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02.05.19

Links 5/2/2019: Wine 4.1, Nanonote 1.1.0, openSUSE Board Elections

Posted in News Roundup at 2:02 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • Affirmation of the Open Source Definition

    In 1799 the kilogram was defined as the mass of a litre of water. In 1889, metal cylinders of the precise identical mass were created as reference objects.

    In the hundreds of years since, the physical nature of the metal caused those cylinders no longer to reflect the identical mass as defined. In order to ensure the integrity of a vital unit of measurement, the kilogram was redefined as the same mass but simply expressed in terms of fundamental and invariable physical constants.

    Without this single, standard definition of this or other fundamental units, commerce as we know it would not be possible. There is no trust in a world where anyone can invent their own definition for units, items, and concepts on which others rely, and without trust there is no community, no collaboration, and no cultural or technological development.

    In exactly the same way, the term “open source software” was coined in 1998 as software that provides a set of precise freedoms and benefits, including but not limited to the freedoms to run, study, redistribute, and improve the software on which you rely . These benefits are codified in the Open Source Definition (OSD), which is based on the Debian Free Software Guidelines. The Open Source Initiative, its members, affiliates, and sponsors, promote and protect this fundamental definition through software license review and approval.

  • [OSI] January 2019 License-Review Summary
  • [OSI] January 2019 License-Discuss Summary

    The corresponding License-Review summary is online at https://opensource.org/LicenseReview012019 and covers discussion on the SSPL v2 and the C-FSL.

  • VLC 4.0 Media Player Eyeing New User Interface, Better Wayland Support & VR/3D

    Work on the new VLC 4.0 user-interface is progressing, there will be GNOME and KDE adaptations, support for both server-side and client-side decorations, and great support for Wayland as well as X11 — including support for macOS, Windows, etc.

    With VLC 4.0, they intend to gut out support for Windows XP/Vista as well as bumping the macOS, iOS, and Android requirements. On the Linux front, they intend to require OpenGL acceleration for this media player.

  • Libvpx 1.8 Released With VP9 Encode Performance Improvements

    It’s been just over a year since the debut of libvpx 1.7 while today a major new release is available for this library providing VP8/VP9 video encode/decode capabilities.

    With the libvpx 1.8.0 release, Google engineers focused on enhancing the VP9 video encode performance to make it more suitable for real-time and video on-demand use-cases.

  • Interview: The power of open source
  • Nasdaq head of tech talks about open source and IPOs

    Companies are increasingly looking to build viable businesses around open source software, but the business plan isn’t foolproof.

    Open source software — packages of code licensed by the creator so others can update and build upon them — has continued to grow in popularity among big companies.

    The benefits, such as low costs, the ability to innovate quickly, a selling point to recruit developers who want to continue stay involved with the open source community, are undeniable.

    But the approach isn’t without its faults. In general, firms are hesistant to build a project on top of an open source package that could lose support and stop getting updated. Brad Peterson, Nasdaq’s chief technology and information officer, said any firm using open source wants software that will have longevity.

  • Ericsson hooks up with O-RAN Alliance

    Ericsson announced today that it has joined the O-RAN Alliance, a group of telecom service providers and suppliers that are determined to change the way radio access network (RAN) architecture and orchestration are done, aiming for a more open approach rather than the proprietary ways of years gone by.

  • Events

    • GStreamer Has An Exciting 2019 Planned With Some Big Features

      Looking towards GStreamer 1.18 and beyond, neural networks in the context of this multimedia framework are being evaluated. There is also exploration around scaleable streams, the never-ending work on performance optimizations, the Meson build system support nearly mature, continued explorations around VR, HDR video, better OpenCV integration, more NVIDIA CUDA support, and continued integration around Rust.

      Tim-Philipp Müller made it clear though they do not intend to rewrite GStreamer entirely in Rust or to even make the language a hard dependency, but they will do more without breaking this backwards compatibility and this language does hold potential for the longer term, including more bindings.

    • FOSDEM talk on TableGen

      Video and slides for my talk in the LLVM devroom on TableGen are now available here.

    • Quickly post-FOSDEM

      Four days of Brussels: eat, sleep and be nerdy. I learned many things at FOSDEM 2019, although not in areas that I expected. Koalas, silicon and testing strategies, yes.

      I stayed with friends at a wonderful bed-and-breakfast near the university. A cat was provided for conversational purposes at breakfast — and breakfast was beautiful. A ten minute walk to the venue along a park makes the start of a FOSDEM day a very different experience from, say, a packed and smelly bus 71. Thank you, June, for making our stay a memorable one. Thanks to Rohan and Roman for being good roomies.

      [...]

      Lots of people were asking about Pine64 hardware, so we referred them to the stand over in building AW. Here’s a picture with everything tidy — it must have been Saturday during set-up, before the crowds arrived. I didn’t have much time with the Pine hardware — the phone, the new laptop, and all the other gadgetry. They are showing off a huge number of little gadgets, all very open and inexpensive to boot.

    • Daniel Stenberg: My 10th FOSDEM

      I didn’t present anything during last year’s conference, so I submitted my DNS-over-HTTPS presentation proposal early on for this year’s FOSDEM. Someone suggested it was generic enough I should rather ask for main track instead of the DNS room, and so I did. Then time passed and in November 2018 “HTTP/3” was officially coined as a real term and then, after the Mozilla devroom’s deadline had been extended for a week I filed my second proposal. I might possibly even have been an hour or two after the deadline. I hoped at least one of them would be accepted.

    • Video: Take your loop mounts to the next level with nbdkit

      Loop mounting is popular, but very limited in what it can do on Linux. I gave a talk at FOSDEM on Saturday entitled Better loop mounts with NBD: Take your loop mounts to the next level with nbdkit, and it’s online already!

    • CPE meetings and devconf2019

      I recently went to Brno, CZ for CPE (Community Platform Engineering) meetings and then devconfcz 2019 and thought I would share my take on both of them.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Firefox 66 to block automatically playing audible video and audio

        Isn’t it annoying when you click on a link or open a new browser tab and audible video or audio starts playing automatically?

        We know that unsolicited volume can be a great source of distraction and frustration for users of the web. So we are making changes to how Firefox handles playing media with sound. We want to make sure web developers are aware of this new autoplay blocking feature in Firefox.

        Starting with the release of Firefox 66 for desktop and Firefox for Android, Firefox will block audible audio and video by default. We only allow a site to play audio or video aloud via the HTMLMediaElement API once a web page has had user interaction to initiate the audio, such as the user clicking on a “play” button.

      • Getting Firefox artifact builds working on an arm64/aarch64 windows device

        If, like me, you’re debugging a frontend issue and you think “I can just create some artifact builds on this device” — you might run in to a few issues. In the main, they’re caused by various bits of the build system attempting to use 64-bit x86 binaries. arm64 can run 32-bit x86 code under emulation, but not 64-bit. Here are the issues I encountered, chronologically.

      • Fission Engineering Newsletter #1

        A little than more a year ago, a serious security flaw affecting almost all modern processors was publicly disclosed. Three known variants of the issue were announced with the names dubbed as Spectre (variants 1 and 2) and Meltdown (variant 3). Spectre abuses a CPU optimization technique known as speculative execution to exfiltrate secret data stored in memory of other running programs via side channels. This might include cryptographic keys, passwords stored in a password manager or browser, cookies, etc. This timing attack posed a serious threat to the browsers because webpages often serve JavaScript from multiple domains that run in the same process. This vulnerability would enable malicious third-party code to steal sensitive user data belonging to a site hosting that code, a serious flaw that would violate a web security cornerstone known as Same-origin policy.

      • Firefox taking a hard line against noisy video, banning it from autoplaying

        Last year, Chrome introduced changes to try to prevent the persistent nuisance that is pages that automatically play noisy videos. Next month, Firefox will be following suit; Firefox 66, due on March 19, will prevent the automatic playback of any video that contains audio.

        Mozilla’s plan for Firefox is a great deal simpler, and a great deal stricter, than Chrome’s system. In Chrome, Google has a heuristic that tries to distinguish between those sites where autoplaying is generally welcome (Netflix and YouTube, for example) and those where it isn’t (those annoying sites that have autoplaying video tucked away in a corner to startle you when it starts making unexpected sounds). Firefox isn’t doing anything like that; by default, any site that tries to play video with audio will have that video playback blocked.

      • Mozilla Finally Blocks Auto-Playing Audio In Firefox 66

        irefox users will finally get rid of annoying auto-playing audio with the introduction of a new feature designed to block audible multimedia content from auto-playing.

        The browser will “only allow a site to play audio or video aloud via the HTMLMediaElement API once a web page has had user interaction to initiate the audio, such as the user clicking on a ‘play’ button,” writes Mozilla’s software engineer Chris Pearce.

      • Putting Users and Publishers at the Center of the Online Value Exchange

        Publishers are getting a raw deal in the current online advertising ecosystem. The technology they depend on to display advertisements also ensures they lose the ability to control who gets their users’ data and who gets to monetize that data. With third-party cookies, users can be tracked from high-value publishers to sites they have never chosen to trust, where they are targeted based on their behavior from those publisher sites. This strips value from publishers and fuels rampant ad fraud.

        In August, Mozilla announced a new anti-tracking strategy intended to get to the root of this problem. That strategy includes new restrictions on third-party cookies that will make it harder to track users across websites and that we plan to turn on by default for all users in a future release of Firefox. Our motive for this is simple: online tracking is unacceptable for our users and puts their privacy at risk. We know that a large portion of desktop users have installed ad blockers, showing that people are demanding more online control. But our approach also offers an opportunity to rebalance the ecosystem in a way that is in the long-term interest of publishers.

        There needs to be a profitable revenue ecosystem on the web in order to create, foster and support innovation. Our third-party cookie restrictions will allow loading of advertising and other types of content (such as videos and sponsored articles), but will prevent the cookie-based tracking that users cannot meaningfully control. This strikes a better balance for publishers than ad blocking – user data is protected and publishers are still able to monetize page visits through advertisements and other content.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD

    • MidnightBSD 1.1

      I’m happy to announce the availability of MidnightBSD 1.1 for amd64 and i386. This is a minor release to fix a few hardware and security issues that have come up since the 1.0 release. It is strongly recommended that you upgrade, particularly if you have newer Intel hardware.

      This release also includes a new version of OpenSSL. This is a move from 1.0.1 to 1.0.2p in base. Many mports are built with a package and will likely not be affected. It is still recommended that you rebuild any mports using SSL or update the packages as appropriate.

    • Desktop-Friendly MidnightBSD 1.1 Released

      MidnightBSD, the downstream of FreeBSD focused on desktop support and offers the Lumina desktop as well as GNOME 3 and other options, is out with its minor v1.1 update.

      MidnightBSD 1.1 is a minor update over the v1.0 release from a few months back. This update features an updated OpenSSL and various other package updates, support for disabling TRIM on problematic controllers, various networking driver fixes, and other maintenance items carried out.

  • Licensing/Legal

    • Top 10 FOSS legal developments of 2018

      In 2018, we saw a clear demonstration of the free and open source software (FOSS) business model’s importance when IBM moved to purchase Red Hat for $34 billion. The FOSS ecosystem also celebrated its durability last year, as the Open Source Initiative (OSI) celebrated the 20th anniversary of the open source movement.

      Meanwhile, old legal problems returned. We saw another significant increase in litigation decisions involving FOSS issues, and several of these cases are very important. This increase in litigation is a reminder of the importance of an active compliance program for all corporations that use FOSS (which now means virtually all corporations).

      Continuing the tradition of looking back to spot trends that will affect the future, the following are 2018′s top 10 legal developments in FOSS.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Access/Content

      • After Plan S, Here’s Plan U: Funders Should Require All Research To Be Posted First As A Preprint

        Preprints are emerging as a way to get research out to everyone free of charge, without needing to pay page charges to appear in a traditional open access title. The growing popularity is in part because research shows that published versions of papers in costly academic titles add almost nothing to the freely-available preprints they are based on.

        [...]

        Those are all attractive features of the Plan U idea, although Egon Willighagen has rightly pointed out that using the right license for the preprints is an important issue. At the time of writing, the Plan U Web site is rather minimalist. It currently consists of just one page; there are no links to who wrote the proposal, what future plans might be, or how to get involved. I asked around on Twitter, and it seems that three well-known figures in the open science world — Michael Eisen, John Inglis, and Richard Sever — are the people behind this. Eisen has been one of the leading figures in the open access world since its earliest days, while Inglis and Sever are co-founders of the increasingly-popular bioRxiv preprint server, which serves the biology community. That augurs well for the idea, but it would still be good to have the details fleshed out on a more informative Web site — something that Sever told Techdirt will be coming in due course.

  • Programming/Development

    • What Frameworks and Languages Are Developers Using in 2019?

      Developers have a highly prized skill set, writing the code and applications that power the modern economy. The development skills that are most in demand are not static and change over time.

      In an effort to gauge the current state of developer trends, HackerRank surveyed 71,281 developers to understand what’s working and what’s not. The end result is the 28-page 2019 Developer Skills Report, which provides insight into the current state of the developer landscape.

      “Hiring and retaining skilled developers is critical for businesses everywhere,” Vivek Ravisankar, co-founder and CEO of HackerRank, wrote in a media advisory. “Recruiters and hiring managers need a deep understanding of who developers are, what they care about and what they want from their employers.”

    • What lies ahead for Python, Java, Go, C#, Kotlin, and Rust
    • get full git commit history of single file
    • Editing Git commits from history
    • Python 3.8.0a1 is now available for testing
    • PyCon 2019 Reminders and Information! [Ed: key sponsor is Microsoft. “Build and deploy your Python web apps with Azure”]
    • Results of the first Python Steering Council election [Ed: Python Steering Council gets filled with Microsoft moles. By buying companies like LinkedIn and GitHub Microsoft also bought itself influence and moles inside its competition. What bribes can't do takeovers will...]

      Voting closed at 2019-02-04 12:00 UTC as prescribed in [PEP
      8100](https://www.python.org/dev/peps/pep-8100/).

      Of 96 eligible voters, 69 cast ballots.

      The top five vote-getters are:

      - Barry Warsaw
      - Brett Cannon
      - Carol Willing
      - Guido van Rossum
      - Nick Coghlan

      No conflict of interest as defined in PEP 13 were observed.

      Eligible voters have received result notification emails from helios, and may return to the system
      to audit/verify the results.

