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01.29.19

Links 29/1/2019: VirtualBox 6.0.4, New Firefox, KMyMoney 5.0.3, Flatpak 1.2

Posted in News Roundup at 12:24 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Desktop

  • Server

    • 7 Reliability Questions Engineering Managers Need to Ask Their Teams

      And then there is the complexity of scale, something we know about first hand. The New Relic platform includes more than 300 unique services and petabytes of SSD storage that handle at least 40 million HTTP requests, write 1.5 billion new data points, and process trillions of events … every minute. The platform is maintained by more than 50 agile teams performing multiple production releases a week. To cope with serious scale like this, engineering teams must be nimble and fast moving. Their managers must also ensure that their teams adhere to reliability processes that support this kind of complexity and scale. So how do we do it at New Relic?

    • CO.LAB hosts its first global experience at Tate Modern in London

      The program is a collaboration between Red Hat and Femi Owolade-Coombes, better known as Hacker Femo. Femi, a 13-year-old coder known for his Young Coder Workshops in London, worked with us to provide a curriculum that extends the capabilities of the micro:bit, a pocket-sized codeable computer of which one million were delivered to England and Wales year 7 students in 2016.

      [...]

      As a part of Red Hat’s Open Source Stories initiative, CO.LAB is an ongoing effort to create and share stories about how openness can be a catalyst for change. Red Hat has championed communities—both big and small—as we strive to build innovative technologies. With Open Source Stories, we are sharing what happens when people defy convention and say to the world: “Take this. Build on it. Make it better.”

    • How Nginx Is Expanding Beyond Just Web Application Delivery

      Nginx was once perhaps best known as an open-source web server, but that’s now only one of many things that Nginx Inc. is developing and supporting for customers.

      Nginx provides a suite of web application delivery services and capabilities, with the company’s Nginx Controller, which was first announced in 2017, at the core of an emerging set of features. Thus far this year, the company has announced its new API Management Module for Nginx Controller, providing organizations with an integrated approach to define, publish and manage APIs on top of Nginx.

    • Top 8 Container Management Solutions
    • Docker Containers: Product Overview and Insight
    • OpenShift: Product Overview and Insight

      Not surprisingly, OpenShift integrates well with Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Ansible, OpenStack, and JBoss middleware. It also integrates well with Amazon Web Services and supports the public cloud provider’s microservice frameworks.

      OpenShift can help enterprises deploy containerized workloads on any cloud or on-premises using standardized components like Kubernetes and OCI compliant containers. By tapping into Red Hat Enterprise Linux and CoreOS, OpenShift provides a secure environment needed to run enterprise applications. By integrating Operator Framework to OpenShift, Red Hat has made it easy to deploy the platform and other application services anywhere.

    • Google Kubernetes Engine: Product Overview and Insight

      A feature of Google Cloud, Google Kubernetes Engine shines well by aligning closer to the open source Kubernetes release. This helps developers build bleeding edge applications by taking advantage of latest Kubernetes features. Google has recently added support for hybrid cloud deployment, making GKE an attractive option for enterprises. By tapping into KNative, Google offers abstraction from container services to serverless. This will help support wide range of application architectures, giving developers choice.

    • Kubernetes: Product Overview and Insight

      Users generally praise Kubernetes for its user focus, strong API support and the ability to run it on-premises or in the cloud. It also has attracted a large and strong multi-stakeholder community – meaning its growth will remain robust.

      Clearly, Kubernetes has emerged as a powerful tool for deploying, automating, scaling and managing components. The container control tool defines building blocks and uses them to manage activities related to software development. It runs containers at scale and deploy microservices. It is built into Docker and other container tools, services and platforms, including AWS and Azure. The service offers a robust set of APIs that allow it to work with numerous other tools.

    • MicroK8s: How To Install and Use Kubernetes

      Container technology is one of the hottest topics in IT right now. Containers are user-space instances that allow programs to run in an isolated space; applications running in containers can only see devices and resources assigned to them. As containers share the kernel, albeit with some isolation, they’re considerably lighter weight than virtual machines (VMs). Containers can be spun up quickly and because they don’t consume the same resources as a full VM, many more containers can be run on a server compared to a full VM. Figure 1 is a gross oversimplification of how a VM compares to a container.

      [...]

      For the past couple of years, I have struggled with getting an operating K8s environment up and running, and I was surprised and pleased by how easy Canonical made it to install a K8s environment with MicroK8s. In this article, I walked you through how I installed a working K8s environment and the commands needed to verify that it is operational. In the next article, I’ll show you what you need to do to get a K8s GUI up and running. In the last article in this series, I’ll dive even deeper and explore how to use MicroK8s to run applications.

    • For banks, new open source projects are creating new opportunities for innovation

      More recently, FINOS, which launched in April of 2018 to promote open innovation in the financial services community, created another project – the Cloud Native Computing Working Group. Chaired by Red Hat’s Diane Mueller, the group is working to define, build and maintain a collection of white papers and use cases that help members who are adopting containerized architectures. The group will also curate and promote the FINOS Service Catalog for use with the free, fully hosted Open Developer Platform on which FINOS members develop, test and collaborate.

    • Open Outlook: Cloud

      Hybrid cloud is a new reality for IT. While the benefits of this model are many, I believe that organizations should embrace hybrid cloud because it can give them more choice. Until recently, our choices to deliver solutions were primarily mutually exclusive of one another — will I build the app in house on my own? Will I outsource the infrastructure to a service provider? Will I buy a SaaS based app? Will I just put everything in the public cloud? While each of these choices had their own merits, orchestrating them can be difficult. The platform we’ve advanced, the Red Hat OpenShift platform, is designed to allow for more choice in how to leverage benefits of a hybrid multi-cloud world.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

    • Get started with gPodder, an open source podcast client

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

      Here’s the 17th of my picks for 19 new (or new-to-you) open source tools to help you be more productive 2019.

    • What You Need To Know About Open Source Licenses And Intellectual Property

      As a developer and user of open source code, you interact with software and digital media every day. What is often overlooked are the rights and responsibilities conveyed by the intellectual property that is implicit in all creative works. Software licenses are a complicated legal domain in their own right, and they can often conflict with each other when you factor in the web of dependencies that your project relies on. In this episode Luis Villa, Co-Founder of Tidelift, explains the catagories of software licenses, how to select the right one for your project, and what to be aware of when you contribute to someone else’s code.

    • Episode 13: Digital Sovereignty

      Katherine Druckman and Doc Searls talk to Elizabeth Renieris about digital identity, ethics, boiled frogs, and horses with lasers.

  • Kernel Space

    • The Latest Proposal For Wayland Content Protection Protocol (HDCP)

      Ankit Nautiyal who previously brought up a HDCP content protection protocol for Wayland has now sent out a patch with the proposed protocol. This is different from the Collabora-developed secure-output protocol that at a high level offers a similar aim but differs in its implementation. The Intel “content_protection_unstable_v1″ Content-Protection protocol leaves more work up to the clients and is based at the display connector level and requires all connectors to support the content protection standard.

    • Linux 5.1 Picking Up Intel Coffeelake GVT, More Icelake IDs Added

      As is standard practice for the DRM-Next development workflow, the Intel open-source graphics driver developers have already been staging their new feature work ahead of the Linux 5.1 kernel cycle, as have other parties involved in DRM/KMS drivers and elsewhere in the kernel. Today another big feature update was submitted to DRM-Next of new material that will come with Linux 5.1 this spring.

    • Configurable Zstd Compression Level Support Is Revived For Btrfs

      Since the Linux 4.14 kernel Btrfs has supported Zstd for transparent file-system compression while a revived patch-set would allow that Zstd compression level to become configurable by the end-user.

      Facebook, which is behind Zstandard and also the employer for several key Btrfs developers, started off on the Zstd compression level support for Btrfs previously. This would allow users to use a higher compression level to achieve greater compression but at the cost of increased memory usage and obviously more resource intensive or opt for lower compression.

    • Linux Foundation

      • Project EVE Promotes Cloud-Native Approach to Edge Computing

        The LF Edge umbrella organization for open source edge computing that was announced by The Linux Foundation last week includes two new projects: Samsung Home Edge and Project EVE. We don’t know much about Samsung’s project for home automation, but we found out more about Project EVE, which is based on Zededa’s edge virtualization technology. Last week, we spoke with Zededa co-founder Roman Shaposhnik about Project EVE, which provides a cloud-native based virtualization engine for developing and deploying containers for industrial edge computers (see below).

        LF Edge aims to establish “an open, interoperable framework for edge computing independent of hardware, silicon, cloud, or operating system.” It is built around The Linux Foundation’s telecom-oriented Akraino Edge Stack, as well as its EdgeX Foundry, an industrial IoT middleware project.

        [...]

        There’s no mention of Linux in the announcements for the LF Edge projects, all of which propose open source, OS-agnostic, approaches to edge computing. Yet, there’s no question that Linux will be the driving force here.

      • Mapzen Open Source Data and Software for Real-Time Mapping Applications to Become A Linux Foundation Project

        The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization enabling mass innovation through open source, today announced that Mapzen, an open source mapping platform focused on the core components of map display including search and navigation, is a new Linux Foundation project.

        Used by organizations such as Eventbrite, Foursquare, Mapbox, The World Bank, Snapchat, HERE Technologies, and Mapillary, Mapzen provides developers with open software and wide-ranging data sets that are customizable and easy to access. Using Mapzen, developers are able to take the open data and build vibrant maps equipped with search and routing services, augment their own libraries and also process data in real-time. This is something not available from conventional, traditionally proprietary mapping or geotracking services.

      • 30% off Hyperledger Fabric and Hyperledger Sawtooth Administration

        We are happy to tell you that the Linux Foundation were kind enough to give us 30% off the Hyperledger Sawtooth Administration (LFS273) and Hyperledger Fabric Administration course until February 11th, so only 2 weeks for this offer.

    • Benchmarks

      • Running The Flash-Friendly File-System On A Hard Drive? Benchmarks Of F2FS On An HDD

        While I have benchmarked the F2FS file-system a lot since it was mainlined back in 2013, it’s all been on solid-state drives or even other forms of flash storage like USB drives. After all, F2FS is short for the Flash-Friendly File-System. But a Phoronix reader recently suggested that F2FS also works out well for traditional, rotating hard drives so I decided to run some benchmarks.

        A Phoronix reader recently suggested on Twitter that F2FS works out well for hard drives, particularly shingled magnetic recording (SMR) drives. While I don’t have any SMR drives around, I decided to run some benchmarks with a Western Digital VelociRaptor 150GB WD1500HLHX-0 hard drive. With this Western Digital HDD I tested on the common EXT4 and XFS file-systems before proceeding to test F2FS on this 10,000 RPM hard drive. Each file-system was tested with its default mount options while all tests were done from an Ubuntu 18.10 box running the Linux 5.0 Git kernel.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • Awesome 4.3 Window Manager Brings Better DPI Handling, Widget Improvements

      Over two years since the unveiling of the Awesome 4.0 window manager and one and a half years since the Awesome 4.2 release, out today is Awesome 4.3 for this X11 window manager.

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • KMyMoney 5.0.3 released

        The KMyMoney development team is proud to present version 5.0.3 of its open source Personal Finance Manager.

        Some problems have been reported by many of you and the development team worked hard to fix them in the meantime. The result of this effort is the new KMyMoney 5.0.3 release.

        Despite even more testing we understand that some bugs may have slipped past our best efforts. If you find one of them, please forgive us, and be sure to report it, either to the mailing list or on bugs.kde.org.

        From here, we will continue to fix reported bugs, and working to add many requested additions and enhancements, as well as further improving performance.

  • Distributions

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

      • What’s New in Netrunner 19.01 Blackbird

        Debian-Based Netrunner 19.01 “Blackbird” has been released, is now available to download and install on your PC and Laptop. Using KDE Plasma 5.14.3 as default desktop environment, this release comes with a dark new look and feel with a more 3D-looking design, which was created using the Kvantum theme engine and the Alpha-Black Plasma theme.

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

      • MakuluLinux Core 15 Run Through

        In this video, we look at Makulu Core 15 and it is really good! Enjoy!

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

    • Fedora

      • Flatpak 1.2 Linux App Sandboxing Framework Released with Various Improvements

        Flatpak is one of the most used Linux application sandboxing and distribution framework among GNU/Linux distributions, allowing developers and users alike to easily and quickly install the latest versions of applications as soon as they are available upstream.

        When Flatpak reached maturity with the 1.0 version announced last year in August, it promised to take the lead and beat Canonical’s Snap universal binary format used by the Ubuntu Linux operating systems with innovative features. Now, six months later, Flatpak 1.2 is here with more improvements.

      • Flatpak 1.2 Released For This Widely-Used Linux App Sandboxing & Distribution Tech
      • Matthias Clasen: Whats new in Flatpak 1.2

        1.2 includes new commands which make it easier to manage running Flatpaks.

        Like other containers, Flatpaks are just regular processes, so traditional tools like ps and kill can be used with them. But there is often a bit more to a Flatpak sandbox than just a single process – there’s a babysitter, and D-Bus proxies, and it can be a little daunting to identify the right process to kill, in a process listing.

        To make this easy and obvious, we’ve added two new commands, flatpak ps and flatpak kill. For now, flatpak ps just lists basic information, but it is the natural place to show e.g. resource consumption in the future.

        This functionality is available to other Flatpak front ends as well, in the form of the FlatpakInstance API in libflatpak.

      • Fedora Making Progress On New Privacy-Minded System For Counting User Statistics

        Earlier this month there was a change proposal announced that would give Fedora system’s a new unique UUID tracking identifier to count systems. The intention isn’t to track users but rather to provide more statistics about the Fedora install base compared to the current system that is just tracking unique IP addresses, but a revised proposal would improve the privacy while still offering up much of the same statistics potential.

        Rather than relying upon a unique identifier that is transmitted to the Fedora update servers, the revised proposal is focusing upon just transmitting the “variant” (indicating if you are running Fedora Workstation or one of the other spins) and then a new “countme” variable. That countme variable would be managed client-side and under current thinking would increment weekly to reflect the age of the Fedora system: that would allow Fedora to see the age of the systems, new vs. updating installs to new releases, the number of users just running in Docker / cloud / other short-lived instances, and other metrics but without relying upon a per-system UUID.

      • Fedora 30 Might Finish Removing The Old Yum Package Manager

        Yum was supposed to be removed from Fedora 29 in favor of the modern DNF package manager that is largely compatible with Yum commands of the past. But its retirement was delayed due to the request being late in the cycle and some infrastructure like Koji and Pungi having not finished the migration to DNF interfaces. Yum’s retirement might come for Fedora 30 but it could be too late.

