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02.08.19

Links 8/2/2019: Things to Look For on Linux in 2019, Fedora Logo Redesign

Posted in News Roundup at 12:07 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Five of the Biggest Things to Look For on Linux in 2019

    As an advocate of Linux, there is a side of me that wishes 2019 will be the “year of the penguin.” The state of Linux has gotten much better over the last few years domestically. I have converted several non tech-savvy family members to Linux from Windows, and the feedback has been positive. It is free, easy to use and minor graphical quirks aside, (thank you Intel & Nvidia!) things seem to work without issue.

    I am also a realist. There is another side of me that knows Linux will never gain massive market share or awareness in the desktop PC arena. Nor will it dominate the business market outside of servers. This is actually both great and terrible. As I have said before, the less mainstream it is, the less attractive it is for nefarious actors to attack.

    Linux also enjoys the relative unknown status because it is used on lots of devices in the background. Android is a prime example: even though it is Java, the core is based off the Linux kernel. Many IoT devices run Linux. Amazon, Google and Facebook all make use of Linux. Your car trip computer probably does as well.

  • Desktop

    • Slimbook & Kubuntu – Combat Report 5

      Anyway, I am still quite happy with Slimbook + Kubuntu. There are some annoying things – the Wireless connection glitch on first login, the icons in the task manager, the session save bug. But then, the system is stable, fast, ever so slightly but consistently improving, the game repertoire is pleasantly nice and growing, and overall, the desktop feel rich, fun and polished. You notice how advanced Plasma is when you switch over to other systems and try other environments. Me liking, but I wants even more good stuff! Well, to be continued some more.

    • Digital divide? How the Asian Penguins share Linux at Minnesota charter school

      On December 20, 2018, a team of four students and a chaperone from the Community School of Excellence (CSE) delivered a computer to the home of a needy student. CSE is a charter school in Saint Paul, Minnesota, that serves immigrants from Southeast Asia. Most students are Hmong (from Laos) and a minority are Karenni (from Myanmar). During the 2011-2012 school year, the school started the Asian Penguins club, the first Linux users group at a Hmong school anywhere in the world.

    • Upcoming ‘App Service’ For Chromebooks Could Help Simplify Chrome OS’ Current App Complexity

      Over the past couple days, a new addition to Chrome has been uncovered that looks to unify the various apps available on Chromebooks. First discovered as simply the chrome://apps page by Chrome Story, Kyle Bradshaw over at 9to5 Google dug a bit deeper and uncovered an entirely new effort behind the simple settings page that could fundamentally change the way Chromebook users manage their apps regardless of where they installed them from.

      That effort is being labeled as App Service and it looks to clean up some glaring inconsistencies currently present in the way Chrome OS handles apps. Right now, you get some serious variation in behavior between apps from the Play Store, Linux and the Web. For those of us who’ve used Chrome OS for a while, we understand the differences inherent to the app type, but for new users these inconsistencies often prove difficult to understand and navigate.

  • Server

    • BlueStore: Improved performance with Red Hat Ceph Storage 3.2

      Red Hat Ceph Storage 3.2 is now available! The big news with this release is full support for the BlueStore Ceph backend, offering significantly increased performance for both object and block applications.

    • Which open source backup solution do you use?

      Even though lots of our data exists in the cloud today, you still need to protect your local files with a reliable backup solution. When I needed a new offsite backup solution for my Linux desktop files, I asked my editors and fellow Community Moderators at Opensource.com to share their recommendations. They provided some familiar and some new-to-me options.

    • From The Enterprisers Project: 9 Kubernetes Jobs Facts and Figures
    • 12 ways to get smarter about Kubernetes

      Kubernetes adoption is growing at a rapid clip, yet this is still new technology for most folks. That means that many people in IT, from the C-suite through the most junior positions, are still getting up to speed on the basics and what comes next: What is Kubernetes, what do IT teams use it for, what are the overlapping trends, what are the day-to-day realities, and so forth.

      Fortunately, many accessible resources can help you smooth out the learning curve. Below, we curate some of our favorites. The goal here isn’t to achieve deep technical expertise, but rather to help you beef up your general Kubernetes IQ.

      Doing so can help IT leaders and their teams better understand why Kubernetes has become one of the hottest open source projects around. You’ll also want to delve into its relationship with other significant trends such as containers, cloud-native development, multi-cloud, and hybrid cloud – and yes, dig into the nuts and bolts of the technology itself.

    • CYBG Supports 25x More Customer Logins on iB Digital Services Platform with Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform
  • Audiocasts/Shows

  • Kernel Space

    • Disk Encryption for Low-End Hardware

      Unfortunately, they were not able to find any existing encryption algorithm that was both fast and secure, and that would work with existing Linux kernel infrastructure. They, therefore, designed the Adiantum encryption mode, which they described in a light, easy-to-read and completely non-mathematical way.

      Essentially, Adiantum is not a new form of encryption; it relies on the ChaCha stream cipher developed by D. J. Bernstein in 2008. As Eric put it, “Adiantum is a construction, not a primitive. Its security is reducible to that of XChaCha12 and AES-256, subject to a security bound; the proof is in Section 5 of our paper. Therefore, one need not ‘trust’ Adiantum; they only need trust XChaCha12 and AES-256.”

      Eric reported that Adiantum offered a 20% speed improvement over his and Paul’s earlier HPolyC encryption mode, and it offered a very slight improvement in actual security.

      Eric posted some patches, adding Adiantum to the Linux kernel’s crypto API. He remarked, “Some of these patches conflict with the new ‘Zinc’ crypto library. But I don’t know when Zinc will be merged, so for now, I’ve continued to base this patchset on the current ‘cryptodev’.”

    • Google Details Their New Adiantum Encryption For Low-End Android Devices

      With the upcoming Linux 5.0 kernel release there is initial support for Adiantum and implemented within the fscrypt file-system encryption framework in Google’s pursuit to offering more viable data encryption on low-end Android devices.

      Google engineers began working on Adiantum following the fall-out from their plans for using the NSA-developed Speck for encryption on low-end devices, with Speck widely believed to have been backdoor’ed by the National Security Agency.

