EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

02.01.19

Links 1/2/2019: Mesa 18.3.3, KTechLab 0.40.1, OPNsense 19.1, Glibc 2.29 Released; GNOME Shell Speed Boost

Posted in News Roundup at 12:32 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • VA Linux: The Linux Company That Once Ruled NASDAQ

    RedHat may be the most valuable Linux companies these days but there was VA Linux that once broke records at NASDAQ. Read more about the spectacular rise and devastating fall of VA Linux.

  • Everybody Hates Linux

    For Linux, more is more is more—and we can’t get enough. The downtown It girl and LGBTQ activist has been running around NYC in avant-garde makeup looks and matching costumes, getting hundreds of likes online and IRL. She’s even caught the eye of fashion mega brands like Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Fendi, to some of whom he’s paid homage with his iconic outfits.

    But before she exploded onto the NYC nightlife scene, Linux was just a small town girl sneaking into gay clubs, making her way through Milwaukee. Still underage and with no fake ID, she put together outrageous ensembles that no bouncer could turn down (which, of course, they didn’t). And although the superstar is no longer in need of a fake, she hasn’t stopped rocking those insane ‘fits. Thank god.

  • Something Happened: Windows Setup Error Messages Will Finally Be Useful (Maybe)
  • Desktop

    • System76 announces new Darter Pro 15.6-inch Linux laptop with excellent battery life

      System76 is a relatively new custom desktop and laptop builder that exclusively specializes in Linux-powered systems. Its laptop portfolio includes several models designed for various budgets, but most of these are quite hefty, while battery life is not particularly impressive. The newly announced Darter Pro model, however, is said to offer improved portability via a lightweight chassis plus an impressively long battery life.

      As with all other devices from System76, the Darter Pro is powered by Linux-based operating systems and users may choose among Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (64-bit) and the proprietary Pop!_OS 18.04 LTS or 18.10. As far as CPU selection is concerned, System76 chose to equip the Darter Pro with the latest Whiskey Lake-U Core i7-8565U / i5-8265U quad-core CPUs, which can be coupled with up to 32 GB of DDR4-2400 RAM and up to 2 TB of NVMe SSD storage.

    • System76 Darter Pro is a 3.6 pound, 15.6 inch Linux laptop (coming soon)

      System76 is adding a new laptop to its line of Linux-powered computers and, in keeping with recent trends in the PC space, it’s a relatively thin and light machine with a fairly big display and a big battery.

      The System76 Darter Pro sports a 15.6 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel matte IPS display, an Intel Whiskey Lake processor, and a 54.5 Wh battery. But it measures just 14.2″ x 9.6″ x 0.8″ and weighs 3.6 pounds.

      The company hasn’t announced the pricing yet, but the System76 Darter Pro should be available for purchase soon.

    • System76 prepping updated Darter Pro Linux laptop

      System76 has been producing Linux-based computers for years, succeeding well enough that it could even produce a PC manufactured largely in the United States. Its latest plans are for a refresh of the Darter Pro laptop to answer customers’ requests for improved battery life.

      The Darter Pro is a thin and light portable (3.6 pounds, 0.78 inches thick) designed to offer more than just the basics for computing tasks. It will ship with either an Intel Core i5-8265U or i7-8565U quad-core processor, up to 32GB of RAM, up to 2TB of built-in storage, and a full HD 15.6-inch display. System76 claims that the updated Darter Pro will provide a full workday’s worth of battery life so you don’t need to be chained to a wall outlet by noon.

      While a laptop like the Dell XPS 13 can ship with Ubuntu Linux if you choose the Developer Edition, the Darter Pro only ships with a choice of Linux OS: Ubuntu 18.04 LTS, or one of two versions of System76′s own Linux OS, Pop!_OS 18.04 LTS or Pop!_OS 18.10 (64-bit). Pop!_OS is based on Ubuntu, but offers additional features such as full-disk encryption for the company’s systems.

    • Pinebook Pro Linux Laptop Coming This Year Priced $199

      A new Linux laptop is on the way from Pine64, called the Pinebook Pro.

      Yes, the company behind the super-cheap $99 Linux laptop we gushed so much last year is planning a marginally more expensive follow-up.

      How expensive? Not too much: the Pinebook Pro has a target price-tag of $199.

    • The New Pinebook Pro Will Challenge Google Chromebooks For $199

      The Pinebook was never meant to be a daily driver. That’s not the case for the newly announced Pinebook Pro.

    • Pine64 to Launch $79 Linux Tablet, $199 PineBook Pro Laptop

      Pine64, the company that gave us the $89 Pinebook Linux laptop, is branching out and is set to launch a Linux tablet this year for just $79.

    • Pinebook Pro Linux laptop coming this year for $199

      Pine64 has been selling cheap Linux laptops for a few years, and now the company is getting ready to launch something a little… less cheap.

      With a target price of $199, the upcoming Pinebook Pro certainly isn’t a high-end computer. But for about twice the price of the original Pinebook you get a full HD display, twice the RAM, much more storage, and a significantly more powerful processor.

      The company says unlike its first laptops, the Pinebook Pro is a computer that could theoretically replace your existing laptop as a daily driver… assuming you’re looking for a computer that runs open source software. Think of the Pinebook Pro as a sort of Chromebook that runs GNU/Linux-based operating systems like Debian rather than Google’s Chrome OS.

    • PineTab Linux tablet coming in 2019 for $79 and up

      Pine64 has big plans for 2019. The company, which produces low-power, low-cost computers capable of running GNU/Linux and BSD software, plans to release its first smartphone this year, as well as a $199 laptop that will be its most powerful model to date.

      Also on the horizon? A dirt cheap Linux tablet.

    • $79 PineTab: The First Real Linux Tablet?

      I dream of owning a proper Linux tablet, one running something like Ubuntu — and that dream just took a step closer to reality.

      Pine64 plan to release a 10-inch Linux tablet later this year priced at a ludicrously low $79.

      The company is already well known as the makers of several popular (and cheap) ARM 64 single-board computers, as well as the $99 Pinebook laptop, so it’s certainly got form in this arena.

    • 19 days of productivity in 2019: The fails

      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.

      Part of being productive is accepting that failure happens. I am a big proponent of Howard Tayler’s Maxim 70: “Failure is not an option—it is mandatory. The option is whether or not to let failure be the last thing you do.” And there were many things I wanted to talk about in this series that I failed to find good answers for.

      So, for the final edition of my 19 new (or new-to-you) open source tools to help you be more productive in 2019, I present the tools I wanted but didn’t find. I am hopeful that you, the reader, will be able to help me find some good solutions to the items below. If you do, please share them in the comments.

    • Lenovo’s 4K Yoga Chromebook C630 Is Available to Order

      While certain Chrome OS devices already come with high-resolution displays—like the Pixelbook and Pixel Slate—there’s hasn’t been one with a 4K display. Until the Lenovo Yoga Chromebook C630, that is. And now you can buy one.

      We can talk about whether you need a 4K display in your Chromebook (read: you probably don’t), but at the end of the day, there’s always an argument for just how damn good a display looks when it’s absolutely packed with pixels. I’m sure this one is no exception.

    • Native backup and restoring of Linux containers in Crostini targeted for Chrome OS 74

      While using Linux on a Chromebook is helpful, if something happens to the Linux container, you could easily lose all of your installed apps, data, and settings. There is a manual method to import and export a container if you’re familiar with LXD in Linux, but Crostini in Chrome OS is getting a native function to do the same according to the Chromium commit log.

  • Server

    • Cloud Native Computing Foundation Welcomes Inspur as Gold Member

      A leading Chinese service provider for cloud computing and big data, Inspur’s cloud division focuses on providing cloud services to enterprises and government organizations with applications, big data, and container-based IoT services. According to a recent report from IDC, the worldwide server space – in which Inspur is third largest in revenue – jumped 37.7 percent year-over-year in Q3 2018, primarily from large cloud service providers as well as updates within enterprise data centers to handle such emerging workloads as big data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI).

      “By enhancing our focus on cloud, data and AI driven applications, we’re working to create more dynamic platforms based on ecosystems between customers, businesses and governments, where data can be shared to benefit all,” said Max Zhang, vice president of Inspur. “Our increased engagement with CNCF will accelerate our work with the global community to further collaboration around data, and work with developers for rapid innovation”

    • Is Software As A Service (SaaS) a bad thing?
    • Understanding the Red Hat Enterprise Linux random number generator interface

      Like other operating systems, Red Hat Enterprise Linux provides a cryptographically-secure pseudo-random number generator (CSPRNG) as part of our kernel. It is intended to be used by cryptographic back-ends and applications requiring cryptographic operations. Unfortunately, there is much mystery around the interfaces provided. While the new random(7) manual page does clarify some aspects, it does not fully address all common questions. In this post, we will make a brief overview of these interfaces, starting from their initialization to their use.

      Note that, this post will not get into the internals of a CSPRNG. We will go through these interfaces, intentionally staying on the high-level, without considering internal details, and discuss their usefulness for an application or library that requires access to such a CSPRNG.

      Note that these interfaces are a compromise of various schools of thought in the free software ecosystem and carry their historical mistakes for backward compatibility.

    • The State Of FaaS and Serverless on Kubernetes

      FaaS (Function-as-a-Service) or serverless as some call it is a promising compute paradigm suitable for event-driven scenarios. In this session we review the current open source offerings for FaaS on Kubernetes (Apache Open Whisk, kubeless, OpenFaaS, etc.) and address pros/cons both on an architectural level as well as from a UX point of view. We will also discuss the topic FaaS vs. containers from a developers as well as an operators perspective.

    • Linux Backup Types Explained and Best Practices

      In today’s technical world, the importance of Linux seems to be increasing. And there are innumerable reasons behind this popularity, including stability, box security, rock-solid reliability, and much more. If you are a freshly minted Linux administrator, one of the primary challenges in front of you would be to implement a dependable and reliable backup system, isn’t it?

      Whether you use bootable flash drives for this task or any other sturdy place, the importance of backup cannot be denied. Considering the number of options available out there, selecting one can be quite overwhelming of a process. Having said that, here are some of the best backup types that you can try out.

    • IoT edge development and deployment with containers through OpenShift: Part 1

      Usually, we think about IoT applications as something very special made for low power devices that have limited capabilities. For this reason, we tend to use completely different technologies for IoT application development than the technology we use for creating a datacenter’s services.

      This article is part 1 of a two-part series. In it, we’ll explore some techniques that may give you a chance to use containers as a medium for application builds—techniques that enable the portability of containers across different environments. Through these techniques, you may be able to use the same language, framework, or tool used in your datacenter straight to the “edge,” even with different CPU architectures!

      We usually use “edge” to refer to the geographic distribution of computing nodes in a network of IoT devices that are at the “edge” of an enterprise. The “edge” could be a remote datacenter or maybe multiple geo-distributed factories, ships, oil plants, and so on.

    • Introducing the latest version of the Red Hat infrastructure migration solution

      Proprietary infrastructure can be complex and costly. From siloed compute, network and storage tiers to manual day-2 operations, closed infrastructure stacks can require significant upkeep and maintenance. Often in the race to deliver projects on time, technical debt accrues and can show up in the form of unnecessary redundancies in infrastructure that cause significant drag on IT over time.

    • Open Outlook: Customer Experience & Engagement
    • Xen Project Celebrates Unikraft Unikernel Project’s One Year Anniversary

      Unikraft is an incubation project under the Xen Project, hosted by the Linux Foundation, focused on easing the creation of building unikernels, which compile source code into a lean operating system that only includes the functionality required by the application logic. As containers increasingly become the way cloud applications are built, there is a need to drive even more efficiency into the way these workloads run. The ultra lightweight and small trusted compute base nature of unikernels make them ideal not only for cloud applications, but also for fields where resources may be constrained or safety is critical.

      Unikraft tackles one of the fundamental downsides of unikernels: despite their clear potential, building them is often manual, time-consuming work carried out by experts. Worse, the work, or at least chunks of it, often needs to be redone for each target applications. Unikraft’s goal is to provide an automated build system where non-experts can easily and quickly generate extremely efficient and secure unikernels without having to touch a single line of code. Further, Unikraft explicitly supports multiple target platforms: not only virtual machines for Xen and KVM, but also OCI-compliant containers and bare metal images for various CPU architectures.

    • Why was 2018 a landmark year for Cloud computing? And what’s next on the horizon?

      Let me start with an obvious statement: cloud computing is continuing to grow – and really fast. That’s hardly headline news anymore. “Cloud” has been around for nearly 20 years now and it’s a constant theme within the IT industry.

    • Kubernetes and Microservices

      Microservices are a great way to architect your applications. In the old days, most applications consisted of a single, large executable containing all of the components of the application. Today, however, more and more people are designing their applications using a series of many relatively independent and decoupled services, known as microservices.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

    • The Linux Link Tech Show Episode 794
    • FLOSS Weekly 515: Xen Update

      The mission of the Xen Project is to focus upon the development and support of an open source hypervisor and related components, developed and designed to run with the Linux platform. Lars Kurth is a highly effective, passionate community manager with strong experience of working with open source communities (Symbian, Symbian DevCo, Eclipse, GNU) and has been community manager and Advisory Board chairperson for the Xen Project for 7 years.

    • Graphical Interface-View | BSD Now 283

      We’re at FOSDEM 2019 this week having fun. We’d never leave you in a lurch, so we have recorded an interview with Niclas Zeising of the FreeBSD graphics team for you. Enjoy.

    • Ubuntu Podcast S11E99 – Listener Get Together

      We’re having a Get Together in Reading, UK on Saturday March 16th 2019. The exact venue is not decided yet, but will be in Reading town centre.

      We’d like to gauge how many people might come, so please sign in and mark yourself as wanting to come.

    • WINE 4.0, LXQt 0.14, Parrot OS, Mastodon, MythTV, Gitea, APT Vulnerability | This Week in Linux 52

      On this episode of This Week in Linux, we got some big new releases from the WINE project, LXQt, Parrot OS, Mastodon, MythTV, Gitea, and many more! We’ll also check out a security issue regarding the APT package manager and a potential blunder coming to Chromium based browsers. Then we’ll cover a new really cool utility to control GPU Overclocking on Linux. Later in the show, we’ll check out some new Linux Hardware and some Linux Gaming news. All that and much more!

  • Kernel Space

    • Intel Valleyview & Cherry Trail Hardware Likely To See Fastboot Flipped On

      Fastboot in the Intel Linux perspective is about avoiding unnecessary mode-sets at boot time in order to provide a cleaner boot experience, or as some put it so elegantly, “avoid an ugly modeset during boot.” Fastboot has been a long time coming after several failed attempts over the years to enable it by default. But with the current mature state of the Intel DRM/KMS driver and recent generations playing well with Fastboot, it’s reasonable to enable it by default.

    • Systemd 241 RC2 Released With Its Beefed Up Security

      Just a few days ago marked the systemd 241 release candidate while today Lennart Poettering opted for a second release candidate.

      Systemd 241 is a notable release in that it’s patched against the “system down” vulnerabilities. Systemd 241 is also packing other work that was merged over the past month including regular file and FIFO protection, a new stderr priority option for systemd-cat, and other changes.

    • Defending against page-cache attacks

      The kernel’s page cache works to improve performance by minimizing disk I/O and increasing the sharing of physical memory. But, like other performance-enhancing techniques that involve resources shared across security boundaries, the page cache can be abused as a way to extract information that should be kept secret. A recent paper [PDF] by Daniel Gruss and colleagues showed how the page cache can be targeted for a number of different attacks, leading to an abrupt change in how the mincore() system call works at the end of the 5.0 merge window. But subsequent discussion has made it clear that mincore() is just the tip of the iceberg; it is unclear what will really need to be done to protect a system against page-cache attacks or what the performance cost might be.

      The page cache holds copies of portions of files (in 4KB pages on most systems) in main memory. When a process needs to access data from a file, the presence of that data in the page cache eliminates the need to read it from disk, speeding things considerably. Multiple processes accessing the same files (such as the C library, for example) will share the same copies in the page cache, reducing the amount of memory that is required by the current workload. On systems hosting containers, much of the runtime system can be shared in this manner.

      All of this is good, but it has been known for some time that this kind of shared caching can disclose information between processes. If an attacker can determine which files are currently represented in the page cache, they can learn about what processes running in the system are doing. When the attacker can observe when specific pages are brought into the cache, they can make conclusions about when specific accesses are being made. For example, it is possible to figure out when a specific function has been called by noting when the page containing that function appears in the cache. Gruss and company have been able to demonstrate a number of exploits, including covert channels and keystroke timing, that can be accomplished with this information.

      There are two components to a successful page-cache attack. One of them is being able to determine whether a given page is in the cache, preferably without perturbing the state of the cache in the process. The other half of the problem, though, is the ability to evict specific pages from the cache; that is required to be able to see when a target accesses those pages. In the paper, this is done simply by faulting in enough other pages to force the target pages out; as it turns out, though, there may be an easier way.

    • A proposed API for full-memory encryption

      Hardware memory encryption is, or will soon be, available on multiple generic CPUs. In its absence, data is stored — and passes between the memory chips and the processor — in the clear. Attackers may be able to access it by using hardware probes or by directly accessing the chips, which is especially problematic with persistent memory. One new memory-encryption offering is Intel’s Multi-Key Total Memory Encryption (MKTME) [PDF]; AMD’s equivalent is called Secure Encrypted Virtualization (SEV). The implementation of support for this feature is in progress for the Linux kernel. Recently, Alison Schofield proposed a user-space API for MKTME, provoking a long discussion on how memory encryption should be exposed to the user, if at all.

      Filesystem encryption options offer a wide choice of possibilities; their use is now standard practice in a number of settings, protecting user data when it is at rest. On the other hand, data stored in main memory is kept in the clear, as are exchanges between memory chips and the processors. In a virtualized environment, if attackers can find a way to read memory from neighbor virtual machines, they can access the data from those machines. Physical attacks are possible by removing memory chips or spying on the memory buses. This is becoming a more serious threat with persistent-memory technologies, where the data stays in the clear even after power is removed. Memory-encryption technologies are aiming to address some of those attacks.

      Memory encryption has been available in Intel chips for some time in the form of Total Memory Encryption (TME). It uses a single, CPU-generated key for all of memory; users can control the usage of TME in the boot-level firmware. A new standard, which will be available in upcoming chips, is MKTME, an extension of TME that supports different encryption settings (including disabling encryption) at the page level, and more keys. Different keys can be used at the same time for different memory regions. The main use case for MKTME seems to be adding more protection in systems with multiple virtual machines (see these slides from LinuxCon China [PDF]). The encryption algorithm supported is AES-XTS 128 with the physical address being taken into account as a type of nonce.

      Lower-level support for MKTME in the Linux kernel was submitted in September 2018. Memory encryption was also one of the subjects discussed at the 2018 Linux Storage, Filesystem, and Memory-Management Summit. The recent patch set from Schofield goes further, adding the user interface to set up the encryption and (optionally) keys, assign key identifiers to memory regions; the patch set also adds a key store to support CPU hotplug.

    • Persistent memory for transient data

      Arguably, the most notable characteristic of persistent memory is that it is persistent: it retains its contents over power cycles. One other important aspect of these persistent-memory arrays that, we are told, will soon be everywhere, is their sheer size and low cost; persistent memory is a relatively inexpensive way to attach large amounts of memory to a system. Large, cheap memory arrays seem likely to be attractive to users who may not care about persistence and who can live with slower access speeds. Supporting such users is the objective of a pair of patch sets that have been circulating in recent months.

      Current kernels treat persistent memory as a device. The memory managed by that device can host a filesystem or be mapped directly into a process’s address space (or both), but it will only be used by processes that ask for it explicitly. This patch set from Dave Hansen can change that behavior, though. It creates a new device driver that takes any persistent memory assigned to it and hotplugs it into the system as a range of ordinary RAM; after that, it will be given over to processes to satisfy normal memory-allocation requests. A portion (or all) of the system’s persistent memory can be given over to this use, as the system administrator wishes.

      Persistent memory used in this mode looks like ordinary memory, but the two are still not exactly the same. In particular, while persistent memory is fast, it is still not as fast as normal RAM. So users may well want to ensure that some applications use regular memory (DRAM) while others are relegated to persistent memory that is masquerading as the regular variety. When persistent memory is added to the system in this way, it shows up under one or more special NUMA nodes, so the usual memory-policy mechanisms can be used to control which processes use it. As Hansen suggested, a cloud provider could use this mechanism to offer two classes of virtual machines, with the cheaper ones confined mostly to the slower, persistent memory.

    • The RCU API, 2019 edition

      Read-copy update (RCU) is a synchronization mechanism that was added to the Linux kernel in October 2002. RCU is most frequently described as a replacement for reader-writer locking, but has also been used in a number of other ways. RCU is notable in that readers do not directly synchronize with updaters, which makes RCU read paths extremely fast; that also permits RCU readers to accomplish useful work even when running concurrently with updaters. Although the basic idea behind RCU has not changed in decades following its introduction into DYNIX/ptx, the API has evolved significantly over the five years since the 2014 edition of the RCU API, to say nothing of the nine years since the 2010 edition of the RCU API.

    • Arm Komeda DRM Driver Aiming For Linux 5.1 Mainline

      Arm Holdings has been developing their next-generation “Komeda” Direct Rendering Manager driver and they believe it’s ready for mainline integration with the upcoming Linux 5.1 cycle.

      The Komeda driver is their new software solution for the Mali D71 and newer display processors. The M71 brought with it a large redesign to Arm’s display IP that is now more modularized and enough alterations that it was better for them to develop a new driver.

    • Linux Kernel Spectre Protection Changes to Boost App Performance

      As suggested by Thomas Gleixner and signed off by Waiman Long in a proposed Linux kernel patch, a new bit will be introduced to toggle off Speculative Store Bypass Disable (SSBD) for programs that do not require the extra protection against the Spectre Variant 4 security issue.

      This vulnerability was disclosed during May 2018 and mitigated in the Linux kernel with the SSBD bit added to the IA32_SPEC_CTRL Model-Specific Register (MSR) of x86 processors and introduced via an intel-microcode omnibus update on August 27, 2018.

    • Linux Kernel Getting New Option So SSBD Isn’t Over-Protective – Helping Performance

      For the Linux kernel’s Speculative Store Bypass Disable (SSBD) handling for Spectre Variant 4 protection is support for processes opting into force disabling of speculation via a prctl() interface. Currently when speculation is disabled, that is carried through to new processes started via the execve() system call. But a new bit will allow clearing that state when a new program is started by a process otherwise relying upon PR_SPEC_DISABLE, in what will help the performance in such cases.

      Queued for introduction to the mainline Linux kernel is a new PR_SPEC_DISABLE_NOEXEC option for prctl as part of the Speculative Store Bypass Disable options but where the state is cleared on execve() calls. The premise is that programs opting into disabling speculation are doing so, but programs that aren’t vulnerable to the speculation-related misfeatures normally aren’t checking to see that the PR_SPEC_ENABLE bit is set rather just assuming the status quo. Thus with the current PR_SPEC_DISABLE behavior, programs spawned via execve() may be protected when they really don’t need to be and carrying with that the added performance overhead.

    • Linux Foundation

      • A new Linux Foundation effort for the edge

        The Linux Foundation has cobbled together a few different technologies with the aim of making it easier for companies to avoid lock-in with edge computing solutions. The technologies run the gamut from a virtualization engine for gateway devices to a smart home hub and will be available under a new organization called LF Edge.

        LF Edge includes existing projects such as the Akaino Edge Stack for helping telecom providers compute at the edge; EdgeX Foundry, the Dell-founded open interoperability layer for sharing data from different vendors; and an Open Glossary of Edge Computing, so we can finally agree on what the heck the edge actually is. LF Edge also adds two new technologies, such as the smart home hub tech contributed by Samsung and the edge virtualization layer contributed by Zededa.

      • The Linux Foundation Welcomes 22 New Members from Cloud, Energy, Security, and Semiconductor Industries

        The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization enabling mass innovation through open source, announced the addition of 17 Silver members and 5 Associate members. Linux Foundation members help support development of shared technology resources, while accelerating their own innovation through open source leadership and participation in some of the world’s most successful open source projects including Hyperledger, Kubernetes, Linux, Node.js and ONAP. Linux Foundation member contributions help provide the infrastructure and resources that enable the world’s largest open collaboration communities.

        Through 2018, on average, a new organization joined the Linux Foundation every day.

    • Graphics Stack

      • AMDVLK 2019.Q1.4 Driver Brings Vega 20 & Raven 2 Support, More Transform Feedback Work

        This week’s AMDVLK open-source Radeon Vulkan driver code drop brings support for the Vega 20 (Vega 7nm) graphics cards and Raven 2 APUs.

        AMD did their weekly code drop on Tuesday and tagged this new release as version 2019.Q1.4. The main highlight of this latest code is official support for Vega 20 as well as the yet-to-be-released Raven 2 hardware. This Vega 20 support comes with some basic per-app tuning as well, including disabling DCC for DOOM except for 32 bpp surfaces, always allowing DCC for Wolfenstein II, and disabling DCC for Dota 2.

      • mesa 19.0.0-rc1

        Hello list,

        This email announces the mesa 19.0 release candidate 1. I’ll keep this email fairly brief since I’m already running a little late on getting this done :) I’ve just had to resolve quite a few autotools issues to get the dist built.

        Notable in the 19.0-rc1 branch is SWR is set to require LLVM 7 instead of LLVM 6. It is impossible to bootstrap SWR with LLVM 6 and compile with LLVM 7 due to LLVM API changes. Since RadeonSI and Radv both require LLVM 7 I’ve taken the liberty of bumping SWR so that we could get a tarball built.

        We’ve had an exciting release cycle, plenty of GL and Vulkan extensions, ~1600 commits since the 18.3 branchpoint with substantial work across all areas of mesa.

        Expect rc2 about this time next week, see you then.

        Dylan

      • Mesa 19.0-RC1 Released With FreeSync Bits, Soft FP64, Many Vulkan Improvements

        After its feature freeze and code branching yesterday, the first release candidate of Mesa 19.0 is now available.

        The Mesa 19.0 release process is underway and there will be weekly release candidates until the stable release is ready to ship. Going by their expected release calendar and past release cycles, Mesa 19.0 should ship around the end of February unless struck by any blocker bug delays.

      • Panfrost Mali Driver In Primitive Form Under Review For Mesa

        The open-source, reverse-engineered Panfrost Gallium3D driver is now under review in an early form for potentially merging into mainline Mesa in the near future. Panfrost is the current open-source driver community effort around Arm’s Midgard and Bifrost graphics units.

        There is just under ten thousand lines of Panfrost code up now for review to see integration in Mesa potentially for next quarter’s Mesa 19.1 release. This initial patch series contains the initial driver side but for command stream support is only a stub and basic Winsys integration. The full Panfrost driver will not yet work on the mainline Linux kernel until some kernel changes are in place. This initial patch series does include the complete Midgard toolchain support.

      • NVIDIA 418.30 Linux Driver Adds Video Codec SDK 9.0, Optical Flow Support

        While the initial “G-SYNC Compatible” (FreeSync) support is the big headlining feature of today’s NVIDIA 418.30 Linux beta driver drop, there are also other changes to get excited about too.

      • The Latest NVIDIA EGLStreams Wayland Backend Code Under Review For KDE/KWin

        Back in November is when NVIDIA announced they were developing an EGLStreams-based back-end for KDE’s KWin so the KDE Wayland session could run with their proprietary graphics driver similar to GNOME’s EGLStreams support.

      • Sway Adds Relative Pointer Support To Its 1.0 Feature List

        Just in time for the Sway 1.0 release, support for the Wayland pointer constraints and relative pointer protocols has been merged, which is important for handling various games primarily first person shooters.

        Sway 1.0 has already been working on a pretty grand feature list including support for a number of newer Wayland extensions, multi-seat improvements, multi-GPU support, improved window handling, video capture support, tablet support, and a lot of other new features.

      • Intel’s Mesa Driver Nearing OpenGL 4.6 With Final SPIR-V Additions Under Review

        As some other exciting Linux graphics news today alongside NVIDIA rolling out G-SYNC Compatible support for Linux, the Intel Mesa OpenGL driver could soon finally achieve OpenGL 4.6 compliance with the mainline code.

        OpenGL 4.6 is well over one year old but none of the current Mesa drivers have supported this latest revision due to being held up by the ARB_gl_spirv and ARB_spirv_extensions that are big additions in allowing for SPIR-V ingestion as part of some Vulkan interoperability. This has been a big undertaking for both Intel as well as the RadeonSI driver stack, but at least for the Intel team, they have the finish line in sight.

      • NVIDIA Linux Beta Rolling Out “G-SYNC Compatible” FreeSync Monitor Support

        Earlier this month at CES was the surprise announcement that NVIDIA would be effectively rolling out FreeSync display support for Pascal GPUs and newer with forthcoming driver updates. There’s been that support on Windows while beginning today that tear-free, gaming-focused display tech will also be working on Linux.

      • NVIDIA have put out a new Linux beta driver with support for ‘G-SYNC Compatible monitors’

        NVIDIA have today put out their latest beta driver for Linux with quite a bit new and it sounds quite exciting.

        The big new feature, is that this is their first Linux driver to support ‘G-SYNC Compatible’ monitors, which they made a bit of a splash about recently. So now, for those of you with a FreeSync monitor, you should be able to turn on G-SYNC and give it a test.

      • Using G-SYNC Compatible On Linux With NVIDIA’s 418.30 Beta Driver

        Taking many by surprise less than one month after NVIDIA announced “G-SYNC Compatible” in supporting FreeSync/Adaptive-Sync displays as an alternative to the more expensive dedicated G-SYNC monitors, the newest Linux beta graphics driver has support for this gamer-oriented feature. This comes just a matter of days after NVIDIA began shipping their Windows driver with this dynamic refresh rate feature that aims to eliminate or at least reduce tearing and stuttering.

      • Mesa 18.3.3 Release Notes / January 31, 2019

        Mesa 18.3.3 implements the OpenGL 4.5 API, but the version reported by glGetString(GL_VERSION) or glGetIntegerv(GL_MAJOR_VERSION) / glGetIntegerv(GL_MINOR_VERSION) depends on the particular driver being used. Some drivers don’t support all the features required in OpenGL 4.5. OpenGL 4.5 is only available if requested at context creation. Compatibility contexts may report a lower version depending on each driver.

      • Mesa 18.3.3 Released With Fixes For RadeonSI/RADV, OpenGL Driver Bugs

        Mesa 18.3.3 was released today as the newest stable release for the current Mesa 18.3 series from Q4.

        Mesa 18.3.3 addresses a system freeze when running The Witcher 3 with DXVK on the RADV Vulkan driver, various OpenGL driver issues, several Meson build system updates, some Intel ANV and NIR fixes, and a variety of other mostly random fixes that accumulated since the Mesa 18.3.2 point release earlier this month.

    • Benchmarks

      • Radeon ROCm 2.0 OpenCL Benchmarks With Linux 5.0 On Ubuntu 18.10 vs. NVIDIA’s Linux Driver

        With yesterday having posted fresh OpenGL/Vulkan Linux gaming benchmarks for the current NVIDIA GeForce and AMD Radeon graphics cards, in this article is the freshest OpenCL GPU compute data for that set of 14 graphics cards on the very latest Linux graphics driver stack. In the case of AMD Radeon open-source compute, it was tested using the new ROCm 2.0 atop the mainline Linux 5.0 kernel and Ubuntu 18.10.

        There were some questions recently by Phoronix readers how well ROCm 2.0 is working (if at all) with the current mainline Linux kernel. Long story short, ROCm 2.0 was running well and straight-forward with the mainline kernel state, at least in going with Linux 5.0 for the bleeding-edge support. Additionally, the ROCm 2.0 stack was using the AMD-built Debian packages intended for Ubuntu 18.04 LTS but did work just fine on Ubuntu 18.10 paired with the mainline kernel. The Ubuntu repository information and more information pertaining to ROCm 2.0 can be found via their GitHub.