        The change proposal was posted today to retire Yum 3. It’s largely the same proposal as what was suggested for Fedora 29 and largely to no surprise since DNF as the default package manager has been working out well.

      • Flathub Adds WPS Office For Easy Linux Installation And Update

        Yet another important application has been added to Flathub, a service for hosting and distributing Flatpak applications: WPS Office, making it even easier to install and update on Linux.

        WPS Office is an office suite for Windows, Linux, Android and iOS, that includes three components: WPS Writer, WPS Presentation and WPS Spreadsheet. The personal basic version is free to use (but not open source software), with a professional version being available for a subscription fee.

      • How to Check Integrity With AIDE in Fedora
      • How to Compile Brotli Compression Tool from Source on Fedora 29
    • Debian Family

      • PySide2 on Raspberry Pi 3b+ with Raspbian Buster

        PySide2, or Qt for Python, is becoming more usable: since it has landed on PyPi, it is easy to install on almost every PC. Unfortunately, this does not apply to the RaspberryPis. Actually, there are only wheels for 64 bit x86 (and 32bit on Windows), not ARM. And there’s a reason for this: the actual Raspbian Stretch has way too old packages for PySide2 to work. To get PySide2 on a RaspberryPi, you’ll need Rasbpian Buster, which has not been released (even though there are repositoryes for an upgrade). Then, you can use the packages already compiled for Debian armhf (which are not in the Raspbian repository, at this moment). This is not straightforward, expecially for beginners. So I made an image, ready to be written on a (at least 16GB) microSD card. This image has Raspbian Buster with the main Qt5 and PySide2 modules. I’ve also switched the desktop environment from LxDE to LxQt.

      • https mirror

        Debian mirror servers are not run by Debian system admins but mirror admins kindly offer their servers and network capacities to our users. So, providing https support depends on them, we cannot force it.

      • Derivatives

        • Debian-Based DebEX OS Now Shipping with Linux Kernel 5.0 and Budgie Desktop 10.4

          DebEX Build 190128 is now available with the Budgie 10.4 desktop environment, and it’s the first release of the GNU/Linux distribution to ship with the soon-to-be-released Linux 5.0 kernel. This release is based on the upcoming Debian GNU/Linux 10 “Buster” operating system series, which is currently available as Debian Testing.

          The biggest news is the implementation of the Linux 5.0 kernel as Arne Exton took the risk to add a pre-release version into his DebEX operating system. Therefore, DebEX Build 190128 is using Linux kernel 5.0.0 RC3, which means that it shouldn’t be installed on production systems.

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Canonical Outs Major Linux Kernel Update for Ubuntu 18.04 LTS to Patch 11 Flaws

            Several security issues were discovered in the Linux kernel used by Canonical’s Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (Bionic Beaver) operating system, affecting all of its derivatives, including Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Ubuntu GNOME, Ubuntu Budgie, Ubuntu Kylin, and Ubuntu Studio, as well as other third-party flavors based on them.

            A total of eleven security vulnerabilities were addressed in this major kernel update, seven of which are flaws (CVE-2018-10876, CVE-2018-10877, CVE-2018-10878, CVE-2018-10879, CVE-2018-10880, CVE-2018-10882, and CVE-2018-10883) discovered by Wen Xu in Linux kernel’s EXT4 filesystem implementation.

          • Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter Issue 563
          • Flavours and Variants

            • Which Linux Distros is Better – Linux Mint or Ubuntu

              You have a lot of Linux popular distributions available as you are spoiled for choices which are generally subject to comparison in order to know the best. Among these popular systems, you have Ubuntu and Linux Mint that attract the attention.

              In this article, we will try to give you some specific aspects concerning the latest versions of Ubuntu (v. 18.04) and Linux Mint (v. 19) so that you will be able to take your own decision in order to determinate which one is the most suitable for your needs.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • The challenges of decoding open source DNA

    In 2018, I surpassed a few personal milestones. In February, I celebrated 15 years of working at Red Hat. Then, in May, I turned the big 40—so you can imagine why I might be feeling more reflective of life in general these days.

    Marking both these occasions made me realize I’ve spent a large part of my life growing up in an open organization—and that the open source way is firmly embedded in my DNA. That means my default behavior is different from that of others who might have spent any number of years at a traditional organization. While working with people at other companies, organizations, and nonprofits, I’ve discovered just how strikingly different my work habits can be. How I approach collaboration stops many people in their tracks. It’s more noticeable now that I’m aware of it this rift.

  • Best 6 Free and Open Source Veterinary Management Software

    The advent of smart computational software brought a lot of relief to workers in different walks of life especially to those in business. Programmers have successfully created software like Electronic Medical Records apps and Content Management Systems to enhance workflow and nobody is left out.

  • Web Browsers

  • LibreOffice

    • What About A Review Of LibreOffice Extensions?

      I made a quick test with a currently published LibreOffice extension and it seemed there were no accurate review of the file before it and the project were published. Sad situation.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

  • Licensing/Legal

    • VMware GPL case is back in court—will we finally get some clarity on the meaning of “derivative work”?

      One of the most active Linux kernel developers, Christoph Hellwig, backed by the Software Freedom Conservancy, (unsurprisingly perhaps) has struck again against a virtualisation giant—VMware. for breaching the GNU General Public Licence (GPL). More than two years after the Hamburg District Court’s dismissal, an appeal has been filed in the German Court of Appeal. This case has attracted a worldwide attention because the claims raised call for court’s interpretation of the scope of the GPL applicability and, in particular, the reach of its copyleft effect.

      [...]

      The notion of a derivative work in a GPL context has been a big unknown for nearly two decades. Such uncertainty and potential risk of having to open-source proprietary code has led many commercial entities and open source projects to refrain from including a GPL’ed software in their codebase.

      Hellwig v VMware might become a gamechanger, if it provides for the first time much-anticipated judicial clarity as to what implications software architecture has for licence interpretation and how copyright law fits in. That said, given the wide diversity of the structure of software is built and how it is distributed any decision in this case will not likely be the last word.

  • Programming/Development

    • Intel’s Initial Open-Source, LLVM-Based SYCL Compiler Is Now Available

      As a follow-up to the story from earlier this month about Intel wanting to add SYCL programming support to LLVM/Clang, the company’s initial open-source compiler is now public.

      Last week Intel published their initial SYCL programming support for LLVM/Clang as part of their effort to support single-source C++ heterogeneous programming for their CPUs, FPGAs, and other accelerators. More details on that and the likely tie-in to their new “oneAPI” initiative in the aforelinked article.

    • Conda 4.6 Release

      The latest set of major Conda improvements are here, with version 4.6. This release has been stewing for a while and has the feature list to show for it. Let’s walk through some of the major ones.

    • Given a list of dictionary objects, return a string
    • Daily Coding Problem #69: A functional programming solution
    • Eclipse releases GlassFish 5.1 for Java EE 8

      Moving forward with its development of enterprise Java, the Eclipse Foundation will provide its own version of the GlassFish application server, which traditionally has served as a reference implementation of the Java EE (Java Enterprise Edition) platform.

      Eclipse GlassFish 5.1 is compatible with the Java EE 8 specification and represents the full migration of GlassFish to the open source Eclipse Foundation. The GlassFish application server supports enterprise technologies including JavaServer Faces, Enterprise JavaBeans, and Java Message Service.

Leftovers

  • Science

    • DCMS seeks input on gaming addiction inquiry

      The UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has called for ‘gamers, game designers, and experts’ to complete a survey on whether or not gaming can be addictive and, if it can, whether it should be subject to regulations similar to those levied against the gambling industry.

      [...] seemingly ignoring the government’s previous demands that its departments use cross-platform and open standards like the Open Document Format (ODF) rather than proprietary formats.

    • Screen time ‘may harm toddlers’

      The findings, published in the JAMA Paediatrics, suggest increased viewing begins before any delay in development can be seen, rather than children with poor developmental performance then going on to have more screen time.

    • Rescuing the National Conversation

      Another important step would be training teachers and students from all disciplines in the arts, sciences, politics and philosophy of Classical Greece, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. It would be essential for teachers and students to examine the political, cultural and economic reasons that put “white men” in positions of power to spread these ideas. In addition, it would be vital to analyze how these ideas shaped the political, economic and educational philosophy that has led to the current clash of viewpoints in America’s “marketplace of ideas”. Intense engagement with the thoughts and writings of Socrates, Plato, Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Thomas Jefferson would be of great import. Rather than undertake blind hagiographical study of these thinkers, however, teachers and students would look critically at their shortcomings, including the philosophers’ acceptance of slavery, promotion of aristocratic or absolutist political control and the oppression of women. But the aim of this critical approach would not be to tear these philosophers down. It would be to connect students with the political, economic and philosophic foundations of Western civilization while putting these “white men” in historical context and asking what should be disparaged or salvaged from their experience.

      Finally, teachers must remind themselves and students that nobody has a monopoly on the Truth. In fact, being open to rationally debating competing Truths would help students develop the critical research, writing and speaking skills needed to become productive citizens. Rather than immediately firing off Twitter rants aimed to defame or shame, students would be taught to engage in reasonable debate and discussion with those harboring different world views. By no means would this search for understanding mean capitulation. Instead, as Voltaire noted, it simply would mean standing up for freedom of expression.

      The alternative is to promote ever more divisive and vindictive tactics and watch the national conversation sink lower into the abyss.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • DNDi, MMV Make 400 Compounds Available To Boost Pandemic Disease Research

      The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) and Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) today announced the launch of the “Pandemic Response Box”, which offers researchers open access to 400 compounds that could lead to development of new treatments for pandemic diseases. In return, researchers “will be expected to share data resulting from research on the molecules from the box in the public domain within 2 years of its generation.”

      The Pandemic Response Box is a collection of antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal compounds for screening against infective and neglected diseases, the Geneva-based organisations said in a press release.

    • WHO Draft Resolution On Universal Health Coverage Shows Efforts At Consensus

      With half the world’s population still lacking access to essential health services, World Health Organization Executive Board members this week are working to agree on a resolution indicating ways through which this situation can be alleviated. Discussions are going on outside plenary room as delegates seek agreement on a draft resolution.

    • New Study Confirms: Degenerative Food & Farming System Poses Mortal Threat

      A new study calling for a “radical rethink” of the relationship between policymakers and corporations reinforces what Organic Consumers Association and other public interest groups have been saying for years: Our triple global health crises of deteriorating public health, world hunger and global warming share common root causes—and that the best way to address these crises is to address what they all have in common: an unhealthy, inequitable food system perpetuated by a political and economic system largely driven by corporate profit.

      The study, the result of three years of work by 26 commissioners from several countries, was released this week by the Lancet Commission on Obesity.

    • ‘When You Take Healthcare Away From People, People Die’ – CounterSpin interview with Rebecca Vallas on Medicaid under attack

      Recent reporting by Politico, citing three administration sources, says that the Trump White House, having failed to get congressional support for the capping and shrinking of federal Medicaid spending, now plans to try to make those changes without congressional approval.

      Cutbacks to the low-income health program that helps some 75 million people—people with disabilities, children, seniors—have long been a GOP goal, but every time it comes up, it’s been soundly rebuffed, by a range of advocates for people who rely on the program. Clearly that vigilance is still required, and our next guest has been tracking the issue.

      Rebecca Vallas is the vice president of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress, and the host of the podcast Off-Kilter. She joins us now by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Rebecca Vallas.

    • Officials Urge Vaccinations Amid Northwest Measles Outbreak

      Public health officials scrambling to contain a measles outbreak in the U.S. Northwest warned people to vaccinate their children Monday and worried that it could take months to contain the highly contagious viral illness due to a lower-than-normal vaccination rate at the epicenter of the crisis.

      The outbreak near Portland has sickened 35 people in Oregon and Washington since Jan. 1, with 11 more cases suspected. Most of the patients are children under 10, and one child has been hospitalized.

      Health officials say the outbreak is a textbook example of why it’s critical to vaccinate against measles, which was eradicated in the U.S. after the vaccine was introduced in 1963. In recent years, however, the viral illness has popped up again from New York to California and sickened hundreds.

    • Drug-Pricing Reforms Find New Momentum as “a 2020 Thing”

      The next presidential primary contests are more than a year away. But presumed candidates are already trying to stake a claim to one of health care’s hot-button concerns: surging prescription drug prices.

      “This is a 2020 thing,” said Dr. Peter Bach, who directs the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and tracks drug-pricing policy.

      Spurred on by midterm election results that showed health care to be a deciding issue, lawmakers — some of whom have already launched presidential run exploratory committees — are pushing a bevy of new proposals and approaches.

      Few if any of those ideas will likely make it to the president’s desk. Nevertheless, Senate Democrats eyeing higher office and seeking street cred in the debate are devising more innovative and aggressive strategies to take on Big Pharma.

      “Democrats feel as if they’re really able to experiment,” said Rachel Sachs, an associate law professor at Washington University in St. Louis who tracks drug-pricing laws.

    • Russian egg producers responded to high food prices by selling one fewer egg per carton. Let the memes begin!

      On January 8, a photograph of a carton with nine eggs was published on the Russian social portal Pikabu. Russian eggs are usually sold in groups of 10; selling nine eggs at a time would be like selling a carton of 11 in the United States. The photo’s title deadpanned, “A nine of eggs, please.”

      In the caption, the author listed several more products that come in strange volumes: “Milk 867 milliliters, mayonnaise 220 milliliters, Coca-Cola not one liter but only 900 milliliters. Now in the New Year it’s the eggs’ turn.” Many have linked the appearance of the nine-egg cartons to rising food prices.

    • In Defense of “Taxpayer-Funded Abortion”

      In the midst of President Trump’s now temporarily-halted government shutdown, Senate Republicans weren’t working very hard to strike a deal and put 800,00 Americans—who by the way, were mostly women—back to work. Instead, they were focused on passing anti-choice legislation to “prohibit federally funded abortion” through the deceptively-titled “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” which sought to permanently codify anti-choice restrictions on federal dollars. But thankfully, they failed at that, too.

      The reasoning for Republicans’ obsession with this illogical policy? Anti-choice politicians claim that they simply believe that federal taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be used to fund abortion care. The actual reality beneath that gaslighting is that federal funds already aren’t allowed to be used to subsidize abortion. These funds have been untouchable for those wanting to terminate a pregnancy for decades. Our tax dollars don’t fund abortion. But they should. And with a pro-choice majority now in control of the House of Representatives, it’s time to repeal the anti-choice policies that block it.

      The Hyde Amendment, an appropriations rider that prohibits federal funds—including Medicaid—from providing financial assistance for abortion care, was first passed by Congress in 1976 and has been approved again every year since. The policy has exceptions only in cases in which the life of the pregnant person is endangered or the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest. Similar policies extend this rule to cut off federal financial assistance for abortion to Native American people, federal employees, U.S. military personnel, Peace Corps participants, and federal prisoners and detainees who receive their healthcare insurance from the federal government. Abortion is the only procedure that is legislatively singled out by Congress in this way.