    • Google Created Faster Encryption for Low-End Android Phones and IoT Devices

      Low-resource Android phones and IoT devices don’t have the processing power to use modern encryption services, which makes them vulnerable to hacking. That’s why Google is introducing Adiantum, a super-fast encryption standard for low-resource Android devices.

      Popular Android phones, like the Google Pixel or anything from the Samsung Galaxy line, are built around the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). With the AES, all of the information on your phone is encrypted and only verified users can access the data. But a lot of Android phones and smart devices can’t use the AES because they don’t have enough processing power to quickly encrypt and decrypt information. Plus, they usually don’t have built-in security features, like fingerprint scanners or iris scanners. This leaves low-resource Android devices, including smart watches and IOT products, very easy to compromise.

    • LSFMM 2019 gains a BPF track

      The call for proposals for the 2019 Linux Storage, Filesystem, and Memory-Management Summit has been updated with an important addition: this year’s event (April 30 to May 2, San Juan, Puerto Rico) will include a BPF track. The submission deadline has been extended to February 22 to allow BPF developers to put together their proposals.

    • Qualcomm Vibrator Driver Queued For Linux 5.1

      The mainline Linux kernel support continues to improve for various ARM SoCs and different Android smartphone features. The latest driver on its way to the mainline Linux kernel is an adaptation of Android’s Qualcomm MSM vibrator.

      Just over three-hundred lines of code is the new msm-vibrator driver now queued into the input subsystem ahead of the upcoming Linux 5.1 kernel. This basic driver is enough to get the vibration hardware working with various Qualcomm-powered devices, like the LG Nexus 5.

    • Linux Foundation

      • What Open Source Really Means Today [Ed: “KubeCon+CloudNativeCon, The Linux Foundation, Red Hat, Twistlock and VMware are sponsors of The New Stack.” Now corporations write ‘the news’ for you… and then link to it.]
      • How Zowe Is Bringing the Mainframe into the Modern Age

        At the Open Source Summit last fall, The Linux Foundation announced a new project called Zowe. Essentially, Zowe is a new open source software framework that allows developers to use modern tools and technologies on mainframe systems running z/OS. The project is the outcome of collaboration among IBM, Rocket Software, and Broadcom within the umbrella of the Open Mainframe Project at The Linux Foundation. Since Zowe’s launch, there has been a huge community response and the project is on the verge of marking several technical milestones.

    • Graphics Stack

      • AMDGPU DC Seeing Work On “Seamless Boot” Functionality

        The boot experience may be improved moving forward for AMDGPU-using Radeon Linux users.

        Queued yesterday into the drm-next-5.1-wip branch for the AMDGPU Direct Rendering Manager driver are several patches mentioning “seamless boot” functionality within the Display Core “DC” code.

    • Benchmarks

      • The Performance Benefits To Running AMD’s Radeon VII With Linux 5.0 + Mesa 19.0

        The configurations tested were:
        Linux 4.20 + Mesa 18.2 – This configuration is notable since Mesa 18.2 is still widely found by some Linux distributions, such as Ubuntu 18.10. Mesa 18.2 is also what AMD is shipping in their Radeon Software 18.50 for Linux packaged driver as part of the “open” stack. Mesa 18.2 is the open-source 3D driver stack from Q3’2018 and while older, it does support the Vega 20 but with not as many optimizations/improvements as found in Mesa 18.3/19.0 for RADV Vulkan and RadeonSI OpenGL.
        Linux 4.20 + Mesa 18.3 – This would be considered the standard, current stable bundle. Linux 4.20. has been out as stable for a while and Mesa 18.3 has been since December. The Mesa packages via Pkppa built against LLVM 7.0 SVN for the current “stable” driver experience.
        Linux 4.20 + Mesa 19.0 – The stable Linux 4.20 kernel but upgrading to the Mesa 19.0-devel code in now its release candidate phase. Mesa 19.0 will be released as stable by end of February. The LLVM 8.0 back-end is also in use here, those 3D driver packages via the Padoka PPA.
        Linux 5.0 + Mesa 19.0 – The current Git state of the Linux 5.0 kernel and Mesa 19.0. Both Linux 5.0 and Mesa 19.0 will debut as stable around the end of the month. Linux 5.0 and Mesa 19.0 are also what will be found in (or slightly newer) as packaged out-of-the-box for Ubuntu 19.04, Fedora 30, etc.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • KDE at FOSDEM 2019

        February means FOSDEM, the largest gathering of free software developers in the continent. I drove for two days down the winding roads and even onto a train and out again to take the bits needed to run the stall there. Fortunately my canoeing friend Poppy was there for car karaoke and top Plasma dev David got picked up along the way to give us emotional support watching Black Mirror Bandersnatch with its multiple endings.

        The beer flowed freely at Delerium but disaster(!) the venue for Saturday did not exist! So I did some hasty scouting to find a new one before returning for more beer.

        Rather than place us next to Gnome the organisers put us next to our bestie friends Nextcloud which was nice and after some setup the people came and kept on coming. Saturday was non stop on the stall but fortunately we had a good number of volunteers to talk to our fans and future fans.

      • Tutorial – Plasma

        While many user interface designers advocate simplicity and simplified decision-making for users (which often results in no decision-making at all), the KDE community [1] has stubbornly gone the other way, jam-packing all manner of features and doodads into its Plasma [2] desktop (see the “KDE Is Not a Desktop” box).

        That said, if you want simple, Plasma can do simple, too. You can ignore all the bell and whistles and just get on with your life. But where is the fun in that?

      • KDE Applications 19.04 Open-Source Software Suite Slated for Release on April 18

        According to the final release schedule, work on the KDE Applications 19.04 software suite will begin as soon as the current series, KDE Applications 18.12 reaches end of life, which will happen next month on March 7th with the release of the last maintenance update, KDE Applications 18.12.3.

        The dependency freeze development stage for KDE Applications 19.04 is currently set for March 14th, and the final freeze is set for March 21st, when KDE Applications 19.04 will enter beta. A Release Candidate (RC) milestone is planned for April 4, and the final KDE Applications 19.04 release lands April 18th, 2019.

      • Chakra GNU/Linux Users Get KDE Plasma 5.14.5 Desktop, KDE Frameworks 5.54, More
  • Distributions

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • Anyone Can Benchmark + openSUSE Challenge | Choose Linux 2

        Episode 2 is all about opposites, such as the major differences between benchmarking graphics cards like Radeon VII on Linux and Windows. Then we dive into the Phoronix Test Suite, a robust tool that isn’t just for tech reviewers. Find out why you should be using it too.

