognition — appear to be leaving those who choose these methods with fewer Fifth Amendment protections. A handful of courts have ruled fingerprints and faces aren’t “testimony.” Much as officers can collect fingerprints and mugshots without a warrant following an arrest, they can also apply fingers and faces to locked phones to get to the data inside.

      But it’s not as simple as some court decisions make it appear. Even passwords can be considered testimonial, as they may indicate ownership of a locked device or compel production of evidence to be used against the device’s owner. The passcode argument has gone both ways in court, which usually comes down to the individual judge’s definition of “foregone conclusion.” Does the foregone conclusion refer to the device’s ownership or the evidence contained in it? The latter is harder to prove, and raising the burden of proof to this level tends to result in courts finding the compelled production of passwords to be a Fifth Amendment violation.

    • Vizio Admits Modern TV Sets Are Cheaper Because They’re Spying On You

      The problem is that this trade off isn’t really providing value to the end user, in large part thanks to the TV sector’s terrible security and privacy practices. For one, navigating the TV sector’s historically terrible GUIs to actually find and opt out of this data collection is often a nightmare. Usually opting out is first intentionally named something nebulous, then buried deep in a sea of terribly-designed menus. And even then, opting out can often result in you losing access to some core set features you might actually use. That’s only a good deal if you enjoy annoyance.

      Then there’s the fact that the TV sector routinely does an absolutely terrible job at the security and privacy practices needed to protect this data. We’ve seen vendors like Samsung get busted hoovering up and collecting living room conversations, then shoveling this data off to a nebulous assortment of third-party clients. Numerous set vendors have similarly been busted collecting this data then transmitting it to the cloud without adequate encryption. Vizio itself just struck a $2.2 million settlement with the FTC for secretly tracking and selling the usage habits of around sixteen million Vizio owners for around three years.

      So yes you’re maybe paying a bit less up front for a cheaper set, but you’re paying for the deal out the other side of the equation in a way that’s not even entirely calculable. Even then, higher-end TV set vendors do this same thing, kind of deflating the claim that this is only being done by necessity among lower-end vendors trapped by tight margins. In reality, the same disregard for privacy and security that has infected the internet of broken things space is on proud display in the TV business, resulting in hardware that’s easily exploitable by everyone from run of the mill hackers to intelligence services. Is that a bargain, really?

    • With Facial Recognition Technology at ‘Crossroads,’ 90 Groups Urge Amazon, Google, and Microsoft Not to Collude With Big Brother

      The letters come in response to recent public statements by the tech giants’ leaders regarding concerns about government misuse of such products, and reporting that the FBI is piloting Amazon’s Rekognition technology—which the company has also pitched to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), one of the agencies charged with implementing the Trump administration’s cruel immigration policies.

      Despite CEO Jeff Bezos’ admission that Amazon’s technology could be misused, the company has appeared more willing to profit from the U.S. government’s effort to achieve Big Brother status while Google and Microsoft have been more cautious.

      Last month, Google indicated that it will continue to develop artificial intelligence (AI) programs but will not sell facial recognition technology to governments—at least, until the potential dangers are mitigated to a degree that satisfies the company’s decision-makers.

      Microsoft President Brad Smith, meanwhile, wrote a blog post in December charging that facial recognition technology “brings important and even exciting societal benefits but also the potential for abuse.” Smith called for “governments in 2019 to start adopting laws to regulate this technology” but also pledged to be proactive in creating safeguards to address concerns about abuse.

    • Democrats aren’t buying a proposal for big tech to write its own privacy rules

      But the “bargain” would also preempt state laws like California’s new privacy act, and repeal every other existing piece of federal privacy legislation, including landmark laws like Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Every sector- or issue-specific privacy law would be removed, and state and local lawmakers would be unable to draft stricter, more specific regulations in the future.

    • Facebook’s Privacy Problems Get Real in Germany

      The country’s Federal Cartel Office intends to ban Facebook from collecting user data from third parties, the newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported. This will also prohibit data sharing between WhatsApp and Instagram, which Facebook owns. Germany is concerned that Facebook users didn’t know they agreed to be tracked across the internet when they signed up for the firm’s offerings.

    • German antitrust watchdog to act against Facebook: report

      The Federal Cartel Office, which has been investigating Facebook since 2015, has already found that the social media giant abused its market dominance to gather data on people without their knowledge or consent.

      The Bild am Sonntag newspaper said the watchdog will present the US company with its ruling on what action it needs to take in the next few weeks.

    • Rosenstein, DOJ exploring ways to more easily spy on journalists

      For months now, the Department of Justice (DOJ) quietly has been working on a revision to its guidelines governing how, when and why prosecutors can obtain the records of journalists, particularly in leak cases.

      The work has been supervised by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s office, especially since former Attorney General Jeff Sessions departed, but is not wrapped up.

      The effort has the potential to touch off a First Amendment debate with a press corps that already has high degrees of distrust of and disfunction with the Trump administration.

      Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker is aware of the effort but has not been given a final recommendation. Sources close to Whitaker say he will await final judgment but, in recent days, has developed reservations about proceeding with the plan.

    • Feds Can’t Force You To Unlock Your iPhone With Finger Or Face, Judge Rules

      A California judge has ruled that American cops can’t force people to unlock a mobile phone with their face or finger. The ruling goes further to protect people’s private lives from government searches than any before and is being hailed as a potentially landmark decision.

      Previously, U.S. judges had ruled that police were allowed to force unlock devices like Apple’s iPhone with biometrics, such as fingerprints, faces or irises. That was despite the fact feds weren’t permitted to force a suspect to divulge a passcode. But according to a ruling uncovered by Forbes, all logins are equal.

    • Huawei founder claims no user data will be given to govt

      Huawei chief executive and founder Ren Zhengfei says the company will under no circumstances allow the Chinese Government to access customer data.

    • Mullvad vs. NordVPN: Two popular VPNs do battle

      Before you plunk down your cold hard credit card number, however, there are many questions to ask. Can you trust the company? What are the speeds like? Is there a desktop app and is it easy to use? How many country locations are there, and can you still watch Netflix while connected?

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Gearbox CEO allegedly mocked ex-lawyer’s Christianity with slurs, “ridiculing” gifts

      Callender’s claim matches a timeline he outlined in his December countersuit against Gearbox: that Callender did not depart the company as a voluntary “resignation.” Instead, Callender alleges he was forced out after Pitchford began crafting a “false narrative about Callender’s employment.” His December lawsuit has roiled the video game industry in part because it included sensational allegations. One of those—about a lost, unencrypted USB stick full of industry secrets and pornography left behind at a Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament—was confirmed (in part) by Pitchford himself.