    • Illegal Abortion Exacts a High Toll Among African Women
  • Security

    • APT Package Manager Vulnerability for Debian Based Linux Distributions

      Recently a security vulnerability has been discovered that affect many Debian based Linux distributions.

      APT is one of the commonly used package managers for Debian based Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Elementary OS, and more.

      Max Justicz has discovered a vulnerability on APT package manager earlier which allows intruder to use APT package manager to execute arbitrary code during the update or the installation process through the package manager as network man-in-the-middle to execute the malicious code.

    • European Law Enforcement Agency Goes After Users Of Major DDoS Platform

      Europol cracked down illegal marketplace webstresser.org last year. The site was known as one of the booster sites that launched distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. The authorities found information regarding the 151,000 registered users of the website. And now Europol is all set to go after these registered users with actions underway to crack them down.

      According to the law enforcement agency, actions are currently underway in collaboration with the Dutch and UK police. In the United Kingdom alone, police have seized up to 60 personal electronic devices from webstresser.org users. The devices have been seized by the police as part of the Operation Power OFF. Action and live operation against other webstresser.org users is expected to continue by the law enforcement agency.

    • Security updates for Monday
    • Privacy: GUI applications leaking passwords

      Most of these applications use the Qt’s default text component – QLineEdit – when they need password input, because QLineEdit has a nice convenient mode where it masks the content of the text field – it shows asterisks or circles instead of the actual characters it contains.

      This is a nice way to block over-the-shoulder snooping, and is a common approach to do password entry even in non-Qt software.

      [...]

      When the QLineEdit is destroyed, so is the QString variable that stores the password. But, while the buffer that QString uses to store the data is freed/deleted, its contents remain in memory until some other dynamically allocated object is created in the same memory space and overwrites the data. This is because QString does not fill its buffer with zeroes on destruction. This means that the passwords remain in memory for much longer than needed (problem 2).

    • Roadmap to Securing Your Infrastructure: Intro

      As you’ll see throughout the year, I’m a huge fan of using open source tools to solve problems. You won’t hear me saying to go spend $10,000 to solve your problem. We’ll always look to open source solutions, when available. I enjoy using creativity to solve problems as well and would love to hear about problems you have creatively solved as well as open source products you use in your security practices.

    • There’s a Huge Bug in FaceTime. Disable It Now

      Anyone can call you on FaceTime and hear audio or see video from your phone before you answer. This bug is going viral on social media, and the only protection is disabling FaceTime.

    • FaceTime bug lets callers hear you before you answer (really)

      We have tested this method and confirmed that it works. After a caller completes the steps, they will be able to hear the recipient’s audio—but the recipient will be able to hear the caller’s audio, too. It doesn’t really work for eavesdropping for that reason, thankfully, but you could potentially catch someone by surprise. After the steps have been followed, the caller’s end shows that the recipient is part of a FaceTime call. But as far as the recipient can tell, the recipient has not yet answered.

    • ‘Keyless’ cars are almost all vulnerable to £10 [intrusion] kits

      An investigation by Which? found a glut of cars including the Ford Fiesta and Focus, VW Golf and Nissan Qashqai are all at risk from technology designed to let thieves mimic the signal of the car’s lock and gain access.

      Worst still, any budding car thieves can buy the technology for about a tenner.

    • Security updates for Tuesday
    • FOSS Project Spotlight: Mender.io, an Open-Source Over-the-Air Software Update Manager for IoT Devices

      Mender is an open-source (Apache 2.0) project to address over-the-air (OTA) software update management for Linux-based IoT devices. When we researched this five years ago, there were no open-source end-to-end (device-to-server) options to manage the lifecycle of OTA updates for connected devices. Some open-source options were available, but they either had a proprietary management server, or they were client-only and required integration with another back-end server.

      In short, the options available to IoT device-makers either had vendor lock-in or simply were too kludgy. Thus, we created Mender, which has two components: the runtime client integrated into the device and the management server with an intuitive user interface to manage updates at scale for large fleets.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • This Is Very Dangerous’: Trump Administration Seizes Venezuela Oil Assets, Renews Threat of Military Action If Maduro Stays

      The Trump administration intensified its interference in politically-fractured Venezuela on Monday by announcing the seizure of billions of dollars in assets connected to the nation’s state-owned oil company, a move critics decried as part of a “dangerous” U.S. policy to help opposition forces overthrow elected president Nicolás Maduro.

      National Security Adviser John Bolton and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced the sanctions imposed via executive order against Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA)—a primary source of income and foreign currency for the country—at a White House press briefing on Monday afternoon. They were joined by Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council.

    • As Nations Get Ready for Nuclear War, Their Governments Work to Create the Illusion of Safety

      Ever since the U.S. atomic bombings of Japanese cities in August 1945, a specter has haunted the world―the specter of nuclear annihilation.

      The latest report from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, issued on January 24, reminds us that the prospect of nuclear catastrophe remains all too real. Citing the extraordinary danger of nuclear disaster, the editors and the distinguished panel of experts upon whom they relied reset their famous “Doomsday Clock” at two minutes to midnight.

      This grim warning from the scientists is well-justified. The Trump administration has withdrawn the United States from the painstakingly-negotiated 2015 nuclear weapons agreement with Iran and is in the process of withdrawing from the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia. In addition, the 2010 New Start Treaty, which caps the number of strategic nuclear weapons held by the United States and Russia, is scheduled to expire in 2021, thus leaving no limits on the world’s largest nuclear arsenals for the first time since 1972. According to Trump, this agreement, too, is a “bad deal,” and his hawkish national security advisor, John Bolton, has denounced it as “unilateral disarmament.”

    • As Trump’s War Hawks Threaten Venezuela, Omar and Jayapal Demand US Rule Out Military Intervention

      “We must rule out military action in Venezuela,” Omar wrote. “We have to wonder, if Trump and [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo are so worried about human rights and democracy in Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, why do they actively support horrible regimes in Brazil, Guatemala, and Honduras?”

      “Of course there is suffering in Venezuela and I strongly stand with the people,” the Minnesota congresswoman continued. “There [are] many ways we can assist that I would support but will always caution us against intervention.”

    • Washington’s Favorite Literal War Criminal Isn’t Done in Venezuela

      On Dec. 10, 1981, as the U.S.-trained Atlacatl Battalion arrived at the village of El Mozote in El Salvador to slaughter nearly 1,000 civilians, including children, President Ronald Reagan posed for a photo with Elliott Abrams and his parents, wife and son in honor of Human Rights Day. Then the U.S. assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs, Abrams was distinguished in Washington as an expert at lying in the name of freedom.

      At the United Nations on Saturday, Jorge Arreaza, the Venezuelan representative, called the U.S. “the vanguard of the coup d’état” when Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president with the support of the United States. Newly appointed by the State Department as the head of the “efforts to restore democracy” in Venezuela, Abrams responded by criticizing President Nicolás Maduro: “Democracy never needs to be imposed. It is tyranny that needs to be imposed.” At least 44 people have been killed by security forces in the past week, according to activists. Abrams was previously appointed to be deputy secretary of state, but Trump nixed the idea because Abrams wrote a negative piece about Trump in 2016 titled “When You Can’t Stand Your Candidate.”

    • Regime Change Is Not the Answer: Rep. Ro Khanna Speaks Out Against U.S.-Backed Coup in Venezuela

      More information has come to light about the direct U.S. role in an attempted coup in Venezuela. The Wall Street Journal reports Vice President Mike Pence called opposition leader Juan Guaidó on the night before he declared himself to be president, pledging U.S. support for his actions. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has accused the United States of attempting to wage a coup. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has named Elliott Abrams to be his special envoy to Venezuela. Abrams is a right-wing hawk who was convicted in 1991 for lying to Congress during the Iran-Contra scandal, but he was later pardoned. Abrams defended Guatemalan dictator General Efraín Ríos Montt as he oversaw a campaign of mass murder and torture of indigenous people in Guatemala in the 1980s. Ríos Montt was later convicted of genocide. Abrams was also linked to the 2002 coup in Venezuela that attempted to topple Hugo Chávez. We speak to Ro Khanna, Democratic congressmember from California.

    • Here’s how Venezuela can achieve a peaceful resolution to the crisis

      Events in Venezuela may be heading toward a catastrophic conflict. Venezuelan society is deeply divided between President Nicolas Maduro and his supporters, backed by the military, versus an opposition led by self-declared president, Juan Guaido, leader of the National Assembly.

      According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, which cited a senior administration official, the US promised it would back Guaido as part of a secret plan developed over several weeks. The US, along with Canada and several Latin American governments, quickly recognized Guaido as president, while China and Russia are backing Maduro. One spark could set off a civil war.

      Neither side appears willing to go down without a fight and new elections in these circumstances would be fraught with peril. If Venezuela had a parliamentary system, new elections might produce a broad coalition among several small parties. Unfortunately, with Venezuela’s presidential system, an election now, if somehow organized, would amplify both the stark polarization between Maduro and the opposition — and the threat of civil war.

      The US’ move to recognize Guaido is provocative. The problem is that the US has a track record of bullying Latin America and staging interventions in the region. These US interventions, both direct and indirect, have resulted in dozens of regime changes over the course of more than a century.

    • Turning Victory Into Defeat

      Think of it as a reverse miracle. Seventeen years of American war in this century waged by a military considered beyond compare on a planet that, back in 2001, was almost without enemies. How, then, was it possible, month after month, year after year, to turn the promise of eternal victory so repetitiously into the reality of defeat (and spreading terror movements)? As I read retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and historian William Astore’s latest piece on the subject, I must admit that I felt a certain sense of awe. In fact, I wondered whether, historically speaking, this might not be a one-of-a-kind situation.

      Had there ever been an imperial power at the ostensible height of its glory that proved quite so incapable of effectively applying its military and political force globally to achieve its aims? At their height, the Roman Empire, China’s various imperial dynasties, and Europe’s colonial powers, however brutally, generally proved quite capable of impressing their wills and desires on those beyond their borders, even on relatively distant parts of the planet (at least for a time). In fact, in the Cold War years — think of Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, or Chile on the first 9/11 (September 11, 1973) — the U.S. proved no less capable, often in similarly brutal ways. And yet, from Afghanistan to Libya, Iraq to Somalia, Syria to Yemen, despite the endless application of U.S. power, the killing of tens of thousands of people (including key figures in various terror movements), the displacement of millions, the rubblization of whole cities, and the creation of a series of partially or fully failed states, nowhere, as TomDispatch regular Astore points out today, has U.S. power succeeded in successfully imposing its will, even as its wars only multiplied.

      And here’s another thing I’ve come to wonder about: How did the hearts-and-minds moxie of the leftist national liberation movements of the previous century that decolonized much of the planet get transferred to the extreme Islamist groups of this one? Like the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (the “Vietcong”) and similar groups in the twentieth century, al-Qaeda, ISIS, the Taliban, and other terror outfits regularly suffer extreme casualties and yet somehow maintain their grip on the hearts and minds of significant numbers of people in riven, increasingly ruined lands. They can, it seems, even attract random Americans and Europeans into the fold. It’s a strange and unexpected phenomenon, a grim success story that hasn’t been faced in a serious way here.

      I suspect that these two puzzles — how the self-acknowledged greatest power of all time failed to deliver and the extremist resistance to it, against all odds, did — may have to be left to future historians to fully unravel. In the meantime, check out Astore’s striking account of how the U.S. military has repeatedly turned promised victory into dismal defeat in these years. No question about it, it’s a tale for the history books.

    • Experts Warn Trump’s New ‘Low-Yield’ Warheads Will Make Nuclear War More Likely

      Warning that the U.S. is already engaging in a new nuclear arms race as officials announced the development of a new “low-yield” warhead, nuclear disarmament campaigners ramped up their calls Monday for nations to sign on to an international treaty prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons.

      The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced that the U.S. has begun manufacturing the new weapon, the W76-2, and that the first batch of missiles is set to be delivered to the U.S. military by October 2019. The warhead will give new so-called “flexibility” to Trident missiles, making it easier for President Donald Trump—a future presidents—to deploy the weapons.

      The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) wrote on Twitter that the availability of such a weapon will make nuclear war even more likely than it has been under President Donald Trump.

    • A Progressive Alternative to Trump’s Dangerous Venezuela Policy

      The Trump administration’s recent moves on Venezuela have so many historical echoes it’s a veritable déjà vu layer cake. The appointment of Elliot Abrams as U.S. Special Envoy to Venezuela last week was the icing on the cake. Abrams is an unrepentant interventionist, notorious for being found guilty for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal. But he also guided U.S. policy towards supporting genocide in Guatemala under Reagan, was the architect of the Panama invasion under George H.W. Bush, and was the central figure in the failed coup in Venezuela against Hugo Chavez in 2002 under George W. Bush. If Abrams’ appointment is any guide, history may well repeat itself again, unless we apply its lessons — and fast.

      [...]

      Speaking about the Venezuelan refugee crisis, Mr. de Zayas told The Independent, “When I come and I say the emigration is partly attributable to the economic war waged against Venezuela and is partly attributable to the sanctions, people don’t like to hear that. They just want the simple narrative that socialism failed and it failed the Venezuelan people.” On Monday, the Trump administration doubled down on this coercive approach, announcing aggressive new sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry.

      As for the military option, there’s no reason to think it would go better than the invasions of Iraq or Afghanistan. Retired Air Force Gen. Douglas Fraser, who was a high-ranking U.S. general responsible for South America, told Vox that a military intervention was the wrong course of action. Venezuela has a 515,000-person military that would fight back in any intervention. Even if an intervention succeeded in removing Maduro, civil war and a U.S. occupation could follow.

      Given the economic woes already plaguing the country, two possible outcomes include a long occupation and nation building (a la Iraq) or a temporary intervention that topples the government but leaves behind years of chaos and violence (a la Libya).

      The administration’s loose talk of military options is dangerous, and should be met with vocal opposition. So far, with a few exceptions, opposition to intervention has been scarce, most notably from Democratic members of Congress. The Iraq War had far too many Democratic enablers, and the consequences of their complicity have rippled out for decades. Opposing regime change should be a no-brainer at this point for progressives, Democrats and the anti-interventionist wing of the Republican party. The time to speak up is now, before the crisis escalates.

    • The West Failed to Learn the Most Important Lessons From the Rise and Fall of ISIS

      It is always pleasing for authors to find out that they have readers in far flung places. It was therefore surprising but gratifying to see a picture of a battered copy of a French translation of a book I wrote called The Jihadis Return abandoned by Isis fighters, along with suicide vests and homemade explosive devices, as they retreat from their last enclaves in Deir ez-Zor province in eastern Syria.