        Plus, the distro challenges roll on as Jason decides to do a complete 180, jumping from elementary OS to openSUSE Tumbleweed.

      • Deliver Applications Faster – Here’s How

        Join us for an executive level overview of the path your business can take to reduce application delivery cycle times and increase business agility. We’ll discuss emerging container technologies, cloud native application architectures, DevOps processes, and ways you can use them together to effect the change you need. Discover how SUSE can help you deliver your applications faster!

      • Explore options for SUSE Linux Enterprise 11 Service Pack 4, End-of-Life Mar 31, 2019

        General support for SUSE Linux Enterprise 11 product family, including SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for SAP Applications 11 will be ending on March 31, 2019.

    • Fedora

      • Fedora logo redesign

        The current Fedora Logo has been used by Fedora and the Fedora Community since 2005. However, over the past few months, Máirín Duffy and the Fedora Design team, along with the wider Fedora community have been working on redesigning the Fedora logo.

        Far from being just an arbitrary logo change, this process is being undertaken to solve a number of issues encountered with the current logo. Some of the issues with the current logo include the lack of a single colour variant, and, consequently the logo not working well on dark backgrounds. Other challenges with the current logo is confusion with other well-known brands, and the use of a proprietary font.

    • Debian Family

      • Thorsten Alteholz: My Debian Activities in January 2019

        This month I accepted 363 packages, which is again more than last month. On the other side I rejected 68 uploads, which is almost twice as last month. The overall number of packages that got accepted this month was 494.

      • Review of Debian System Administrator’s Handbook

        Debian System Administrator’s Handbook is a free-to-download book that covers all the essential part of Debian that a sysadmin might need.

        This has been on my to-do review list for quite some time. The book was started by two French Debian Developers Raphael Hertzog and Roland Mas to increase awareness about the Debian project in France. The book was a huge hit among francophone Linux users. The English translation followed soon after that.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • OSI Board Pledges Allegiance to Open Source Definition, Now and Forever

    Earlier this week the Board of Directors of the Open Source Initiative issued an Affirmation of the Open Source Definition, inviting others to endorse the same position. The stated purpose of the release was to underline the importance of maintaining the open source software (OSS) definition in response to what the directors see as efforts to “undermine the integrity of open source.” Certainly, that definition has stood the test of time, and OSI has ably served as the faithful custodian of the definition of what can and cannot be referred to as OSS.

    That said, while well-intentioned, the statement goes too far. It also suggests that the directors would do well to reflect on what their true role as custodians of the OSI definition should be.

    That becomes apparent in the opening lines of the press release, where the directors anchor their argument on the concept that the OSS definition is a standard, and that standards can never change. Which is nonsense. True, they use metric system standards as the basis for their metaphor, but that’s exactly the wrong basis for comparison because the OSS definition refers not to an immutable physical property, but to the consensus of a set of individuals at a certain point in time regarding a set of goals and values.

    In fact, weights and measures are some of the few standards that should never change. Just about every other type of standard in existence needs to change, and does change, in order to maintain its value. Indeed, most standards bodies institutionalize the process of monitoring the continuing relevance of standards, requiring that they be regularly reviewed and updated to make sure that they are as useful and up to date as possible.

  • Sberbank wants to be a force in open source

    Open source refers to any programme whose source code is made available for use or modification as users or other developers see fit. Major global tech companies encourage the development of open source projects as a way to drive innovation.

    For engineers, participation in these projects is not just a nice addition to one’s CV. It also amounts to valuable experience designing and deploying distributed, fail-safe solutions that can provide high performance for tasks of various classes and that are in demand in the global IT market. This is an opportunity for the company to become an owner (instead of a user) of open source products and position itself on the cutting edge of IT development.

  • Events

  • LibreOffice

    • A Summary of LibreOffice Karasa Jaga Icon Theme Works (For Upcoming 6.2 Release)

      As we know, Karasa Jaga, an icon theme derived from the Oxygen theme successfully entered the last fresh release of LibreOffice (6.1) on August. Since its inception for the first time, Karasa Jaga has been very complete and can even be said to have nearly 5,000 icons, because it has exceeded the number of icons that Galaxy and Colibre have had since first entering Karasa Jaga already has extra large icon support (32px * 32px).

      But the work did not stop there, there were many things that should be improved. Moreover, in the next 6.2 release there are so many new icons that should be made especially to support the Notebookbar Tab interface. In addition, the existing icons also need to be adjusted, plus I want to add more SVG support.

    • LibreOffice 6.2 Officially Available, Raspberry Pi Opens a Store in the UK, Purism Announces Partnership with GDQuest to Create Games for the Librem 5, Three New Snapshots for openSUSE Tumbleweed and Document Your DNA with an RPi Gel Imager

      The Document Foundation today announces the official release of LibreOffice 6.2 with NotebookBar. This is a major new release that “features a radical new approach to the user interface—based on the MUFFIN concept—and provides user experience options capable of satisfying all users’preferences, while leveraging all screen sizes in the best way.” This version has many new and features, including substantial changes to icon themes, context menus are tidied up and interoperability with proprietary file formats has been improved. See this video for details on all the new features. Note that LibreOffice 6.1.5 also was released today for enterprise-class deployments. You can download LibreOffice 6.2 or LibreOffice 6.1.5 from here.

    • LibreOffice 6.2 Released, This is What’s New

      Downloads of LibreOffice 6.2, billed as a ‘significant major release’ of the popular free office suite, are now available.

      Headline changes in the LibreOffice 6.2 release include a ‘radical new approach to the user interface’ (albeit optional), new capabilities in Writer, Calc and Draw, and improved compatibility with Microsoft Office files.

    • LibreOffice 6.2 Released With UI Improvements, Security Features, And More

      The Document Foundation has released the latest version of its popular open source office suite in the form of LibreOffice 6.2; it brings some major improvements over its predecessor.

      One of the most notable features of LibreOffice 6.2 is the new “tabbed” user-interface, dubbed NotebookBar, which was in an experimental phase for quite some time. The feature is not enabled by default and is available in three different variants — Tabbed, Contextual and Grouped.

