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01.19.19

The UPC is Dead. But Bristows is Now Fully Engaged in Necrophilia.

Posted in Deception, Europe, Patents at 12:23 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

UPC boat sinks

Summary: In an effort to float a dead project the deceiving folks from Team UPC pretend that everything is ready to go (commence) because they’ve managed to find some gowns and robes

THE Unitary Patent lobby has been a rather embarrassing exercise, highly corrosive to the reputation of the EU and the European Patent Office (EPO). With UPC in the middle, for instance, there was nepotism and cross pollination between the EPO and EUIPO, an EU agency. It even looks like outright corruption.

“With UPC in the middle, for instance, there was nepotism and cross pollination between the EPO and EUIPO, an EU agency. It even looks like outright corruption.”The news sites that focus on patents, copyrights and trademarks have more lately been speaking of a mistaken trademark grant by EUIPO. That’s still in the news (belatedly revoked, harming McDonalds) and IP Watch speaks of “Sudden Vacancies At Some International Agencies, Industry Sees New Top Officials, Lawyers Engage In Firm-Hopping” (Catherine Saez says that “[t]he European Patent Office got two new vice-chairs,” but neglects to point out the glaring problem).

If that’s not bad enough, a day or two after that Bristows nonsense about UPC they’re now verging on legal necrophilia. Responding to the article and its promotion in Twitter, one EPO watcher then wrote [1, 2]:

Here it is, your expected spin from Team UPC, looking to profit from more litigation…! It did not take long, did it? UPC dressed up? Uhmm no, it’s still naked! #patents #EuropeanUnion

And:

Meme published by http://Techrights.org ! Well done Techrights, since it perfectly illustrates the behaviour of Team UPC. A fantasy world based on their own agendas’. Lies, Lies and more Lies

So for the second time in a week Bristows pulls this horrifying stunt; they are giving lawyers a really bad reputation — the sort of odor that makes one forget about lawyers who protect the innocent and instead focus on those who lie, mislead and manipulate for a living. They’re giving a really bad name for a profession otherwise associated with protecting the wrongly-accused, the innocent, from false charges/allegations, sometimes pro bono, like the kind lawyer who protected me from the EPO’s SLAPPing (they threatened to sue me several times for publishing true information).

“The UPC is basically a dead project. Even its biggest proponents (paid for it!) have given up. But not Bristows. These people have always lied the most. They wish to drown with this Titanic.”Bristows’ liars say that the FCC decision is “expected to happen quite soon.” Citation needed, however none was provided. Team UPC’s propaganda knows no bounds. They lie every week. They’re even censoring comments that refute them, e.g. in IP Kat and the above blog (“Kluwer Patent blogger” now turns out to be “Alan Johnson, Bristows”). Well, no comments have appeared (by now; for almost 1.5 days). It starts as follows: “In answering this question we must look at two major factors. The first is the decision of the German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgeright – BVerfG) on the constitutional challenge by Dr Stjerna to the legislation necessary to allow German ratification of the UPC. The second is Brexit. Both are expected to happen quite soon.”

Really? based on what? The final words of the article say this: “Hopefully even if we do not see the start of the UPC in 2019, we shall at least know by then whether next year will actually see the UPC, or whether this is a case of being all dressed up with no place to go.”

They perpetuate that same old lie that the only remaining question is whether UPC can “start [...] in 2019″ (it won’t because it’s dead, irrespective of timing). That’s just a malicious lobbying/influencing tactic from the litigation ‘industry’ and speaking of which, REGIMBEAU’s Cécile Puech, Frédérique Durieux, Soizic Guindeul and Aurélia Vavasseur have just commented on PPH (Patent Prosecution Highway), which is somewhat of a mockery of the patent system because it eliminates neutrality to aid bullies and trolls. They use terms like “simplify the task” — similar to what one might expect from UPC litigation against a lot of companies in a lot of countries, including companies that only operate in a single country outside the court’s jurisdiction.

The UPC is basically a dead project. Even its biggest proponents (paid for it!) have given up. But not Bristows. These people have always lied the most. They wish to drown with this Titanic.

Links 19/1/2019: Wikipedia Cofounder Moves to GNU/Linux, Wine 4.0 RC7 Released, Godot 3.1 Beta 2, NomadBSD 1.2 RC1

Posted in News Roundup at 11:18 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Wikipedia cofounder: How and why I transitioned to Linux—how you can, too

    My first introduction to the command line was in the 80s when I first started learning about computers and, like many geeky kids of the time, wrote my first BASIC computer programs. But it wasn’t until my job starting Nupedia (and then Wikipedia) that I spent much time on the Bash command line.
    (Let me explain. “Bash” means “Bourne-again shell,” a rewrite of the class Unix shell “sh.” A “shell” is a program for interacting with the computer by processing terse commands to do basic stuff like find and manipulate files; a terminal, or terminal emulator, is a program that runs a shell. The terminal is what shows you that command line, where you type your commands like “move this file there” and “download that file from this web address” and “inject this virus into that database”. The default terminal used by Linux Ubuntu, for example, is called Gnome Terminal–which runs Bash, the standard Linux shell.)
    Even then (and in the following years when I got into programming again), I didn’t learn much beyond things like cd (switch directory) and ls (list directory contents).
    It was then, around 2002, that I first decided to install Linux. Back then, maybe the biggest “distro” (flavor of Linux) was Red Hat Linux, so that’s what I installed. I remember making a partition (dividing the hard disk into parts, basically) and dual-booting (installing and making it possible to use both) Linux and Windows. It was OK, but it was also rather clunky and much rougher and much less user-friendly than the Windows of the day. So I didn’t use it much.

  • Desktop

    • Writing With a Linux Laptop

      Open source solutions like Linux provide for greater productivity; check out our screencast highlighting how a Linux Laptop functions.

    • Google Updates: Security in motion, Linux in launcher and Ethereum in the sin bin

      Back to Google proper, and Chrome OS. After wowing us with a promise of Linux compatibility, it has now emerged that the integration could run deeper than we thought. The latest news out of Mountain View is that Linux apps will be treated like any others – that means you’ll be able to launch them from the app launcher, which is cooler than we even expected.

    • Pixelbook and “Nami” Chromebooks the first to get Linux GPU acceleration in Project Crostini

      I don’t have a Pixelbook for testing right now, otherwise, I’d pop it into Developer Mode and jump on the Canary channel. However, I do still have a loaner Acer Chromebook Spin 13, so I’ll give it a go later today and see if the newly added code from early this morning is there in the Canary Channel; if it is, I’ll circle back with observations on how well it does or doesn’t work for the Android emulator in Android Studio and possibly a game or two using Steam.

    • Pixelbook and ‘Nami’ Chromebooks the First To Get Linux GPU Acceleration in Project Crostini

      I’ve been following the bug report that tracks progress on adding GPU acceleration for the Linux container in Chrome OS and there’s good news today. The first two Chrome OS boards should now, or very soon, be able to try GPU hardware acceleration with the new startup parameter found last month. The bug report says the -enable-gpu argument was added to the Eve and Nami boards.

    • Chrome OS to test early GPU support for Linux apps soon

      If you’ve kept up with Chrome OS in the past six months or so, you’ll know that one of the more interesting new features to launch is Linux apps support. While this has potential to introduce all sorts of new applications to Chrome OS, there are some features missing that hold it back, in this early stage. One of the most anticipated features, graphics acceleration (or GPU support), necessary for running Linux games and some other apps, will be available to test soon on Chrome OS.

  • Server

    • Red Hat Advances Container Technology With Podman 1.0

      Red Hat announced the 1.0 release of its open-source Podman project on Jan. 17, which provides a fully featured container engine.

      In Podman 1.0, Red Hat has integrated multiple core security capabilities in an effort to help enable organizations run containers securely. Among the security features are rootless containers and enhanced user namespace support for better container isolation. Containers provide a way for organizations to run applications in a virtualized approach on top of an existing operating system. With the 1.0 release, Red Hat is now also positioning Podman as an alternative to the Docker Engine technology for application container deployment.

      “We felt the sum total of its features, as well as the project’s performance, security and stability, made it reasonable to move to 1.0,” Scott McCarty, product manager, Containers, Red Hat, told eWEEK. “Since Podman is set to be the default container engine for the single-node use case in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8, we wanted to make some pledges about its supportability.”

    • Update on Volume Snapshot Alpha for Kubernetes

      Volume snapshotting support was introduced in Kubernetes v1.12 as an alpha feature. In Kubernetes v1.13, it remains an alpha feature, but a few enhancements were added and some breaking changes were made. This post summarizes the changes.

    • Nginx vs Apache: Which Serves You Best in 2019?

      For two decades Apache held sway over the web server market which is shrinking by the day. Not only has Nginx caught up with the oldest kid on the block, but it is currently the toast of many high traffic websites. Apache users might disagree here. That is why one should not jump to conclusions about which web server is better. The truth is that both form the core of complete web stacks (LAMP and LEMP), and the final choice boils down to individual needs.

      For instance, people running Drupal websites often call on Apache, whereas WordPress users seem to favor Nginx as much if not more. Accordingly, our goal is to help you understand your own requirements better rather than providing a one-size recommendation. Having said that, the following comparison between the two gives an accurate picture.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

  • Kernel Space

    • Graphics Stack

      • Linux 4.20 Allows Overclockers To Increase The Radeon TDP Power Limit

        The AMDGPU Linux kernel driver for a while has now offered command-line-driven OverDrive overclocking for recent generations of Radeon GPUs. This has allowed manipulating the core and memory clock speeds as well as tweaking the voltage but has not supported increasing the TDP limit of the graphics card: that’s in place with Linux 4.20

        Up until now with the AMDGPU Linux kernel driver there hasn’t been support for increasing the TDP power limit beyond its default, but has allowed for reducing that limit should you be trying to conserve power / allow your GPU to run cooler. A change was quietly added to the Linux 4.20 kernel to allow increasing the power limit when in the OverDrive mode.

        This change wasn’t prominently advertised but fortunately a Phoronix reader happened to run across it today and tipped us off.

  • Applications

    • MellowPlayer – multi-platform cloud music integration

      With my CD collection spiraling out of control, I’m spending more time listening to music with a number of popular streaming services.

      Linux offers a great range of excellent open source music players. But I’m always on the look out for fresh and innovative streaming players. Step forward MellowPlayer.

      MellowPlayer offers a web view of various music streaming services with integration with your desktop. It was developed to provide a Qt alternative to Nuvola Player.

      The software is written in C++ and QML.

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Wine or Emulation

      • Wine Announcement

        The Wine development release 4.0-rc7 is now available.The Wine development release 4.0-rc7 is now available.

      • Juicy like the good stuff, Wine 4.0 RC7 is out with a delightful aroma

        No need to worry about a sour aftertaste here, we’re of course talking about the wonderful software and not the tasty liquid.

        As usual, they’re in bug-fix mode while they attempt to make the best version of Wine they can and so no super huge features made it in.

      • Wine 4.0-RC7 Released With Fixes For Video Player Crashes, Game Performance Issues

        Wine 4.0 should be officially out soon, but this weekend the latest test release of it is Release Candidate 7 that brings more than one dozen fixes.

        Wine 4.0 remains in a feature freeze until its release, which will likely be within the next two weeks or so. Since last Friday’s Wine 4.0-RC6, the RC7 release has 13 known bug fixes. Catching our interest are some game performance regressions being resolved, including for Hot Pursuit, Project CARS, Gas Guzzlers, and others. There are also video player crash fixes when opening audio or video files.

    • Games

      • Godot 3.1 Beta 2

        We entered the release freeze last week with Godot 3.1 beta 1, and many high priority bug reports have been fixed since then. We’re now publishing a new beta 2 snapshot for testers to work with. This new release fixes various crash scenarios, as well as a performance regression in the GLES backend.

        We’re still aiming for a release by the end of the month, so we’re under a tight schedule. From now on dev focus is on release-critical issues that would seriously hamper Godot 3.1′s usability and features.

        Contrarily to our 3.0.x maintenance releases, which include only thoroughly reviewed and backwards-compatible bug fixes, the 3.1 version includes all the new features (and subsequent bugs!) merged in the master branch since January 2018, and especially all those showcased on our past devblogs. It’s been almost a year since the 3.0 release and close to 6,000 commits, so expect a lot of nice things in the final 3.1 version!

      • Godot 3.1 Beta 2 Released With OpenGL ES Performance Fix

        The developers behind Godot, one of the leading open-source game engines, have announced their second beta release for the upcoming Godot 3.1 feature release.

        Godot 3.1 initially entered beta earlier this month as stepping towards the first major release of this cross-platform game engine since Godot 3.0 last year. Godot 3.1 is preparing OpenGL ES 2.0 rendering support, continued work around virtual reality (VR) support, 3D soft body physics capabilities, constructive solid geometry, BPTC texture compression, a new visual shader editor, WebSockets support, and various game developer/editor improvements.

      • The Beta of Zombie Panic! Source was updated recently, should work better on Linux

        Zombie Panic! Source is currently going through an overhaul, as part of this it’s coming to Linux with a version now in beta and the latest update should make it a better experience.

        [...]

        I personally haven’t been able to make any of the events yet, so I have no real thoughts on the game. Once it’s out of beta and all servers are updated, I will be taking a proper look as it looks fun. No idea when this version will leave beta, might be a while yet.

      • Dicey Dungeons, the new unique roguelike from Terry Cavanagh and co introduces quests

        We have a lot of roguelikes available on Linux (seriously, we do) yet Dicey Dungeons from Terry Cavanagh, Marlowe Dobbe, and Chipzel still remains fresh due to the rather unique game mechanics.

        I still can’t get over how fun the dice mechanic is, as you slot dice into cards to perform actions. It’s different, clever and works really well.

      • Quake 2 now has real-time path tracing with Vulkan

        If you have one of the more recent NVIDIA RTX graphics cards, here’s an interesting project for you to try. Q2VKPT from developer Christoph Schied implements some really quite advanced techniques.

      • Steam Play versus Linux Version, a little performance comparison and more thoughts

        Now that Steam has the ability officially to override a Linux game and run it through Steam Play instead, let’s take a quick look at some differences in performance.

        Before I begin, let’s make something clear. I absolutely value the effort developers put into Linux games, I do think cross-platform development is incredibly important so we don’t end up with more lock-in. However, let’s be realistic for a moment. Technology moves on and it’s not financially worth it to keep updating old games, they just don’t sell as well as newer games (with exceptions of course). As the years go on, there will be more ways to run older games better and better, of that I’ve no doubt.

      • Battle Motion, a really silly massive fantasy battle game will have Linux support

        Sometimes when looking around for new games I come across something that really catches my eye, Battle Motion is one such game as it looks completely silly.

      • Ravva and the Cyclops Curse looks like a rather nice NES-inspired platformer

        Another lovely looking retro-inspired platformer! Ravva and the Cyclops Curse from developer Galope just released this week with Linux support.

      • Become a fish inside a robot in Feudal Alloy, out now with Linux support

        We’ve seen plenty of robots and we’ve seen a fair amount of fish, but have you seen a fish controlling a robot with a sword? Say hello to Feudal Alloy.

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • Addressing Icons Themes (Again)

        I wrote some time ago on how platforms have a responsibility to respect the identity of applications, but now there’s some rumblings that Ubuntu’s community-built Yaru icon set (which is a derivative of the Suru icon set I maintain) intends to ignore this and infringe upon applications’ brands by modifying their icons…

        [...]

        For instance, the entire point of the GNOME icon refresh initiative is to address visual mismatches between third-party app icons and GNOME icons and we been have reaching out to developers to see about updating their icons to new design—this is the appropriate approach for a platform visual overhaul, by the way—which could always use more help on.

        Now I don’t see this ever happening, but I have hopes that someday Ubuntu will fully embrace GNOME and promote it as its desktop solution—especially given the desktop is out of the scope of the Ubuntu business these days.

      • First look at Gnome’s New GTK Theme

        Today we look at Gnome’s update GTK theme Adwaita.