  • Applications

    • 9 Best Free Linux Comic Book Viewers

      A comic book is a magazine which consists of narrative artwork in the form of sequential images with text that represent individual scenes. Panels are often accompanied by brief descriptive prose and written narrative, usually dialog contained in word balloons emblematic of the comics art form. Comics are used to tell a story, and are published in a number of different formats including comic strips, comic books, webcomics, Manga, and graphic novels. Some comics have been published in a tabloid form. The largest comic book market is Japan.

      Many users associate desktop Linux with their daily repetitive grind. However, we are always on the look out for applications that help make Linux fun to use. It really is a great platform for entertainment.

      Some document viewers offer a good range of different formats. Although they are not dedicated comic book viewers, Evince and okular have support for the common comic book archive files, and merit mention here.

    • dracut problems fixed and a new FAI version

      Before preparing a new FAI release, I had to debug a nasty boot problem in FAI. Booting a FAI CD on a notebooks only hang when no ethernet cable was connected. This was strange, because the automatic installation does not need a network connection and gets all packages from the installation media.

      Since FAI is using dracut (a replacement for initramfs-tools) and we use the kernel cmdline option rd.neednet, dracut only boots if it can set up at least one ethernet device. Without using this option, dracut does not activate the network at all and FAI cannot configure the /etc/network/interface. There’s no option to tell dracut just to try to activate network device, but do not rely on being successful. In the end the fix was to edit a dracut script, so dracut does not wait forever for devices to come up. It was just a simple sed -e ‘s/exit 1/exit 0/’. Nice.

    • ATA/ATAPI Support in fwupd

      A few vendors have been testing the NVMe firmware update code, and so far so good; soon we should have three more storage vendors moving firmware to stable. A couple of vendors also wanted to use the hdparm binary to update SATA hardware that’s not using the NVMe specification.

    • Fwupd Gaining Support For ATA Device Microcode Updates

      Richard Hughes of Red Hat continues on his conquest for improving the Linux firmware updating experience: his latest accomplishment is getting support for microcode updates on ATA/ATAPI drives into Fwupd.

    • The Best Linux Terminal Color Schemes For 2019

      Terminal customization has become a fairly big hobby for Linux users. There are plenty of ways to spice up the Linux terminal and make it look modern and visually appealing. It’s not just for appearances either. A well thought out color scheme can help reduce eye strain and make working in the terminal a much more enjoyable experience.

    • 10 Best CAD Software for Linux

      Computer-aided design (CAD) involves the process of using computers to create, modify, analyses, or optimize designs.

      CAD software is used by architects, animators, graphic designers, and engineers to create and perfect their design quality, create a database for maintenance, and improve communication via documentation.

      There are several free and paid CAD software to choose from and these days both the free and paid ones have the same features. Thus, the topic of today’s article.

    • wlc 1.0

      wlc 1.0, a command line utility for Weblate, has been just released. The most important change is marking this stable and releasing actual 1.0. It has been around long enough to indicate it’s stability.

    • Lightweight GUI Email Clients

      Email remains the killer information and communications technology. Email volume shows no sign of diminishing, despite the increasing popularity of collaborative messaging tools.

      Messages are exchanged between hosts using the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol with software programs called mail transfer agents, and delivered to a mail store by programs called mail delivery agents, frequently referred to as email clients.

      Email clients offer a variety of features. Many email clients offer a slew of features, some stick with just the basics. At the end of the day, what is important is that you find an email client that offers what you need, it is reliable, and works well on your computer. Thunderbird is widely regarded as an exceptional open source desktop email client, especially on Linux. It is highly customizable, has a rich set of features, and is geared for both novices and professional users. My only real disaffection with Thunderbird is that it can feel a bit sluggish on inexpensive hardware. If you are looking for an alternative first-rate graphical email client that works with limited system resources, you have come to the right place.

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Wine or Emulation

      • Optimizing Notepad++ on Linux

        I really like Notepad++. I think it’s the best, most convenient text editor around, with a simple interface, tons of useful commands and options, and a wealth of lovely plugins, all of which transform a simple text pad into a powerful, flexible document processor. Whether you’re working on notes, Web pages or complex software code, Notepad++ does it all. There’s only one problem – it’s a Windows application.

        In my Slimbook & Kubuntu reports, I remarked on the shortcomings of different text editors in Linux, all of which pushed me to using Notepad++ on Linux, something I tried to avoid. Now, Notepad++ does not run natively on Linux, so I had to use WINE, and this introduced a whole bunch of other complications. HD scaling in Plasma is tricky for WINE software (and in general, for various compatibility reasons), and you need custom tweaks to get a shortcut icon pinned to the Plasma task manager. In this guide, I’d like to highlight a few tricks you can use to make Notepad++ look and behave beautifully in Linux.

    • Games

      • WARP-TEK, a rather frantic horizontal shooter is out, developed on Linux

        With a great soundtrack and a simple visual style, the horizontal space shooter WARP-TEK has been officially released today. Note: Key provided by the developer.

      • Graywalkers: Purgatory, an upcoming supernatural post-apocalyptic turn-based strategy RPG

        Graywalkers: Purgatory from developer Dreamlords Digital has me itching to try it out with a blending of turn-based XCOM-like combat with a supernatural post-apocalyptic theme.

      • In Thrusty Ship your main enemy is yourself and your throttle finger

        Thrusty Ship takes the basic gameplay of classics like Lunar Lander (and many others) with you fighting against gravity and turns it into a challenging and fun battle against your fuel gauge.

      • Unity 2019.1 Beta Deprecates Linux x86, Offers Up Many Vulkan & Linux Improvements

        Unity Tech has put out their first public beta of the upcoming Unity 2019.1 game engine update. There’s some notable work on both the Linux and Vulkan fronts.

        Unity 2019.1 beta headlining features include incremental garbage collection support, implementing more GPU lightmapper functionality, particle improvements, and a number of enhancements to the Android platform support. For game developers making use of Unity there are also editor improvements with a number of new features as well as H.265 video transcode, NVIDIA OptiX AI denoiser, and other bits

      • Slay the Spire Now Available for Linux and Windows

        Slay the Spire has been available in Early Access for quite a while, but the game has finally been released in its full form – and stands out compared to pretty much anything else on the market. Roguelikes have been a giant part of the industry for a decade now too, but you don’t really see these things combined in a mini-game – let alone in a full-fledged game. The game combines a bit of JRPG mechanics with it as well thanks to its turn-based nature and allows you to build new decks and learn as you go. If you find that a certain attack type is weak against one enemy type, you’ll want to switch it up – but maybe find that your new attack setup isn’t much more effective. Then you find that by combining various cards together, you get a more effective turn and wind up unlocking the mystery behind a certain enemy.

      • Night of the Blood Moon Now Available on Steam For Linux and Windows PC

        With the rise of rogue-like games over the past decade, the sub-genre has become oversaturated to many. Most games have aimed at making them more accessible, but Blood Moon aims to do things a bit differently. The goal of the developers is to make things challenging and more rewarding. The game’s premise is unique too in that it has you fighting in a dream world and destroying all of the cute and sometimes terrifying creatures you see in the dream realm. You can kill as many of them as you want and unlock items, skills, or even helper pets. They act a bit like a third non-playable character in a fighting game in that they can help you briefly and save your bacon, but aren’t going to give you a game-breaking adventure.

      • Major Update Released for MachiaVillain on PC, Mac and Linux

        Good Shepherd Entertainment and independent developer Wild Factor have released a shocking new content update for the evil mansion management strategy game MachiaVillain on Windows PC, Mac and Linux.

        MachiaVillain’s new update adds electric fields to your hellish homestead that can be used to power new tools and abilities. Set up alarms, jam mobile phones to keep victims from calling for help, and wield the Finger of Evil to zap enemies or give a boost to your minions.

      • Mage’s Initiation adventure/RPG out now for Win / Mac / Linux

        After ten years of development, Himalaya Studios is excited to announce that Mage’s Initiation: Reign of the Elements – a hybrid adventure/RPG in the tradition of the classic King’s Quest and Quest for Glory series – is now available for $13.49 USD on Steam, GOG, and the Humble Store.

      • Game Review: Mage’s Initiation: Reign of the Elements

        I’ve been playing a pre-release version of Mage’s Initiation: Reign of the Elements, a classic role-playing game from Himalaya Studios, done in the style of Sierra On-Line’s classic King’s Quest series. This is only so surprising given that the people behind this new game worked on creating those classics and their remakes. Mage’s Initiation is a medieval-style fantasy game with puzzles, treasures, labyrinthine settings, magic, spell-casting battles and monsters. Mage’s Initiation began its life as a Kickstarter where it has been hotly anticipated. If you want to check into all that, I link to the Kickstarter page at the end, but right now, I just want to tell you about the game.

        In Mage’s Initiation, you play a student mage, taken from your family at the age of six to a mystical tower in Iginor, a seemingly idyllic land. In the Mage’s Tower, you spend years studying the power of the elements. After ten years, it’s Initiation Day, and you are ready to discover which of the elements has chosen you as its champion. In my case, I wound up following the path of water, but you can play (or replay) any of the four classic elements.

      • Mage’s Initiation: Reign of the Elements, a new magical point and click adventure is out

        A new adventure is waiting for you, this time you’re a sixteen-year-old Mage in Mage’s Initiation: Reign of the Elements.

      • Coregrounds, a competitive strategy game with Tower Defense and MOBA elements shuts down, goes open source

        On top of AuroraRL shutting down this month, Coregrounds a competitive strategy game that pulled in elements from both Tower Defense and MOBAs has also shut down. This one has also opened up the code.

      • The RPG ‘Tower of Time’ had a massive update adding in entirely new ways to play

        Tower of Time is an impressive game, both in terms of style and the actual gameplay. The developer, Event Horizon, are show just how much they care about it with a huge update.

        While it is a genuinely good game, it can feel like it takes quite a while to get anything done. That’s pretty standard for such an RPG, but not everyone has the time. They’re aware of this and so they made some additional game modes to allow more people to enjoy it.

      • Robothorium, a sci-fi dungeon crawler has now officially left Early Access behind

        Robothorium, a sci-fi dungeon crawler from Goblinz Studio has now officially released and it’s a fun experience.

        Far off in the future, robotics and AI has advanced so much that the robots themselves now campaign for their rights. They feel oppressed, used and abused. Human kind hasn’t it too well and so a civil war is brewing between the two sides. You are S.A.I.A., a special enhanced AI whose job it is to give a future to robot kind.

      • Rise of Industry, the strategic tycoon game has come along tremendously and a new update is out

        It’s been a long time since I took a look at the Early Access strategic tycoon game Rise of Industry, what a better time to do so with a major update? Out now is Alpha 9, which adds in quite a lot.

      • Zero G Arena, a zero-gravity 3D arena shooter that’s genuinely fun gained Linux support recently

        While still quite sick this week and unable to sleep, I decided to at random look through the Steam Discovery Queue for a new game. It certainly delivered, with Zero G Arena.

        The game was originally released back in August of last year, with Linux support arriving in December. Really quite surprised I had not heard of it, since it looked good and ticked a lot of the right boxes.

        The developer mentioned how they had wanted to add Linux support for “well over 2 years now” but when they tried before the Early Access launch some Linux distributions had “serious issues” back then. Seems they’re mostly solved, as for me it runs extremely well.

      • JYDGE, the incredibly fun highly customisable shooter from 10tons is now on GOG

        JYDGE remains as one of my favourite top-down shooters to come from 10tons and now it’s also available for GOG fans. Note: GOG provided a copy.

        It’s not exactly an old game, only being released in October 2017 so it’s not like it suddenly changed with age or anything. I completed it some time ago on Steam but thanks to the GOG release I jumped back in for another blast. It’s like seeing an old best friend for the first time in a while, exciting to go back to.

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Announcing KTechLab 0.40.1

        I’m happy to announce KTechLab release version 0.40.1. KTechLab is an IDE for microcontrollers and electronics. In this new release every user-visible functionality is the same as in previous releases, however, the codebase of KTechLab has been updated, so now it is a pure KDELibs4 and Qt4 application and it does not depend anymore on kde3support and qt3support libraries.

        This release should compile and run on systems where kde3support or qt3support libraries are not available.

        In its current state KTechLab’s codebase is ready to be ported to KDE Frameworks 5 (KF5) and Qt5. So a future release of KTechLab could only depend on modern libraries like KF5 and Qt5.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • Screencasting over Wi‑Fi on GNOME

        On GNOME we usually had no good way of using remote display devices like Chromecast, Miracast or AirPlay. VLC for example does support streaming to Chromecast, but the Miracast implementations were all not integrated well enough to be usable. Also, at least Miracast requires the use of the H264 or H265 codecs, which have been problematic due to licensing requirements.

        I have been working on a gnome‑screencast application, which currently has working support for Miracast devices. It requires a current development version of NetworkManager, but should work out of the box otherwise. If you are on Fedora, you can try out gnome‑screencast by using my copr repository.

      • GNOME Screencaster App Promises WiFi Display (Miracast) Support in GNOME Desktop

        While the GNOME desktop environment already offers a few ways for users to stream to Chromecast, AirPlay, or Miracast devices, such as the VLC Media Player, Miracast support isn’t at its best right now due to the use of the H.264 or H.265 codecs, so Benjamin Berg has been trying to fix this problem with a new app.

      • Firefox 66 to Offer Better Compatibility with GNOME Desktop, Improve Scrolling

        Just like with almost all new Firefox releases, Mozilla will try to improve the stability and performance of its popular web browser by implementing new features and options. This is the case of Firefox 66, which is now open for development and promises several changes to make your browsing experience better and more enjoyable.

      • GNOME Shell Gets a Major Speed Boost

        GNOME 3.32 is due for release next month, and the biggest change will be its performance.

        See, the GNOME Shell desktop is often criticised as being a bit on the ‘heavy’ side. Folks blast it for having comparatively high memory usage on start-up, for being taxing on the CPU, and for having a UI that often stutters or drops frames during usage.

      • Georges Basile Stavracas Neto: GNOME Shell and Mutter: better, faster, cleaner

        The very first update in the series is about GNOME Shell and Mutter. I’ve been increasingly involved with the development of those two core components of GNOME, and recently this has been the focus of my development time.

        Fortunately, Endless allows me to use part of my work time to improve it. Naturally, I prioritize my upstream work considering what will impact Endless OS the most. So far, that lead to a series of very nice improvements to Mutter and GNOME Shell.

      • The Latest GNOME Shell/Mutter Performance Work & X11/Wayland Separation
      • Linux’s GNOME Shell 3.32 Will Bring Major Speed Improvements

        GNOME Shell 3.32 is set for release on March 13, 2019. This new release brings some real performance improvements, making this heavy Linux desktop environment more lightweight. GNOME Shell is used by default on Ubuntu and many other Linux distributions.

      • A mutter and gnome-shell update

        Ever since the wayland work started on mutter, there’s been ideas and talks about how mutter “core” should become detached of X11 code. It has been a long and slow process, every design decision has been directed towards this goal, we leaped forward on 2017 GSOC, and eg. Georges sums up some of his own recent work in this area.

        For me it started with a “Hey, I think we are not that far off” comment in #gnome-shell earlier this cycle. Famous last words. After rewriting several, many, seemingly unrelated subsystems, and shuffling things here and there, and there we are to a point where gnome-shell might run with –no-x11 set. A little push more and we will be able to launch mutter as a pure wayland compositor that just spawns Xwayland on demand.

        What’s after that? It’s certainly an important milestone but by no means we are done here. Also, gnome-settings-daemon consists for the most part X11 clients, which spoils the fun by requiring Xwayland very early in a real session, guess what’s next!

      • Georges Basile Stavracas Neto: Sorry for the silence

        After finishing Masters last year, I have spent the time working with Endless full-time, and dedicating myself to parallel projects, such as Japanese language, music, gardening, and martial arts. It’s being wonderful, but that somehow distracted me from communicating changes to the community.

        And for that, my apologies.

        I’ll publish a series of blog posts talking about various GNOME-related activities that I’ve been involved since the last update. Hopefully they will be interesting enough.

  • Distributions

    • Clear Linux Outlines How You Can Build Your Own Linux Distro In 10 Minutes

      While Intel’s Clear Linux is known to the most of you for its speed, it’s also a distribution that is very easy to build off of for specific use-cases should you want your own pre-configured Linux OS.

      Clear Linux tweeted out this week that with their mixer software you can build your own Clear Linux distribution in “less than 10 minutes” using its mixing software. Spinning your own Clear Linux distribution is done using their Mixer tool that is built around their package management concept of bundles with swupd.

    • FWUL, the Linux distro designed for Android debugging and modding, hits version 3.0

      Chances are, at least once in a lifetime, you needed to flash your Android device or simply use adb or fastboot for debugging purposes. Considering the fact that Windows has more than 80% market share on the operating system market, chances are even higher that you use it. That’s why it’s sometimes so hard to properly use the advanced debugging tools on this platform. I’ve even had problems after reinstalling adb a couple of times, and then using the full Android Studio SDK tools.

    • Linux Magazine

    • New Releases

      • Sparky news 2019/01

        The 1st this year monthly report of the Sparky project:

        • Sparky 5.6.1 Special Editions released
        • iso images of stable and rolling line updated again: 4.9.2 & 5.6.2
        • added to repos: Franz, MultibootUSB, Rambox, GitKraken, Sparky Tube (downloads videos and converts to audio or video files, thank’s to Elton), WPS Mui (a part of Sparky Office, which installs WPS locale packs; thank’s to Elton)
        • Sparky’s Linux kernel updated up to version 4.20.6

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

    • Purism

      • Purism Origin Story – Purism

        One of the most common questions we get asked is why I started Purism. And given the growing importance of Purism’s mission amid the barrage of news about how large tech companies are surveilling and exposing their users, it seemed like an opportune time to share our origin story, and why I felt it was important to create this alternative to the status quo.

        When my first daughter was born, in 2007, her birth had a profound impact on me. Like many parents, I was instantly catapulted into a stance of protection over my child, and felt the weight of responsibility for this little person’s life.

        My second child was born 20 months later in 2009, only multiplying the impact my decisions would make on our family.

      • Purism Plans To Expand & Offer Ethical Subscription Services

        If the folks at Purism weren’t busy enough working on their Librem 5 Linux smartphone initiative and adjoining projects like creating a new software app store, they also are eyeing an entrance into offering “ethical” subscription services and ultimately expand into other areas.

        Purism founder Todd Weaver has written a blog post about the origin of Purism and attributing it to the digital security/privacy for his children. While recapping the history and milestones hit thus far, he mentions they plan to follow-up with the Librem 5 smartphone and app store with “a subscription of ethical services, so everybody can join in the fun.” Then the last item on his business plan is just to “Expand.”

      • Tamper-Evident Boot with Heads

        Some of the earliest computer viruses attacked the boot sector—that bit of code at the beginning of the hard drive in the Master Boot Record that allowed you to boot into your operating system. The reasons for this have to do with stealth and persistence. Viruses on the filesystem itself would be erased if users re-installed their operating systems, but if they didn’t erase the boot sector as part of the re-install process, boot sector viruses could stick around and re-infect the operating system.

        Antivirus software vendors ultimately added the ability to scan the boot sector for known viruses, so the problem was solved, right? Unfortunately, as computers, operating systems and BIOSes became more sophisticated, so did the boot-sector attacks. Modern attacks take over before the OS is launched and infect the OS itself, so when you try to search for the attack through the OS, the OS tells you everything is okay.

        [...]

        To understand why having a secure boot process matters so much, it’s useful to understand one of the most common threats on a Linux system: rootkits. A rootkit is a piece of software attackers can use to exploit vulnerabilities in the kernel or other software on the system that has root privileges, so it can turn normal user-level access into root-level access. This ability to escalate to root privileges is important, because although in the old days, all network services ran as root, these days, servers more often run as regular users. If attackers find a flaw in a network service and exploit it so they are able to run commands locally, they will only be able to run those commands as the same user. The rootkit allows them to turn those local user privileges into root privileges, whereby they then can move on to the next step, which is installing backdoors into your system, so they can get back in later undetected.

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • Introducing The Linux Community Challenge #2: openSUSE Tumbleweed
      • May we live in interesting times

        In 1966, Robert F Kennedy gave his famous Day of Affirmation Address in Cape Town, which included the allegedly Chinese curse “may you live in interesting times”. This has been widely used since, but is it really an ancient Chinese curse? Much research has been carried out into the origins of this phrase, and while it can be traced back to a speech given by Sir Austen Chamberlain in England in 1936, it has been generally confirmed and accepted by many to not be of Chinese origin. As a result, I’m quite happy to live in interesting times – preferably working in an interesting role, in an interesting company, in an interesting industry and surrounded by interesting people. Working at SUSE, as part of the OpenStack industry, I get to tick all of these boxes daily! Incidentally, at the time of writing this, there were 155 roles open on the SUSE careers page – why not take a look and see if any are interesting to you?

      • Is time running out for your SAP Linux support?

        In 60 days, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for SAP Applications 11 SP4 will reach the March 31, 2019 end date for General Support. This means that it’s no longer possible to purchase a Priority Support subscription with the updates, proactive fixes for bugs and security vulnerabilities, and unlimited technical support that you depend on. More than likely, your SAP systems and services are critical to your business operations, so it’s equally critical that you maintain Linux support for those systems.
        If you’re no longer running your systems on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for SAP Applications 11 SP4, or have a plan to maintain support with Long Term Service Pack Support (LTSS) then you’re already ahead of the game. Just skip the rest of this blog and enjoy your day. If, on the other hand, you’re wondering what to do next then read on to understand your options.

      • LibreOffice, php, GTK Packages Updated in Tumbleweed

        The most recent snapshot, 20190126, brought libreoffice 6.2.0.3, which added a patch to build with java-11.2; the new version also includes a patch submitted last week that has the basic rendering of organizational charts with LibreOffice’s SmartArt objects. There were plenty of security fixes made with java-11-openjdk 11.0.2.0 to include improved JPEG processing and web server connections. The jump from btrfsprogs 4.19.1 to 4.20.1 brought a new metadata Universally Unique Identifier (UUID) feature and a lightweight change of the UUID without rewriting all metadata became available in the newest version. There was a fix for GVariant tests on the P6 microarchitecture i686 with the update of glib2 2.58.3. The newest version of gnome-builder, 3.30.3, now uses –frame and –thread with the GNU Project debugger. Widget toolkit gtk3 3.24.4 had a few fixes for Wayland and updated translations. GNOME’s mobile-broadband-provider-info package was updated after almost two-years to the 20190116 version; the package provides mobile broadband settings for various service provider and a prepaid feature for Iliad telecommunications in Italy help trigger the updated version. Several bug fixes were made with the php7 7.3.1, which included a timevalue change for the curl_getinfo transfer. Significant changes were made in both poppler and poppler-qt5 0.72.0 to avoid cycles in PDF parsing and memory leak, respectively. Other packages updated in the snapshot worth noting were snapper 0.8.2, wicked and YaST.

    • Fedora

      • Goodbye Gnuefi

        The recommended way to link UEFI applications on linux was until now through GNU-EFI, a toolchain provided by the GNU Project that bridges from the ELF world into COFF/PE32+. But why don’t we compile directly to native UEFI? A short dive into the past of GNU Toolchains, its remnants, and a surprisingly simple way out.

        The Linux World (and many UNIX Derivatives for that matter) is modeled around ELF. With statically linked languages becoming more prevalent, the impact of the ABI diminishes, but it still defines properties far beyond just how to call functions. The ABI your system uses also effects how compiler and linker interact, how binaries export information (especially symbols), and what features application developers can make use of. We have become used to ELF, and require its properties in places we didn’t expect.

    • Debian Family

      • Debconf Video Team Sprint – Day 1

        The Debconf Video team has got together for a sprint…

      • Debconf Video Team Sprint – Day 2

        Two things to concentrate on today, getting the stage box rack populated and following conversation with starting to Jonathan last night, to look at Raspberry Pi boot.

        So task 1 Racking up the stage box equipment

        It is a shame that we do not have all of the radio receivers for the stage box yet, never mind; I can leave a 1U space in the case for 2 of the missing receivers and I can fit the the one receiver I have with the log side ear that comes with the kit so that it can still be fitted into the rack… Note to self DO NOT lose the little mounting plate to bind two receivers together – I will need 2 of them, and each receiver comes with just 1…

      • Jonathan Carter: Free Software Activities (2019-01)

        I used to think monthly logs are too much effort, but I decided to give it a go and it ended up being easy and very non-intrusive to my workflow.

      • Derivatives

        • Want a bit of privacy? Got a USB stick? Welcome to TAILS 3.12

          The Linux distro for the security-conscious has been updated with a fresh USB installation method.

          Hot on the heels of Apple’s latest privacy blunder, The Amnesic Incognito Live System (TAILS) has emitted version 3.12.

          The big news this time around is the arrival of a USB image alongside the usual ISO. ISOs, handy for burning to a DVD or spinning up a virtual machine, are not so good when it comes to one of TAILS’ strengths – running Linux without a trace.

          The faff of needing a couple of USB sticks and around three hours of spare time is gone with this release. A single 8GB USB stick is sufficient to handle the 1.2GB download and TAILS reckons that the whole process should take an hour and a half.

          A swift download and burn to USB using Etcher and a user is up, running and able to enjoy the discretion afforded by the Debian-based distro and the Tor network.

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS to Arrive on February 7 with New Components from Ubuntu 18.10

            Dubbed “Bionic Beaver,” Ubuntu 18.04 LTS is the latest LTS (Long Term Support) series of the widely used Linux-based operating system, supported by Canonical for at least 5 years, until April 2023, with maintenance and security updates, though Mark Shuttleworth promised a 10-year support for the Bionic Beaver.

          • Flavours and Variants

            • Linux Mint Begins Plotting Their 2019 Improvements With Fresh Funding

              Last month the Ubuntu/Debian-based Linux Mint distribution crew collected more than twenty-two thousand dollars in donations during the holiday period. With that record high in monthly donations for the project, they are as motivated as ever for delivering more improvements to their desktop-focused distro this year.

            • Linux Mint Devs Work on Splitting Cinnamon into Multiple Processes, Improvements

              With the Linux Mint 19.1 “Tessa” out the door last month, the development team lead by Clement Lefebvre will now concentrate their efforts on improving various parts of the operating system like the live ISO images, which will get revamped boot and splash screens with possible support for language and keymap selections.

            • Monthly News – January 2019

              It’s always a treat for us to unveil what we’ve been working on and to have it ready on release day. That’s when we get feedback and we see people enjoy it. Witnessing a happy user who is delighted with the changes we implemented is very special, and so is the general feeling that a release went well and that its reception was very positive. We get that thanks to a vocal community here on the blog, on the forums and on IRC. When a month later stats show close to 700 people were so happy with us they sent us money, it gives us a sense of scale and we know there’s also a silent audience who enjoyed what we did. It’s humbling, it’s motivating, it’s really a great feeling. Thank you very much for this, not just for the money, but for that awesome feeling you’re giving us.

              The 19.1 release and the port to LMDE 3 went well so we were able to start the development cycle early this month. Normally we catch up with pull requests (we currently have 92 open) and we start implementing what’s on the roadmap, but as we’ve got time in front of us and in reaction to some of the feedback we gathered, we spent most of January on R&D, design considerations and ambitious tasks. Three areas in particular were given attention: Artwork, performance and the idea of splitting Cinnamon into different processes. I usually prefer to talk about what we achieved rather than what we envision and this certainly isn’t a promise. We’re deep into this at the moment, it will lead to improvements but some of these ideas and projects will also probably fail or not lead to anything in the short/middle term.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Kodi 18 Released with Major New Features: Here’s How to Install it on Ubuntu

    A new version of the Kodi media center has been released, and in this post we show you how to install Kodi on Ubuntu.

    Kodi 18 is the latest version of this hugely popular media manager (which once went by the name ‘XBMC’). And as updates go Kodi 18 is fairly significant: it’s been in development for over 2 years and saw over 10,000 code commits, 3,000 pull requests, and half a million lines of code added (and a similar number removed).

  • Governance on demand

    I have talked about the Spectrum of Open Source Governance Models before. After rereading Nadia Eghbal’s excellent post Governance without foundations I feel tempted to add one more: Governance on demand.

    Why that?

    Nadia suggests a theory in the last footnote of her post, “that projects only need to define governance at the first sign of conflict”. Intuitively, this makes immediate sense. We have all seen the projects which seem to work very fine without any thoughts about governance, and we also have seen those projects where attempts to set up formal governance have brought things to a halt instead of serving the project. So doing it at the last responsible point in time, when you actually need it, sounds like a very attractive model.

    Being able to add governance on demand needs a high level of awareness and reflection. It also needs a culture which is open to the idea of governance, has the means to facilitate discussions about it, and is able to come to a conclusion. It is the point where you have to “decide to decide”.

  • Events

    • 20 Years of Linux.conf.au [Memoirs]

      Living on the opposite side of Australia in Perth meant we were intellectually starved of being able to talk face-to-face to key people from this new world of Open Source and Free Software. The distance across the county is almost the same as East to West coast United States, and not many visitors to Melbourne or Sydney make the long trek over the Great Australian Bight to reach Western Australia’s capital.

      We found ourselves asking the LCA 2011 organisers if it would be possible in future to run Linux.Conf.Au in Perth one day.

      Having had the initial conference (then called the Conference of Australian Linux Users, or CALU) in 1999 in Melbourne, and then Linux.conf.au 2001 in Sydney, it seemed a natural progression to having LCA roam around different cities year; it felt almost unfair to those who could not afford to travel to Melbourne or Sydney.

      The result from 2001 was that in 2002 it would run in Brisbane, but that we should make a proposal and get organised

  • Web Browsers

    • Chrome

      • Working on the Chromium Servicification Project

        It’s been a few months already since I (re)joined Igalia as part of its Chromium team and I couldn’t be happier about it: right since the very first day, I felt perfectly integrated as part of the team that I’d be part of and quickly started making my way through the -fully upstream- project that would keep me busy during the following months: the Chromium Servicification Project.

        But what is this “Chromium servicification project“? Well, according to the Wiktionary the word “servicification” means, applied to computing, “the migration from monolithic legacy applications to service-based components and solutions”, which is exactly what this project is about: as described in the Chromium servicification project’s website, the whole purpose behind this idea is “to migrate the code base to a more modular, service-oriented architecture”, in order to “produce reusable and decoupled components while also reducing duplication”.

      • Google Chrome to get warnings for ‘lookalike URLs’

        Once enabled, this new mechanism will show a dropdown panel under the Chrome address bar, asking the user if he really meant to type and access that URL, which Chrome deemed dangerous due to its close resemblance with a more legitimate site.

      • Google Chrome Will Soon Show Warnings If You Mistype URLs

        Often, we misspell a website’s name in the Google Chrome Omnibox and end up on some weird-looking webpages. And many times, these sting sites are bundled with pop-up ads or hold phishing web pages.

        But with Google Chrome, it will all be over soon. As first spotted by ZDNet, Google is set to instill a new feature that will warn users before accessing “lookalike” websites.

      • Chrome 72 for Mac, Windows, Linux rolling out w/ revamped Google settings, kills Chromecast setup

        Chrome 72 removes the ability to setup Chromecast dongles using the Mac, Windows, or Linux browser. Users could previously setup Wi-Fi, device naming, and more by heading to chrome://cast. That URL would walk users through finding a streaming device on your network. Now, that page just shows users what special officers are available to them.

        Google is directing users to the Google Home app for Android and iOS. It’s important to note that this change only applies to the setup process and not any Casting functionality. Users can still send tabs, video, or audio from Chrome for Mac, Windows, and Linux to a Chromecast or other Chromecast-enabled device, like Google Home, once everything is setup.

    • Mozilla

      • Mozilla B-Team: happy bmo push day!
      • Mozilla Improves Privacy Controls in Firefox 65

        Mozilla released its first web browser update for 2019 on Jan. 29, with the debut of Firefox 65.