    • The new MySQL driver in LibreOffice

      Base – the database editing program of LibreOffice – offers several features when it comes to external database connection. One interesting feature is that Base lets you connect to an external database not only with ODBC and JDBC but with native connectors too. Using the native connector instead of a standard like JDBC sometimes has a positive impact on performance.

      Considering that MySQL is one of the most used database management systems worldwide it is clear that the support of connecting to a MySQL database is an unavoidable part of Base. Currently there are three ways supported to connect to a MySQL database: with ODBC, JDBC and using a native connector. However, the last option was only available as an extension, and it is the part of the core project only since November 2018.

      Why was it only an extension at the first place? The native connection was implemented by using the C++ connector of MySQL, which is licensed under GPL. Because of that it could not be put into the core project. So what is the solution then?

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD

    • ZFS Boot Environments Are Helping To Improve The Resilience Of FreeBSD Upgrades

      Besides the ZFS file-system just being a heck of a lot better all-around than FreeBSD’s traditional UFS, tooling around ZFS paired with its native snapshot capabilities is allowing for more resilient installations and upgrades of FreeBSD.

      FreeBSD developer Allan Jude talked at last weekend’s FOSDEM conference about “magic upgrades” in making FreeBSD system upgrades atomic, safe, and fast by leveraging ZFS Boot Environments.

    • FOSDEM 2019 | BSD Now 284

      We recap FOSDEM 2019, FreeBSD Foundation January update, OPNsense 19.1 released, the hardware-assisted virtualization challenge, ZFS and GPL terror, ClonOS 19.01-RELEASE, and more.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • FSF Certifies Another New But Old Re-Branded Opteron Board For Its Freedom

      The Free Software Foundation (FSF) has certified the Vikings D8 motherboard and D8 workstation as they “Respect Your Freedom” as the newest endorsed hardware.

      The Vikings D8 is a re-branded ASUS KCMA-D8 but flashed with Libreboot+Coreboot to free the hardware down to the BIOS. The ASUS KCMA-D8 supports two AMD Opteron 4100 series processors, DDR3-1333 UDIMM/RDIMms, and one PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot, among other PCIe ports.

    • Vikings D8 Mainboard and D8 Workstation now FSF-certified to Respect Your Freedom

      These are the fourth and fifth devices from Vikings GmbH to receive RYF certification. The Vikings D8 Mainboard is an ASUS KCMA-D8 that comes with Trisquel GNU/Linux. Like the previously certified Vikings D16, it is a powerful mainboard suitable for use as a workstation or server. The Vikings D8 Workstation brings the D8 Mainboard together with a variety of options to provide a robust workstation for users. Both are available for purchase at https://store.vikings.net.

      “The more options users have for RYF-certified mainboards, the easier it is for them to build a machine that is completely under their control. Having an already assembled workstation available as an option is also a great improvement to the program. This is an area in which we hope to see continued growth, so that every user can get what they want when it comes to a server or workstation,” said the FSF’s licensing and compliance manager, Donald Robertson, III.

      Vikings GmbH received their first three certifications in spring of 2017, and has steadily worked to continue offering new RYF-certifiable devices.

    • GIMP 2.10.6 working on MacOS Leopard!

      My white MacBook is a perfectly fine computer, has an excellent screen and keyboard (superior to later models I have) so even if it is running a legacy OS version, I’d love to continue using it and, perhaps, other of you are in the same situation.

      Besides ArcticFox (which I got running on 10.6, but not on 10.5 yet) and various developer tools, the most essential tool I like to have is GIMP, also given the excellent LCD this Laptop has.

    • GRUB 2.04 Is On The Way This Year Along With Other New Bootloader Features

      Daniel Kiper of Oracle presented at last week’s FOSDEM European conference on the latest upstream work happening around the GRUB boot-loader.

      Before getting to the latest changes and plans, this Oracle software developer and GRUB maintainer first recapped some of the highlights of 2018. Improvements there as a reminder included a lot of ARM work, support for multiple early initrd images, Btrfs improvements around supporting Zstd and RAID, UEFI Secure Boot shim support, the verifiers framework, Xen PVH support, UEFI TPM 1.2/2.0 support, and other improvements.

  • Programming/Development

    • Remi Collet: PHP 5.6 is dead

      After PHP 7.0, and as announced, PHP version 5.6.40 was the last official release of PHP 5.6

      Which means that after version 7.2.15 and 7.3.2 releases, some security vulnerabilities are not, and won’t be, fixed by the PHP project.

    • 7 Useful Free Graphical User Interfaces for R

      R is an open source programming language and software environment for statistical computing and graphics. It consists of a language together with a run-time environment with a debugger, graphics, access to system functions, and scripting.

      R is an implementation of the S programming language, developed by Bell Laboratories, adding lexical scoping semantics. R offers a wide variety of statistical and graphical techniques including time series analysis, linear and nonlinear modelling, classical statistical tests, classification, clustering, and more). Combined with a large collection of intermediate tools for data analysis, good data handling and storage, general matrix calculation toolbox, R offers a coherent and well developed system which is highly extensible.

      Many statisticians and data scientists use R with the command line. However, the command line can be quite daunting to a beginner of R. Fortunately, there are many different graphical user interfaces available for R which help to flatten the learning curve. We’ve restricted this group test to software that’s released under an open source license, and offers Integrated Development Environment (IDEs) facilities. Software like Jupyter Notebook and Radiant interface with R, but they are not IDEs.

    • PyTesseract: Simple Python Optical Character Recognition
    • Python Data: Quick Tip – Speed up Pandas using Modin
    • Exploring the sum-product conjecture
    • My first implementation of VAE in Tensorflow, Python
    • Open sourcing ClusterFuzz

      Fuzzing is an automated method for detecting bugs in software that works by feeding unexpected inputs to a target program. It is effective at finding memory corruption bugs, which often have serious security implications. Manually finding these issues is both difficult and time consuming, and bugs often slip through despite rigorous code review practices. For software projects written in an unsafe language such as C or C++, fuzzing is a crucial part of ensuring their security and stability.