      The book was written in 2014 when Isis was at the height of its success after capturing Mosul, and was sweeping through western Iraq and eastern Syria. I described the Isis victories and tried to explain how the movement had apparently emerged from nowhere to shock the world by establishing the Islamic State, an entity which at its height ruled 8 million people and stretched from the the outskirts of Baghdad to the Mediterranean.

      A picture of the book, Le Retour des Djihadistes, was tweeted by Quentin Sommerville, the intrepid BBC Middle East correspondent, who is travelling through the deserts of Deir ez-Zor and reporting what may be the last pitched battles fought by Isis. The book had presumably belonged a French-speaking Isis fighter: many Isis volunteers came from Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, as well as from France itself, and may now be trapped in this corner of Syria.

    • Pompeo’s Foreign Policy Fantasy

      U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo started out the new year—the date was January 10—preaching “the truth” about U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, and for reasons we will get to below, he chose to do so at the American University in Cairo, Egypt (AUC). He implied that he was particularly capable of discerning the truth because he is “an evangelical Christian” who keeps a “Bible open on my desk to remind me of God and His Word, and The Truth.” This confession indicates that Mr. Pompeo is wearing ideological glasses through which he cannot possibly see the world, much less the Middle East, in an objective fashion. We can assume that the decidedly unthinking and amoral president he serves has no problem with this prophet in the State Department because Pompeo is one of the few cabinet ministers whom President Trump has not fired.

      So what are Mr. Pompeo’s version of foreign policy truth? In terms of his Cairo pronouncements, they are twofold. First, as is to be expected of a man of Mr. Pompeo’s temperament (he declared: “I am a military man” who learned his “basic code of integrity” at West Point), he has identified the true enemy of the civilized world. And, again not unexpectedly given his Christian zealotry, the enemy is of Muslim origins. It is the “tenacious and vicious” cabal of “radical Islamism, a debauched strain of the faith that seeks to upend every other form of worship or governance.”

    • Defying War and Defining Peace in Afghanistan

      On January 27th, 2019, the Taliban and the U.S. government each publicly stated acceptance, in principle, of a draft framework for ongoing negotiations that could culminate in a peace deal to end a two-decade war in Afghanistan.

      As we learn more about the negotiations, it’s important to remember others working toward dialogue and negotiation in Afghanistan. Troublingly, women’s rights leaders have not, thus far, been invited to the negotiating table. But several have braved potential persecution to assert the importance of including women in any framework aiming to create peace and respect human rights.

      A young medical graduate student told me she was deprived of schooling during the Taliban era. “If government doesn’t protect women’s basic rights,” she said, “we could lose access to health care and education.”

    • The Empire’s Propagandists

      With most media attention in the US on the government shutdown and border wall stand-off spectacle, the Trump administration has been quietly ramping up US militarism around the world. And it has set its sights on Venezuela, once again, by supporting a coup. Whether or not one supports the policies of Maduro or any other leader is inconsequential in this regard because, despite the empty mythos, the American Empire has never been interested in defending democracy. After all, its list of allies include fascist strongholds, a murderous medieval kingdom, a ruthless apartheid regime and several compliant, neoliberal states.

      The ruling class of the US imperium will simply not tolerate any government that opposes its financial and geopolitical dominance, attempts socialism, or transfers its nexus to another powerful state entity, like Russia or China for instance. If one chooses to do so it is instantly targeted for assault either by crippling economic sanctions or embargoes, which make governance nearly impossible and primarily harms the general population, or covert subversion, or by direct and indirect military intervention. And the corporate media, when it chooses to cover these issues, generally parrots State Department and Pentagon talking points and obfuscations about the intentions of the US government, the role of corporations and global capitalism, and the character of the governments the US happens to be opposing at the time. And all of this is done with virtually no historical analysis. But of course none of this is new.

      Whether it was for Reagan in Grenada or Bush Sr. in Panama or Kuwait, or Clinton in the Balkans, the American mainstream media has dutifully peddled the lies of Washington. The media cycle was drenched in the lies of the Bush administration about “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq. Despite Iraq having absolutely nothing to do with the attacks on 9/11, the corporate media did little to underscore this fact at a time when the Empire was ratcheting up the war machine. Those who questioned it often lost their jobs or were marginalized. Now that this foray resulted in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of civilians, mass migration, and the decimation of an entire region many in the media and some politicians have looked back with selective remorse. As if that helps the dead in any way.

    • George Orwell’s Message in a Bottle

      Last June the United States became the only nation to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council, which a Trump official called a “cesspool of political bias.”

      Just one day earlier, the U.N. Human Rights office had called Trump’s detention of children at the Mexican border “unconscionable.” Three days later, when the U.N. rapporteur for extreme poverty and human rights delivered a scalding report on the United States, Trump’s envoy to the United Nations assailed that report as “biased,” “politically motivated,” and “patently ridiculous.”

      Since then, the world has been treated to the spectacle of refugees, many of them children – some still in diapers – sprayed with tear gas by U.S. border agents.

      George Orwell would not have been surprised. It is a little known fact that Orwell, renowned for Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, defended the human rights of children and detainees with force and insistence. Indeed, his views strikingly anticipate U.N. views as expressed by Philip Alston – the author of the report blasted by Trump’s outgoing ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley.

    • Adab Festival Pakistan

      Am giving a talk in Karachi on Sunday, and very much looking forward to it. Entry is free. This blog has a number of regular readers and two donating subscribers in Karachi, and it would be a great pleasure if they can introduce themselves. I am speaking primarily on Sikunder Burnes, (after whom Karachi’s famous Burnes Road is named), but shall happily wander off into the vicious folly of modern western military interference in Afghanistan, the illegality of drone strikes, the two century long history of western exploitation and exacerbation of the Sunni/Shia divide, and the great work of Julian Assange.

    • Bernie and the Dems Flunk Trump’s Test On Venezuela’s Coup

      When Trump announced his support for the unfolding coup in Venezuela, Bernie Sanders remained silent for 24 hours. This matters because coups are made or broken in the first moments or hours; a day during a coup can feel like a month or more.

      With each hour Bernie’s silence roared louder. So much was hanging in the balance with Trump at home and abroad, to the point where a finger could tip the scales— yet Bernie refused to lift his.

      Among the many Democratic Party candidates running for President, only Tulsi Gabbard made an unequivocal statement condemning the coup, while leftist darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez limited her criticism to a retweet.

      While U.S. politics grappled furiously over the government shutdown, Trump’s coup gifted the Democrats a dagger and an exposed flank, yet they refused to strike, returning the weapon so that it could be used against the democratically-elected government of Venezuela.

      Nancy Pelosi and other leading Democrats went further and cheerleaded their Commander and Chief by using their platform to attack President Maduro. Trump’s position was consequently strengthened. Instead of being condemned for breaking international law he was made to look like a responsible statesman, leading a “coalition” of countries facing off against an ‘authoritarian dictator’. The virulently anti-Trump section of the U.S. media closed ranks in his favor— since it was difficult to find a dissenting opinion.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Permafrost thaws as global warming sets in

      Even in the coldest places – 10 metres below the surface of the polar wastes – global warming has begun to work. A new study of the frozen soils in both hemispheres shows that between 2007 and 2016, they warmed by an average of 0.3°C.

      This remained true within the Arctic and Antarctic zones, in the highest mountain regions of Europe and Asia, and even in the Siberian tundra, where the temperatures at depth rose by almost a whole degree.

      New research into the permafrost, defined as territory where soil has been frozen for at least two consecutive years, suggests that much of it may not be permanently frozen for much longer.

      Climate scientists have repeatedly warned that along with the tilth, clays and sediments the icy structures store vast amounts of carbon in the form of yet-to-be-decomposed plant material.

    • Declare a Green War Now!

      Struggle has brought man into being.

      Struggle against nature, against other humans, within himself.

      Today it is no different.

      The task now set before us is gargantuan transformation. Nothing less is required than changing humanity’s social and economic relationship to the planet.

      The good news is that more and more people are aware and willing to pay the price of necessary change.

      While some look to the stars to usher in a new age, others realize that the stars are still too far away. And in any case, there certainly will not be enough time to reach them if we do not fundamentally transform relationships here on earth.

      Ironically, the much feared outbreak of World War Three has already begun; the planet has long since declared war on mankind.

    • We Are Destroying Our Life Support System

      The warming of planet Earth continues apace, and the ramifications become ever more stunning with each passing month. While no single meteorological event or phenomenon can be attributed solely to human-caused climate disruption, this is now nearly always the leading cause of the event, or at the very least a major contributing factor.

      Recent data from the World Meteorological office showed that 2018 was the fourth warmest on record, making the last four years the hottest four years in Earth’s recorded history.

      On that note, it is worth remembering that the single worst mass extinction event in Earth’s history, the “Great Dying” that happened 252 million years ago and took out as much as 96 percent of all marine species and two-thirds of terrestrial life, occurred due to rapid planetary warming.

      Another feedback loop has been discovered in the Arctic, this time in Greenland, where it was recently reported that melting glaciers are yet another source of methane.

      It was also recently revealed that Greenland saw an “unprecedented” loss of ice over the last two decades. Another study by a US research team had shown that the decade of 2004-13 experienced more sustained and intense melting there than during any other 10-year period in the 350-year record. This means that Greenland is contributing more to sea level rise than previously understood, adding more than at any other time that record keeping has existed. Melt water runoff there has increased 50 percent since the industrial revolution began.

    • Germany Plans to Quit Coal by 2038 ‘But There’s a Problem’

      In an effort to fight climate change, Germany announced plans to quit coal mining and burning by 2038.

      All 84 of the country’s coal-fired power plants will be shut down over the 19-year time frame, a government-appointed commission announced Saturday, according to The Los Angeles Times.

      It’s a significant move as nearly 40 percent of Germany’s electricity comes from coal-fired power plants.

      “This is a historic accomplishment,” Ronald Pofalla, one of four commission leaders, announced at a news conference after more than 20 hours of negotiations.

      “It was anything but a sure thing. But we did it,” he added. “There won’t be any more coal-burning plants in Germany by 2038.”

      The commission’s plan provides about $45 billion in aid to coal-producing regions affected by the phase-out. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is expected to adopt the plan.

      “Good for the economy and climate: The report of the climate/coal commission is widely supported by business and environmental organizations,” Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, a trusted advisor to Merkel, tweeted on Saturday. “Less CO2, more new jobs. Security of supply and affordability: a strong signal!”

    • Will Arizona’s Saguaros Survive Climate Change and Drought?

      The click of container lids and swoosh of zippers filled the air on a still morning in Saguaro National Park East.

      Tom Orum and his wife, Nancy Ferguson, pulled measuring equipment from the trunk of their dusty white truck, parked in a flat landscape of majestic saguaros towering over teddy bear cholla, prickly pear, woody shrubs and spiny plants.

      Orum, 71, and Ferguson, 74, have visited this spot for four decades. Their job is always the same: to monitor the health of more than 600 saguaros on 60 acres of the park. They’re the third generation to measure and monitor these iconic symbols of the West since 1941, and the work has become a treasured ritual for them.

      “It’s sort of like having roots yourself to get back to the same place and repeat a process year after year,” said Ferguson, a retired biologist dressed in jeans, a baseball cap and a gray T-shirt decorated with green saguaros.

    • Congress Must Stop USDA’s Animal Experiments, Says Whistleblower

      In December, the Senate introduced legislation called the Kittens in Traumatic Testing Ends Now (KITTEN) Act, the companion to a bipartisan House bill of the same name targeting outdated food safety experiments at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). As Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) explained to CNN when he introduced the bill, “The USDA breeds up to 100 kittens a year, feeds them parasite-infected meat in order to have the parasite’s eggs harvested for use in other experiments, and then kills the kittens. This bill would essentially stop this process.” To date, the project has consumed $22 million tax dollars and taken the lives of 3,000 kittens.

      I was disturbed, but not at all surprised, when I read about the experiment, because for two decades, I worked as a veterinarian and researcher at the USDA’s Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) in Nebraska, the world’s largest livestock research center. When I finally blew the whistle on the extensive government waste and animal abuse I witnessed at the USDA, it destroyed my career, and ultimately, my marriage. But I would do it again.

      As I explain in Natalie Portman’s recent documentary, Eating Animals, soon after starting at MARC, a colleague sought my assistance with a “downed cow” unable to stand on her own. The young heifer was corralled with six bulls in a sexual libido experiment. Libido is typically measured by placing one bull with one cow in heat for 15 minutes. However, the bulls continuously mounted the heifer, immobilized in a restraint device so she could not escape, for hours. Her back legs were broken. MARC denied me permission to euthanize her. She died hours later from her severe injuries.

    • From Premature Deaths to Planet-Heating Emissions, Analysis Reveals Costs of Trump’s Fossil Fuel Giveaways

      While the report, published Sunday, estimates that the fossil fuel industry could save up to $11.6 billion, other consequences include up to 1,400 more premature deaths per year, a jump of about a billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions that will further warm the planet, increased risk of water contamination, and fewer safety checks to prevent oil spills.

      [...]

      While the rollbacks analyzed are at different stages of implementation—five are pending and six are final—environmental and consumer advocacy groups have launched various legal challenges, citing the public and planetary health risks that many, including University of Chicago professor Michael Greenstone, a top economist for the Obama administration, claim federal agencies are understating.

      “When you start fudging the numbers, it’s not that the costs just evaporate into thin air. We will pay,” Greenstone told the AP. “They are reducing the costs for industries where pollution is a byproduct.”

      The AP report sparked outrage online, with one Twitter user concluding, “Trump is letting his corporate friends wreck the planet and our health.”

    • “Huge Win”: This County in Washington State Just Voted for a Moratorium on New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure

      Climate activists have their eyes on King County, Washington on Monday, where the city council is poised to vote on an ordinance that would put a moratorium on all new fossil fuel infrastructure within its jurisdiction.

      “We’re throwing a line in the sand for the future,” city councilmember Dave Upthegrove, who plans on introducing the meaure, told the Seattle Times. If successful, it would send “a clear message that, moving forward, King County is going to support clean energy technologies rather than fossil fuel.”

    • Factory Farms Pollute the Environment and Poison Drinking Water

      Hurricane Florence, which battered the US East Coast last September, left a trail of ruin and destruction estimated to cost between $17 billion and $22 billion. Some of the damage was all too visible — smashed homes and livelihoods. But other damage was less so, like the long-term environmental impacts in North Carolina from hog waste that spilled out over large open-air lagoons saturated in the rains.