        The open-source Firefox 65 web browser improves a number of different features and has a strong focus on helping to advance user privacy. Mozilla is integrating redesigned controls in the updated browser release to enable users to more easily identity and set the level of privacy protection they want. The privacy controls are part of Mozilla’s larger effort to enhance tracking protection for web users.

        “Simplified content blocking settings give users standard, strict, and custom options to control online trackers,” Mozilla states in the Firefox 65 release notes.

      • Firefox 65 Released with Major Security Improvements

        Firefox 65 is now available to download.

        The latest stable release of Mozilla’s hugely influential open-source web browser comes bearing a number of improvements, particularly in regards to security and web compatibility.

      • Mozilla GFX: WebRender newsletter #38

        WebRender’s best and only newsletter is here. The number of blocker bugs is rapidly decreasing, thanks to the efforts of everyone involved (staff and volunteers alike). The project is in a good enough shape that some people are now moving on to other projects and we are starting to experiment with webrender on new hardware. WebRender is now enabled by default in Nightly for some subset of AMD GPUs on Windows and we are looking into Intel integrated GPUs as well. As usual we start with small subsets with the goal of gradually expanding in order to avoid running into an overwhelming amount of platform/configuration specific bugs at once.

      • Mozilla Firefox 65 Is Now Available for All Supported Ubuntu Linux Releases

        The recently released Mozilla Firefox 65 web browser is now available for download from the stable software repositories of all supported Ubuntu Linux operating system series.

        For Linux users, the Mozilla Firefox 65 release enhances the security of the web browser by enabling “Stack smashing” protection by default. “Stack smashing” may allow malicious actors to take control or corrupt a vulnerable application.

        Mozilla Firefox 65 also improves the tracking protection by offering users standard, stricter, and custom options for controlling online trackers via a redesigned Content Blocking section displayed in the site information panel.

      • Mozilla’s New Reference Browser for Android Begins Beta Testing

        Mozilla has announced a new web browser for Android users, its called the Reference Browser. A contributor from Mozilla by the name of Seburo called out for test pilots today, via a blog post. Mozilla is putting high stakes in its new online infrastructure including GeckoView, Glean and a new Firefox Accounts implementation. This new browser will help the company in testing its products before they are made available to the public.

      • Beta Test New Firefox Features with Mozilla’s Reference Browser for Android

        Years ago, Mozilla’s “Test Pilot” initiative encouraged users to beta test mobile versions of the Firefox browser. Now, Mozilla is asking users to use its new Reference Browser to help bring a new generation of Firefox to Android phones.

        Firefox is one of the most popular browsers for Android. It’s fast, can sync with the Firefox browser on your desktop, and implements tab features better than most mobile browsers. But the world of mobile phones is beginning to shift. By the end of the year, we’re going to see phones that use 5G, phones that fold open into tablets, and phones that have 1 TB of internal storage. With all of these changes coming right around the corner, Mozilla needs to bring its mobile browser to a new level.

      • Mozilla Raises Concerns Over Facebook’s Lack of Transparency

        Today Denelle Dixon, Mozilla’s Chief Operating Officer, sent a letter to the European Commission surfacing concerns about the lack of publicly available data for political advertising on the Facebook platform.

        It has come to our attention that Facebook has prevented third parties from conducting analysis of the ads on their platform. This impacts our ability to deliver transparency to EU citizens ahead of the EU elections. It also prevents any developer, researcher, or organization to develop tools, critical insights, and research designed to educate and empower users to understand and therefore resist targeted disinformation campaigns.

      • Mozilla Thunderbird 60.5 is Now Available to Download
      • How to use the Daily Build of Mozilla Thunderbird
      • Firefox Nightly: These Weeks in Firefox: Issue 52
      • New in Firefox DevTools 65

        We just released Firefox 65 with a number of new developer features that make it even easier for you to create, inspect and debug the web.

  • LibreOffice

    • Overwrite on macOS

      The keyboard layout on Apple computers is special and some keys are missing.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD

    • OPNsense 19.1 released

      For more than four years now, OPNsense is driving innovation through modularising and hardening the open source firewall, with simple and reliable firmware upgrades, multi-language support, HardenedBSD security, fast adoption of upstream software updates as well as clear and stable 2-Clause BSD licensing.

      The 19.1 release, nicknamed “Inspiring Iguana”, consists of a total of 620 individual changes since 18.7 came out 6 months ago, spread out over12 intermediate releases including the recent release candidates. That is the average of 2 stable releases per month, security updates and important bug fixes included! If we had to pick a few highlights it would be: The firewall alias API is finally in place. The migration to HardenedBSD 11.2 has been completed. 2FA now works with a remote LDAP / local TOTP
      combination. And the OpenVPN client export was rewritten for full API support as well.

    • OPNsense 19.1 Released: BSD-Based Firewall / Networking OS

      OPNsense, the FreeBSD-based firewall/router platform forked from m0n0wall, is out with its first release of 2019 and it also marks four years since the original OS release.

      The OPNsense 19.1 release is based on FreeBSD sources with security hardening via HardenedBSD, there are many system-level improvements, numerous improvements to its firewall functionality, better ZFS installation support, better IPv6 handling, OpenVPN client export support was rewritten, new plug-ins, and many other changes.

  • Licensing/Legal

    • HMD publishes Nokia 2 V kernel source code

      Like any other company, HMD Global is required to release the kernel source code for any phones and major updates that it releases by the GPL. Today the company has published the source code for the Nokia 2 V, which is Verizon’s version of the affordable Nokia 2.1 that is beginning sales tomorrow.

    • 4 confusing open source license scenarios and how to navigate them

      As an attorney running an open source program office for a Fortune 500 corporation, I am often asked to look into a product or component where there seems to be confusion as to the licensing model. Under what terms can the code be used, and what obligations run with such use? This often happens when the code or the associated project community does not clearly indicate availability under a commonly accepted open source license. The confusion is understandable as copyright owners often evolve their products and services in different directions in response to market demands. Here are some of the scenarios I commonly discover and how you can approach each situation.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Data

      • Open datasets demand robust privacy protections

        Most of these datasets do not implement robust privacy protections. And with all this data out there and in the open, there is significant potential for abuse when privacy protections are insufficient or nonexistent. This occurred with the taxi data in New York City when researchers examined how the dataset could reveal information about drivers’ home addresses and income, as well as the detailed travel manifests of passengers, which could also be compromising.

        Obviously, the organization releasing any dataset already has access to the raw, original, unprotected information, and while there are concerns to be raised about this fact—such as how the data is collected or the ethics of its use—that’s not our focus here. Instead, think about how other organizations (besides the discloser) could use the data. A corporation could publish GPS logs from fitness wearables, which a government could use to track people’s movements post-facto or in near-real-time. Or a city could release data on some of its residents, which a corporation could then use to spike individuals’ insurance rates or derive detailed travel histories. There is potential for real harm to occur.

        Arguing why data privacy matters can be challenging in a world where a) many are uninformed about just how pervasively they’re being watched, b) others are ambivalent that the surveillance matters, and c) others yet make such proclamations as “privacy is dead” and conclude that we should just move on. These are all dangerous realities, because not caring about privacy is a privilege: “Privacy violations harm the most vulnerable among us,” I’ve written, and “a belief that data privacy protections ‘might not matter’ is only a lack of fear that the information won’t be used against you.” We might not care if our information is inferred by an algorithm and made accessible to decisionmakers, but that doesn’t hold true for everyone. And, more broadly, perhaps we didn’t consent to these potentially compromising disclosures in the first place.

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • Priming the RISC-V Pump

        We’re probably all aware at some level of the new processor upstart, the open-source RISC-V… core? No… architecture? No… instruction set architecture (ISA)? Yeah, that’s pretty much what it is. Which means… if you want to use it, and you’re starting from scratch, then there are lots of steps necessary to do anything.

        Given all the hoopla, it’s easy to think that you can simply go out and buy these handy new RISC-V chips, which will cost less, cuz open source, right? But, while excitement is high, an ISA must be turned into an architecture and a micro-architecture, to be followed by detailed chip design and fabrication. And that’s just for the core. Then you need the whole subsystem. At that point, you have a shot at a chip.

  • Programming/Development

    • Not So Quick! WebAssembly

      WebAssembly is a strange beast. It makes use of a software stack machine and much is made of its design so as to produce the best performance. For web use this stack machine is inside the existing JavaScript engines. If you know the history of stack machines, none of this sounds promising. Despite their elegance, stack machines are not common in hardware implementations. And any code, no matter how compact and well-designed, that runs on a virtual machine or an interpreter is likely to be slow. Yet WebAssembly enthusiasts claim that it is only a bit slower then native code. On Chrome’s V8 engine it runs 34% faster than the same code compiled to asm.js – a reduced form of JavaScript that can be better optimized. It also gets within 10% of native execution on a range of benchmarks and 2x slower is a reasonable worse case upper bound.

    • The Small Scale Agile Manifesto

      The “Agile Manifesto” is an umbrella term that describes and governs several lightweight and fuller agile methodologies for handling IT teams and projects. Scrum, Kanban, Lean Development, Crystal, and Extreme Programming (XP) are among the most popular and lightweight agile approaches.

      While Small Scale Scrum fits into the Agile Manifesto, six of its additional values, described below, should complement and enhance agile for smaller teams.

    • RPM and Debian Repositories for Miniconda

      Conda, the package manager from Anaconda, is now available as either a RedHat RPM or as a Debian package. The packages are the equivalent to the Miniconda installer which only contains Conda and its dependencies. You can use yum or apt-get to install, uninstall and manage Conda on your system. To install Conda follow the instructions for your Linux distribution.

    • Google Summer of Code 2019

      Some of us have been discussing on IRC whether to apply again to the Google Summer of Code 2019, as The Qt Project.

      The deadline for organizations to send applications is February 6th.
      The current idea is that, unless there are strong objections against applying, we will try to submit an application on behalf of The Qt Project.

    • Understanding Recursive Functions with Python

      When we think about repeating a task, we usually think about the for and while loops. These constructs allow us to perform iteration over a list, collection, etc.

      However, there’s another form of repeating a task, in a slightly different manner. By calling a function within itself, to solve a smaller instance of the same problem, we’re performing recursion.

      These functions call themselves until the problem is solved, practically dividing the initial problem to a lot of smaller instances of itself – like for an example, taking small bites of a larger piece of food.

      The end goal is to eat the entire plate of hot pockets, you do this by taking a bite over and over. Each bite is a recursive action, after which you undertake the same action the next time. You do this for every bite, evaluating that you should take another one to reach the goal, until there are no hot pockets left on your plate.

    • PyCharm 2018.3.4
    • Debconf Video Team Sprint – Day 3

      Today has mostly been spent in conversation.

      Jonathan has started to scratch an itch that I share, we need a better tally light solution. When we were using DV switch we had a simple tally light system using (iirc DTR on a) serial port to turn on or off an LED. This was fine because there was always a PC available at each camera running DVCapture.

      Since the move to Voctomix, each camera no longer has it’s own dedicated PC. Instead we have long 50R co-ax cables (remember the days of cheaper-net 10 base-2?) going directly to a PC running VoctoCore…. Yes we still use a serial port to drive a tally light (all be it these days from a USB to serial converter) but we could do so much better.

    • DevConf.CZ 2019 Recap

      DevConf.CZ 2019 wrapped up last weekend and it was a great event packed with lots of knowledgeable speakers, an engaging hallway track, and delicious food. This was my first trip to any DevConf and it was my second trip to Brno.

    • Scott Kitterman: Rise and fall of libclamav

      Because I was bored and needed to procrastinate, I decided to look at the history of packages using libclamav over the last several releases.

    • SALT is a third-party alternative to LG UP

      Although, currently flashing KDZ files is currently unsupported. You can check out the thread at the link below to download the software, and to leave feedback for the developer as the tool is refined. It works for both GNU/Linux and Windows operating systems, though the developer recommends you use the tool in his FWUL GNU/Linux environment.

    • Eclipse GlassFish Java EE 8 Certified

      GlassFish, and its associated Technology Compatibility Kit (TCK) code, has been fully migrated to Eclipse Foundation stewardship. The new release, Eclipse GlassFish 5.1.0, is now fully Java EE 8 certified, which represents a key step to ensuring backward compatibility of Jakarta EE.

      GlassFish is the reference implementation of Java EE, in other words, the standard from which all other implementations and corresponding customizations are derived. GlassFish was initially created by Sun Microsystems for the Java EE platform and is now sponsored by Oracle, who have a supported version called Oracle GlassFish Server.

    • How to cast a function pointer to a void*
    • What’s New in Mallard 1.1, Part 1
    • PyCharm 2019.1 EAP 2
    • Steve Kemp: I decided it was time to write a compiler

      I wrote some logic to allow calculating powers too, so you can output 2 ^ 8, etc. That’s just implemented the naive-way, where you have a small loop and multiply the contents of EAX by itself the appropriate number of times. Modulus is similarly simple to calculate.

      Adding support for named variables, and other things, wouldn’t be too hard. But it would involve register-allocation and similar complexity. Perhaps that’s something I need to flirt with, to make the learning process complete, but to be honest I can’t be bothered.

    • The GNU C Library version 2.29 is now available

      The GNU C Library version 2.29 is now available.

      The GNU C Library is used as *the* C library in the GNU system and
      in GNU/Linux systems, as well as many other systems that use Linux
      as the kernel.

      The GNU C Library is primarily designed to be a portable
      and high performance C library. It follows all relevant
      standards including ISO C11 and POSIX.1-2008. It is also
      internationalized and has one of the most complete
      internationalization interfaces known.

    • Glibc 2.29 Released With getcpu() On Linux, New Optimizations

      Ending out January is the version 2.29 release of the GNU C Library (glibc).

      In the half-year since glibc 2.28 debuted there has been more optimizations and new additions to this de facto C library. Glibc 2.29 brings with it a new getcpu() wrapper function that returns the CPU currently in use as well as its NUMA node of the calling thread or process. This is just wrapping around Linux’s getcpu() system call.

    • Add one to the last element of a list

      Hello and welcome to another one day one answer series. In this article, we will create a python method which will do the following actions.

    • PyCon 2019 Reminders and Information!

      The first 30 days of 2019 have come and gone so quickly, we want to take a minute to provide some conference reminders and information.

    • DevOps transformation: Key differences in small, midsize, and large organizations

      However, a DevOps transformation in a company with a handful of engineers is quite different from one with hundreds or thousands of engineers.

      Instinctively, the DevOps journey should be easiest with small organizations, as they are typically abundant with passion and an appetite for change. However, small organizations tend to be more constrained on resources, infrastructure, and budget, while larger organizations tend to have more policies, governance, and politics that affect the transformation.

      So, how does size matter? Here’s what members of the community said in a poll about how size affects the ease of transforming.

    • Announcing the Guido van Rossum Core Developer Grant

      At the last General Assembly of the EuroPython Society (EPS) at EuroPython 2018 in Edinburgh, we voted on a new grant program we want to put in place for future EuroPython conferences.
      We all love Python and this is one of the main reasons we are putting on EuroPython year after year, serving the “cast of thousands” which support Python. But we also believe it is important to give something back to the main team of developers who have contributed lots of their time and energy to make Python happen: the Python Core Developers.

Leftovers

  • Deep Fakes: Let’s Not Go Off The Deep End

    In just a few short months, “deep fakes” are striking fear in technology experts and lawmakers. Already there are legislative proposals, a law review article, national security commentaries, and dozens of opinion pieces claiming that this new deep fake technology — which uses artificial intelligence to produce realistic-looking simulated videos — will spell the end of truth in media as we know it.

    But will that future come to pass?

    Much of the fear of deep fakes stems from the assumption that this is a fundamentally new, game-changing technology that society has not faced before. But deep fakes are really nothing new; history is littered with deceptive practices — from Hannibal’s fake war camp to Will Rogers’ too-real impersonation of President Truman to Stalin’s disappearing of enemies from photographs. And society’s reaction to another recent technological tool of media deception — digital photo editing and Photoshop — teaches important lessons that provide insight into deep fakes’ likely impact on society.

    In 1990, Adobe released the groundbreaking Adobe Photoshop to compete in the quickly-evolving digital photograph editing market. This technology, and myriad competitors that failed to reach the eventual popularity of Photoshop, allowed the user to digitally alter real photographs uploaded into the program. While competing services needed some expertise to use, Adobe designed Photoshop to be user-friendly and accessible to anyone with a Macintosh computer.

  • Science

    • Teams of Inventors: Trends in Patenting [Ed: Faking number of patents one has by adding more names to them. Same thing that happens in scholarly publications, rendering this system a parody if not a sham]

      I recently posted a chart showing a short time series showing the number of inventors per patent. The basic conclusion from that post was in the headline: Average Number of Inventors per Patent Continues Steady Rise. Here, I have updated and added to those charts. The first chart below reaches back to 1976 — showing that the average number of inventors per patent has been steadily increasing over all of the past 40 years. The trend has been amazingly steady and linear, and should serve as good fodder for economic analysis. My simple linear model suggests that we’ll top the 3.0 inventors-per-patent threshold by 2021 (both the mean and median).

    • A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Blockchain Universe

      The original objective of the blockchain system was to support “an electronic payment system based on cryptographic proof instead of trust” 6 While the scope of use has grown considerably, the basic goals and requirements have remained consistent.

      The first of these goals is to ensure the anonymity of blockchain’s users. This is accomplished by use of a public/private key pair, in a fashion that is reasonably well known and not reinvented by the blockchain technology. Each participant is identified by the public key, and authentication is accomplished through signing with the private key. Since this is not specific to blockchain, it is not considered further here.

      The second goal is to provide a public record or ledger of a set of transactions that cannot be altered once verified and agreed to. This was originally designed to keep users of electronic currency from double-spending and to allow public audit of all transactions. The ledger is a record of what transactions have taken place, and the order of those transactions. The use of this ledger for verification of transactions other than the exchange of electronic cash has been the main extension of the blockchain technology.

      The final core goal is for the system to be independent of any central or trusted authority. This is meant to be a peer- or participant-driven system in which no entity has more or less authority or trust than any other. The design seeks to ensure the other goals as long as more than half of the members of the participating community are honest.

    • US Congressional Watchdog Launches Team For Sci/Tech Analysis

      A new chapter begins. The business of technology and science has been, and will increasingly be, the business of government: with this in mind, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has launched a new Science, Technology Assessment and Analytics (STTA) team with the aim to expand the support to lawmakers on topics whose importance has exponentially increased in the world of today.

      The GAO is a US congressional watchdog agency which produces reference analyses on a range of topics in support of the legislative process.

      “Since 2002 GAO has provided technology assessment and direct scientific support to Congress on emerging and emergent innovations” Tim Persons, GAO’s chief scientist and a managing director of the team, said in a blog.

    • A “gold standard” study finds deleting Facebook is great for your mental health

      Many of us have become so accustomed to social media that it is hard to remember when it was not intrinsic to our lives, though in reality it has not existed in a meaningful sense for more than 20 years. Over the last decade, the amount of time spent on social media and in front of screens has slowly yet steadily increased, arousing the interest of many health professionals trying to understand its impact on human health. A new study, which is being hailed as the most trustworthy scientific assessment of social media’s effects, suggests that quitting Facebook is unequivocally positive for one’s mental health.

      Researchers at Stanford University and New York University who led the study — which was posted on an open access site called the Social Science Research Network — recruited 2,844 Facebook users via Facebook ads. Those users were initially asked to fill out extensive questionnaires about their overall well-being, political views, and daily routine. Half of the users were then randomly assigned to deactivate their Facebook account for four weeks in exchange for payment. Researchers regularly checked the Facebook accounts during the month to make sure they weren’t reactivated, and regularly received text messages to asses these users’ moods, creating a real-time evaluation.

    • The danger of tailings dams

      There are about 3,500 tailings dams around the world. Unlike the dams used to build reservoirs or hydroelectric projects, tailings dams are not usually made from reinforced concrete or stone. They are mostly constructed from tailings, the waste material left over from mining operations. As lots of water and sometimes chemicals are used to extract the minerals and metals, the tailings largely consist of wet sludge. Depending on the type of mine, these tailings can be toxic. Miners used to dump them into rivers, but in recent decades, with environmental awareness growing, the sludge has come to be stored behind dams, where the solid material settles, allowing the water in the sludge to be recovered and reused.

    • Why Your Phone (and Other Gadgets) Fail You When It’s Cold

      But much of the tech that facilitates our connected modern lives itself loses functionality as temperatures drop below freezing. Batteries, screens, sensors, lightweight materials—the things that power our modern mobile lifestyles—just don’t work when it gets this cold. Here’s what to expect of your gear.

    • Earth’s magnetic field nearly died during critical transition

      We can also work out how strong the magnetic field was from these records. That’s what a team led by Richard Bono and John Tarduno at the University of Rochester was most interested in when they analyzed some 565 million-year-old rocks in Quebec.

      We don’t have much data from that time period, which some researchers suspect might have been when the inner core finally started solidifying. In this case, the igneous rocks the researchers were working with cooled slowly below ground, meaning their record probably spans around 75,000 years. That should be longer than a flipping of the magnetic poles usually takes, so any temporary changes like that should be averaged out.

    • How Pop Culture Primed Us for ‘Alternative Facts’
  • Health/Nutrition

    • Democrats Shouldn’t Abandon Medicare for All Over a Misleading Survey

      David Leonhardt of the New York Times has highlighted a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation that, if true, would suggest that Medicare for All is not nearly as popular as initial polling would suggest. Based on this survey’s results, Leonhardt concludes that Democrats who support the idea are committing an “unforced error.”

      Unfortunately, that survey is deeply misleading. While pollsters made it clear that they were merely presenting “some arguments some people have made for or against a national Medicare-for-all plan,” they only presented partial arguments in favor of Medicare for All while presenting deeply deceptive arguments against it. Their questions almost certainly skewed the results.

      The poll finds that 56 percent of voters surveyed initially support “Medicare for All” and 42 percent oppose it, for a net favorability rating of +14 percent. When arguments in favor of Medicare for All are presented—it will guarantee coverage to all Americans and reduce out-of-pocket costs—net favorability rises to +45 percent. (KFF does not provide the raw numbers here.)

    • Board Debates Medicines Access; WHO Asserts Mandate On IP, Trade Issues

      Shortages, faulty supply chains, unbearable prices, weak health systems – the issue of access to medicines is multifaceted and gave way to a long list of interventions yesterday at the World Health Organization. Challenged on its mandate to address intellectual property and trade issues, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Gheyebresus (Dr Tedros) confirmed that WHO’s mandate includes work with partners on those issues. Discussions also included fair pricing and transparency, for which Italy called for a resolution at the next World Health Assembly.

    • This is how we get terrible health care

      Chaos ensued. Conservatives attacked, her campaign issued a partial clarification (though she did not disavow her stance), and moderates like David Leonhardt and Jonathan Chait concluded it means Medicare-for-all is doomed. It is a good example of how moderate liberalism can never deliver really quality health-care policy.

      Now, it is not strictly true that Medicare-for-all would necessarily mean getting rid of all private health insurance companies. Bernie Sanders’ bill, for example, would ban private companies from replicating any coverage provided by Medicare, thus eradicating most of their business model because the new coverage would be so good. However (as is the case in Canada and most similar countries) private companies would probably still provide supplementary coverage for certain things.

      The public opinion background here is that while Medicare-for-all polls well on its own, if you tell people it will mean getting rid of private insurance, support plummets from 56-42 in favor to 58-37 against. Thus Leonhardt concludes Democrats should give up on the policy: “I think this particular plan is an unforced error. It comes with huge political vulnerabilities.” Chait has a similar recommendation, writing: “If I was advising a Democratic candidate, I would tell them to leave private insurance in place.” Instead Leonhardt and Chait both propose a Medicare buy-in as a sort of tactical pre-retreat before the battle has even started.

      This is why we can’t have nice things.

      For one thing, the negative messaging aspect of this poll is not the whole story. The same survey found that if you tell people that Medicare-for-all would “eliminate all health insurance premiums and reduce out-of-pocket health-care costs for most,” support increases to 67-30. If you tell them it would “guarantee health insurance as a right for all Americans,” it goes up even further, to 71-27.

    • Walling in the Opioid Crisis?

      President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to declare a national emergency if Congress refuses to pony up $5.7 billion to build the “great, great wall” he promised his base during the 2016 election campaign. In an apocalyptic televised address early in January, he even warned — falsely, as fact checkers revealed during the speech — that a tsunami of hard-core criminals and drugs was sweeping across the U.S.-Mexican border.

      Fabricating national emergencies is unconscionable, especially when there are real ones requiring urgent attention.

      Here’s an example: since 1999, 400,000 Americans have died from overdoses of opioids, including pain medications obtained legally through prescriptions or illegally, as well as from heroin, an illicit opioid. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) notes that prescription medications were involved in 218,000 of those fatalities.

      Even the president labeled opioid addiction a “public health emergency” after a commission he appointed in March 2017 issued a report detailing its horrific consequences. Trump’s efforts led Congress to allocate $6 billion to combat the crisis in 2018 and 2019, and the president sought another $7 billion for 2019. Since then, however, his attention has turned to the “emergency” along the border with Mexico, the equivalent, by comparison, of a gnat bite on an elephant.

    • Navy to deny thousands of civil claims in NC drinking water case

      The Navy is reportedly denying the remaining thousands of civil claims related to contaminated drinking at water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

      [...]

      Between the 1950s and 1980s, people living or working at the Jacksonville, N.C., base may have been exposed to contaminants in their drinking water, according to government research on the issue.

      The Department of Veteran Affairs has estimated that 900,000 people may have been affected by the contaminated water.

    • Navy to deny all civil claims related to Camp Lejeune water contamination

      The secretary of the Navy is denying all remaining civil claims by individuals exposed to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, leaving roughly 4,500 plaintiffs with claims of more than $963 billion in damages with no cash payouts.

    • Two judges block Donald Trump’s rollback of contraceptive coverage

      Both judges found that states were eligible to sue—that is, had “standing”—because the Trump administration’s rules place fresh burdens on their budgets. There’s a realistic chance, Judge Gilliam wrote, that the exemption constitutes a “threat to [the states’] economic interests” as they would be “forced to pay for contraceptives that are no longer provided cost-free to women as guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act” and “suffer economic harm from the consequences of unintended pregnancies” stemming from fewer women enjoying access to affordable contraceptives.

    • The 16 countries with the world’s best healthcare systems

      The organisation compares 104 variables to come up with its list, splitting those variables into nine subindexes. One of the big components of the ranking is how healthy a country’s people are.

    • WHO Member States Call For Transparency, Access To Innovation On Cancer Drug Pricing

      A substantive discussion took place at the World Health Organization Executive Board meeting yesterday in response to a recently released WHO report on cancer drug pricing. Among the variety of perspectives expressed, many formed consensus in calling for increased transparency of research and development (R&D) costs and equitable access to innovative cancer drugs.

    • A Huge Step Forward In The Quest To Expand Social Security

      This morning, Representative John Larson (D-CT), Chair of the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, announced the introduction of the Social Security 2100 Act. He informed those in attendance and those around the country watching online that the bill has over 200 original cosponsors. That many original cosponsors is truly remarkable and underscores how important and wise the legislation is.

      The Social Security 2100 Act would increase Social Security’s modest benefits for the 63 million Americans receiving those earned benefits today, as well as every single American who will receive them in the future. Those Americans include Gold Star families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in our defense, children of other deceased or disabled workers, seniors and so many others.

      It would also increase the minimum Social Security benefit earned by those who labor at low wages and contribute to Social Security for their entire working lives. The minimum benefit, which has eroded since its enactment in 1972, is increased because the cosponsors do not believe Americans should be forced to retire into poverty after a lifetime of work and contributing. In addition, the legislation would provide a more accurate measure for Social Security’s yearly cost of living adjustment, so that beneficiaries will no longer see their modest but vital benefits gradually erode from inflation.

      Moreover, the legislation would ensure that every penny of all these promised benefits will be paid in full and on time through the rest of the 21st century and beyond. That will provide perhaps the most important benefit of all: Peace of mind, security, that if disaster strikes in the form of death or disability Social Security will be there, month after month, providing the economic security we have earned and deserve. And peace of mind knowing that those of us who have the good fortune of a very long life will not outlive our Social Security. This is in sharp contrast to savings, which may be gone towards the end of life when expenses may be highest.

    • On FDR’s 137th Birthday, 200+ Democrats Unveil Bill to Expand Social Security So ‘Seniors Can Retire in Dignity’

      Additionally, the Democratic bill would prevent Social Security benefits from eroding over time by more accurately adjusting them to rising costs of living.

      In a statement after the measure was introduced, Social Security Works president Nancy Altman applauded the bill’s “unprecedented” 200 Democratic co-sponsors for working to guarantee that “every penny of promised Social Security benefits, including the increases, can be paid in full and on time through the 21st century and beyond, just as they always have been paid.”

      “When President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act of 1935 into law, he stated that the legislation represented ‘a cornerstone in a structure which is being built but is by no means complete.’ It is extremely fitting that the Social Security 2100 Act was introduced today, the 137th anniversary of Roosevelt’s birth,” Altman said.

    • OxyContin Maker Explored Expansion Into “Attractive” Anti-Addiction Market

      Not content with billions of dollars in profits from the potent painkiller OxyContin, its maker explored expanding into an “attractive market” fueled by the drug’s popularity — treatment of opioid addiction, according to previously secret passages in a court document filed by the state of Massachusetts.

      In internal correspondence beginning in 2014, Purdue Pharma executives discussed how the sale of opioids and the treatment of opioid addiction are “naturally linked” and that the company should expand across “the pain and addiction spectrum,” according to redacted sections of the lawsuit by the Massachusetts attorney general. A member of the billionaire Sackler family, which founded and controls the privately held company, joined in those discussions and urged staff in an email to give “immediate attention” to this business opportunity, the complaint alleges.

      ProPublica reviewed the scores of redacted paragraphs in Massachusetts’ 274-page civil complaint against Purdue, eight Sackler family members, company directors and current and former executives, which alleges that they created the opioid epidemic through illegal deceit. These passages remain blacked out at the company’s request after the rest of the complaint was made public on Jan. 15. A Massachusetts Superior Court judge on Monday ordered that the entire document be released, but the judge gave Purdue until Friday to seek a further stay of the ruling.

    • Analysis: Pulling Back Curtain On Hospital Prices Adds New Wrinkle In Cost Control

      As President Donald Trump was fighting with Congress over the shutdown and funding for a border wall, his administration implemented a new rule that could be a game changer for health care.

      Starting this month, hospitals must publicly reveal the contents of their master price lists — called “chargemasters” — online. These are the prices that most patients never notice because their insurers negotiate them down or they appear buried as line items on hospital bills. What has long been shrouded in darkness is now being thrown into the light.

      For the moment, these lists won’t seem very useful to the average patient — and they have been criticized for that reason. They are often hundreds of pages long, filled with medical codes and abbreviations. Each document is an overwhelming compendium listing a rack rate for every little item a hospital dispenses and every service it performs: a blood test for anemia. The price of lying in the operating suite and recovery room (billed in 15-minute intervals). The scalpel. The drill bit. The bag of IV salt water. The Tylenol pill. No item is too small to be bar coded and charged.

    • As Wasserman Schultz Exemplifies Muddled Stance, This Reminder: Medicare for All “Ain’t a Slogan. It’s a 94-Page Bill”

      “I think we have to look past the surface-level name for it,” Wasserman Schultz said during a CNN appearance when asked about Harris’ remarks and what Medicare for All really means.

      “The moniker of what you call the concept, which we are all fully embracing, is that healthcare is a right and should not be treated as a privilege that is only available to those who can afford it,” the Florida congresswoman continued. “That is what Democrats are for, that’s what you’ll see every Democratic presidential candidate be for. And, as you would expect, they will take different approaches to getting there.”