      In order for fuzzing to be truly effective, it must be continuous, done at scale, and integrated into the development process of a software project. To provide these features for Chrome, we wrote ClusterFuzz, a fuzzing infrastructure running on over 25,000 cores. Two years ago, we began offering ClusterFuzz as a free service to open source projects through OSS-Fuzz.

    • WebRender newsletter #39

      Hi there! The project keeps making very good progress (only 7 blocker bugs left at the time of writing these words, some of which have fixes in review). This means good confidence about our ability to ship in Firefox soon. I expect bugs and crash reports to spike as WebRender reaches a larger user population, which will keep us busy for a short while, and once things settle we’ll be able to go back to something we have been postponing for a while: polishing, adding new features and preparing WebRender for new platforms. Exciting!

    • Refactoring MDN macros with async, await, and Object.freeze()

      In March of last year, the MDN Engineering team began the experiment of publishing a monthly changelog on Mozilla Hacks. After nine months of the changelog format, we’ve decided it’s time to try something that we hope will be of interest to the web development community more broadly, and more fun for us to write. These posts may not be monthly, and they won’t contain the kind of granular detail that you would expect from a changelog. They will cover some of the more interesting engineering work we do to manage and grow the MDN Web Docs site. And if you want to know exactly what has changed and who has contributed to MDN, you can always check the repos on GitHub.

      In January, we landed a major refactoring of the KumaScript codebase and that is going to be the topic of this post because the work included some techniques of interest to JavaScript programmers.

    • Rust: A unique perspective

      The Rust programming language is designed to ensure memory safety, using a mix of compile-time and run-time checks to stop programs from accessing invalid pointers or sharing memory across threads without proper synchronization.

      The way Rust does this is usually introduced in terms of mutable and immutable borrowing and lifetimes. This makes sense, because these are mechanisms that Rust programmers must use directly. They describe what the Rust compiler checks when it compiles a program.

      However, there is another way to explain Rust. This alternate story focuses on unique versus shared access to values in memory. I believe this version is useful for understanding why various checks exist and how they provide memory safety.

      Most experienced Rust programmers are already familiar with this concept. Five years ago, Niko Matsakis even proposed changing the mut keyword to uniq to emphasize it. My goal is to make these important ideas more accesssible to beginning and intermediate Rust programmers.

    • Announcing eu.pythonanywhere.com
    • Create Your First Python Web Crawler Using Scrapy
    • Test and Code: 64: Practicing Programming
    • Return the first capital character of a name
    • QMO: Firefox 66 Beta 8 Testday, February 15th

      We are happy to let you know that Friday, February 15th, we are organizing Firefox 66 Beta 8 Testday. We’ll be focusing our testing on: Storage Access API/Cookie Restrictions.

      Check out the detailed instructions via this etherpad.

    • Which programming languages should you learn?
    • Nice launcher for i3wm: xlunch
    • Creating a dark mode theme using CSS Custom Properties
    • Website programming? Pffft, so 2011. Python’s main squeeze is now data science, apparently
    • 7 steps for hunting down Python code bugs
    • Telegram Redken bot and amazon/discounts/bargains unification
    • The Funniest Incident Postmortem

      Recently, I had a chance to think about an outage that I debugged and fixed a few years ago that involves Jenkins and systemd (or in this case lack thereof!).

      [...]

      Let me preface this by stating and this happened due to a combination of factors that I don’t expect to repeat. We were using an old version of Jenkins on an old version of CentOS. This means, it was still using init scripts and not systemd. The init file is just a shell script.

      If you didn’t already know, SSH tends to forward your LANG information to the environment you connect to and force that environment to be similar to your current locale. I use en_US, but my French sysadmin colleague uses fr_FR locale. Which mean if I connect to a server, I would have English errors messages and if he did, he would have French ones.

      When my colleague restarted Jenkins on that fateful day, his environment leaked into the Jenkins init script possibly due to a bug. Voila! Jenkins now speaks French. This meant my clean up didn’t work anymore. Instead of “Building Remotely” we had “Construction à distance“. Obviously, all the jobs failed.

Leftovers

  • Reliable system was so reliable, no one noticed its licence had expired… until it was too late

    It’s the end of the working week – for most of us. Time to kick back, brew a morning cuppa and delve into this week’s On Call, our weekly readers’ column of tech traumas.

    This time, we meet “Ted”, who tells us about a time he worked for an outsourcer in a government department that got into a pickle over licensing for a very old piece of kit.

    “One of its core processes was a long serving scan and optical character recognition [OCR] program using a CDE interface running on propriety Unix servers fed by Windows work stations and other hardware,” he said.

    The hardware, firmware and OS were all unpatched and out of date – “to avoid the risks of changes breaking something”, Ted revealed.

    For years, the software had been scheduled for decommissioning – it was “always only six months away”.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Laura N. Vandenberg: It’s time to talk about cancer prevention — and the role of the environment

      In his 2019 State of the Union address on Tuesday night, President Trump called for $500 million over the next 10 years to fund research on childhood cancers.

      Such funding is crucial to continue tackling the devastating disease. However, missing from the State of the Union—and most other conversations about tackling cancer—is a focus on prevention, specifically the need to research, understand and communicate the role environmental exposures play in cancer risk.

      The numbers on cancer incidence and deaths are complex. Although childhood cancer mortality rates have dropped considerably from the 1960s, data from the American Cancer Society shows that incidence rates have increased 0.6 percent per year since 1975.

      In this way, childhood cancers are like several others. Between 2005 and 2014, yearly cancer incidence rates rose for several types: thyroid cancer by 4 percent; invasive breast cancer by 0.3 percent in black women; leukemia by 1.6 percent; liver cancer by 3 percent; oral and pharynx cancers by 1 percent in Caucasians; pancreatic cancer by 1 percent in Caucasians; colon cancer by 1.4 percent in individuals younger than 55 years of age; rectal cancer by 2.4 percent in individuals younger than 55; and melanoma by 3 percent in individuals aged 50 and older.

      While these cancer rates have increased, overall rates of cancer deaths have started to fall. In fact, since the 1990s, improved detection and treatment, as well as decreased smoking rates, have contributed to significant reductions in cancer mortality.

      Reduced deaths from cancer are a great public health victory. These statistics prove that public health interventions like educational programs designed to curb smoking can have dramatic effects.