      Hog waste can contain potentially dangerous pathogens, pharmaceuticals and chemicals. According to the state’s Department of Environmental Quality, as of early October, nearly 100 such lagoons were damaged, breached, or were very close to being so, the effluent from which can seep into waterways and drinking water supplies.

      Rather than an isolated problem, however, the story of North Carolina’s failure to properly manage its hog waste opens a door to what critics say is a much wider national and global issue: the increasingly extensive and varied impacts on our water resources, air and soils from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).

  • Finance

    • Apple just dismissed more than 200 employees from Project Titan, its autonomous vehicle group

      Apple dismissed just over 200 employees this week from Project Titan, its stealthy autonomous vehicle group, people familiar with the matter told CNBC.

    • Say goodbye to the 500 euro bills starting on Sunday

      It is already as of this Sunday that 17 of the 19 national central banks of the euro zone stop issuing notes of 500 euros. These notes will be collected and destroyed, however, they will retain their value for an unlimited period.

    • Citing $750 Million Tax Break for Amazon While Students Suffer, Teachers Walk Out in Virginia

      Fed up with plummeting school funds and low teacher salaries in a state that recently offered hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks to one of the world’s richest companies, unionized teachers and their allies in Virginia traveled to the state capital on Monday to demand state legislators begin fighting for them and students instead of for powerful corporations.

      The grassroots group Virginia Educators United and the 50,000-member Virginia Education Association (VEA) urged teachers to take a personal day to lobby state lawmakers and demand more funding for school renovations, teacher pay, and supplies. The call was answered by thousands of educators and supporters, who met on the steps of the capital in Richmond with many chanting, “Fund our schools!”

    • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 70 Percent Tax on the Rich Isn’t About Revenue, It’s About Decreasing Inequality

      Asked earlier in January by “60 Minutes,” how she might pay for a Green New Deal, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez noted that top marginal tax rates in the mid-20th century were “as high as 60 percent or 70 percent.” A slew of articles have since debated whether higher tax rates would actually raise much revenue. But these articles miss the point. Taxes on the very wealthy are corrective taxes, like tobacco taxes, that should be judged by their societal impact, not simply their revenues. The purpose of high tax rates on the rich is the reduction of vast fortunes that give a handful of people a level of power incompatible with democracy.

      Among progressive economists, Ocasio-Cortez’s comments have mostly been received with something akin to relief. Though top marginal income tax rates were, for decades, substantially higher than 70 percent, even Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 plan to fund “Medicare for All” tapped out at a top rate of 52 percent. For liberals, high tax proposals have long remained taboo. Now, it seems, that barrier has finally been broken.

    • A Year After ‘One of the Greatest Heists in US History,’ Survey Confirms Corporate Tax Cuts Didn’t Lead to Hiring and Raises for Workers

      The release of a new survey on Monday confirmed that corporations used the $1.5 trillion giveaway in the Republicans’ 2017 tax plan for their shareholders and top executives—not their workers or reinvesting in their businesses.

      The National Association of Business Economics’ (NABE) quarterly poll found that 84 percent of companies were not ramping up spending in the form of hiring, raises, and other capital investments.

      “The corporate tax reform has not caused their firms to change hiring or investment plans,” NABE president Kevin Swift said simply of the corporate leaders the group surveyed.

      The news came as no surprise to think tanks and advocacy groups like the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) and Americans for Tax Fairness—with some critics pointing to the survey as the latest evidence that “Trickle-down economics doesn’t work!”

    • John C. Bogle: Renaissance Money Manager for the People and More

      Ever the contrarian, in a November 29, 2018 Wall Street Journal article, Bogle warned about the index mutual funds – an industry he started – having too much power! The big three – Vanguard, Black Rock, and State Street Global dominate the field with a collective 81% share of index fund assets. He wrote: “if historical trends continue, a handful of giant institutional investors will one day hold voting control of virtually every large U.S corporation… I do not believe that such concentration would serve the national interest.”

      Rick Stengel, former managing editor of Time magazine and former president of the National Constitution Center, when Jack Bogle was the Board chair, described him as “the last honorable man, a complete straight-shooter.” In his 2008 book, Enough: True Measures of Money, Business and Life, Bogle ranged far beyond index funds and shareholders.

      The Philadelphia Inquirer put it well: he was “less interested in counting than in what counts. … He revered language, history, poetry, and classical wisdom, and frequently amazed and delighted people by reciting long passages of verse …a social critic, civic leader, mentor, and philanthropist.” He was also very courteous – striving to return calls and respond to letters, which makes him unique these days.

    • We Don’t Need A New Deal: We Need A Whole New Deck

      The gap between the earth’s wardens of wealth and the nearly eight billion humans under their control has grown wider and more dangerous but is beginning to be understood by some as a systemic problem and not simply a matter of evil leaders and villainous followers. When people see and feel their futures ranging from problematic at best to non-existent at worst, we get the resultant turmoil and changes taking place in nations moving in many directions at once but all of them against established power over things as they are.

      Whether votes are cast in elections labeled democratic though still under minority control, or issues are subject to mob rule of one extreme or another, they are producing governments at least rhetorically dedicated to change even if often dangerously confused or in merely cosmetic form. Nevertheless, those demanding change beyond simply continuing the rule of market forces under minority control are starting to move up and into more commanding roles in governments. Unfortunately, and especially in America, many still operate as though political change amounts to the candidates skin tone, religion or sex, neglecting the philosophy between their ears by concentrating more on the genitals between their thighs.

      Thus we have working people going to the polls and electing representatives of wealth operating against their interest but rhetorically speaking of change, which may mean reverting to earlier forms of capital private profit which still leave the public good in poor condition, or worse, sinking into megalomaniacal rule under populists (?) promising to dump even more wrath on those at or near the bottom. Meanwhile, more social democratic forms of capital rule which see the need for avoiding revolution by sharing a little more with the multitudes beginning to loudly complain, are also moving into positions of governmental power. This lesser evil of earlier stages, once called a “new deal” at capitalism’s last sign of collapse, is now dubbed a “green” new deal, in the face of massive environmental threats only denied by the brain dead among private profiteers, as in the old days when realistic capital supported social democracy even while the troglodytes of capital insisted it was dreadful socialism.

    • Yes, Low Unemployment Does Raise Wages

      In the fall of 2013, Jared Bernstein and I wrote a book called Getting Back to Full Employment: A Better Bargain for Working People. The main point of the book was that low unemployment rates disproportionately benefited those who are most disadvantaged in the labor market. For this reason, we argued for using macroeconomic policy to get the unemployment rate as low as possible, until inflation became a clear problem.

      At that time, the unemployment rate was still close to 7.0 percent. It was coming down from its Great Recession peak of 10.0 percent, but there were many economists, including some at the Federal Reserve Board, who argued that it should not be allowed to fall below a range between of 5.0–5.5 percent because lower rates of unemployment could trigger spiraling inflation. Our argument challenged that view.

      We felt the evidence that unemployment rates this high should pose any sort of floor for macroeconomic policy were weak. Given the enormous gains from allowing the unemployment rate to fall further, we argued the Fed should take the small risk of accelerating inflation, and allow the unemployment to continue to decline.

      Thankfully, Janet Yellen, who was then Fed chair, agreed with this position. (It helped that our friends with the Fed Up Coalition were also pushing hard in this direction.) Her replacement, Jerome Powell, seems to be following the same path, more or less.

    • Executives at Davos Are Eager for Automation

      Donald Trump has often mentioned bringing back manufacturing jobs, 5.5 million of which were lost in the U.S. from 2000 to 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But while the president blames trade deals for the job losses, economic experts and officials, including from the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University, see another culprit: the rise in automation, with machines taking over positions that had been only performed by humans.

      While 72 percent of Americans are very or somewhat worried about the prospect of automation, as the Pew Charitable Trust found in 2017, one group that remains unfazed, perhaps even enthusiastic about the prospect of a robot-worker future, are the wealthy attendees of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, according to a Davos dispatch from Kevin Roose in The New York Times. “They’ll never admit it in public,” Roose writes, “but many of your bosses want machines to replace you as soon as possible.”

      Publicly, Roose continued, attendees “wring their hands” over most lost jobs, but in private, “they are racing to automate their own workforces to stay ahead of the competition, with little regard for the impact on workers.”

      Mohit Joshi, president of Infosys, a firm that helps other companies automate their operations, told Roose that more companies are coming to Infosys with ever-increasing goals for achieving more profits with fewer workers; “Earlier they had incremental, 5 to 10 percent goals in reducing their workforce, Now they’re saying, ‘Why can’t we do it with 1 percent of the people we have?’”

    • Zimbabwe’s Capitalist Crisis: Imperial Vultures and Subimperial Doves Both Turn Away From Economic Carcass

      The most crucial potential bailout lender for Zimbabwe is still the much-feared IMF, to which Robert Mugabe’s regime (questionably) repaid all arrears in late 2016. A series of self-delegitimizing 21st-century leaders have helped reduce its reputation: Rodrigo Rato (jailed last October for bank fraud), Dominique Strauss-Kahn (resigned in disgrace but demanded IMF support for his 2011 rape trial) and still today (after a guilty verdict in 2016 for corruption ‘negligence’ in France), Christine Lagarde. Nevertheless, the institution remains the global policeman for the entire financial world, and since 1984 it has pummelled Zimbabwe into austerity and structural adjustment.

      In early 2018, IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice endorsed the neoliberal path Mugabe’s coup-based successor Emmerson Mnangagwa had chosen for Zimbabwe: “The authorities are cognizant of these challenges that they face and the economy is facing and they’ve expressed their determination to address them. The 2018 budget which they presented on December 7th, so about a month ago, stresses the government’s intentions to reimpose budget discipline, reform and open the economy, and engage with the broader international community, which is ongoing and important in terms of arrears clearance.” For budget shrinkage, he specifically recommended more agricultural subsidy cuts.

      Again last September, as pro-IMF finance minister Mthuli Ncube took office, Rice made clear that his staff “stand ready to help the authorities design a reform package that can help facilitate the clearance of external payment arrears to international development banks and bilateral official creditors and that then would open the way for fresh financing from the internal community including potentially the IMF. But, again, just to stress as we said before, potential financial support from the Fund is conditional on the clearance of those arrears to the World Bank, the AFDB and financing assurances from bilateral official creditors. We are working with the Zimbabwean authorities in the meantime to provide policy advice and technical assistance that might help, could help move that process forward.”

    • Workers lead the way against austerity in Zimbabwe

      ZIMBABWE IS in the throes of a massive crisis. Huge price hikes — including a 150 percent rise in the price of fuel — have been imposed by the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa on top of acute shortages in medicine and food, and widespread unemployment.

      In response, thousands of Zimbabweans have taken to the streets, to be met with violence at the hands of government security forces. Hundreds of protesters — branded “terrorists” by the government — have been arrested, beaten or killed.

      On January 13, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions called a three-day general strike in opposition to the hikes, and the government retaliated with accusations of “government subversion” and the arrests of labor leaders and activists.

    • Looking for the economic smoking gun that got us here

      BACK in primary school we used to wear these uniforms with a logo that said, “Knowledge is power” and so, in the interests of empowering fellow citizens with the right insights, I decided to pen this article.

      Unless the ordinary citizen knows who is poisoning the well, we may never get out of this hole that someone has seemingly dug for us. We may even unwittingly help the digger and dig even harder than them. And so, it is my wish to explain in the simplest of terms what’s really going on here and what it’s likely to translate to in the coming near to medium term.

      So, what is really going on in Zimbabwe, why is the economy getting worse instead of better after the New Dispensation? Why are we in a state of unrest right now? Why can’t we just replicate the exact same blueprint employed during the GNU and get the country back on a recovery path?

    • Chinese Court Creates App To Alert Citizens Of Deadbeat Debtors In Their Area

      No one’s ever going to confuse China for a free and open country, but it seems like the government is trying just a bit too hard to let citizens know they belong to the government, rather than the other way around.

      Just recently, the government began engaging in door-to-door censorship, sending cops to citizens’ houses to order them to delete forbidden tweets. That’s certainly not going to help the tweeter’s Citizen Score — a dystopian credit score that takes far more than debt into account to measure the worthiness of the country’s billion-plus citizens. The score tracks purchases, social circles, and online opinions to raise and lower scores. Certain purchases will raise scores while others that the government doesn’t consider worthwhile (like videogames) will lower it.

      It’s far worse than that, though. Low-scoring members of your social circle can lower your score as well, forcing people to ditch their unhelpful friends and replace them with people more closely aligned with the government’s preferences. There are perks attached to higher scores, which basically give citizens the privilege to travel after they’ve proven themselves worthy servants of the state.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Real Facebook Oversight Requires More Than a 40-Expert Board

      Contrast that with what Facebook is trying to do. In its charter, the company suggests creating a body of up to 40 “independent experts” to review Facebook’s most contentious content moderation decisions, in order to cast the final vote on whether a given post or comment should stay or go and how that should alter Facebook’s policies in the future. This board would be choosing not from thousands of cases each term but potentially several million cases every week. And its decisions would affect the world’s 2.3 billion Facebook users, a population that’s roughly seven times the size of the United States.

    • Facebook unveils plans for preventing spread of misinformation ahead of elections worldwide

      Facebook also said it will begin assembling information on ads in the European Union, India, Ukraine and Israel, which all have elections coming up. That information will be placed in a library available for users to peruse for up to seven years, the company said, adding that library will include information on the number of people the ad reached, the demographics of who saw the ad, and the budget of the advertisement.

    • Facebook blocks third-party tools that collect information on political ads

      According to both ProPublica and British activist group Who Targets Me, which also operates its own ad transparency tool, Facebook disabled browser plugins that would collect information about political ads and why those ads were being shown to a particular Facebook user earlier this month, using a snippet of JavaScript code that prevents computers from automating the clicking of the “Why am I seeing this?” option under sponsored posts. Mozilla, which operates the Firefox browser and offers a similar extension of its own, said the same, ProPublica confirmed.

    • Mark Zuckerberg’s WSJ op-ed was a message to would-be regulators: Hands off our ad business
    • Lawrence Lessig on designing a corruption-resistant democracy for a virtual world
    • A Onetime Rising Democratic Star Faces Questions About Voter Privacy

      In an appearance on MSNBC in July 2017, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes expressed her vehement opposition to giving voter data to President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission, which had requested it from election officials in all 50 states. The privacy risks were simply too high, she said.

      “There is not enough bourbon here in Kentucky to make this request seem sensible,” Grimes said. “Not on my watch are we going to be releasing sensitive information that relates to the privacy of individuals.”

      But beginning months before she made that statement, Grimes’ own staff had been looking up hundreds of voters in the very same registration system. One of her former staffers first revealed the practice last summer but provided little detail.