      Wasserman Schultz went on to dismiss “the black and white choice of are you or are you not for Medicare for All” as meaningless, arguing that the more important “litmus test” for Democrats is “making sure that everyone in America can get access to quality affordable healthcare.”

      [...]

      Harris’ remarks in support of eliminating the private insurance industry—which her team has since walked back—during a CNN town hall earlier this week intensified an ongoing national conversation about what Medicare for All would actually look like and how the transformative policy might be implemented.

      Warren Gunnels, policy director for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), pointed to the Vermont senator’s Medicare for All Act and emphasized in a tweet on Tuesday that Medicare for All “ain’t a slogan. It’s a 94-page bill.”

  • Security

    • Will quantum computing break security?

      All in all, in fact, there’s a strong body of expert opinion that says we shouldn’t be overly worried about quantum computing breaking our encryption in the next five or even 10 years.

    • Quantum computing and security: 5 looming questions

      I don’t know about you, but I get worried when I see headlines like “Quantum computing will BREAK the web!” Of course, it’s not going to – or at least not yet – but what actually is quantum computing, should we be worried, and why do enterprise IT leaders need to know about it?

    • Security updates for Wednesday
    • Apple Faces Lawsuit Over The FaceTime Eavesdropping Bug
    • Lawyer sues Apple, claims FaceTime bug “allowed” recording of deposition

      In a lawsuit filed Monday evening in Harris County District Court, Larry Williams claimed the company was negligent when it allowed the microphone to be used in this way.

    • SBI Leaked Banking Data of Millions Of Users Through Unprotected Server

      State Bank of (SBI), one of the largest bank in India, left millions of its customer’s financial data exposed for anyone to a look into, according to a TechCrunch report.

      The Mumbai-based server, which has been secured now, stored over two months of user data including bank balances, transaction history, and more.

    • India’s largest bank SBI leaked account data on millions of customers

      India’s largest bank has secured an unprotected server that allowed anyone to access financial information on millions of its customers, like bank balances and recent transactions.

      The server, hosted in a regional Mumbai-based data center, stored two months of data from SBI Quick, a text message and call-based system used to request basic information about their bank accounts by customers of the government-owned State Bank of India (SBI), the largest bank in the country and a highly ranked company in the Fortune 500.

      [...]

      The passwordless database allowed us to see all of the text messages going to customers in real time, including their phone numbers, bank balances and recent transactions. The database also contained the customer’s partial bank account number. Some would say when a check had been cashed, and many of the bank’s sent messages included a link to download SBI’s YONO app for internet banking.

    • Chris Lamb: Free software activities in January 2019

      Whilst anyone can inspect the source code of free software for malicious flaws almost all software is distributed pre-compiled to end users.

      The motivation behind the Reproducible Builds effort is to ensure no flaws have been introduced during this compilation process by promising identical results are always generated from a given source, thus allowing multiple third-parties to come to a consensus on whether a build was compromised.

    • Security updates for Thursday
    • New Japanese Law Lets Government Hack IOT Devices, Warn Owners They’re Vulnerable

      By now we’ve established pretty clearly that the well-hyped “internet of things” sector couldn’t actually care less about security or privacy. Companies are in such a rush to cash in on our collective thirst for internet connected tea kettles and not-so-smart televisions, they don’t much care if your new gadget was easily hacked or integrated into a DDoS botnet. And by the time security and privacy flaws have been discovered, companies and consumers alike are off to hyperventilate about the next must-have gadget, leaving untold millions of devices in the wild as new potential points of entry into home and business networks.

    • A DNS flag day

      A flag day for DNS is coming on February 1; it may have escaped notice even though it has been planned for nearly a year. Some DNS servers will simply be marked as “dead” by much of the rest of the internet on or after that day, which means that domain owners need to ensure their DNS records will still be available after that point. A longstanding workaround for non-compliant servers will be dropped—mostly for better performance but also in support of DNS extensions, some of which can help alleviate security problems.

      The Domain Name System, or DNS, is a foundational service on the internet. It is, of course, what connects domain names, like lwn.net, with their IP addresses. Without DNS records, and a server that will provide those records in response to queries, a domain is effectively “off the net”. DNS provides for lookups of various types of information beyond just IP addresses, such as policy information for Sender Policy Framework (SPF) or keys for DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM).

      The problem that has led to the flag day stems from DNS servers that do not implement the “Extension Mechanisms for DNS”, also known as EDNS(0) or just EDNS; it is specified in RFC 6891. EDNS was introduced in 1999 and finalized in 2013. Some servers do not properly respond to requests that ask if they support various EDNS features. It is important to note that there is no requirement that the servers actually support any extensions, just that they reply properly (with a normal DNS response), rather than ignoring and not answering EDNS queries.

    • Ubuntu 18.04 Needs to Patching, Alpine 3.9 Released, Three New openSUSE Tumbleweed Snapshots, Latest Version of Red Hat Infrastructure Migration Solution Now Available and Electric Cloud Announces ElectricAccelerator 11.0
    • The D in SystemD stands for Danger, Will Robinson! Defanged exploit code for security holes now out in the wild

      Those who haven’t already patched a trio of recent vulnerabilities in the Linux world’s SystemD have an added incentive to do so: security biz Capsule8 has published exploit code for the holes.

      Don’t panic, though: the exploit code has been defanged so that it is defeated by basic security measures, and thus shouldn’t work in the wild against typical Linux installations. However, Capsule8 or others may reveal ways to bypass those protections, so consider this a heads-up, or an insight into exploit development. Google Project Zero routinely reveals the inner magic of its security exploits, if you’re into that.

      Back to SystemD.

      In mid-January, Qualys, another security firm, released details about three flaws affecting systemd-journald, a systemd component that handles the collection and storage of log data. Patches for the vulnerabilities – CVE-2018-16864, CVE-2018-16865, and CVE-2018-16866 – have been issued by various Linux distributions.

      Exploitation of these code flaws allows an attacker to alter system memory in order to commandeer systemd-journal, which permits privilege escalation to the root account of the system running the software. In other words, malware running on a system, or rogue logged-in users, can abuse these bugs to gain administrator-level access over the whole box, which is not great in uni labs and similar environments.

      Nick Gregory, research scientists at Capsule8, in a blog post this week explains that his firm developed proof-of-concept exploit code for testing and verification. As in testing whether or not computers are at risk, and verifying the patches work.

    • Linux Kernel hid_debug_events_read() Function Local Denial of Service Vulnerability [CVE-2019-3819]

      A vulnerability in the hid_debug_events_read() function of the Linux Kernel could allow a local attacker to cause a denial of service (DoS) condition on a targeted system.The vulnerability exists in the hid_debug_events_read() function, as defined in the drivers/hid/hid-debug.c source code file of the affected software. The vulnerability is due to an infinite loop condition that may occur when user-supplied input with certain parameters is passed from a userspace. An attacker with root privileges could exploit this vulnerability by executing a program that submits malicious input to the targeted system. A successful exploit could cause the system to lock, resulting in a DoS condition.Kernel.org has not confirmed the vulnerability, and software updates are not available.

    • A Teenager Tried To Warn Apple About It’s Facetime Security Flaw, But Appears To Have Been Ignored

      By now, you’ve almost certainly heard about the latest big technology security flaw, in which Apple’s FaceTime feature contains a bug that allows a caller using FaceTime to hear through the recipeient’s phone while the call was still ringing. This obviously has all kinds of people all kinds of freaked out, since the bug essentially turns any iPhone into a short-burst surveillance bug. This has led some to opine that Apple, which has a fairly decent reputation from a privacy standpoint, is at risk of having that reputation torpedoed over this story.

      And that might be all the more the case when the public discovers that Apple was informed of this bug by a teenager and his mother in the weeks running up to the press coverage of it, and did nothing about it.

    • Evolution: UID trust extrapolation attack on OpenPGP signatures

      This article describes the UI deficiency of Evolution mail client that extrapolates the trust of one of OpenPGP key UIDs into the key itself, and reports it along with the (potentially untrusted) primary UID. This creates the possibility of tricking the user into trusting a phished mail via adding a forged UID to a key that has a previously trusted UID.

    • IoT Security, DRM and user freedom

      All of these boil down to the same root cause; without effective DRM there is no way to protect devices from physical attacks. That can be as simple as having only internal flash and being able to blow a set of EFUSEs to prevent readout/debug interfaces functioning, or it can be a full built in boot ROM with cryptographic verification of an image pulled in from external flash (potentially encrypted) and the building up of a chain of trust. I see 2 main problems with this.

      Firstly, getting security like this right is hard. Games console manufacturers are constantly trying to protect their devices against unauthorised code running, and while they seem to be getting better it’s taken quite a number of mistakes to get there. They have a much bigger financial imperative to get this right, as console DRM attacks are frequently used for piracy. An IoT vendor could end up adding significant cost to their BoM if they have to buy a more advanced chip to be able to do the appropriate end-to-end flash encryption required. (The LIFX is using the ESP32, which does have some of these features that are not present in the more basic (and cheaper) ESP8266. I’ve no idea if anyone has done a full analysis of the ESP32 security.)

    • Tech Refresh as Part of an Effective Vulnerability Management Program: Part One
  • Defence/Aggression

    • Sahiwal shooting: How a Pakistani boy exposed police for killing his family

      Filmed by bystanders, it showed police firing at the car, finding the three children alive and then, before driving away with them, unloading a few more rounds into the vehicle.

    • Trump administration quietly changes definition of “domestic violence” and “sexual assault”

      But the Trump Justice Department’s definition only considers physical harm that constitutes a felony or misdemeanor to be domestic violence, meaning that other forms of domestic violence like psychological abuse and manipulation no longer fall under the DOJ’s definition.

    • We need to talk about knife crime

      We have to remember that these young people are part of our community, and, as such, we have to ask searching and difficult questions about why this nihilistic violence is so pervasive. If we take potential causes off the table for fear of offending people, we do no one any favours. If anything, there is an undercurrent of racism to the suggestion that we need to tiptoe around this issue. Does anyone really think that black people care more about bombastic articles in The Sunday Times than they do about solving the problem of youth violence?

    • Another terrorist outrage in Nairobi
    • ‘US Trying to Overthrow the Government of Venezuela,’ Warns Veteran Journalist Allan Nairn

      The United States is continuing to ratchet up pressure on the Venezuelan government in an attempt to topple President Nicolás Maduro. On Tuesday, the State Department announced it is giving control of Venezuela’s U.S. bank accounts to opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who declared himself to be president last week. Meanwhile, the U.S. has also refused to rule out a military invasion of Venezuela.

    • ‘Extremely Concerned’ World Leaders and Experts Implore Trump and Putin to Preserve Nuclear Treaty

      While welcoming progress on denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, the letter (pdf) emphasizes alarm over the “erosion” of the INF Treaty; war games and nuclear weapons development the United States ditching the Iran nuclear deal; and “unresolved conflicts between Russia and the West including over Crimea and Syria and between nuclear armed states in other regions including South Asia and the South China Sea.”

      The letter calls on the United States and Russia “to refrain from developing and deploying weapons systems that could violate the treaty, and to resolve compliance issues through dialogue and through enhanced work of the Special Verification Commission established by the treaty.” It also urges legislators from both nations “to refuse to authorize, or allocate funding for, the development or deployment of weapons systems which might violate the treaty.”

      Washington—backed by NATO—claims that Russia is violating the collapsing Cold War-era treaty by developing and deploying a ground-launched cruise missile known as the 9M729. Moscow, meanwhile, insists that its weapon is compliant but that U.S. missile defense systems in Europe are not. The Trump administration has said that if a deal can’t be reached by Feb. 2, it will begin a six-month withdrawal process.

    • Death and Disappearance: Inside the World of Privatised War

      Man Bahadur Thapa had his doubts about the safety of the travel arrangements. Taliban spies were everywhere in the Afghan capital, and the bus transporting him and the Canadian embassy’s other guards, all Nepalese and Indian, was unarmoured. But Thapa was used to pushing worries to the back of his mind. After all, he thought, the British company he worked for was trustworthy. So, as he did nearly every day, the 50 year-old boarded a yellow and white minibus and rode through the Kabul dawn to his shift.

      Thapa’s memory of that day – June 20, 2016 – stops about two minutes into the journey. He woke up 13 days later in hospital, his body riven with shrapnel. A bomb had ripped through the bus, killing 13 of his fellow Nepalese and two Indians.

      His family had seen the blast on the news, but didn’t find out he was wounded until a doctor treating him thought to pick up his patient’s phone. As Thapa lay in a hospital bed, his son-in-law, who speaks good English, emailed the guard’s employers, a well-established company called Sabre International Security, with urgent questions: how would the critical surgery Thapa needed be paid for? What would happen to him afterwards, given that he clearly wouldn’t be able to work for a long time? Apart from one brush-off email, no-one responded. That might have been the last anyone in the West heard of the guards’ plight, if a Nepali labour rights expert helping the families hadn’t asked an American lawyer he knew to take a look at the case.

    • Why I Strongly Oppose U.S. Intervention in Venezuela

      Vice President Pence has teamed up with national security adviser John Bolton and new special envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams to argue that it is our moral responsibility to stand up to Nicolás Maduro’s regime and support a new government that will be friendlier to us. Sound familiar? This is the same argument that led to U.S. blunders in Iraq, Honduras, Syria, Libya and elsewhere. Again and again, there is no respect for the United Nations Charter that makes it illegal under international law to seek regime change.

      To be sure, Maduro is an authoritarian leader who has presided over unfair elections, failed economic policies, extrajudicial killings by police, food shortages and cronyism with military leaders. But before we intervene in another nation, we must, at the very least, pause to ask whether our efforts will make a bad situation even worse.

    • Trudeau Pushes Trump’s Regime Change in Venezuela

      Why is Canada violating the UN Charter and leading the way for regime change in Venezuela? Paul Jay and Yves Engler join Sharmini Peries

    • Trump cranks up the miseries of the people of Venezuela

      President Trump apparently has decided that intervention in Venezuela’s agonies can help repair an image scarred by the government shutdown debacle.

      In recent days, he recognized an obscure, right-wing opposition leader when he declared himself acting president. Trump has blustered that “I am not going to rule out a military option.” Mike Pompeo, his secretary of state told the world’s nations to “pick a side” in the internal Venezuelan standoff.

    • Allan Nairn: Trump’s Venezuela Envoy Elliott Abrams Is a War Criminal Who Has Abetted Genocide

      In an ongoing effort to topple Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, Vice President Mike Pence met with members of the Venezuelan opposition at the White House Tuesday alongside Trump’s new special envoy to Venezuela, Elliott Abrams. Elliott 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 by President George H.W. Bush. 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 look at Abrams’s track record with prize-winning investigative journalist Allan Nairn, who has closely tracked Abrams for over three decades. Nairn is two-time winner of the George Polk Award and a recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Award.

    • A War for Oil? Bolton Pushes Privatization of Venezuela’s Oil as U.S. Ratchets Up Pressure on Maduro

      As the Trump administration continues its attempt to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, the U.S. has imposed a de facto embargo on oil from Venezuela’s state-run oil company. The new sanctions include exemptions for several U.S. firms, including Chevron and Halliburton, to allow them to continue working in Venezuela. We speak with prize-winning investigative journalist Allan Nairn about the push to privatize Venezuela’s oil.

    • A Brief History of Our Longest, Most Futile War

      Anyone who closely followed the U.S. war in Afghanistan since Oct. 7, 2001, knew it would end badly. The news that the U.S. has reached an agreement with the Taliban for a peace framework is indeed a positive development, but it masks the fact that the war has largely been futile and destructive—and that the Taliban is the likely victor.

      Over the past 18 years, the U.S. went from considering the Taliban an inconsequential enemy that would be easily defeated to negotiating with the dictatorial regime to now seemingly capitulating to its demands. This disastrous trajectory of events is well worth examining as the history of the United States’ longest war is written.

      In the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush flatly refused the Taliban’s offer to try Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. Instead, he launched a war on what was one of the poorest nations in the world, already devastated by decades of violence by U.S.-backed and -armed fundamentalist groups. In what might be viewed as “famous last words,” the Bush White House warned the Taliban, “We will defeat you.” Bush’s stated objectives in Afghanistan (aside from buying time to build a case for the more desired war in Iraq) included “to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime.” Bush flip-flopped on his pledge to never engage in “nation-building” and adopted the lofty goal of rebuilding Afghanistan’s government. Writing about it in his memoir, he said, “Afghanistan was the ultimate nation building mission. We had liberated the country from a primitive dictatorship, and we had a moral obligation to leave behind something better. We also had a strategic interest in helping the Afghan people build a free society,” because “a democratic Afghanistan would be a hopeful alternative to the vision of the extremists.”

      Perhaps it is fitting that the man now in charge of negotiating with the Taliban in President Donald Trump’s administration is Zalmay Khalilzad. Khalilzad’s claim to fame was his Bush-era role as special envoy for Afghanistan from 2001 to 2002, when he oversaw the crafting of a transitional government that had the outward hallmarks of democracy but was designed to fit U.S. interests and appease fundamentalist and Taliban-like warlords, and had little bearing on the aspirations of ordinary Afghans. After helping to craft the new Afghan constitution, Khalilzad said, “We are witness to a major milestone in putting behind the era of the rule of the gun in Afghanistan.” At the same time, he was cementing the power of armed groups with a history of violent oppression. His words were just as futile and disingenuous as Bush’s claim of certain victory over the Taliban. The Bush plan to build a stable Afghan government as a bulwark against the Taliban and al-Qaida failed for reasons that had as much to do with imperial hubris as it did with the practical shortcuts taken by an outsider to patch together a precarious government—as if that were a sufficient substitute for real democracy.

    • Lawmakers Reintroduce War Powers Resolution To End Carnage in Yemen and Reclaim Congress’ Constitutional Authority

      With the government now reopened, a the newly-elected Congress in session, and the U.S. still complicit in the world’s worst humanitarian disaster, a bipartisan group of Senators and House members—led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.)—officially re-introduced a War Powers Resolution on Wednesday in order to block further U.S. military participation in the Saudi-led war on Yemen.

      While the same resolution in December passed the Senate in an historic bipartisan vote, it was not taken up for a vote in the Republican-controlled House at that time. But now that Democrats control the lower chamber, Rep. Khanna argued the people of Yemen can wait no longer.

      With an estimated 14 million people on the brink of famine and 85,000 children already dead as a result of the war, Khanna said “the U.S.-Saudi military campaign in Yemen has triggered the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” Now, he added, is time “to end U.S. military participation in the Saudi regime’s war in Yemen by reasserting Congress’ constitutional role on matters of war and peace.”

    • Just Like Iraq, Warns Venezuela’s Maduro, US Wants to ‘Get Hands on Our Oil’

      Warning that U.S. military intervention could lead to a Vietnam War-style conflict, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has said that while he’s willing to open talks with opposition leaders he will not bow to the demands of foreign “imperialists” and accused the U.S. government and other right-wing forces—like was done in Iraq and elsewhere—of trying to get their “hands on our oil.”

      Maduro’s latest comments, which came via interviews and a video posted online, arrived just ahead of planned street demonstrations by the nation’s opposition on Wednesday and amid new threats via U.S. national security advisor John Bolton who continues to lead the charge for regime change on behalf of the Trump administration.

    • Citing ‘Unpredictable and Rash’ Trump, Democratic Bill Would Restrict Presidential Nuclear First-Strike Authority

      A bill introduced by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) won applause from anti-war groups on Tuesday, as the congressmen called on Congress to pass legislation prohibiting any U.S. president from launching a preemptive nuclear strike—while some anti-nuclear campaigners warned that the proposal is only the bare minimum that can be done to avoid nuclear war.

      Lieu and Markey re-introduced the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2019, repeating a call that’s been made in the past by several lawmakers, demanding that President Donald Trump and all future presidents obtain congressional approval before launching a first-strike nuclear attack.

      [...]

      “As the administration’s calamitous cocktail of ill-conceived nuclear policies brings us closer to the brink, Congress must pursue every option for stepping us back from that brink,” said Paul Kawika Martin of Peace Action. “Removing the president’s authority to launch a nuclear war without Congress is a simple and effective means of reducing the nuclear threat.”

      Erica Fein, advocacy director for Win Without War, suggested the passage of the bill would bring relief to the American public.

      “According to a new poll, nearly half of all Americans report they have no confidence ‘at all’ in Donald Trump; yet, because of our deeply flawed and dangerous system, if the president decides to launch a nuclear weapon, no one can stop him,” Fein said. “It is high time for Congress to add a check on this or any future president’s ability to start a nuclear war.”

    • “The Worst Option is War”: US Intervention in Venezuela Will Only Deepen the Country’s Crisis

      The Trump administration is currently working to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in the name of freedom and democracy. Yet Washington’s efforts will only lead to bloodshed and a worsening of the country’s crisis and polarization.

      Just take a look at who is leading the coup efforts from Washington.

      U.S. national security advisor John Bolton has been pounding the war drums against Venezuela since the US recognized Juan Guiadó as self-declared “Interim President” of the country last week.

    • Scott Cato on Venezuela: We support efforts by the EU to achieve peaceful resolution

      Speaking yesterday in the European Parliament on the evolving situation in Venezuela, Molly Scott Cato MEP said:

      “As Greens we utterly deplore the economic mismanagement, violation of human rights and undermining of the rule of law witnessed under the Maduro regime. This has left the country to the brink and resulted in the exodus of three million citizens. However in responding we must not abandon key principles of international relations. We must uphold the right to self-determination and the right of the Venezuelan people to choose their own leader.

    • People Who Care About Democracy Don’t Plot Coups Abroad

      For some months now, Venezuela’s socialist government has lurched through a series of escalating crises — hyperinflation, mass protests, political violence — while both the government and its opposition have flirted with authoritarianism.

      It isn’t pretty — and to hear the right wing tell it, it’s the future the U.S. left wants for our own country. As if to prevent that, the Trump administration is now fomenting a coup in Venezuela.

      They’ve publicly recognized an unelected opposition leader as president, discussed coup plans with Venezuela’s military, and sanctioned oil revenues the country needs to resolve its economic crisis. They’re even threatening to send U.S. troops.

    • Memories of Iraq Sanctions are Still Raw

      ab countries in the region and the United States would offer no support to Kuwait. The United Nations reacted immediately and, at the urging of the US and the UK, put in place economic sanctions through Resolution 661 along with a naval blockade to enforce the sanctions with Resolution 665. In November, the UN passed Resolution 668 giving Iraq until January 15, 1991, to withdraw or face military consequences from United Nations troops.

      On January 16, 1991, with Iraqi troops still ensconced in Kuwait, Operation Desert Storm, led by American General Norman Schwarzkopf and joined by thirty-two UN countries, commenced with the first fighter aircraft being launched from the Persian Gulf, headed for Baghdad. Sanctions continued for thirteen years—1990-2003—until long after the Iraqi government had pulled out of Kuwait.

      Hero Anwar Brzw, along with her brother, was a student at Salahaddin University in Erbil, Iraq, part of the northwestern area of the country – Kurdistan. Iraq and Kurdistan have a long history of disagreements and rebellions going back to shortly after WWI, when the Ottoman Empire was split as the spoils of war, and the British took over this area.

      This is a retelling of her story of the terror of war and of the inhumane effects of sanctions on the Kurdish and Iraqi population.

    • Continuing Long History of Supporting US-Backed Regime Change, NYT Hands Venezuela Opposition Leader Op-Ed Megaphone

      After noting that he and his fellow National Assembly lawmakers have been holding “clandestine meetings with members of the armed forces and the security forces” to pressure them to abandon Maduro, Guaidó appealed directly to the international community as he works to complete what Latin America experts have decried as an attempted coup d’état that—if successful—will only plunge the country deeper into political and economic chaos.

      “Mr. Maduro’s time is running out, but in order to manage his exit with the minimum of bloodshed, all of Venezuela must unite in pushing for a definitive end to his regime,” Guaidó declared. “For that, we need the support of pro-democratic governments, institutions, and individuals the world over.”

      While Venezuelan opposition leader’s article was immediately touted by hawkish Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)—who reportedly played a key behind-the-scenes role in orchestrating the Trump administration’s decision to formally recognize Guaidó as “interim president” last week—progressive critics were appalled by the Times’ decision to hand a megaphone to the figure leading what has been condemned as an illegitimate effort to overthrow an elected government.

    • House Hearings Begin for Historic Anti-Corruption Bill

      The movement for reforming democracy entered a new phase Tuesday when the House Judiciary Committee held its first hearing on H.R. 1, the For the People Act. House Democratic lawmakers introduced the voting, campaign finance, and gerrymandering reform bill on January 3, the first day of the 116th Congress.

      H.R. 1 marks the first time in decades that either major political party has made reforming the systems of democracy a central priority. Among its provisions, the bill would make automatic voter registration, public financing of our elections, and other Brennan Center-driven reforms the law of the land.

      The Brennan Center submitted written testimony in advance of Tuesday’s hearing in support of the Act.

      “Taken together, the measures the Committee is considering today, coupled with other provisions of the Act, have the potential to transform American democracy,” Brennan Center experts wrote.

    • Bernie Sanders Introduces Dramatic Plan to Tax the Rich

      Proposals for taxing wealthy Americans are gaining traction among Democrats in Congress leading up to the 2020 election. First, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggested in a “60 Minutes” interview that a 70 percent marginal tax rate for income earned above $10 million could help pay for the Green New Deal, a set of environmental policies designed to offset the effects of climate change. Then, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who recently announced her run for the presidency, proposed a 2 percent tax on Americans whose net worth is above $50 million, with, as CNN explains, “an additional 1 percent levy on billionaires.”

      On Thursday, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders joined the chorus, with a bill that would, according to The Washington Post’s Jeff Stein, “dramatically expand the federal estate tax on the wealthy, including a new 77 percent rate on billionaires’ estates.”

      Called the For the 99.8% Act, Sanders’ plan aims to tax only the estates of Americans who inherit over $3.5 million, just 0.2 percent of the population. Everyone else “would not see their taxes go up by one penny under this plan,” aides to Sanders told Stein.

      This is not the first time that Americans with estates over $1 billion were taxed at 77 percent. MarketWatch points out that the figure “is a return to the top rate from 1941 to 1976.” MarketWatch adds that for those who are millionaires but not billionaires, “The tax would kick [in] at a 45% rate on estates valued at as little as $3.5 million.”

    • With Estate Tax on Nation’s Richest, Bernie Sanders’ “For the 99.8% Act” Applauded for Targeting “Tyranny of Plutocracy”

      The Independent senator’s proposal comes just days after Senate Republicans showed that “greed has no limit for the GOP” by putting forward a bill to permanently repeal the estate tax, a move that critics blasted as yet another “blatant giveaway to their wealthy donors.”

      “At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, when the three richest Americans own more wealth than 160 million Americans, it is literally beyond belief that the Republican leadership wants to provide hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to the top 0.2 percent,” Sanders declared Thursday.

      Like the bill currently being pushed by the Senate’s Republican leaders, Sanders’ measure would also target the wealthiest 0.2 percent of Americans—but unlike the GOP legislation, it aims to make the rich pay more in taxes, and close loopholes that have enabled them to easily pass on massive wealth to younger relatives.

    • Bernie’s Plutocracy Prevention Act

      The Republicans can’t control their baser greed impulse, as revealed in their latest move to abolish the federal estate tax, our nation’s only levy on the inherited wealth of the super-rich.

      But what we really need is a bold intervention to break up growing dynasties of wealth and power.

      Congress should jump on board an improved estate tax introduced today by Senator Bernie Sanders, that would levy a top rate of 77 percent on inheritances over $1 billion. Sanders bill, The For 99.8% Act (pdf), would also plug up loopholes and ban trusts that wealthy families use to hide and perpetuate wealth dynasties.

      [...]

      The Sanders legislation would put a substantial brake on the wealth and power of the country’s 588 billionaires who control over $3 trillion in wealth. While his 99.8% Act would raise substantial revenue—potentially $2.2 trillion from this billionaire group alone—it would have the positive benefit of protecting our self-governing republic from the distorting influence of concentrated wealth.

      Sanders’ bill would also address the growing problem of hidden wealth and aggressive tax avoidance. It would patch some holes in the current estate and gift tax system that have enabled families like Sheldon Adelson to use trusts to dodge billions in estate taxes.

      When families accumulate hundreds of millions of dollars, they have enough wealth to meet any possible need and desire. They also have enough to provide future generations with privileged lives. Wealth exceeding $100 million is a form of power, the power to rig the rules of our economy and shape the culture through ownership of media. A steeply progressive estate tax is one of the ways we protect our society from Roosevelt’s “tyranny of plutocracy.”

    • A Power Grab in Kentucky Sparks a Revolt

      The September 2018 meeting of the Kentucky State Board of Elections was strikingly contentious. There was shouting, cross-talk and threats to eject staff — all playing out in a public forum in front of TV cameras.

      But the most unusual moment, perhaps, was this: Two board members moved to rescind the votes they had cast at the previous meeting, only three weeks before. They claimed that Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, whose position also makes her chairwoman of the State Board of Elections, or SBE, had essentially misled them into granting her unprecedented day-to-day power over the SBE. The board members’ efforts to void the resolution failed. Grimes cast the deciding vote.

      Today, Grimes wields that new power over the SBE — and she’s facing a revolt by some staff as well as a loss of trust from many of the county clerks who administer elections, according to interviews with more than 30 people involved in the election-administration process, as well as documents and emails. “Alison has just got so much more access to things than any other secretary of state I’ve known,” said Julie Griggs, the clerk of McCracken County, who has worked in that office for 30 years. (Like Grimes, Griggs is a Democrat.) “It’s too much control for one person to have.”

    • Hondurans Protest US-Backed Government as Thousands Flee

      Carlos Castellanos was half a mile from the border, sitting on a park bench just a few blocks away from the Guatemalan end of the bridge over the Suchiate River into Mexico. Castellanos is one of the more than 11,000 Hondurans to make the collective northbound trek in the second half of January, and he does not expect the exodus to stop.

      “Two years from now, Honduras is going to be left without people,” he told Truthout, watching fellow Central American migrants and refugees trickle into town.

      Castellanos is a welder by trade, but jobs were scarce in Honduras. To support his wife and two teenage children, he ran a little corner store out of the family’s home in San Pedro Sula, the country’s second largest city. But between the high cost of food, high school fees and expenses, and hundreds of dollars in water and electricity bills, they struggled to make ends meet.

      “Everything has been so privatized,” said Castellanos. “Honestly in Honduras people can no longer live.”

    • Trump’s Budget Proposals Highlight Priorities of Rich and Shameless

      Would you believe it? The shutdown ate Donald Trump’s homework. Thanks to the 35-day government closure that could have been avoided 35 days before it began with the same deal that finally ended it, the 2020 budget proposal by the White House will miss its mandated February 4 deadline for submission. According to one administration official, the new document “could be delayed by several weeks or more” because “[the Office of Management and Budget] is still reviewing budget submissions from Cabinet agencies.”

      It’s just amazing how the consequences pile right up when the president of the United States deliberately throws the lives of millions into turmoil, risking their safety in the air and at the dinner table over a plan so bad it gave André Maginot the giggles, and he’s been dead for 87 years.

      The latest shutdown victim isn’t one most of us are likely to fret about, however. Fret? Ha. It’s the one and only reason I have to be glad about the whole fiasco: One less kick in the head next week. John Bolton and Elliot Abrams are slow-walking a coup in Venezuela, Trump thinks the historic cold in Chicago debunks climate change (he called it “Global Waming”), the utterly unwatchable State of the Union address is back on again, and the fa-chrissakes 2020 presidential race is already underway with more than 600 days to go before the vote.

      The last thing I need to hear is former television money ghoul and current White House National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow breaking down the filthy details of how thoroughly this administration wants to gut the social safety net, again. I almost don’t have to read it, because I already know what’s in it. So does anyone who has been watching this parade of shameless greed for the last two years.