  • Distributions

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • SUSE releases enterprise Linux for all major ARM processors

        SUSE has released its enterprise Linux distribution, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES), for all major ARM server processors. It also announced the general availability of SUSE Manager Lifecycle.

        SUSE is on par with the other major enterprise Linux distributions — Red Hat and Ubuntu — in the x86 space, but it has lagged in its ARM support. It’s not like SLES for ARM is only now coming to market for the first time, either. It has been available for several years, but on a limited basis.

    • Fedora

      • Red Hat/Fedora decide MongoDB’s SSLP doesn’t fit

        MongoDB’s January blues deepened this week as the team behind the Red Hat-backed Fedora Linux distribution confirmed it had added the open source database’s Server Side Public License to its “bad”list.

        The move came as it emerged Red Hat – Fedora’s sponsor – had nixed MongoDB support in RHEL 8.0.

      • AWS Raised Its Hand Lest Of Open Source Platform

        Even though AWS stands by MongoDB as the best the customers find it difficult to build and vastly accessible applications on the open-source platform can range from multiple terabytes to hundreds of thousands of reads and writes per second. Thus, the company built its own document database with an Apache 2.0 open source MongoDB 3.6 API compatibility. The open-sources politics are quite difficult to grasp. AWS has been blamed for taking the top open-source projects and re-branding plus re-using it without providing the communities. The catch here is that MongoDB was the company behind putting a halt to the re-licensing of the open-source tools under a novel license that clearly stated the companies willing to do this will have to purchase a commercial license.

      • Red Hat gets heebie-jeebies over MongoDB’s T&Cs squeeze: NoSQL database dropped from RHEL 8B over license

        MongoDB justified its decision last October to shift the free version of its NoSQL database software, MongoDB Community Server, from the open-source GNU Affero General Public License to the not-quite-so-open Server Side Public License (SSPL) by arguing that cloud providers sell open-source software as a service without giving back.

        The following month, and not widely noticed until this week, Red Hat said it would no longer include MongoDB in version 8 of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The removal notice came in the release notes for Red Hat Enterprise Linux Beta 8.0.

        Under section 4.7, the release notes say, “Note that the NoSQL MongoDB database server is not included in RHEL 8.0 Beta because it uses the Server Side Public License (SSPL).”

      • Server Side Public License struggles to gain open-source support

        MongoDB first announced the release of the new software license in October as a way to protect itself and other open-source projects like it from being taken advantage of by larger companies for monetary gain.

        At the time, MongoDB co-founder and CTO Eliot Horowitz explained: “This should be a time of incredible opportunity for open source. The revenue generated by a service can be a great source of funding for open-source projects, far greater than what has historically been available. The reality, however, is that once an open-source project becomes interesting, it is too easy for large cloud vendors to capture most of the value while contributing little or nothing back to the community.”

        Other open-source businesses have developed their own licenses or adopted others in recent months, citing the same issues. However, the problem with these new licenses is that if they are not approved by the Open Source Initiative (OSI), an organization created to promote and protect the open-source ecosystem, the software behind the license is technically not considered open source, and it will have a hard time getting acceptance from members in the community.

      • Open source has a problem with monetization, not AWS
      • Why you should take notice of the open source in enterprise suckers conundrum

        In the MongoDB case, AWS is widely regarded as responding to a licensing change MongoDB made in October 2018 that has caused something of a stir among the open source cognoscenti.

      • Fedora Community Blog: FPgM report: 2019-03

        Here’s your report of what has happened in Fedora Program Management this week.

        I’ve set up weekly office hours in #fedora-meeting-1. Drop by if you have any questions or comments about the schedule, Changes, elections, or anything else.

    • Debian Family

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • The Serverless Show: The Importance of Open Source & Community Involvement

    “I’m also involved with some open source projects. I started with Node community and helping out with some node libraries a long time ago. Now I’m mostly doing serverless-related things. I joined the Claudia.js team a long time ago, almost at the beginning, and helped Gojko Adzic and Alexander Simovich to build Claudia.js. Claudia was and still is a deployment library for AWS Lambda and API gateway. At the beginning, it was really hard to deploy serverless applications. If you tried to do that manually, you need to zip everything, to set the permissions, and things like that. The idea of Claudia was to extend AWS CLI tools and to help users deploy serverless applications easier. We continued doing Claudia and a few other things. We contributed a bit to AWS SAM and we built some other applications that are open source. We’re trying to build tools that we need and that the serverless community needs.”

  • Expect to Hear More About Open Source’s Role in Security [Ed: Security implemented with proprietary software is almost always fake. The Australian back doors ("encryption") bill is a reminder of it. If something is proprietary, one must assume back doors (even mandated from above, hidden in binaries)]

    Will 2019 be the year there is a big push for consolidation between open source and cybersecurity?

    Yes, said Sanjay Beri, CEO of Netskope, in an email comment. IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat could prove to be the game changer in how organizations approach security.

  • Want to Save Some Money? Check out These Free Software Alternatives

    The list covers drawing and design, animation and film, website building, and others. For example, Ghost Malone presents several free alternatives to drawing, design and post-processing, such as GIMP, Krita, Fire Alpaca, Autodesk Sketchbook, MediBang Paint, and Paint.NET. Another example, for editing vector graphics, is Inkscape, which is free and open source. The list goes on with several choices depending on what you’re looking for.

  • A free and open source Bitcoin trading tool has been developed by two students

    University students Jonathan Shobrook and Aaron Lichtman have created a free and open source automated trading bot to use on the Bitstamp exchange.

  • Thank Stanford researchers for Puffer, a free and open source live TV streaming service that uses AI to improve video-streaming algorithms
  • Open Source To Open Newer Avenues For CIOs In 2019

    Open source plays a crucial role in all the top strategic technology trends that are reshaping the IT world. Rajarshi Bhattacharyya, Country Head, SUSE, looks at the key trends for 2019 that organizations need to explore and in explains how open source technologies and practices open up a window of opportunities for the CIOs in the coming days.

  • The High Profile Team of Handshake Looks to Truly Open the Internet with a New Domain Name System

    Unlike other major blockchain based companies like Ethereum, they chose to avoid ICO funding altogether and went straight for private investors. They were able to obtain major private investment funding from companies such as Polychain Capital, A16Z Crypto, and Founders Fund (purchasing 7.5% coin supply of HNS between them at $10.2M) with the idea that they could be responsible for replacing entire layers of Domain Name System (DNS) layering. This removes the need for those who safeguard these layers, saving future companies large amounts of cash up front.

  • Handshake is attempting to make the Internet more open

    Handshake came out of stealth mode last August. The project, which intends to replace various levels of the Domain Name System (DNS) hierarchy, was founded by Joseph Poon (co-creator of the Lightning Network & Plasma), Andrew Lee (co-founder & CEO of Purse), Andrew Lee (co-founder & CEO of Private Internet Access), Boyma Fahnbulleh (Bcoin developer), and Christopher Jeffery (Creator of Bcoin & CTO of Purse).

    Sidestepping the ICO route popularized by Ethereum, Handshake raised private funding from a slew of investors including A16Z Crypto, Polychain Capital, and Founders Fund. These investors purchased 7.5% of the initial coin supply of HNS, Handshake’s native token, for $10.2M, valuing the protocol at $136M.

  • Google remains the top open-source contributor to CNCF projects

    According to the latest data from Stackalytics, a project founded by Mirantis and hosted by the OpenStack Foundation that visualizes a company’s contribution to open-source projects, Google remains the dominant force in the CNCF open-source ecosystem. Indeed, according to this data, Google is responsible for almost 53 percent of all code commits to CNCF projects. Red Hat, the second biggest contributor, is far behind, with 7.4 percent.

    The CNCF is the home of Kubernetes, the extremely popular container orchestration service that Google open sourced, so the fact that Google is the top contributor may not seem like a major surprise. But according to this data, Google would still be the top code contributor to all CNCF projects without even taking Kubernetes into account. In part, that’s due to the fact that Google is also the major contributor to GRPC, a queuing project the company donated to the CNCF, and Vitess, the database clustering system it developed for YouTube.

  • Google Remains Top Open-Source Contributor

    According to a scan of code contributions to projects sponsored by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL) remains by far the largest contributor of code across all projects. Using a tool called Stackalytics, the survey conducted by open-source infrastructure vendor Mirantis found that Google accounted for 52.9 percent of code commits to CNCF projects.

  • Johnson Controls to Introduce Open-Source Software for Targeting Retrofits
  • Get free programs to edit photos, send email and more

    Even better, LibreOffice can open and edit the documents you made in Office and can save new files in Office formats. LibreOffice is also compatible with the other document formats, like OpenDocument Format (ODF) and PDF.

  • Events

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • MDN Changelog – Looking back at 2018

        December is when Mozilla meets as a company for our biannual All-Hands, and we reflect on the past year and plan for the future. Here are some of the highlights of 2018.

        The browser-compat-data (BCD) project required a sustained effort to convert MDN’s documentation to structured data. The conversion was 39% complete at the start of 2018, and ended the year at 98% complete. Florian Scholz coordinated a large community of staff and volunteers, breaking up the work into human-sized chunks that could be done in parallel. The community converted, verified, and refreshed the data, and converted thousands of MDN pages to use the new data sources. Volunteers also built tools and integrations on top of the data.

        The interactive-examples project had a great year as well. Will Bamberg coordinated the work, including some all-staff efforts to write new examples. Schalk Neethling improved the platform as it grew to handle CSS, JavaScript, and HTML examples.

  • Databases

    • SD Times Open-Source Project of the Week: Scylla

      With data having an impact on almost every part of today’s business, Scylla wants to make sure applications are powered by a database that can handle the influx of data without compromising performance.

      Scylla is a NoSQL database that provides low latency, always-on availability, high throughput, is scalable, easy to use, and community-backed.

      “Scylla is an open source NoSQL database that offers the horizontal scale-out and fault-tolerance of Apache Cassandra, but delivers 10X the throughput and consistent, low single-digit latencies. Implemented from scratch in C++, Scylla’s close-to-the-hardware design significantly reduces the number of database nodes you require and self-optimizes to dynamic workloads and various hardware combinations,” Peter Corless, technical marketing manager for Scylla, wrote in a post.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD

    • NomadBSD 1.2-RC1 released!

      The first release candidate of NomadBSD-1.2 is available! If you notice any problems, please let us know.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • Clear Linux’s make-fmv-patch Eases The Creation Of GCC FMV-Enabled Code Paths

      One of the GCC compiler features unfortunately not taken advantage of by most Linux distributions is FMV – Function Multi-Versioning. FMV is what allows for the compilation of different tuned code paths depending upon the processor and for the particular code-path to be chosen at run-time, i.e. optimizing to your heart’s content with AVX, SSE4, and other instruction set extensions and compiling all of that into a single binary and for the preferred code path to be taken depending upon the CPU running the binary so it will still run on older CPUs as well as today’s most powerful processors.

    • Software, apps are surveillance tools: Privacy activist Richard M Stallman

      Richard M Stallman, a US-based free software and privacy activist, said on Friday that modern mobile phones are a dream tool that Joseph Stalin would have loved to have, as they allow indiscriminate surveillance of every user.
      Delivering a public lecture at RV College of Engineering here, Stallman said: “They never go off. There is no button to switch them off. At best, they pretend to turn off but they are always listening and sending back information to servers owned by the manufacturers of the operating systems. They would’ve been (Joseph) Stalin’s dream, but unfortunately for him the technology didn’t exist then, but sadly for us, it does now.”
      He warned students from uploading his photographs or videos from the lecture on Facebook, WhatsApp or Instagram—all social messaging/networking sites/applications—claiming that they were “the three big mouths of the surveillance monster.”

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • Boosting Open Science Hardware in an academic context: opportunities and challenges

        Experimental science is typically dependent on hardware: equipment, sensors and machines. Open Science Hardware means sharing designs for this equipment that anyone can reuse, replicate, build upon or sell so long as they attribute the developers on whose shoulders they stand. Hardware can also be expanded to encompass other non-digital input to research such as chemicals, cell lines and materials and a growing number of open science initiatives are actively sharing these with few or no restrictions on use.

      • The Entire Hardlight VR project is now Open Source

        It’s always a sad day when a successful Kickstarter project has to close due to a lack of continued interest. That’s what befell the Hardlight VR team back in September, with the founders issuing a statement notifying backers that the company was closing due to lack of funds.

  • Programming/Development

    • NetBSD Exploring LLVM’s LLD Linker For Lower Memory Footprint

      The NetBSD project has been making good progress in utilizing the LLVM compiler stack not only for the Clang C/C++ compiler but also for the different sanitizers, the libc++ standard library for C++, and other improvements most of which are working their way into the upstream code-bases. One area of NetBSD’s LLVM support being explored most recently is using the LLD linker.

      NetBSD is exploring the use of the LLVM LLD linker over GNU’s ld linker due to the lower memory footprint. LLD generally goes through far less RAM than the current GNU ld linker.

    • Finding Compiler Bugs With C-Reduce

      Support for a long awaited GNU C extension, asm goto, is in the midst of landing in Clang and LLVM. We want to make sure that we release a high quality implementation, so it’s important to test the new patches on real code and not just small test cases. When we hit compiler bugs in large source files, it can be tricky to find exactly what part of potentially large translation units are problematic. In this post, we’ll take a look at using C-Reduce, a multithreaded code bisection utility for C/C++, to help narrow done a reproducer for a real compiler bug (potentially; in a patch that was posted, and will be fixed before it can ship in production) from a real code base (the Linux kernel). It’s mostly a post to myself in the future, so that I can remind myself how to run C-reduce on the Linux kernel again, since this is now the third real compiler bug it’s helped me track down.

    • Structuring Rust Transactions
    • Tidy up the user interface of the video editing application
    • Intel Vulkan Linux Driver Adds Conditional Rendering, Draw Indirect Count

      First up, the Intel Vulkan driver now supports VK_EXT_conditional_rendering after a lengthy review/revision process. VK_EXT_conditional_rendering was added to Vulkan 1.1.80 last July and allows for rendering commands to be made selective based upon a value in the buffer memory, in order to allow discard rendering commands based upon a result in GPU memory without having to wait on the application/engine. The conditional rendering can be used with Vulkan draws, compute dispatches, and clearing of attachments. VK_EXT_conditional_rendering is supported by Haswell “Gen 7.5″ graphics and newer with the upcoming Mesa 19.0.

    • Episode #113: Python Lands on the Windows 10 App Store
    • Lambda Functions in Python
    • Find Your System’s Biggest CPU Hogs

Leftovers

  • Winds of change? Winds of mediocrity.

    You’d think the world of open-source would escape this cheap reduction of human intellect. But no. The world’s saddest violin is playing mightily loudly in the halls of Tux, too. Linux distributions are, by far and large, less stable, less ergonomic and less capable than they were five or six years ago. Lots of activity, few results.

    And when you do get results, they are made by devs for devs, object-oriented software solutions that intrude into the user space and complicate things without any benefits. Systemd is a good example. Wayland is another. Network tools yet another. Then, we also have the flattification of UI elements, the same kind of stuff that Google’s been doing. And everyone is doing it, because hey, if Google does it, then if they imitate Google, they will be like Google, right. None of these things help, but we can tolerate them because they don’t really make any difference in the overall story of human survival.

    [...]

    Don’t embrace the change. Evaluate the change. Judge it. Be strict. Because we’ve come too far as a race to allow stupidity to become the driving factor. That’s an insult to the billions of humans who have died to mosquitoes and common flu and famine so that we could reach an evolutionary point where people accept low-quality, low-efficiency nonsense into their lives, and then sermonize about that with the obtuse optimism of religiously passionate fanboys.

    But there’s a happy side to this story, too. Not that long ago, I wouldn’t contemplate rejecting the “modern” technology that much or that often. There was almost a thought of discomfort at such a move. But now? It does not seem so bad. Having gone through a few cycles of big tech changes, I don’t see anything special or revolutionary in the Peckham water that companies are dishing out to the masses. It’s an almost liberating thought, sprinkled with illumination, epiphany and other long words. Perhaps I should thank the agile crowds for this unintentional contribution of disdain and apathy. Good stuff, I’d say. Be if you’re still out there, wondering if you can change the world, start by small things. Say no to stupid things. Don’t embrace the change, embrace critical thinking.