      Thanks to all participants! It was an honor serving as the administrator for the governance votes.

      -Ernest W. Durbin III

    • Using LLVM Clang To Compile The Linux Kernel Is Heating Up Again Thanks To Google

      Interest in building the mainline Linux kernel with LLVM Clang as an alternative to GCC seemed like it waned for several years, but in recent months that effort has been moving forward thanks to Google’s involvement.

      Back during Linux Plumbers Conference 2018, two Googlers talked about their use of building the kernel with Clang and even how their Pixel 2 and Pixel 3 devices are running their Linux kernel built under Clang on Android. Besides select Google Pixel devices having their kernels built with LLVM/Clang, ChromeOS also started shipping Clang-built kernels in 2018. Google engineers presented at FOSDEM 2019 over the weekend on this effort.

    • GCC’s Potential GSoC Projects Include Better Parallelizing The Compiler

      While in some areas it’s still an extremely cold winter, many open-source projects are already preparing for their participation in Google’s annual Summer of Code initiative. The GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) crew that always tends to see at least a few slots for interested student developers has begun formulating some potential project ideas.

      For GSoC 2019 some of the ideas they have listed for potentially interested students to consider include support for the OpenMP Debug Interface (OPMD), expanding the math built-in functions, and even supporting AIX 7.2 by Binutils.

    • This Week In Servo 125
    • Linked Lists in Detail with Python Examples: Single Linked Lists
    • Dense matrices implementation in Python
    • Table of Contents for Creating GUI Applications Book
    • Python class decorator – part II – with configuration arguments
    • Scrape the web with Python and get updates on Telegram
    • Sum of all the non-negative and non-zero numbers in a list

      Hello, we are supposed to start a new project today but because I am busy doing something else, therefore, I only post a simple solution for one of the questions on codewars. We will start our next python project in the next chapter.

      Codewars is the place you all will want to visit to brush up your python skill if you are really serious about learning python. Although some questions on codewars are really tricky and some of them make people hard to understand but overall speaking this is the only place which provides real deal for those python programmer who wants to perfect their python skill. If you find out that some questions on codewars have provided a wrong answer and make your head spins like crazy then just ignore that one and move on to the next one instead.

    • Issues with how we teach

      What we are taught are the tools but not the theory behind the tools. If we don’t learn how the basic tools are made then how can we expect someone to improve or invent new tools in any meaningful way?

      Everything in Maths, Physics and Computer Science is connected. All the formulas and theorems are derived from the basic concepts we already know and are familiar with.

      I used to believe that this is exactly how I am supposed to be taught. I am just not smart enough to figure out the relationship between all of this stuff myself.

    • The repository hosting platform sr.ht now provides support for mercurial repositories

      If you feel like the git version control platforms out there are great but don’t quite have what you are looking for, we are here to provide you with the newest alternative.

    • Red Hat Launches CodeReady Workspaces Kubernetes IDE
    • The First Kubernetes-Native Developer Environment

      From a newly introduced technology to a widely relied upon platform in just a few years, Kubernetes has become an integral part of many organization’s cloud-native solutions – including container-based development environments.

      The challenge with building and deploying applications in any Kubernetes distribution is that it’s difficult for a developer to set up a Kubernetes environment that enables fast, iterative development cycles. As a result, some development teams fall back to using containers on their laptops and only seeing how things run in Kubernetes after they’ve merged code back to the origin code repository and triggered a continuous integration (CI) job.

      This is problematic as Kubernetes has unique execution behaviors that might necessitate code changes or optimizations. Waiting to do these until after code is merged back to master is inefficient and can introduce problems in the master branch that affect other developers.

      Red Hat CodeReady Workspaces is the industry’s first Kubernetes-native integrated development environment (IDE). It makes it easy for developers to have a fast, “locally hosted-style” development experience directly inside Kubernetes and helps development teams avoid the “it works on my machine” problem.

    • TensorFlow.js: machine learning for the web and beyond

      If machine learning and ML models are to pervade all of our applications and systems, then they’d better go to where the applications are rather than the other way round. Increasingly, that means JavaScript – both in the browser and on the server.

      TensorFlow.js brings TensorFlow and Keras to the the JavaScript ecosystem, supporting both Node.js and browser-based applications. As well as programmer accessibility and ease of integration, running on-device means that in many cases user data never has to leave the device.

    • Interviewing tips for junior engineer

      Make sure to highlight any interesting project you worked on, technical or otherwise. Recruiters love discussing actual accomplishment. Back when I started, I had a few open source projects and articles written in technical magazines that I put on my resume. Nowadays, that would be a GitHub profile with personal (or professional, if you’re lucky) projects. You don’t need to rewrite the Linux kernel, but if you can publish a handful of tools you developed over the years, it’ll help validate your credentials. Just don’t go fork fancy projects to pad your GitHub profile, it won’t fool anyone (I know, it sounds silly, but I see that all too often).

      Another thing recruiters love is Hackerrank, a coding challenge website used by companies to verify the programming skills of prospective candidates. It’s very likely US companies will send you some sort of coding challenge as part of the interview process (we even do it before talking to candidates nowadays). My advise is to spend a few weekends building a profile on Hackerrank and getting used to the type of puzzle they ask for. This is similar to what the GAFA ask for in technical interviews (“quicksort on a whiteboard” type of questions).

      At the end of the day, I expect a junior engineer to be smart and excited about technology, if not somewhat easily distracted. Those are good qualities to show during an interview and on your resume.

    • Makeblock Neuron Explorer Kit Review: A Pricey Programming Craft Kit For Kids
    • Android apps time out connections after setting up a PAC proxy configuration
    • Modify the enemy sprite’s animation

      After we have finished creating our first animated enemy sprite in the previous chapter we will need to further modify that animation class because I have found numerous shortages in the previous program. In the previous program 1) We only create a single counter to handle the sprite animation for all five enemy objects which is simply unrealistic because during the game not every enemy will move to the same frame on the sprite sheet due to the change of the direction of that enemy. 2) There is no adjustment on the image’s transition speed at all, we need to slow down the image transition process so the image will not change too fast.

Leftovers

  • Science

    • Break The Internet: Remembering That Time Y2K Threatened To Kill Us All

      Some people feared the worst: that a computer bug known as Y2K would launch nuclear missiles and cause planes to fall from the sky. Other people insisted that this thing called Y2K was a hoax, not worthy of a second thought. Still others hedged their bets, packing go-bags with dehydrated food and wilderness survival supplies. Governments around the world spent the equivalent of $USD448 billion in today’s money to counter the impending threat. And at the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2000, here’s what happened: not much.

      If you hail from the tail end of the millennial generation, like me, you might not remember this happening (or rather, not happening). It reads like the plot of a bad sci-fi film: Vague-Yet-Menacing Computer Bug threatens to take down everything in its path, unless someone can find a way to defeat it before the clock strikes midnight.

    • Earth’s Fast-Moving Magnetic North Pole Disrupts Navigation System

      Earth’s magnetic North pole has always been on the move, but this movement is now having a significant impact on navigation technology as it is drifting from the Canadian Arctic towards Siberia — at a very fast speed.

      The speed at which magnetic North moves has increased from 9 miles per year to 34 miles per year, leaving researchers in a tussle to track the changes.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • UK vegetable and fruit supplies at risk

      A combination of Brexit − Britain’s move to leave the European Union − and climate change is threatening UK vegetable and fruit supplies for its 66 million people.

      Brexit-associated delays at ports could result in widespread shortages of a range of imported vegetables and fruit such as lettuces and tomatoes, particularly if the UK crashes out of Europe at the end of March this year with no deal in place.

      Now there’s more bad news on the British food front; a just-released report says climate change and resulting abnormal weather conditions are causing significant decreases in the UK’s own vegetable and fruit harvests.

      The study, produced by the Climate Coalition in association with the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds in the UK, says about 60% of food consumed in Britain is domestically produced.

      The unusually warm summer in 2018 – the hottest ever in England since records began in 1910, according to the report – led to a drop in the onion harvest of 40% and a decline of between 25% and 30% in the carrot crop.

    • Removing Arsenic from Groundwater: We Have the Tools, Let’s Use Them

      Cost-effective technologies are available to remove arsenic in groundwater. Why then do tens of millions still fall ill to this chronic problem?

      High natural levels of arsenic are characteristic of the groundwater supply in many countries, including Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Mongolia, and the United States.

      Some of the contamination is caused by mining, fertilizers and pesticides, waste disposal, and manufacturing, but mostly it is due to arsenic leeching — dissolved from rocks underground by highly acidic water.

      At least 140 million people in 50 countries have drinking water containing arsenic at levels above the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline — 10 μg/L (micrograms per litre). In some places, people are using groundwater with arsenic levels 10 times or more the WHO’s recommended limit.

      This exposure, through drinking water and crops irrigated with contaminated water, can lead to severe health, social and economic consequences, including arsenicosis (symptomized by muscular weakness, mld psychological effects), skin lesions, and cancers (lung, liver, kidney, bladder, and skin). The social implications of these health impacts include stigmatization, isolation, and social instability.

    • A Drug to Treat a Rare Disease Used to Cost Patients $0. Now, It’s $375,000—And Sanders Is Demanding Answers

      Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has strongly advocated for a massive overhaul of the nation’s healthcare system, is calling out a pharmaceutical company for hiking the annual list price of a medication used to treat a rare neuromuscular disease by hundreds of thousands of dollars, putting American lives in jeopardy.

      In a letter (pdf) sent Monday to Patrick McEnany, president and CEO of Catalyst Pharmaceuticals, Sanders demanded answers to several inquiries regarding the company’s decision to set the price of Firdapse—prescribed to patients with Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome (LEMS)—at $375,000 per year after securing exclusive rights to market the medication for the next seven years.

    • WHO Board Sceptical On Changes To Global Flu Framework, Sends Issue To WHA

      The World Health Organization Executive Board last week remained uncertain on the way forward on questions of access to influenza viruses as countries are increasingly implementing an international protocol regulating the sharing of genetic resources. The Board requested informal discussions be held in the lead-up to the annual World Health Assembly in May.

    • Debunking Industry Lies, Analysis Shows Medicare for All Would Cut Costs, Boost Efficiency, and Save Lives

      “The growing movement for Medicare for All requires everyone in Congress to take a fresh look at single-payer healthcare with open eyes, instead of dismissing it based on false claims from those who profit from our fragmented healthcare status quo,” said Eagan Kemp, healthcare policy associate at Public Citizen and author of the new analysis.

      Titled “The Case for Medicare for All” (pdf), Public Citizen’s report presents a section-by-section breakdown of many of the key questions facing Medicare for All proponents, such as how much the policy would cost and how it would stack up to employer-provided private plans that currently insure millions of Americans.

      By every measure, Public Citizen finds, Medicare for All would be a dramatic improvement over America’s immensely wasteful and deadly for-profit system, which is projected to cost $50 trillion over the next decade.

      “The U.S. ranked worst out of 16 industrialized countries for deaths that could be prevented with proper medical care,” the report notes. “Medicare for All would ensure that Americans can finally access the care they need and end their currently incalculable wait times because healthcare would no longer be tied to ability to pay rising premiums and out-of-pocket costs.”

  • Security

    • Roadmap to Securing Your Infrastructure

      Hopefully, these are all things you’re already doing in order to better secure your environment. If not, you’ll want to check in each week to gain some additional understanding of each topic and how you can use this information to your advantage. If you are already using these topics, I still encourage you to stop by and review the information. I’ve been in IT for over 20 years and have seen quite a bit, so I may bring a new view to the table and introduce something you hadn’t yet thought of.

    • Security updates for Monday
    • Security researchers discover new Linux backdoor named SpeakUp [Ed: CBS/ZDNet reminds the world why it is utter, shamefu/less trash. Its new hire, Drama Queen Cimpanu (history of flamebait), calls malware "backdoor" as if it's there by default in Linux.]
    • OpenWrt 18.06.2 released with major bug fixes, updated Linux kernel and more!

      Last week the team at OpenWrt announced the second service release of the stable OpenWrt 18.06 series, OpenWrt 18.06.2.

      OpenWrt is a Linux operating system that targets embedded devices and provides a fully writable filesystem with optional package management. It is also considered to be a complete replacement for the vendor-supplied firmware of a wide range of wireless routers and non-network devices.

    • Recently patched Ubuntu needs another quick patch

      Sometimes when I fix things around my house I end up causing more problems. Software developers are the same way. Last week, Canonical’s Ubuntu developers fixed over 10 security bugs in Ubuntu 18.04… But, as it turned out, it introduced at least two other bugs.

    • LibreOffice patches malicious code-execution bug, Apache OpenOffice – wait for it, wait for it – doesn’t

      A security flaw affecting LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice has been fixed in one of the two open-source office suites. The other still appears to be vulnerable.

      Before attempting to guess which app has yet to be patched, consider that Apache OpenOffice for years has struggled attract more contributors. And though the number of people adding code to the project has grown since last we checked, the project missed its recent January report to the Apache Foundation. The upshot is: security holes aren’t being patched, it seems.

    • Windows Defender update: So secure, it wouldn’t let Secure-Boot Windows PCs, er, boot [Ed: Microsoft puts back doors in everything, even full disk encryption. It also kick-started NSA PRISM and now it pretends to care about security with UEFI?]

      A tweak to Windows Defender slowly creeping its way over PCs has an issue that can stop Windows 10 booting (and a few iterations of Windows Server – Microsoft points to Server 2016, but some users have reported problems with Server 2019).

      Some admins have been in rollback city as dozens of users found their workstations unbootable.

    • Android Security Patch for February 2019 Now Rolling Out with More Than 40 Fixes

      Google released today the Android Security Patch for February 2019 to Pixel users to address multiple security vulnerabilities and fixing various bugs reported by users lately.
      February 2019′s Android Security Patch is now rolling out to all supported Google devices and consists of the 2019-02-01 and 2019-02-05 security patch levels, fixing a total of 42 security vulnerability across several components, including the Android framework, library, and system, as well as kernel, Nvidia, and Qualcomm components. The most severe issue fixed in this update allowing remote attackers to execute arbitrary code using malicious PNG files.