    • Thailand: Allow Fleeing Saudi Woman to Seek Refuge

      Al-Qunun said she fled while her family was visiting Kuwait, which unlike Saudi Arabia, does not require a male relative’s approval for an adult woman to depart the country. She said that she was fleeing abuse from her family, including beatings and death threats from her male relatives, who also forced her to remain in her room for six months for cutting her hair.

    • Saudi woman ‘trapped at Bangkok airport trying to flee family

      She told the BBC that she had renounced Islam, and feared she would be forcibly returned to Saudi Arabia and killed by her family.

    • The Hague Comes of Age

      I am delighted by the acquittal of Laurent Gbagbo at the International Criminal Court. As I explained at the time in a series of articles, Gbagbo was ousted as President of Ivory Coast by a corrupt election and an armed insurgency, both funded by Western oil interests, chiefly but not solely by Trafigura plc.

      Gbagbo was guilty in western eyes of failing to do what left wing African leaders are supposed to do, allow himself to be quickly butchered and his supporters massacred. So Gbagbo ended up at the International Criminal Court as a war criminal, while Big Oil’s puppet, Alassane Ouattara, is now comfortably ensconced in the Presidential Palace of Ivory Coast, and getting very rich indeed.

    • Court Blocks Trump’s Plan to Add a Citizenship Question to 2020 Census

      A federal court has blocked the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, stating that it constitutes an “egregious” violation of federal law. The ruling deals a serious blow to the administration’s plan to use the 2020 census to attack the financial and political resources of immigrants and communities of color.

      In a decision released Tuesday, Judge Jesse M. Furman determined that the Trump administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, “would undermine the proposition—central to the rule of law—that ours is a government of laws, and not of men” and that it violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) in many different ways — “a veritable smorgasbord of classic, clear-cut APA violations.” In the end, Judge Furman concluded that if the Trump administration got its way and a citizenship question was put on the census, “hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of people will go uncounted in the census.”

      In particular, Judge Furman ruled that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious” pursuant to the APA, which governs federal agency action. As demonstrated at trial, Secretary Ross decided to add a citizenship question in the early days of the Trump administration and only after did it “set out to find a ‘legal rationale’ to support it”— a reverse engineering process that both directly contravenes the APA and goes against the story that Secretary Ross has told for months. During the course of our litigation, we obtained documents that revealed that Secretary Ross lied to Congress about the origin of the citizenship question, testifying that he added the question because the Department of Justice had requested it in order to better enforce the Voting Rights Act (VRA). However, as litigation revealed, Secretary Ross actually started considering a citizenship question almost 10 months before DOJ made its request, and he had even compelled Commerce Department staff to push DOJ to make the ask in the first place.

      It’s no wonder that Judge Furman determined that Secretary Ross’s March 2018 memo officially adding the question, his sworn testimony before Congress, and the information he initially provided in our lawsuit was “materially inaccurate.”

    • Census Citizenship Question? The Answer Is No, Federal Court Says

      The United States census has not asked respondents whether they are American citizens since 1950. In March 2018, Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross brought it back, in a list of potential census questions submitted to Congress. Almost immediately, immigrants’ rights organizations filed multiple lawsuits challenging the question.

      On Tuesday, the first ruling came down, addressing two of the lawsuits. Judge Jesse M. Furman of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ordered the Trump administration to remove the question from the census. Ross, according to Furman, committed multiple violations of federal procedural law, setting up the possibility of appeals that could take the citizenship question all the way to the Supreme Court.

    • In Rebuke of Trump’s Effort to ‘Weaponize’ 2020 Census Against Immigrant Communities, Federal Judge Strikes Down Citizenship Question

      Civil liberties and immigration rights advocates are applauding a ruling decision by a federal judge New York on Tuesday after the court struck down the Trump administration’s attempt to insert a citizenship question in to the 2020 Census.

      Ruling on a lawsuit filed by the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), the ACLU, and other groups, U.S. District Judge Jess Furman said that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census, acted illegally when he requested that the question be added.

      Ross had previously claimed that the Justice Department (DOJ) had originally requested the question, which was to read, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” But the lawsuit filed by the groups revealed that Ross had actually consulted with former White House strategist—and open white supremacist—Steve Bannon. Ross’s addition of the question violated the Administrative Procedures Act, the judge ruled.

    • Muslim group enraged over naming of man-eating tiger
    • Cleared In Blasphemy Case, Asia Bibi To Still Spend Christmas In Custody

      But the ruling ignited days of violent demonstrations that paralysed large swathes of the country, with enraged Islamists calling for her beheading, mutiny within the powerful military and the assassination of the country’s top judges.

    • ‘She confessed… how can we forgive her?’: Asia Bibi’s former neighbours still want her put to death
    • Oxford Street terror attack plotter ‘resisted’ de-radicalisation

      A man who planned to drive a van into 100 people in London was working with a government de-radicalisation programme at the time, a court has heard.

    • ‘Let the West Burn’: Norway Reveals Radicalization in ‘Quran Schools’ Abroad

      The Norwegian police have raised concerns about the ongoing radicalization process in so-called ‘Quran schools’ in Somalia, where kids from immigrant families residing in the Nordic country are sent, often against their will, by parents to avoid being “westernized.”

    • New York Muslims have a new security patrol group
    • ‘French prison turned our son to ISIS’

      According to them, when he was released from prison, he and other young people like him were told they would receive an amount of 80,000 euros for establishing a Muslim cell. He would recruit operatives and send them Islamic messages in the spirit of ISIS.

    • Ugandan Christians live in fear of minority Muslims on quest for conversions

      “Ali convinced me to convert and become a Muslim, but I declined. They started pushing me on the ground threatening to kill me if I don’t accept Islam,” he said. “One of the attackers hit me with a sharp object on my neck, and I became unconscious. I remember them saying they have killed me.”

    • Ohio hospital condemns ex-resident who said she would give Jews ‘the wrong meds’

      A hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, said it has fired a doctor after it emerged that she had been making anti-Semitic remarks for years on social media.

      [...]

      On January 2, 2012, she wrote that she would “purposely give all the yahood the wrong meds,” using the Arabic word for Jews. She also repeatedly expressed hope that “Allah will kill the Jews.”