    • ‘Novaya Gazeta’ reports Russia helped sell Venezuelan gold. Russia’s Central Bank denies it.

      On January 31, Novaya Gazeta reported that Russian agencies may have assisted in the liquidation of Venezuelan gold. The previous day, a Boeing 757 owned by the Russian company Yerofei flew from Moscow to Caracas through Dubai, increasing speculation among journalists and anti-Maduro politicians that the jet was to remove $840 million, or 20 tons of gold, from Venezuela’s national bank. That amount would reportedly represent about 20 percent of the country’s holdings. The Boeing jet made one additional trip between Moscow and Caracas between January 18 and 19.

      Novaya Gazeta’s sources said vehicles owned by the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates met the Russian plane upon its landing in Dubai. The newspaper reported that “gold was removed from the plane, which was then loaded with containers filled with cash in U.S. dollars.” Novaya Gazeta also wrote that approximately 30 tons of Venezuelan gold worth approximately $1.2 billion in total were already held in Russian storage facilities.

    • Wisconsin’s Overhyped Foxconn Deal Keeps Getting Lamer By The Week

      Last year, you probably recall that former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed a “revolutionary” deal: the state promised Taiwan-based Foxconn a $3 billion state subsidy if the company invested $10 billion in a Wisconsin plant that would create 13,000 jobs. Walker hoped the deal would finally help cement job growth that he had been promising supporters for years, and the press was quick to hype the plan without really focusing too much on the math, or Foxconn’s history of not really living up to similar promises in countries like Vietnam, India, and Brazil.

      Quietly buried under the blistering hype (greatly fueled by the Trump administration), groups like Wisconsin’s non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau began to point out that it would take until 2043 for taxpayers to recoup the subsidy. And as the finer details of the plan began to emerge late last year, the $3 billion subsidy quickly ballooned to $4.1 billion, leading some to point out that the math no longer made sense at all and, with an unemployment rate of 3.2% and a $100,000 per job subsidy, it was technically impossible for the massive subsidy to ever be repaid (in jobs, walnuts, or anything else).

    • Stacey Abrams: “We Have to Work Harder” Than Those Who Would Suppress the Vote

      Democrats have selected former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams to deliver the response to President Trump’s State of the Union address. The address will take place on Tuesday, after being delayed due to the government shutdown. Abrams will become the first person not in public office to respond to the president, as well as the first African-American woman to deliver the response. She recently launched Fair Fight Action, a voting rights advocacy group, after she narrowly lost Georgia’s governor’s race to Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who was widely accused of suppressing the vote. In mid-November, Abrams refused to concede the race, and Fair Fight Action is now suing Georgia election officials for mismanagement of the midterm elections. We recently spoke to Abrams in Los Angeles, where she was attending the National Day of Racial Healing. “Our responsibility doesn’t end on Election Day,” she said. “The minute the elections are over, the people who won—who did not share our values—are going to be working hard. We have to be working even harder.”

    • Dems See Future in Abrams as She Prepares to Rebut Trump

      Stacey Abrams will be doing more than rebutting President Donald Trump next week. As the first black woman to deliver a Democratic response to a State of the Union address, she’ll represent what many in the party see as their political future.

      In picking Abrams, the Georgian who narrowly lost her bid to be the nation’s first African-American woman governor, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is reflecting the party’s hope to win future elections with appeals to women and people of color. He’s also signaling the party’s desire to make inroads in the diversifying South and Sun Belt after disappointing losses there during last year’s midterms.

      Abrams, 45, represents the growing political clout of black women. That’s something Schumer wants to tap into by recruiting her to compete in next year’s Georgia Senate race, a decision that could have national implications for Democrats if she successfully flips the seat and, in the process, turns out enough voters to make the Deep South state competitive at the presidential level.

      Schumer and others “understand the power and prowess and contributions of black women … and choosing Stacey Abrams is the physical embodiment of that recognition,” said Democratic strategist Symone Sanders.

    • Registered foreign agent turned Saudi spokesperson a sign of revolving door in foreign lobbying

      A former registered foreign agent and political consultant for the government of Saudi Arabia has been hired as the spokesperson for the Middle Eastern government’s embassy in Washington, D.C.

      Fahad Nazer, who was announced as the embassy’s new spokesperson on Jan. 23, consulted the Saudi government on public relations since November 2016 and kept a $7,000 a month retainer, according to foreign lobbying documents available through the Center for Responsive Politics.

      To date, he received $175,000 from the Saudi embassy for his work as a consultant.

      Since 2017, Saudi Arabia spent more than $27.4 million on lobbying the U.S, according to data from CRP’s Foreign Lobby Watch tool.

      “His vast knowledge of Saudi Arabia’s political and socio-economic landscapes will undoubtedly help him to tell the story of the Kingdom in the United States,” Prince Khalid bin Salman Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., said in a press release.

    • In a World of Corporate-Backed Politicians, Beware the Sounds of Sirens

      My copy of Homer’s The Odyssey, a remnant of high school Latin days, has been gathering dust on a shelf for decades now. But I’ve been thinking more about the book in recent years, especially as my writing has increasingly turned to the psychology of propaganda. In that context, one of the epic poem’s most provocative passages chronicles the brief encounter between Ulysses and the Sirens during his ten-year voyage home from the Trojan War.

      The two Sirens—peculiar creatures, part human and part animal—sit in a meadow where they warble songs that are, quite simply, lethal. Even the most disciplined sailors are drawn to the shore by the irresistible sounds, and they never depart. As Homer describes it, “There is a great heap of dead men’s bones lying all around, with the flesh still rotting off them.”

      But Ulysses and his crew escape this fate, thanks to guidance from the goddess Circe. Her advice is clear and effective. Upon approaching the Sirens’ island, the crew should put wax in their ears and then bind Ulysses securely to the ship’s mast. In this way, he alone can safely listen to the enchanting songs, which purport to bestow wisdom and foretell the future.

      [...]

      Defenders of the billionaire class, from both sides of the aisle, also have prepared verses to advance the prospects of their don’t-rock-the-boat candidates. So we can expect to hear much of the following in the months ahead: dismissive critiques aimed at progressive leaders—young and old—whose vision and fearlessness threaten the existing order; angry condemnation of those who note troubling inconsistencies in the words and actions of so-called mainstream politicians; duplicitous efforts to label leftist reformers as out-of-touch “extremists” whose dangerous ideas won’t sell in Middle America; and overblown tributes focusing on “civility” and “bipartisanship” rather than the unflinching pursuit of justice and the public interest.

    • Pakistan’s central bank targets funding terror, money laundering

      Pakistan last week made arrangements to strengthen anti-terror financing and money laundering laws to foil illegal money transfer through cross-border trade transactions. The move will fulfill one of the major demands of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which last year put the country on its “grey list” of nations not doing enough to curb money laundering or terror financing.

      In order to comply with FATF guidelines and to avoid further negative classification, the country’s central bank has introduced a regulatory framework for commercial banks dealing in foreign exchange transactions. New rules are devised to frustrate the misuse of trade-related deals for money laundering, terrorist financing and proliferation financing.

    • AOC, Pressley, Tlaib, and Omar to Shutdown Negotiators: ‘Not Another Dollar’ for Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Agenda

      “These agencies have promulgated an agenda driven by hate—not strategy,” reads the letter, which was first published on Thursday by The Daily Beast. “With the world watching and the lives of families at stake, we should not compromise our values at the negotiating table.”

      The letter from House progressives, which is expected to be read on the House floor next week, went public as Trump told reporters on Thursday that he “won’t waste [his] time reading” any funding agreement that doesn’t include wall money—an indication that he may be willing to shut down the government again when the current stopgap spending measure expires Feb. 15.

      The president also suggested that he is still considering a national emergency declaration to build the wall without congressional funding.

      But even as he repeatedly demanded wall money from Congress, Trump also bizarrely stated, “We have money, just so you understand. We have money, we’re building the wall right now. A lot of it. People don’t know that, and nobody reports it, but that’s ok.”

    • Trump’s Fabulous Wall Fables

      For a month Donald Trump seemed triumphant that he was making life miserable for 800,000 federal workers and their families. His supporters say the same thing about Congressional Democrats. But Trump’s approval was hemorrhaging. It was down to its lowest level in a year, the disapproval beginning to screech from his sacred base. So he caved. No money for his Magic Maginot Wall, and surrender to ending the partial shutdown, at least for three weeks.

    • In Response to Condescending ‘Listen and Learn’ Comment, Tlaib Invites Fellow Democrat to Meet Her Grandmother in Occupied West Bank

      Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) late Wednesday night responded to the condescension and criticism by one of her Democratic colleagues regarding her planned trip to the occupied Palestinian Territories by politely suggesting Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY)—as well as any other House members— consider joining her or taking similar trips to broaden their understanding of Palestinians’ lived experiences instead of aligning, year after year, with the right-wing perspective of AIPAC lobbyists.

      Tlaib is planning to lead a delegation to Palestine after declining to join the other freshman members of Congress on a trip to Israel this summer. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) organized the visit for the freshmen lawmakers as it has in past years, but Tlaib rejected the offer, citing the one-sided view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that AIPAC has provided to Congress for decades.

      “I don’t think AIPAC provides a real, fair lens into this issue. It’s one-sided…[They] have these lavish trips to Israel, but they don’t show the side that I know is real, which is what’s happening to my grandmother and what’s happening to my family there,” Tlaib told The Intercept in December.

    • Venezuela: No to Intervention, No to Maduro

      Thousands of people, mostly women, protested the food shortages in their country by banging on pots and pans as they marched in the streets. They loudly opposed the socialist policies of the government. The police eventually dispersed the protestors, but pressures on the government were mounting. In response, the government complained loudly about a U.S.-led policy of economic strangulation and isolation. At the United Nations, the president of the country worried that the United States would support a military coup to oust him.

      This was Chile in 1971. And the president of the country, Salvador Allende, was right to worry about U.S. intervention: he would be overthrown and killed in a coup in 1973.

      But this is also Venezuela in 2019. Anti-government protesters face even worse food shortages that have brought thousands onto the streets to bang on pots and pans. This is no manufactured crisis. In 2017, according to Reuters, Venezuelans lost an average of 24 pounds, and nearly 90 percent now live in poverty. The Venezuelan government has responded to the protests not only by dispersing them but, after the most recent demonstrations, killing 40 people and detaining 850. This is on top of the government killing dozens of people as a result of protests in 2017 and throwing hundreds of political opponents in jail.

    • Media Rally Around ‘Forever War’ in Afghanistan

      The New York Times (1/29/18) changed its headline to avoid the implication that ending an occupation after 17 years was a “quick exit”–but still describes the possibility as a “hasty American withdrawal.”

      After “six days of some of the most serious Afghan peace negotiations to date,” US government and Taliban officials have agreed in principle to preliminary foundations of a deal, the “biggest tangible step toward ending” the war, the New York Times (1/28/19, 1/26/19) reported this week.

      As described by US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, a longtime neoconservative architect of Hamid Karzai’s installation as Afghan president following the US invasion in 2001, the Taliban would guarantee that Afghan soil would never again be used to plot a terror attack against the United States. The US would then fully withdraw its troops, in return for a ceasefire and direct negotiations between the Taliban and Afghan government. This framework agreement comes a month after President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of 7,000, or about half, of US troops from Afghanistan. (Trump increased troops in Afghanistan from roughly 8,400 to 14,000 in 2017.)

      Certainly this sounds like good news, a chance to end the United States’ longest overseas war, one that has cost nearly $1 trillion and some 100,000 lives—a war that, in its 17th year, even the foreign policy elite admit “cannot be won” (Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass, Project Syndicate, 1/14/19).

    • The ‘Venezuelan People’ Are Whoever Agrees With Donald Trump

      The latest bizarre episode in the Trump presidency is currently playing out in Venezuela. Just weeks after President Nicolás Maduro’s inauguration, Trump officially recognized Juan Guaidó, the 35-year-old head of the National Assembly—a man who has never even run for president—as the rightful head of state. A White House statement (1/29/19) announced, “President Trump stands with the people of Venezuela as they demand democracy, human rights and prosperity denied to them by Maduro,” noting that the “people” had “courageously spoken out,” and that the US would pursue increased sanctions on the country.

      More alarmingly still, Trump has continually threatened a military intervention in Venezuela (New York Times, 8/12/17), and his National Security Advisor John Bolton allowed himself to be filmed with a notepad that read, “5,000 troops to Colombia” (CNN, 1/29/19).

      Before any troops are sent anywhere, we should ask ourselves, who exactly does Trump mean by “the people of Venezuela”? A recent local poll shows that 86 percent of Venezuelans oppose military intervention, while 81 percent already disagree with the current US sanctions.

      Nevertheless, it appears that the media have decided that “the people” want regime change, after all. PBS NewsHour (1/30/19) interviewed one Venezuelan resident of New York City who claimed he spoke for the entire population: “I—not only I—but 30 million people support the US circumstance,” meaning Washington’s attempt to replace the government. The New York Times (1/24/19) published a letter from someone in Boston using the phrase “the Venezuelan people” and “us” interchangeably, claiming Guaidó is “what we need” and that we are “feeling hopeful.”

    • Assassins: Israeli Soldiers Just “Neutralized” A “Female Terrorist,” aka A 16-Year-Old Palestinian Schoolgirl Going Home

      In their latest atrocity among too many to count or evidently acknowledge in the media, Israeli forces shot and killed Samah Zuhair Mubarak, 16, at al-Zaayim checkpoint in the occupied West Bank as she walked home from school Wednesday. Israel claims Mubarak tried to stab a security officer, after which “a rapid response by additional security forces brought about her neutralization with no injuries to the security personnel.” To bolster their narrative of a “female terrorist,” officials posted a random picture of a small kitchen knife they said they found at the scene – only schoolbooks in her back pack – and helpfully noted many knife attacks, especially by women, stem from personal issues and constitute “suicide by cop.”

      Blurry video shows Mubarak, dressed all in black, approach the checkpoint; after a few moments of indistinct movement, she falls to the ground. She evidently received no medical attention; photos capture soldiers handcuffing her as she lay incapacitated. Some Palestinian observers believe soldiers demanded she take off her veil, she refused, and they shot her. Her family says they still don’t know what happened at the checkpoint, though afterwards soldiers interrogated her father. “Samah has a childish personality,” said her uncle. “She has no extremist thought, she comes from a religious family…and she would not do what Israel claims.”

    • The CIA’s Masterful Use of Fake News

      In early 1954, writing in the magazine Encounter, F.R. Allemann slammed the ex-prime minister of Iran, Mohammad Mosaddegh, for alleged abuses. In a “Letter from Teheran” titled “Persia: Land of Unrealities,” Allemann referred to Mosaddegh’s aborted term as a “pseudo-revolutionary pseudo-dictatorship” and claimed Mosaddegh could only cram laws through Iran’s Parliament by summoning thugs to street protests—that is, through demagoguery.

      Allemann depicted Mosaddegh’s rallies as “terror campaign[s] of the political-religious secret societies” whose vocal support gave only the impression of a genuine mass movement. Lest the London-based magazine’s white, European readership miss these subtle cues to revile the out-of-office politician, Allemann, a Swiss journalist, offered his readers a buffet of Orientalist buzzwords. Rather than a rational leader elected by his people, Mosaddegh instead was a charismatic “dervish,” and “nobody was more inclined toward Munchausen escapades [like those of Mosaddegh’s incumbency] than the Oriental in general and the Persian in particular.”

      Decades later, one must ask, where were Encounter’s fact-checkers? Contrary to the article, Mosaddegh was legally elected during a period of robust Iranian democracy, and he was known as a beloved leader and a fiery speaker. His was such an iconic voice for his people that he was voted Time magazine’s Man of the Year after being named prime minister. It was strange that such venom as Allemann’s should describe a popular democrat once praised by President Harry Truman. Was Allemann signaling some conflict between the respective interests of Mosaddegh and Encounter?

      In fact, the magazine’s name signaled an “East-West Encounter”; it was intended to give its editors (and readers) wide cultural reach, from London and Western Europe all the way to Africa, India and East Asia. But what motive might Allemann have had to blame the out-of-office Mosaddegh for the nation’s current problems?

      [...]

      In the story of the Iran coup as told in the West, the name “Kashani” is not usually mentioned. But in fact, Ayatollah Seyyed Abolqassem Kashani best signals how, as Robert Dreyfuss details in “Devil’s Game,” “[t]he very same cleric-led, right-wing Islamists that toppled the shah in 1979 were paid by the CIA in 1953 to support him.”

      It all got started when Kashani and Mosaddegh were united in the belief that Iranian oil profits should go not to the United Kingdom but, shockingly, to Iranians. This was a fairly common view emerging among developing nations in the wake of World War II. They wanted Western powers to respect their sovereignty and leave them their resources. Mosaddegh had been elected to Parliament quite young, pre-Pahlavi, and re-elected in 1944, and had been associated with the Qajar dynasty. Though this created occasional bad blood between him and the Pahlavi shahs, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi appointed Mosaddegh prime minister in 1951 when the shah’s previous appointee, Gen. Ali Razmara, was assassinated. Both Mosaddegh and the shah were modernizers, and even the shah favored nationalization, sovereignty and independence, at least until the CIA made him an offer he was not permitted to refuse.

      As prime minister, Mosaddegh was chairman of the Parliament’s oil commission and had created a coalition movement called the National Front. The National Front included a patchwork of Iranian nationalists, including members of the ulema, who favored a modern, independent and Islamic state. The nationalist impulses of these conservative ayatollahs embraced the front’s nationalization of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, also known as the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and, later, British Petroleum. Though there was some division, these members of the country’s conservative believers despised the shah’s infringement on their religious rights, while an added nationalism kept many of them in the coalition.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • The Latest: AP Source: Sealed charges filed against Assange
    • Roger Stoned and Swinging

      Indeed, it was an excessive, flamboyant drama worthy of one of Stone’s excessive, flamboyant outfits. Though the “Prince of Darkness” emerged sedately attired in a navy polo shirt, perhaps after being strip-searched and tickle-tortured while being made to “watch an entire SWAT team of hung studs” gangbang his hotwife—or so went the Twitter talk.

      The circus on the steps of the Fort Lauderdale courthouse wasn’t quite that wild, but it was pretty surreal. A noisy, well-dressed mob surrounded the accused, holding their cell phones high whilst chanting “Lock HIM up!” like some sort of Bizarro-World reverse Trump rally with the high heel on the other foot.

      After posting his $250,000 bail, “the boastful black prince of Republican sleaze” came out swinging (literally), throwing up his arms and wiggling his little digits in Nixon’s V for Victory sign, his belly peeking out from under his shirt, cheered by the smattering of supporters, including his giggling bow-tied lawyer, among the much larger, braying hordes of haters.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Here’s The Real Connection Between The Brutal Polar Vortex And Global Warming

      Because of rapid Arctic warming, the north/south temperature difference has diminished. This reduces pressure differences between the Arctic and mid-latitudes, weakening jet stream winds. And just as slow-moving rivers typically take a winding route, a slower-flowing jet stream tends to meander.

      Large north/south undulations in the jet stream generate wave energy in the atmosphere. If they are wavy and persistent enough, the energy can travel upward and disrupt the stratospheric polar vortex.

      Sometimes this upper vortex becomes so distorted that it splits into two or more swirling eddies.

      These “daughter” vortices tend to wander southward, bringing their very cold air with them and leaving behind a warmer-than-normal Arctic. One of these eddies will sit over North America this week, delivering bone-chilling temperatures to much of the nation.

    • We Changed Our College’s Mind About Fossil Fuels—You Can, Too

      Crowded in a small student home in Middlebury, Vermont, three generations of Divest Middlebury activists gathered from across the country to witness the outcome of a long-awaited vote. For some, this marked the culmination of their first college semester. Others had been hoping for this announcement since they started the campaign in 2012. After seven years of student-led activism, nothing was harder than keeping quiet about what we learned: Middlebury’s Board of Trustees had unanimously voted to fully divest the institution’s $1.1 billion endowment from the fossil-fuel industry.

    • It is so cold in Chicago they’re lighting railroad tracks on fire

      The region’s largest city, Chicago, likely will set a record Wednesday for the coldest day in the city’s history. Sunrise temperatures in the city were -23°F, and high temperatures today were forecast to only reach -14°. The city’s coldest day on record occurred on January 18, 1994, when the high only reached -11°. The city is even setting its railroad tracks on fire so that trains can run on them. The battle against the cold is much the same across the upper Midwest.

    • As Snow Hits U.S., Donald Trump Confuses Weather and Climate—Here’s Why They Aren’t The Same

      Trump has fallen into the same trap that many people around the world do: conflating “climate” and “weather”. The U.S.’s current snow storms and cold snap are an example of weather—they will persist for a couple of days to a few weeks at maximum, but will eventually stop and make way for clear skies and inevitably a warm summer for much of the U.S.

      This confusion is common. So, what is the difference between “weather” and “climate”?

    • Most Americans accept that climate change is real and worrying

      Most Americans are worried about climate change, and many think the government should fight it, according to the results of two independent polls released this week. The surveys suggest that Americans are finally warming to the scientific consensus about climate change: that it’s real, it’s happening now, and that we are causing it — but the big question is whether that will be enough to spark real political change.

    • Facebook, Google, and Microsoft supported conference with climate change denialists

      The three companies were all sponsors of LibertyCon, a convention aimed at a libertarian audience that took place this month. The convention included a speaker from a group called the CO2 Coalition, who reportedly argued that the impact of climate change on the environment has been exaggerated.

    • Plants are Losing Their Capacity to Absorb Human CO2 Emissions

      Although carbon dioxide is necessary for plants to grow, there is a limit to how much CO2 they can absorb. According to the lead authors of the new study, Columbia University environmental engineer Pierre Gentine and his doctoral student Julia Green, the impact of extreme events like droughts and floods on soil are decreasing the amount of CO2 that Earth’s vegetation an absorb.

    • Pesticides Are Harming Bees in Literally Every Possible Way

      Dicamba already has destroyed millions of dollars’ worth of non-genetically modified soybeans and specialty crops, such as tomatoes and wine grapes. And now it appears to be a major factor in large financial losses for beekeepers. Hive losses don’t affect just the nation’s honey supply: Honeybees pollinate more than $15 billion worth of fruits, nuts, and vegetables a year, largely in California, according to the Department of Agriculture.

    • Coffee production threatened by climate change and deforestation

      In the report published in Science Advances, researchers in the United Kingdom and Ethiopia applied the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species criteria to 124 wild coffee species (the maximum number known to scientists), to which they devised a prioritization system. Using a gap analysis for germplasm collections and protected areas, researchers concluded 60 percent of all coffee species are at risk of extinction, giving scientists insight into which species should be prioritized for conservation and crop development. Beyond the 60 percent at risk, an estimated 35 of the 124 species grow in areas without conservation protections.

    • Chicago, New York discounted most public input in expanding bike systems
    • ‘Circularity gap’: Just nine per cent of global resources re-used each year

      Each year the global economy extracts 92.8 billion tonnes of minerals, fossil fuels, metals, and biomass, and despite decades of warnings over the resulting climate change and resource security impacts just nine per cent is re-used.

    • In Greenland and Antarctica, supposedly “safe” ice is melting alarmingly fast

      It’s been a bad week for ice. Last Tuesday, researchers announced that the Eastern Antarctic Ice Shelf—previously thought to be stable or even growing—is actually melting alarmingly fast. And yesterday (Jan. 21), a new study found that southwest Greenland—another area where ice was supposed to be safe—is dumping more meltwater into the ocean than any other region of the icy island.

    • If we stopped upgrading fossil-fuel-using tech, we’d hit our climate goals

      Because climate change is such a complex, globe-spanning problem, it’s hard to really wrap your head around possible future scenarios. A future where no action is taken to slow greenhouse gas emissions is easy enough to grok, but what exactly does a “middle-of-the-road emissions world” entail?

      These scenarios work well for outlining the range of futures available to us, but it can be hard to understand the steps necessary to get to that future. “What if?” scenarios are often easier to think about. What if we eliminated all greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow? Or, if those rainbow unicorns are too impractical for you, what if we didn’t replace fossil fuel infrastructure when it reached the end of its life, replacing it with clean alternatives instead?

    • Palm oil companies continue to criminalize farmers in Sumatra (commentary)

      “Criminalization is now the strategy being used by the company. Sometimes when villagers are harvesting their own palm oil, the company calls the police and accuses them of stealing. They then say that they will only release them if they hand over their lands to the company,” said Osian Pakpahan, head of the farmers’ union.

    • 15 Palm-Oil Free Products for More Eco-Friendly Snacking

      There are many environmental and ethical reasons to avoid consuming palm oil. The production of palm oil is causing mass deforestation in that “up to 300 football fields of forest are cleared every HOUR to make room for palm plantations.” As a result of this forest clearing, orangutan populations are decreasing drastically due to the habitat loss. The Sumatran tiger and rhino populations are also decreasing. There are products made with sustainably sourced palm oil, but it is also possible to avoid it altogether to be sure.

    • Indonesia raises palm oil issue at ASEAN-EU meeting
    • How the palm oil industry has taken a leaf out of Big Tobacco’s book

      “The relationship between the palm oil and processed food industries, and the tactics they employ, resembles practices adopted by the tobacco and alcohol industries. However, the palm oil industry receives comparatively little scrutiny,” it said.

      Oil palm plantations, mainly in Malaysia and Indonesia, cover an area roughly the size of New Zealand, and demand is expected to grow as more countries ban trans-fats, which the WHO wants banned globally by 2023.

    • Most favor policies to improve environment, but are divided over paying for it

      In a Hill-HarrisX survey of registered voters, 65 percent of respondents agreed that current environmental patterns are troubling and must be dealt with but they were split on whether to support costly government actions to do so.

      Of those who said they found the direction of the environment troubling, 66 percent agreed with the statement that current environmental patterns are “extremely troubling” and that action must be taken now to address them.

    • ’90% of the larger fish in the ocean are gone’: Why James Blunt is campaigning for sustainable fishing

      He told me about the fate of Lyme Bay in the UK, where a ban on bottom-towed fishing (where trawlers drag the bottom of the ocean, destroying everything as they catch fish was implemented in 2008. Since then, local fisherman have signed up to a sustainable conservation code, brokered by Blue Marine Foundation, which gave them freezers to keep their catch fresh and ensures higher prices at market for their fully traceable fish. The result has been an increase in the catch from Lyme Bay along with a recovery of its flora and fauna.

      He says the town is recovering too. Tourists are turned away by giant industrial fishing ports, but they flock to fishing villages with small boats, scallop divers and lobstermen. So hotels and restaurants are returning to Lyme Bay, too.

    • Are We Watching the End of the Monarch Butterfly?

      The total number of West Coast monarchs was estimated at approximately 4.5 million in the 1980s. In the latest count, that number fell to 28,429, dipping below the number scientists estimate is needed to keep the population going. This drastic decline indicates the migration is collapsing. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to announce in June whether its scientists think the monarch qualifies for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

    • Thousands of Australian Animals Die in Unprecedented Heatwave

      Freshwater fish suffer from low levels of oxygen in the country’s rivers, while bats are unable to survive the extreme air temperatures.

    • Climate Change-Driven Heat Wave Killed a Third of a Bat Population in Two Days

      Almost one third of a bat population in eastern Australia was killed over the course of just two days of November of 2018, when a heat wave in eastern Australia devastated the Queensland region and temperatures were as high as 108 degrees Fahrenheit. Climate change makes heat waves like this one disproportionately more likely.

    • How one heatwave killed ‘a third’ of a bat species in Australia

      But because they often gather in urban areas in large numbers, their deaths can be more conspicuous, and easily documented.

    • Glaciers Are Retreating. Millions Rely on Their Water.
    • Report: Rise in overseas flights harms climate more than driving

      Finland’s annual flight emissions are at about 4 million tonnes of CO2, compared with the 6.5 million tonnes produced by automobile traffic.

      However, flights within Finland’s borders only accounted for about five percent of all Finnish air travel, meaning that national climate data includes only a fraction of the emissions figures.

    • California bill would curb use of paper receipts to reduce waste, push digital alternative

      According to Ting, many of the paper receipts used by retailers today contain BPA, or bisphenol A — a chemical he called “harmful” both to the environment and human health. Thermal receipt paper frequently contains BPA or a chemical cousin that has raised similar concerns, bisphenol S, or BPS.

    • To Those Who Think We Can Reform Our Way Out of the Climate Crisis

      We are paying now. Twenty eighteen was the year that temperatures scraped 90 degrees in the Norwegian Arctic; that permafrost in northern Siberia failed to freeze at all; that wildfires burned on the taiga there, as well as above the Arctic Circle in Alaska and Sweden, in the moors of northern England, in Greece, and in California, where they showed no sense of poetic restraint whatsoever and reduced a place called Paradise to ash.

    • Whose Beach? Our Beach

      For all you naysayers who think the Trump shutdown accomplished nada except wreaking havoc on those who could least afford it, we present one indisputable benefit: Lacking adult supervision, restless for adventure and evidently intent on reclaiming what is after all theirs, about 60 rogue elephant seals knocked down a fence and took over a stretch of beach at Northern California’s Point Reyes National Seashore usually reserved for biped pleasure-seekers. The park’s resident colony of about 1,500 elephant seals are a key tourist attraction – visitors are urged to “combine your elephant seal discovery with a walk along the Chimney Rock Trail” to see spring wildflowers – but the seals typically frequent the sheltered, high-cliffed Chimney Beach. During the shutdown, officials speculate, they were inspired by the absence of park staff and a January storm’s “king tides” to seek dry ground at the ordinarily tourist-packed Drakes Beach.

      The invasion took place as staff were furloughed; they returned after the park reopened Sunday to find two seals – at about 4,500 pounds each – parked in the parking lot, one under a picnic table, one on an accessible ramp. The rest were blithely lounging on the beach, likely planning their next insurgency. Park spokesperson John Dell’Osso says in the past an occasional seal “has popped up” on Drakes Beach – and been nudged back by shaking tarps at him/her – but he’s seen “nothing like this.” Because seals breed in the winter, the original seals have now been joined by about 35 pups. To protect them, staff have closed the road to the beach and visitors’ center parking area; they have no plans to move the seals while they’re nursing pups, but are considering eventual tours. Meanwhile, people are happy a species once hunted almost to extinction for its blubber and still threatened by habitat loss has been reclaimed by its rightful owners – proving “Mother Nature bats last.” The current shutdown score: Seals: 95, Trump: zero.

    • BP’s First Global Advertising Campaign Since Deepwater Horizon Accused of Being ‘Deceptive and Hypocritical’

      Nearly a decade after being held responsible for the largest marine oil spill in history, BP’s first global advertising campaign in ten years has been denounced as “deceptive and hypocritical”.

      The global advertising campaign called “we see possibilities everywhere” aims to showcase BP’s efforts to embrace clean energy and includes a series of short videos profiling the British oil giant’s plan to increase its energy production while lowering its emissions.

    • 150 Congressional Republicans Represent Fossil Fuel Companies Instead of Their Communities

      Last week, we mocked the fossil fuel industry’s use of an outlet it owns to brag about perverting democracy — but we didn’t actually call out the politicians in the industry’s pocket.

      Lucky for us, the Center for American Progress Action Fund did just that this week. A new analysis from CAP tallies up the climate deniers in the 116th Congress. As it turns out, there are a lot: 150.

    • Documents Show Police Using Private Security Firms to Target Anti-Pipeline Organizers Fighting Line 3 Project

      The documents detail preparations for what Minnesota police expect could compare to the massive anti-pipeline mobilization at Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota, where law enforcement unleashed concussion grenades, rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons on protesters.

      The Line 3 project, which Calgary-based Enbridge says is its largest ever, would replace a cracked and corroded crude oil pipeline installed in the 1960s with a 1,031-mile pipeline that would run from Canada’s Alberta tar sands to a Wisconsin shipping hub. If constructed, it would cut through Native American reservations and treaty lands in Northern Minnesota, jeopardizing fresh water resources and wild rice beds that local Indigenous peoples consider their “primary economic, nutritional, and cultural resource.”