    • OpenSSH SCP Implementation Man-in-the-Middle Vulnerability [CVE-2019-6111]
    • OpenSSH Arbitrary stderr Output Man-in-the-Middle Vulnerability [CVE-2019-6110]
    • Canonical Releases Important Ubuntu Linux Kernel Security Patches, Update Now

      Available for the Ubuntu 18.10 (Cosmic Cuttlefish), Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus), and Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (Trusty Tahr) operating system series, the new Linux kernel updates address a total of 12 security issues, one affecting both Ubuntu 18.10 and Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, three affecting Ubuntu 18.10, four affecting Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, and other four affecting Ubuntu 14.04 LTS.

      For Ubuntu 18.10 (Cosmic Cuttlefish), the new kernel patch fixes a race condition (CVE-2018-14625) discovered in Linux kernel’s vsock address family implementation, a use-after-free vulnerability (CVE-2018-16882) in the KVM implementation, as well as two other flaws found in the crypto subsystem and KVM implementation (CVE-2018-19407 and CVE-2018-19854).

    • Security updates for Tuesday
    • Reproducible Builds: Weekly report #197

      There was yet more progress towards making the Debian Installer images reproducible. Following-on from last week, Chris Lamb performed some further testing of the generated images resulting in two patches to ensure that builds were reproducible regardless of both the user’s umask(2) (filed as #920631) and even the underlying ordering of files on disk (#920676). It is hoped these can be merged for the next Debian Installer alpha/beta after the recent “Alpha 5” release.

    • Undetected Linux Backdoor ‘SpeakUp’ infects Linux, MacOS with cryptominers [Ed: Packt Hub repeats if not parrots/copy-pastes the nonsense from the drama queen ZDNet (a CBS 'mask') hired to provoke and lie, over-dramatise, in this case selling the illusion of "back doors" in Linux (it's actually malware)]
  • Defence/Aggression

    • Israeli dronemaker allowed to renew sales to Azeris, but top officials suspended

      Defense Ministry returns Aeronautics Ltd.’s export license for ‘suicide drone’ to Baku, amid ongoing probe into claim company performed illegal live test against Armenians

    • Senate Breaks With Trump on Afghanistan, Syria Withdrawal

      The Senate voted Monday to oppose the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan, breaking with President Donald Trump as he calls for a military drawdown in those countries.

      Senators voted 70-26 for the amendment sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The measure says the Islamic State group and al-Qaida militants still pose a serious threat to the United States, and it warns that “a precipitous withdrawal” of U.S. forces from those countries could “allow terrorists to regroup, destabilize critical regions and create vacuums that could be filled by Iran or Russia.”

      Trump abruptly tweeted plans for a U.S. pullout from Syria in December, arguing that the Islamic State group had been defeated even though his intelligence chiefs have said it remains a threat. Trump also ordered the military to develop plans to remove up to half of the 14,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

    • Venezuela – Capitalist Success, Not Socialist Failure

      A “democratic” U.S. government legally elected by a minority of the vote is now calling for democracy in Venezuela by attempting to overthrow its government, which was recently elected by a more than two-thirds vote after a highly-fragmented political opposition abstained from participation (on U.S. instructions) because it lacked popular support and felt that it was unlikely to win. The point man for the regime change operation is Elliott Abrams, whose biography tells us everything we need to know to evaluate the alleged democratic intentions of the Trump administration.

      A fire-breathing fanatic for imperial Israel who championed the invasion and destruction of Iraq, Abrams was formerly Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights for the Reagan administration, and famously called U.S./Salvadorean death-squad operations that produced tens of thousands of mutilated civilian corpses (1979-1994) a “fabulous achievement.” He also claimed that the Nicaraguan contras, famous for torture, rape, and murder in a campaign to overthrow the socialist government of Nicaragua, would one day be fondly remembered as “folk heroes.” Today he is a member of the board of directors of the National Endowment for Democracy, which was created to be a continuation of CIA skullduggery by other means, and currently finances Washington’s destabilization efforts not only in Venezuela, but also in Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Cuba. Convicted of lying to Congress about Iran-Contra, Abrams called his prosecutors “filthy bastards,” dismissed the proceedings as “Kafkaesque,” and denounced the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee as “pious clowns.” After hearing Abrams’ testimony, then Missouri Senator Thomas Eagleton expressed a common reaction: “I want to puke.”

      So much for Washington seeking democracy, as though we didn’t already know. For the plain fact is that there is more democracy in Venezuela now, where members of the vast poor majority can be routinely found in animated political discussion of the events that shape their lives, than there has ever been in the United States, where the poor are deliberately excluded from representation or even consideration, and have therefore long since dismissed politics as a sensible concern.

      But if not democracy, what then is the U.S.’s motivation in Venezuela? Well, Venezuela has large gold and nickel reserves, along with the largest oil supply in the world. Gaining control of such resources is an attractive prospect for any U.S. president, but especially for one under siege from multiple investigations and constant media questioning of his legitimacy. Making America great again by plundering Venezuela oil supplies would be an imperial achievement that the entire U.S. political class would admire. Witness Nancy Pelosi reaching across the aisle to tweet support for the coup right off the bat, to wit: “America stands by the people of #Venezuela as they rise up against authoritarian rule and demand respect for human rights and democracy.” Who says Trump and the Democrats can’t get along?

    • The 12-Step Method of Regime Change

      On 15 September 1970, US President Richard Nixon and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger authorised the US government to do everything possible to undermine the incoming government of the socialist president of Chile, Salvador Allende. Nixon and Kissinger, according to the notes kept by CIA Director Richard Helms, wanted to ‘make the economy scream’ in Chile; they were ‘not concerned [about the] risks involved’. War was acceptable to them as long as Allende’s government was removed from power. The CIA started Project FUBELT, with $10 million as a first instalment to begin the covert destabilisation of the country.

    • I Pledge Allegiance to the United States of Sociopathy

      In Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller, Shadow of a Doubt, spunky, recent high school grad Teresa Wright discovers her beloved uncle is a serial killer.

      Wright’s subsequent efforts to protect herself and others from psychopathic Joseph Cotten are continually frustrated by the extraordinary denial of her family and her community lost in the “thrall” of the worldly, smooth-talking Uncle Charlie.

      Heartbroken and distraught, she must contend with her uncle’s violent agenda while being obstructed by a naive and vulnerable community of his enablers and/or soon to be victims.

      Wright’s horrifying predicament resonates as I witness my – our – psychopathic uncle – UNCLE SAM, the U.S. government – perpetrate violent crime upon crime against humanity enabled by a maddening, morally mute, over-trusting, under-informed and/or indifferent citizenry.

      I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully wrap my mind or heart around the profound lack of outrage and empathy among government leaders from both corporate parties, the corporate media, as well as the vast majority of my fellow citizens at the ongoing atrocities of the Global War on Terror (more accurately, the “US Global War of Terror”) and the “regime change” covert and/or overt operations initially and sinisterly described as “humanitarian interventions.”

    • Facing Decades in Prison, Anti-Nuke Activists Condemn Trump for Putting ‘Human Experiment’ at Risk With INF Withdrawal

      Warning of the “real and present danger” created by President Donald Trump’s recent withdrawal from the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Missile Treaty (INF), seven anti-war plowshares activists are condemning the move ahead of their upcoming trial for a direct action at a U.S. nuclear naval base last year.

      “Pulling out of the INF Treaty was an unconscionable and reckless act on the part of the Trump administration,” said Patrick O’Neill, one of the Kings Bay Plowshares Seven. “Such unilateral action involving weapons of mass destruction only serve to put our planet at greater risk for the use of nuclear weapons, which could end the human experiment.”

      “With actions such as Kings Bay Plowshares Seven and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons…this nation could pull back from the brink of omnicide.” —Kings Bay Plowshares Seven

    • Bolstering Case to End American Role, Saudis Reportedly Providing US Weapons to al-Qaeda Forces in Yemen

      According to CNN, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have for years been transferring “American-made weapons to al-Qaeda-linked fighters, hardline Salafi militias, and other factions waging war in Yemen… as a form of currency to buy the loyalties of militias or tribes, bolster chosen armed actors, and influence the complex political landscape.”

      Citing analysts and local commanders on the ground in Yemen—where an estimated 14 million people are on the brink of famine due to the U.S.-backed Saudi assault—CNN reported that “terror groups have gained from the influx of U.S. arms, with the barrier of entry to advanced weaponry now lowered by the laws of supply and demand.”

      “Militia leaders have had ample opportunity to obtain military hardware in exchange for the manpower to fight the Houthi militias,” CNN’s exclusive report found. “Arms dealers have flourished, with traders offering to buy or sell anything, from a U.S.-manufactured rifle to a tank, to the highest bidder.

    • A Military Coup in Venezuela? Not Without the Military’s Support (disponible en español)

      Juan Guaidó, leader of the Venezuelan National Assembly, declared himself President of the Republic on January 23 before a mass demonstration of supporters. This was less than two weeks after the start of Nicolás Maduro’s second term, which the opposition—concentrated within the National Assembly—rejected, labeling Maduro a “usurper.” The 14 countries that make up the Lima Group didn’t recognize Maduro’s inauguration either. They quickly accepted Guaidó’s takeover and released statements in his favor, which the United States did as well. But considering the powers that be and overwhelming support for Maduro from the Armed Forces, Guaidó’s rise to power is likely a symbolic event, with little chance of successful implementation.

      Meanwhile, China and Russia, who have already declared their support for Maduro, had invested five and six billion dollars, respectively, in Venezuela to help kick-start the weakened petroleum industry. And in early December, Russia teased at a military deployment in Venezuela, landing two Tu-160 strategic bombardiers on Venezuelan soil and provoking criticism from the United States.

      The intensification in political discourse and geopolitical pressure since the beginning of the new year will only worsen economic instability and cause a spike in migration. Barring military intervention organized by the United States and its allies, diplomatic pressure seems useless to take down Maduro. But the key element, the Armed Forces, seem to remain loyal to Maduro, making an internal military coup unlikely.

    • What’s Next for Venezuela as U.S. & Opposition Reject Negotiations Aimed to End Crisis Peacefully?

      Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has reached out to Pope Francis, asking for his help to bring about a peaceful solution to the crisis in Venezuela. Maduro is facing increasing international pressure to resign from office two weeks after opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself to be Venezuela’s interim president. Guaidó made the announcement on January 23 after speaking to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who offered support from the Trump administration. Since then, a growing number of countries have openly recognized Guaidó’s claim to the presidency, including Austria, Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Spain and Sweden. Italy has blocked a European Union statement recognizing Guaidó, and Ireland and Greece have called for new elections but have not recognized Guaidó’s claim to the presidency. Meanwhile, the Venezuelan opposition and the United States have rejected an offer by Mexico and Uruguay to host talks between the two sides. We speak to David Smilde, senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America and professor of sociology at Tulane University. And in California, we speak to Miguel Tinker Salas, professor at Pomona College and author of “The Enduring Legacy: Oil, Culture, and Society in Venezuela” and “Venezuela: What Everyone Needs to Know.”

    • As Treaties Collapse, Can We Still Prevent a Nuclear Arms Race?

      - The United States last week officially announced it is walking away from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, an agreement made between the USA and the Soviet Union in 1987 to eliminate a whole class of nuclear weapons that had been deployed in Europe and had put the continent on a trip-wire to nuclear war.

      This follows US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an agreement which currently prevents Iran from building or acquiring nuclear weapons.

      Meanwhile the START treaty, which limits the number of US and Russian strategic nuclear weapons, is set to expire soon, with no renewal in sight.

      Russia and the USA appear to be intentionally reversing the arms control agendas of the early post-Cold War era, and are instead enhancing and expanding their nuclear arsenals. Other nuclear-armed states are following close behind.

      This goes against public opinion, which is overwhelmingly opposed to a nuclear arms race, and to nuclear sabre rattling and threats, whether open or veiled, from Presidents Putin and Trump. Despite this, it’s extremely difficult for civil society to directly influence Russian or US nuclear policy.

      That points to a deficit of democracy in both countries. It also points up the need for direct actions parliaments, cities and citizens can take to stop the assault on arms control treaties and prevent a new nuclear arms race.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • The Supreme Court Is Considering Whether the Government Can Dodge the First Amendment by Outsourcing Its Power

      A case about a video banned from public access cable TV could have important implications for our constitutional rights.
      The First Amendment bars the government from censoring speech that it doesn’t like. That rule also goes for a private organization that takes on a government role. But when exactly is an organization considered a stand-in for the government? The Supreme Court will soon hear a case to decide.

      Before smartphones, the internet, and digital cameras, it wasn’t easy to get your videos in front of a mass audience. But in some places, there was one surefire way: public access cable TV.

      For decades, various state and local governments have required cable companies to set aside channels for public use. These channels have become tools for creative exploration and provide artists, educators, and activists a platform to speak directly to their communities. They’re a home for everything from talk shows to music videos to stream-of-consciousness rants on any subject you can think of.

      As New York City is a hub for artistic self-expression, it makes sense that its “off-off-off-off Broadway” has reflected the creative pulse of the city. A nonprofit called Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN) operates the public access channels for the borough. By law, it must broadcast all legal content that it gets in the order received.

    • Ten of 15 Cyber Charter Schools in PA Are Operating Without a Charter–Close Them All

      There is no good reason to continue lavishing taxpayer dollars on a system of education that provides subpar services at an exorbitant expense and is subject to runaway fraud

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • From Snow Leopards to Soldiers: Conservation in a War-torn Land

      In 2006 Alex Dehgan, then the newly hired Afghanistan country director of the Wildlife Conservation Society, was given a daunting task: to strengthen biodiversity conservation and create the first national parks in a country that had weathered three decades of war.

      His first assignment was getting field biologists safely from the capital, Kabul, to remote, treacherous terrain to determine whether enough wildlife still existed to even merit establishing protected areas.

      That was only the first in a long series of logistical and political hurdles to achieve the project’s goals.

      To everyone’s surprise the team eventually found a wealth of biodiversity in Afghanistan — notably Persian leopards (surprisingly, found just outside Kabul), Marco Polo sheep populations, musk deer, and double the estimated population of snow leopards thought possible in the country.

    • Polar Vortex Shows Incarcerated Workers Bear the Brunt of Extreme Weather

      On January 28, an image of Cook County Jail prisoners shoveling snow went viral after it was posted on the La Villita community Facebook page and then shared by the Chicago Community Bond Fund. The city of Chicago was preparing for an arctic blast and the prisoners were seen working in cold temperatures wearing orange jumpsuits. Thousands of people shared the image and expressed concern about the well-being of the prisoners. This scenario is yet another example of how incarcerated workers—toiling for little or no pay—are on the frontlines of extreme weather.