    • Triumph of Conventional Wisdom: AP Expunges Iran/Contra Pardons from Barr’s Record

      A president facing a major scandal, just as the highest-profile trial is about to begin, pardons the indicted or convicted officials around him to effectively stop the investigation that’s closing in on his own illegal conduct.

      Trump soon? We’ll see. But this actually describes what President George H.W. Bush did in 1992.

      The Iran/Contra scandal revealed, among other things, that the Reagan/Bush White House had secretly sold missiles to Iran in exchange for hostages held in Lebanon, using the proceeds to fund right-wing forces fighting the leftist Nicaraguan government in violation of US law.

      On Christmas Eve 1992, just as the indicted former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger was about to face trial, Bush pardoned him and five others, including former Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams and and former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane. The New York Times (12/25/92) reported this as “Bush Pardons 6 in Iran Affair, Averting a Weinberger Trial; Prosecutor Assails ‘Cover-Up.’”

      The attorney general for Bush who approved the pardons, William Barr, is now being nominated for the same position by Trump. Is this background relevant? Though current news columns are rife with speculation that Trump might likewise protect himself by pardoning his indicted or convicted associates, the dominant US news wire service doesn’t seem to think so.

    • William Barr’s Deep State Resume: Cover-Ups, Covert Ops, and Pardons

      “I started off in Washington at the Central Intelligence Agency and went to law school at night while I was working at CIA,” recalled William Barr in a 2001 oral history for the University of Virginia.

      Trump’s nominee to be attorney general has what Trump might call “deep state” credentials. Barr came to Langley in 1973. He was a 23-year-old graduate of Columbia with a master’s in political science and Chinese studies. His resume shows he toiled at the CIA by day and attended George Washington University law school at night. The Watergate scandal was ravaging the agency’s reputation and destroying the presidency of Richard Nixon.

    • William Barr Is a Danger to Civil Rights

      When William Barr served as attorney general in the early 1990s, the war on drugs and the public panic it generated was reaching a fever pitch. In the years that followed, intensifying law enforcement and mandatory minimum sentencing for drug crimes caused prison populations to explode, devastating communities of color and making the United States the most incarcerated country on the planet. Now, president Trump has nominated Barr to serve as attorney general again.

      Has Barr changed since the early 1990s? Civil rights groups demanded to know in the lead-up to the confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. Now they do.

      While it appears that some of Barr’s views have evolved, his testimony revealed a proponent of heavy policing and mass incarceration. He also dodged questions about voting rights cases and parroted the limited interpretation of civil rights law that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions used to roll back protections for LGBTQ people and transgender students established by the Obama administration.

      During the hearing yesterday, Republicans and even some Democrats appeared pleased by Barr’s performance, particularly after he repeatedly pledged to allow special counsel Robert Mueller to finish his investigation of Russian election meddling and the Trump Organization. Civil rights groups and progressive Democrats, still frustrated by Sessions’s tenure, were anything but pleased.

      “William Barr had the opportunity today to prove to all of us that he could be the independent, fair Attorney General America needs right now. He failed,” said Kristine Lucius, executive vice president for policy at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, in a statement on Tuesday.

    • William Barr Hearing: Senators Press Barr on Criminal Justice Overhaul

      Senators pressed President Trump’s choice to run the Justice Department on his expansive views of executive power and how he’ll protect the special counsel.

    • Trump’s Attorney General Nominee: ‘I Will Not Be Bullied’

      Vowing “I will not be bullied,” President Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general asserted independence from the White House on Tuesday, saying he believed that Russia had tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, that the special counsel investigation shadowing Trump is not a witch hunt and that his predecessor was right to recuse himself from the probe.

      The comments by William Barr at his Senate confirmation hearing pointedly departed from Trump’s own views and underscored Barr’s efforts to reassure Democrats that he will not be a loyalist to a president who has appeared to demand it from law enforcement. He also repeatedly sought to assuage concerns that he might disturb or upend special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as it reaches its final stages.

      Some Democrats are concerned about that very possibility, citing a memo Barr wrote to the Justice Department before his nomination in which he criticized Mueller’s investigation for the way it was presumably looking into whether Trump had obstructed justice.

      Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told Barr the memo showed “a determined effort, I thought, to undermine Bob Mueller.” The nominee told senators he was merely trying to advise Justice Department officials against “stretching the statute” to conclude that the president had obstructed justice.

      Though Barr said an attorney general should work in concert with an administration’s policy goals, he broke from some Trump talking points, including the mantra that the Russia probe is a witch hunt. Trump has equivocated on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and assailed and pushed out his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for recusing because of his work with the Trump campaign.

    • Bill Barr Must Not Be Sessions 2.0 on Civil Rights

      The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to begin confirmation hearings on Tuesday for William Barr, President Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Justice. Given that the president is holding the country hostage over his vanity project at the Southern border resulting in the longest ever government shutdown, it is no surprise that Barr’s nomination has largely flown below the radar.

      The limited media coverage surrounding Barr has focused on his deeply troubling attacks on the Mueller investigation and his expansive views on presidential power. Considering how Trump is undermining the rule of law and our democracy, these are crucially important aspects of Barr’s record to question. But at tomorrow’s hearing, senators must also interrogate Barr about his commitment to a critical duty of the Justice Department: enforcing federal civil rights laws.

      [....]

      Based on what we know, senators will have plenty to explore in Barr’s record. As attorney general, Barr endorsed a draconian approach to law enforcement that helped build the system of mass incarceration we have today, which continues to decimate poor Black and Brown communities. Yet, he denied evidence of racial disparities, telling a reporter, “Our system is fair and does not treat people differently.” It was untrue then and it is still untrue now. Barr later backed a 1992 Justice Department report, The Case for More Incarceration, as the prison population in the United States soared. The report irresponsibly stated, “We are incarcerating too few criminals, and the public is suffering as a result.” He also co-chaired a commission in the mid-1990s that recommended abolishing parole.

      This is all particularly alarming because it appears that Barr was strident even for the time. And his views do not appear to have evolved — even as the country has. In 2015, Barr signed a letter opposing the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which would have modestly reduced mandatory minimum prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders. Ending mass incarceration is now a popular and bipartisan issue, so much so that even the most recent and highly polarized 115th Congress overwhelmingly passed a law last month that makes important improvements to the federal prison system. That law, the FIRST STEP Act, will be implemented by the Justice Department. Senators must press Barr on whether he will fully and faithfully carry out that charge.