  • Science

    • Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North

      But humans are not the only species that use stars for direction. Research on songbirds that navigate at night shows that birds learn the patterns of stars within an arc of about 35 degrees bounding the North Pole including, of course, Ursa Major and Minor. Scientists surmise that birds imprint on several constellations to ensure more robust navigation on nights with partial cloud cover. Migratory birds also rely on the polar axis of the rotation of the stars as a reference system and use a diversity of other navigational cues that are truly mind-blowing.

      Although insects may not have a lot of what we many think of as brains, their navigation systems are far from primitive. Dung beetles, for example, take mental “snapshots” of star locations. They navigate by comparing the positions of stars or other celestial bodies noted in each snapshot. The lowly dung beetle, blessed with a cerebral sextant?

      As far as we know, though, humans are the only species to invent elaborate stories and even entire myth systems about stars in an unending quest to make sense of our individual lives and create durable communities.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Hoping to Transform ‘Momentum Into Policy’, Thousands Expected to Flood Capitol Hill to Demand Medicare for All

      Ahead of the third annual Women’s March this weekend, thousands of Americans are expected to descend on Capitol Hill on Friday for a Medicare for All lobby day organized by progressive campaigners.

      The Women’s March and the Center for Popular Democracy are among the organizations participating in the push, hoping to convince as many lawmakers as possible to co-sponsor Medicare for All bills in the Senate and House—proposals that represent the majority of American public opinion.

    • Medicaid Patients In Puerto Rico Don’t Get Coverage For Drugs To Cure Hepatitis C

      Drugs that can cure hepatitis C revolutionized care for millions of Americans living with the deadly liver infection. The drugs came with a steep price tag — one that prompted state Medicaid programs to initially limit access to the medications to only the sickest patients. That eased, however, in many states as new drugs were introduced and the prices declined.

      But not in Puerto Rico. Medicaid patients in the American territory get no coverage for these drugs.

      The joint federal-territory health care program for the poor — which covers about half the island’s population — does not pay for hepatitis C medications. They also do not cover liver transplants, a procedure patients need if the virus causes the organ to fail.

      The Puerto Rico Department of Health created a separate pilot project in 2015 to provide hepatitis C medications to those sickened by the liver infection who also have HIV but expanded the program later to those with only hepatitis C. However, according to the Office of Patient Legal Services, an official territorial agency that advocates for consumers, the program ran out of funding and is no longer accepting patients only with hepatitis C.

    • Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”

      As the government shutdown drags on, the image of federal workers lining up at food pantries has dramatized just how many workers live financially close to the edge.

      By one estimate, almost 80 percent of U.S. workers live paycheck to paycheck. Miss one check and you’re taking a second look at what’s in the back of the pantry cupboard.

      From federal prison guards in small towns to airline safety inspectors in major cities, the partial government shutdown has forced 800,000 federal workers — and many contractors, too — to survive without a paycheck.

      The shutdown is a Trump-made disaster, with an estimated 420,000 “essential workers” required to show up for work without a paycheck. They have full-time responsibilities, which makes finding another part-time job nearly impossible.

    • Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old

      In the new film Isn’t It Romantic, actress Rebel Wilson plays a woman who suffers an injury and wakes up trapped inside a romantic comedy. The trailer shows one incredibly attractive man after another making romantic gestures to her.

      Rebel Wilson, I should note, played “Fat Amy” in Pitch Perfect. She was the fat girl, the comic relief — not the romantic lead.

      Last year, Amy Schumer’s movie I Feel Pretty is similar: She’s an unattractive-feeling woman who hits her head and wakes up with tremendous self-esteem.

      Both films put women who aren’t exactly Hollywood’s ideal of feminine beauty at the center of romantic comedies. In each, the gag is that a “fat ugly girl” either believes that she’s beautiful or that men do.

      I grew up on a steady diet of romantic comedies in a household dominated by a fat-phobic mother who berated us every time we put food in our mouths.

      It was the 1990s, when fat was public enemy No. 1. My mom would buy low fat and fat free snack products, and even chips with the fake fat Olestra a few times. The Olestra chips tasted great, but by then I had such a link between junk food and guilt that I couldn’t eat them and enjoy them.

      Food has been a struggle almost my entire life, from about the age of 10. As a teen and in my early 20s I tried several strict diets of various sorts. I gave up French fries, I limited myself to one order of my college cafeteria’s chicken tenders a month, I tried to give up chocolate but it didn’t work. I still can’t enjoy certain foods because they are too fattening.

  • Security

    • Security updates for Friday
    • How Do You Handle Security in Your Smart Devices?

      Look around your daily life and that of your friends and family, and you’ll see that smart devices are beginning to take over our lives. But this also means an increase in a need for security, though not everyone realizes it, as discussed in a recent article on our IoT-related site. Are you aware of the need for security even when it’s IoT-related? How do you handle security in your smart devices?

    • A Vulnerability in ES File Explorer Exposes All of Your Files to Anyone on the Same Network
    • 2018 Roundup: Q1

      One of our major pain points over the years of dealing with injected DLLs has been that the vendor of the DLL is not always apparent to us. In general, our crash reports and telemetry pings only include the leaf name of the various DLLs on a user’s system. This is intentional on our part: we want to preserve user privacy. On the other hand, this severely limits our ability to determine which party is responsible for a particular DLL.

      One avenue for obtaining this information is to look at any digital signature that is embedded in the DLL. By examining the certificate that was used to sign the binary, we can extract the organization of the cert’s owner and include that with our crash reports and telemetry.

      In bug 1430857 I wrote a bunch of code that enables us to extract that information from signed binaries using the Windows Authenticode APIs. Originally, in that bug, all of that signature extraction work happened from within the browser itself, while it was running: It would gather the cert information on a background thread while the browser was running, and include those annotations in a subsequent crash dump, should such a thing occur.

    • Linux-Targeting Cryptojacking Malware Disables Cloud-Based Security Measures: Report [Ed: They make it sound like GNU/Linux is the problem; but it relies on already-compromised GNU/Linux systems]

      A new cryptojacking malware has the ability to disable cloud-based security measures to avoid detection on Linux servers, research by information security company Palo Alto Networks Jan. 17 reveals.

      The malware in question mines Monero (XMR) and is reportedly a modified version of one used by the so-called “Rocke” group, originally discovered by cybersecurity firm Talos in August last year. According to the research, one of the first things that the malware does is check for other cryptocurrency mining processes and add firewall rules to block any other cryptojacking malware.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Reports are still circulating that a deadly apartment collapse in Magnitogorsk was really a terrorist attack, but there are some problems with this story

      ISIS has belatedly claimed responsibility for an explosion that shredded an apartment building in Magnitogorsk on December 31 and killed 39 people. The terrorist group says it was also involved in a deadly minibus fire the following night. Immediately after this announcement, Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee reiterated that a gas leak is the leading explanation for what caused the apartment collapse. Since the tragedy, several news outlets have reported unverified rumors that the supposed gas leak was actually the work of terrorists. On January 18, even more details about a potential terrorism link emerged. Meduza summarizes what various sources have claimed about the Magnitogorsk apartment collapse.

    • To Stop Bolton’s Fire and Fury, Fire Bolton

      “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran,” read the headline of a 2015 New York Times op-ed by now National Security Adviser John Bolton. Writing at the height of nuclear negotiations with Iran, Bolton argued that, “Time is terribly short, but a strike can still succeed.” Almost four years later, all of Iran’s potential pathways to a bomb remain blocked by the very deal Bolton would have traded for war. But like nonbiodegradable plastic adrift at sea, undeterred by the damage left in its wake, Bolton’s views haven’t changed.

      On January 13, 2019, news broke that the National Security Council, at Bolton’s direction, asked the Pentagon for military strike options against Iran. The request was reportedly in response to a mortar attack launched in September 2018 by an Iraqi Shiite militia aligned with Iran that landed near the US Embassy in Baghdad, hitting an empty lot and causing no injuries or damage. In other words, Bolton asked the Pentagon to draw up plans for airstrikes over Iran that would start a catastrophic war — all in response to a militia attack with no victims.

      Taken on its own, a thoughtful observer might characterize Bolton’s request as a gross overreaction from an overzealous national security adviser. But in the context of this administration’s policies and statements on Iran, it looks more like part of the plan.

      Let’s review the lowlights. In the first days of Trump’s presidency, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn ominously announced that the administration was “putting Iran on notice.” In May 2018, Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear agreement despite Iran’s verifiable compliance, and reimposed the full suite of US sanctions lifted under the agreement. Last July, Trump authored a late-night tweet threatening Iran with “consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.” In August, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo formed the Iran Action Group, a special team tasked with coordinating the administration’s policies for countering the “Iranian threat.” Earlier this month, Pompeo started an eight-country tour through the Middle East emphasizing the need to counter “the greatest threat of all the Middle East, the Iranian regime.” Next month, the secretary of state is hosting a summit in Poland focused on “making sure that Iran is not a destabilizing influence.”

    • Rep. Ro Khanna: U.S. Troops Are a “Sitting Target” in Syria; It’s Time to Bring Them Home

      In Syria, a suicide bomber struck a restaurant in the northern city of Manbij Wednesday, killing 19 people including four Americans. Two of them were U.S. soldiers. The bombing was claimed by ISIS and came just weeks after President Trump declared victory over the group and ordered U.S. troops to withdraw from Syria, prompting the resignation of Pentagon chief Jim Mattis. Just hours after the attack, Vice President Mike Pence reiterated that ISIS has been defeated. Wednesday’s attack drew renewed calls from congressional hawks—both Republicans and Democrats—to reverse Trump’s Syria withdrawal. The U.S. has an estimated 2,000 troops stationed in Syria, even though Congress has never declared war on the country. We speak with Ro Khanna, Democratic congressmember from California. He is a leading critic of U.S. military interventions abroad.

    • The Wall, The Endless War, and the Troops Who Pay

      The suicide bombing in Manbij, Syria which killed up to twenty people, including two U.S. soldiers, a State Department employee, and a defense contractor, adds to the tragic toll of the war in Syria, said to be in the hundreds of thousands. ISIS has taken credit for the Manbij bombing, but they have provided no proof.

      Some peace activists are expressing suspicion about the timing of the bombing in northern Syria, which came just as U.S. foreign policy hawks, including the entire mainstream media, are pushing back against Trump’s promise to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. The pro-intervention crowd is saying, “See, we told you that ISIS was not defeated – we need to stay in Syria until they are.”

    • Paul Whelan accused of collecting information on Russian special services

      Paul Whelan, the former U.S. Marine who was arrested in Moscow on December 28, has been accused by investigators of collecting secret information about one of Russia’s special service agencies, TV Rain reports. The independent station referenced an anonymous source familiar with the investigation. That source also said the FSB began building a file on Whelan in May 2018, well before his arrest, and that the file includes both telephone and online conversations.

    • Shut Down the War Machine!

      The time has come to cut the US military down to size.

      Last November, the Pentagon admitted what critics have known for years: It cannot pass an audit that would let Congress, the media and taxpayers know what it does with the trillions of dollars that have been lavished on war and preparing for war by this country.

      By all accounts, the US accounts for more than a third of all global military spending. The next biggest spender on its military, China, only spends a fifth as much as the US. And remember, as a full-fledged police state and a country whose peripheral provinces have to be kept under tight military control lest they move towards independence from Beijing, much of China’s huge military is actually involved not in threatening other countries or even defending China, but in maintaining government control domestically. Russia’s military spending, which actually declined last year, is actually lower than for tiny Saudi Arabia, which can’t even control tiny neighboring Yemen without vast assistance and military aid from the United States.

      Let’s be honest: The United States faces no significant threat from any nation in the world.

      Sure I know: Russia and even China have nuclear weapons that, if launched en masse at the US could destroy this country. But everyone knows such an action would be to commit national suicide. With its vast nuclear arsenal stowed in patrolling submarines, in protected silos ready to be fired off in minutes, and in bases around the world, including some quite close to China’s and Russia’s borders, the US not only could destroy both countries many times over in response, but is actually able and prepared to attack either country or both countries first, perhaps even preventing them from retaliating successfully (See Michio Kaku’s and Daniel Axelrod’s excellent and terrifying book To Win a Nuclear War: The Pentagon’s Secret War Plans which, using secret US documents, exposes how for decades beginning even before the end of WWII the US prepared and is still preparing for a first-strike, all-out attack to kill hundreds of millions and totally destroy both Russia and China while preventing any significant counter-attack).

      The reality is that it is the US which is the most threatening and destabilizing force in the world today. It is US military spending, and the US role as the world’s largest arms merchant, selling and giving away more than 34% of all weapons and military equipment in the global arms market to a total of 98 countries, that drives global military spending. Russia, at a puny 22% of all arms sales, is distinctly second rate in the world arms market.

    • Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO

      Judging by comments in social media and the real world, millions of people in the United States have gone from having little or no opinion on NATO, or from opposing NATO as the world’s biggest military force responsible for disastrous wars in places like Afghanistan (for Democrats) or Libya (for Republicans), to believing NATO to be a tremendous force for good in the world.

      I believe this notion to be propped up by a series of misconceptions that stand in dire need of correction.

    • Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over

      Donald Trump wants to pull U.S. troops out of Syria as quickly as possible.

      Well, it’s Wednesday, so that’s what the president wants now. Tomorrow, who knows, maybe he’ll insist that Syria pay for the pullout. Maybe Trump will decide to hold a summit with Bashar al-Assad after deciding that the Syrian leader’s not such a bad guy after all, since he also doesn’t like the Islamic State and owes his position to Russian support. Maybe Trump will team up with Turkey to build a wall around Syria because “if we stop them over there, we won’t fight them over here.”

      With Trump, all options seem to be in play, and it all depends on what Fox News covers, what the last autocrat or three-star general whispered in his ear, and whether the president’s spleen is acting up or not. The opinions of his own advisors or the foreign-policy commissariat seem to matter little. If anything, Trump delights in confounding the experts. After all, he believes himself to be the expert-in-chief.

      Foreign policy making in the Trump era is a lot like curling. Trump lets lose the stone and then the other members of the team start sweeping at the ice in an attempt to alter the trajectory. Sometimes Trump throws in the general direction of the target. Sometimes his aim is so errant that there’s nothing the sweepers can do.

      So, after Trump tweeted his new Syria policy, National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went into action to alter its trajectory. In an attempt to placate allies aghast at Trump’s decision, Bolton put so many conditions on the pull-out as to seem to render the announcement null and void. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo similarly tried to assure Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and the Gulf States that U.S. policy remains steady: defeat the Islamic State, shut out Iran.

      This cavalcade of caveats accomplished little more than to confuse allies and mystify observers. Bolton angered Recep Tayyip Erdogan so much with his remarks about continued U.S. support for Syrian Kurds that the Turkish president refused to meet with the national security advisor when he visited Ankara this month. A prominent pro-government newspaper decried Bolton’s “soft coup against Trump.”

    • The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam

      This fly-on- the-wall quote is from a US Embassy-Hanoi diplomatic cable that was leaked over a decade ago, i.e., in the pre-Wikileaks era, and quickly found its way into many inboxes in Viet Nam and elsewhere. As I mentioned in a 2011 article, this manifesto lite offers telling examples and revealing insights into the use of education as a tool and even a weapon of soft power.

      The power of leaked internal documents is their refreshing honesty and ability to confirm suspicions based on general information, hunches, and intuition. As the unvarnished truth about a particular perspective or goal, they usually offer little to no rhetorical wiggle room for dissembling by their authors, who never imagined that their thoughts would see the public light of day.

      In this particular call to action and request for additional funding, written by people I worked with at the time in my capacity as country director of a US education nonprofit with close ties to the US State Department, the US is portrayed as a knight in shining armor, with its renowned can-do attitude and munificent spirit, coming to the rescue of millions of desperate Vietnamese students and parents. It is an example of a messiah complex rooted in nationalism. We know best, we are the best, think like US, follow US, become like US, and all will be well.