      Predictably, the office of Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart sought to exonerate itself in the press. “The situation was entirely and intentionally misrepresented,” said Cara Smith, chief spokesperson for Dart’s office. Smith claimed the prisoners were actually wearing insulated jumpsuits, that there was a warming van nearby, and that prisoners were not allowed to work if the temperature dropped under 20 degrees. Numerous news outlets reported Smith’s quotes without digging into their veracity, even though she presented no evidence.

      Smith admitted that prisoners were only paid $2 for the work assignment, in a jail where at roughly 2,700 people are incarcerated simply because they can’t afford to pay their bond. Smith sought to justify the nothing wage by claiming the prisoners were doing work as part of a vocational job training program called RENEW. Yet, as Sharlyn Grace, co-executive director of the Chicago Community Bond Fund, put it to The Chicago Tribune, “I don’t think that anyone is seriously suggesting that shoveling snow is a skilled form of labor that’s going to lead to job opportunities upon release.” Prisoners have little-to-no access to the press, and reporters often make no effort to contact them, so it’s no surprise that none have been quoted on the subject.

    • Demanding Lawmakers Forge ‘Path Away From Climate Suicide,’ Groups Kick Off Green New Deal Push

      “To take action on climate change at the scale of the crisis, we need a Green New Deal,” declared May Boeve, executive director of 350.org. “It’s time for all progressive lawmakers to take real climate action and support a massive federal investment to bring health, safety, and justice to people and the planet.”

      The Green New Deal desired by climate campaigners and a growing cohort of Democrats in Congress, led by freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), would pair sweeping policies to cut emissions, including a transition to 100 percent renewable energy, with programs to create jobs.

    • How Coke and Pepsi Can Score the Ultimate Touchdown at Next Year’s Super Bowl

      LA Rams vs. New England Patriots took center stage at the Super Bowl Sunday, but the pre-match build-up has been dominated by Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi.
      Pepsi has been vying for advertising dominance in Atlanta, Coca-Cola’s home turf, while Coke’s pre-game commercial embraces diversity, a message that feels political in today’s climate. This follows a growing trend of major brands taking progressive stances on social issues from toxic masculinity, solidarity with Colin Kapaernick and Brexit. But is the moral high ground yours to take when it’s not reflected in your business model?

      PR campaigns aside, both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are major contributors to the plastic crisis. Last summer my organization, The Story of Stuff Project, helped coordinate hundreds of ‘brand audits’ in collaboration with the #breakfreefromplastic movement. Adding a twist to the traditional beach clean up, volunteers identified the type and brands associated with 187,000 pieces of plastic pollution collected across the world. The companies with the biggest plastic footprint? Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestle.

    • Promoting ‘Another Puppet for Corporate Polluters,’ Trump Picks Former Oil Lobbyist to Head Interior Department

      “Trump has once again nominated a corrupt industry hack to lead a critical federal agency,” Nicole Ghio, senior fossil fuels program manager for Friends of the Earth, said in a statement. “The Senate must reject Bernhardt because he will undoubtedly put his fossil fuel industry friends before the American people and our environment.”

      “Rather than give Bernhardt a promotion, Congress should be working on exposing his numerous conflicts of interest and ethics violations, as a fossil fuel lobbyist and now as a government official,” Ghio added.

    • Calling for ‘Unprecedented and Urgent Action’ to Solve Climate Crisis, Four Organizers Shut Off Valves at Enbridge Lines 3 and 4

      Condemning “the imminent and irreversible damage being done to the climate” by fossil fuel extraction, four Catholic Workers took non-violent action to help stem the climate crisis on Monday in northern Minnesota, shutting off valves at Enbridge Energy Lines 3 and 4.

      Allyson Polman, Brenna Cussen Anglada, Michele Naar Obed, and Daniel Yildirim were identified as the Four Necessity Valve Turners who shut off the valves. They took the action to protest the pipelines which cut through Native American reservations and jeopardize fresh water resources in the region, as well as perpetuating an energy economy reliant on fossil fuels.

      “The group acts in solidarity with the most vulnerable worldwide who suffer the greatest impact from climate change,” said the group in a press statement. “The Four Necessity Valve Turners believe it is time to take personal responsibility for preventing the dangerous expansion of the oil industry, because governments and regulators have failed to do so.”

      “This act is step towards reparations for the damage that colonization has done both to the indigenous peoples of this continent and the land,” said Cussen Anglada.

    • Lawsuit Over Highway Shutdown During #NoDAPL Protests Alleges Attempt To Extort Standing Rock Sioux

      As private security company, TigerSwan, disputes whether they should be a target of a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of indigenous water protectors and others at Standing Rock, plaintiffs have further outlined alleged civil rights violations that occurred in October 2016.

      Indigenous people and activists from North Dakota and throughout the United States formed encampments to challenge Dakota Access and the construction of an oil pipeline in violation of 1851 and 1868 treaties, which designated the land territory of the Oceti Šakowiŋ (Great Sioux Nation).

      On October 24, 2016, Highway 1806 was closed from Fort Rice to Fort Yates. A concrete and concertina wire barricade blocked travel from October 28 until March.

      A lawsuit filed in October of last year argued the sheriff of Morton County and other local authorities, along with TigerSwan, infringed upon the First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights of water protectors.

    • The Virginia Mountain Valley Pipeline Boondoggle

      Two pipelines– the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP)—now being constructed in Virginia have been the source of massive controversy.

      This article will deal with the MVP, saving the equally controversial ACP for future discussion.

      The MVP consists of 304 miles of pipelines (with an additional 8 miles) that will transport natural gas by connecting new and existing pipelines throughout the southern Virginia-northwestern West Virginia region.

      Construction is currently underway, as are legal challenges to the project, which was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in October 2017. FERC voted 2-1 that the pipeline’s public benefits will offset any negative impacts.

      Those undertaking the project were also required to convince FERC that market demand exists for the gas conveyed by their pipeline.

    • On Extinction’s Edge: Fall Fish Survey Finds Zero Delta Smelt

      For the first time ever, a fish survey that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) conducts every autumn turned up zero Delta smelt throughout the monitoring sites in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in September, October, November and December 2018.

      The smelt, a 2 to 3 inch fish listed under both federal and state Endangered Species Acts, is found only in the Delta estuary. It is regarded as an indicator species, a fish that demonstrates the health of the entire Delta ecosystem.

      Once the most abundant fish in the entire estuary, the population has collapsed to the point where not one fish was found in the 2018 Fall Midwater Trawl survey. The 2018 abundance index (0), a relative measure of abundance, is the lowest in FMWT history.

      “No Delta Smelt were collected from any station during our survey months of September- December,” wrote James White, environmental scientist for the CDFW’s Bay Delta Region.

      This is not the only survey of Delta smelt populations that the CDFW conducts — and the other assessments have found smelt, although in alarmingly low numbers.

      White noted, “While this survey did not catch any Delta Smelt, it does not mean they are not present. Spring Kodiak Trawl (SKT) survey caught 5 Delta Smelt in December.”

    • Here’s What a Green New Deal Looks Like in Practice

      With the climate change challenge growing more acute with every passing year, the need for the adoption of a new political economy that would tackle effectively both the environmental and the egalitarian concerns of progressive people worldwide grows exponentially. Yet, there is still a lot of disagreement on the left as to the nature of the corresponding political economy model. One segment of the left calls for the complete overthrow of capitalism as a means of dealing with climate change and the growing levels of economic inequality in the era of global neoliberalism, while another one argues against growth in general. In the interview below, Robert Pollin, distinguished professor of economics and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, explains some issues raised by each of these positions, and how to move toward solutions grounded in a fuller understanding of economic development

      [...]

      But on the specific issue of climate change, degrowth does not provide anything close to a viable stabilization framework — that is, to stabilize the global mean temperature at a level that will prevent severe negative ecological feedback effects, such as increasing frequency of droughts and floods. Consider some very simple arithmetic. According to its most recent October 2018 report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) now concludes that a viable climate stabilization program will necessitate limiting the global mean temperature increase to 1.5° Celsius as of 2100. This in turn will require global net carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions falling by about 45 percent as of 2030 and reaching net zero emissions by 2050. Let’s focus for the moment on the 2030 target of a 45 percent CO2 emissions contraction. Following a degrowth agenda, let’s assume that global GDP [gross domestic product] contracts by 10 percent between now and 2030. That would entail a reduction of global GDP four times greater than during the 2007–09 financial crisis and Great Recession. In terms of CO2 emissions, the net effect of this 10 percent GDP contraction, considered on its own, would be to push emissions down by precisely 10 percent. It would not come close to hitting the IPCC target of a 45 percent CO2 reduction. At the same time, this 10 percent global GDP contraction would result in huge job losses and declines in living standards for working people and the poor. Global unemployment rose by over 30 million during the Great Recession. I have not seen any degrowth proponent present a convincing argument as to how we could avoid a calamitous rise in mass unemployment if GDP were to fall four times as much as during 2007–09.

  • Finance

    • The Alarming Percentage of Americans One Paycheck Away From Poverty: Over 40% of US Households Are One Paycheck Away From Poverty

      Far more households in the US are at risk of joining the ranks of the poor, should they lose their job or face a financial emergency, showing that millions are vulnerable and this number is increasing, says Kasey Wiedrich of Prosperity Now

    • Progressive Taxes Only Go So Far. Pre-Tax Income Is the Problem.

      In recent weeks, there have been several bold calls for large increases in progressive taxation. First we had Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), often referred to as AOC, proposing a top marginal tax rate on income over $10 million. This sent right-wing talking heads into a frenzy, leading many to show they don’t know the difference between a marginal tax rate and an average tax rate. (AOC’s 70 percent rate would only apply to an individual’s income above $10 million.)

      More recently, we had Senator Elizabeth Warren propose a wealth tax that would apply to people with assets of more than $50 million. This tax could have Jeff Bezos sending more than $3 billion a year to the Treasury.

      Given the enormous increase in inequality over the last four decades, and the reduction in the progressivity of the tax code, it is reasonable to put forward plans to make the system more progressive. But, the bigger source of the rise in inequality has been a growth in the inequality of before-tax income, not the reduction in high–end tax rates. This suggests that it may be best to look at the factors that have led to the rise in inequality in market incomes, rather than just using progressive taxes to take back some of the gains of the very rich.

      There have been many changes in rules and institutional structures that have allowed the rich to get so much richer. (This is the topic of my free book Rigged.) Just to take the most obvious — government-granted patent and copyright monopolies have been made longer and stronger over the last four decades. Many items that were not even patentable 40 years ago, such as life forms and business methods, now bring in tens or hundreds of billions of dollars to their owners.

    • Three Reasons Why the Super-Rich Should Embrace a 70% Tax Rate

      A new industry has developed in doomsday shelters for rich people awaiting Armageddon. But bunkers and security forces won’t be much defense against viruses and microdrones. Or against all-out war or revolution.

      In his book, “The Great Leveler,” Walter Scheidel argues that throughout history the fortunes of the rich have been destroyed or diminished in four ways: war, revolution, state collapse, and plague. Increasing unrest and improved killing technologies are making all of these more likely. People of means should be doing everything possible to ease the ongoing tensions by reducing inequality. But that means thinking long-term.

      The super-rich better be sure to install anti-viral air and water filters in their bunkers, because the risk is growing for a global pandemic, perhaps initiated by some of the bored and underemployed and angry young men for whom terrorism is “an egalitarian, equal-opportunity employer.” As public health expert Dr. Ali S. Khan notes, “A deadly microbe like smallpox — to which we no longer have immunity — can be easily recreated in a rogue laboratory..”

      Another real fear for the billionaires is a micro-drone armed with an injectable poison and programmed with facial recognition software to hover patiently before targeting a single individual, after which it can self-destruct to eliminate all evidence of its mission. This is no longer science fiction. The specifications for these drones are all available — or soon to be available — to any skilled tech enthusiast. And to anyone with deadly intentions. Experts are divided on the prospect, but lethal weapons specialist Steve Wright says, “The technologies needed to build such autonomous weapons – intelligent targeting algorithms, geo-location, facial recognition – are already with us…It won’t take much to develop the technology..”

    • New Jersey Will Adopt a $15 Minimum Wage, But the Fight Isn’t Over

      After years of advocacy, New Jersey just joined a handful of other states in a bold policy: instituting a $15 minimum wage. Once signed into law, the legislation will make New Jersey just the fourth state in the country — after California, Massachusetts and New York — to mandate a wage floor that high.

      “It’s taken years to get to this place, and we’re really proud of the fact that it’s almost to the finish line,” said Analilia Mejia, executive director of New Jersey Working Families Alliance, a grassroots political organization that backs progressive lawmakers.

      In 2013, New Jersey voters approved a measure to raise the minimum wage to $8.25 an hour from the federal minimum of $7.25, and to automatically increase it each year after that. Advocates eventually began pushing for an increase to $15 an hour, particularly after the Fight for $15 strikes and protests began taking off. But they encountered hurdles in their way. Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill passed by the legislature in 2016, becoming the first governor to veto a $15 minimum wage. New Jersey Working Families Alliance then tried to get the legislature to move the issue to the ballot and put it in front of voters, but didn’t succeed.

      But advocates didn’t give up. In the meantime, the group worked with a number of counties and cities in the state to raise the minimum wages for their own government employees to $15 an hour, since they aren’t able to raise minimum wages for all employees. That was a way to “build the momentum” for the issue, Mejia said.

    • Not ‘Left-Wing Fantasy’ But ‘Mainstream and Really Popular’: Poll Shows Enormous Public Support for Higher Taxes on Rich

      Likely 2020 contenders and progressive members of Congress have proposed a variety of plans in recent days to make the rich pay more in taxes and begin reversing soaring inequality—from a wealth tax to a 70 percent top marginal rate to a higher estate tax on the richest families—and a survey published on Monday found that such ideas are extremely popular among the American public.

      According to a new Politico/Morning Consult poll, 76 percent of registered voters believe that the wealthiest Americans should pay more in taxes, and 61 percent back Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) new proposal for an annual tax of two percent on assets over $50 million—which she dubbed the “Ultra-Millionaire Tax.” The poll found that even 50 percent of Republican voters support Warren’s plan.