      They also suggest that investments in improved detection and diagnosis are money well spent. A focus on treatments has also improved quality of life for cancer patients and their likelihood of remission.

      But where is the call for better cancer prevention? As rates of numerous cancers continue to rise, the failure to identify the causes of cancer remains a disappointment for public health officials and researchers alike.

      We know that environmental factors can contribute to cancer risk. Some, like smoking, are avoidable. Others are lifestyle factors that people can change like drinking less alcohol, decreasing consumption of processed meats, using protection from the sun, and increasing exercise.

    • SCOTUS Blocks Anti-Abortion Louisiana Law

      We are relieved this unconstitutional law will not go into effect tomorrow. This will allow those who had their state-mandated, medically-unnecessary ultrasound today and are waiting out their state-mandated, medically-unnecessary 24-hour waiting period to access their abortion care tomorrow as planned. Unfortunately, this relief is only temporary.

      If Louisiana’s law is allowed to stand it will have an impact far beyond Louisiana. 1) As women from LA are forced to leave the state for health care, they will create a burden on facilities in nearby states — including Texas where an identical law was ruled unconstitutional only two years ago — and on the women who already depend on those sites which will become overburdened; 2) The overturning of established precedent in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt puts at risk decisions based on that ruling which have overturned other medically unnecessary TRAP laws; and 3) If the Supreme Court allows this law to stand, blatantly denying its own recent precedent, it throws into disarray the whole system of judicial review and leaves everyone wondering when, if ever, they can rely on the rulings of the Court.

    • After Dissent in Louisiana Abortion Case, Warnings That ‘Kavanaugh Has Declared War on Roe v. Wade’

      While reproductive rights advocates expressed relief on Thursday after the Supreme Court temporarily blocked an extreme Louisiana anti-abortion law that could have left the state with just one doctor authorized to perform the procedure, legal experts and women’s groups warned that Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s dissent in the case confirmed fears that he is dead-set on overturning Roe v. Wade.

      “Kavanaugh has declared war on Roe v. Wade,” wrote Slate legal affairs journalist Mark Joseph Stern after the high court’s 5-4 decision, in which Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s liberal justices in voting to block the law, while Kavanaugh sided with Justices Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito in voting for the law’s implementation.

      In a four-page dissent (pdf) that Stern described as “absurd” and “astoundingly dishonest,” Kavanaugh brushed aside a 2016 Supreme Court ruling that declared a similar Texas law unconstitutional, and highlighted Louisiana’s promise that it would not “move aggressively” to enforce the harsh abortion restrictions as a reason they should be allowed to move forward.

      “The most astounding aspect of Kavanaugh’s dissent is its credulous belief in Louisiana’s ostensible benevolence toward abortion clinics,” Stern wrote. The entire state of Louisiana has just three abortion clinics.

    • Former editor at Russian state news agency says she was forced to resign after her investigative report linked contaminated school lunches to ‘Putin’s chef’

      Journalist Darya Burlakova says she completed an investigative report for TASS about food services in Moscow’s public schools and kindergartens, but the Russian state news agency refused to publish the text because it mentioned Evgeny Prigozhin and his catering company “Concord.”

      The independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta later agreed to publish Burlakova’s report, but her supervisors at TASS told her she would need to resign, she says, if her name appeared in the byline. “When I refused to deal in ultimatums and asked not to be bothered with further unlawful job requirements, I was soon invited in an altogether different tone to terminate our cooperation voluntarily on terms that suited me,” Burlakova explained in a blog post published on Ekho Moskvy’s website, adding that she stepped down as an editor at TASS in January 2019.

      In the report published by Novaya Gazeta on February 8, Burlakova describes how Prigozhin’s firms got into the business of catering Moscow’s public schools and kindergartens. Students’ parents have criticized the meals provided by Prigozhin’s companies, calling it “inflight food” that’s prepared remotely and reheated at the schools. Parents also say there is a lack of alternatives for students with food allergies and lactose intolerance.

    • Despite Promises of ACA, Study Shows Two-Thirds of Personal Bankruptcies Still Caused by Illness and Medical Bills

      A new study shows how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has failed to solve one of the major crises in the American for-profit health insurance system that it was supposed to help eradicate: bankruptcies related to high medical bills and other healthcare-related costs.

      The Consumer Bankruptcy Project (CBP) examined 910 bankruptcies that were filed between 2013 and 2016 and found that, similarly to before the ACA was passed in 2010, 66.5 percent of the bankruptcies were brought about by medical bills families were unable to afford or income loss due to illnesses.

    • Rand Paul: The Fairweather Libertarian

      When it comes to single-payer healthcare systems and tort reform, the Senator from Kentucky has a funny way of sticking to his guns

      [...]

      Two contemporary stories about Senator Rand Paul (R- KY) illustrate the disconnect between one’s ideology and personal experiences. Imagine a fierce opponent of regulation being saved in a crash by government-mandated seat belts and air bags and the ensuing cognitive dissonance.

      In the case of Rand Paul, MD (ophthalmology) the two experiences came almost at the same time. Last month Senator Paul went to the Shouldice Hernia Centre, the world famous hernia repair institution located just outside of Toronto, Ontario.

      Before he departed for his surgery, some in the media recollected his virulent opposition to any government health insurance programs, including Medicare and Obamacare.

    • Everybody Wants ‘Medicare for All’—Except Our Leaders

      The health care debate in the United States has shifted dramatically over the past ten years. When newly elected President Barack Obama came to power in 2009 he grappled with reforming the broken health care system, eventually adopting an approach that had been championed by conservatives to craft the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. During the debates over a law that eventually earned the moniker Obamacare, the closest that Congress and the president came to universal health care coverage was the “public option.” Ultimately, that too was compromised away as Republicans howled over so-called “death panels” and government intrusions into personal health decisions before Obamacare was passed into law. Then came the relentless attacks, both verbal and legal, on the resulting legislation, with Republicans continuously whittling away at the modest reforms.

      Today, right-wing media outlets seem to have moved past denouncing Obamacare to their new obsession against “Medicare for all.” Most Americans know Medicare as a government-run health program for seniors. The name Medicare for all is therefore self-explanatory and quite attractive to anyone who has grappled with unaffordable co-pays and deductibles, rising premiums, narrowly defined coverage or no health insurance at all. So it shouldn’t surprise us that right-wing media wants to kill the conversation before it even starts.