    • ‘The Indigenous Narrative Holds the Power to Really Shift People’s Societal Views’ – CounterSpin interview with Jenni Monet on indigenous journalism

      Janine Jackson: On January 18, thousands of people took part in the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, DC, with solidarity marches in other places around the US and Canada. A political demonstration, including songs, dancing and prayers as well as speeches, the march sought to call attention to a range of issues affecting Native Americans, from environmental devastation to violence against women to healthcare to voter suppression.

      For corporate media, though, it somehow all became about the intervention of some Catholic school boys from Kentucky, and the video of that, and the other video of that. And now media are on to their favorite thing: coverage about the coverage.

      An opportunity to talk about the lives and rights of perhaps the most marginalized community in the country was passed over in favor of another round of self-involved chin-stroking. Indigenous people may be more visible for news media since the anti-pipeline protests at Standing Rock, since the election of the first indigenous women to Congress ever, but the quality of media’s attention is still problematic in many ways.

    • Beautiful Catastrophe: An Artist-Scientist Looks Into the Face of Extinction

      Brandon Ballengée has found a way to make the unbearable beautiful.

      Ballengée has professionally merged art and science, creating transdisciplinary artworks that draw on his research as a scientist to look at issues like pollution, harmful algal blooms, habitat loss and extinction.

      And his work comes at crucial moment. Mounting environmental crises can push people to turn away — but Ballengée forces us to look at our problems head on by creating mesmerizing art with extinction and imperiled species as its subject.

    • PG&E Put Profits Over Wildfire Safety, Judge Says

      A U.S. judge berated Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. on Wednesday, accusing the nation’s largest utility of enriching shareholders instead of clearing trees that can fall on its power lines and start fires and making “excuses” to avoid turning off electricity when fire risk is high.

      Judge William Alsup in San Francisco did not immediately order PG&E to take any of the dramatic measures he has proposed to try to stop more wildfires.

      But he warned that he was not ruling out at least some new requirements on the company if it did not come up with a plan to “solve” the problem of catastrophic wildfires in California.

    • Pentagon warns of threat to bases from climate change

      A Pentagon report reveals that more than two-thirds of operationally critical military installations are threatened by the effects of climate change over the next 20 years, including repeated flooding and wildfires.

      The 22-page report released this week, titled the “Effects of a Changing Climate to the Department of Defense,” took a look at 79 “mission assurance priority installations” from the Army, Air Force and Navy that are based in the U.S.

    • To fight climate misinformation, point to the man behind the curtain

      Something called “attitudinal inoculation” does show some promise as a strategy—essentially informing people of the facts while also providing a warning of the existence of misinformation campaigns and the arguments and strategies they might use. This “vaccine” strategy can create resistance by using a small dose of the virus, and it seems to work across the political spectrum.

      On its own, attitudinal inoculation doesn’t tackle the real source of the misinformation: the intentional and often coordinated campaigns of organizations such as think tanks, lobby groups, public relations firms, and others that aim to obfuscate and sow doubt. Attitudinal inoculation could possibly be improved by “drawing more explicit attention to who is behind these messages,” write Farrell and his colleagues.

    • America’s oil boom is terrible for the climate

      A report from earlier this month also showed that after three years of decline, carbon emissions rose sharply in the United States in 2018.

    • Human carbon emissions to rise in 2019

      Stand by for a year in which global warming can only get worse as human carbon emissions climb still further. British meteorologists warn that although 2018 broke all records for greenhouse gas emissions, 2019 will see even more carbon dioxide take up long-term residence in the planetary atmosphere.

      And it will happen for two reasons, both of them nominally at least under human control. The overall release of carbon dioxide from power stations, factory chimneys, cement quarries, car exhausts and so on will continue to rise with fossil fuel combustion, even though there has been greater investment than ever in renewable resources such as wind and solar energy.

      And those natural “sinks” that absorb extra carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it as living timber in the forests, or bones and shells in the oceans, are expected to under-perform.

      This is largely because of natural cyclic variation in the tropical climate, but also partly because humans continue to degrade grasslands and fell or burn the forests that naturally absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and return oxygen for the animal world to breathe.

    • U.S. Moves Ahead With Oil Leases Near Sacred Park

      U.S. land managers will move forward in March with the sale of oil and gas leases that include land near Chaco Culture National Historical Park and other sites sacred to Native American tribes.

      The sale comes as Democratic members of Congress, tribal leaders and environmentalists have criticized the federal Bureau of Land Management for pushing ahead with drilling permit reviews and preparations for energy leases despite the recent government shutdown.

    • City-Sized 1,000-Foot Deep Cavity Found in Glacier, Warns NASA, Signaling ‘Rapid Decay’ of Antarctic Ice

      NASA scientists were startled when a recent exploratory mission revealed a huge and rapidly-growing cavity on the underside of one of Antaractica’s glaciers—signaling that the ice mass has been melting much faster than experts realized.

      The cavity is two-thirds the size of Manhattan—large enough to have contained about 14 billion tons of ice before it melted, according to a report that was published in Science Advances on Thursday.

      Much of that ice disappeared at an “explosive rate,” scientists reported—likely melting only in the last three years.

      “The size of a cavity under a glacier plays an important role in melting,” lead author Pietro Milillo said in a statement. “As more heat and water get under the glacier, it melts faster.”

    • 13 Percent of Florida Manatees Died Last Year

      An estimated 824 manatees died in Florida waters last year, a nearly 50 percent increase over the number of mortalities in 2017 and the second-highest death count ever.

      Sadly, a large number of this year’s deaths were human-caused, either directly from accidents or from long-term environmental threats created by anthropogenic forces.

    • Why Germany Leads in Renewables: It Has Its Own Green Bank

      The Green New Deal endorsed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and more than 40 other US Representatives has been criticized as imposing a too-heavy burden on the rich and upper-middle-class taxpayers who will have to pay for it, but taxing the rich is not what the Green New Deal resolution proposes. It says funding will come primarily from certain public agencies, including the Federal Reserve and “a new public bank or system of regional and specialized public banks.”

      Funding through the Federal Reserve may be controversial, but establishing a national public infrastructure and development bank should be a no-brainer. The real question is why we don’t already have one, like China, Germany, and other countries that are running circles around us in infrastructure development. Many European, Asian and Latin American countries have their own national development banks, as well as belonging to bilateral or multinational development institutions that are jointly owned by multiple governments. Unlike the US Federal Reserve, which considers itself “independent” of government, national development banks are wholly owned by their governments and carry out public development policies.

      China not only has its own China Infrastructure Bank but has established the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which counts many Asian and Middle Eastern countries in its membership, including Australia, New Zealand, and Saudi Arabia. Both banks are helping to fund China’s trillion-dollar “One Belt One Road” infrastructure initiative. China is so far ahead of the United States in building infrastructure that Dan Slane, a former advisor on President Trump’s transition team, has warned, “If we don’t get our act together very soon, we should all be brushing up on our Mandarin.”

    • Winter Storm Jayden, the Polar Vortex, and Climate Change: 3 Factors that Matter

      Winter storm Jayden was given a name on January 26, 2019, after it met the Weather Channel’s forecast criteria of at least 2 million people residing in areas under a National Weather Service winter storm warning. The snow is forecast to move over the northern Great Plains into the Great Lakes region and then the Northeast, while icy conditions and heavy rain are likely in the South.

      Temperatures are predicted to plummet following the wind and snow, as one of the coldest air masses in decades settles into these regions. As the time of writing, blizzard conditions had already shut down interstate 90 in Wyoming and the Governor of Wisconsin declared a state of emergency as deep snow and dangerous wind chill keeps residents hunkered inside.

      The Windy City will likely earn its nickname this week as Chicago may have a wind chill of minus-60 degrees Fahrenheit ; if this forecast proves correct, conditions would surpass the record set in 1871.

    • With Ocasio-Cortez/Markey Bill Reportedly on Horizon, Expert Says Green New Deal Must Include ‘Fossil Fuel Phaseout’

      Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (Mass.) are working on Green New Deal legislation that the pair may unveil as soon as next week, Axios reported late Wednesday.

      Those plans were confirmed by a spokeswoman for Markey as well as Varshini Prakash, co-founder of the Sunrise Movement, the youth-led advocacy group that has led powerful protests across the country—including at the D.C. office of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.)—in favor of the proposal, which would combine bold climate action with green jobs and other measures aimed at creating a more just economy.

    • In ‘Victory for Land and Water,’ Canada’s Supreme Court Rules Bankrupt Fossil Fuel Companies Must Clean Up Pollution Left Behind

      Green energy campaigners in Canada applauded a precedent-settiing Supreme Court ruling on Thursday which ordered the bankrupt Alberta-based oil and gas company Redwater Energy to clean up its failed wells instead of leaving the task to the public.

      Observing the “polluter pays principle,” the 5-2 ruling overturned two earlier decisions by lower courts which had sided with a federal law stating that insolvent companies could prioritize paying back their creditors over fulfilling their environmental obligations.

      “Bankruptcy is not a license to ignore rules,” Chief Justice Richard Wagner wrote in the ruling, which was celebrated as one that would set a new precedent for the entire country.

    • ‘The Climate Is a Disaster’: Fourth Week of Student-Led Strike as Tens of Thousands March in Belgium

      As many as 35,000 Belgian students walked out of classrooms in Brussels, Liège, and Leuven in the fourth straight week of protests to pressure policymakers to pursue bolder measures in response to the human-made global climate crisis.

      Students across the globe have joined the climate strike movement inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, and are calling on politicians to heed the increasingly urgent warnings from scientists that the international community must immediately phase out fossil fuels and enact other ambitious measures to drive down greenhouse gas emissions.

      “The climate is a disaster,” 15-year-old demonstrator Allison Debonte told Reuters, adding that she worries her children won’t be able to live in Brussels because of the climate crisis.

  • Finance

    • Cryptopia funds still being drained by hackers while police investigated
    • ‘Foxconn Was a Major Con’: Backed by Trump Promises and $4 Billion in Subsidies, Company Admits Factory Jobs Not Coming

      As Reuters reported on Wednesday, the Taiwanese tech firm—which Walker lured to Wisconsin with over $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies—is now saying “it intends to hire mostly engineers and researchers rather than the manufacturing workforce the project originally promised.”

      In an exclusive interview with Reuters, Louis Woo, a special assistant to Foxconn chairman Terry Gou, said the company is completely walking back its plan to build $10 billion factory in Wisconsin.

      “In Wisconsin we’re not building a factory. You can’t use a factory to view our Wisconsin investment,” Woo said.

    • For Dell’s Billionaire CEO, Taxing the Ultra-Rich is a Joke

      At the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, a panel moderator asked Michael Dell, America’s 17th-richest man, what he thought about the idea of raising the top marginal tax rate to 70 percent.

      This idea has been in the headlines since Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez floated it in a 60 Minutes interview on January 6 as a way to pay for a Green New Deal.

      The Davos panel found the question hilarious. When the laughing died down, Dell, the founder and CEO of Dell Technologies, dismissed the idea out of hand, claiming it would harm U.S. economic growth.

      “Name a country where that has worked, ever,” the mega-billionaire said.

      Dell knows a lot about computers, but he doesn’t seem to know much about history. Otherwise he’d know that one country where such a top marginal tax rate that high — and even higher — has worked is the United States.

    • Backing Paycheck Fairness Act to End Wage Gap, Ocasio-Cortez Says Time to Pay Women ‘What They Are Worth’

      Joining several House colleagues in introducing the Paycheck Fairness Act to combat gender and racial wage disparities on Wednesday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) offered a challenge to employers and right-wingers who deny the existence of unfair pay gaps: “prove it.”

      The congresswoman highlighted one measure within the legislation that will prohibit retaliation against employees who disclose their salaries or seek information about salaries and pay disparities—with the aim of ending the culture of “secrecy” that has allowed wage gaps to persist decades after the Equal Pay Act of 1963.

      The Paycheck Fairness Act “makes it legal and it makes it totally permissible to share your salary information at your workplace, and that’s incredibly important because for those who say that the wage gap does not exist, they should have no problem proving that,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

    • Greens: Open empty buildings to shelter rough sleepers

      The Green Party has responded to news 4,677 people were sleeping rough in England in autumn 2018, down by 74 compared to 2017 figures. [1]

      Sian Berry AM, co-leader of the Green Party, said:

      “Rough sleeping is not falling anywhere near far or fast enough. It is shameful that in a nation as rich as the UK thousands are still facing freezing temperatures on the streets. With the right political will there is action we can take right now to give people shelter, and I urge the Government and local authorities to consider measures like opening up Britain’s many empty buildings.

    • What is This New Uganda?

      For the last three decades, Uganda has been one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. Globally praised as an “African success story” and heavily backed by international financial institutions, development agencies and bilateral donors, the country has become an exemplar of economic and political reform for those who espouse a neoliberal model of development. The neoliberal policies and the resulting restructuring of the country have been accompanied by narratives of progress, prosperity and modernization, and justified in the name of development. But this self-celebratory narrative, which is critiqued by many in Uganda, masks the disruptive social impact of these reforms, and silences the complex and persistent crises resulting from neoliberal transformation.

      Those who want to better understand the dynamics of contemporary Uganda thus face a bifurcated scenario: two different narratives persist at global and local levels that seem, taken together, hard to reconcile. One is of a Uganda emerging from years-long civil war in the late 1980s, and then within a few years becoming an international success story. This “Uganda as a success” narrative praises the post-1986 policy reforms that have stimulated economic growth, with sustained GDP growth and foreign direct investment (FDI) attraction matched by steady progress in poverty reduction and gender empowerment.

      Central to this narrative is the leadership of a president who is a progressive modernizer, acting with the interest of the nation at heart. In short, Uganda has never been better. Such accounts parade all manner of positive achievements in social, political and economic spheres. Very powerful actors promote this narrative, year in, year out: from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and various international and bilateral donors of the country, to influential international and domestic scholars and analysts, not to mention the Ugandan government and establishment. The same actors have produced a plethora of official statistics and econometric studies that supposedly provide evidence of this stated steady progress. A prime example of this celebratory narrative about the new Uganda is the Kampala speech of the IMF Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, in January 2017, “Becoming the Champion: Uganda’s Development Challenge.”

    • Confused Again: Trump Thinks His Trade War is Responsible for China’s Economic Problems

      The New York Times had an article on the status of Trump’s trade war with China. While the piece pointed out Trump’s claim that his trade war is responsible for China’s economic problems, it didn’t point out that this is almost certainly not true.

      In spite of Trump’s tariffs, China’s exports to the United States were up by more than $30 billion in the first ten months of 2018 compared to 2017. While their exports may have grown even faster without the tariffs, it doesn’t make sense that slower than expected growth in exports to the U.S. could be too big a hit to the Chinese economy.

      It is also worth noting that China’s exports to the U.S. are actually not that large a share of its economy. If we just take the reported value of China’s exports to the U.S. it comes to less than 3.9 percent of its GDP.

      This overstates the actual share of Chinese value-added in these exports, since we record the full price of a product as an export, even though much of the value-added comes from other countries. For example, we would record the full value-added of an iPhone assembled in China as an export from China, even though the vast majority of the value added in the product comes from United States and other countries.

    • The Most Effective Way to Stop the Destruction of Black Wealth

      Want an impossible task? Try identifying the most disturbing trend in America today. Consider the choices: Climate change denial, extreme political polarization, gun violence, etc.

      Those are just the ones on the national radar. Here’s one that isn’t, but needs to be: the systematic destruction of black wealth.

      The reality is horrific, according to the recent Institute for Policy Studies report Dreams Deferred. “Between 1983 and 2016, the median black family saw their wealth drop by more than half after adjusting for inflation,” the report notes, “compared to a 33 percent increase for the median white household.”

      Further, the report finds, “the median black family today owns $3,600 — just 2 percent of the $147,000 of wealth the median white family owns.”

      This affects you regardless of your color. Because inextricably connected to the widening racial wealth divide has been the extreme concentration of wealth at the very top.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • The Fired Next Time: A “Shutdown” Proposal

      The longest partial “government shutdown” in US history ended on January 25. To get Leviathan’s gears turning at full speed again, President Donald Trump said uncle on funding for his pet border wall project in return for a three-week “return to normalcy.”

      More interesting than the (quite possibly temporary) end of the “shutdown” is the direction things were taking right before the wall funding came tumbling down.

      Transportation Security Administration employees called in sick en masse, creating long delays at major airports. IRS employees called back (without pay) to process tax returns followed suit.

      At the other end of the spectrum, self-organizing volunteers, as well as employees/contractors sent by tourism-reliant businesses, turned out to clean toilets and so forth at national parks. The parks were “closed,” but visitors showed up anyway and enjoyed their time with nature.

    • Joshua Tree National Park could take 300 years to recover from government shutdown damage

      More than 100 rallied Saturday near the Southern California desert park to draw attention to the environmental and economic impacts of the five-week shutdown. Former Joshua Tree National Park Superintendent Curt Sauer and musician Matt Adams were among those who turned out for the rally.

    • Joshua Tree National Park Could Take ‘200 to 300 Years’ to Recover From the Government Shutdown

      The national park in southern California emerged from the shutdown an icon of the irreparable damages caused by the cessation of vital government functions.

      “While it is unlikely the effects will last for as long as 300 years, the damage is long term,” National Park Service spokesperson Mike Litterst told Motherboard in an email.

    • “Tell me Donald. Exactly how much is a human life being sold for?”

      Two years into his Presidency, the fullblown cost of Donald Trump’s assault on human health, the environment and on science is becoming brutally and painfully clear.

      The cost in lives lost and pollution emitted from his rollback of regulations has been calculated too. The numbers do not lie: Trump is killing his voters. Trump is making our kids sick. Trump is killing the planet, at the same time as giving his polluting friends in the fossil fuel industry billions of dollars in handouts. And all the while, he carries on obfuscating the truth about climate change in a deliberate attempt to confuse and distort the debate.

      First let’s look at science. To mark the two year anniversary of Trump’s presidency, the Union of Concerned Scientists has just issued a report into the Administration’s attack on science.

      It concludes: “The Trump administration over its first two years has shown a pervasive pattern of sidelining science in critical decisionmaking, compromising our nation’s ability to meet current and future public health and environmental challenges.”

    • Noam Chomsky: Ocasio-Cortez and Other Newcomers Are Rousing the Multitudes

      A quick glance around the world today reveals that politics almost everywhere — from the federal government shutdown in the US to the power struggle in Venezuela and from Macron’s crisis in France and UK’s Brexit nightmare to the Israeli-Iranian rivalry – are engulfed in a state of uncertainty and turmoil. Meanwhile, oligarchy is replacing democracy as the widening social and economic gap between rich and poor continues unabated. So, who rules the world now? The US is in a state of relative decline, but neither Russia nor China has the capacity to control global developments. How do the super-rich and corporations factor into this equation? In this exclusive interview, world-renowned linguist and social critic Noam Chomsky provides penetrating insights into some of the most critical developments going on in the world today.

    • After Years of Republican Rule, the House Takes on Voting Rights

      Natalie Landreth, a senior staff attorney at the Native American Rights Fund, remembers testifying before Congress in support of a bill to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act back in 2006. At the time, the reauthorization legislation passed the Senate with a near unanimous approval from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

      “Support for VRA Reauthorization was wide and nonpartisan, Republicans by and large didn’t vote against it, it passed something like 96-0,” Landreth said in an interview. “Now Sen. Mitch McConnell is suggesting that the H.R. 1 and other voting bills won’t even make it to the Senate floor? The conversation around voting has degenerated so far in so little time.”

      A hearing on Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee revealed a deep divide between Republicans and Democrats — not to mention millions of voters — over H.R. 1, the sweeping voting rights and anti-corruption bill at the top of the Democratic agenda. After years of Republican rule in the House, the rise of dark-money campaign groups and Super-PACs, and fierce legal battles between GOP-controlled state legislatures and civil rights groups over access to the ballot box, the tension between Republicans and the new Democratic majority was on full display.

      “The idea that we did not have problems in the 2018 election … is really an embarrassment, and I think people should be ashamed of themselves,” said Rep. Karen Bass, a Black Democrat from California, during an intense exchange with witnesses about the reality of voter suppression.

    • The Disaster of Howard Schultz

      2. His message is without substance (he uses empty catchphrases like “silent majority” and “common sense solutions”) and his policy proposals are zilch. When asked by John Dickerson on CBS This Morning what his “big idea” was, Schultz declared: “The big idea is very simple: to unite the country. For us to come together. To do everything we can to realize that the promise of America is for everyone.” To the extent Schultz has defined his candidacy, it’s focused on what he’s against—for example, Democratic proposals to raise taxes and provide Medicare for All.

    • Howard Schultz Is a Presidential Candidate Only Late Capitalism Could Produce

      I was born in 1981, and some of my earliest political memories are of the 1992 presidential campaign—in particular of the diminutive, eccentric rich man with the goofy drawl who stood on the debate stage between a clipped, patrician incumbent and an upstart governor with a more opportunistic drawl, lamenting the evils of international labor cost arbitrage. At the time, I did not know what labor arbitrage was, but I did get the gist of the “giant sucking sound” coming out of Mexico. The basic social and economic principles underlying this candidacy were easy enough for even a 10-year-old to understand.

      Ross Perot’s quixotic campaign was the ne plus ultra of independent and third-party presidential campaigns. Others had tried, and a couple had even won a few Electoral College votes, but none, before or since, has ever approached his nearly 20 percent of the popular vote—a number that might have been even higher had his campaign not suffered from the inevitable difficulties of working for a billionaire madman who demanded loyalty oaths (sound familiar?) and refused to listen to the advice of his counselors.

      Part of Perot’s success was good luck and timing. It was the first post-Cold War presidential race; the U.S. was in the middle of a severe recession; the incumbent was uniquely weak; and the Clinton campaign was dogged by moral scandal.

      But in retrospect, we can’t deny the animating force of Perot’s obsessive focus on trade and de-industrialization. From the vantage point of the Donald Trump era, we can see how these ideas, when combined with the timeless allure of nativism and xenophobia, can win. Perot often appeared monomaniacal, but there was no doubt that he ran for a reason.

    • Sarah Sanders: God ‘wanted Donald Trump to become president’

      White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday that God “wanted Donald Trump to become president.”

      Sanders spoke with David Brody and Jennifer Wishon of the Christian Broadcasting Network. Brody during the interview asked the press secretary for a “spiritual perspective” on Trump’s presidency.

      “I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times and I think that he wanted Donald Trump to become president,” Sanders said. “And that’s why he’s there, and I think he has done a tremendous job in supporting a lot of the things that people of faith really care about.”

    • ACLU Urges Supreme Court to Uphold Separation of Church and State
    • Remember That Anti-Trans Memo? Its Threat Hasn’t Vanished.

      The Supreme Court’s revival of President Trump’s ban on transgender troops has sparked another brief outcry over the current administration’s ongoing attacks on transgender rights, but the response has not translated into renewed outrage against a much broader threat to trans communities that continues to loom, despite fading from the headlines: the policy changes contained in the memo leaked by the federal Department of Health and Human Services last October.

    • Calling Bill That Makes Voting Easier a “Power Grab,” McConnell Exemplifies a GOP Terrified of Democracy

      Along with making participatory democracy possible for millions of Americans who aren’t able to get to take time off work to get to the polls, H.R. 1 would strengthen ethics and financial disclosure rules, establish automatic and same-day voter registration as well as early voting across the country, and enact gerrymandering reform to mend the damage done by years of partisan and racial re-districting to benefit Republicans.

      “The title of the legislation itself—the For the People Act—is a good reminder of who democracy is here to serve: the people,” said Craig Holman of Public Citizen on Tuesday as the first hearing on H.R. 1 got underway. “Lawmakers have a chance to show the American people that America truly cares about transformational and comprehensive pro-democracy reforms by ensuring election access, restoring voting rights, reforming ethics laws, and protecting the integrity of our elections.”

      But Republicans made clear this week that any reforms which benefit voters will seriously endanger their control over the U.S. government. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) joined in McConnell’s fearmongering over the bill on Twitter, expressing suspicion over a provision that would pre-register 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds. Jordan suggested that the measure—already in effect in 13 states and Washington, D.C.—is a ploy to allow people to vote before they’re legally allowed to.

    • Kamala Harris and Israel: Taking the AIPAC Line

      California’s junior senator Kamala Harris has announced her presidential candidacy, joining what will likely become an unusually large field of Democrats seeking the nomination.

      Harris is being embraced by many progressive Democrats, and she’s branding herself as a progressive. Yet in the course of her little more than two years in the U.S. Senate, she’s taken some foreign policy positions that should give pause to supporters of human rights and international law.

    • Fondly Remembering Richard Nixon

      The image of Richard Nixon waving his arms as he boarded a helicopter leaving the White house for the last time as president on August 9, 1974, remains etched in generational memories. The solemnness of Gerald and Betty Ford waving goodbye to the disgraced 37th president next to David Eisenhower consoling Julie Nixon was in direct contrast to the jubilation of millions celebrating his departure. No more Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady, Helen Gahagan Douglas, no more links to the un-American House Un-American Activities Committee, no more Watergate. Good riddance Milhouse, Pat, Roy Cohn, Bebe Rebozo, H.R. Haldeman and all that. Basta.

      There are those moments like Nixon’s waving that define an era. Joseph N. Welch’s challenging Senator Joseph McCarthy during the Army-McCarthy hearings on June 9, 1954, was another such moment. Welch asked: “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” he questioned the Wisconsin senator on national television. Welch pricked the balloon of McCarthy and his anti-Communist hearings. Welch’s simple questions captured all that was wrong with McCarthy and his hysterical witch hunt. Welch, a partner in the Boston white-shoe law firm Hale and Dorr, cut through the anti-Communist frenzy by questioning McCarthy’s “sense of decency.”

      What do Nixon’s resignation and Welch’s questions have in common? Both represent unspoken norms. In the Welch case, the American people understood what decency meant. Although there was an exaggerated fear of Communists after World War II – Alger Hiss, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg – somehow Welch was able to capture a decency in the American people that began the closure of McCarthy’s prominence. McCarthy was not being decent, and he and his era started drawing to a close.

    • “Dealmaker” Shutdown Committee Is Probably Doomed

      The dust has finally begun to settle after Donald Trump’s Fail Wall was broken over the knee of Speaker Nancy Pelosi like so much soggy fiberboard, with spectacular assistance from furloughed workers across the spectrum. It’s time to take stock of what the next three weeks may bring. Dancing around the bonfire of Trump’s vanity made for some wonderful weekend exercise, but it’s over now, and there is no guarantee that what happens next will be anywhere near as pleasant.

      The legislation signed by Trump on Friday after his ignominious Rose Garden capitulation kicked the shutdown can down the road to February 15, exactly 16 days from now. In an effort to cobble together some kind of palatable deal, congressional leadership has assembled an ad hoc committee of 17 Republicans and Democrats who will begin meeting today.

      This committee includes Democrats like Senators John Tester, Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy, along with Republican Senators Richard Shelby, Roy Blount and Shelley Moore Capito. House members will include Republican Representatives Steven Palazzo, Tom Graves and Chuck Fleischmann, along with Democratic Representatives Barbara Lee, Nita Lowey and David Price. The committee’s leadership from both chambers all have long experience in appropriations, and a New York Times headline has dubbed them collectively as the “Dealmakers.”

      The battle lines seem plainly drawn, but appearances deceive. Thanks in large part to the leadership of Speaker Pelosi, the Democrats’ main united demand remains no funding for Trump’s preposterous border wall. There is reason to believe they will hold to this line in the forthcoming negotiations, but as ever, there is plenty of room to fudge the edges. A wall, after all, does not necessarily need to be made from concrete.

      Before this latest shutdown ended, a group of House Democrats was putting together an offer that would spend Trump’s wall money on also-spurious measures like more border agents and “smart wall” technologies. Odds are better than good this proposal, or a version of it, will reappear during these new negotiations. Senator Durbin, one of the committee’s Democratic leaders, helped write the DREAM Act in 2001, so we should expect protections for the “Dreamers” to be involved as well.

    • Learning from Gandhi

      Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on 2 October 1869: 150 years ago this year.

      There will be many tributes to Gandhi published in 2019 so I would like to add one of my own.

      This reflects not just my belief that he gave the world inspiration, ideas and powerful strategies for tackling violence in a wide range of contexts but because my own experience in applying his ideas has proven their worth. This included his awareness that led him to declare that ‘If we are to make progress, we must not repeat history but make new history. We must add to the inheritance left by our ancestors.’ and his encouragement to reflect deeply and listen to one’s ‘inner voice’: ‘you should follow your inner voice whatever the consequences’ and ‘even at the risk of being misunderstood’.

      In essence, we can productively learn from history but we can build on it too. And, vitally, this includes dealing more effectively with violence.

    • Revolving Doors And Regulatory Capture Are Ensuring E-Voting Remains An Insecure Mess

      Despite the long list of bad news generated by electronic voting machines, their market share only continues to grow. Rather than consider them the attack vectors they are, state and county legislators have decided to toss caution and paper ballots to the wind. The future is now. And it’s riddled with vulnerabilities.

      Maybe there shouldn’t be a rush to digitize the democratic process, at least not while manufacturers are still shipping machines pre-loaded with security flaws and inadequate software. The push for e-voting machine deployment isn’t organic, of course. It’s an organized push that starts with the machines’ manufacturers and ends in regulatory capture.

      Sue Halpern has exposed the paper trail connect voting machine manufacturers to ill-advised rollouts in her article for the New Yorker. The heaviest pushes target legislatures that make purchasing calls for the entire state. Most states allow the decision to be made at the county level, which decreases the chance the entire state will be affected by voting machine hacking or malfunctions. But in states like Georgia and Delaware, a successful pitch to the state legislature can mean hundreds of millions of dollars in sales.

      The pay-for-play begins in the usual way: paid junkets that take state advisory boards to major cities for the usual wine/dine/schmooze-fests with all expenses paid. An investigation by McClatchy showed the Governor Brian Kemp’s chief of staff, David Dove, attended an event held by voting machine manufacturer ES&S (Election Systems & Software) — timed impeccably to capture the state’s $100 million voting machine market. To the surprise of no one, the state’s election commission decided to award ES&S this contract. But it had to do so over the voices of non-purchased stakeholders who saw nothing good in replacing one faulty e-voting machine with a similarly faulty product.

    • Now Chad, then Mali: Why African Countries Are Normalizing with Israel

      Forget the hype. Israel’s ‘security technology’ has nothing to do with why some African countries are eager to normalize relations with Israel.

      What is it that Israel is able to offer in the technology sector to Chad, Mali and others that the United States, the European Union, China, Russia, India, Brazil, South Africa and others cannot?

      The answer is ‘nil’, and the moment we accept such a truth is the moment we start to truly understand why Chad, a Muslim-majority country, has just renewed its diplomatic ties with Israel. And, by extension, the same logic applies to Mali, another Muslim-majority country that is ready to normalize with Israel.

      Chadian President, Idriss Deby, was in Israel last November, a trip that was touted as another Benjamin Netanyahu-engineered breakthrough by the Israeli government and its allied media.

      In return, Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, paid Deby a visit to N’djamena where they agreed to resume diplomatic ties. In their joint press conference, Deby spoke of ‘deals’ signed between Chad and Israel, but failed to provide more details.

    • Trump Explained in Fiction

      A little known fact is that the 25th Amendment was itself fashioned after the book. John Sutherland, a Harvard adviser to the US House Judiciary Committee drafting the Amendment in 1956, stayed up all the night before reading ‘The Caine Mutiny.” Emmanuel Celler, the chairman of the committee, who eventually drafted the 25th Amendment with Sen. Birch Bayh, agreed that the book provided “an excellent analogy”.