    • Trump Attorney General Nominee Raked in Millions from Corporate Industries He’ll Oversee

      Donald Trump’s pick for Attorney General is going up for confirmation this week – and his nomination is just the latest example of the extent to which the Trump administration is captured by corporate America, despite its populist posture.

      William Barr is Trump’s nominee to replace Jeff Sessions as the head up the U.S. Department of Justice. Barr previously served as Attorney General for George H.W. Bush, after which he began a 25 year career in the corporate world. Much of this time was spent as the top lawyer for telecommunications company GTE and then, after GTE’s merger with Bell Atlantic to form Verizon, as the top lawyer for Verizon.

      Media outlets like the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal have reported on Barr’s dedicated service to the corporate world – with a particular focus on his GTE/Verizon days, as well as his roles at Time Warner (he’s been a board member since 2009 and clashed with the DOJ over the proposed Time Warner-AT&T merger) and Caterpillar (he represented the company in the face of a recent DOJ probe).

      Barr has been a board member of three corporate giants over the past ten years: Time Warner (as mentioned), but also Dominion Energy (2009-present) and Och-Ziff Capital (2016-2018). As a director of these companies, Barr has raked in over $4.68 million during the past decade in cash payments and stock options – and very likely close to a million more than that, since three of his recent years of compensation are so far undisclosed, but probably fall in the range of $290,000 to $300,000, based on precedent. (This calculation also doesn’t take into account gains that Barr may have seen from increases in the value of his company stock rewards over the past decade’s stock market boom).

    • Watch: Devastating New ‘Land of the Free’ Music Video Decries Violence and Cruelty of Trump’s America

      “Incarceration’s become big business,” he notes, “And we got more people locked up than the rest of the world.” Written partly in response to mass shootings that have become all too common in this country, he asks, “So how many daughters, tell me, how many sons, do we have to have to put in the ground, before we just break down and face it: We got a problem with guns?”

      In a message posted to Facebook, Flowers recalls how his grandmother and her family fled to U.S. “from Lithuania to escape the USSR’s oppression,” opting to work “in dangerous coal mines, rather than endure tyranny at home.” Condemning “too many examples of racial injustice to ignore,” including the tear-gassing of migrants at the border, he concludes: “I see my family in the faces of these vulnerable people… you’ve gotta believe that we can do better.”

    • Rep. Steve King Stripped of Committee Duties Following Racist Remarks

      Veteran Republican Rep. Steve King will be blocked from committee assignments for the next two years after lamenting that white supremacy and white nationalism have become offensive terms.

      King, in his ninth term representing Iowa, will not be given committee assignments in the Congress that began this month, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Monday night. King served on the Agriculture, Small Business and Judiciary committees in the last Congress, and he chaired Judiciary’s subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice.

      McCarthy, R-Calif., called King’s remarks “beneath the dignity of the Party of Lincoln and the United States of America.”

    • After Career Full of Racist Remarks, GOP Finally Gets Around to Punishing Rep. Steve King

      Progressives on Tuesday expressed relief that Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) was booted from his House committee assignments following his latest racist comments, but also noted that the GOP’s decision to penalize King is long overdue, following nearly two decades of openly bigoted remarks.

      The move by Republicans—who have a long history of championing the racist and xenophobic policies King also supports—comes just days after a New York Times interview was published in which King asked why terms like “white supremacy” and “white nationalism” are considered offensive. As punishment, King will no longer be allowed to serve on the House Judiciary or Agriculture committees.

      As Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) noted, “Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences.”

      Like other progressives, the New York Democrat expressed approval of King’s punishment, writing on Twitter that his removal from the committees will have far-reaching consequences for his career in the current Congress, and that his constituents will likely take note.

    • Who’s Afraid of AOC?

      Norman Solomon and Jaqueline Luqman join host Paul Jay to discuss whether the call from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to primary establishment Democrats weakens the party

    • Can the Trump Administration Use Asset Forfeiture Funds to Build the Border Wall?

      Hawaiian vacation. Margarita machine. Sparkles the Clown. Are we going to add Trump’s border wall to the list of “ridiculous things” that civil asset forfeiture funds have been spent on?

      It seems so if left up to this administration.

      On Friday, two congressional Republicans told the Associated Press that the administration had been looking at civil asset forfeiture funds to finance the border wall’s construction. And it’s easy to see why. The federal government’s forfeiture fund currently has $3.7 billion in cash, but over $7.6 billion in assets. For the Trump administration, what could be more tempting than liquidating this slush fund to build the wall it wants a new influx of $5.7 billion for?

      This scheme exemplifies all that is wrong with civil asset forfeiture, which occurs when law enforcement takes property away from someone based on the mere suspicion it is connected to a crime. To be clear — because people can’t believe this is a thing — you do not have to be arrested or convicted of a crime to have your property seized and taken under civil asset forfeiture.

      And once forfeited, local law enforcement in many places can use this money for almost anything it wants. This is how civil forfeiture has earned the nickname “policing for profit.” And this is why the Trump administration thinks forfeiture funds are on the table for a border wall.

    • Europe’s future? A new Austrian decline

      Two years ago, the cardinal archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schönborn, did not go easy with either the words or the date of the 333th anniversary of the Turkish siege of Vienna. The most important Austrian Catholic prelate feared the possibility of “an Islamic conquest of Europe”, calling it “the third Islamic attempt to conquer Europe”.

    • Belgium Bans Religious Slaughtering Practices, Drawing Praise and Protest

      “They want to keep living in the Middle Ages and continue to slaughter without stunning — as the technique didn’t yet exist back then — without having to answer to the law,” she said. “Well, I’m sorry, in Belgium the law is above religion and that will stay like that.”

    • ‘The Stuff of Movies’: A Battered Wife’s Journey from Islam to Christian Pastor

      But Muslim immigration has also made Sweden a home for dangerous radicals, and Parsan told us she has received death threats and lives with the knowledge she could be killed.

      Parsan said Sweden “…is a free country. But it’s dangerous, too.” She says she sometimes wonders if she will be killed by Islamists in Sweden.

    • Pork restaurant to change billboard for mosque goers

      Taoyuan City Councilor Shu Tsui-ling (舒翠玲) said that her office had received multiple complaints about the sign since the restaurant opened.