    • Thief of Baghdad: an investigative report

      THERE is an evil in the mist that has enveloped the air around Helsinki. Something ominous is going on, across our planet… from Baghdad to Helsinki, and beyond. All ripples lead to one epicentre… the United States. What are they up to?
      Two successive articles have been published in Helsinki Times, warning readers, of something sinister that has already been ‘sensed’…. Do you, or anyone, have a clue?
      Will Sillitoe, the Op-Ed columnist from Finland, has taken his readers into confidence. Perhaps, all this had something to do with the guarded warehouses, located near Helsinki’s city airport and the mysterious chain of overseas cargo, which had kept flowing into the premises, in the dark.
      The big question we all seem to ask: why does the US embassy in Helsinki need a huge warehouse near Malmi Airport? And, what are the contents of thousands of kilograms of cargo that were flown into Helsinki from Baghdad in specially marked containers?
      A dilapidated warehouse located in Malmi district of Helsinki, allegedly, was being used by the United States for some unknown operations. A whistleblower, known as the Wikileaks’ releases, has finally taken the curtain away from the mystery location.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • DOJ to question Ecuadorian Embassy staff following Guardian Manafort story – WikiLeaks

      The US Department of Justice is to question six staff from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London following the Guardian’s controversial article alleging Paul Manafort visited Julian Assange, according to WikiLeaks.
      The DOJ issued formal requests on January 7 to “interrogate six former diplomats & staff at Ecuador’s London embassy following Guardian’s fabricated story of Assange-Manafort meetings,” the whistleblowing organization tweeted Thursday.

      The interviews scheduled by Ecuador’s Attorney General’s office are to take place on Friday in Quito, Ecuador.

    • US Questioning Ecuadorian Embassy Staff Over Debunked Assange-Manafort Story

      Earlier, The Guardian, which made the explosive claim that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had met with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, was forced to walk back on the story, heavily editing the piece and saying it could not confirm the authenticity of its sources’ claims.
      US Department of Justice investigators have handed out international subpoenas to six members of the Ecuadorian Embassy staff who were in the London compound with Assange during the timeframe when Manafort was reported to have met with the whistleblower, Assange’s legal defence team has confirmed.

    • US officials to ask Ecuador embassy staff about Julian Assange visitors
    • Staff at Ecuadorean embassy in London where Julian Assange is holed up are questioned by Department of Justice investigators over whether he met Paul Manafort

      US investigators will on Friday begin to question diplomatic staff who were stationed at the Ecuadorian embassy in London during WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s years-long stay about his visitors, according to the whistleblower group.

      It follows international subpoenas from the US Department of Justice, which is probing a report that President Donald Trump’s disgraced former 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort held secret talks there with Assange, Wikileaks said.

      The Justice Department, which declined to comment on the matter, wants to talk to six staff members from the embassy and will start to interview them in the Ecuadorian capital Quito on Friday, it added.

    • Ecuadorian embassy asked to grass on Assange
    • Ecuadorian diplomats grilled by U.S. over reported ties between Manafort, Assange: Reports

      Ecuadorian diplomats were slated to be interviewed in the country’s capital Friday by U.S. authorities investigating whether President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort visited WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange at the nation’s embassy in London, regional media reported.
      Six diplomats currently or previously stationed at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Mr. Assange’s residence since 2012, were expected to field questions from U.S. officials probing a contentious report linking him to Mr. Trump’s incarcerated former campaign manager, according to unnamed judicial sources cited by Agencia EFE, a Spanish-language news agency and one of the world’s largest wire services.
      WikiLeaks stated Thursday through the anti-secrecy group’s Twitter account that the U.S Department of Justice had issued letters rogatory to interrogate a half-dozen individuals, including former diplomats and embassy staff, and that Ecuador’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs heeded the request and scheduled them to be interviewed in Quito.

    • CN to Broadcast 13th Vigil for Assange Today at 4 pm EST

      The WikiLeaks publisher continues to resist pressure to leave the Ecuador Embassy and be sent to the U.S. for prosecution, even as he has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and Donald Trump’s lawyer says he should not be charged with any crime.

      Julian Assange’s is an historic test-case for press freedom.

    • US asked Ecuadorean officials about alleged Assange-Manafort meeting, says source

      US officials spoke with officials from Ecuador’s British embassy yesterday about an alleged meeting there between President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, an Ecuadorean government source said.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Saving the World’s Largest Tropical Wetland

      Most people have heard of the Amazon, South America’s famed rainforest and hub of biological diversity. Less well known, though no less critical, is the Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland.

      Like the Amazon, the Pantanal is ecologically important and imperiled. Located primarily in Brazil, it also stretches into neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay. Covering an area larger than England at more than 70,000 square miles, the massive wetland provides irreplaceable ecosystem services that include the regulation of floodwaters, nutrient renewal, river flow for navigability, groundwater recharge and carbon sequestration. The wetland also supports the economies of the four South American states it covers.

      But as I learned working on a recent research project with the environmental nonprofit WWF, a combination of climate change, new development, expanding agriculture, urban growth and pollution are poised to transform this vast wetland — bringing drastic consequences for the environment, wildlife and millions of people who depend on the Pantanal’s natural hydrology.

    • Climate Advocates Underestimate Power of Fossil Fueled Misinformation Campaigns, Say Top Researchers

      Climate action advocates have underestimated the strength and sophistication of decades-long fossil fuel-funded misinformation campaigns and need a coordinated set of strategies to fight back, say leading academics.

      Among those strategies, say the three researchers from Yale and Brown University, are promoting financial transparency, suing misinformers and their funders, and researching the vast networks of think tanks and front groups.

      Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, Yale University’ professors Justin Farrell and Kathryn McConnell, together with Brown University’s Professor Robert Brulle, say people working on responses to climate change “cannot afford to underestimate the economic influence, institutional complexity, strategic sophistication, financial motivation, and societal impact of the networks” behind climate misinformation campaigns.

      Brulle, who is also an academic at Drexel University, told DeSmog that after conversations with leaders of environment groups and foundations, he had concluded “there is virtually no understanding of the nature or extent of misinformation efforts and organized efforts to stop climate action.”

    • ‘If the Water Is Rising, Then So Must We’: Indigenous Peoples March in Washington Against Global Injustice

      In an event described as “breathtaking, heartbreaking, strong, and beautiful,” representatives from native communities around the world came together in Washington, D.C. on Friday for the first-ever Indigenous Peoples March.

      Organized as a rebuke to the violence and injustices that Indigenous Peoples often face—from the murder of native girls and women to police brutality to having unceded tribal lands torn away by colonizing governments and fossil fuel corporations—the march kicked off Friday morning outside the U.S. Interior Department.

    • As Workers Suffer From Shutdown, Groups Accuse Trump of ‘Rolling Out the Red Carpet’ for Oil and Gas Drilling

      Because the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) cannot post information about the drilling applications due to the shutdown, the groups argued, it is unlawfully blocking the public from participating in the process or raising objections.

      “In short, it is impossible for the public to inspect or otherwise provide meaningful feedback on any pending [applications or environmental reviews] related to these applications,” WildEarth Guardians, Western Watersheds Project, and the Center for Biological Diversity wrote in their filing (pdf), which calls on the Interior Department to completely stop processing drilling permits until the government is reopened.

      In a statement on Thursday, Taylor McKinnon—public lands campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity—declared that the “only thing trashier than our national parks during this shutdown has been the Trump administration’s coddling of the oil industry.”

      “Furloughed federal workers can’t pay their mortgages, but Trump is hellbent on ensuring profits for fossil fuel corporations,” McKinnon said. “Not one new lease or drilling permit should be allowed under these conditions.”

      “We’ve been completely shut out of decisions affecting our public lands, and we won’t stand for it,” added Rebecca Fischer, climate and energy program attorney with WildEarth Guardians.

  • Finance

    • MIT, Stanford Researchers to Fund New ‘Globally Scalable’ Cryptocurrency, ‘Unit-e’

      A group of researchers from top United States universities have announced the launch of a “globally scalable decentralized payments network,” according to a press release published today, Jan. 17.

      The development of the cryptocurrency, dubbed “Unit-e,” is being funded by Distributed Technologies Research (DTR) — a non-profit organization based in Switzerland, whose official launch was also announced today in the press release.

      DTR includes researchers from seven major U.S. universities, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, as Bloomberg reports.

    • Feeding the Furloughed: Let Them Eat Teriyaki Chicken Sandwiches With Ginger Aioli

      Tom-Joad-like, celebrity chef, Spanish immigrant and Trump foe José Andrés has opened a pop-up kitchen in D.C. to feed thousands of federal workers getting stiffed by the petulant Man-Baby-In-Chief. With the shutdown almost a month long and over 70,000 affected in D.C., Andrés’ non-profit World Central Kitchen – which has provided millions of hot meals to hurricane, wildfire, volcano and other global disaster victims, including in post-Maria Puerto Rico – this week opened a #ChefsForFeds kitchen on Pennsylvania Ave. between the Capitol and the White House. Andrés, who owns a mini-empire of restaurants, famously pulled out of a 2015 deal at Trump’s D.C. hotel after he began insulting Mexicans and other immigrants, will serve a rotating menu of free hot gourmet meals from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily to federal workers with ID. They can also get take-out for families at home, because here in the richest country on earth, “We believe no person should have to go through the pain of not knowing what to feed their children.”

      Wednesday, as Trump blathered about “Radical Democrats/ Humanitarian Crisis,” the kitchen opened to long lines of tearful, angry, ashamed and grateful victims of his “man-made disaster.” About 4,400 people, double what was expected, queued for toasted ham and cheese sandwich with roasted garlic aioli, quinoa bowl with black beans, fennel and tomato soup. Thursday’s menu – chicken teriyaki sandwich with pickled veggies, teriyaki tofu bowl, mac and cheese – drew over 5,500. Friday’s grilled steak with carmelized onion sandwich and felafel and quinoa will likely draw more thankful for the chance to “just feel like a damn person again” amidst Depression-like lines and signs and anxiety. One aggrieved woman: “We shouldn’t have to have this in America.” Just so, says Andrés, who was already giving out free sandwiches at his restaurants during the shutdown. In a “call to action” from Puerto Rico, he urged pols and especially Trump to come together and “see the true meaning of We the People.” His Twitter mantra: “We all are Citizens of the World. What’s good for you, must be good for all. If you are lost, share a plate of food with a stranger…you will find who you are.” Give this guy a Nobel.

    • Kent Wong on LA Teachers Strike, Rebecca Vallas on the Threat to Medicaid

      Corporate media have been declaring organized labor moribund—sometimes abetting efforts to kill it—for many years now. But more than 30,000 public school teachers in Los Angeles, on strike with overwhelming community support, would suggest you ought not believe everything you read. We’ll hear about the LA teachers strike, and competing visions for public education, from Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Labor Center and vice president of the California Federation of Teachers.

    • Teachers in Los Angeles are striking for our students, not ourselves

      Huge classes, few counselors, no arts classes are becoming the norm in my city as the board attempts to run the school district like a business.

    • A Swelling Tide of Major Teacher Strikes Is Shifting Our Politics Against the Charter Agenda

      This week, Republican lawmakers held a press conference on Capitol Hill to kick off National School Choice Week, an annual event that began in 2011 under President Obama who proclaimed it as a time to “recognize the role public charter schools play in providing America’s daughters and sons with a chance to reach their fullest potential.” This year, Democratic lawmakers took a pass on the celebration. You can thank striking teachers for that.

      In the latest teacher strike in Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest school system, some 30,000 teachers walked off the job saying unchecked growth of charter schools and charters’ lack of transparency and accountability have become an unsustainable drain on the public system’s financials. The teachers have included in their demands a cap on charter school growth, along with other demands, such as increased teacher pay, reduced class sizes, less testing, and more counselors, nurses, librarians, and psychologists.

      The LA teachers’ opposition to charter schools is just the latest voice in a growing chorus of public school teachers calling on politicians to do more to support the public schools we have rather than piling more dollars and accolades onto a competitive charter school industry. And with the backing of nearly 80 percent of Los Angeles County residents, according to one survey, the teachers likely have the clout to change the politics of “school choice” in California, and perhaps the nation.

    • LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt

      We live in an era where teachers unions are attacked and scapegoated, our schools are starved of funds, and private charter operators are allowed to choose which students they want to educate and exclude those they don’t–and use desperately needed funds from the public school system to do so.

      It is said that the end of the French monarchy was portended by the fact that boys working in the king’s stables were reading the radical philosopher Voltaire. This week thousands of Los Angeles youth gave up windfall days off to show up at picketlines at 6:30 in the morning and march in the rain all day in defense of public education, teachers, and their union. Could this portend the end of the era of attacks on public education?

      Nearly 100 of our students have joined our picketlines, attended the mass downtown rallies, and provided logistical support. Below are some of their views of the Los Angeles Education Revolt of 2019.

    • Donald Trump Has Never Cared About Workers, and Never Will

      The biggest lie ever told in American politics is the claim that Donald Trump cares about working people.

      He never has. He never will.

      As a bankruptcy-prone business mogul, Trump always financed his lavish lifestyle at the expense of the workers and contractors he screwed over. Now he is doing the same thing as president. That was made abundantly clear last Friday, when the government shutdown that Trump engineered denied 800,000 federal employees their paychecks.

      “Cheating, scamming, and ripping off workers is a Donald Trump tradition that goes back decades. Federal workers are just Trump’s latest victims,” said Public Citizen President Robert Weissman as the deadline for paying the workers passed. “For decades, Trump repeatedly didn’t pay those who worked for him, and now that he’s in the White House, little has changed. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers and employees of federal contractors are suffering the same fate because of the Trump shutdown.”

      Paul Shearon, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, described the shutdown as “completely unnecessary.” And, of course, he was right. “The real problem is that President Trump has shut himself down and he’s refusing to do his job as chief executive,” explained Shearon, whose union represents judges in U.S. immigration courts, scientists, engineers and technical workers at NASA, and highly skilled workers at the EPA and NOAA.

      The human cost has been severe for federal workers who, as American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. has noted, have take-home pay averaging about $500 a week and in many cases “struggle to make ends meet even without a missed paycheck.”

      Yet Trump has no qualms about “holding employees’ paychecks hostage over demands for a border wall,” Weissman said.

      Trump actually claimed that unpaid federal workers could just “make adjustments.” The president also announced that he “can relate” to the difficult circumstance he has imposed upon the workers.

    • Newly Revealed Documents Show Facebook Gleefully Refusing To Refund Money To Kids Who Ran Up Huge Bills On Mommy’s Credit Card

      Because Facebook wasn’t looking awful enough already, some newly unsealed documents from a lawsuit going back a few years are now making the company look even worse, and certainly not doing the company any favors in its efforts to rehabilitate its reputation. Unfortunately, so far, Reveal, a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting, seems to only be revealing snippets of what’s in the documents, rather than the full documents (come on guys…), but what they’re sharing doesn’t look great.

      Specifically, a judge has unsealed previously sealed records from a 2012 class action lawsuit that was settled in 2016, concerning Facebook profiting off of children. The origins of the lawsuit involved a child who got his mother’s credit card to play a game on Facebook, without realizing that the more he played, the more of his mother’s money he was spending — compounded by Facebook then refusing to refund the charges. The latest revelations show that Facebook employees knew that they made this information confusing, in a way that people (kids and adults alike) might not realize they were still spending money off of a credit card, and also having joking conversations about people trying to get their money back. Indeed, the snippet Reveal has released has Facebook employees referring to one teenager as “a whale” — a term used in casinos to refer to big spenders.

    • The Indignity of Work Without Pay

      The Democratic senator, who just won reelection by nearly seven points in the red state of Ohio, explained the concept to reporters: “Dignity of work means hard work should pay off for everyone, no matter who you are or what kind of work you do… [dignity of work] is a value that unites us all.”