      While Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) call for a 70 percent top marginal tax rate on the wealthiest Americans polled less favorably overall—garnering 45 percent support among all respondents—the new survey found that the proposal is extremely popular among Democratic voters, with 60 percent backing it.

      Such high public support for hiking taxes on the richest Americans significantly undermines the claim that proposals like Warren’s are somehow too “radical” for the public to accept. As Common Dreams reported last week, billionaire former Starbucks CEO and possible 2020 presidential candidate Howard Schultz decried Warren’s plan as “ridiculous.”

    • Americans Are Eager to Tax the Rich, Multiple Polls Show

      Billionaires who attended the World Economic Forum in Davos last month may be weary of the wave of proposals to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans. A Wall Street Journal editorial called them “crippling.” Economist Tyler Cowen, writing in Bloomberg, suggested that, if implemented, Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal that Americans with incomes over $10 million should be taxed at a 70 percent rate would help re-elect Trump.

      New polls, however, suggest that Trump’s opponents might want to pay closer attention to such proposals. As Ben White writes in Politico on Monday, “polling suggests that when it comes to soaking the rich, the American public is increasingly on board.”

      A new survey from Morning Consult and Politico found that 76 percent of respondents, all registered voters, believe that the richest Americans should pay higher taxes. It’s a belief that extends across party lines too, for Americans making over $10 million. A Fox News poll taken shortly after Ocasio-Cortez proposed the 70 percent rate during her “60 Minutes” interview showed that 54 percent of Republicans agreed with her. Another survey, this time from The Hill and HarrisX, showed that 59 percent of respondents agreed with Ocasio-Cortez.

    • BitcoinHEX Generates Controversy During Lead-Up To Snapshot

      A new fork of Bitcoin called BitcoinHEX is on its way. Created by the larger-than-life YouTube personality Richard Heart, the coin plans to make use of Ethereum in order to bring staking to current Bitcoin holders by means of a free airdrop. Many have dismissed BitcoinHEX as a scam, but just how credible is the project?

      [...]

      It is hard to say how credible BitcoinHEX is, although new details will surely come to light in the near future. Various sites, such as Forklog, will provide a guide to safely participating in the airdrop quite soon. BitcoinHEX is just five weeks away from its snapshot, an event that will determine who can claim coins. After that, it’s just a matter of time until the coin rises to prominence or fades into obscurity.

    • L.A Teachers Strike: Wins, Losses and Prospects

      After seven solid days on the picket lines in drenching rains and in the face of a poor-mouthing school district that swore to the high heavens that they were dead broke, 34,000 Los Angeles teachers overwhelming voted to approve a three-year contract that most teachers saw as an important first step toward stemming the decades long tidal wave of disastrous cuts imposed on teachers and students in the nation’s second largest school district.

      The strike was led off with a city-wide massive mobilization of 50,000 teachers and community supporters, a prime indication that the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) had prepared well in advance to engage the broad Los Angeles community – students, parents and working people in general – in a united and sustained effort for improved schools and to advance teacher and community interests. UTLA, a long merged union of CTA/NEA and CFT/AFT members, fully anticipated a bitter fight against a reactionary locally-elected corporate-oriented school board that had laid its own secret plans, separate and apart from any union contract, for a massive Los Angeles privatization/charter school project. Their objective, according to UTLA-released documents, was, and perhaps remains, to break up the sprawling school district into 32 separate corporate-run private school entities.

    • Low Unemployment: the Recipe for Higher Wages

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

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

      In fact, this was pretty much the consensus view in the economics profession. At the time, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) put the non-accelerating inflation rate (NAIRU) of unemployment at 5.5 percent. The NAIRU is essentially the target rate of unemployment for policymakers since they want to prevent the accelerating inflation that would result if the unemployment went much lower. CBO’s numbers are also important in this respect, not only because it is seen as an authoritative source, but also by design it tries to produce estimates that are well within the consensus in the economics profession.

    • A Plague of Rats: How Years of Austerity Prompted Many Britons to Vote for Brexit

      Thanington is a deprived district on the outskirts of Canterbury which used to be called “Little Beirut” because of its high levels of crimeand violence.

      Caroline Heggie, a local resident, says: “When I moved in in 1998, half the houses [in my street] were empty. Out of 40 houses, 20 were empty because of antisocial behaviour. I moved into my house which had a broken window where a crossbow bolt had been fired.”

      Di Hutchinson, a teacher’s assistant who has lived in Thanington for 59 years, agrees with her, saying: “We had a terrible reputation.”

      There were no facilities for communal activities and the toys for a children’s play group had to be kept in the gravediggers’ hut next to the cemetery. Anger over poor social conditions grew so intense that it provoked a riot in the late 1990s. A local social activist who objected to youths smashing bottles on the road and handed a bin bag full of broken glass to the mother of one of those responsible says he had bricks thrown at his house and firecrackers pushed through the letterbox.

      Paul Todd, a former resident who works on housing and homelessness issues, says: “About 20 years ago it was regenerated when it got a large dose of money out of the European regeneration budget.” The funding was used to make extensive renovations such as putting new roofs on the council houses and renewing bathrooms and bedrooms so the homes of council tenants looked better than those privately owned. In addition, the regeneration money funded a community centre, known locally as the Resource Centre, which provides space for sports and recreation, as well as accommodation for children doing homework which they could not do at home.

    • Vultures Over Greece and Macedonia

      European and American economic and military-NATO pressures forced the Greek government in gifting of the name Macedonia to a former Yugoslav province. This foolish act is weaponizing and destabilizing Southeastern Europe

    • Canadian case is another warning about the murky world of cryptocurrency: Don Pittis

      So much for living the libertarian dream.

      Canadians who have lost about $200 million escaping the control of “fiat currency,” backed by governments, and market regulation are now asking for help from the authorities to try to get their money back.

      The B.C.-based Quadriga is going to court today in Halifax to claim protection from its creditors under Canadian bankruptcy law.

      And according to documents prepared for the court hearing, suddenly it turns out that a company widely seen as Canada’s biggest cryptocurrency trader, a company that described itself as a “leading bitcoin exchange” was really just a guy with a computer.

    • A New Democratic Bill Would Phase Out Subminimum Wage for Disabled Workers

      Many members of the general public are unaware that it’s legal to pay disabled people subminimum wage. Indeed, a loophole in the Fair Labor Standards Act enables employers to offer people pennies on the dollar just because they’re disabled.

      Thanks to the Transformation to Competitive Employment Act, introduced in the House by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-IA) and the Senate by Bob Casey (D-PA), that’s about to change. This legislation would eliminate this exception in the law, requiring fair pay for disabled people — an estimated 420,000 of whom are being underpaid on the job.

      This legal shortcut to unfair pay originated at the turn of the 20th century, when service organizations and the disability community began promoting sheltered workshops to offer disabled people basic job training and employment. People could get jobs performing tasks like tuning pianos, caning chairs and engaging in basic manufacturing assembly.

      At their outset, these offerings seemed to be a positive development — a change from being locked up at home or in institutions. But they didn’t employ disabled people side by side with nondisabled people in the regular workforce. As the name implies, disabled people were “sheltered” in purpose-built, segregated facilities.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Trump Campaign Takes Steps to Prevent Challenge Within GOP

      Worried about a potential Republican primary challenge, President Donald Trump’s campaign has launched a state-by-state effort to prevent an intraparty fight that could spill over into the general-election campaign.

      The nascent initiative has been an intense focus in recent weeks and includes taking steps to change state party rules, crowd out potential rivals and quell any early signs of opposition that could embarrass the president.

      It is an acknowledgment that Trump, who effectively hijacked the Republican Party in 2016, hasn’t completely cemented his grip on the GOP and, in any event, is not likely to coast to the 2020 GOP nomination without some form of opposition. While any primary challenge would almost certainly be unsuccessful, Trump aides are looking to prevent a repeat of the convention discord that highlighted the electoral weaknesses of Presidents George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter in their failed re-election campaigns.

    • Rights Groups Sue Texas Officials Over ‘Unlawful Purge of the Voting Rolls’

      A group of civil rights organizations on Monday filed suit against Texas voting officials for attempting “an unlawful purge of the voting rolls”—an effort they say violates the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

      “Texas is stirring up anti-immigrant sentiment, undermining the public’s faith in our democracy, and preparing to purge thousands of eligible citizens from the rolls,” said Chiraag Bains, director of legal strategies at Demos. “We’re asking the federal court to stop the state from undermining the fundamental right to vote.”

      In their suit (pdf) filed in the District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Galveston, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, the national ACLU, the Texas Civil Rights Project, Demos, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law take aim at Texas Secretary of State David Whitley’s recent “purge list.”

      By design, Whitely targets naturalized citizens, and “Preventing naturalized citizens in Texas from voting thereby suppresses the votes of minority populations,” the suit argues.

      In that clearly problematic list sent to county officials in January, Whitely flagged 95,000 Texas voters as possible non-U.S. citizens registered to vote, though just days later his office reduced the number on the list by roughly 20,000. President Donald Trump and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, meanwhile, were helping to ramp up fears about the supposed voter fraud.

      Voting officials had used data from the Department of Public Safety (DPS), but people who were not citizens at the time of getting driver licenses or state IDs may later have become naturalized citizens, and DPS would not have that updated data. More than 1.6 million naturalized citizens call Texas home, it should be noted.

    • No to Online Voting in Virginia

      The first problem with Internet voting is the most basic: If citizens vote with their own phones and laptops, and those phones and laptops have malware on them, that malware can manipulate the vote. Consider all the spam in your inbox every day. Lots of it comes from compromised machines. Voting on such compromised computers would mean handing our elections over to whoever controls the biggest botnet.

      Relatedly, any Internet voting infrastructure is vulnerable to DDoS attacks. The Commonwealth of Virginia seems to have forgotten that just two years ago, the Mirai botnet took down big chunks of the Internet. A botnet operator could perform DDoS attacks against election servers, making it harder to vote. Or they could attack home Internet services in specific neighborhoods, tilting an election in favor of one candidate or another by selectively suppressing votes.

      There’s also the risk of spoofing attacks: If an attacker can convince enough people to vote through a fake site or a fake app, they have effectively suppressed those votes and potentially changed the election outcome. We’ve already seen “vote by text” scams in previous elections. Those scams will only become more potent if Internet voting is real. Just think back to the last time a friend or relative was phished, or had their account hacked, to understand what a widespread problem spoofing could be in an elections context.

    • The Mainstream Media’s Smearing of Tulsi Gabbard

      Last week, as a polar vortex engulfed broad swaths of the upper midwest, Rachel Maddow offered a chilling hypothetical. “What would happen if Russia killed the power in Fargo today?” she asked her viewers. “What would happen if all the natural gas lines that service Sioux Falls just poofed on the coldest day in recent memory, and it wasn’t in our power whether or not to turn them back on. I mean, what would you do if you lost heat indefinitely as the act of a foreign power, on the same day the temperature in your front yard matched the temperature in Antarctica?”

      Since Robert Mueller began his collusion investigation nearly two years ago, Maddow has emerged as one of the nation’s leading Russiagate conspiracists, but she is hardly alone. Days after the MSNBC host speculated that Russian President Vladimir Putin might try to freeze unsuspecting North Dakotans to death, NBC News published an article with the headline “Russia’s propaganda machine discovers 2020 Democratic candidate Tulsi Gabbard.” And like Maddow’s on-air musings, the report has proved irresponsible at best and mendacious at worst.

      “The whole story was a sham,” writes The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald. “The only ‘expert’ cited by NBC in support of its key claim was the firm New Knowledge, which just got caught by the New York Times fabricating Russian troll accounts on behalf of the Democratic Party in the Alabama Senate race to manufacture false accusations that the Kremlin was interfering in that election.”

      New Knowledge CEO Jonathon Morgan was able to perpetrate his fraud, at least in part, through “Hamilton 68″—a dashboard that “highlights the activity of…600 accounts that researchers believe are either tied to the Russian government or repeat the themes of its propaganda,” according to the New York Times. (In Greenwald’s telling, the tool “has so been abused that even some of its designers urged the media to stop exaggerating its meaning.”) Since the scam was exposed, Facebook has closed the accounts of several of those responsible—including Morgan—while Alabama Sen. Doug Jones has called for a federal investigation.

    • ‘Outright Opportunism’, is thy other name ‘national government’?

      By the very definition, ‘politicians’ are an ‘opportunistic’ breed. Greater the success of the individual or the party, more ‘opportunistic’ they would have been than the rest. Whether true or not of ‘matured democracies’ (!), this norm has been true of Sri Lanka since Independence. And as the nation celebrates yet another Independence Day, 4 February, the incumbent Government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is busy, telling the nation and the rest of the world, how better or worse it has been than all predecessors, in this particular department.

      According to media reports, Wickremesinghe’s UNP has written to Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya that they are planning to form yet another ‘national government’, after the unmitigated disaster of what they called the ‘Government of National Unity’ (GNU) at the turn of the twin polls of 2015. Along with them, their civil society backers and supporters from before the twin polls, and those that looked uncomfortably askance the other way round, when they mocked at the ‘yahapalana’ system that they vowed to usher in, after replacing the incumbent Rajapaksa regime, which was anything but ‘reformist’.

    • Cory Booker Is Proof — Shared Identity Guarantees Us Nothing

      Cory Booker announced his candidacy for the presidency on the first day of Black History Month 2019 for the same reason Obama announced his candidacy in February of 2007. It’s also the same reason that Kamala Harris announced her candidacy for president on Martin Luther King Day. Each is intended to signify to Black voters a sense of comfort and security – a sense that they can count on protection, racial solidarity and change. By invoking their identity to imply a rejection of the current state of this country, Booker and Harris are attempting to garner an automatic acceptance from all those concerned with racism in the United States. However, anything resembling unearned trust is dangerous.

      A shared identity doesn’t always mean shared values. Just because more Black people and people of color are seeking the presidency or another position of political power doesn’t mean these candidates will necessarily represent the needs of these communities as a whole. The spaces created between us by class, power and politics are not automatically bridged by race, gender, and other ways we identify or live. However, the political institutions that control our lives take advantage of the assumption that these connections are indeed automatic. We are supposed to assume that having something in common with someone else makes them more trustworthy, and far too many of us do. It’s important that we’re increasingly critical of this ploy during a time of steadily increasing diversity in politics.