    • French Prisons: Incubators of Terror

      Before his murderous rampage, Chekatt already had 27 convictions in three different countries – France, Germany and Switzerland – for crimes including armed robbery. But while in prison in France in 2015, French intelligence believes he was radicalized.

      “During a stay in prison, he was noticed as much for his violence as for his religious proselytism,” noted one report. As a result, he was carded “Fiche S” by French intelligence concerning potential dangerousness.

      But after the December terrorist attack, France’s future concerning “gangster-jihadistes” continues to appear bleak.

    • Only hell awaits if non-Muslims lead, Hadi says in piece calling for Islamic supremacy

      “Don’t ever take the infidelic West as an example, because the best of them will still end up in hell, since their kindness is without any faith to Allah and the End Times,” he wrote.

    • Egypt university expels female student for hugging male friend

      Egypt’s Al-Azhar university on Sunday said it had expelled a female student after she appeared in a video hugging a male colleague, accusing her of undermining the school’s reputation.

    • PrimaMedia co-founder sues journalist who accused him of sexual assault

      Aleksey Migunov, co-founder of the media conglomerate PrimaMedia, announced that he is suing Sibir.Realii journalist Yekaterina Fedorova for defamation or, as it is described in Russian law, for the “protection of [his] honor and dignity.” On January 3, Fedorova publicly accused Migunov of physically and sexually assaulting her in her home on October 13. She has since continued to answer questions about that evening.

    • Arizona Activists Face Jail Time for Providing Life-Saving Aid to Migrants Crossing Sonoran Desert

      As the longest government shutdown in U.S. history heads into its 25th day and President Trump continues to crack down on immigrants, we look at how the Trump administration is criminalizing humanitarian aid at the border. In Tucson, Arizona, activists with the humanitarian group No More Deaths go to trial today facing charges for a slew of federal crimes, all due to their efforts to leave water and food in the harsh Sonoran Desert to help refugees and migrants survive the deadly journey across the U.S. border. The charges were filed last year in January, just a week after No More Deaths published a report accusing U.S. Border Patrol agents of routinely vandalizing or confiscating water, food and other humanitarian aid, condemning refugees and migrants to die of exposure or dehydration. We speak with Paige Corich-Kleim, a humanitarian aid worker and volunteer with No More Deaths, and Ryan Devereaux, a staff reporter at The Intercept. His latest piece is titled “Arizona Judge in No More Deaths Case Had Secret Talks with Federal Prosecutors.”

    • Trump’s Fascist Politics Treat Children as Disposable

      We live in an age in which the welfare of children is no longer a measure of the degree to which a society lives up to its democratic ideals. In an age of growing fascism, those in power no longer view children as the promise of a future but as a threat to the present.

      In particular, poor Black and Brown children are being treated as what Teju Cole calls “unmournable bodies.” Rather than being educated, many are being imprisoned; rather than living in communities that are safe and clean, many are relegated to cities where the water is poisoned and the police function as an occupying army.

      In the age of Trump, children of undocumented workers are stripped of their humanity, caged in internment camps, sometimes sexually abused and subjected to the unethical grammars of state violence. Sometimes they lose their lives, as did two children from Guatemala who died while in custody of Customs and Border Protection: seven-year old Jakelin Caal and eight-year-old Felipe Gómez. In this way the dual logic of disposability and pollution becomes the driving force of a machinery of social death.

      Removed from the sphere of justice and human rights, undocumented children occupy a ruthless space of social and political abandonment beyond the reach of human rights. This is a zone in which moral numbness becomes a central feature of politics, power and governance. How else to explain Republican Congressman Peter King responding to the deaths of these two children by praising ICE’s “excellent record,” stating that since there are “only two children that have died,” the death count is a testament to how competent organizations like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) actually are. This is a fascist discourse marked by the rhetorical tropes of hate, demonization and violence.

    • Judge Recommends Vacating The Sentence Of One Of The FBI’s Handcrafted Terrorists

      Nearly 13 years after the FBI managed to turn a California cherry picker into a international terrorist, one of its self-created terrorists is about to be turned back into regular California resident, albeit one missing more than a decade from his life.

      Hayat went to Pakistan in 2003 to visit his mother and get married. The FBI and prosecutors insisted he went there to train to be a terrorist. When he returned to the US, he was arrested and indicted. Prosecutors tacked on some lying to federal agents charges because of course they did, pushing Hayat’s sentence to 24 years.

      This conviction was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals but Hayat’s motion to vacate his sentence has found some sympathy from a federal magistrate judge.

    • Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go

      The New York Times reports that “[i]n the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests.”

      That’s an interesting way of putting it, but let’s try another:

      Enraged at the firing of their director, and suspecting the firing might portend a threat to their place and power in the American political establishment, FBI officials went to war with the president of the United States. They redirected taxpayer money and government resources away from anything resembling a legitimate law enforcement mission, putting themselves instead to the task of drumming up a specious case that said president is an agent of a foreign power.

      This is exactly the kind of bovine scat subsumed by the recently popularized term “Deep State” — an entrenched bureaucracy, jealous of its prerogatives and bent on the destruction of anyone and anything it perceives as dangerous to those prerogatives.

      I’m far from the first writer to point out that this latest news reflects nothing new. Yes, it’s over the top, but it pretty much sums up what the FBI does, and what it has done for the entirety of its 111 years of existence. It attempts to protect “America” — which it defines as the existing establishment in general and itself in particular — not from crime as such, but from inconvenient disruption.

    • ‘DC Has Been Consistently Out of Touch With the Reality of the Borderlands’

      Only the easily surprised can be surprised that, gifted by the networks with a primetime platform with which to explain what emergency at the US/Mexico border necessitates the extended partial shutdown of the US government, Donald Trump delivered familiar hate-mongering and falsehoods, all in service of his notion of a “border wall,” which, it’s been recently reported, was intended as just a sort of mnemonic device advisers gave Trump as a candidate to remind him to “talk tough” on immigration.

      Factchecking is fine as far as it goes, but were media to devote less attention to rhetoric and more to the reality of life as lived along the US southern border, any conversation about walls could at least be grounded in an understanding of the barriers that already exist, with significant impacts on the community and the environment.

    • How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?

      One hardly gets beyond the alarming statistic when a culprit is identified –“The Arabs”. Maybe a suppressed guilt is behind Nepalis’ litany of hardships which “Arabs” and by implication Muslims inflict on their four million compatriots. “Look how Nepali workers are mistreated!” “Someone should protect them.” “Hundreds arrive home in boxes!” “No human rights there.”