      The basic premise of the right-wing argument against Medicare for all is “How can we possibly afford it?” For example, Fox News saw fit in its coverage of Medicare for all to remark that, “Critics point to the soaring cost of implementing it—something numerous studies put well into the trillions.” Another right-wing media outlet, the Washington Examiner, published an op-ed titled “The real cost of ‘Medicare for all,’ “in which author Tiana Lowe painted a dystopian picture of how “moving to single-payer would kill people” with “Soviet-style shortages of providers” whose effects would “reverberate across the country.” To Lowe, our current system works just fine the way it is, and is in fact “[t]he most productive, innovative, and charitable healthcare system in the world.”

    • Nothing Short of Medicare for All in 2020

      A federal judge’s ruling last week striking down the Affordable Care Act has evoked a nearly uniform response. The decision, everyone notes, is “bananas,” “crazypants,” and unlikely to hold up on appeal in higher courts. Even the ACA-disliking Wall Street Journal editorial board slammed its reasoning; others have called it “lawless,” a “cruel mistake,” and “absurd.”

      They aren’t wrong: the argument they’re skewering contends that by eliminating the financial penalty for not having health insurance coverage, the individual mandate went from being an exercise of taxing power to an exercise of illegal government coercion (even though the only conceivably coercive element to begin with was the tax penalty). According to Judge Reed O’Connor of North Texas, the individual mandate was also not severable from the rest of the health care law — and so when Congress removed the penalty in a bill last year, the body signaled its intent to repeal Obamacare entirely. The idea that Congress could not have possibly intended to leave the rest of the ACA intact while axing one element is contradicted by the fact that that’s exactly what they did.

    • 70 percent of Americans support ‘Medicare for all’ proposal

      Seventy percent said they supported providing “Medicare for all,” also known as single-payer health care, for Americans, according to a new American Barometer survey.

      The poll, conducted by Hill.TV and the HarrisX polling company, found that 42 percent of respondents said they “strongly” supported the proposal, while 28 percent said they “somewhat” supported it.

      Fifteen percent said they “somewhat” opposed the measure, while another 15 percent said they “strongly” opposed it.

      The results mirrored a Reuters-Ipsos poll released in August, which also found that 70 percent of Americans supported “Medicare for all.”

    • 2020 candidates will have to choose a side — the health insurance industry or the people

      The 2020 election cycle has only just begun, and although no single leader has emerged from a pack of democratic contenders — an issue has certainly emerged, right out of the gate, as a standout in the race: Medicare for All.

      If the earliest campaign days are an indication of what’s to come, all candidates are going to have to spend the next two years clearly defining their position: Do they stand on the side of the health insurance industry and continued human suffering? Or do they stand on the side of nurses and everyday people who are demanding real, lifesaving health-care reform?

      Try as elected officials might to pledge allegiance to both corporations and to people, it won’t work that way. Not anymore.

      Our patients’ lives and life savings will either continue being sacrificed—or there will be guaranteed health care as a human right. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has already served as a great example of the fact that there is no workable in between.

    • ‘Everybody In, Nobody Out’: What We Know So Far About the Medicare for All Act of 2019

      Her willingness to take the lead on the Medicare for All Act will come as no surprise: last year she helped to launch the first Medicare for All Caucus in the history of Congress, and, as Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, is helping to prioritize the CPC’s work on single-payer healthcare. She brings an organizing approach and a deep understanding of the power that political momentum brings. She has won commitments from committee chairs to hold actual hearings on the bill and convinced speaker Pelosi to waive the “PayGo” rules as the bill is being marked up.

      Rep. Jayapal’s office is also in the midst of significantly rewriting the legislation, a move that has become necessary as the social movement for Medicare for All has grown, and the details of how it can be accomplished come under growing scrutiny. Bernie Sanders learned this the hard way when, during the 2016 Presidential primaries, he floated the outline of a plan for single-payer healthcare that received intense criticism from his opponents – most of it dishonest and misleading, but made easier by the lack of some details in the original proposal. The new bill not only will be much more detailed, it will also add additional benefits and correct some major shortcomings in both HR 676 and the Senate Bill (S 1804).

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • International Conference for Peace and “World Balance” Supports Venezuela

      lose to 700 conferees from 65 countries convened in Havana, Cuba from January 28-31, for peace and “world balance.” This, the fourth such conference, was dedicated to honoring the ideals of Cuban national hero José Martí who died in 1895 at the age of 42 fighting for independence from colonial Spain. The event was organized by the José Martí Project of International Solidarity, which is sponsored by UNESCO.

      An overarching theme of the conference was the urgency for international solidarity with the democratically elected Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro who is under attack by the US and its minions. Another prominent issue was the struggle to free the unjustly imprisoned former President of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

      The wide-ranging conference addressed the “most pressing issues that have an impact on humanity” from global warming, to feminism, to cyber democracy, to sustainability.Well known personalities from all over the world included Spanish intellectual Ignacio Ramonet, Brazilian liberation theologian Frei Betto, historian of Havana Eusebio Leal, and a representative of the Vatican. Aleida Guevara, daughter of Che, spoke during the panel on solidarity along with Puerto Rican fighter for independence Oscar López Rivera.

      The first plenary session was attended by newly elected Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel and leading members of the Cuban government and Communist Party. They sat on the mainstage without fanfare or even significant security, other than a few unarmed men in guayaberashirts standing in the background; considerably less security, say, than the average US high school student must pass to get to class.

    • Replicating Regime Change Playbook, Pompeo Says US Obligated to ‘Take Down’ Hezbollah in Venezuela

      As a U.S.-backed effort to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro continues, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said late Wednesday that Hezbollah “has active cells” in Venezuela—a claim that was immediately scrutinized and compared with the second Bush administration’s lies to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

      Hezbollah, a political and militant Shi’ite Muslim group based in Lebanon, has been on the U.S. State Department’s “Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations” list since 1997. In the interview with Fox Business, Pompeo, who previously served as President Donald Trump’s CIA director, also charged that Iran and Cuba are strongly influencing the country.