    • Brokaw Says He Feels Terrible Commentary Offended Hispanics

      NBC’s Tom Brokaw says he feels terrible that his comments on “Meet the Press” Sunday that Hispanics should work harder at assimilation “offended some members of that proud culture.”

      The former “NBC Nightly News” anchor tweeted in response to a social media backlash to what he had said earlier in the day during a discussion of the proposed border wall.

      On the show, Brokaw said that many Republicans fear the rise of a new constituency in American politics “who will come here and all be Democrats.

    • “It Can’t Be Warren and It Can’t Be Sanders”: Wall Street Executives Make 2020 Preferences Known

      The first 2020 Democratic presidential primary is still over a year away, but Wall Street executives are reportedly already freaking out about two likely progressive candidates: Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

      “It can’t be Warren and it can’t be Sanders,” the CEO of a “giant bank” anonymously told Politico, which reported on Monday that Wall Street executives are “getting panicked” about the presidential prospects of the Senate’s two fiercest financial sector critics.

    • Critics Say Howard Schultz “Seriously Considering” 2020 Run Shows He’s Not Qualified for Position

      The announcement by Howard Schultz on Sunday that he is “seriously considering” a 2020 run for president was proof enough for some critics that the billionaire, former CEO of Starbucks, and self-described “independent centrist” is definitely not qualified for the position.

      In messages on social media and an interview on 60 Minutes, Schultz announced his consideration while also championing a new memoir and launching a three-month book tour to promote it alongside his political ideas. Among those ideological positions is his belief that while it’s possible and good to build a global business empire in order to provide people around the world with subjectively “delicious” and “overpriced” coffee it remains impossible, as he argued on 60 Minutes, to improve and expand Medicare so that every single American is covered.

      “Every American deserves the right to have access to quality health care. But what the Democrats are proposing is something that is as false as the wall,” said Schultz as he compared President Trump’s xenophobic border wall to a single-payer system, which polls show 7 in 10 Americans now support, including 84 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans. “That is free health care for all,” Schultz falsely claimed, “which the country cannot afford.”

      Contrary to Schultz’s assertion, a study released in November showed that a Medicare for All system in the United States could save the country $5.1 trillion over ten years. Progressives did not let the former executives remark go by without comment.

    • Howard Schultz’s amateur-hour politics: Please God, not another egotistical billionaire

      Over the past few months there’s been a lot of chatter about former New York mayor and multibillionaire Michael Bloomberg throwing his hat into the ring for president. If he does run, he reportedly plans to do so in the Democratic Party, as an alternative to all the crazy progressives. Good luck with that.

      On Sunday, we got confirmation that yet another multibillionaire is seriously considering a run: Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks.

      What in the world are these people thinking? After two years of Donald Trump, do either of these men really think the nation is yearning for another wealthy businessman in the White House? I realize that this idea of “running the country like a business” has been a popular trope for many years, but one might have thought the current disastrous experiment would have provided considerable evidence of what a fatuous idea that is. From Trump to Jared Kushner to Rex Tillerson to Wilbur Ross to Steve Mnuchin and beyond, the private sector folks in government haven’t exactly covered themselves with glory.

    • Facebook Moves to Block Ad Transparency Tools — Including Ours

      A number of organizations, including ProPublica, have developed tools to let the public see exactly how Facebook users are being targeted by advertisers.

      Now, Facebook has quietly made changes to its site that stop those efforts.

      ProPublica, Mozilla and Who Targets Me have all noticed their tools stopped working this month after Facebook inserted code in its website that blocks them.

      “This is very concerning,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., who has co-sponsored the Honest Ads Act, which would require transparency on Facebook ads. “Investigative groups like ProPublica need access to this information in order to track and report on the opaque and frequently deceptive world of online advertising.”

      For the past year and a half, ProPublica has been building a searchable database of political ads and the segments of the population advertisers are paying to reach. We did this by enlisting thousands of volunteers who installed a web browser extension. The tool shared the ads users see as well as Facebook’s details on why the users were targeted.

    • There’s a wider scandal suggested by the Trump investigations

      The scope of financial crimes unearthed so far by state and federal authorities investigating President Trump and his associates is remarkable.

      Paul Manafort was found guilty of bank and tax fraud, and faces another trial involving charges of money laundering.

      Former campaign adviser Rick Gates pleaded guilty to financial fraud.

      Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to tax evasion and illegal campaign donations. The Trump Foundation was just dissolved over what the New York attorney general described as “a shocking pattern of illegality.”

      And authorities opened new investigations following a recent New York Times exposé describing hundreds of millions of dollars of potential financial fraud by the Trump family.

      Even more remarkable is what these investigations tell us about the levels of criminality among America’s business and political elite.

    • A Survival Guide to Two More Years

      It’s doubtful he’ll be leaving anytime soon. Even an impeachment will drag out for a long time. Here are 7 suggestions for what to do to survive in the meantime:

    • After Standing Ovation at Sundance, Ocasio-Cortez Says ‘All Hands on Deck’ Against ‘Systemic Injustices’ That Led to Trump

      Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who told the audience that just getting rid of President Donald Trump will not be enough to repair the nation’s ills, received a standing ovation at the Sundance Film Festival as she appeared via Skype at the Sunday premiere of a documentary featuring her grassroots campaign and stunning primary upset last year.

      “I think overall, we need to realize that our democracy does belong to us, and when we don’t participate in it, when we don’t invest in it, when we don’t put our own energy into it, what we are doing is we are giving it away to somebody else, and we give it away usually to a very small group of people,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

    • The Roger Stone Indictment Poses a Major Legal Threat to Trump

      It’s hard to see Roger Stone as the victim of prosecutorial overreach, as some on the right claim, even in the aftermath of Stone’s dramatic predawn arrest last Friday by a heavily armed FBI tactical response team.

      Now white-haired and 66 years old, the longtime Republican political consultant, confidant to President Donald Trump and self-described “dirty trickster” was hauled into a Fort Lauderdale courtroom after being taken into custody. Shackled at the waist and wrists, he listened as a federal magistrate informed him he had been indicted by a grand jury under the direction of Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller for obstruction of justice, witness tampering and lying to Congress.

      Ever arrogant and defiant, Stone emerged later on the courthouse steps after posting bail of $250,000. Arms raised in a Nixon-style victory salute, he proclaimed his innocence and denounced the case against him as politically motivated. He maintained the charges “relate in no way to Russian collusion … or any other crime in connection with the 2016 [presidential] campaign.”

    • “Where’s My Roy Cohn?”: Film Explores How Joseph McCarthy’s Ex-Aide Mentored Trump & Roger Stone

      Former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone, who was arrested on Friday, and Donald Trump share a unique history: Both were heavily influenced by the infamous attorney Roy Cohn, who served as a chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy during the Red Scare in the 1950s and would later become a leading mob attorney. Cohn represented Trump for years and once claimed he considered Trump to be his best friend. Cohn is the subject of a new documentary at the Sundance Film Festival titled “Where’s My Roy Cohn?” We speak to the film’s director, Matt Tyrnauer.

    • A Very “Informed” Elizabeth Warren Explains Exactly Why Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan Should Be Fired

      U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Monday reiterated her calls for Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan to be fired, saying, “His hands are too dirty from overseeing years of scams and scandals.”

      The Massachusetts Democrat—who recently announced a 2020 exploratory committee—outlined her reasoning in an eight-part Twitter thread. It came in response to Sloan’s interview Friday with CNBC’s Jim Cramer, who said, referring to Warren, “Tim, she wants you gone.”

      Sloan responded by saying she “can have that opinion,” and asserted that he’s “taken responsibility” since he took over as CEO in 2016 after serving as the bank’s president and Chief Operating Officer (COO). “We were going to make things right by customers,” he told Cramer. “And we were going to be very transparent about it. And we’ve done all that.”

      While Sloan accused Warren of not being “informed” about his record, the senator retorted that she’s “actually been paying pretty close attention, and I’ve got a long list of reasons why I think he should be fired.”

    • ‘Putin’s chef’ is reportedly trying to take control of St. Petersburg’s coming gubernatorial election

      Russia’s most mysterious businessman — the tycoon with empires in catering, media, and mercenary work — is back in the headlines, thanks to a new investigative report for the independent television network Dozhd by journalist Olga Churakova, who says political strategists tied to Evgeny Prigozhin are vying for control of acting St. Petersburg Governor Alexander Beglov’s fall election campaign.

      According to Dozhd, Prigozhin’s media outlets have published more than 1,300 puff pieces about Beglov since October 2018, and his “troll factory” has been busy promoting primitive cartoons where the governor is depicted as an uncompromising, efficient city official who enjoys Vladimir Putin’s personal support. Earlier this month, Prigozhin’s Internet bots even peppered local online communities with rave reviews for the city’s snow removal. “St. Petersburg is literally being licked clean!” several suspicious accounts claimed.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Protest Song Of The Week: ‘Good Old American Values’ By Lula Wiles

      One of the more political tunes on the album is “Good Old American Values.” The lyrics are a biting satirical critique of America’s long history of subjugation of Native Americans.

      For Obomsawin, who is of Abenaki descent, there are personal reasons for recording this song. In the album’s liner notes, Obomsawin shares, “As an indigenous songwriter, I hope that it becomes equally unacceptable to write and sing anti-Native lyrics as it now is to write and sing anti-black lyrics.

      “Unfortunately, Indian hating is a good old American tradition. In fact, American culture has depended on it,” Obomsawin adds. “The best I can offer is to reclaim and re-purpose the rhetorical and aesthetic space of country music carved out for me by colonialism, in pursuit of beauty and truth.”

    • Ted Rall, Robert Manning, and Kenneth Dubroff

      Author and editorial cartoonist Ted Rall is the first guest; he explains the latest developments in his legal battle with the Los Angeles Times, and the wider problem of how big corporations now use anti-SLAPP statues to stop less-powerful plaintiffs from having their cases heard by juries
      In the second half of the show, Robert Manning and Kenneth Dubroff introduce a new grassroots-based nuclear-disarmament advocacy group they created, and how they hope to influence decision-makers. They point out that the nuclear nations’ arsenals of today are even more dangerous than those of the 1960s.

    • Guy Who Forged A Court Order To Delist Content Issues More Bogus Takedown Notices To Remove Posts Discussing His Forgery

      That’s not what DMCA notices are for, even if any of these assertions were true. But none of it is true, starting from word one. The publication of a criminal complaint cannot be defamatory, and in no way did Volokh “bully” or “threaten” Don Lichterman, who previously forged a court order to try to remove content detailing him being sued for copyright infringement. Volokh covered this case, as he has several others where the same tactics (forged court documents) have been used.

      The DMCA notice doesn’t even claim there’s been any copyright infringement. I guess that’s a good thing, considering one of the URLs targeted links to the criminal complaint filed against Lichterman for forging a court order.

      The second notice is a bit more on point, even though it’s no more honest than the first one. This one is a delisting request tied to a court order, so there’s no abuse of the DMCA process. That being said, the court order doesn’t say what Lichterman wants it to say. Here’s Volokh’s summation of the second bogus takedown attempt.

    • Attempt to Get Google to Vanish My Article About a Forged Court Order

      Since late 2016, I’ve been blogging about various fraudulent or otherwise suspect attempts to try to get material deindexed by Google, or removed by hosting companies. Many companies will deindex or remove material if they see a court order (even one not addressed to them) that finds the material to be libelous or otherwise illegal (whether criminal, tortious, or infringing some property right). But that has led some people to submit, for instance, forged court orders, hoping that the recipients won’t check them. Back in April 2017, I blogged about two such incidents (paywall-free version); one of the incidents had led to a federal forgery prosecution…

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Undercover agents target Toronto-based cybersecurity watchdog Citizen Lab, which reported key details in Khashoggi case

      Who these operatives are working for remains a riddle, but their tactics recall those of private investigators who assume elaborate false identities to gather intelligence or compromising material on critics of powerful figures in government or business.

      Citizen Lab, based out of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, has for years played a leading role in exposing state-backed [crackers] operating in places as far afield as Tibet , Ethiopia and Syria. Lately the group has drawn attention for its repeated exposes of an Israeli surveillance software vendor called the NSO Group, a firm whose wares have been used by governments to target journalists in Mexico , opposition figures in Panama and human rights activists in the Middle East .

    • Dozens Of Privacy Experts Tell The California Legislature That Its New Privacy Law Is Badly Undercooked

      Here at Techdirt we’ve taken issue with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), not because there’s anything wrong with online privacy, or even all online privacy regulation. But there’s definitely something wrong with regulating it badly. As we’ve seen with the GDPR, not only does poor regulation struggle to deliver any of the intended benefit, but it also causes all sorts of other harm. Thus it’s enormously important to get this sort of regulation right.

      But that’s not the current iteration of the CCPA. Born out of an attempt at political blackmail, rather than considered and transparent policy making, even with several small attempts at improvements, it suffers from several showstopping infirmities.

    • The 5G Protocol May Still Be Vulnerable to IMSI Catchers

      It’s hard to talk about the vulnerabilities in cellular technology without increasing the amount of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. There is already much uncertainty around cell-site simulators (CSS, aka Stingrays), their capabilities, and how widely they are used. Partly this is because of the veil of secrecy that has surrounded the workings of commercial cell-site simulators thanks to the widespread use of non-disclosure agreements by the manufacturing companies like Rayzone and Harris Corporation. The privacy threats posed by CSSs are undoubtedly dire, but we need to keep our hypothesis about their capabilities and the scope of their use grounded in facts and research.

      One good source for research about potential capabilities for cell site simulators has been academia. A number of fantastic papers explore vulnerabilities in 2G, 3G, and 4G which are potentially the same ones exploited by commercial CSSs.

      The upcoming 5G protocol for cellular communications promised many improvements over the current 4G standard, including a claim that it would protect mobile users from cell-site simulators. But here’s the catch: new research suggests that it won’t. Researchers from ETH Zurich and Technische Universität Berlin have discovered that a flaw in the Authentication and Key Agreement (AKA) protocol (used in 3G, 4G, and the upcoming 5G standard) allows for a new privacy attack against all variants of the protocol.

    • Study Again Finds That Most VPNs Are Shady As Hell

      When a well-lobbied Congress eliminated consumer privacy protections for broadband back in 2017, many folks understandably rushed to VPNs for some additional privacy and protection. And indeed, many ISPs justified their lobbying assault on the rules by stating that users didn’t need privacy protections, since they could simply use a VPN to fully protect their online activity. But we’ve noted repeatedly that VPNs are not some kind of panacea, and in many instances you’re simply shifting the potential for abuse from your ISP to a VPN provider that may not actually offer the privacy it claims.

    • Why Data Privacy Is About More Than Just Security

      Jan. 28 is Data Privacy Day—a day to raise awareness about how the things and services we interact with online and in person collect data and what organizations and end users can do to limit risks.