      With no check on exaggerations and misinformation, prejudice continues unabated.

      There’s abundant sympathy for exploited countrymen, while any suggestion that conditions within Nepal could be responsible for the exodus is absent. Don’t overseas remittances actually help workers’ families? There’s no acknowledgment of the benefits of employment, anywhere. Consider how many businesses, from rental properties to food services, are sustained by families receiving remittances. Kathmandu has hundreds of low cost private schools enrolling children of overseas workers seeking a better chance for the next generation. Where are the anecdotes of returned workers investing what they’ve saved to lift themselves out of an otherwise hopeless cycle of poverty?

      All we hear are stale, decades-old, stories of “Arab exploitation”, stories that help conceal Nepal’s failure towards its citizens. Let’s be honest: workers look overseas for redress because of hopeless conditions at home.

    • Chili’s Denied Meagan Hunter a Promotion Because She Needed to ‘Dress More Gender Appropriate’

      The ACLU is taking action against Chili’s, which discriminated against a server for not fitting her boss’ idea of what a woman should look like.
      Meagan Hunter loved her job as a server at Chili’s Grill & Bar in Phoenix, Arizona — and she excelled at it. She was thrilled when her supervisors suggested that she apply for a new training program to become a manager.

      In order to learn more about the opportunity, she attended a seminar on Chili’s Certified Shift Leader program. She wore a men’s button-up shirt, fitted slacks, and boat shoes — an outfit similar to what male managers at Chili’s wear. So she was surprised when her general manager told her that the district manager had seen her at the seminar and commented that she was “inappropriately dressed.”

      Meagan tried to overlook the comment. But after she interviewed for the promotion, the general manager doubled down on the criticism of her clothes. “We really want to hire you,” he told her. “However, we need you to dress more gender appropriate.” Incredulous, she asked, “Are you telling me that I need to have my breasts hanging out to be successful in your company?” He responded, “Not in those words.”

    • I’m Out of a Job Because My Boss Didn’t Think I Look Like a Woman
    • Rebuke of Trump’s Census Plan Gives Immigration Activists Hope

      Concrete, steel or transparent barriers — President Trump doesn’t care how the wall is built, as long as he can continue to build walls on the US-Mexico border and between Americans. Now his attempt to build a wall around the immigrant community that already resides within the country is backfiring as a New York federal judge shot down his proposed citizenship question for the 2020 census.

      By seeking to deter undocumented immigrants from participating, the Trump administration is rigging the census in a blatant attempt to gerrymander districts to support his racist, anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ vision of the United States. The citizenship question — which is still to be considered by the Supreme Court in February — is also a signal to immigrants that they are being watched, tracked and hunted. Borrowing from war tactics used throughout the centuries, the Trump administration’s proposed citizenship question is an insidious attempt to encircle and isolate immigrants, walling them off from the support of their neighbors and larger community.

      The census is just one of many battlefronts. The Trump administration is continuing its march on communities of color through a barrage of racist policies and tactics designed to inspire fear and treat Black and Latinx communities as criminals. Indeed, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s adoption of a zero tolerance approach through Operation Streamline provides the administration cover to criminally prosecute migrants en mass — trying up to 70 people at one time.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Verizon charges new “spam” fee for texts sent from teachers to students

      Remind—the company that offers the classroom communication service—criticized Verizon for charging the new fee. Remind said its service’s text message notifications will stop working on the Verizon network on January 28 unless Verizon changes course. (Notifications sent via email or via Remind’s mobile apps will continue to work.)

    • Where There’s No Distance or Gravity

      Even if the networked world seems to start breaking up (as we’re already seeing with China), at a deeper level that world arises from a simple protocol, TCP/IP, that isn’t going away soon.

      And even if TCP/IP gets replaced, the genie it liberated from the digital bottle won’t stop giving everyone with a decent connection the experience of being together in a world without distance or gravity.

      We also won’t stop wanting to live in what John Updike (in the 1960s!) called “the age of full convenience”. We can get full convenience only from networks that are completely free (as in freedom) and open to whatever.

    • Online presence vital for business: jobs report

      The vital importance of an online presence in today’s business landscape was driven home in 2018, with jobs aimed at developing, populating, promoting and marketing websites among the fastest growing areas of online work last year, according to a newly published report on the job market.

    • Comparing secondary authoritative DNS service providers

      A secondary authoritative DNS (sometimes called “slave DNS”) service provider is a DNS name server that clones and hosts your primary DNS server over the DNS Zone Transfer Protocol (AXFR). There are a number of managed DNS service providers that offer this service, and I’ve put together a little feature comparison.

      A secondary DNS server is often referred to as a “backup name server” or “backup DNS”. However, in reality every authoritative name server can be expect to receive an equal distribution of DNS query traffic. DNS was designed to be decentralized and you can increases your domain zone’s availability and resilience to service outages by replicating it onto multiple name servers.

      I’ll start off with a feature comparison matrix for a few hosted secondary DNS name server providers. The matrix also outlines the feature requirements I think are important. I’ll go into more details on each of these later in the article.

  • DRM

    • Millions of customers will now pay more for Netflix—here’s how much

      Netflix’s most popular plan, which lets users stream HD content on two screens simultaneously, will now cost $13 per month. That’s an 18-percent increase from its previous $11 monthly price. Netflix’s premium plan, which includes HD and UHD streaming on up to four screens simultaneously, will now cost $16, up from $14 monthly. The most affordable Netflix option, the “basic” plan, increases by $1, from $8 per month to $9.

    • Device ‘Ownership’ Is a Civil Liberties Issue

      We’re taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of copyright law and policy, and addressing what’s at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation.

      The technology you rely on to interact with the world and express yourself should ultimately obey you, not the company that made it. If the devices in our pockets, on our bodies, and all around us are going to help us advance our own values, it has to be possible to control and customize them so they don’t just do whatever their manufacturer envisioned.

      A sad fact of modern technology is that many “smart” devices use their smarts to act as their manufacturer’s spy and digital enforcer. They monetize your private data and are designed not to empower you, but to maximize the profits you bring to their manufacturer.

      [...]

      Section 1201 makes it unlawful to bypass access controls on copyrighted works–even when those access controls are inside a device you own, controlling access to your copy of a work. Congress intended to prevent infringement by stopping people from, for instance, descrambling cable channels they hadn’t paid for. But secure digital systems often use access controls, such as encryption, and if you don’t have the digital keys to look at and modify the code in your devices, then breaking that encryption can get you into legal trouble, even for devices you’ve bought and own.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • China patent flood stifles foreign filer freedom

      Corporate concern is growing over freedom to operate capability in China after a surge of domestic patent applications into the country’s IP office, according to in-house counsel.