      Lately, Trump’s narcissistic obsession with his wall on the southern border is best exemplified by another fictional captain, Ahab, in Melville’s Moby Dick. The book’s narrator Ishmael, in the very first chapter, refers to “the deeper meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting … image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned.” Captain Ahab, similarly, sacrifices all and everyone in his vengeful quest for the white whale, projecting his own malice on this dumb beast.

    • Establishment Wants Revenge On AOC
    • Demand Critical Congressional Hearings—Long Overdue, Avoided or Blocked

      Earlier this month I wrote a column listing twelve major redirections or reforms that most people want for our country (see: “It’s Your Congress, People!” Make it work for you!). All of which require action by Congress—the gate-keeper. Now Congress must hold informative and investigative public hearings to inform the media and to alert and empower the people.

      The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) explains a Congressional Hearing as follows:

      “A hearing is a meeting or session of a Senate, House, joint, or special committee of Congress, usually open to the public, to obtain information and opinions on proposed legislation, conduct an investigation, or evaluate/oversee the activities of a government department or the implementation of a Federal law. In addition, hearings may also be purely exploratory in nature, providing testimony and data about topics of current interest.”

    • Campaign Cash Paid Trump Foe’s Legal Bills After #MeToo Fall

      Former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman used nearly $340,000 in political campaign funds to pay the law firm that represented him during an investigation of allegations that he physically abused several women, according to campaign finance reports reviewed by The Associated Press.

      The practice is legal, but reform activists say Schneiderman and other politicians are exploiting lax campaign finance rules.

      “By and large, if you are an elected official, you can use your campaign contributions as a Get Out of Jail Free card,” said Blair Horner, the executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

      Schneiderman’s re-election committee, Schneiderman 2018, began paying the Clayman & Rosenberg LLP law firm the week after his abrupt May 7 resignation from office, the records show. The last payment was made Dec. 7, a month after a special prosecutor closed the investigation without filing charges.

    • “Doubling Down”: With Private Care Push, Trump’s VA Bucks Lawmakers and Some Veterans Groups

      When Congress passed a bill last year to transform the Department of Veterans Affairs, lawmakers said they were getting rid of arbitrary rules for when the government would pay for veterans to see private doctors.

      Under the old program, veterans could go to the private sector if they would have to wait 30 days or travel 40 miles for care in the VA. Lawmakers and veterans groups, including conservatives, criticized those rules as arbitrary. The new law, known as the Mission Act, was supposed to let doctors and patients decide whether to use private sector based on individualized health needs.

      On Wednesday, the Trump administration proposed new rules, known as access standards, to automatically make veterans eligible for private care. Instead of 30 days, it’s 20 days for primary care or 28 days for specialty care. Instead of 40 miles, it’s a 30-minute drive for primary care or a 60-minute drive for specialty care.

      The announcement appeared to do little to settle the debate over whether the VA’s rules are arbitrary.

      “Twenty days is just as arbitrary as 30 days,” Bob Wallace, the executive director of Veterans of Foreign Wars, one of the largest veterans service organizations, said in a statement.

    • Democrats Can’t Lose Their Nerve on ‘Medicare for All’ Now

      David Leonhardt of the New York Times has highlighted a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation that, if true, would suggest that Medicare for All is not nearly as popular as initial polling would suggest. Based on this survey’s results, Leonhardt concludes that Democrats who support the idea are committing an “unforced error.”

      Unfortunately, that survey is deeply misleading. While pollsters made it clear that they were merely presenting “some arguments some people have made for or against a national Medicare-for-all plan,” they only presented partial arguments in favor of Medicare for All while presenting deeply deceptive arguments against it. Their questions almost certainly skewed the results.

      The poll finds that 56 percent of voters surveyed initially support “Medicare for All” and 42 percent oppose it, for a net favorability rating of +14 percent. When arguments in favor of Medicare for All are presented—it will guarantee coverage to all Americans and reduce out-of-pocket costs—net favorability rises to +45 percent. (KFF does not provide the raw numbers here.)

      Support reportedly falls dramatically when people hear arguments against the program. The problem, however, is in the presentation.

    • New survey reports 45 percent of Russians think their country is headed in the wrong direction. That’s a 12-year record.

      A new survey by the social research institute Levada Center found that 45 percent of Russian residents believe their country is moving in the wrong direction. The survey was conducted January 25 – 31 and included 1600 respondents in 136 Russian municipalities.

      Interfax reports that the figure is a 12-year high. It surpasses the number of respondents who believe Russia is headed in the right direction (42 percent). 13 percent of respondents said they were unable to answer the question.

    • Father of senator accused of murder detained on charges of robbing Gazprom

      Moscow’s Basmanny Court has ordered two months of detention for Raul Arashukov, who is accused of stealing natural gas from the major Russian-based energy company Gazprom. The value of the stolen gas is allegedly estimated at 30 billion rubles (almost $460 million).

    • The Trump Administration Is Breaking Up Families Because It Can

      They’ve submitted a document from El Salvador’s Ministry of Justice and Public Safety confirming that their client doesn’t have a criminal record. A letter from his former employer, an art supply store in San Salvador where Mr. A worked for the past 13 years, describes him as an upstanding colleague and manager.

      They’ve also filed a photo that shows Mr. A at the beach with his daughter, to prove he doesn’t have any MS-13 tattoos.

      “We’ve asked for information, and we haven’t been given any,” said Laura Peña, a lawyer in Mr. A’s case who works with the Texas Civil Rights Project. “We don’t know what information the government has, so it’s hard for us to counter the allegation.”

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Porn: you know it when you see it, but can a computer?
    • YouTube Strikes Now Being Used as Scammers’ Extortion Tool

      In a terrible abuse of YouTube’s copyright system, a YouTuber is reporting that scammers are using the platform’s “three strike” system for extortion. After filing two false claims against ObbyRaidz, the scammers contacted him demanding cash to avoid a third – and the termination of his channel.

    • It isn’t TERFs who are bigoted – it’s their persecutors

      It is right that people are asking questions about all of this. And it is wrong – wrong, censorious and dangerous – that trans activists and their numerous influential allies in the world of politics, the academy, the media and the celebrity set want to shut such questions down by rebranding them as a form of ‘hate speech’.

    • Venezuela: Blocking of social networks accentuated as political crisis worsens
    • Social media shutdown in Venezuela is a warning of what is to come as political tensions rise

      UPDATE (Jan 23, 2019): Reports from network monitors and individuals on the ground indicate widespread blocking of YouTube, Google services, and several social media platforms. Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram are widely inaccessible, and disruptions on Twitter, particularly for images and video, are becoming more pronounced.

    • Maduro Fights Back With Targeted Killings and Media Blackout

      The [Internet] is crucial to Guaido’s ability to rally his supporters because the Maduro regime controls almost all the television and radio stations.

    • Reports of internet blocks and media censorship as power struggle tensions escalate in Venezuela

      “The block uses SNI filtering, [...]”

    • Federal Judge Says Boycotts Aren’t Protected Speech

      A federal judge in Arkansas has delivered a truly WTF First Amendment decision related to a state’s anti-Israel-boycott law. The law states that companies contracting with government entities cannot engage in boycotts of Israeli products or services. Those doing so are either forbidden from doing business with the state government or forced to sell their products/services at a substantial discount.

      In this case, the Arkansas Times’ steady business relationship with an Arkansas college has been disrupted by the Arkansas law seeking to punish businesses that engage in boycotts of Israel. Every company doing business with Arkansas government entities must sign a certification stating they are not boycotting Israel. The law has been in effect since 2017, but this year the Times refused to sign the required certification. This refusal cost the paper its advertising contract with the school, since the only other option under the boycott law was to sell its services at a mandated 20% discount.

    • “We’re Here to Help”: ACLU Schools Marco Rubio on First Amendment Rights and His Anti-BDS Bill

      The ACLU took to social media on Wednesday to refute Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) assertion that the rights group’s opposition to his anti-boycott legislation is “baseless,” and offer him some guidance on understanding the First Amendment.

      The bill, S.1, advanced on Tuesday with the help of 25 Democrats, and includes the Combating BDS Act of 2019, which allows state or local governments to punish entities using boycotts, divestments, or sanctions to protest the Israeli government’s policies.

      While Rubio and others have continued to support the bill, the ACLU argues the anti-BDS measure “violates the core principle” at the heart of the Constitution’s free speech protections. “The government cannot,” the group notes, “dictate to its citizens which causes they can and can’t support.”

    • Brazil in 2019: Free Speech and Privacy in the Crosshairs. What Are the Threats?

      Last year’s Brazilian elections were a victory for Jair Bolsonaro—a politician with highly controversial positions on the country’s past military dictatorship and civil rights. Bolsonaro’s ascent to power and the beginning of his administration in January has attracted international attention for their potential impact on human rights. His election reflects greater support for a conservative agenda likely to jeopardize free expression and privacy safeguards. Executive branch decisions, bills in Congress, and cases up for trial in the Supreme Court, may all deserve careful attention because of their potential to undermine civil liberties.

      One key example is the set of anti-terrorism bills pending in Congress that may gain greater support. Most of roughly ten proposals so far build on an existing 2016 law passed mainly due to international pressure before the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The legislation attracted strong criticism from civil society for potentially criminalizing protests and protesters. But the new bills go further. Nearly all seek to broaden the definition of terrorism. Some narrow current safeguards that prevent the actions of social movements from being considered terrorism offenses—offenses which carry a potential 30 year prison sentence.

    • Russia’s media regulator says local ‘BBC’ broadcasts violate TV rules

      Russia’s media regulator, Roskomnadzor, says the company responsible for carrying BBC World News in Russia is guilty of “certain violations,” according to the news agency Interfax. The federal censor is currently assessing the “procedural status” of these infractions, Roskomnadzor spokesman Vadim Ampelonsky said on Thursday, without offering any further details about how the agency plans to respond.

      In December 2018, Roskomnadzor launched investigations into the television station BBC World News and the network’s website. In early January 2019, the agency accused the BBC’s Russian-language service website of “broadcasting the ideological attitudes of terrorist organizations,” citing an article that quoted ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

    • “Instagram Helped Kill My Daughter”: Censorship Tendencies in Social Media

      It is all a rather sorry tale. Molly Russell, another teenager gorged on social media content, sharing and darkly revelling, took her own life in 2017 supposedly after viewing what the BBC described as “disturbing content about suicide on social media.” Causation is presumed, and the platform hosting the content is saddled with blame.

      Molly’s father was not so much seeking answers as attributing culpability. Instagram, claimed Ian Russell, “helped kill my daughter”. He was also spoiling to challenge other platforms: “Pininterest has a huge amount to answer for.” These platforms do, but not in quite the same way suggested by the aggrieved father.

      The political classes were also quick to jump the gun. Here was a chance to score a few moral points as a distraction from the messiness of Brexit negotiations. UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock was in combative mood on the Andrew Marr show: “If we think they need to do things they are refusing to do, then we can and we must legislate.” Material dealing with self-harm and suicide would have to be purged. As has become popular in this instance, the purging element would have to come from technology platforms themselves, helped along by the kindly legislators.

      Any time the censor steps in as defender of morality, safety and whatever tawdry assertions of social control, citizens should be alarmed. Such attitudes are precisely the sorts of things that empty libraries and lead to the burning of books, even if they host the nasty and the unfortunate. Content deemed undesirable must be removed; offensive content must be expunged to make us safe. The alarming thing there here is that compelling the tech behemoths to undertake such a task has the effect of granting them even more powers of social control than before. Don’t they exert enough control as it is?

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Never Lose Your Wallet Again With Orbit Bluetooth Tracker [Ed: Enabling surveillance through one's wallet, which would send out signal]

      For someone like me who frequently taps the pocket to reassure that I still have my wallet, a Bluetooth tracker is a life-saving device. However, most Bluetooth trackers that I have come across are difficult to carry in a wallet. Of course, I don’t want an awkward bulge from a Bluetooth tracker device in my wallet. Here’s where Orbit Card — world’s thinnest Bluetooth tracker — comes into play.

    • Facebook Defends ‘Research’ App; Says Kids Consented To Data Collection

      n Tuesday, Techcrunch reported that Facebook is paying teenagers to install a “Research” VPN app in iOS devices in exchange for $20 gift cards.

      The main motive behind the app was to analyze the web activity and smartphone usage patterns of teenagers. The social media company invited participants to the dubious research program by putting up ads on Snapchat and Instagram.

    • Google Caught Violating Apple Policies Just Like Facebook

      Facebook is not the only company that misused Apple’s Enterprise Certificate system, as Google has now admitted that it also violated the same policies as Facebook’s “Research App.”

      A TechCrunch report earlier revealed that Facebook was secretly distributing a VPN app which covertly collects data on how they used their devices in exchange for money($20).

    • Log-free email provider Posteo: ‘You must log user IP addresses’, court rules

      So it’s no surprise that the company is angry about a decision from the German Constitutional Court, which says it has to log IP addresses so that it can provide them to investigators, when asked.

      The ruling was published Tuesday, in a case involving the attempted surveillance by Stuttgart authorities of someone suspected of breaking narcotics and weapons laws.

      In 2016, a local court came to Posteo with a warrant, demanding all existing and future data relating to the suspect’s email account. Posteo implemented surveillance of the account but told the cops that, as it doesn’t log traffic data, there was nothing on that front to share.

    • Google+ Will Start Deleting User Data From April 2nd

      fter a massive data breach that exposed the profiles of the users, Google announced that it would pull the plug on Google+, its social networking service. Soon another data leak affected the user data, and Google fast-forwarded its plan to shut down Google+. Now, the company has issued a formal timeline as to how the process will be carried out.

      New users will not be allowed on Google+ from February 4th onwards. On the same date, the comments generated by the Google-owned social media network on Blogger will be removed. For other websites, the comments will be taken down by March 7th.

    • Facebook’s Privacy Problems Are Piling Up Too Quickly To Chronicle

      Another day, another Facebook privacy mess. Actually, this one is a few different privacy messes that we’ll roll up into a single post because, honestly, who can keep track of them all these days? While we’ve noted that the media is frequently guilty of exaggerating or misunderstanding certain claims about Facebook and privacy, Facebook does continue to do a really, really awful job concerning how it handles privacy and its transparency about these things with its users. And that’s a problem that comes from the executive team, who still doesn’t seem to fully comprehend what a mess they have on their hands.

      The latest flaps both involve questionable behavior targeted at younger Facebook users. First there’s a followup on a story we wrote about a few weeks ago, involving internal Facebook documents showing staffers gleefully refusing to refund money spent unwittingly by kids on games on the Facebook platform. Reveal, from the Center for Investigative Reporting, who broke that story, also had a much more detailed and much more damning followup, about how Facebook was clearly knowingly duping young children out of their parents’ money.

    • Apple Clashes With Facebook Over Invasive Market Research App

      A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to Variety that this also impacted internal apps used by the company’s workforce, and multiple reports indicated Wednesday morning that the company was caught off-guard.

    • Why Facebook’s Banned ‘Research’ App Was So Invasive

      As Facebook deals with the fallout from yet another privacy scandal, it’s worth unpacking how its Research app worked—especially because it serves as a good reminder for other apps you might already be using, particularly virtual private networks. It wasn’t just Facebook: Google also disabled a similar app on iOS devices on Wednesday. Both apps are still available on Android.

    • By Defying Apple’s Rules, Facebook Shows It Never Learns

      At a time when Facebook is under the microscope for violating its users’ privacy, such techniques are bold enough. But what makes the operation even more brazen is that Facebook continued running the program, which launched in 2016 and was sometimes called Atlas, even after Apple banned Onavo from the App store less than six months ago. Apple said it would no longer allow developers to collect information from other third-party apps.

      Apparently undeterred, Facebook created a workaround for the Research app. It circumvented Apple’s vetting process using a technical loophole that is only intended for apps Facebook distributes to its own employees. That allowed Facebook to ingest everything a user did on their phones, including teens and minors. While kids under the age of 17 had to receive parental consent to participate, the disclosure form analyzed by TechCrunch minimized the extent of what could be done with all that data. “There are no known risks associated with the project,” it read. Facebook told TechCrunch only 5 percent of the app’s users were teens.

    • Head of Android Security Says Locking Out Law Enforcement Is an ‘Unintended Side Effect’

      In his talk, Mayrhofer specifically mentioned a theoretical scenario where “insiders” with access to cryptographic keys could create firmware to modify certain security features and bypass an Android phone’s PIN, passcode, unlocking pattern, or other unlocking mechanism. With Android Pie and on the Pixel 3 phone specifically, the update system is now engineered in a way that even Google can’t push out a malicious update without the user’s passcode or unlocking pattern.

      Even if the government did force Google to push a malicious update in order to access a phone, the user’s personal data—and the keys that encrypt their data—will be wiped or made inaccessible, according to Mayrhofer.

    • American prisoners coerced or tricked into providing voice-prints for use in eternal, secret, unchecked surveillance

      Some prisoners are secretly “enrolled” in the program when their voices are recorded during phone calls; the people they speak to on the outside are also sometimes “enrolled” without their knowledge or consent.

      The software is being provided by Securus, a notoriously abusive private security firm with a track record for gross privacy violations, as well as gouging prisoners and their families.

      Securus’s voice surveillance tool is called Investigator Pro, [...]

    • Apple revokes Facebook’s developer certificate over data-snooping app—Google could be next

      This is not the first time Apple has smacked Facebook’s hand away from the user data cookie jar. Facebook had previously used a VPN app called Onavo Protect to do exactly the same type of user data collection and monitoring. Facebook had promoted Onavo Protect as an app that would keep users’ personal data safe, even as it used that same app to collect users’ data. The app was promoted from within Facebook’s popular social networking iOS app as well.

    • Home Affairs says encryption law amendments implemented

      All 17 amendments proposed to the Federal Government’s encryption law, which was passed by Parliament on 6 December last year, have been implemented, the Department of Home Affairs says in a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • The case of Rahaf Mohammed is a wake-up call for us all

      Rahaf’s case is not only about the fact that across the world women are living under regimes which limit their ability to move freely, love whoever they want and to have autonomy over their lives and bodies. It is also about an issue which is increasingly become more and more apparent.

      In fact, it is one of the defining civil rights movements of our age. Apostasy is the renunciation of a person’s faith and it does not only affect Muslims, although they are more likely to be persecuted under formal legislation.

    • On Her Shoulders: a Yazidi’s fight for justice

      For much of the film, Murad and her team are pushing for her to become a UN goodwill ambassador, so as to raise the profile of the Yazidi plight. But Bombach also subtly raises the question of whether Western compassion serves anyone other than Westerners. Reporters’ and politicians’ interest in the abuse Murad suffered is almost prurient. At one point, Nadia wonders why they insist on asking her to rake over her past, when so many of her people still suffer.

    • Asia Bibi’s daughters get refuge in Canada ahead of blasphemy ruling

      The mother-of-five was acquitted last October after spending eight years on death row for blasphemy.

    • Asia Bibi’s lawyer to return to Pakistan: Report

      The self-exiled lawyer of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian acquitted of blasphemy, has decided to return to the country as the Supreme Court is set to decide on January 29 whether to allow an appeal against her acquittal.
      Saiful Malook went to the Netherlands last year due to “security concerns” when violence broke out soon after Bibi’s acquittal.

    • Pakistan’s Supreme Court upholds Asia Bibi’s acquittal

      In an age where religious dissidents can face flogging or death in Saudi Arabia, re-education camps in China and dubious terrorism charges in Russia, good tidings about liberty of belief are hard to come by. But on January 29th a flash of welcome news came from Pakistan.

      The country’s highest court reaffirmed an earlier decision to acquit a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, of blasphemy charges which had led to her spending eight years on death row. [...]

    • Marine Corps veteran sues sheriff’s office, claiming she was forcibly stripped and detained naked for 12 hours

      “There was no legitimate or necessary law enforcement, safety or penological objective to forcibly stripping [Askew] of her clothing. The only objective of the officers was to punish, harass, humiliate, degrade, and inflict physical and psychological pain,” the lawsuit states. “The officers’ conduct in stripping [Askew] of her clothing was intentionally demeaning, dehumanizing, undignified, humiliating, terrifying, embarrassing and degrading.”

    • UK named in Council of Europe sharia warning

      The assembly is also ‘greatly concerned’ about the fact that sharia, including provisions that contravene the European Convention on Human Rights, is applied either officially or unofficially in member states. In the UK, ‘sharia councils attempt to provide a form of alternative dispute resolution, whereby members of the Muslim community, sometimes voluntarily, often under considerable social pressure, accept their religious jurisdiction mainly in marital and Islamic divorce issues, but also in matters relating to inheritance and Islamic commercial contracts,’ the resolution states.

    • Women’s bicycle rally in Peshawar cancelled after protest threat by religious parties

      The first women’s bicycle rally scheduled to take place in Peshawar on January 19 was cancelled after religious parties on Friday threatened to protest against the event, officials said.

    • Regular says she was banned from eating at the bar at Manhattan’s fancy Nello restaurant because she might be a sex-worker

      According to Crawford, when she told the owner that his policy was unfair and discriminatory and reminded him that she was a regular who’d spent a small fortune eating at his bar, the owner said “he could run his business as he pleased, and that I was no longer welcome to eat at the bar, only at a table.”

    • Rising human trafficking takes on ‘horrific dimensions’: almost a third of victims are children

      The study from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC, draws on information from 142 countries, examining trafficking trends and patterns. Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC, said that “human trafficking has taken on horrific dimensions as armed groups and terrorists use it to spread fear and gain victims to offer as incentives to recruit new fighters,” citing child soldiers, forced labour and sexual slavery as examples.

    • Mediterranean countries pledge to cooperate to stem human trafficking

      Algeria’s Minister Abdelkader Messahel, who is also co-president of the meeting, emphasized the need for alternative means of income to keep people away from human smuggling. Such solutions, he said, could go a long way in helping fight trafficking in the region.

    • Why are single women still mistaken for prostitutes?

      “Since the article was published a number of women – including women who live in modern-day Manhattan – have declared they experience similar treatment in a number of different settings and are relieved that a voice has been given to the ‘#smallstuff’,” she told the BBC.

    • Saudi Arabia: Let Outside Monitors See Detainees

      Saudi authorities should immediately allow independent international monitors to enter Saudi Arabia and meet with detainees, including those who have alleged torture, Human Rights Watch said today. The detainees should include the prominent princes and business leaders held as part of a so-called corruption probe, and the prominent women’s rights advocates detained since May 2018.

    • Indonesia: Ex-Governor’s Blasphemy Sentence Ends

      “Ahok will finally be out of prison and reunited with his family, but he should never have been imprisoned in the first place,” said Elaine Pearson of Human Rights Watch. “Ahok’s unjust conviction is a reminder that minorities in Indonesia are at risk so long as the abusive blasphemy law remains in place.”

      Ahok, an ethnic Chinese Christian, had been accused under the blasphemy law while governor in connection with a reference he made to a Quranic verse in September 2016. A month later, two groups closely linked to Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second largest Islamic organization, complained to the police, saying that non-Muslims like Ahok should not comment on Quranic interpretations. Militant Islamist groups successfully made Ahok’s blasphemy prosecution a centerpiece of efforts to defeat him in Jakarta’s gubernatorial election in April 2017, which Ahok lost.

    • Saudi blogger Raif Badawi’s wife hopeful after meeting with Trudeau

      Ensaf Haidar told reporters that Trudeau had promised her to do “something more” to free her husband, who has been in prison in Saudi Arabia since 2012. Badawi was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for promoting religious freedom in his online writings.

    • Canada helping young Saudi refugee won’t hurt Raif Badawi’s case, wife says

      Canada helping young Saudi refugee won’t hurt Raif Badawi’s case, wife says

    • China imprisons leading human rights lawyer

      Wang was tried in a closed hearing last month after being held without access to his lawyers or family since 2015, when he became one of more than 200 legal activists detained during a crackdown. It wasn’t clear whether his time in detention would be counted against his sentence.

    • Smith College Overhauls Policing Practices After Black Student Racially Profiled

      After a Smith College employee called the cops on a Black student as she ate lunch, Smith will take up the ACLU’s recommendations for police reforms.
      This past July, Oumou Kanoute was a rising sophomore at Smith College, working on campus over the summer to mentor high school students interested in science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, careers. A young Black immigrant and the daughter of a single mother, Oumou is exactly the kind of striver colleges like Smith seek to attract.

      But Oumou felt anything but welcome on that late July afternoon. As she ate in a common room, wearing the unofficial Smithie uniform of athleisure clothing topped with a pink-and-white Vineyard Vines cap, a college employee decided she looked “out of place” and called the campus police on her.

      The experience made Oumou become one of a troubling number of Black and brown people who have had the cops called on them simply for living their everyday lives. It also profoundly shook Oumou, and she now feels distinctly out of place in this predominantly white institution.

    • Court orders two-month detention for senator accused of murder

      Moscow’s Basmanny Court has ordered that Rauf Arashukov, a Russian senator accused of conspiracy and murder, be held in detention for two months. The senator was arrested under dramatic circumstances earlier today.

      Attorneys for Arashukov asked that he be released on bail for 10 million rubles (just over $150,000) or held under house arrest. Prosecutors explained their request for detention under guard by claiming that Arashukov might attempt to flee to the United Arab Emirates, where he presumably holds real estate or has ties to someone who does.

      Shortly after the prosecution’s request was accepted, defense attorneys requested that the hearing be closed to the public and the press, and the judge approved their motion. One defense lawyer said a closed hearing would protect his client’s safety; in his words, the senator “has received threats with demands that he plead guilty.”

    • DNA tests could reveal if Kevin Cooper was wrongly convicted of murder. Why didn’t Jerry Brown order them?

      On Christmas Eve, shortly before the end of his final term as California’s governor, Jerry Brown ordered new DNA testing in a case that has been cited repeatedly as a possible miscarriage of justice.

      But Brown inexplicably stopped short of ordering all the testing needed to finally settle whether Kevin Cooper was wrongly convicted for the savage 1983 murders of a Chino Hills family and a child staying at their house.

      Cooper, a convicted burglar who had escaped from a nearby prison two days before the murders, was soon arrested, although the one family member who survived the attack, Joshua Ryen, 8, indicated immediately after being rushed to the hospital that there were three attackers and they were white. Cooper is African American.

    • More Than Two Years After It Took Them, The FBI Still Won’t Return Family Videos Seized During A Raid Of A Security Researcher’s Home

      The government isn’t done jerking around security researcher Justin Shafer quite yet. Shafer came across a bunch of dental patient information in an improperly secured database. This discovery led to the FTC levying a $250,000 fine against the software provider, Schein, for falsely portraying its faux encryption as actual encryption. After notifying affected parties, Shafer was thanked for his help with a raid by FBI agents.

      This happened days after the FTC announced its settlement with Schein. FBI agents dragged Shafer outside of his house in his boxers at 6:30 in the morning and took every electronic device in the house except for his wife’s phone. His children were awakened by shouting men pointing guns at their parents.

      This wasn’t the only time Shafer was raided. He was raided once more, again for suspicions he was engaged in illegal hacking, this time allegedly in conjunction with TheDarkOverlord. Neither of these two raids resulted in anything more than a bunch of seized electronics and Shafer’s family being taught to fear, if not hate, federal agents. No charges were brought as the result of these two raids.

      This second raid led to Shafer directing his anger at the agent who had secured the search warrant, Special Agent Nathan Hopp. Following this raid, Shafer tracked down Hopp and Hopp’s wife via social media, engaging a series of unwise (but not actually threatening) confrontations with the agent’s wife. In one message to her, he implored SA Hopp’s wife to return video recordings of his children, which had been seized along with everything else.

    • Trump’s ‘Illegal Return of Asylum Seekers Scheme’ Has First Known Victim

      In the first publicly known instance of the Trump administration implementing its new policy that forces some asylum seekers to await their U.S. immigration court hearings in Mexico, 55-year-old Carlos Gomez Perdomo of Honduras was sent to the United States’ southern neighbor on Tuesday—sparking a fresh wave of condemnation.

      Critics of the policy point out that it could further endanger asylum seekers. As Melissa Crow of the Southern Poverty Law Center told Agence France-Presse: “It’s not safe for many, if not most, of these asylum seekers to wait in Mexico. Lots of them are fleeing cartel violence and domestic abusers.”

    • Immigration ‘Threat’ and the Wall Debate

      What kind of world do we live in, when you have dumb-as-rocks and just plain dumb politicians at the forefront of the national immigration debate? Proposed solutions are little more than political posturing, where one party focuses on a border wall and the other on more money for increasing immigration officers and border security. They both skate past the fact that immigration has significantly reduced over the past decade, foreign students are increasingly choosing elsewhere for their higher education and immigrants cause less crime than the American population. Immigration security is declared a priority by Republicans and Democrats, catering to the racist-nativist sentiments of Breitbart and Stephen Miller.

      In this sense, Trump and his supporters seem to have won the narrative early on by painting immigration as a problem. In no small part, this is thanks to disingenuous stories of American citizens killed by illegal aliens. And when the migrant caravan began its journey, the media wedded with Breitbart by depicting a movement of refugees fleeing mass violence in Central America as a threat. With this ‘threat’ and immigration officials, subsequently, making Central American refugees wait on the Tijuana side of the border to issue petitions, Trump was placed in an advantageous position to argue for a border wall and fulfill a campaign promise.

      So, this is the situation we are now in – a three-week reprieve on a 35-day a government shutdown with both sides claiming to be more hawkish on border control. Ever transfixed with security, the traumatized post-9/11 snowflake brain is a perpetual position of welcoming perceived safety, whatever the cost or however preposterous the danger.

    • The Movie on Deportation Trump Needs to Watch

      President Donald Trump wants his wall, and he is willing to shut down the government again to get it. Commenting on congressional negotiations to find a compromise before temporary government funding runs out on Feb. 15, he tweeted on Wednesday, “If the committee of Republicans and Democrats now meeting on Border Security is not discussing or contemplating a Wall or Physical Barrier, they are Wasting their time!” It has been reported lately that some of the sensational rhetoric that Trump invokes when demanding a border wall may actually come from the movies. Case in point is the 2018 blockbuster crime thriller “Sicario: Day of the Soldado.” Scenes in that film are strikingly similar to elements from Trump’s border wall speeches, referencing Muslim prayer rugs found in the desert near the Mexican border, and stories of women having their mouths bound with duct tape.

      Trump should definitely see a film that just premiered here at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, “The Infiltrators.” The movie covers a topic dear to the president: deportation. This gripping film, a hybrid documentary/dramatic feature, is based on the true story of undocumented immigrants who get themselves arrested by federal authorities — risking deportation themselves — so they can infiltrate a notorious private immigrant detention center and organize the detainees within its walls.

    • ICE Force-Feeding Detainees on Hunger Strike

      Federal immigration officials are force-feeding six immigrants through plastic nasal tubes during a hunger strike that’s gone on for a month inside a Texas detention facility, The Associated Press has learned.

      U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says 11 detainees at the El Paso Processing Center have been refusing food, some for more than 30 days. Detainees who reached the AP, along with a relative and an attorney representing hunger strikers, said nearly 30 detainees from India and Cuba have been refusing to eat, and some are now so weak they cannot stand up or talk.

    • Like Military at Gitmo, ICE Reportedly Using Nasal Tubes to Force Feed Migrant Prisoners on Hunger Strike

      Employing what one critic described as “Guantanamo Bay style” abuse, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials are reportedly using plastic nasal tubes to force-feed at least six detained migrants who have been on a prolonged hunger strike to protest conditions at an El Paso, Texas prison.

      As the Associated Press reported on Thursday, detained migrants and an attorney representing the hunger strikers said “nearly 30 detainees from India and Cuba have been refusing to eat, and some are now so weak they cannot stand up or talk.”

      According to the AP, the detainees said they began refusing food to “protest verbal abuse and threats of deportation from guards. They are also upset about lengthy lock ups while awaiting legal proceeding.”

      The force-feeding began during the second week of January after “a federal judge authorized force-feeding of some El Paso detainees,” the AP reported.