      Data Privacy Day is not a new event, but incidents that occurred in the past year have perhaps made the need for better data privacy even more pronounced. In 2018, the Facebook scandal involving data misuse by Cambridge Analytica broke, revealing that the information from millions of user profiles was used by a third party without user consent. Also in 2018, a reported breach from Marriott Hotels’ Starwood division impacted the data privacy of hundreds of millions more users. Beyond data breaches, 2018 was also the year in which the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went in effect, providing a set of compliance regulations that organizations need to follow to help protect user privacy.

      In the spirit of Data Privacy Day, eWEEK presents data points and tips on things that both end users and organizations can do to help keep data private.

    • What data privacy means and how to guard it in 2019

      We have mixed feelings about Data Privacy Day. On one hand, we’re very much in favor of empowering people and businesses to think about data privacy and how they can better manage and protect their personal data. On the other hand, only one day per year? We think about data privacy a lot more than that, and you should too!

      In the words of the National Cyber Security Alliance, Data Privacy Day “is an international effort to empower individuals and encourage businesses to respect privacy, safeguard data and enable trust.”

    • Zuckerberg Bashed By Ex-Classmate: “50% Facebook Users Are Fake”

      An ex-classmate of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has given very bold statements about the social media giant, claiming that 50% of the profiles on the platform are fake.

      In the report, Aaron Greenspan, the old Harvard pal of the CEO, alleges that there is no way to measure the company’s true Monthly User Base (MAU) accurately.

    • GDPR makes it easier to get your data, but that doesn’t mean you’ll understand it

      According to the UK data protection regulator, the ICO, companies must provide all personal data — defined as any data that relates to an identified or identifiable individual — on request. The information must be provided to the individual in a “concise, transparent, intelligible and easily accessible form, using clear and plain language” in a “commonly used electronic format.” It sounds simple enough, but how did each of the four tech giants do?

    • Privacy Groups Claim Online Ads Can Target Abuse Victims

      New documents filed Monday with regulators in Poland, the UK, and Ireland claim that the way personal data is handled during the process of matching advertisements to ad slots does not comply with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, a strict set of consumer privacy rules that went into effect in May.

    • Ireland is questioning Facebook’s plan to merge Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp
  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • America’s 7 Racist Exclusions: From Muslim Visa Ban to 1930s Exclusion of Jews

      1. Chinese Buddhists Both racism and religious bigotry built up toward Chinese-Americans brought in from 1849 to build the trans-American railroad. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first time a whole people was excluded from the United States. In the prejudiced language of the day, that Chinese were Buddhists, Confucianists or Taoists, i.e. “pagans” or “heathens” from an Evangelical point of view, was one of the reasons they should be kept out of the country. The total exclusion lasted until 1943, when 100 Chinese a year began being admitted, which was not much different from total exclusion. In 1965 the Immigration Act ended racial and religious exclusions based on racism and religious fanaticism, including of Chinese. Chinese-Americans have made enormous contributions to the United States, despite the long decades during which they were excluded or disrespected.

      2. Japanese Buddhists. In 1907-08, the US and Japan concluded a “gentlemen’s agreement” whereby Japan would limit the number of passports it issued to Japanese wanting to come to the United States. In turn, the city of San Francisco agreed to end the legal segregation of Japanese-Americans in that city (yes, they had their very own Jim Crow). Not satisfied with the agreement, in 1924 racist Congressmen ended Japanese immigration completely. This action angered Japan and set the two countries on a path of enmity.

    • ‘Democrats Can Stop This’: Ahead of Fourth Vote, Senate Pressured to Defeat ‘Unconstitutional’ Attack on Right to Protest

      Targeting key Democratic senators directly on Twitter, MoveOn.org asked: “What’s one of the first things the Senate will vote on after finally opening the government?”

      “Answer: Undermining the First Amendment right to protest by penalizing those participating in the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions [BDS] movement. No Senate Democrats should vote for this,” the group wrote. “There’s no ‘compromise’ that can come out of Republicans trying to sign away our rights. Any legislation that seeks to penalize or criminalize BDS participation is an attack on free speech and peaceful protest.”

    • The Legal System Has Failed Black Girls, Women, and Non-Binary Survivors of Violence

      The silencing of and structural biases against Black survivors can have devastating consequences — including their incarceration.

      Following the airing of Lifetime’s six-part docuseries, “Surviving R. Kelly,” — which describes decades of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse he allegedly perpetrated against Black girls and women — many of Kelly’s fans and supporters continue to rally around the singer-songwriter and even place blame on his accusers for being “fast.”

      This is not surprising. Studies have shown that Black girls, women, and non-binary people are hyper-vulnerable to abuse. About 22 percent of Black women in the United States have experienced rape. Forty percent will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime. And Black women are killed at a higher rate than any other group of women. A 2015 survey of Black trans and non-binary individuals found that 53 percent have experienced sexual violence, and 56 percent have experienced domestic violence. At least 16 Black trans people were reportedly murdered in 2018 alone.

      When abuse occurs, they are less likely to be believed and supported. A report published by Georgetown Law Center found that “adults view Black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than their white peers.” Black girls are perceived to be more independent, more knowledgeable about sex, and in less need of protection.

    • Reconstructing the Politics of Power via MLK

      Politics should no longer be an abstract notion for young people, but a concrete method to bring about long-term reforms, which younger generations could build on.

      Is the politics of Martin Luther King Jr. relevant today? Can the revival of his political ideology compel millenials to recognize the influence that the local community can exercise, and to think constructively about change within organizations and institutions?

      The motivation to create empire brought major parts of the earth under the domination of a few powers. These powers used violent, ideological, and cultural practices for disseminating the values that molded the racial and cultural identity of the colonizer as well as the colonized. Western imperialism and colonialism were violent acts of acquisition that were supported by ideological notions of the superiority of the dominant culture and the purported imbecility of non-European cultures. This strategy created an unbridgeable gulf between the “center” and the “margin.”

    • Michelle Alexander Opened A Door

      This past Sunday, The New York Times featured on the front page of its “Week in Review” section a major column by Michelle Alexander: “Time to Break the Silence on Palestine.” It was, by any measure, an important article because of who wrote it, where it appeared, and its breathtaking indictment of both Israel’s history of violations of Palestinian rights and the silence of U.S. policymakers to address these outrageous behaviors.

      As a renowned civil rights attorney and author of the best-selling The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Alexander has a voice that matters. Although in the past the Times has run a few opinion pieces critical of Israel, the placement and promotion given to this article guaranteed that it would gain national attention. And it did. Millions read it, tens of thousands commented on it, and scores of others wrote columns favorably reviewing Alexander’s observations.

    • “Wet’suwet’en Strong”: Indigenous resistance in Canada

      Colonialism in Canada is alive and present. It wields enormous ongoing violence against us Indigenous people through disappearing and murdering our women, two-spirit, and trans people; through lack of clean drinking water; dire housing conditions and shortages; and the highest rates of poverty, and incarceration, of any group of people within Canada. The underlying motivation that propels all of this violence is the state’s age-old war for Indigenous land.

    • Construction supervisor who helped build Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome reportedly found dead with self-inflicted gunshot wound

      One of the key figures involved in supervising the construction of Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome spaceport has shot and killed himself, according to the news agency RIA Novosti. Dmitry Savin, the former head of the state company “Dalspetsstroy,” was reportedly discovered at his home in Moscow’s Vykhino-Zhulebino District late on January 27 with a self-inflicted head wound from a handgun registered in his name, according to the news agency Moskva.

    • The Criminal Justice System Is Relying On Tech To Do Its Job And That’s Just Going To Make Everything Worse

      The criminal justice system appears to be outsourcing a great deal of its work. On the law enforcement side, automatic license plate readers, facial recognition tech, and predictive policing have replaced beat cops walking the streets and patrolling the roads. Over on the judicial side, analytic software is helping make sentencing decisions. This is supposed to make the system better by removing bias and freeing up government personnel to handle more difficult duties algorithms can’t handle.

      As is the case with most things government, it works better in theory than in practice. ALPRs create massive databases of people’s movements, accessible by a hundreds of law enforcement agencies subject to almost zero oversight. More is known about facial recognition’s failures than its successes, due to inherent limitations that churn out false positives at an alarming rate. Predictive policing is the algorithmic generation of self-fulfilling prophecies, building on historical crime data to suggest future crimes will occur in high crime areas.

      While the judicial side might seem more promising because it could prevent judges from acting on their biases when handing down sentences, the software can only offer guidance that can easily be ignored. That and the software introduces its own biases based on the data it’s fed.

    • Freddie. King. (Freddie DeBoer and Martin Luther King, That Is.)

      “They have excised the parts of King’s legacy that are incompatible with the way they comport themselves in political life,” he writes.

      Perhaps I’m feeling a little defensive, because I first adopted the practice Freddie describes back in 2011 with a Huffington Post piece called “Today’s Visionary, Not Yesterday’s Celebrity.” And perhaps I’m more defensive than I should be because my prose seems somewhat overzealous and stilted to me now, especially as pieces like this become more common. Reading it today. I wince a little. (Maybe Freddie’s on the right track with those deletions, after all.)

      He’s right. I didn’t write about MLK’s inclusivity or calls for dialogue in that piece. Most other leftists don’t, either, when they write about King. But it wasn’t a surgical excision (“excise” is a pretty loaded word) in my case, and I don’t think it has been for the other King-the-radical pieces I’ve read.

    • Russian geological company executive loses job after ‘Twitch’ footage shows him bragging about sex with subordinates

      Ruslan Gorring is no longer a deputy director at the Russian state geological company Rosgeo, following the publication of scandalous online footage. Earlier this week, the Telegram channel Mediakiller shared a montage of Gorring’s outbursts on the live streaming video platform Twitch, where he threatened real-world violence against fellow PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds players. In another clip, Gorring speaks to a young woman who apparently works at Rosgeo whom he once fired for ordering him business-class — not first-class — plane tickets.

      In the video, Gorring bullies the woman into recalling how he rehired her to work at a Rosgeo subsidiary to serve as his mole in the staff. He then brags about sleeping with four coworkers at the company, calling them “kitties” and “princesses,” while insisting that his female employees spend their time discussing his sexual conquests. At the end of the video, Gorring says he has a meeting scheduled soon with his boss (presumably Rosgeo head Roman Panov) and the billionaire Leonid Mikhelson.

    • All of the extremist killings in the US in 2018 had links to right-wing extremism, according to new report

      Every extremist killing in the US in 2018 had a link to a right-wing extremism, according to a new report from the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.

      The report zeroes in on incidents such as the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February 2018, and the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in October 2018.

      There were at least 50 extremist-related killings in the US in 2018, according to the report, making it the fourth-deadliest year on record for domestic extremist-related killings since 1970.

    • Colorado’s Ban on “Conversion Therapy” Won’t Stop the Catholic Church

      State Senate Majority Leader Stephen Fenberg (D-Boulder) introduced the measure on Thursday and expects it to pass. So-called conversion therapy is opposed by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychological Association.

    • Ex-IBM Executive Says She Was Told Not to Disclose Names of Employees Over Age 50 Who’d Been Laid Off

      In sworn testimony filed recently as part of a class-action lawsuit against IBM, a former executive says she was ordered not to comply with a federal agency’s request that the company disclose the names of employees over 50 who’d been laid off from her business unit.

      Catherine A. Rodgers, a vice president who was then IBM’s senior executive in Nevada, cited the order among several practices she said prompted her to warn IBM superiors the company was leaving itself open to allegations of age discrimination. She claims she was fired in 2017 because of her warnings.

      Company spokesman Edward Barbini labeled Rodgers’ claims related to potential age discrimination “false,” adding that the reasons for her firing were “wholly unrelated to her allegations.”

    • 25 Democrats Join GOP to Advance Anti-Boycott Bill Bernie Sanders Warns Violates “Americans’ First Amendment Rights”

      In the Senate’s first vote since the government shutdown ended last week, 25 Democrats teamed up with the Republican majority Monday night to advance anti-boycott legislation that Palestinian rights groups and civil libertarians have denounced as a brazen attack on the First Amendment rights of those protesting the brutal Israeli occupation.

      [...]

      While the 25 Democratic senators who crossed the aisle were denounced for voting to end debate on Senate Bill 1 (S.1)—which legal experts have decried as “unconstitutional”—the 19 Democrats and one independent who voted no were applauded for taking a firm stand for free expression.

      “Disappointing vote to undermine free speech rights for Palestinian freedom, but encouraging 19 senators understand minimal credibility as a progressive now includes standing up for freedom to boycott,” said Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace.

    • An Affront To Justice

      Amidst our grim, slow slide into a police state where almost no one is safe comes a new report showing ICE arrests of undocumented immigrants at courthouses in New York state have risen a staggering 1,700% since Trump’s coronation. The report, “The Courthouse Trap,” was released Monday by the nonprofit Immigrant Defense Project. It tells of not just rising numbers but increasing brutality, broader scope and an alarming loosening of the rule of law, all while ICE’s bullies and racists often target the most vulnerable – young people, survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking, and victims of other crimes.

      The allegations, collected from lawyers, legal aid groups and the Project’s hotline, include horrific instances of ICE thugs tackling people, pulling guns on them, dragging them from cars in front of their stunned kids, slamming family members against walls, trailing and assaulting their (pregnant) lawyers and otherwise terrorizing them. Many perpetrators are plainclothes agents who use unmarked cars and (illegally) refuse to identify themselves; in one case, they so violently, anonymously grabbed and dragged away a man in Brooklyn his distraught mother thought he was being kidnapped – which, really, he was.

      The report also found ICE attacks had reached into upstate, previously untouched areas, and into once- sacrosanct locations like civil, family, juvenile, small claims and rehabilitative justice courts – that, despite a 2018 pledge to avoid “enforcement actions at sensitive locations.” New York City accounts for about 75% of arrests, which went from 11 in 2016 to over 200 in 2018 – part of a record increase in ICE detentions around the country. ICE doesn’t want to acknowledge what critics call the “affront to justice” against people who, lest we forget, have committed no crimes. Like any good Gestapo member, a spokesperson responded to a query about numbers with, “Unfortunately, we can’t speak to the data you’ve referenced.”

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Canadians Pay The Highest Rates For Wireless Data, And The US Is About To Follow Suit

      However bad American broadband and wireless service can be, generally speaking Canadians have it worse. Plagued by the same sort of revolving door regulator approach taken in the US, Canada pretty routinely makes an even poorer showing than the United States when it comes to broadband pricing, availability, and service quality. And, just like the United States, Canada’s solution is often to appoint industry lobbyists to positions of power, who immediately get to work making things worse for their entrenched incumbent pals. Here in the States that’s Ajit Pai; in Canada it’s Ian Scott.