      Eight in-house lawyers from medical device, telecoms, manufacturing, confectionery and automotive companies say the increasing number of design patents and utility models being filed at China’s National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA, formerly known as SIPO before a restructure last year) by Chinese companies is making it difficult to keep up with potentially important prior art in the region.

    • Qualcomm and Apple bridged the wide gap between their FRAND perspectives through complicated arrangements

      Yesterday (Monday) was Day 5 of the FTC v. Qualcomm antitrust trial in San Jose (Northern District of California). In a first summary shortly after the court session, I provided an overview of how, after most of the day had gone extremely well for the FTC, Qualcomm got what athletes call a “second wind” and made tremendous headway against one of the FTC’s three expert witnesses, Michael Lasinski. This is now a follow-up post with a focus on negotiation dynamics and deal structures, which was the #1 topic on Friday.

      Apple’s Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams was first to testify on Monday morning. He was a member of the team that created the original iPhone, and has interacted with Qualcomm ever since. What we learned from him contributed to a better understanding of Qualcomm’s dealings with other companies.

      In an antitrust case pitting the U.S. government against a patent-wielding U.S. chipmaker, Apple obviously plays an important role–but many observers of this proceeding appear to miss the grand picture by focusing too narrowly on that company. Only one of the FTC’s four key issues is specifically about Apple: exclusivity arrangements. Even that one is ultimately about a pattern, just that the related agreements between Apple and Qualcomm are the only manifestation of that pattern at issue in this case.

      At the moment, Apple appears to be Intel’s only customer. Qualcomm elicited testimony from Intel’s Aicha Evans confirming that at certain points she wasn’t even interested in a couple of potential customers. There may have been any number of reasons for that as Intel needs to ramp up its baseband chip business step by step, but there’s no reason to assume that Intel wouldn’t be interested in growing its business in this field and in having a broader customer base.

    • Trademarks

      • Infamous Pinkerton Detectives Claim Red Dead Redemption’s Use Of Historically Accurate Pinkertons Is Trademark Infringement

        Take 2 Interactive is no stranger to fighting bogus complaints about “infringement” concerning how it represents characters in its various games. Most of these fights have been over its flagship franchise, the Grand Theft Auto series, where the developer often enjoys poking fun at pop culture and society through settings and characters that are an amalgam of several stereotyped individuals. This has resulted in entitled celebrities and property owners attempting to sue over trademark and publicity rights in the past, with Take 2 typically coming out victorious by pointing out that its work is that of parody and covered by fair use.

        This is now happening with a different game but the basic story remains the same. In this case we have the added insanity of a rather infamous company trying to profit off of its infamous history. Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations sent a cease and desist notice to Take 2 after Red Dead Redemption 2 was released due to the game including characters who were a part of the company during ye olde olden times. In response, Take 2 filed suit.

    • Copyrights

      • Set-Top Box Anti-Piracy Code Neutralized By [Crack]

        Last month, IPTV set-top box manufacturer Infomir announced cooperation with rightsholders to block access to ‘pirate’ streams. It now appears the system to block allegedly infringing portals can be circumvented, either with a DIY technique or by downloading custom firmware.

      • Article 13 Suspense Builds as Finish Line Nears

        This coming Monday, lawmakers hope to reach agreement on the final text of the controversial Article 13. Whatever direction the proposal goes, there’s bound to be some disappointment. Opponents fear invasive censorship, while proponents see it as a lifebuoy for the music industry.

      • We’re gonna party like it’s 1923

        Co-hosted with the Internet Archive, this celebration will feature keynote addresses by Lawrence Lessig and Cory Doctorow, lightning talks, demos, multimedia displays and more to mark the “re-opening” of the public domain in the United States. The event will take place at the Internet Archive.

        In preparation for this event, we asked a few Creative Commons community members to provide reflections on some of their favorite works that have entered the Public Domain this year!

      • The Public Domain Is Back, But It Still Needs Defenders

        After twenty years stuck in Mickey Mouse’s shadow, the public domain is finally growing again. On January 1st, thousands of works became free for the public to distribute, perform, or remix. Every book, film, or musical score published in 1923 is now in the public domain. This policy win, like the public domain itself, belongs to everyone.

        How can you use the public domain? You could preserve and distribute books. Or you could, say, add zombies to a literary classic. You can choose between a faithful or radical production of a play without fear of a legal fight with the heirs of the playwright. Technology blog Techdirt has a contest to create games out of new public domain works. The only limit on the use of the public domain is the limit of human creativity.

        The public domain has benefits beyond remixes of high-profile works. Copyright terms are extremely complex. Figuring out whether something is in the public domain or not can require knowing if it was a corporate work or not, knowing whether it was registered and renewed or not, or knowing when the author died. For many works, it is impossible for archivists to answer any of these questions. That’s why clear cut-off dates are important. They give preservationists certainty.

        When Congress first passed the copyright law in 1790, it provided for a 14-year term with an optional 14-year renewal period. Since then, Congress has ratcheted the term upwards many times. In 1998, Disney and others got a 20-year extension without much public opposition. But advocates for the public interest in copyright policy have since become more informed and better organized.

      • The Copyright Law of Interfaces

        There is value in standardization of these interfaces – it allows people to write one program that will work with multiple systems. Duan uses two good examples. The first is HTML/CSS programming, which allows people to write a single web document and have it run in any browser and/or server that supports the same language. The second is SMTP, which allows email clients to communicate with any email server. The internet was built on these sorts of interfaces, called RFCs.

        [...]

        In other words, standards will define the commands that must be sent, but there’s not a language based implementation (e.g. public, static, integer, etc.). As with the sample line above. Most say: send x command to do y. And people writing software are on their own to figure out how to do that. And you can bet the implementing code looks very similar, but there’s something different about how it is specified at the outset (a full header declaration v. a looser description). So, the questions this raises are a) does this make standards less likely to infringe, even under the Federal Circuit’s rules (I think yes), and b) does this change how we think about declaring code? (I think no, because the code is still minimal and functional, but Oracle presumably disagrees).