      Well, maybe not everyone. Forty percent of conservative Republicans view the government shutdown as inconsequential. That is, 40 percent of conservative Republicans believe that furloughing 380,000 federal workers and giving them no idea when they might see another paycheck is no problem. That is, 40 percent of conservative Republicans say that ordering another 420,000 federal employees to work without pay is nothing. Forty percent of conservative Republicans say that the farmers and students and potential homebuyers who can’t get loans because of the shutdown are no big deal; the restaurants and shops suffering because their usual government employee customers aren’t showing up are meaningless; the thousands of government contract workers laid off with no hope of recouping lost paychecks are trivial collateral damage.

      That repudiates the dignity of work. It disrespects government workers and the services they perform for Americans. It also disrespects the workers routinely helped by government employees, from farmers to factory laborers, who now are denied the government services they need.

    • The European Union May Not Survive the Euro

      The euro is “celebrating” its 20th anniversary this month, but they aren’t popping corks across the continent. Except, perhaps, with the notable exception of delusional Eurocrats such Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, who argued: “The euro has become a symbol of unity, sovereignty and stability. It has delivered prosperity and protection to our citizens…”

      Some prosperity!

      Much of the continent is characterized by double-digit unemployment, rising inequality, political strife, and a virtual lost generation of youth, who have never experienced anything remotely approaching a robust, ebullient economy. Greed-based integration is giving the EU a bad name.

      The worst thing about the Eurozone as a whole is the currency union itself. The euro reinforces structural inequalities between member states as well as between social groups within countries. It is also worth recalling that its creation was supposed to be an intermediate step toward the inevitable formation of a “United States of Europe” of a supranational fiscal authority—i.e., a federal union in which a central government for the whole of Europe becomes responsible for the economic stabilization and income redistribution for the whole of the EU, while the allocation of resources is left in the hands of the nation state governments. That is clearly a long ways away, given existing political tensions between the creditor nations of the Germanic north and the debtor southern periphery nations.

    • No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit

      Theresa May’s prime ministership remains one of torment, drawn out, and weakened daily. But does it really matter? If it is true to claim that people deserve the government they elect, then there is something madly representative of the debacle of May’s leadership, one where problems are sought for any possible solutions.

      Steering through the waters of Brexit has been a nigh impossible task rendered even more problematic by a stubborn myopia nursed by May. She nurses dogmas incapable of learning new tricks. Her latest Brexit plan, as it headed to inevitable defeat, would have rendered Britain bound to the EU in a manner more servile than any sovereign populist would have dreamed. Benefits would have been shed; obligations would have persisted. While there is very little to recommend the views of the rabid Tory Eurosceptics, there is something in the idea that Britain would become a vassal state.

      As it transpired, May lost by a colossal margin, an indication that few could stomach her vision: 432 to 202, the worst defeat by a British administration in over a century. “In all normal circumstances,” observed Robert Peston, that legendary pessimist of matters economic, “a Prime Minister would resign when suffering such a humiliation on their central policy – and a policy Theresa May herself said today would ‘set the future of this country for a generation’.”

      Such is the nature of the climate: gross failure results in bare survival rather than inevitable annihilation. Grand acts of quixotic behaviour are not richly punished but given reprieve before the next charge against windmills. So we are left with the idea of uncharted territory, suggesting, in the face of such chaos and uncertainty, a postponement of the departure date from the EU set for March 29. The Article 50 period, in other words, would have to be extended, but this, again, implies a set of hypothetical variations and ponderings.

    • Outsourcing Still Affects Us: This and AI Worker Displacement Need Not be Inevitable

      My uncle, who’s now in his early sixties, has been working at Verizon New England for decades. He was there when it was New England Telephone and for Bell Atlantic’s purchase in 2000, when the name changed to Verizon.

      Throughout the years, he’s seen his peers laid off in the dozens. In his department, he is now literally the last employee working in the United States. The rest are employed in India, saving the company billions, where they receive incomparably lower salaries.

      Healthy and able-bodied, he is in no mood to retire. However, as there was every indication that his position would soon be transferred to India, when he was offered an early retirement package, he reluctantly took it. His last day is in mid-spring.

      Cheerleaders of the globalized economy claim that outsourcing does not happen too much anymore; rather, it is artificial intelligence that is the main threat to labor – and this tends be couched in the inevitable forward march of ‘progress’.

      Yet, this past fall, a dozen people were also laid off where I work, as their jobs shifted to India. These were just a few of the 14 million American jobs overseas in recent years. As my now-former coworkers were all remote employees in California, it was easier for our supervisor to let them go from our Massachusetts headquarters; they didn’t have to see the sordid expressions of those laid off.

    • With Students ‘Getting Ripped Off’ by Wells Fargo, Elizabeth Warren Calls for Kicking Big Bank Off Campus

      Nearly a year after angrily grilling Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan over his exorbitant compensation following several scandals at the bank, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) took aim at the institution again Thursday with a letter attacking its practice of offering bank accounts to college students and then hitting them with steep fees—which have had what the lawmaker calls “disastrous effects” on students.

      Wells Fargo has for years partnered with dozens of U.S. colleges and universities, opening on-campus branches and offering students accounts and debit cards as well as other financial products. The bank is far from the only institution to do so, with BankMobile offering more student accounts than Wells Fargo—but the bank charges its student customers far more than its competitors in annual fees.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Another Day, Another Disaster. And Another, And Another…

      I’ve been trying to write something about the events of the past few days for the last week and a half, and every time I set out to achieve editorial brilliance, or at least try to keep typos and the splitting of infinitives to a minimum, something else wacky happens and it’s back to square one. I’d say it’s Sisyphean if only I knew what that meant.

      Sometimes, mere minutes pass before the next incredible piece of Trump-induced folly strikes. It’s as if the country’s being run by Beetlejuice.

      As I make this latest attempt, in just the last 24 hours – and not even counting the continuing disaster of the government shutdown – these things happened: The inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services reported that thousands more undocumented kids were torn from their parents by HHS than previously reported – “starting early in the Trump administration,” according to The Washington Post, “months before the government announced it would separate children in order to criminally prosecute their parents, through late last spring.”

      What’s more, a 2017 draft memo gotten hold of by NBC News, revealed that “Trump administration officials weighed speeding up the deportation of migrant children by denying them their legal right to asylum hearings after separating them from their parents.”

    • Lawmakers Urged to ‘Start the Impeachment Proceedings’ After Report Trump Ordered Michael Cohen to Lie to Congress

      According to Buzzfeed, Cohen told special counsel Robert Mueller that “after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie—by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did—in order to obscure Trump’s involvement” in talks to construct a Trump Tower in Moscow.

      “The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents,” Buzzfeed reported. “On the campaign trail, Trump vehemently denied having any business interests in Russia. But behind the scenes, he was pushing the Moscow project, which he hoped could bring his company profits in excess of $300 million.”

      “Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying about the deal in testimony and in a two-page statement to the Senate and House Intelligence committees,” Buzzfeed noted. “Mueller noted that Cohen’s false claim that the project ended in January 2016 was an attempt to ‘minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1′—widely understood to be Trump—’in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.’”

      Analysts immediately pointed out that instructing witnesses to commit perjury—which legal experts say constitutes obstruction of justice—was part of the articles of impeachment against former Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

    • The West Has Islam Dangerously Wrong

      If nothing else, Trump’s political ascent has served as a potent reminder of Islamophobia’s pervasiveness throughout 21st century American society. How then do we dismantle these harmful stereotypes, which threaten Muslim communities both at home and broad? For Juan Cole, author of the riveting new history “Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires,” the answer would appear to be a greater understanding of the religion’s founder and formation.

      “One of the features of the Qur’an, which I think is too little appreciated, is that it’s a counterargument,” he tells Robert Scheer. “It’s an argument for tolerance, at least of the monotheistic religions, of Christianity and Judaism. … So I think it’s an extremely ecumenical book, the Qur’an, and the Prophet’s preaching of it. And that is something that’s been lost, not only in Western conceptions of the religion, but often among some believers as well.”

      In the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” Cole explores some of the dangers of letting hatred and bias go unchallenged. “They just did a poll in Germany where they found 44 percent of Germans think that Islam should not be practiced in Germany,” he notes. “Any time you single out a group of people as different from others, and as posing a unique kind of danger to society, that leads in very bad directions. And we have seen over and over again in modern history the directions that it can lead.”

    • Episode 46: Fascism Today with Kelly Hayes by The Lit Review

      What does fascism look like today in the U.S.? Where does the alt-right fit into this? How can it be fought?! We sat down with Chicago-based Native abolitionist organizer, writer and co-struggler Kelly Hayes to discuss Shane Burley’s book Fascism Today: What It Is and How to End It. Examining the modern fascist movement’s various strains, Shane Burley has written a super accessible primer about what its adherents believe, how they organize, and what future they have in the U.S. Key Questions: 1. What is fascism? 2. What is the alt-right? 3. What is the role of misogyny in fascism? 4. What do the building stages of a grassroots fascist movement look like? 5. What does the left need to do defeat fascism? Hosts: Monica Trinidad & Page May Guest: Kelly Hayes Date: Monday, January 14, 2019 Length: 50:47 Episode 46 Credits Intro Production: Ari Mejia Music: David Ellis “Welcome Matt”

    • Leaked Memo Reveals Trump Administration’s “Immoral” Plan to “Traumatize” Migrant Children

      The December 2017 draft memo—which Merkley shared with NBC News after receiving it from a government whistleblower—shows that Trump administration officials wanted to deport children more quickly by denying them asylum hearings after taking them away from their parents.

      “It appears that they wanted to have it both ways—to separate children from their parents but deny them the full protections generally awarded to unaccompanied children,” concluded ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt, who led a class-action lawsuit on behalf of migrant parents.

      President Donald Trump’s “child immigration strategy is immoral and comes from a dark place in the heart of this administration,” Merkley declared, responding to the revelations on Twitter. “Children are NOT expendable commodities in political battles.”

    • Top 6 Things Wrong with Trump denying Pelosi Gov’t Transport

      Trump’s petty cancellation of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s trip on military transport to Brussels and Afghanistan was clearly his revenge for her cancellation of his State of the Union message until he ends the shutdown of the government.

      Here are the top 5 things wrong with this step:

      1. It is invidious and unfair, since First Lady Melania Trump took off for Mar-a-Lago in a government plane soon thereafter. Given that 800,000 government employees are not getting their paychecks, is this the right time for Melania to vacation in Florida?

    • A Global Battle of Values and Ideals

      With each day that passes the conflict and animosity between the conservative reactionary forces and the global movement for progressive change becomes more acute, uglier and increasingly dangerous; wherever one looks in the world the battleground between groups on either side of the divide rages. In essence it is a battle of values and ideas, of what kind of society we want to live in, but as the extremes, particularly those on what is commonly called the ‘right’, assert themselves, the space for rational, open debate is being crushed and a febrile intolerant atmosphere fueled.

      Decades of systemic failure, environmental vandalism and social injustice have caused widespread discontent and anger among people in many countries, injustice made more severe by policies of crippling austerity following the 2008 banking crash. Among the 38 members of the wealthy OECD nations it is said that 50% of the population feel disenchanted with the political-economic system.

      Consistent with the times we are living in – times in which the forces of the past are receding and the energies of the new are increasing in potency, the reaction to such discontent has been polarized. While large numbers of people recognize systemic change is needed and are calling for greater levels of cooperation between people and nations, others, in many cases equally great in numbers, blame external forces and immigration, and retreat into a narrow form of nationalism, seeking security.

      Antagonisms have been enflamed by politicians who either fail to understand the impact of their poisonous rhetoric or simply don’t care what effect they have. The resulting political divisions are acute and, in many cases, compromise between groups on either side of the debate appears impossible as, for example, the government shut down in America and the Brexit deadlock demonstrate. Brexit has become the burning issue of conflict in the UK, fueling fractious, volatile political debate and entrenched national divisions. As one pro-EU protestor told The Observer, “this is civil war without the muskets…it is appalling.”

    • Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018

      The reportage on the death of Amos Oz has focused less on the loss of a major literary force and more on the late writer’s substantial political significance. On some level, this is not all that surprising; mainstream media is not exactly a go-to source for a literary disquisition. But not to diminish Oz’s (mostly) insightful political commentary, the intertwining of art and politics is–in much of the world– a given. And especially so in Israel, where, Oz wrote, “history is interwoven with biography… Private life is virtually not private here. A woman might say, for example, ‘Our son was born while Joel was in the bunkers during the War of Attrition.’ Or, ‘We moved into this apartment exactly one week before the Six-Day War.’ Or, ‘He came back from the States during Sadat’s visit.’”

      The Amos Oz literary canon—decades long—is subordinated. What is truly fascinating is that Oz was heavily indebted to Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, transposing faraway small-town America—close-knit, secretive, gossipy—to the close-knit, secretive, and gossipy kibbutz life he knew so well. I’d actually read much of Oz’s work before reading Winesburg, Ohio; it was Oz’s interest in Anderson that piqued my own curiosity. At a book signing many years ago, I told Oz exactly that. He seemed politely uninterested.

      Oz had the mixed blessing of a prodigious output, which ranged from dull to breathtaking. My Michael, the novel that put Oz on the international map, is a big, fat bore. A Perfect Peace, on the other hand, set on a kibbutz around the time of the 1967 Six-Day War—and told via multiple, shifting perspectives—is stunning in every way.

      Oz mined the Israeli quotidian for his fiction. The paradox is that the Israeli quotidian holds no interest in the United States. Israel occupies a pivotal role on the American political stage and is a lighting rod for devotion or derision, generating reams of political analysis.. Yet with all that, there is a distinct lack of interest in…well, Israel. This is not to minimize the importance of the region’s life-and-death politics or an Israeli government that operates under Mafia ethics, but the idea of a living, breathing country seems beyond the American purview. Oz’s work is studded with the rhythms of a small, cacophonous Mediterranean country: The Champs-Elysèes hair salon—a small-town business with a preposterous name—owned by two bickering sisters-in-law. The kibbutznik who occupies his usual spot in the dining hall, pouring over the sports pages. In Fima, the eponymous protagonist delivers an unwanted, condescending political discourse to his cabdriver; the cabdriver, in response, pokes fun at Fima’s hat.

    • Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need

      + Trump had to reach pretty deep into the recycling bin to extract the rusty figure of William Barr as a loyal replacement for J. Beauregard Sessions at the Justice Department. After he dusted him off, what did Trump see in this relic from the Poppy Bush era, that shiny reign of triumphant globalists which Trump publicly claims to loath? A cursory scan of Barr’s CV, which is about as deep a look as Trump is likely to have given, shows all the field marks of a well-worn grey man of Swamptown, a malted Scotch institutionalist, if not an honorary member of the Deep State itself. Surely Trump hesitated when he read, or more likely was told, of Barr’s stint at the Central Intelligence Agency, though the president must have been at least partly placated upon learning that Barr was an Asia hand, who was eager to promote Red China as a more menacing rival to US imperial ambitions than the decaying Soviet Union. Still, once Barr landed in Washington in the early 70s, he quickly adapted to the local habitat and for the next 40 years didn’t migrant beyond the Beltway. So what attracted Trump to this unlikely character?

      + In a word: Pardons. As Poppy’s attorney General, Barr was the man who tidied up the Iran/contra mess and gut-punched Independence Counsel Lawrence Walsh by crafting a sheaf of midnight pardons for the criminal masterminds of that squalid affair, including Casper Weinberger who had perjured himself before Congress. (See Sy Hersh’s “The Vice President’s Men“) The pardons were issued on Christmas Eve just a few days before Bush was ushered out the backdoor of the White House. A disgusted Lawrence Walsh later wrote in his book, Firewall: the Iran/Contra Conspiracy and Cover Up: “It demonstrates that powerful people with powerful allies can commit serious crimes in high office, deliberately abusing the public trust without consequences,” This is, of course, exactly kind of legal mercenary that Trump was searching for when excavating through the strata of resumés of possible lawyers to do his bidding. Sometimes an establishment hack is just what you need.