      Needless to say, installing revolving door industry sycophants to solve problems the industry refuses to even acknowledge doesn’t work out particularly well for consumers, competition, startups, or innovation in general — as consumers and small businesses run face first into entirely unnecessary usage constraints. Constraints made worse if you’ve, say, killed off net neutrality protections, or have net neutrality protections nobody actually wants to enforce.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Will Apple v. Qualcomm (April 15 in San Diego) be a $50 billion trial?

      The FTC v. Qualcomm trial in a narrow sense (ten days of testimony) has just wrapped up, and closing arguments will be delivered later today. Not only has the underdog team–the FTC’s litigation staff–had (and managed) to square off with multiple top-notch law firms but Qualcomm, through its allies and hacks, has intensified a barrage of opinion pieces in different media to pressure the competition enforcer to settle the case. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal’s website published an op-ed by star attorney Ted Olson (I first heard about him in connection with the dispute in 2000 over ever more recounts in Florida). He explains why it’s a good thing that the FTC is pursuing this case.

      Mr. Olson does disclose the fact that his law firm, Gibson Dunn, represents Apple’s contract manufacturers in the San Diego Apple v. Qualcomm case. But all those Qualcomm puff pieces bashing the FTC weren’t any more balanced. I’m not aware of anyone else right now who would express clear opinions on the issue in the case but also acknowledge when the other side has a point like I agreed with Qualcomm’s 2017 motion to dismiss in part, found Qualcomm had a potential point in the timing of a consumer antisuit motion (which Judge Koh denied, for the time being, for that very reason), and in connection with the trial I concluded that part of MediaTek’s testimony was useful to Qualcomm and that Qualcomm destroyed one of the FTC’s three experts, Mr. Lasinski, whom I’ve criticized sharply. Also, I commented favorably on the testimony of a Qualcomm employee-expert, Mr. Casaccia, and gave Qualcomm unsolicited advice on who should be their lead counsel and deliver their closing argument.

    • Short final trial day exposes “intellectual bankruptcy” of Qualcomm’s economic expert, lead counsel as sore loser

      Today was the tenth, final and shortest day of the FTC v. Qualcomm antitrust trial before Judge Lucy H. Koh in the Northern District of California. It was also the only one of the ten trial days without a break. Tomorrow we’ll hear closing arguments (with a break between the two parties’ one-hour presentations).

      The short amount of time in court today was enough for Qualcomm’s extremely weak position to be on full display again. As I wrote yesterday, it’s time look past the question of merits (where the facts and the law are overwhelmingly on the FTC’s side) and on to the subject of remedies.

    • Federal Circuit Returns this Christmas Gift

      Willis Electric (Taiwan) owns several patents on artificial Christmas trees. In 2015, Willis sued Macao-based Polygroup for infringement. Polygroup turned-around and filed several inter partes review (IPR) petitions that were granted. In its final decisions, the PTAB sided with the patentee – finding that Polygroup had not proven the claims unpatentable. On appeal, the Federal Circuit has rejected the PTAB’s claim construction. Below, I look at just one of the cases — this one involving “modular artificial tree.”

      [...]

      Even applying the broadest-reasonable-interpretation, the PTAB found the phrase limiting — and construed it to require “a tree constructed of modular portions, each modular portion being a separate tree section” with pre-attached branches. The cited prior art references all had branches that separately attached to the trunk — and thus did not provide a prior art teaching of the pre-attached branchs.

      On appeal, the Federal Circuit rejected this construction — finding that it “does not represent the broadest reasonable interpretation of ‘modular artificial tree.’” None of the claims require branches, and the proffered expert testimony regarding the term’s meaning was “conclusory” and “unsupported” by corroborating evidence.

    • U.S. top court rejects Helsinn over anti-nausea drug patent in win for Teva

      The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to revive Swiss drug company Helsinn Healthcare S.A.’s patent on the lucrative anti-nausea drug Aloxi in a victory for Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, which launched a generic version of it last year.

      The nine justices unanimously upheld a lower court ruling that had canceled Helsinn’s patent on Aloxi for violating a provision in U.S. patent law that forbids sales of an invention before applying for a patent. Teva began selling its generic version of the drug in March 2018 after convincing the lower court to invalidate the patent.

      Aloxi is used to prevent nausea and vomiting in patients receiving chemotherapy. The high court’s decision comes after it previously refused Helsinn’s request to block the lower court ruling while it considered the company’s case, which allowed Israel-based Teva to bring its Aloxi generic to market.

    • Huawei ties with Canadian universities risk ‘weaponization’ of tech patents, say experts

      Research partnerships between Canadian universities and private tech companies such as Huawei could contribute to the “weaponization” of patents, caution cybersecurity experts.

      When such partnerships bear fruit, the resulting patents sometimes flow to the company, explained Christopher Parsons, managing director of the Telecom Transparency Project at Citizen Lab, part of the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.

    • Trademarks

    • Copyrights

      • Google v. Oracle – Supreme Court Petition

        After reading the Federal Circuit decision, I wrote that the case is “likely heading to the Supreme Court.” Although I believe that the case has a very good shot – one difficulty is that it involves a decision by the Federal Circuit applying Ninth Circuit law — it effectively holds no weight and can be simply rejected by the next Ninth Circuit panel addressing the same issues.

      • Another Nail In The Coffin For Fair Use: TVEyes Agrees Not To Carry Fox News

        The saga of TVEyes and its battles for fair use is over, and unfortunately fair use has lost. Following the news that the Supreme Court had refused to hear its appeal of a weird and troubling ruling by the 2nd Circuit, the company has now ended its ongoing lawsuit with Fox by agreeing to no longer carry Fox News content on its service.

        If you don’t recall, TVEyes was a very useful media monitoring service used by tons of journalists and politicians to effectively search and find content that was airing on TV. Fox had sued, claiming that this was both infringement and a violation of the obsolete “hot news” doctrine. The court easily rejected the hot news claim, and the district court originally (and correctly) found in favor of TVEyes, saying that its service was clearly fair use (even as it was being used for profitable purposes). The key point: TVEyes was transformative. It wasn’t offering a competing service, but rather (similar to Google books) helping people search and find content that they might not otherwise find.

        A later ruling, however, found that only parts of TVEyes service was truly fair use. It could archive content — but allowing downloading and sharing of clips failed the fair use test. Eventually, that resulted in an incredibly restrictive permanent injunction against the company, and an appeal that favored Fox News, again focusing on the feature that allowed users to download and share clips.

      • Independent Musician Explains Why Article 13 Will Be An Utter Disaster For Independent Artists

        A decade ago, when there were still people laughably insisting that the internet was the worst thing that ever happened to musicians, I kept pointing out examples of artists who were creatively embracing the internet to great success — connecting with fans, building new business models, and succeeding. And every time I did that, people would complain that this example was an “exception” or an “anomaly.” And, they had a habit of qualifying any success story — even if the qualifications were contradictory. For example, if I highlighted an independent artist’s success, people would say “well, that’s just a small independent artist, they have nothing to lose, no big rock star could ever succeed that way.” And then, when I’d highlight a big rock star having success embracing the internet, I’d be told “well, it’s easy for him, he already had a huge following.”

        [...]

        I’d argue it goes much further than that. First, the major record labels see everything stated in the paragraph above as a benefit of Article 13. Giving huge power to the middlemen gatekeepers puts them back in the position they were in year’s ago, where they get to decide who gets distribution and who doesn’t. That system created a world in which musicians had to hand over their copyright and nearly all of the revenue generated from their works in exchange for a pittance of an advance (which was really just a loan). So, putting more gatekeeper power back in their hands is the goal here.

        Second, and even more concerning, is that Article 13 is premised on only the largest platforms being able to comply — meaning that there will be less competition on the platform side and fewer and fewer places for independent artists to distribute their work, should they wish to do so. That gives them fewer options and less ability to build a fanbase, unless they get plucked out of obscurity by a giant gatekeeper (again, going back to the way things were a couple decades ago).

        Now, I’m sure that someone will pop into the comments and point out that this example doesn’t count because it’s just a “small, independent artist,” and that his concerns don’t matter to “real” artists (meaning major label ones), but, haven’t we played that game long enough?

      • Replacing DVDs With Online Screeners Won’t Stop Pirates

        Within the movie industry there are increasing calls to replace DVD screeners with online streaming versions. The Emmys already plan to do so. Some fear that this change will be the end of screener leaks, but others, including pirate release group EVO, disagree.

      • Copyright Trolling in Sweden Grows Massively Putting US Efforts in the Shade

        A study carried out by Swedish ISP Bahnhof has revealed that copyright trolls targeted more than 10 times as many IP addresses in Sweden during 2018 than they did in the whole of the United States during the same period. Customers of local ISP Telia are most at risk by a huge margin.

      • Tolerating Piracy Can Benefit Consumers, Creators and Retailers, Research Finds

        New research suggests that turning a blind eye to piracy can benefit consumers, creators and retailers, all at the same time. This win-win-win situation has a positive effect on the economy at large. Using Game of Thrones as an example, the researchers conclude that tolerating piracy to a certain degree can be a wise decision.

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  6. Links 25/4/2019: Rancher Labs Releases Slim OS, OpenBSD 6.5 is Ready

    Links for the day



  7. Links 24/4/2019: Chrome 74, QEMU 4.0 Released

    Links for the day



  8. Supreme Court of the UK, Which Habitually Throws Out European Patents, May Overturn Troublesome Unwired Planet v Huawei Decision

    A lot of European Patents are facing growing scrutiny from courts (Team UPC, including Bristows, publicly complains about it this month) and "greenwashing" of the Office won't be enough to paint/frame these patents as "ethical"



  9. German Federal Patent Court Curbs the Patent Maximalism of the EPO, Which Promotes Patents on Nature and/or Maths Every Single Day

    European courts are restraining the EPO, which has been trying to bypass or replace such courts (with the UPC); it certainly seems as though European Patents rapidly lose their legitimacy or much-needed presumption of validity



  10. Any 'Linux' Foundation Needs to Be Managed by Geeks, Not Politicians and PR People

    Linux bureaucracy has put profits way ahead of technical merits and this poses a growing threat or constitutes risk to the direction of the project, not to mention its ownership



  11. Links 23/4/2019: Kodi 'Leia' 18.2 and DeX Everywhere

    Links for the day



  12. Code of Coercion

    Entryism is visible for all to see, but pointing it out is becoming a risky gambit because of the "be nice!" (or "be polite!") crowd, which shields the perpetrators of a slow and gradual corporate takeover



  13. António Campinos Would Not Refer to the EPO's Enlarged Board of Appeal If He Did Not Control the Outcomes

    António Campinos and his ilk aren’t interested in patent quality because his former ‘boss’, who publicly denied there were issues and vainly rejected patent quality concerns as illegitimate, is now controlled by him (reversal of roles) and many new appointees at the top are "yes men" (or women) of Campinos, former colleagues whom he bossed at EUIPO (as expected)



  14. Links 22/4/2019: Linux 5.1 RC6, New Release of Netrunner and End of Scientific Linux

    Links for the day



  15. USPTO and EPO Both Slammed for Abandoning Patent Quality and Violating the Law/Caselaw in Order to Grant Illegitimate Patents on Life/Nature and Mathematics

    Mr. Iancu, the ‘American Battistelli’ (appointed owing to nepotism), mirrors the ‘Battistelli operandi’, which boils down to treating judges like they’re stooges and justices like an ignorable nuisance — all this in the name of litigation profits, which necessitate constant wars over illegitimate patents (it is expensive to prove their illegitimacy)



  16. IRC Proceedings: January 27th, 2019 – March 24th, 2019

    Many IRC logs



  17. IRC Proceedings: December 2nd, 2018 – January 26th, 2019

    Many IRC logs



  18. Links 21/4/2019: SuperTuxKart's 1.0 Release, Sam Hartman Is Debian’s Newest Project Leader (DPL)

    Links for the day



  19. The EPO's Use of Phrases Like “High-Quality Patent Services” Means They Know High-Quality European Patents Are 'Bygones'

    The EPO does a really poor job hiding the fact that its last remaining objective is to grant as many European Patents as possible (and as fast as possible), conveniently conflating quality with pace



  20. A Reader's Suggestion: Directions for Techrights

    Guest post by figosdev



  21. Links 20/4/2019: Weblate 3.6 and Pop!_OS 19.04

    Links for the day



  22. The Likes of Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA), Team Campinos and Team UPC Don't Represent Europe But Hurt Europe

    The abject disinterest in patent quality and patent validity (as judged by courts) threatens Europe but not to the detriment of those who are in the 'business' of suing and printing lots of worthless patents



  23. The Linux Foundation Needs to Change Course Before GNU/Linux (as a Free Operating System) is Dead

    The issues associated with the Linux Foundation are not entirely new; but Linux now incorporates so many restrictions and contains so many binary blobs that one begins to wonder what "Linux" even means



  24. Largest Patent Offices Try to Leave Courts in a State of Disarray to Enable the Granting of Fake Patents in the US and Europe

    Like a monarchy that effectively runs all branches of government the management of the EPO is trying to work around the judiciary; the same is increasingly happening (or at least attempted) in the United States



  25. Links 19/4/2019: PyPy 7.1.1, LabPlot 2.6, Kipi Plugins 5.9.1 Released

    Links for the day



  26. Links 18/4/2019: Ubuntu and Derivatives Have Releases, digiKam 6.1.0, OpenSSH 8.0 and LibreOffice 6.2.3

    Links for the day



  27. Freedom is Not a Business and Those Who Make 'Business' by Giving it Away Deserve Naming

    Free software is being parceled and sold to private monopolisers; those who facilitate the process enrich themselves and pose a growing threat to freedom in general — a subject we intend to tackle in the near future



  28. Concluding the Linux Foundation (LF) “Putting the CON in Conference!” (Part 3)

    Conferences constructed or put together based on payments rather than merit pose a risk to the freedom of free software; we conclude our series about events set up by the largest of culprits, which profits from this erosion of freedom



  29. “Mention the War” (of Microsoft Against GNU/Linux)

    The GNU/Linux desktop (or laptops) seems to be languishing or deteriorating, making way for proprietary takeover in the form of Vista 10 and Chrome OS and “web apps” (surveillance); nobody seems too bothered — certainly not the Linux Foundation — by the fact that GNU/Linux itself is being relegated or demoted to a mere “app” on these surveillance platforms (WSL, Croûton and so on)



  30. The European Patent Office Does Not Care About the Law, Today's Management Constantly Attempts to Bypass the Law

    Many EPs (European Patents) are actually "IPs" (invalid patents); the EPO doesn't seem to care and it is again paying for corrupt scholars to toe the party line


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