    • The True State of the Union

      I wrote that a year ago about the last State of the Union address, and I have no reason to doubt tonight will prove to be any different. These addresses have been, by and large, wildly overwrought exercises in fiction, ego-inflation and ersatz patriotism since Ronald Reagan decided to go big with them four decades ago. Now that Donald Trump has lumbered onto the scene, however, the charade has become quite completely surreal, a festival of lies, bombast and full-throated nonsense that beggars likeness.

      They will stand, they will sit, they will clap, they will leave, and nothing of substance or import will have been imparted to the people. Therefore, my colleagues and I at Truthout have endeavored to compile a collection of facts about the actual state of the union, and indeed the world, as a companion piece to the speech.

      What follows does not cover every topic and crisis worthy of attention. The ongoing calamity of for-profit health care, attacks on the LGBTQ+ community, racist police violence, Yemen, the Forever Wars and other vital subjects will be discussed in a variety of articles to come. Here is an incomplete yet all-too-necessary look at a few of the most pressing concerns we face. Here is the truth, as best as we can state it, about the state of things. It is not pretty, not without hope, and exactly what you deserve to hear.

    • Economic and Emotional Rehabilitation of such Women in Kashmir?

      There are some compelling examples of Kashmiri women working through the discourse of victimhood to construct their identities as survivors.

      One example of powerful agential roles played by Kashmiri women is the Women’s Self-Defense Corps (WSDC) formed in 1947. This organization comprised Kashmir Muslim as well as Kashmiri Hindu women of diverse class backgrounds. This organization is a compelling example of the formation of a coalition across religious and class divides to further the nationalist consciousness of a society in the process of self-determining. In the second half of the 20th century, Kashmiri women like Begum Akbar Jehan Abdullah, Mehmooda Ahmad Ali Shah, Sajjida Zameer, and Krishna Misri, made a transition from keepers of home and hearth to people engaged in sociopolitical activism within the confines of nationalist discourse.

      Moving on to the latter half of the 20th century, Parveena Ahangar is a lower middle-class Kashmiri Muslim woman, who after her son was said to be arrested and killed in custody of the security forces, instead of lamenting voicelessly, formed a grass roots organization called the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) in the early 1990s, comprising other bereaved mothers like her. The APDP relies on the cultural and moral authority of the mother, sanctioned by religion and mobilizes women to courageously challenge the apathy and complacency of the political and bureaucratic machinery.

      I see this the mothers in this organization as a powerful illustration of the connection between biological motherhood and the political participation of women in bringing the nurturing and communal spirit, traditionally identified with the family, into the public sphere. Women are fighting hard against legal discrimination and economic disadvantage against bereaved mothers.

    • ‘Meduza’ fact-checks reports that ‘Putin’s chef’ met with opposition leader Navalny

      “Evgeny Viktorovich [Prigozhin] said that one of the topics discussed was Alexey Navalny’s offer to put a stop to his [Anti-Corruption Foundation’s] attacks on the school lunch issue in exchange for loyalty to Navalny’s team in St. Petersburg’s municipal elections. Evgeny Viktorovich answered him by saying, “I wouldn’t trade a soldier for a marshal.”

      This is how the press service for Prigozhin’s company Concord responded when the BBC Russian Service asked about rumors that the entrepreneur, whose presidential ties have gained him fame in English as “Putin’s chef,” had met with Russia’s leading opposition politician in St. Petersburg. Rumors of a meeting appeared when an anonymous channel on the messaging site Telegram published two photographs showing Prigozhin in one image and Navalny in the other with both men at the entrance to the hotel Sokos. The channel’s moderator claimed that the two had met the night before. Navalny responded by denying that a meeting had taken place, saying he had visited St. Petersburg only to open his local campaign office in advance of the city’s elections.

      A number of Russian news sources quoted the BBC and spread Prigozhin’s version of events. In the process, they ignored many of Russia’s largest wire services and most of its major news sources.

    • Lost in TrumpWorld

      The news, however defined, always contains a fair amount of pap. Since Donald Trump’s ascent to the presidency, however, the trivia quotient in the average American’s daily newsfeed has grown like so many toadstools in a compost heap, overshadowing or crowding out matters of real substance. We’re living in TrumpWorld, folks. Never in the history of journalism have so many reporters, editors, and pundits expended so much energy fixating on one particular target, while other larger prey frolic unmolested within sight.

      As diversion or entertainment — or as a way to make a buck or win 15 seconds of fame — this development is not without value. Yet the overall impact on our democracy is problematic. It’s as if all the nation’s sportswriters obsessed 24/7 about beating New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

      In TrumpWorld, journalistic importance now correlates with relevance to the ongoing saga of Donald J. Trump. To members of the mainstream media (Fox News, of course, excepted), that saga centers on efforts to oust the president from office before he destroys the Republic or blows up the planet.

      Let me stipulate for the record: this cause is not entirely meritless. Yet to willingly embrace such a perspective is to forfeit situational awareness bigly. All that ends up mattering are the latest rumors, hints, signs, or sure-fire indicators that The Day of Reckoning approaches. Meanwhile, the president’s own tweets, ill-tempered remarks, and outlandish decisions each serve as a reminder that the moment when he becomes an ex-president can’t arrive too soon.

    • The real problem with an independent run for president

      Green Party radicals and dopey coffee magnate Howard Schultz agree: American voters don’t have enough choice. If you don’t like the options put forth by the Republican or Democratic parties, with rare exceptions you can either cast a largely symbolic protest vote or go pound sand. The result is that “both parties are consistently not doing what’s necessary on behalf of the American people and are engaged, every single day, in revenge politics,” complains Schultz.

      Yet in all his interviews and speeches, Schultz has not once identified the major reason why there is no national third party. The reason is that America is a two-party state — where both the GOP and the Democrats are part of the government and have used state power to erect near-insurmountable barriers to third party competition.

      Here’s how it works. As Seth Ackerman explained in detail some time ago, Democratic and Republican Party bosses have conspired over the years to make running outside the two-party system all but impossible. Third parties or independent candidates are saddled with tremendous signature-collection requirements (hundreds or thousands of times as many as in peer nations), and other burdensome rules. Then the ones that do fulfill onerous legal requirements are subject to intense legal harassment, typically by the dominant party in whatever state is in question. This is usually carried out by party hack lawyers getting party hack judges to disqualify signatures, filing endless lawsuits quibbling over candidate eligibility, or other such tactics.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • ‘Palestinian Rights Has Become an Incredibly Mainstream Issue’ – CounterSpin interview with Josh Ruebner on BDS bans

      The January 28 piece says a good deal, though, in its positive framing: “Senate Advances Pro-Israel Bill,” says the headline, and the lead describes rules “affirming the right” of local and state governments to break ties with companies that boycott or divest from Israel.

      It is a Beltway story, about GOP efforts to seed divisions among Democrats, and tells readers that “Republicans are becoming more brash in their accusations”—accusations for which it proceeds to make space, including that of a North Dakota senator who, we’re told, “mused on Twitter” that Democratic opposition to the anti-BDS measure “may be nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to hide the rising antisemitism in their own party.”

      The piece positions Marco Rubio, who pushed for the provision, as representing one side of the issue, citing his statement that the BDS movement “isn’t about freedom and equality. It’s about destroying Israel.” But the Times seems not to see how its own use of the terms “pro-Israel” and “anti-BDS” as synonyms rather suggests the same view—all of which encourages one to try looking at things under a different light.

    • Abby Martin and Mnar Muhawish

      Mnar Muhawish of MintPress News explains the recent US Senate bill aimed at suppressing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement; she also looks at a new far-reaching establishment and corporate-media-backed initiative called NewsGuard that would “rate” websites for accuracy. Many conflicts of interest are discussed. Later in the program, journalist Abby Martin describes how US sanctions have hobbled the Venezuelan economy, with the intent to overthrow President Maduro, while she deconstructs the propaganda around the recent coup developments there.

    • Civil Liberties Groups Warn Proposed EU ‘Terrorist Content’ Rule a Threat to Democratic Values

      Dozens of human rights groups and academics have signed on to an open letter (pdf) raising alarm about the European Union’s proposed Regulation on Preventing the Dissemination of Terrorist Content Online, warning that its call for Internet hosts to employ “proactive measures” to censor such content “will almost certainly lead platforms to adopt poorly understood tools” at the expense of democratic values across the globe.

      One of those tools is the Hash Database developed by Facebook, YouTube, Microsoft, and Twitter. The 13 companies that use the database—which supposedly contains 80,000 images and videos—can automatically filter out material deemed “extreme” terrorist content. However, as the letter explains, “almost nothing is publicly known about the specific content that platforms block using the database, or about companies’ internal processes or error rates, and there is insufficient clarity around the participating companies’ definitions of ‘terrorist content.’”

      “Countering terrorist violence is a shared priority, and our point is not to question the good intentions of the database operators. But lawmakers and the public have no meaningful information about how well the database or any other existing filtering tool serves this goal, and at what cost to democratic values and individual human rights,” notes the letter, whose signatories include the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Brennan Center for Justice, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and the European Digital Rights (EDRi).

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • US Prisons Are Building Databases of Incarcerated People?s Voice Prints

      Roughly six months ago at New York’s Sing Sing prison, John Dukes says he was brought out with cellmates to meet a corrections counselor. He recalls her giving him a paper with some phrases, and offering him a strange choice: He could go up to the phone and utter the phrases that an automated voice would ask him to read, or he could choose not to and lose his phone access altogether.

      Dukes did not know why he was being asked to make this decision, but he felt troubled as he heard other men ahead of him speaking into the phone and repeating certain phrases from the sheets the counselors had given them.

      “I was contemplating, ‘Should I do it? I don’t want my voice to be on this machine,’” he recalls. “But I still had to contact my family, even though I only had a few months left.”

      So, when it was his turn, he walked up to the phone, picked up the receiver, and followed a series of automated instructions. “It said, ‘Say this phrase, blah, blah, blah,’ and if you didn’t say it clearly, they would say, ‘Say this phrase again,’ like ‘Cat’ or ‘I’m a citizen of the United States of America.’” Dukes said he repeated such phrases for a minute or two. The voice then told him the process was complete.

      “Here’s another part of myself that I had to give away again in this prison system,” he remembers thinking as he walked back to the cell.

      Dukes, who was released in October, says he was never told about what that procedure was meant to do. But contracting documents for New York’s new prison phone system, obtained by The Appeal in partnership with The Intercept, and follow-up interviews with prison authorities, indicate that Dukes was right to be suspicious: His audio sample was being “enrolled” into a new voice surveillance system.

    • EU orders recall of children’s smartwatch over severe privacy concerns
    • February 2019 Security Bulletin for Android Released, New Patches Needed for Ubuntu 18.04, EU Recalls ENOX Safe-KID-One Smartwatches Due to Security Flaws, Raspberry Pi to Celebrate Its 7th Birthday with Jams March 2-3 and Some Fresh Snaps

      The EU orders a recall of ENOX Safe-KID-One smartwatches due to significant security flaws that allow third parties to track and call the watches, ZDNet reports. From the Rapid Alert System for Non-Food Products (RAPEX) alert: “The mobile application accompanying the watch has unencrypted communications with its backend server and the server enables unauthenticated access to data. As a consequence, the data such as location history, phone numbers, serial number can easily be retrieved and changed.” In addition, “a malicious user can send commands to any watch making it call another number of his choosing, can communicate with the child wearing the device or locate the child through GPS.”

    • The Monitoring Game: China’s Artificial Intelligence Push

      Machine learning is high up in this regard, as is deep learning, which saw a rise from a modest 118 patent applications in 2013 to a sprightly 2,399 in 2016. All this is to the good on some level, but the ongoing issue that preoccupies those in the field is how best to tease out tendencies towards bias (racism, sexism and so forth) that find their way into machine-learning algorithms. Then comes that problem of technology in the broader service of ill, a point that never really goes away.

      In other areas, China is making springing efforts. Moving in the direction of developing an AI chip has not been missed, propelled by moves away from crypto mining. “It’s an incredibly difficult to do,” claims MIT Technology Review senior editor Will Knight. “But the fact that you’ve got this big technological shift like it once in a sort of generation one means that it’s now possible, that the playing field is levelled a little bit.”

      The nature of technological advancement often entails a moral and ethical lag. Functionality comes before philosophy. AI has been seen to be a fabulous toy-like thing, enticing and irresistible. But what is good in one field is bound to be inimical in another. The implications for this should be clear with the very idea of deep learning, which stresses the use of neural networks to make predictions on collected data. Enter, then, those fields of natural language processing, facial recognition, translation, recommendation algorithms.

    • Facebook agrees to share chat details with Delhi Police

      Facebook is set to provide details of private chats to the Delhi Police in sensitive cases, especially those related to crimes against women and children, senior officials of the social networking website told officers working with the cyber wing during an interaction on Friday.

      On Thursday evening, a message was conveyed to all cyber wing department heads from various districts as well as specialised units, stating that they have to attend a meeting with Facebook’s special team from the US as well as Facebook India (trust and safety) head Satya Yadav for an interaction.

    • Facebook Will Provide Chat Details To Delhi Police In Sensitive Cases

      According to a report by Indian Express, a meeting between Facebook’s special team from the US and India, and heads of Cyber wing concluded that Facebook will provide users’ private chats and other important information for cases such as crime against women and children, and more.

    • DNA-Matching Company Decides To Open Its Doors To The FBI Without Bothering To Inform Its Users

      Your DNA may seem like a personal thing, but a number of companies specializing in DNA testing are ensuring it’s anything but. Whether you’re looking for markers identifying health risks or simply want to see who you’re related to, you’re giving these companies permission to create a pool of DNA samples almost anyone else can access.

      Law enforcement has taken note of these developments, creating fake accounts to submit samples from crime scenes in an effort to close out cases. Whether or not we agree with law enforcement’s misrepresentation, there’s very little standing in the way of the government accessing your DNA sample via a third party. The thing that makes people unique becomes little more than a third party record — only a subpoena away from being in the government’s possession.

      But even subpoenas aren’t necessary if DNA companies decided to partner up with law enforcement by giving agencies access to their databases. That’s what’s happening with Family Tree, a company specializing in in-home DNA testing kits, as Salvador Hernandez reports for BuzzFeed.

    • 48,000 Indians Earned Thousands Of Dollars From Facebook’s “Research” App

      Facebook was recently caught extracting data from its “research” app in exchange of $20 gift cards. Apple punished the social media company by revoking its Enterprise Certificate for a brief period. It has been now found that thousands of Indian users were a part of the data extraction project.