      + All of these hearings are essentially auditions for the Master and Barr, a seasoned, if aging, player in Washington dramas, hit all of the marks that would delight his audience of one. Asked whether he would considering jailing journalists “for doing their jobs,” William Barr said he could conceive of situations “as a last resort” where a news organization is held accountable for “putting out stuff that they know will harm the country.” This answer must have gone down like a fistful of Viagra for Trump.

    • The Splinters Of Our Discontent: A Review Of Network Propaganda

      Sanchez’s comments didn’t trigger any kind of real schism in conservative or libertarian circles. Sure, there was some heated debate among conservatives, and a few conservative commentators, like David Frum, Bruce Bartlett, and the National Review’s Jim Manzi, acknowledged that there might be some merit to Sanchez’s critique. But for most people, this argument among conservatives about epistemic closure hardly counted as serious news.

      But the publication last fall of Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics by Yochai Benkler, Robert Faris, and Hal Roberts—more than eight years after the original “epistemic closure” debate erupted—ought to make the issue hot again. This long, complex, yet readable study of the American media ecosystem in the run-up to the 2016 election (as well as the year afterwards) demonstrates that the epistemic-closure problem has generated what the authors call an “epistemic crisis” for Americans in general. The book also shows that our efforts to understand current political division and disruptions simplistically—either in terms of negligent and arrogant platforms like Facebook, or in terms of Bond-villain malefactors like Cambridge Analytica or Russia’s Internet Research Agency—are missing the forest for the trees. It’s not that the social media platforms are wholly innocent, and it’s not that the would-be warpers of voter behavior did nothing wrong (or had no effect). But the seeds of the unexpected outcomes in the 2016 U.S. elections, Network Propaganda argues, were planted decades earlier, with the rise of a right-wing media ecosystem that valued loyalty and confirmation of conservative (or “conservative”) values and narratives over truth.

    • Congress to Probe Report That Trump Directed Cohen to Lie

      The Democratic chairmen of two House committees pledged Friday to investigate a report that President Donald Trump directed his personal attorney to lie to Congress about negotiations over a real estate project in Moscow during the 2016 election.

      House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said “we will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.” He said the allegation that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie in his 2017 testimony to Congress “in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date.”

      The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, said directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime.

      “The @HouseJudiciary Committee’s job is to get to the bottom of it, and we will do that work,” Nadler tweeted.

    • The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?

      The 2020 election horse race is beginning to take shape. Unless something unexpected happens (e.g., impeachment, resignation), Trump will likely seek reelection as the Republican candidate. A number of independents will seek third-party (e.g., Greens, Socialists) candidacy. And then there are the Democrats.

      Numerous Democratic politicos are beginning to cluster behind the starting gate considering a primary run for the 2020 presidential nomination. The UK’s Independent lists 40 possible candidates that fall into four broad categories – former elected officials, current Senators and Congress-persons, celebrities and billionaires. To date, Sen. Elizabeth Warren D-MA), Julian Castro (Obama’s housing secretary) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) have announced their candidacy.

      However, the Independent, like other media outlets, identifies Joe Biden as the current front runner. “The former two-term vice president consistently receives a majority of support among Democratic voters to run in 2020 against any other potential candidates in recent polling,” it reports.

      Liberal outlets like Vanity Fair and The Atlantic are touting Biden’s candidacy. Vanity Fair sputters, “Is Biden progressive? Absolutely. Gaff-prone? Duh. But he is the antithesis of Trump, with the added benefit that he’s been vetted before, and passed muster.” And The Atlantic champions,“These are odd times for Biden. He gets dismissed as too old, or he gets held up as the only adult who can actually come in to lead the Democrats to beat Trump in 2020. He is to many in his party the perfect answer to how to win back the white working-class voters that he helped bring in for Barack Obama, but to others he’s a relic of a Democratic Party of the past.”

    • The Tulsi Gabbard Factor

      Too much light blinds us,” Pascal wrote; “if the fool would persist in his folly, he would become wise,” wrote William Blake.

      The idea that, when pushed to extremes, things turn into their opposites seems to have arisen in one form or another many times and in many cultures. It is epitomized in the Western philosophical tradition in Hegel’s account of the dialectical structure of the real.

      Tulsi Gabbard’s announcement that she would run for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President in 2020 brought this to mind.

      What on earth could her candidacy have to do with dialectical logic? Bear with me on that.

      There is a more immediate question to deal with first: Tulsi who? Before long, if all goes well, that won’t be the first question in most Americans’ minds.

      Since 2013, Gabbard has represented Hawaii’s second Congressional district. For all but those who follow Congressional and/or Democratic Party politics closely, she is known mainly, if at all, for having resigned from the Democratic National Committee in 2016 in order to endorse Bernie Sanders in his bid to become the Party’s nominee.

      If only for bucking the Clinton tide three years ago, something no other leading Democrat dared do, her candidacy deserves to be taken seriously indeed.

    • Elections and Movement-Building Through 2020 and Beyond

      From my vantage point, one “positive” effect of the election of Mafioso Don is the marginalization of the position taken by some on the political left that elections in the US are a sham, and the correct approach to them is to non-participate.

      Elections do have consequences, potentially very big, very negative consequences, like a neo-fascist government.

      Young people in general are most likely to view elections as a sham, for understandable reasons. Young people tend to be more idealistic so that they are turned off by the often-cynical and dishonest political maneuvering from both Republicans and Democrats.

      That’s why the 2015-16 Bernie Sanders campaign generated so much active support from young people. Here was someone who spoke truth to power, who didn’t accept Super PAC money or mega-donations from rich people, who articulated a strong, positive program consistent with positions he had been taking for literally decades, who had a history of winning elections and using his elected office positively, and who consciously reached out to young people and working-class people.

    • Surveys: half of Russian citizens disapprove of their government’s actions, and only a third trust Putin

      In a new survey of Russian citizens conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM), 54 percent of respondents indicated that the Russian government’s actions in the past month left them feeling dissatisfied or resentful. The survey was conducted on January 12 and 13 and included 1500 respondents from 104 municipalities and 53 Russian regions.

      40 percent of those surveyed said they did not experience these feelings. That number has decreased by 5 percent over the past month, while the number of dissatisfied respondents has increased by 6 percent.

      70 percent of respondents said they had heard people around them criticize Russian authorities within the past month. According to FOM, this is the highest that number has been since 2013.

    • To Get Beyond “If True” Caveat, Democrats Vow to Investigate Trump’s “Potentially Impeachable Offense”

      House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) also vowed to launch an investigation into the claims in the Buzzfeed report, which the White House denied.

      “The allegation that the president of the United States may have suborned perjury before our committee in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date,” declared Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. “We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.”

      According to Buzzfeed, which cited two anonymous law enforcement officials, Cohen told special counsel Robert Mueller that “the president personally instructed him to lie—by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did—in order to obscure Trump’s involvement” in negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

      While analysts approached Buzzfeed’s report with caution given that it is based primarily on the claims of two unnamed officials, legal experts and progressive commentators argued that if the story is true, it is grounds for impeachment.

    • As the Cabinet Churns: Who’s Still Standing Among Trump’s Top Advisers
    • GOP Lawmaker Really Doesn’t Want Rep. Rashida Tlaib to Let Lawmakers Know What Life Is Like in Occupied West Bank

      Newly-elected Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) wants to offer members of Congress an alternative to the “sugar-coated” junket to Israel the American Israel Public Affairs Committee-affiliated group offers members of Congress by leading a delegation to the West Bank. For a Republican lawmaker, however, giving lawmakers a view of life in the occupied territory is an “exceedingly dangerous” plan that must be stopped.

      In letters he sent Thursday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Democratic House committee heads, Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) laid out (pdf) his “extreme concern” with Tlaib’s proposal, first reported by The Intercept in December.

      Unlike the rite of passage for new Republican and Democratic congress members that some dub the “Jewish Disneyland trip”—sponsored by American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF)—the proposed congressional delegation by the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in Congress would focus on “Israel’s detention of Palestinian children, education, access to clean water, and poverty,” the news outlet reported at the time.

      Her delegation could spotlight Israel’s “segregation” and show “how that has really harmed us being able to achieve real peace in that region,” Tlaib told The Intercept.

      “I don’t think AIPAC provides a real, fair lens into this issue,” she addded, as it glosses over “the side that I know is real, which is what’s happening to my grandmother and what’s happening to my family there.”

    • Mueller Disputes Report That Trump Directed Lawyer to Lie

      Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office on Friday issued a rare public statement disputing the accuracy of BuzzFeed News’ report that said President Donald Trump’s attorney told Mueller that the president directed him to lie to Congress.

      BuzzFeed, citing two unidentified law enforcement officials, reported that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a Moscow real estate project and that Cohen told Mueller that Trump personally instructed him to lie about the timing of the project. The report said Mueller’s investigators learned about Trump’s directive “through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Alaska Governor’s Mass-Firing of State Workers Violated the First Amendment

      Gov. Dunleavy’s actions are a throwback to a corrupt spoils system that our system strived to eradicate for generations.
      Days after being elected governor of Alaska, Michael Dunleavy requested resignations from more than 1,200 at-will state employees. Those who didn’t resign were later fired. This kind of political retaliation against non-political state workers is an attack on the very foundations of free speech and good government.

      It is not unusual for newly elected chief executives at the federal, state, and local levels to replace political appointees. But such political tests can only reach so far down into the public workforce before they violate the First Amendment rights of government employees. In this case, it definitely crossed the line, and we’re suing Gov. Dunleavy for his unconstitutional purge on behalf of three state employees who wrongly lost their jobs.

      At the heart of this case are public comments made by Dunleavy’s chief of staff, Tuckerman Babcock, after his call for resignations was criticized by local media, state legislators, and the soon-to-be-replaced governor. They rightly said that it was inappropriate for hundreds of non-political employees who had never been included in such requests by previous administrations — such as doctors, state tax code specialists, investment managers, petroleum geologists, IT professionals, loan officers, and veterans affairs coordinators — to be forced out of their jobs.

      Babcock made the illegality of the policy clear as day when he responded in the media by saying that for those at-will state employees to keep their jobs, they not only needed to resign, but also reapply through the governor-elect’s transition team. During this re-application process, the employees were made to answer this two-part question: “Do you want to work on this agenda, do you want to work in this administration?” Babcock went on to say that those who didn’t answer in the affirmative signaled their “wish to be terminated.”

    • Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites

      Public high school students in Billings, Montana tell CounterPunch that as of Monday, January 14, they have been denied access to numerous sites, including those associated with pro-LGBTQ issues, as part of a new web filtering program initiated by the school administration. Anti-gay sites, however, appear to be accessible.

      In an email to staff, Brandon Newpher, Chief Information/Executive Director of Technology for Billings Public Schools, explained that “stricter web/internet filtering will be implemented as a way to improve network security and help protect students and staff.”

    • In Which We Warn The Wisconsin Supreme Court Not To Destroy Section 230

      One of the ideas that we keep trying to drive home is that the Internet works only because Section 230 has allowed it to work. Mess with Section 230, and you mess with the Internet. FOSTA messed with it statutorily, but it isn’t just Congress that can undermine all the speech and services that depend on Section 230′s protection for the platforms that enable them. Courts can mess with it too.

      While it’s bad enough when courts get questions of whether Section 230 applies wrong at the trial court level, the higher the court, the more potentially destructive the decision if the court decides to curtail its protection. On the other hand, the higher the court, the more durable Section 230′s protective language becomes when the decision gets it right. This post is about one of those cases where the future utility of Section 230 hangs in the balance, and where we hope that the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the highest court in the state, gets it right and finds it applies to the platform being sued — and therefore all other platforms that depend on its protection.

      We’ve written before about this case, Daniel v. Armslist. As with a lot of the litigation challenging Section 230 it was one of those “bad facts make bad law” sorts of cases. In this case an estranged husband, against whom there was a restraining order, bought a gun from an unlicensed seller who had advertised through the Armslist site. Notably it does not appear that the sale was necessarily illegal – in Wisconsin unlicensed dealers apparently do not have to run background checks – nor was the sale fully transacted on the site (the actual purchase was made in a McDonalds parking lot). Of course, even if the sale had been illegal, or fully brokered via the site, Section 230 should still have insulated the platform, but here the Section 230 inquiry should be much more straight forward: the lawsuit alleging that Armslist negligently designed a site that facilitated a third party’s speech – in this case, the speech offering the gun for sale – should have been barred by Section 230.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • UK Spy Agency Continues Effort to Groom Young Girls for Careers in Cybersecurity

      The effort was launched specifically to counter the popular image of security services as “male, pale and stale” — and it’s not the only way such agencies have attempted to target women and young people. MI5, MI6 and GCHQ have all used popular online forum Mumsnet to recruit female spies, and some have even targeted older women working in social care.

      [...]

      The ads, which appeared in ‘hip’ London neighborhoods, read “GCH-Who? Technical opportunities”, followed by the agency’s webs address — but Hackney council claimed permission was not sought for the “reverse graffiti” and GCHQ had acted illegally as a result.

    • Exclusive: They Spy With Their Little Eye

      I’ve spent six years alternately begging major NZ journalists to investigate state-sponsored spying on activists including me, and, out of sheer necessity, reporting extensively on it myself from within the vacuum created by their inaction. So it is somewhat bemusing to now observe the belated unfolding of what ex-Member of Parliament and Greenpeace NZ Executive Director Russel Norman is describing as New Zealand’s “Watergate moment“.

      In the wake of the bombshell release of a State Services Commission report into the affair, Norman wrote: “My key takeaway is that under the previous government, no one was safe from being spied on if they disagreed with government policy.”

      This is a remarkable statement from Norman, who once sat on the very government committee tasked with oversight of New Zealand’s intelligence agencies.

    • Episode 13: Surveillance Marketing

      Doc Searls and Katherine Druckman talk to Dr. Augustine Fou about surveillance marketing, ad tech, and privacy.

    • The Justice Department Shouldn’t Be Snooping on Journalists

      Rolling back Justice Department rules that protect journalists’ privacy would undermine freedom of the press.
      At a time when President Trump regularly attacks the news media, the Department of Justice may be preparing to make it easier for the government to obtain journalists’ private communications data.

      The public relies on both journalists and whistleblowers for vital information about our government’s most controversial activities. Weakening the current rules that protect reporters — as well as their sources — would undermine freedom of the press and endanger activities at the heart of the First Amendment.

      This week, The Hill reported that DOJ has been working for months on potential revisions to its rules about when prosecutors can demand reporters’ phone records and other sensitive information like notes or emails. These records can reveal a journalist’s confidential sources, including the individuals who entrust journalists with information the public needs to know. The new report comes after statements by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions that, under his watch, DOJ was pursuing three times as many leak investigations as it did under the Obama administration — which itself set records for leak prosecutions.

      The report comes the same week that President Trump’s nominee to be the next attorney general, William Barr, was asked at his Senate confirmation hearing whether “he would jail reporters for doing their jobs” — meaning reporters who would not disclose their sources to prosecutors. After a long pause, Barr refused to rule it out.

    • Digital license plates are now allowed in Michigan
    • Going old school: how I replaced Facebook with email

      In November 2017, I deactivated my account on Facebook. I didn’t leave Facebook for moral reasons back then but more because it was starting to feel like a waste of time and valuable brain cycles that I wanted to focus elsewhere. (I realize some people can’t leave Facebook completely for work or other personal reasons.) There were aspects of Facebook that I thought I would miss — the relative ease of use, keeping up with what is going on in lots of people’s lives, etc — so I decided to work out a new way of communicating that was completely Facebook-free after using Facebook heavily for many years. I haven’t missed it at all. This post is about what I did and what I learned.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • “I don’t want to go anywhere”: Video surfaces of Nastya Rybka’s arrest in Sheremetyevo Airport

      A video showing the arrest of the model and sex trainer Anastasia Vashukevich, better known as Nastya Rybka, has been published by REN TV. In the video, law enforcement officials carry Vashukevich into one of the airport’s wheelchairs while she tells them, “I don’t want to go anywhere.” The sex trainer and her mentor Alexander Kirillov, who goes by the name Alex Leslie, were deported from Thailand after being charged with conducting sex work illegally. Vashukevich first gained fame for leaking videos and images that appeared to support opposition activist Alexey Navalny’s claims about government corruption.