        Secondarily, I don’t think the article considers the differences between Oracle’s position (now – it changed, which is one of the problems) and that of a contribution to standards. Contribution to a standard is made so that others will adopt it, presumably because it gives you a competitive advantage of some sort. By not being part of the standard, you risk having a fragmented (smaller) set of users. But if Oracle doesn’t want others adopting Java language and would rather be limited, then that makes the analogy inapt. If Google had known this was not allowed and gone another way, it may well be that Java is dead today (figure that in to damages calculations). But a fear of companies submitting to standards and then taking it back is to me different in kind from companies that never want to be part of the standard. (Of course, as noted above, there is some dispute about this, as Sun apparently did act as if they wanted this language to be an open standard).

        A final point: two sentences in the article caught my eye, because they support my view of the world (confirmation bias, of course). When speaking of standard setting organization policies, Duan writes: “To the extent that a copyright license is sought from contributors to standards, the license is solely directed to distributing the text of the standard. This suggests that copyright is simply not an issue with regard to implementing interfaces.” Roughly interpreted, this means that these organizations think that maybe you can copyright your API, but that copyright only applies to slavish copying of the entire textual document. But when it comes to reuse of the technical requirements of the standard, we filter out the functionality and allow the reuse. This has always been my position, but nobody has argued it in this case.

      • Openness, Mapping, Democracy, and Reclaiming Narrative: Majd Al-shihabi in conversation

        Majd Al-shihabi, the inaugural Bassel Khartabil Free Culture Fellow, is a Palestinian-Syrian systems design engineer focusing on the role of technology in urban systems and policy design. He is passionate about development, access to knowledge, user centered design, and the internet, and experiments with implementing tools and infrastructures that catalyze social change. He studied engineering at the University of Waterloo, in Canada, and urban planning at the American University of Beirut, in Lebanon.

      • Hollywood Asks EU To Drop Article 13 Entirely, Because It Might Possibly Have A Tiny Compromise For The Internet

        Earlier today, we had a post detailing the completely ridiculous “defense” of Articles 11 and 13 in the EU Copyright Directive that the EU Parliament’s JURI Committee released. It was so full of misleading statements, outright lies, and contradictory arguments that it would have been hilarious, if it wasn’t trying to justify changing the entire internet for the worse. However, those of us who think that the EU should drop Article 13 (and Article 11) entirely now have a very unlikely ally: the legacy entertainment industries, who were the ones lobbying heavily for Article 13 in the first place.

        Really.

        As we had noted last month, as the negotiations moved forward on Article 13, the TV, sports and film industries — calling themselves the “creative sectors” — have been suddenly freaking out and asking the negotiators to hit the brakes, or at least carve them out of Article 13. They were doing this for all the wrong reasons of course. Specifically, negotiators had begun to consider a very, very limited (and ridiculously weak) safe harbor for internet platforms, that if they followed a few key steps, they’d be able to avoid having massive liability foist upon them if they let any users sneak through an upload of infringing content (they’d still have to pull it down quickly after it was uploaded, but they wouldn’t be facing billions in fines).

        And, now with Article 13 just about finalized and it looking absolutely terrible in almost every single way… Hollywood is going for broke and now calling for negotiations on Article 13 to be suspended entirely. Again, they’re doing this for totally the wrong reasons, but considering that absolutely no one wants Article 13 at this point, shouldn’t EU negotiators just drop it?

      • ‘Catastrophe for Free Expression’: Critics Warn EU Reforms a ‘Dire Threat’ to Internet as We Know It

        “The new EU Copyright Directive is progressing at an alarming rate,” Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) special adviser Cory Doctorow wrote on Monday, describing the rules package as a “catastrophe for free expression.”

        “This week, the EU is asking its member states to approve new negotiating positions for the final language. Once they get it, they’re planning to hold a final vote before pushing this drastic, radical new law into 28 countries and 500,000,000 people,” Doctorow added, calling on residents of European nations to pressure their representatives to stop the directive.

        While the vast majority of the rules in the sprawling Copyright Directive are “inoffensive updates to European copyright law,” Doctorow points out, two specific measures—Article 11 and Article 13— “pose a dire threat to the global internet.”

      • Even the Rightsholders Think Europe’s Article 13 is a Mess, Call for an Immediate Halt in Negotiations

        With only days to go before the planned conclusion of the new EU Directive on Copyright in the Single Digital Market, Europe’s largest and most powerful rightsholder groups — from the Premier League to the Motion Picture Association (MPA) and the Association of Commercial Television in Europe — have published an open letter calling for a halt to negotiations, repeating their message from late last year: namely, that the Directive will give the whip hand to Big Tech.

        Article 13 — which still mandates copyright filters for big platforms, despite months of obfuscation — is the brainchild of the music recording industry, who invented the idea of the “value gap” as a synonym for “when we negotiate with YouTube for music licenses, we don’t get as much as we’d like.”

        Seen in this light, the unworkability of Article 13 is a feature, not a bug. Putting Google on the hook to give in on license negotiations or be forced to do the impossible is a powerful negotiating stick for the recording industry to hit Google with.

        The problem is that this tool will not only be wielded by record executives against Google: it will allow any of the Internet’s two billion users to claim copyright over anything (including the record industry’s most popular works) and improperly collect license fees, or simply block the material from public view.

        That’s not the only problem, though. In the course of negotiating Article 13, European lawmakers made concessions that make the proposal (barely) coherent and affordable by Google (though not, importantly, by Google’s small European competitors, who stand to be squashed flat by the dancing elephants of Big Tech and Big Content).

      • Movie Company Tries But Fails to Expose Pirates Through a DMCA Subpoena

        The makers of the film “London Has Fallen” tried to expose the personal details of alleged pirates on a Comcast connection. Instead of filing a regular lawsuit, the company opted for a DMCA subpoena shortcut. This effort failed, with the court noting that it has long been established that these subpoenas are not available in file-sharing cases.

      • Article 13 is almost finished – and it will change the internet as we know it

        The negotiators have reached agreement on the core of Article 13, which will change the internet as we know it: They want to make internet platforms directly liable for any copyright infringements their users commit.

      • Swedes! Poles! Germans! Luxembourgers! The world is depending on you to save the internet from the EU!

        The new Copyright Directive contains two deal-breaking clauses: the first, Article 11, gives news sites the power to charge (or refused to offer) a license fee for anyone who wants to link to their stories and include more than a single word from the story to accompany the link. Open access news sites can’t opt out of this regime, putting the whole idea of public-interest, open-access news in jeopardy.

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