    • Many Indians too shared data with Facebook Research to earn money

      Thousands of Indian users may have used Facebook Research over the past few months and unwittingly parted with their personal data. This has come to light ever since reports went viral over Facebook Inc. using its Facebook Research app to monitor the phone activity of those users who were paid by the company to install it.

    • Highest Court in Indiana Set to Decide If You Can Be Forced to Unlock Your Phone

      When EFF preaches about the benefits of using device encryption on smartphones, one of the most frequent questions we get is whether the police can force you to turn over your passcode or unlock the device. The answer should be no. The Fifth Amendment states that no one can be forced to be “a witness against himself,” and we argue that the constitutional protection applies to forced decryption. Last week, we filed a brief making that case to the Indiana Supreme Court.

      The case began when Katelin Eunjoo Seo reported to law enforcement outside of Indianapolis that she had been the victim of a rape and allowed a detective to examine her iPhone for evidence. But the state never filed charges against Seo’s alleged rapist, identified by the court as “D.S.” (Courts often refer to minors using their initials.) Instead, the detective suspected that Seo was harassing D.S. with spoofed calls and texts, and she was ultimately arrested and charged with felony stalking. The state not only sought a search warrant to go through Seo’s phone, but a court order to force her to unlock it. Seo refused, invoking her Fifth Amendment rights. The trial court held her in contempt, but an intermediate appeals court reversed.

      When the Indiana Supreme Court agreed to get involved, it took the somewhat rare step of inviting amicus briefs. EFF got involved because, as we say in our brief filed along with the ACLU and the ACLU of Indiana, the issue in Seo is “no technicality; it is a fundamental protection of human dignity, agency, and integrity that the Framers enshrined in the Fifth Amendment.”

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Lights Back On at NYC Jail After Hundreds Protest, But Prisoners Still Without Heat in Winter

      More than 1,600 prisoners at a Brooklyn federal detention center were forced to endure freezing temperatures during last week’s polar vortex, with no heat, no light, no hot water for showers and no hot meals. Demonstrators rallied throughout the weekend to protest the conditions at the Metropolitan Detention Center, which is run by the Bureau of Prisons. Prisoners communicated with protesters by banging on the jail windows. On Sunday afternoon, some of the protesters, including family members of those incarcerated, were pepper-sprayed by guards. Democracy Now! was there on the ground. By 6:30 p.m., officials said electricity was restored. We speak with Brad Lander, a New York city councilmember who spoke with prisoners and prison officials this weekend.

    • UN: Act to End China’s Mass Detentions in Xinjiang
    • Another Pre-Super Bowl ‘Sex Trafficking Sting’ Busts A Bunch Of People Trying To Buy Sex From Cops Pretending To Be Teens

      Every Super Bowl is greeted with the same breathless stories about sex trafficking. As thousands of visitors descend on the unlucky host of The Big Game™, local law enforcement agencies — sometimes accompanied by the DHS — are there to claim there will be a sex trafficking victim for every Super Bowl attendee. Hundreds of law enforcement officers perform sweeps costing taxpayers millions of dollars. And every year, it’s the same story: very little sex trafficking found, but a whole lot of sex buyers and sex workers are cited and/or jailed.

      Prostitution may be the oldest profession, but it couldn’t have been far ahead of “law enforcement spokesperson.” Someone is always on the scene to spout meaningless numbers to press stenographers in order to perpetuate the myth that large gatherings = sex trafficking en masse. Few journalists dig into these claims.

    • Federal Court Approves Reforms Targeting The Chicago Police Department

      It’s not much but it’s a start. Chicago’s police force has spent several years vying for the title of “Worst PD in America.” Between its routine deployment of excessive force to its off-the-books “black site” where arrestees are separated from their humanity and their Constitutional rights, the Chicago PD has been a horrific mess for several years.

      A federal judge has approved a consent decree that would enact reforms aimed at repairing the trust the PD has damaged for decades.

    • Domineque Ray Is Set to Be Executed Thursday. Did He Ever Really Have a Chance at Being Spared?

      On the morning of July 29, 1999, 12 men and women filed into the jury box in the Dallas County Courthouse in Selma, Alabama. The day before, they had convicted Domineque Ray of raping and killing a 15-year-old girl in a cotton field outside of town. It had taken just an hour and 40 minutes to deliver their verdict.

      It was a terrible crime, and not the first killing Ray, 22, had been convicted of. Five and a half months earlier, Ray had been found guilty for his role in the murders of two teenage boys in Selma.

      Now, shortly after 9 a.m., the jury was set to hear testimony on whether Ray’s life should be spared or if he should be sentenced to die.

      Juries in death penalty cases have been required to separately weigh questions of guilt and punishment for more than four decades. Those facing the possibility of death get to argue for mercy; they’re allowed to present evidence that might temper a jury’s willingness to recommend execution a defendant’s limited intelligence, for instance, or history of victimization. The obligation of defense lawyers in such cases, the U.S. Supreme Court has held, is considerable.

    • ‘Crimes Against Humanity’: Abuses Persist at Immigrant Detention Centers as DHS Hands Out ‘Waivers’ to Contractors

      In another sign the Trump administration is violating the rights of immigrants, a poorly regulated system of handing out “waivers” to contractors which run immigrant detention facilities has allowed many abuses at the facilities to persist for years, according to a damning new report by the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

      The report found that federal immigration authorities are failing to police both private and public contractors which run detention facilities currently holding more than 45,000 immigrants each day. Instead of revoking contracts, fining the businesses and public entities which are operating the centers, or taking other actions to ensure abuses don’t continue once they’re discovered, DHS is simply granting waivers to the contractors for violations including failure to report sexual assaults in their facilities.

    • Justice Department to Probe Federal Jail in New York City

      The U.S. Department of Justice said Sunday it will work with the Bureau of Prisons to examine what happened at a federal detention center in Brooklyn that had lost heat and electricity last week and to ensure that it has a backup system in place.

      “In the coming days, the Department will work with the Bureau of Prisons to examine what happened and ensure the facility has the power, heat and backup systems in place to prevent the problem from re-occurring,” said Wyn Hornbuckle, deputy director of public affairs for the Justice Department.

      Electrical power was finally restored at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn at about 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Hornbuckle said.

    • Pennsylvania Police Now Limited in Flagging Undocumented Immigrants to ICE

      If a car is stopped for a traffic violation, for example, passengers won’t be questioned or asked for identification solely to verify whether they are in the country legally. The policy says that troopers may not detain or arrest foreign nationals simply for being in the country illegally.

      Gov. Tom Wolf called for stronger guidelines after the investigation by ProPublica and the Inquirer found that state police were acting as an informal arm of immigration enforcement. On Friday, Wolf commended the new policy because it “provides clear direction for state troopers.”

      The Supreme Court has ruled that it is unconstitutional to prolong traffic stops beyond the time it takes to address the traffic violation. In addition, the court has written that “detaining individuals solely to verify their immigration status would raise constitutional concerns.”

      The policy clarifies that administrative warrants for immigration violations — a civil matter — are not grounds for stops or detentions because they do not constitute reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Troopers can still contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement about a foreign national, but only after an interaction is completed. For a basic traffic citation, that would be after the person has been allowed to go.

      The policy clears up the most pressing constitutional concerns over unlawful searches and seizures and racial profiling raised by the series. Yet the new guidelines still affirm the state police’s ability to use all available tools to verify the identity of an immigrant during a traffic stop, arrest or lawful detention. Troopers will continue communication with ICE through databases and direct contact.

    • Alabama Executions: Strictly a Christian Affair

      Over 60 years ago, Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote that “[t]he basic concept underlying the Eighth Amendment is nothing less than the dignity of man. While the State has the power to punish, the Amendment stands to assure that this power be exercised within the limits of civilized standards.”

      Turning this concept – at the root of how we define “cruel and unusual” punishment in this country – on its head, this coming Thursday the State of Alabama will execute Domineque Hakim Marcelle Ray, and, though all Christian inmates executed in Alabama are afforded a spiritual advisor, one permitted to have physical contact and to minister to them during their final moments, Mr. Ray will not be granted this same measure of human dignity. Why? For one reason, and one reason only: he’s Muslim.

      Arguing precisely this point in federal court last week, public defender Spencer Hahn urged United States District Judge W. Keith Watkins, to order, over Alabama’s religiously bigoted objections, that Mr. Ray be allowed to have his own spiritual advisor in the execution chamber – a Muslim imam, one already approved by Alabama’s Department of Corrections (ADOC) for contact visits with Ray; Hahn urged: “Why does Mr. Ray not get the same benefit as a Christian, non-Catholic condemned inmate would? If Mr. Ray were a standard, everyday Protestant Lutheran Christian, he would have a spiritual advisor there who could touch his hand and pray with him in his final moments. But because he happens to be a Muslim – and who knows if the next person is going to be a Catholic or Jewish or a Buddhist – they don’t get that benefit? We would dispute that there is a compelling governmental interest in allowing one type of religious leader into an area and not another.”

      But, in a dog-whistle response, ignoring, as I’ve written elsewhere, the state’s “odious tradition of ducking and dodging death penalty accountability” for its manifold patently botched executions – executions that have devolved into excruciating medieval torture sessions because of the medically untrained personnel and unsuitable chemicals Alabama insists on using, and not remotely because of the threatened presence of a non-Christian spiritual advisor – Assistant Attorney General Richard Anderson argued: “[T]here is a very well-established interest in maintaining prison security and the safety and orderliness of prison operations. That is – that’s the main backbone of what our interest is in regulating who goes in and out of, particularly, the execution chamber itself.”

    • The Long Goodbye of Antiwar Protest

      It’s been a case of the long goodbye for what’s left of the peace movement in the U.S. On Saturday (January 26, 2019), a small group, very small by historic peace actions go, protested in front of the White House.

      Watching the protest and interviews with protest participants on The Real News Network was almost painful. Medea Benjamin’s insightful observations, and a few other people’s, about the ongoing coup against Venezuela were just about the only sane and adult comments in the “room.” Across the globe, the vast majority of governments lined up behind the U.S. administration in its attacks against the people of Venezuela and Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro. The fallen zeitgeist of peace was as clear as it was after September 11, 2001.

      Maduro is not blameless in what has happened in Venezuela, but that nation’s demise is a complicated matter with many domestic missteps along the way, particularly connected to the lack of domestic economic diversity. Venezuela has enormous fossil fuel reserves, along with other highly valued minerals, which makes it open to the predatory wolves of the global market. Look to Iraq as an example.

    • We Welcome Asylum Seekers and Defend Their Rights

      We—activists, scholars, writers and artists—strongly condemn President Trump’s efforts to vilify, intimidate, and use force against refugees and asylum seekers at and approaching the U.S. border.

      We are deeply troubled by the government’s responses to current and recent asylum seekers, which include the deployment of military personnel to an already highly militarized border, and expansion of detention facilities meant to incarcerate people entering the U.S. rather than welcome them. We reject President Trump’s maligning of the refugees as an “invasion.” And we recognize the fact that U.S. political, economic, and military activities in Central America have contributed to the situation that so many people—including families with small children—are fleeing.

      [...]

      The rights of asylum seekers are also supported by international law. The 1967 United Nations Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees—which the United States has signed—states that “refugees shall have free access to the courts of law on the territory of all contracting states” and that they shall enjoy “the same treatment as a national in matters pertaining to access to the courts.” The United States’ actions violate this principle.

      The signatories of this statement include people who live both within and outside of the borders of the United States. We believe that the people and government of the U.S. are not only accountable to ourselves, but to the world. We believe that all people, wherever they come from, should be free to move to wherever they choose. We call on others to join us in offering solidarity and welcome to all refugees and asylum seekers.

    • Ohio Bucks a Bad Trend With New Police Body Camera Law

      For states around the country considering rules for police body cameras, they should look to a new Ohio law for how to do it right when it comes to holding police accountable.

      A few years ago, due to the proliferation of cell phone cameras, police killings of black men, including the strangling of Eric Garner and the murder of Walter Scott, began to be frequently recorded in shocking detail — something that previously occurred only in the rarest of circumstances, such as with the Los Angeles Police Department beating of Rodney King in 1991. In response, politicians who were seeking to produce an immediate and tangible response began vigorously advocating for the deployment of police body cameras.

      Although it was well understood that attaching a tiny camera to a police officer’s uniform was not going to solve the significant racial biases plaguing our criminal justice system, body cameras do offer the potential to increase police transparency and accountability.

      The ACLU recognizes that body cameras can be a double-edged sword, as there are serious concerns about their risk to privacy and potential for use as mass surveillance devices. Accordingly, we believe that local communities should be empowered to decide if the potential benefits of body cameras outweigh their drawbacks. And in order to maximize the benefits of body camera and minimize their potential drawbacks, the cameras should be governed by uniform laws that balance the need to promote police transparency and accountability with the need to protect privacy.

    • Mississippi Governor Extends Middle Finger To Constitution On Twitter While Applauding Asset Forfeiture

      Nearly two years ago, Mississippi governor Phil Bryant signed a bill reforming the state’s asset forfeiture programs.

      [..,]

      Governor Bryant’s tweet links to the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, which has just sent him a letter asking him (and other state legislators) not to roll back the minor reforms that went into effect last year. His tweet directly mocks Ilya Shapiro, the Constitutional scholar quoted in the Center’s post. And it directly mocks everyone who saw law enforcement abusing a weapon in its drug war arsenal to strip property from citizens with almost zero accountability or avenues of recourse.

      In short, Governor Bryant thinks cops should have more rights and people not even accused of crimes should have less. That’s an extremely shitty look for someone representing one of the fifty states of the United States of America.

    • Migrant Caravan Members Are Not a Threat to U.S. National Security

      On January 14, 2019, another migrant caravan of about 1,800 Central American refugees—mostly from Honduras—began its treacherous journey marching across Mexico with hopes of reaching the U.S. border. Unsurprisingly, U.S. President Trump responded to last year’s caravan by demanding neighboring governments stop the caravan, sending 5,000 more troops to the border, and threatening to close the U.S. southern border.

      This new caravan offers an opportunity to highlight how the Trump Administration’s continued anti-immigrant rhetoric carries with it a dangerously mistaken premise that immigrants in the United States, at best, steal jobs from U.S. citizens, and, at worst, are dangerous criminals.