    • Of Triggers and Bullets

      This commentary is dedicated to all of my friends who don’t know the difference between a trigger and a bullet. I apologize in advance if I sound condescending. I’m 51 years old and I’ve been through this nonsense too many times – and every time it gets more surreal.

      It’s an imperfect metaphor — that’s the nature of metaphors. But you don’t need to be an anarchist to understand it – you don’t even need to have fired a gun in your life, either.

      Facebeast loves our arguments – their algorithms only show us arguments and baby pictures, nothing else is relevant to their business model. I really don’t understand why anyone bothers arguing with someone on Facebeast, unless they’re just trying to encourage the further stratification of society. I assume they find it therapeutic to dump on other people. It’s the social media equivalent of yelling out your car window at another driver who’s doing something you don’t approve of.

      The theme that tends to get a rise out of people the most, from my experience, is any criticism of Democratic Party politicians. There is an actual fascist in the White House, they say. We must have a unified opposition against him – a united front, a glorious resistance.

      I don’t bother arguing on Facebeast with anyone, well-intentioned though they may be. It’s a pointless exercise, by design. But yes, of course, there is a bona fide fascist in the White House. (For more on the similarities between Germany in 1933 and the US today, listen to episode 22 of my podcast, This Week with David Rovics.)

      The Orangeman in the White House is the bullet, in my metaphor of the week. What to do with that bullet, which is already speeding through the air towards its metaphorical destination, is an important question. But figuring that out absolutely requires understanding how the bullet left the chamber of the gun, and what made it fire – we know what the bullet is, but what is the trigger.

      The deplorables, I can hear someone say. The unreconstructed white American racists, says another. The misogynists, says someone else.

    • The Case Against Galveston County’s Pretrial Detention System Survives the Government’s Challenge

      A win could set a precedent for prosecutor accountability and right to counsel in bail hearings that could help reform pretrial detention nationally.
      If you are accused of a crime and arrested in Galveston County, Texas, you better hope you can afford to pay the preset bail amount to get out of jail. If not, then you will join hundreds of other people who are incarcerated simply because they cannot afford to buy their freedom. In Galveston and communities across the country, there is one pretrial detention system for the poor and an entirely different one for everyone else.

      Thirty-six-year-old Aaron Booth found this out the hard way last April after being arrested for felony drug possession. Booth’s arresting officer consulted with a prosecutor who set his bail at $20,000, the minimum amount permitted under Galveston County’s felony bail schedule, even though Booth lives near the poverty line. Booth then saw a magistrate judge who automatically adopted his bail amount without asking him about his ability to make bail or determining whether he was a flight risk or a danger to the community. Booth asked the magistrate for a court-appointed attorney, but at the time of his hearing and at the time his bond was set, the county had failed to provide an attorney to represent him.

      On April 8, 2018, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas, and Arnold & Porter filed a class action lawsuit in U.S. district court on behalf of Booth and other similarly situated people who remained in jail solely because they were too poor to pay their bail. We sued Galveston County, the magistrate judges, district court judges, and the district attorney for violating the substantive and procedural due process rights of Galveston County residents as well as their rights to equal protection and counsel guaranteed by the Constitution. Booth argued that everyone with a hand in Galveston’s system was legally responsible, including the district attorney who sets bail amounts, the magistrates who sign off on them without a hearing, and the trial judges who refuse to pass rules to fix this system.

    • The Annual Whitewashing of Martin Luther King Jr.

      Every year I ask myself questions about the shameful exploitation of Martin Luther King Jr.–why do Americans love to disgrace his message so much? Why is it so popular that we see it year after year? Remember last year? Trump was talking about “s@!#hole countries” while tweeting “I encourage all Americans to observe this day with appropriate civic, community, and service activities in honor of Dr. King’s life and legacy.” What is to stop longtime racists like Rep. Steve King from copying and pasting a quick quote into their twitter feeds? Last year he posted: “Ive been to the mountain top. And I’ve seen the promised land. …we, as a people, will get to the promised land.” And yet his long list of racially offensive comments and associations with avowed white nationalists, recently published in the New York Times, reveal his use of Dr. King’s words to be a snide mockery.

      Of course the GOP has recently (finally) taken a moment to be critical of Steve King’s flagrant white supremacy in 2019, but they still refuse to comment on the same racist behavior from President Trump. Minority leader Kevin McCarthy said about King’s outlandish comments defending white nationalism, “That is not the party of Lincoln and it’s definitely not American.” Great. Now how about Trump’s longtime racism? Trump’s “My Kevin” (Trump’s nickname for him when McCarthy was House Majority Leader) doesn’t get this, hence more MLK Day whitewashing.

      Sadly, Trump’s Kevin is wrong; racism has never been beneath the “dignity of the party.” Nothing is more Republican than racism—a wall serves as a modern day burning cross and the rallying point of contemporary bigotry; Nothing is more American than racism—the country’s vast fortunes were built on slave labor and theft of land from indigenous people. Nothing could be further from the message so many in the GOP copy, paste, and ignore: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” It is the kitsch of far-right Rep. Barry Loudermilk and politicians across the country, cynically misappropriating words they neither earned nor deserve. A firm commitment to Trump’s racist promises isn’t just cowardly; it is antithetical to the love that Martin Luther King Jr. preached. Teen Vogue, in a great piece on MLK one year ago, gets it better than these jellyfish do, MLK was radical in his support the love supreme Jesus preached: “Nonviolence is absolute commitment to the way of love. Love is not emotional bash; it is not empty sentimentalism. It is the active outpouring of one’s whole being into the being of another.”

    • Undocumented Immigrants Are Tethered to ICE and Private Companies

      A handful of companies are making millions off of ankle monitors strapped to undocumented immigrants in ICE custody. The makers pitch the monitors as an alternative to being jailed, but are they simply another form of bondage? Reporter Ryan Katz looks at what life is life while wearing one of these monitors. He untangles the complicated web of ICE, immigration bail agent companies, and the attorneys fighting them.

    • The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone

      How far would you really go to secure the nation’s borders against illegal aliens?

      Would you give the government limitless amounts of money to fight yet another endless war? Surround the entire country with concrete walls and barbed wire? Empower border police to do whatever it takes to crack down on illegal immigrants, even if it means violating their human rights? Hold your nose and tolerate all manner of abuses in name of national security?

      Would you allow government agents to trample on the rights of anyone who gets in their way, including legal citizens? Relinquish some of your freedoms in exchange for the elusive promise of non-porous borders? Submit to a national ID card that allows the government to target individuals and groups as it chooses in order to identify those who do not “belong”? Turn a blind eye to private prisons and detainment camps that profit off the forced labor of its detainees?

      Would you turn your backs on every constitutional principle for which our founders fought and died in exchange for empty campaign promises of elusive safety by fast-talking politicians?

      This is the devil’s bargain that the U.S. government demands of its people.

      These devilish deals have been foisted upon “we the people” before.

    • Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping

      Amid a controversial government shutdown, affecting 800,000 thousand federal employees, you would think that the agency headed by Robert Wilkie would be an oasis of tranquility.

      His Department of Veterans Affairs is, like the Pentagon, largely exempt from the shutdown. Due to prior budget approval, its funding for the current fiscal year is unaffected by the continuing stand-off between President Trump and Democrats in Congress.

      The 300,000 staff members of veterans’ hospitals and clinics, which serve nine million patients, are reporting for duty, getting paid, and caring for their patients as usual. About a third of them are veterans themselves.

      But in Trump-like fashion, Veterans Affairs Secretary Wilkie has stirred up a ruckus of his own about the impact of the shutdown on former military personnel elsewhere on the federal pay-roll.

      In a January 14 VA press release, he publicly denounced a veterans’ liaison officer within Bureau of Prisons for suggesting that shut-down-related psychological stress was a threat to some of the 150,000 veterans employed by the federal government who are not getting paid. (A third of them have a medical condition that is service related, according to the VA.)

      Edward M. Canales, a U.S. army veteran and local leader of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), who is a 100 percent disabled combat veteran, told ABC News about calls from union members who are upset and depressed about the growing financial pressures on their families.

    • William Barr Will Be a Loyal Foot Soldier in King Trump’s Army

      At his attorney general confirmation hearing, William Barr sought to reassure senators on the Judiciary Committee that Robert Mueller’s probe would be allowed to continue, saying, “I believe it is vitally important that the Special Counsel be allowed to complete his investigation.”

      But Barr, who champions a disturbing radical right-wing theory of all-encompassing presidential power called the “unitary executive,” refused to say whether Congress would see Mueller’s report when his investigation is complete, instead pledging only to provide a summary of it.

      Federal regulations do not prohibit the release of the special counsel’s report to Congress or the public. They simply state that, “At the conclusion of the Special Counsel’s work, he or she shall provide the Attorney General with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the Special Counsel.”

      What the attorney general does with the report is up to him.

      Professor Neil J. Kinkopf, who testified at Barr’s confirmation hearing, predicts that, “Barr will take the position that any discussion or release of the Mueller report — relating to the president, who again cannot be indicted — would be improper and prohibited by [Department of Justice] policy and regulations.”

    • Austin Police Department Orders Deeper Investigation After Audit Finds It Misclassified Cleared Rape Cases

      The announcement comes as the APD released the full findings of a review by the Texas Department of Public Safety, which audited the department following an investigation by Newsy, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica. The news report showed how Austin and dozens of other police departments across the country frequently use “exceptional” clearances to close rape cases, increasing clearance rates while leaving suspects on the streets.

      The initial findings from the DPS audit, which looked at three months of Austin rape reports from 2017, concluded that nearly one-third of the cases the APD had exceptionally cleared were misclassified.

      The full report reveals Austin police often failed on multiple fronts. To clear a case exceptionally, the FBI requires police to have enough evidence to make an arrest, to know who and where the suspect is, and for there to be a reason outside their control that prevents an arrest. Cases that fail to meet all four requirements cannot be cleared exceptionally. The DPS report shows that out of 95 exceptionally cleared rapes auditors reviewed, Austin police had failed to meet the FBI requirements 30 times. In 17 of those cases, police failed to meet at least two of the FBI’s tests. In five cases, police did not meet any of the four criteria.

      “While we’re glad this audit has been completed, it confirms that we have serious issues and we need to take quick action that corrects the patterns that allowed these cases to be handled improperly,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said in a joint statement with Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza.

    • Merkley Calls for FBI Perjury Probe into Homeland Secretary Nielsen After Child Detention Memo Leaked

      After releasing a damning draft memo that showed the Trump administration planned to “traumatize” migrant children with family separations and expedite deportation by denying asylum hearings, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) on Friday called for an FBI investigation into whether Homeland Security Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen lied when she testified before Congress about the policy.

      In a letter sent to FBI Director Christopher Wray, the senator noted that “compelling new evidence has emerged revealing that high-level Department of Homeland Security officials were secretly and actively developing a new policy and legal framework for separating families as far back as December 2017.”

      “Despite this fact,” Merkley continued, “while testifying under oath before the House Committee on the Judiciary, Secretary Nielsen stated unequivocally ‘I’m not a liar, we’ve never had a policy for family separation.’” Given the “conflicting facts,” Merkley formally demanded an immediate investigation.

    • Long-Lost Records Surface in Wrongful Conviction Case, Detailing Lead Detective’s Fondling of Informants

      Newly released documents show the lead detective in an Elkhart, Indiana, police investigation that led to a pair of wrongful convictions was forced to resign because of sexual misconduct with an informant, the details of which the city had failed to disclose for more than 10 years.

      The former detective, Steve Rezutko, was the main investigator in the convictions of Keith Cooper and Christopher Parish, a case that was chronicled by the South Bend Tribune and ProPublica last year and was replete with errors by police, the prosecution and judges.

      The two wrongfully convicted men had been seeking the documents on Rezutko’s resignation as they pursued lawsuits against the city and individual officers. But they were repeatedly told the documents couldn’t be found, according to trial transcripts and other court records.

      The difficulties they faced getting records are similar to those faced by the Tribune and ProPublica. Local government agencies, including the Elkhart Police Department, denied or delayed access to some public records and, in other instances, released files that were incomplete.

    • Ahead of Third Annual Women’s March, Group Releases Far-Reaching ‘Intersectional Feminist Policy Platform’

      A day ahead of a major march in Washington, D.C. and satellite events nationwide, the Women’s March on Friday unveiled a detailed 70-page agenda, a document the group describes as a first of its kind “intersectional feminist policy platform.”

      The “Women’s Agenda,” the group declared on Twitter, is “a roadmap for our movement, a workplan for our electeds, and it’s everything we’re marching for on January 19, 2019.”

    • Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors

      Humiliation can always be used as a form of entertainment when coupled with a sense of moral justice. Even before Jerry Springer and Divorce Court, watching someone squirm could be appealing when well-deserved. After Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey and Charlie Rose, the definition of “schadenfreude” is public shame.

      Shaming was seen as an effective way to rehabilitate when American society was less mobile. Since citizens were mostly confined to the same small towns they grew up in, disappearing to start a new life was far less common. Instead of prison time, ‘earmarking’ was common for thieves in the 17th century southern colonies. This practice involved slitting or punching a hole in the robber’s ear. Once permanently marked, the criminal was easily recognizable as well as punished and rehabilitated through humiliation. This prevented the criminal from “bribing the government”, by paying fines. Before America grew into an easily traveled territory, the justification of this justice felt practical. Small communities meant a lasting reputation.

      The prison system, while not exactly public humiliation, has proven itself to be an island of American rights. Prison rape jokes are so common, the possibility of sexual assault is now assumed. Our obsession with the degradation can be seen from an outpouring of reality and scripted prison shows. Even when a prisoner is released, it may be difficult for him or her to vote, get a job or integrate into society.

      In 2016 when Brock Turner was accused of penetrating an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, he was met with a swarm of media attention. The idea that a young, white, upper-class man would go to prison for sexual assault, however, proved too difficult for the justice system to treat fairly. Of course he would be raped, Facebook and Reddit seemed to scream.

      The punishment for sexual assault in America is tricky. Even if there is forensic evidence, witnesses, and/or a history of abuse, prosecution is difficult at best. For many victims of sexual assault, performing a rape kit is more about their performance than the nurse’s. They must undress and display themselves for sometimes up to four hours. Their genitals are photographed, pubic hair combed, rectum swabbed and emotional state monitored. Many rape kits have not been processed, therefore proving themselves useless. The humiliation of a victim can feel worse than any justice they might find.

    • Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality

      Solidarity is the guiding principle for any egalitarian philosophy. The basic idea is that all oppressed people face the same enemy and the only way any of us can defeat our collective oppressor is with the collective force of a diverse people united against it in all its demonic manifestations. Today they call this principle intersectionality. The uncivil union of big government and big business that calls itself the state murders black people, rapes trans folks, objectifies women, dehumanizes workers, and bombs the third world into, well, the third world. Separated we are weak, impoverished, crippled. But united we are dangerous, we are a force to be reckoned with.

      In my mind, the natural objective of solidarity and intersectionality should be anarchy in one form or the other and only the concept of panarchy allows for one form or another to be properly explored. In spite of their once lofty ambitions and their recent rise in trendiness, state socialism and communism don’t destroy the class system, they just replace it. Ultimately the only difference between a bureaucrat and an oligarch is a title. The Bolshevik interpretation of the Marxist Dictatorship of the Proletariat is just asinine. If creating a state to dismantle the state worked, the Soviet Union would exist as a Kropotkinite workers paradise and Sweden wouldn’t be slowly dissolving into neoliberal hell. I’m not unsympathetic to these brave and honorable experiments in collective governance. I still admire the courage of comrades like Fidel Castro and Olaf Palme. But the experiment has failed and it’s time to move on. The Sandernistas are living in another century. The state ultimately exists for one purpose and one purpose only and that is to quite simply exist. You can call it capitalism or communism but when you create a state you create a business that relies on wage slavery and all to often war to justify its own solipsistic existence.

    • Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States

      On June 29, 2015 the United States Supreme Court argued in Glossip v. Gross that executions may continue with the use of lethal drug cocktails including the use of midazolam, an extremely painful drug, which in effect, burns to death the condemned by scorching internal organs. The use of midazolam, according to the Court, does not constitute “cruel and unusual punishment” under the Eighth Amendment. The Court found that condemned prisoners can only challenge their method of execution after providing a known and available alternative method.

      In dissenting views justices opened the legal door for future challenges to the death penalty. In a meticulously crafted dissent Justice Stephen G. Breyer joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg initiated a timely counterargument to capital punishment. This was joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor in diverging dissents of their own. The dissents were significant in that they outline the legal framework for the abolition of the death penalty based on the Eighth Amendment. Nevertheless, Sotomayor and Kagan argued in separate opinions that the use of lethal chemicals in executions was intolerably painful.

      In turn this begged the question, for many, as to whether or not executions could ever be legitimized since executions must necessarily involve physical or mental pain. In all democratic societies, intentionally inflicting pain on another human being is torture.

      This article addresses the Court’s concerns, expressed in Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion, that protests against Glossip’s anticipated execution was a “guerilla war” against the death penalty and that inflicting physical or mental pain intentionally on a human being is an acceptable component of execution and consistent with the U.S. Constitution.

    • A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices

      The recent attempts of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Pakistan, and a Professor at the University of Jadhavpur, Kolkata, to diminish women’s identities and reduce them to symbols of “purity” compelled me to think about empowered women in the fourteenth century in my native state, Kashmir.

      Kashmiris have taken pride in inhabiting a cultural space between Vedic Hinduism and Sufi Islam. The traditional communal harmony in Kashmir enabled the peaceful coexistence of Muslims and Hindus, mutual respect for their places of worship, and an ability to synthesize not just cultural but religious practices as well. Deep reverence for each other’s shrines and the relics housed in those shrines is a well entrenched aspect of the culture.

      A fitting symbol of this syncretic ethos of Kashmir is Lalla-Ded, a figure revered by both the Pandits and Muslims of Kashmir. Lalla-Ded was born in 1334 into a Kashmiri Brahmin home in village Simpur, about four miles from Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir. She was brutalized in a marriage that was arranged for her by the elders once she crossed the threshold of puberty. Unwilling to acquiesce to the constraints placed on the “traditional” woman and questioning the self-abnegation of women that disallows them from reconciling their private selves with their roles as public contributors to the community, Lalla-Ded disavowed the psychosocial narratives inscribed on the female body in defiance of the continued conscription of women (Bhatnagar, Dube and Dube 2004: 30).

    • Laquan McDonald’s Family: Jason Van Dyke’s Sentence Reduces Laquan To ‘Second-Class Citizen’

      Judge Vincent Gaughan sentenced former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke to six years and eight months in state prison for second-degree murder. He killed a black 17 year-old named Laquan McDonald.

      It was the first time 

that a Chicago police officer was sentenced to prison for a shooting in the line of duty


. However, the sentence was far shorter than what the prosecution requested and what McDonald’s family and many in the city of Chicago had anticipated.

      Marvin Hunter, a great uncle of McDonald, declared on behalf of the family, “This sentence represents the sentence of a second-class citizen. It reduced Laquan McDonald’s life to a second-class citizen. And it suggests to us that there are no laws on the books for a black man that a white man is bound to honor.”

      Van Dyke killed Laquan McDonald on October 20, 2014. McDonald was on the south side of Chicago that night. He had a knife in his hand. Police were apparently called to arrest him after a 911 call that alleged he was breaking into trucks in a nearby truck yard.

      None of the police on the scene fired their weapon. When Van Dyke arrived, he immediately exited his vehicle with his partner, Officer Joseph Walsh, and unloaded a magazine of bullets into McDonald’s body.

    • Carey McWilliams: The Most Important American Author Many Don’t Know

      Truthdig: Your book traces the extraordinary career of Carey McWilliams, from his Los Angeles legal activism to his radical journalism and finally to his two-decade editorial stint at The Nation. You argue that he was one of the most versatile and productive public intellectuals of the 20th century. Why don’t more Americans know about him?

      Peter Richardson: Yeah, it’s funny. Despite the accolades, he’s probably the most important American author that most people have never heard of. He has his fans, of course. Kevin Starr was one. He called McWilliams “the single finest nonfiction writer on California—ever” and “the state’s most astute political observer.” Mike Davis is another. “City of Quartz” is a kind of love letter to McWilliams. Over the years, McWilliams also won over the city room at the Los Angeles Times. When journalists need a quote about the city, they often turn to McWilliams or Joan Didion.

      There are a few reasons McWilliams isn’t better known. First, he was a radical. He had powerful enemies, including J. Edgar Hoover, the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Farmers, which objected to his history of California farm labor in “Factories in the Field” (1939). When Earl Warren first ran for governor in 1942, he promised growers that his first act would be to fire McWilliams from his position in state government. The California Un-American Activities committee smeared him mercilessly. So even though he was accomplishing a great deal, he didn’t endear himself to those in power.

      McCarthyism was a factor. By the 1950s, McWilliams was back in New York City, shepherding The Nation magazine through a difficult decade. Many of his friends were victims of the Communist witch hunt—in fact, McWilliams wrote a book on that topic in 1950, well before most people understood the dangers to our democracy. But that was typical of McWilliams. He was always a kind of early-warning system. In 1950, he called Richard Nixon “a dapper little man with an astonishing capacity of petty malice.” It took the rest of the country two more decades to figure that one out.

    • Indigenous Peoples Show Solidarity at D.C. March

      Activists from around the world gathered for the first-ever Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C., on Friday. Issues including voter suppression, environmental protections and violence toward women and girls were at the forefront of the event.

      “Our people are under constant threat, from pipelines, from police, from a system that wants to forget the valuable perspectives we bring to the table. But those challenges make us stronger,” said Chase Iron Eyes, an attorney at the Lakota People’s Law Project and member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

    • The President Plans Big Announcement on Saturday on Shutdown, Border

      The move — on Day 28 of a shutdown that has left hundreds of thousands of federal workers without paychecks — represents the first major overture by the president since Jan. 8, when he delivered an Oval Office address making the public case for his border wall. The president and his aides have said he will not budge on his demand for $5.7 billion for his border wall. Democrats have panned the offer and said they will not negotiate until the government reopens.

    • Facebook manager says in internal post she quit after being ‘harassed’ over views on diversity

      A Facebook engineering manager left the company earlier this month after being harassed by her colleagues for expressing criticism.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Vermont official fact-checks mobile carriers’ coverage maps, proves they’re lying like crazy

      Knowing it and proving it are two different things: so Department of Public Service telecommunications infrastructure specialist Corey Chase, packed six cell-phones loaded with custom code developed by a Bulgarian programmer into a state-owned Prius and drove more than 6,000 miles around the state, “ground-truthing what every Vermonter with a cell phone knows: there are many, many places in the state where you simply can’t get a signal, not to mention the 5 megabits per second data download speeds the carriers were claiming.”

    • State Official Went Roaming Around Vermont To Test Cell Coverage Claims

      Equipped with six cell phones and an app customized by a coder in Bulgaria, Chase was ground-truthing what every Vermonter with a cell phone knows: there are many, many places in the state where you simply can’t get a signal, not to mention the 5 megabits per second data download speeds the carriers were claiming.

    • On Heels Of Favorable FCC Ruling, Verizon Imposes ‘Spam’ Fees On Text Message Service For Schools, Nonprofits

      Just about a month ago the FCC quietly handed the telecom industry another favor by voting to reclassify text messages as an “information service” instead of a “telecommunications service” under the Telecom Act, effectively freeing text messaging practices from government oversight. While the FCC stated the move was essential in order to fight text spam, consumer groups were quick to note the lack of oversight provided cellular carriers a nifty way to hamper third-party SMS services that might just compete with, or cause problems for, their own offerings.

      Fast forward to this month, and lo and behold, Verizon’s already ruffling some feathers on this front. Remind, a free school texting, chat and messaging service used by teachers, students, school coaches, and parents, this week sent a notice to its customers stating that it may no longer be able to offer the service on the Verizon network thanks to a new “spam” fee Verizon is imposing on a service that’s not really spam.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • AC Technologies S.A. v. Amazon.com, Inc. (Fed. Cir. 2019)

      The Federal Circuit recently issued a decision further clarifying the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (PTAB) ability to invalidate claims on reconsideration even when the claims were not addressed in the final written decision. In the analysis below, we review only the procedural question of the PTAB’s ability to address claims on reconsideration. In this case, the PTAB issued a final written decision ruling certain claims of AC Technologies S.A.’s U.S. Patent No. 7,904,680 unpatentable. Then, on reconsideration, the PTAB invalidated the remaining claims based on a ground of unpatentability raised by Amazon.com…

      [...]

      The Federal Circuit found no due process violation occurred here. As AC admits, after the Board decided to accept Amazon’s rehearing request and consider Ground 3, it permitted AC to take discovery and submit additional briefing and evidence on that ground. Though AC did not receive a hearing specific to Ground 3, it never requested one. Had AC desired a hearing, it should have made a request before the Board. Other cases follow this guideline, such as finding no due process violation where a party had notice and an opportunity to be heard and failed to request surreply or rehearing to address the issue. See, e.g., Intellectual Ventures II LLC v. Ericsson Inc., 686 F. App’x 900, 905–06 (Fed. Cir. 2017).

      The Federal Circuit also reviewed AC’s challenge specific to the unpatentability of the claims (not addressed in this analysis here), and found the Board’s decision to be based on substantial evidence. Thus, the Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s decision.

    • Trademarks

      • The ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ People Are Suing Netflix Over ‘Bandersnatch’

        As you may have already heard, the latest iteration of the Black Mirror franchise on Netflix, titled Bandersnatch, is an absolute hit. You likely also have heard that it allows the viewer to influence the plot by making choices within the story’s many inflection points. And, hey, perhaps you even heard that Netflix is facing legal action by Chooseco LLC, the company behind the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series that were popular in the ’80s and ’90s.

        But if you haven’t dug into the details, both in terms of why Chooseco states the Netflix series violates its trademark and the damages it is asking for in court, you may not realize just how bonkers all of this is.

    • Copyrights

      • Now EVERYBODY Hates the New EU Copyright Directive

        Until last spring, everyone wanted to see the new European Copyright Directive pass; then German MEP Axel Voss took over as rapporteur and revived the most extreme, controversial versions of two proposals that had been sidelined long before as the Directive had progressed towards completion.

        After all, this is the first refresh on EU copyright since 2001, and so the Directive is mostly a laundry list of overdue, uncontroversial technical tweaks with many stakeholders; the last thing anyone wanted was a spoiler in the midst.

        Anyone, that is, except for German newspaper families (who loved Article 11, who could charge Big Tech for the privilege of sending readers to their sites) and the largest record labels (who had long dreamed of Article 13, which would force the platforms to implement filters to check everything users posted, and block anything that resembled a known copyrighted work, or anything someone claimed was a known copyrighted work).

        Maybe it’s time we stopped holding the future of European copyright to ransom for the sake of a few recording companies.

      • Article 13 and 11 Update: Even The Compromises are Compromised In This Copyright Trainwreck

        Politicians are meant to broker compromises in the pursuit of the public good – though in a year that is already overloaded with government shutdowns and Brexit logjams, that skill seems in short supply.

        But sometimes there are no compromises to be found. Sometimes, even the most talented diplomats are handed an impossible task. The Romanian Presidency is struggling to finish negotiations the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive together. But two parts of that law —Article 13, intended to introduce compulsory copyright filters, and Article 11, a new licensing requirement on reproducing snippets of news articles—are so controversial that they risk sinking the entire process.

        Just hours before a key vote on this Friday, the Presidency has presented their proposed compromise to the negotiators. The text, leaked to Politico Europe, shows just how far they will have to go to bring all the parties together.

        On Article 13, the Council and the Parliament are struggling over whether small and medium-sized businesses should be excluded from the crushing demands and liability Article 13 would impose on Internet sites. This was one of the concessions that MEP Axel Voss offered in a last-minute attempt to get the Article’s provisions past Parliament.

        But that’s not good enough for the article’s lobbyists, who believe that any site that allows users to put their content online should be treated as a pirate’s den—even if it’s a small European Internet site hoping to compete with deep-pocketed, US-based Big Tech companies.

      • Don’t Put Robots in Charge of the Internet

        Last year, YouTube’s Content ID system flagged Sebastian Tomczak’s video five times for copyright infringement. The video wasn’t a supercut of Marvel movies or the latest Girl Talk mashup; it was simply ten hours of machine-generated static. Stories like Tomczak’s are all too common: Content ID even flagged a one-hour video of a cat purring as a likely infringement.

        Filters are most useful when they serve as an aid to human review. But today’s mandatory filtering proposals turn that equation on its head.

        But those are only a small glimpse of a potential Internet future. Today, with the European Parliament days away from deciding whether to pass a law that would effectively make it mandatory for online platforms to use automated filters, the world is confronting the role that copyright bots like Content ID should play on the Internet. Here in the US, Hollywood lobbyists have pushed similar proposals that would make platforms’ safe harbor status contingent on using bots to remove allegedly infringing material before any human sees it.

        Stories like the purring and static videos are extreme examples of the flaws in copyright filtering systems—instances where nothing was copied at all, but a bot still flagged it as infringement. More often, filters ding uploads that do feature some portion of a copyrighted work, but where even the most basic human review would recognize the use as noninfringing. Those instances demonstrate how dangerous it is to let bots make the final decision about whether a work should stay online. We can’t put the machines in charge of our speech.

      • EU Cancels ‘Final’ Negotiations On EU Copyright Directive As It Becomes Clear There Isn’t Enough Support

        Apparently multiple countries — including Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland — made it clear they would not support the latest text put forth by Romania, and therefore would have blocked it from moving forward. Monday’s negotiations were supposed to have been the “final” negotiations (after the previous “final” negotiations that didn’t accomplish much) around a “compromise” bill that then would have gone out to be voted on by the EU Council, the EU Committee and the EU Parliament in the next few months. However, with the news of all those countries (via the EU Council) deciding to vote against the proposal, it effectively blocks it for now.

        MEP Julia Reda now has the full breakdown of the votes, noting that 11 countries voted against the “compromise” text: Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Finland, Slovenia, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Croatia, Luxembourg and Portugal. That’s… a pretty big list. Reda points out that most of those countries were concerned about the impact on users’ rights (Portugal and Croatia appear to be outliers). That’s pretty big — as it means that any new text (if there is one) should move in a better direction, not worse.

      • Record Labels, Film Studios, Tech Companies And The Public Now All Agreed That Article 13 Is A Disaster

        They don’t really explain why they’re so upset, but it’s not difficult to see that it’s the same reason as the film, TV and sports organizations. Again, Article 13 is a kind of bait and switch. All of the stuff people are complaining about — the mandatory filters, notice-and-staydown, the insane fines — all go away if the internet platforms agree to basically cough up all their money to the legacy copyright gatekeepers. The “secret” truth behind Article 13 is that even the folks crafting it know that all of the demands are absolutely ridiculous. It’s just that they’ve included a “way out.” And that “way out” is to agree to insane licensing rates from the legacy copyright players. Despite the nonsense you’ll hear, this won’t create “fair market” rates or “fair” anything. You don’t negotiate a fair market rate when you’re basically told that if you don’t agree to whatever rates the copyright gatekeepers set, you’ll get fined billions of dollars.

        So any path to avoiding having to agree to a license at the end of a shotgun is seen as a non-starter for the entertainment industry. Though, their latest bit of petulance about not getting everything they want kind of gives away the gameplan. This was never about stopping infringement. It was always about a government-mandated wealth-transfer from the companies who actually innovated to the companies that failed to innovate.

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