      Amrit Singh, whose two nephews from the Indian state of Punjab have been hunger striking for around a month, told the AP that those being force-fed “are having persistent nose bleeds, and are vomiting several times a day.”

    • France Has Millions of Muslims. Why Does It Import Imams?

      Wouldn’t revising that law be an admission that secularism is bowing to Islamism? On the other hand, if the law isn’t revised, or if the French state cannot find other ways of monitoring and steering Islam, then Islam in France risks falling under the control of foreign states or the influence of radicals. That is already the case, actually: Since laïcité prohibits the French authorities from using public funds to build mosques or train imams, Algeria, Morocco, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have stepped in. According to the newsmagazine L’Express, 70 percent of imams practicing in France are not French.

    • A Great Heart Stopped: Erik Olin Wright (1947-2019)

      first met Erik Olin Wright when I arrived in the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a Ph.D. student in the summer of 2016. Having already read most of his work I could not wait to meet him in person. Indeed, the chance to study under Wright was the main reason for my being there.

      Upon arriving at his office, I was received with a warm smile and a hug. Erik, as he asked to be called, graciously offered to mentor my research. What stood out about him,even in that first encounter, was not just his brilliant mind but his generosity, kindness, and warmth—often not the case with academics of his stature.

      [...]

      Wright made his first appearance on the intellectual scene in the mid-1970s, along with a generation of graduate students—the famous “1968 generation”—who were radicalized by the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement in the late 1960s. He “fell into Marxism” in the early 1970s since it was, he recognized, “the only game in town” for a serious critical scholar.

    • The first person in Russia arrested for ‘undesirable’ activism just lost her daughter to bronchitis complications

      Anastasia Shevchenko now has two unpleasant distinctions. On January 21, she became the first person in Russia to be arrested for the felony offense of working for an illegal “undesirable organization,” which could land her in prison for up to six years. On January 31, Shevchenko became the first person facing these charges to lose a child, when her 17-year-old daughter, Alina, succumbed to complications resulting from bronchitis, dying after a long battle with lung problems.

      Shevchenko’s house arrest was recently extended to March 20, after a judge refused to release her on bail for 500,000 rubles ($7,665). After initial reports that the court denied her request to visit her dying daughter in the hospital, Shevchenko was ultimately allowed to be at her daughter’s hospital bedside the night before she died.

    • Russian executive who bragged about sex with subordinates to remain at work for two more weeks

      Ruslan Gorring, the deputy director of the Russian state-owned geological holding Rosgeo, lost his contract with the company after engaging in a range of inappropriate behavior on the live streaming platform Twitch. However, RIA Novosti wrote one day later that a federal registry continued to list Gorring as the general director of Krasnodarneftegeofizika, a subsidiary of Rosgeo, even after his reported firing from all Rosgeo companies. In the Twitch footage released Tuesday, Gorring bragged about having sex with women who reported to him at the holding. He also repeatedly threatened physical violence against other players of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.

      The status of Gorring’s employment has already been the subject of confusion. On January 29, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Dmitry Kobylkin announced that he had fired the Rosgeo executive and reprimanded his supervisor, Roman Panov, who directs the holding. However, Rosgeo later told reporters that Kobylkin lacks the authority to reprimand or fire its staff, reporting that Panov himself had terminated Gorring’s contract. Gorring himself claimed he had resigned.

    • What Breastfeeding Has To Do With Economic Security

      A recent study from the Center for WorkLife Law reveals the heavy toll of breastfeeding discrimination and the pressing need for more protections.
      The discrimination began almost immediately after Barbara, an emergency room nurse, returned from maternity leave. Like most breastfeeding parents, Barbara needed to pump regularly to keep up her milk supply and prevent infection. But while her co-workers got smoke breaks, Barbara wasn’t allowed to take time to pump, leaving her in pain: “I’d feel like my breasts [were] bursting,” she said.

      When she did get breaks, Barbara found herself expressing breast milk for her baby “next to bedside trays that had dried blood.” When she finally stood up for herself, Barbara’s manager bullied her until she quit. “It just became too much,” she said. “It affected my home life. It affected my baby. My milk supply dropped. It was spiraling downhill.”

      Barbara’s experience is far too common. In “Exposed: Discrimination Against Breastfeeding Workers,” we found that two-thirds of breastfeeding discrimination legal cases from the last decade ended in job loss, either because the worker was fired or, like Barbara, forced to resign.

    • South Carolina Cops Love Asset Forfeiture So Much They Take Cash From Crime Victims

      You’d think we wouldn’t need any more data points on asset forfeiture abuse, but since many states still allow law enforcement to steal cash and personal property from people never even accused of criminal acts, maybe more data points are needed to show lawmakers why this abhorrent practice should be ended.

      The Greenville News has put together an in-depth report on asset forfeiture in South Carolina, culled from asset forfeiture cases run through the state’s court system. What it found is unsurprising, but still shocking. The article opens with a small sampling of injustices perpetrated by the criminal justice system.

    • Appeals Court Says A Person Driving A Registered Vehicle On A Public Road Is Not ‘Reasonably Suspicious’

      Well, let’s see what government agents are claiming is reasonably suspicious these days. Ah, here it is: driving a registered vehicle on a public road. The streets are clogged with scofflaws, apparently. Thanks to the skill set of one Carlos Perez of the US Border Patrol, we can finally start putting these people away.

      This ultra-ridiculous assertion comes courtesy of an appealed motion to suppress that has made its way to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The government is the party doing the appealing, having come out of the losing end of Jeffrey Freeman’s request to have evidence obtained during two stops by the Border Patrol tossed out.

      The suppression of the first stop isn’t at issue as the government isn’t challenging that particular suppression. But it wants to keep the evidence obtained in the second stop. The problem is Agent Perez’s definition of “reasonable suspicion” isn’t anywhere in the neighborhood of “reasonable.” According to Perez, he stopped Freeman because he turned onto a public road that happened to bypass a Border Patrol checkpoint near Freer, Texas. Freer is 50 miles inland from the border, but the government has declared anything within 100 miles is under the control of the Border Patrol.

      But the road Freeman turned onto (FM 2050) is more than a detour around BP checkpoints. According to Perez’s own testimony, a dozen homes and a handful of businesses can be accessed via FM 2050, making it far more than a way to avoid being hassled by the Border Patrol. Still, Perez insisted the road was only used by those transporting illegal immigrants or contraband, turning residents and business owners (along with their employees) into criminals that just haven’t been caught yet.

    • Truthdiggers of the Month: The Striking, and Winning, L.A. Teachers

      They showed up in force, in the streets of Los Angeles, and in the driving rain. Numbering in the tens of thousands, their movements affected more than half a million students in the Los Angeles Unified School District, and they shared a single focus.

      After rallying for six straight days, their efforts paid off. On Jan. 22, some 32,000 striking LAUSD teachers reached a deal with district officials that would improve educators’ working conditions and pay on many of their terms. By the end of the month, class was back in session.

      Such a basic rundown of the recent showdown between highly activated Los Angeles teachers and resistant officials doesn’t give that episode its due. Nor does it put in context what was really only the latest, most public display of conflict between the two parties — as many sources noted, this was the first LAUSD teachers’ strike in 30 years, and it happened after nearly two years of attempted negotiations failed to produce a workable result.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

  • Qualcomm

    • Four Qualcomm patent suits against Apple dismissed by Munich court, four others in zombie mode

      This last day of January 2019 dealt another setback–technically, a set of setbacks–to Qualcomm as half of its patent infringement lawsuits against Apple’s Spotlight search in Munich have been tossed and the other half is going down the tubes. On the legal front, this month as a whole has gone, for the most part, as if Qualcomm had set out to prove Murphy’s law. A summary will be provided further below.

      The Munich I Regional Court thankfully published a press release on its website (in German) regarding the decisions the 7th Civil Chamber under Presiding Judge Dr. Matthias Zigann announced today in Qualcomm’s eight Spotlight cases.

      It was already clear before today’s announcement that some of those lawsuits were bound to be dismissed because there was no doubt at the hearing that a claim limitation (a “standby” feature for apps) wasn’t practiced. I reported that fact after the trial and mentioned it again in my most recent post relating to this set of cases, which I wrote after the European Patent Office sided, in a preliminary opinion, with Apple and Intel (I should even say Intel and Apple because Intel was first to challenge those patents), represented by the patent attorneys of the Samson & Partner firm (which consistently delivers great work, and was on the winning side in another case today–involving totally different parties–as I’ll mention at the end of this post).

      These are eight cases because there are two cases for each of the four patents, always one against Apple Inc.–the U.S. HQ–and one against two European Apple entities. The older ones of the four patents-in-suit (too old to be challenged before the European Patent Office post-grant, but they are being challenged in the Federal Patent Court of Germany), EP1956806 and EP1955529, are not infringed–for the aforementioned reason (no “standby”). That disposes of four of the eight cases. Qualcomm can appeal, but the “standby” question appears to be an insurmountable hurdle for Qualcomm, and the EPO opinion on the other two patents, while neither final nor binding on the Federal Patent Court of Germany, strongly suggests that the entire patent family is doomed to be invalidated.

    • Half fun, half serious: How tech CEOs react to an antitrust investigation

      These are eight cases because there are two cases for each of the four patents, always one against Apple Inc.–the U.S. HQ–and one against two European Apple entities. The older ones of the four patents-in-suit (too old to be challenged before the European Patent Office post-grant, but they are being challenged in the Federal Patent Court of Germany), EP1956806 and EP1955529, are not infringed–for the aforementioned reason (no “standby”). That disposes of four of the eight cases. Qualcomm can appeal, but the “standby” question appears to be an insurmountable hurdle for Qualcomm, and the EPO opinion on the other two patents, while neither final nor binding on the Federal Patent Court of Germany, strongly suggests that the entire patent family is doomed to be invalidated.

      Non-infringement was successfully argued for Apple by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s Prince Wolrad of Waldeck and Pyrmont.

      Instead of outright ordering a stay of the other four cases (over the two younger patents the EPO deems invalid on a preliminary basis), the court made the procedural decision to give Qualcomm a chance—by way of a reopening of the proceedings–to respond to the EPO’s preliminary findings of invalidity. That’s because the EPO opinion came in so shortly (just about a week) before today’s ruling date in the infringement cases.

    • FTC v. Qualcomm closing arguments: in a bench trial before Judge Koh, lawyers are just there to supply facts

      When Judge Lucy H. Koh (Northern District of California) denied Qualcomm’s motion to dismiss the FTC’a antitrust complaint, her perspective on the key legal issues in the case became clear. Since that moment, about 19 months back, Qualcomm has known that the law, as interpreted by this experienced judge, was not on its side–and if the facts weren’t going to be on its side either, it knew, or it should have known, it was bound to lose.

      The Federal Trade Commission had the burden of proof in this trial, but Qualcomm also faced a significant challenge as the FTC’s legal theories could hardly be defeated (otherwise the motion to dismiss would have succeeded least in part). Failure was not an option for Qualcomm.

      After ten trial days, the FTC had indisputably received far more–and far stronger–industry testimony for its purposes than Qualcomm. That was to be expected, given the long list of known complainants. The only surprise in that regard was that even Ericsson (a company with similar interests regarding patent monetization) took positions adverse to Qualcomm’s defense (except in connection with rival chipset licensing). The FTC’s comfortable lead in connection with industry testimony would have allowed it to prevail even with a reasonably narrow defeat in the battle of the experts. But neither Qualcomm’s experts nor its lawyers were able to impeach Professor Shapiro or Mr. Donaldson (their victory over Mr. Lasinski was an exception), while the selectivity Qualcomm’s experts needed to employ under the circumstances (the facts being what they are) was thinly veiled and easily exposed.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • IPA Technologies Bats .500 on Subject Matter Eligibility

      The District of Delaware recently issued an instructive decision on eligible subject matter under § 101, invalidating one family of patents while upholding another. IPA Technologies, Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc.

      [...]

      The two families faced different fates. The court invalidated the Halverson patents as ineligible subject matter, this time with prejudice. The problem for the Halverson patents was that they basically recited a function of receiving a spoken command and then looking something up based on the spoken command. The court found this to be an abstract idea under Alice Step One and distinguished the Federal Circuit cases cited by IPA in which patents had been upheld as eligible; in those cases, the claims at issue had not been purely functional. The claims were “drafted so broadly as to cover any method that can achieve navigating electronic databases by spoken natural language input.” IPA also pointed to new statements in its amended pleadings, but the court noted that such statements could not overcome the language in the specification and claims of the patents.

      In Alice Step Two, the court found that the claims merely used conventional technology. Again, the facts pleaded in the complaint cannot be used to contradict the specification and claim language.

    • Secret Sales Are Still Prior Art under the On-Sale Bar

      In a short, unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court held that “secret sales” count as prior art under the on-sale bar. The Court, in the anticipated case Helsinn Healthcare v. Teva Pharmaceuticals, found that Helsinn’s agreement to sell the patented product counted as prior art against its patent stemming from an application two years after the agreement, even though the details of the product were kept confidential.

      This case begins with Helsinn developing the active ingredient for the drug Aloxi, which treats chemotherapy-induced nausea. In early 2000, Helsinn submitted the drug to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for clinical trials with the to-be-patented formulation of 0.25 mg of palonosetron. Later that year, Helsinn made a deal with a marketing partner to license and supply the drug. The agreement was publicly announced, and Helsinn made public submissions to the Securities and Exchange Commission. These public statements did not include the drug’s formulation, and the agreement obligated the marketing partner to keep that formulation confidential. Helsinn did not file a patent application until 2003, from which multiple patents issued, including U.S. Patent No. 8,598,219 (the ’219 patent).

    • Patents Claim E-commerce not Technical Solution, Fail § 101

      A court found that claims of two patents were ineligible under 35 U.S.C. §101 and the Alice/Mayo test because the claims were all “directed to the same economic practice: the idea of presenting discounts or offers for goods and services based on certain criteria, such as a user’s location.” Valentine Communications, LLC v. Six Continents Hotels, Inc., No. 1:18-cv-1815-WMR (N.D. Ga. Jan. 9, 2019). The court thus granted the defendant’s Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss the plaintiffs complaint alleging infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 8,567,672 and 8,590,785.

    • Barry v. Medtronic, Inc. (Fed. Cir. 2019)

      Elevation to Chief Judge in a U.S. Court of Appeals, particularly in the Federal Circuit, is frequently accompanied by an apparent mandate to place an imprimatur on the Court’s decisions. This pattern has been shown consistently in this appellate court, from Chief Judge Markey through Chief Judges Michel and Rader. Now it is Chief Judge Prost’s turn, as illustrated by her decision in Amgen v. Sanofi, overturning application of the written description precedent of Noelle v. Ledermann as being inconsistent with the Court’s en banc opinion in Ariad v. Eli Lilly & Co. This week she did not prevail in convincing her brethren of the correctness of her opinion and thus provided a dissent, in Barry v. Medtronic, Inc., relating to the application of the public use and on-sale bars to patentability and its relationship to the experimental use exception to applying these bars.

      [...]

      This appeal followed, involving Medtronic’s defenses of invalidity under § 102(b) and § 102(g), inequitable conduct, induced infringement, and damages.

      The Federal Circuit affirmed, in a decision by Judge Taranto joined by Judge Moore; Chief Judge Prost provided a strong dissent (in part) regarding the public use and on-sale bar defenses. On the public use defense, the majority first recited the standard, that the invention must have been in public use and “ready for patenting” more than one year before a patent’s filing date. The Court majority found that the invention was not “ready for patenting” based on Dr. Barry’s testimony that he did not know that the claimed method and system had worked for their intended purpose until after the results of the third patient surgery could be evaluated three months after the surgery. The panel majority also found that Dr. Barry’s use, while not burdened by explicit confidentiality agreements with the patient or surgical staff and (on facts persuasive to Chief Judge Prost in dissent) fully paid for by the patient at Dr. Barry’s “customary rates,” was negated by the character of the use as experimental use, which “serve[d] as a negation of the statutory bars,” citing Polara Eng’g Inc v. Campbell Co., 894 F.3d 1339, 1348 (Fed. Cir. 2018). The majority affirmed in part based on the standard of review, wherein Judges Taranto and Moore found substantial evidence for the jury’s finding that the claimed invention was not “ready for patenting” prior to the critical date. Specifically, “there is substantial evidence that Dr. Barry’s invention was not ready for patenting until January 2004 because the final follow-up from the October surgery was reasonably needed for the determination that the invention worked for its intended purpose,” according to the panel majority.

      [...]

      Unrecorded but not out of the question would be a simple repost from the Chief Judge: “For now.” Having already revised how the written description requirement is applied to antibodies in Amgen v. Sanofi, the only question seems to be whether Chief Judge Prost will have a case that gives her an opportunity to revise the on-sale and public use bars in accordance with the principles and reasoning set out in her dissent.

    • HEVC Advance standard essential patent owned by GE challenged as likely invalid

      On January 29, 2019, as part of its ongoing efforts in its new SEP Video Codec Zone, Unified filed a petition for inter partes review (IPR) against U.S. Patent 9,729,891. The ’891 patent is owned by GE Video Compression, LLC (GEVC) which is participating in the HEVC Advance patent pool (HEVC Advance patent list).

      The ‘891 patent and its corresponding extended patent family is one of the largest families known to be owned by GEVC and represents approximately 13.6% of GEVC’s known U.S. assets. The ’891 patent, originally assigned to Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, was transferred to GEVC in 2015.

    • German Federal Patent Court outlines detailed guidelines for royalty rates

      The ruling concerned a case where the defendant was the proprietor of a patent relevant for HIV therapy. The plaintiff marketed products allegedly making use of the invention of this patent. The plaintiff requested a compulsory license for using the invention at the Federal Patent Court. According to § 24 Abs. 1 of the German Patent Law, this is possible when the license seeker unsuccessfully tried to obtain a license under reasonable terms, and there is a public interest for granting the compulsory license. Further, the plaintiff also requested a preliminary injunction allowing them the immediate use of the invention, which is also possible when the immediate use of the invention is urgently necessary in the public interest (see § 85 Abs. 1 of the German Patent Law). In a previous decision on the present case (3 LiQ 1/16 (EP) published in GRUR 2017, 373), the Court granted the plaintiff the immediate use of the patented invention, and, after an appeal by the patent proprietor, the German Federal Supreme Court confirmed this decision (decision in X ZB 2/17 dated July 11th, 2017, published in GRUR 2017, 1017). After that decision, a Board of Appeal of the European Patent Office revoked the patent. Thus, there was a dispute between the parties as to whether or not a fee had to be paid by the plaintiff for the time where the compulsory license was in place (and before the patent was revoked), and (if yes) how high such a fee would be.

      [...]

      In the above case, the Court found a royalty rate of 4% to be adequate. The Court mainly based their finding on the market situation, the particular customer retention, the lack of alternative solutions for the licensee, and on the aspect that the license was compulsory (see items A1 to A4 and A8 above), all of which are arguments for a high royalty rate. However, the Court also considered that the invention as outlined by the patent was unfinished and that the licensee thus had to make additional developments to arrive at a product (see item A5 above). In this regard, the Court considered the contribution of the patent to the final product of the licensee to be on the order of 1/10, this being a strong argument for a relatively low royalty rate.

      While the case was particularly related to a compulsory license, and thus to particular circumstances, the above considerations may have a relevance going beyond this particular case, and may thus provide useful arguments for any license negotiation.

    • Court of Appeal reaffirms English Court as forum for SEP disputes

      Turning to service on the Chinese entities, there was no dispute that the first two hurdles were met: 1) the claim falls within a gateway (CPR 6 PDB) and 2) there is a serious issue to be tried. The dispute related to the third hurdle i.e. whether England and Wales is the proper forum to hear the case. The “case” for this analysis is not just what the Claimant has pleaded; the court must have regard to the totality of the dispute, including the likely defence and the case must be characterised in a way which does not pre-judge the appropriate forum.

      The evidence before the judge at first instance had caused him to conclude that the Chinese courts did not have jurisdiction to determine essentiality or infringement of non-Chinese patents, nor did they have jurisdiction to determine FRAND rates without agreement from both parties. Conversant had not agreed to accept the Chinese court’s jurisdiction for such determination and the judge had concluded that their refusal was reasonable. It was on this basis that the judge had concluded that China was not an alternative available forum.

      The appellants sought to adduce new evidence before the Court of Appeal to introduce the Guangdong Court Guidelines, which had been issued 10 days after Carr J had handed down judgment, but before the order was sealed. These guidelines stated that where the territorial scope of the SEPs in question exceeded the territorial scope of the court and the other party did not object (or the objection was deemed unreasonable), the court could determine the royalty. The Appellants sought to rely on this as evidence that the Chinese court would now exercise jurisdiction to determine essentiality, infringement and FRAND for a global portfolio in circumstances where both parties consented and their expert claimed that if the facts were analogous to this case, the court would take the view that the refusal to agree was unreasonable. Conversant’s expert disagreed and pointed out that there was no case law on the circumstances in which it would be “unreasonable” for one party to object. The Court of Appeal agreed with Conversant’s expert. The Guidelines had been introduced for a trial period and it was speculative to interpret them in the way the appellants’ expert was seeking to do.

    • The novelty of “on sale inventions” under a confidentiality agreement with regards to an “on sale” invention: the US Supreme Court rules

      In its ruling of 22th January 2019, the US Supreme Court, in the case of Helsinn Healthcare S.A: v. TEVA Pharmaceuticals USA INC., et al., had the opportunity to interpret the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) with respect to how this impacts on the issue of the novelty of an invention.

      In the case at hand, the petitioner is Helsinn, a Swiss pharmaceutical company that makes Aloxi, a drug for treating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. In early 2000, Helsinn submitted protocols for Phase III clinical trials to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), proposing to study a 0.25 mg and a 0.75 mg dose of palonosetron.

      Shortly thereafter, Helsinn began to seek out marketing partners. As a result, MGI Pharma Inc and Helsinn entered into two agreements, a licensing agreement and a supply and purchase agreement. Both agreements included a confidentiality clause, under which MGI was required to keep confidential any proprietary information received under the agreements. The co-operation between the companies was publicly disclosed, without however in any way disclosing any technical information.

    • Trademarks

    • Copyrights

      • Copyright infringement: physically possible?

        Every year at the end of June, thousands of Italian secondary school students must face the hardest educational challenge ever encountered before: the State Exam (normally referred to as “Esame di Maturità” (Maturity Exam) as it was once called). The Italian Ministry for Education (MIUR) recently published on its website a few exercises as an example of the type of problems that, inter alia, the students of science-oriented schools will be asked to solve this year.

        What is interesting about this publication is that, as outlined as an example by Italian newspaper La Repubblica in this article, six out of the eight math and physics problems proposed were literally copied&pasted from a textbook called “Problems in General Physics” by Russian mathematician Igor Irodov (published in 1979 and translated in English in 1981).

      • Authors Guild Attacks Libraries For Lending Digital Books

        It’s been a few years since we last had to write about the Authors Guild — a group that ostensibly represents authors’ interests, but really acts more like a front group for publishers’ interests (often in opposition to the actual interests of authors). As you may recall, the Authors Guild spent tons of the money authors gave it for dues on suing libraries. Specifically it sued and lost against Hathitrust (a collection of libraries which were scanning books to make a searchable index), and then had the same result with Google and its book scanning project. In both cases, the courts deemed such scanning and indexing as fair use — a transformative use of the work.

        Apparently, unable to comprehend that maybe it shouldn’t attack libraries, the Authors Guild is at it again, threatening the Internet Archive and other libraries for daring to start a carefully designed program to lend out copies of some of their scanned works. The system, called Controlled Digital Lending was put together by a bunch of libraries and the Internet Archive to lay out a system that they believe is clearly covered by fair use, by which digital scans of certain books could be made available on loan like any other library book. The whole setup of the Controlled Digital Lending system is carefully laid out and designed to mimic traditional library lending.

      • Record Labels Appeal Legal Defeat Against Stream-Rippers

        Last week, a Virginia federal court dismissed a piracy lawsuit against the popular stream ripping sites FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com. The court dismissed the case arguing that it lacked jurisdiction over these type of sites. The record labels clearly disagree with this conclusion and have just announced that they will appeal.

      • Disney Goes All Disney On The Kingdom Hearts 3 Title Screen Over Streaming

        When it comes to the idea of members of the public live-streaming video game gameplay, the world is an unpredictable place. Some developers and publishers are happy to allow such a display of their products, understanding a concept that is apparently difficult for others to grasp: playing a game is a very different thing than watching someone else play it. Those that are less permissive in streaming gameplay are typically the larger corporate interests that tend to believe in control above all else, with the attitude being that unveiling gameplay will make it less likely for viewers to buy a game, rather than more likely. In between is a truly broad spectrum, where some publishers lay out rules on websites and others say little to nothing on the topic that isn’t vomited up by their legal teams.

      • Is it possible to decolonize the Commons? An interview with Jane Anderson of Local Contexts

        Joining us at the Creative Commons Global Summit in 2018, NYU professor and legal scholar Jane Anderson presented the collaborative project “Local Contexts,” “an initiative to support Native, First Nations, Aboriginal, Inuit, Metis and Indigenous communities in the management of their intellectual property and cultural heritage specifically within the digital environment.” The wide-ranging panel touched on the need for practical strategies for Indigenous communities to reclaim their rights and assert sovereignty over their own intellectual property.

        Anderson’s work on Local Contexts is a collaboration with Kim Christen, creator of the Mukurtu content management system and Director of the Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation at Washington State University. Local Contexts is both a legal and educational project that engages with the specific challenges and difficulties that copyright poses for Indigenous peoples seeking to access, use and control the circulation of cultural heritage. Inspired by the intervention of Creative Commons licenses at the level of metadata, the Traditional Knowledge Labels recast intellectual property as culturally determinant and dependent upon cultural consent to use of materials.

        How can we have an open movement that works for everyone, not only the most powerful? How have power structures historically worked against Indigenous communities, and how can the Creative Commons community work to change this historic inequality?

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

What Else is New


  1. Breaking the Law Has Become the Norm at the European Patent Office

    The European Patent Office’s ongoing practice of destroying critics/whistleblowers and crushing unions, judges, examiners etc. — as well as threats and bribery of the media — ultimately mean a perpetual state of lawlessness that, if it prevails, will let patent trolls raid the European economy and stall innovation



  2. Links 20/8/2019: KMyMoney 5.0.6, Kdenlive 19.08

    Links for the day



  3. Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Free Software in Education

    "If everyone learns to code, then everyone gains some understanding of how to code in other languages."



  4. Links 19/8/2019: Another Linux 5.3 RC, OpenSUSE's Richard Brown Steps Down, Slackware Creates Patreon Page, Qt 6 Initiated

    Links for the day



  5. Speaking Truth to Monopolies (or How to Write Guest Posts in Techrights)

    We need to have more articles tackling the passage of all power — especially when it comes to software — to few large monopolies that disregard human rights or actively participate in their abolishment in the digital realm



  6. Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Free as in Speech

    "While a new breed of so-called anarchists campaign against expression that even the state allows, people are also foolishly overplaying the relevance of the state to free speech issues -- as if it's not a freedom issue when a project is increasingly thought-policed, because the thought-policing isn't on a state level."



  7. Toxic Culture at Microsoft

    Racism, intolerance, sexism and bullying are rampant at Microsoft; but Microsoft would rather deflect/divert/sidetrack to Google and so-called 'GAFA'



  8. Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Introduction

    "The FSF isn't just threatened, it will hit a large iceberg in the future that changes it permanently."



  9. Linux Journal and Linux.com Should Have Been Kept Going

    There's apparently no good explanation for the effective shutdown of Linux Journal and Linux.com; London Trust Media Holdings (LTMH), owner of Linux Journal, saw numbers improving and the Linux Foundation, steward of Linux.com, is loaded with money



  10. 2019 Microsoft Glossary

    How Microsoft internally interprets words that it is saying to the public and to the press



  11. 2019 Surveillance Glossary

    Distortion of technical and nontechnical terms in this day and age of '1984'



  12. Openwashing Report: It's Getting Worse, Fast. Everything is Apparently 'Open' Now Even Though It's Actually Proprietary.

    The latest examples (this past week's) of openwashing in the media, ranging from 5G to surveillance



  13. GitHub is a Dagger Inside Free/Open Source Software (FOSS); This is Why Microsoft Bought It

    A year later it seems pretty evident that Microsoft doesn’t like FOSS but is merely trying to control it, e.g. by buying millions of FOSS projects/repositories at the platform level (the above is what the Linux Foundation‘s Jim Zemlin said to Microsoft at their event while antitrust regulators were still assessing the proposed takeover)



  14. Microsoft Grows Within and Eats You From the Inside

    Microsoft entryism and other subversive tactics continue to threaten and sometimes successfully undermine the competition; Microsoft is nowadays doing that to core projects in the Free/Open Source software world



  15. Links 18/8/2019: New KNOPPIX and Emmabuntus Released

    Links for the day



  16. Links 17/8/2019: Unigine 2.9 and Git 2.23

    Links for the day



  17. Computer-Generated Patent Applications Show That Patents and Innovations Are Very Different Things

    The 'cheapening' of the concept of 'inventor' (or 'invention') undermines the whole foundation/basis of the patent system and deep inside patent law firms know it



  18. Concerns About IBM's Commitment to OpenSource.com After the Fall of Linux.com and Linux Journal

    The Web site OpenSource.com is over two decades old; in its current form it's about a decade old and it contains plenty of good articles, but will IBM think so too and, if so, will investment in the site carry on?



  19. Electronic Frontier Foundation Makes a Mistake by Giving Award to Microsoft Surveillance Person

    At age 30 (almost) the Electronic Frontier Foundation still campaigns for privacy; so why does it grant awards to enemies of privacy?



  20. Caturdays and Sundays at Techrights Will Get Busier

    Our plan to spend the weekends writing more articles about Software Freedom; it seems like a high-priority issue



  21. Why Techrights Doesn't Do Social Control Media

    Being managed and censored by platform owners (sometimes their shareholders) isn’t an alluring proposition when a site challenges conformist norms and the status quo; Techrights belongs in a platform of its own



  22. Patent Prosecution Highways and Examination Highways Are Dooming the EPO

    Speed is not a measure of quality; but today's EPO is just trying to get as much money as possible, as fast as possible (before the whole thing implodes)



  23. Software Patents Won't Come Back Just Because They're (Re)Framed/Branded as "HEY HI" (AI)

    The pattern we've been observing in recent years is, patent applicants and law firms simply rewrite applications to make these seem patent-eligible on the surface (owing to deliberate deception) and patent offices facilitate these loopholes in order to fake 'growth'



  24. IP Kat Pays the Price for Being a Megaphone of Team UPC

    The typical or the usual suspects speak out about the so-called 'prospects' (with delusions of inevitability) of the Unified Patent Court Agreement, neglecting to account for their own longterm credibility



  25. Links 17/8/2019: Wine 4.14 is Out, Debian Celebrates 26 years

    Links for the day



  26. Nothing Says 'New' Microsoft Like Microsoft Component Firmware Update (More Hardware Lock-in)

    Vicious old Microsoft is still trying to make life very hard for GNU/Linux, especially in the OEM channel/s, but we're somehow supposed to think that "Microsoft loves Linux"



  27. Bill Gates and His Special Relationship With Jeffrey Epstein Still Stirring Speculations

    Love of the "children" has long been a controversial subject for Microsoft; can Bill Gates and his connections to Jeffrey Epstein unearth some unsavoury secrets?



  28. Links 16/8/2019: Kdevops and QEMU 4.1

    Links for the day



  29. The EPO's War on the Convention on the Grant of European Patents 2000 (EPC 2000), Not Just Brexit, Kills the Unitary Patent (UP/UPC) and Dooms Justice

    Team UPC continues to ignore the utter failures that have led to lawlessness at the EPO, attributing the demise of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) to Brexit alone and pretending that it's not even a problem



  30. Links 15/8/2019: GNOME's Birthday, LLVM 9.0 RC2

    Links for the day


RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

Recent Posts