      But do a couple of thousand impoverished Central Americans really represent a threat to the United States? Recent research on immigration suggests otherwise and provides insights into immigration that can help to better address the problem.

    • This Is What Criminalizing Black Protest Looks Like

      Dr. Melina Abdullah is the chair of the department of Pan African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles, a mother of three and one of the co-founders of the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter. In 2016, she was charged with eight misdemeanors following a demonstration at a Police Commission meeting. According to the Los Angeles Times, officers physically removed Abdullah from the room and detained her for resisting arrest. Now, a petition is calling on Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer to drop the charges against her and end the criminalization of Black protest.

      “As LA City prosecutor, you have put forward a flawed assertion that freedom struggle must always be polite and follow the rules of the very institutions that are engaging in the abuse,” the petition reads. “Many of the charges you have lodged against Melina relate to so-called “disruptions” of public meetings. These non-violent actions might include speaking off-topic or beyond the allotted time, holding signs, or refusing to take a seat or exit a room. Such engagements are a hallmark of democracy and protected by the First Amendment. Moreover, it is only through such protest that substantial changes have been won, including the right to vote, Civil Rights, workers’ rights, women’s rights, and union rights. When police kill Black people every 28 hours, Black people cannot be muzzled.”

    • Get Them Rags Off: From Slavery Onward, A Black Woman’s Body Was Never Hers Alone

      To mark the start of the ever-questionable Black History Month and what would have been the 106th birthday of the ever-iconic Rosa Parks – “The only tired I was, was tired of giving in” – we pay tribute to Recy Taylor, the 24-year-old black mother abducted and gang raped in 1944 Alabama by six white boys, and to all the other unnamed, unheard black women likewise victimized by what was long a “weapon of terror” wielded by white men in the Jim Crow South. Taylor was walking home from church in the small town of Abbeville when she was kidnapped, blindfolded and raped at gunpoint; begging for her life, she promised to stay silent so she could return to her husband and nine-month-old daughter. But she spoke up. Though she and her family were harassed and the boys were never brought to justice, Taylor’s rape became the focus of a high-profile N.A.A.C.P. campaign led by a tough women’s rights advocate – Rosa Parks. It also became a galvanizing moment for a civil rights movement that took far too long to acknowledge a key, enduring injustice: In an America rooted in slavery, charged activist Fannie Lou Hamer, “A black woman’s body was never hers alone.”

    • The State of Our Disunion

      Donald Trump says his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening will be about “unification”. But Trump discussing the state of the union is like pyromaniac discussing lighter fluids. His goal is, and has always been, disunion.

      The man thrives on divisiveness. It’s how he keeps himself the center of attention, fuels his base and ensures that no matter what facts are revealed, his followers will stick by him.

      There’s another reason Trump aims to divide – and why he pours salt into the nation’s deepest wounds over ethnicity, immigration, race and gender.

      He wants to distract attention from the biggest and most threatening divide of all: the widening imbalance of wealth and power between the vast majority, who have little or none, and a tiny minority who are accumulating just about all.

    • Trial of El Chapo Highlights Failure of U.S. War on Drugs, But Will U.S. Ever Be Held to Account?

      Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the notorious Mexican drug kingpin, has been on trial in New York City for 11 weeks. A federal jury headed into deliberations yesterday after more than 200 hours of testimony at the Federal District Court in Brooklyn revealing the inner workings of the Sinaloa Cartel, the major drug trafficking organization run by El Chapo. Fifty-six witnesses took to the stand with stories of murder, violence, spying, widespread corruption and even one tale of the drug lord escaping arrest in 2014 by climbing naked through a sewer alongside a former lover. El Chapo faces 10 charges, including leading a criminal enterprise, and could receive life in prison in the U.S. if convicted. The trial concludes as Donald Trump continues to call for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, which he claims will help combat drug trafficking. However, government data shows most of the hard narcotics seized by Customs and Border Protection come at legal ports of entry, not from people trying to secretly cross the southern border. We speak with Christy Thornton, an assistant professor of sociology and Latin American studies at Johns Hopkins University, who says El Chapo’s sensational trial is obscuring the truth about the so-called war on drugs.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Court Tells FCC Its Attack On Tribal Broadband Subsidies Wasn’t Based On The Facts

      While FCC boss Ajit Pai is best known for ignoring the public and making shit up to dismantle net neutrality, his other policies have proven to be less sexy but just as terrible. From neutering plans to improve cable box competition to a wide variety of what are often senseless handouts to the industry’s biggest players, most of Pai’s policies are driving up costs for the rural Americans and small entrepreneurs he so breathlessly pledges fealty to.

      One of Pai’s biggest targets has been the FCC’s Lifeline program, an effort started by Reagan and expanded by Bush that long enjoyed bipartisan support until the post-truth era rolled into town. Lifeline doles out a measly $9.25 per month subsidy that low-income homes can use to help pay a tiny fraction of their wireless, phone, or broadband bills (enrolled participants have to chose one). The FCC under former FCC boss Tom Wheeler had voted to expand the service to cover broadband connections, something Pai (ever a champion to the poor) voted down.

      Some of the most frequently ignored in the battle for better connectivity are native populations and tribal areas. Under Chairman Ajit Pai’s “leadership,” the FCC voted 3-2 in late 2017 to eliminate a $25 additional Lifeline subsidy for low-income native populations on tribal land. As part of Pai’s effort he also banned smaller mobile carriers from participating in the Lifeline program, a move opposed by even the larger companies (Verizon, AT&T) that stood to benefit.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Standing on the Shoulders of those Without Standing

      Final point to discuss here involves SAS Institute, Inc. v. Iancu, 138 S. Ct. 1348 (2018). In that case, the Supreme Court held that the PTAB must either institute as to either (1) all challenged claims or (2) no claims. The Federal Circuit has expanded that holding to now include a requirement of instituting as to either (1) all grounds for challenge or (2) no grounds at all.

      Here, the PTAB instituted as to all challenged claims, but only some grounds for challenge. In oral arguments (rebuttal), Mylan’s counsel requested, in the “alternative,” that the case be remanded for consideration of all grounds. On appeal, the Federal Circuit held that the right to remand had been waived. In particular, applicant waited more than 6-months until the rebuttal portion of oral arguments to request the remand. “Given the circumstances in this case, we find that Appellants have waived their request for remand.”

    • Realtime Adaptive abandons patent after PTAB institutes IPR

      On January 31, 2019, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) granted Realtime Adaptive Streaming, LLC’s (a Realtime Data affiliate and well-known NPE) request for adverse judgment and cancellation of all instituted claims in IPR2018-00883 filed by Unified. This request comes shortly after the PTAB’s decision to institute trial for U.S. Patent 8,934,535, directed to selecting an asymmetric compressor algorithm for compressing data, storing the compressed data, and decompressing the data. The ‘535 patent has been asserted in 26 district court cases, 6 of which were pending as of this decision.

    • Warning sign for 2019 Mobile World Congress seafarers [Ed: patents causing raids and thefts by the accusers; no real justice, no time for appeal etc.]

      During the 2018 Mobile World Congress (“MWC”), Barcelona Commercial Court number 1 ordered a preliminary injunction preventing a company that was taking part in the Congress from continuing to market mobile phones that allegedly used antennas protected by patents owned by the applicant. The defendant lodged an appeal before the Barcelona Court of Appeal (Section 15) which, in a decision dated 18 December 2018, lifted the preliminary injunction. In a nutshell, the main points of interest may be summarized as follows:

      For the reader’s benefit, it will be useful to clarify that, under Spanish law, for the purposes of obtaining a preliminary injunction, the applicant has to essentially justify that it has a “prima facie” robust case (“fumus boni iuris”) and that its rights could be definitively frustrated unless a preliminary injunction is ordered (“periculum in mora” or danger in the delay).

    • Kenyan Reform on Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions: Two Year On

      Kenya is a regional leader in this regard. In 2016, the country introduced the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Cultural Expressions Act 2016 (“the Act” – here). It is now a little over two years since the commencement of the Act, which seems a good time to consider the successes, failures and drawbacks of the reform. Kat friend Paul Kimani, based at the University of Nairobi and the University of Exeter, shares his thoughts on these questions.

    • 2019 Revised Subject Matter Eligibility Guidance

      Chad Gille at BigPatentData reports on the first handful of PTAB decisions considering eligibility under the 2019 Revised Subject Matter Eligibility Guidance. The outcome — 101 Rejection Affirmed in five of six cases. Gilles writes “If your claim can still be lumped into the very broad ‘certain methods of organizing human activity’ the new guidance may not be of much help.”

    • Trademarks

      • General Court refuses DeepMind’s trade mark for STREAMS

        January was already a great month for avid watchers of (i) the IP filing activities of Google’s DeepMind; and (ii) CJEU judgments dealing with descriptive trade marks for software. Now, presumably as part of a 2-for-1 deal, the General Court has refused DeepMind’s application to register an EUTM for STREAMS (Case T-97/18 DeepMind Technologies Ltd v EUIPO).

        [...]

        Not to be deterred, DeepMind appealed to the General Court. On 31 January 2019, the Court dismissed the appeal.

        DeepMind had submitted to the EUIPO an alternative limitation – excluding “computer software for use in streaming medical information” – after the Board of Appeal’s decision. This limitation application was rejected before the General Court considered the case, so the point became moot. The Court nevertheless noted its scepticism regarding the admissibility of the limitation.

    • Copyrights

      • As the German Government Abandons Small Businesses, the Worst Parts of the EU Copyright Directive Come Roaring Back, Made Even Worse

        Last month, it seemed like Europe had been saved from a dangerous attempt by corporate lobbyists to hijack copyright legislation in order to add a few points to their balance sheets, at the cost of a free, fair, open internet. Now, thanks to Germany’s decision to turn its back on small European tech companies, the EU is poised once again to hand permanent control over Europe’s internet to the United States’ Big Tech sector, snuffing out the small- and medium-sized enterprises of Europe.

        The new European Directive on Copyright in the Single Market is a grab-bag of updates to EU-wide copyright rules, which have been frozen in time since their last refresh, in 2001. But the Directive been imperiled since last spring, when German MEP Axel Voss took over as rapporteur, and promptly revived two controversial, unworkable clauses.

        To remain credible, the EU must reject this haggling between giant commercial interests—and put the public good first.

        Voss’s deadly pet ideas were, first, a proposal to let news sites decide who could link to them and to charge for the privilege (Article 11); and second, a proposal to require every platform for public communication to invent and deploy copyright filters that would prevent any user from infringing copyright, even momentarily, by suppressing any communications that appeared to contain a copyrighted work of any kind (Article 13).

      • Minnesota Lawyers Board Asks State Supreme Court To Smack Paul Hansmeier Around A Bit

        Grifters just keep grifting. Paul Hansmeier, former copyright troll and more recent ADA troll, is being referred to the Supreme Court of Minnesota for discipline. Last seen trying to weasel his way into bankruptcy to avoid several judgments against him, Hansmeier has had his law license suspended and is facing the possibility of more than a decade in prison.

        Now there’s this, which asks how much schadenfreude can one person possibly provide?

        [...]

        To dodge the sanctions, Hansmeier filed bankruptcy. This was as deceitful as any other litigation he’s been involved in. Hansmeier shuffled assets around to keep them from creditors, sold his home without the bankruptcy court’s permission, and failed to update the court when his cost of living expenses decreased dramatically.

      • Russian Site-Blocking Leads To An Explosion In ‘Pirate’ Sites, Tiny Dip In Piracy

        Over the past couple of years, we’ve discussed Russia putting in what is supposed to be an extreme site-blocking policy, in part to curb piracy. There has been a fair amount of mostly anecdotal evidence that has suggested that the video pirate market in Russia has actually increased during this time, while there is very concrete evidence as to the insane amount of collateral damage that the site-blocking policy has caused. Some found this puzzling, but new data out of Russia suggests that the effects on piracy are muted at least in part because of an explosion in new piracy sites or mirrors of blocked sites.

      • Germany and France find common ground on copyright
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  18. The Myth of 'Professionalism'

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  19. Links 14/8/2019: Best Chromebooks, EPEL 8.0, LibreOffice 6.2.6

    Links for the day



  20. Being in Favour of Free/Libre Open Source Software Means Rejecting Software Patents

    Those who believe in Software Freedom cannot at the same time believe that software patents are desirable; we've sadly come to a point where many companies that dominate so-called 'Open Source' groups actively lobby for such patents, in effect betraying the community they claim to be a part of



  21. Links 14/8/2019: Apache Evaluated, HardenedBSD Has New Release

    Links for the day



  22. Planet Python is Being Overrun by Microsoft, Just Like PyCon and Python in General

    Microsoft is perturbing the Free/Open Source software (FOSS) world from the inside, promoting Microsoft's most malicious proprietary software from within that world while taking positions of power in powerful FOSS projects



  23. Coming Soon: The Innards of the Eric Lundgren Case That Microsoft is Desperate to Hide or Spin (by Defaming Lundgren)

    Microsoft is rather stressed about Eric Lundgren coming out of prison and telling how Microsoft put him there; right now Microsoft is mostly name-calling while seeking to control public dialogues



  24. Wrong Person in Charge of the Linux Foundation (and in Charge of Linus Torvalds)

    There are several glaring issues when it comes to the leadership of Linux's steward; for one thing, it lacks actual background in... Linux



  25. 2019 Tech Glossary

    This clavis refers to what the de facto definition may be, based on how (and when) media uses the words nowadays



  26. The Silence of the Media Lamb

    There are reasons that are perfectly legitimate to criticise media which is unable and more so unwilling to cover particular scandals for fear that coverage can be detrimental to the media's owners and sponsors



  27. LINUX.COM Managed by Apple’s MacOS Users, Open Source Managed and Covered by People Who Reject Open Source

    The narratives are being hijacked; people who we're supposed to assume speak for Linux and for Open Source support neither of these things; they're only in it for the money



  28. The Linux Foundation's Open Source Summit is a Proprietary Software Marketing Venue

    The distortion of the term Open Source and promotion of proprietary software such as GitHub shows that the foundation called after “Linux” is actually more of a front group of hostile corporations — large brands and rich people to whom Open Source represents a threat that needs to be controlled



  29. Links 13/8/2019: Mir 1.4 Released, Qt PDF Discussed

    Links for the day



  30. Links 13/8/2019: KDevelop 5.4.1 and DragonFly 5.6.2 Released

    Links for the day


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