      “The Cubans invaded Venezuela. The Cubans have been controlling the security apparatus, protecting Maduro, and destroying the way of life for the Venezuelan people for an awfully long time,” he said. “People don’t recognize that Hezbollah has active cells—the Iranians are impacting the people of Venezuela and throughout South America. We have an obligation to take down that risk for America.”

    • Is the Longest US War Finally Ending?

      Eighteen years into the longest US war in history, reports are slowly seeping out about a potential ceasefire in Afghanistan. While Taliban influence and control of territory continues to rise — currently somewhere between 50 and 70 percent of Afghanistan — talks in Qatar between US and Taliban representatives are reported to have made some progress.

      Details remain uncertain, and all sides agree nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Taliban sources say that any deal must include the withdrawal of all foreign troops within 18 months. They say there has already been agreement on a prisoner exchange and release, an end to the US-imposed travel ban on some Taliban leaders, and an interim government to be created after a ceasefire. The Taliban agreed that Afghanistan will not be allowed to be used by al-Qaeda or ISIS (also known as Daesh) to attack the United States or its allies.

      The US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, indicated that the agreement must call for an intra-Afghan dialogue between the Taliban and the US-backed Afghan government, and a comprehensive ceasefire. The Taliban, for their part, indicated acceptance of some kind of ceasefire within the deal but no specific timeline, and also said talks with the government in Kabul would come only after a truce takes effect. Little is known about what kind of power-sharing or governance between the Taliban and the current government is under discussion.

      Another round of talks is scheduled in coming weeks, and nothing can be certain about whether any version of the current agreement will ultimately yield an end to the ongoing war that has devastated Afghans and Afghanistan for so long — and which itself followed an almost quarter-century of US-led regional and global conflict fought in Afghanistan from the late 1970s.

    • How We Investigated the Navy’s Twin Disasters in the Pacific

      We set out to reconstruct the accidents in which the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain collided with cargo vessels within a few months of each other in 2017, the deadliest accidents at sea in the Navy in four decades. We sent out a team of reporters to interview scores of current and former sailors, officers and commanders, as well as family members and friends. We conducted dozens of interviews with current and former Navy admirals and senior civilian leaders, including the former secretary of the Navy. We attended courts-martial and military hearings. We spoke with experts in ship construction, maritime law and military justice. Many sources were interviewed multiple times. Interviews were conducted in Japan, Virginia, Maryland, California and Washington, D.C.

      We obtained two confidential reports on the collisions that included more than 13,000 pages of documents, photos and transcripts of sailor interviews. The material included ship logs, disciplinary records and raw data. Navy sources provided emails, internal memos and accounts of private meetings. We also relied on the Navy’s publicly released reports, here, here, here and here, which detailed shortfalls in training, equipment and manpower. We drew upon testimony given by Navy officials to Congress, as well as testimony and motions delivered during courts-martial.

    • Years of Warnings, Then Death and Disaster

      When Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin was elevated to lead the vaunted 7th Fleet in 2015, he expected it to be the pinnacle of his nearly four-decade Navy career. The fleet was the largest and most powerful in the world, and its role as one of America’s great protectors had new urgency. China was expanding into disputed waters. And Kim Jong-un was testing ballistic missiles in North Korea.

      Aucoin was bred on such challenges. As a Navy aviator, he’d led the “Black Aces,” a squadron of F–14 Tomcats that in the late 1990s bombed targets in Kosovo.

      But what he found with the 7th Fleet alarmed and angered him.

      The fleet was short of sailors, and those it had were often poorly trained and worked to exhaustion. Its warships were falling apart, and a bruising, ceaseless pace of operations meant there was little chance to get necessary repairs done. The very top of the Navy was consumed with buying new, more sophisticated ships, even as its sailors struggled to master and hold together those they had. The Pentagon, half a world away, was signing off on requests for ships to carry out more and more missions.

      The risks were obvious, and Aucoin repeatedly warned his superiors about them. During video conferences, he detailed his fleet’s pressing needs and the hazards of not addressing them. He compiled data showing that the unrelenting demands on his ships and sailors were unsustainable. He pleaded with his bosses to acknowledge the vulnerability of the 7th Fleet.

      Aucoin recalled the response: “Crickets.” If he wasn’t ignored, he was put off — told to calm down and get the job done.

    • Trump Withdrawing from Old Wars While Threatening Iran with New One

      While Trump is withdrawing US troops from Syria and Afghanistan, he is ramping up aggression against Iran — acting both less and more hawkish than his intelligence agencies. Trita Parsi says Washington is violating international law in its campaign to isolate and strangle Tehran

    • In Venezuela, White Supremacy Is a Key Driver of the Coup

      On January 23, right after a phone call from Donald Trump, Juan Guaidó, former speaker of Venezuela’s National Assembly, declared himself president. No voting. When you have official recognition from The Donald, who needs elections?

      Say what?

      I can explain what’s going on in Venezuela in photos.

    • Investigative journalists link third Salisbury attack suspect to poisoning of Bulgarian arms dealer

      Investigative journalists at The Insider and Bellingcat have released another joint report this time about a third suspect in the March 2018 nerve-agent attack on former Russian military intelligence (GRU) agent Sergey Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. The evidence reportedly points to a man named “Sergey Fedotov” who apparently works for Russian intelligence. Several years before the Salisbury incident, Fedotov allegedly tried to poison Bulgarian arms dealer Emelyan Gebrev using a Novichok-class nerve agent.

      The St. Petersburg news outlet Fontanka first reported Fedotov’s name in October 2018. On February 6, 2019, The Telegraph’s sources confirmed his involvement in the Salisbury attack. The Insider and Bellingcat say “Sergey Fedotov” is a cover name, and his invented patronymic is “Vyacheslavovich.”

      The journalists say Fedotov received his agent identity in 2010, like the two known Salisbury attack suspects, “Alexander Petrov” and “Ruslan Boshirov,” whom The Insider and Bellingcat say are really GRU officers Anatoly Chepiga and Alexander Mishkin, respectively. Fedotov then traveled extensively throughout Europe and Central Asia. According to Fontanka, he was in Prague in 2014 at the same time as Chepiga and Mishkin, and in London in 2018, when the Skripals were poisoned. The Telegraph’s sources also claim that Fedotov was in Great Britain on the day of the nerve-agent attack. He had a plane ticket to leave the country on the same flight as Chepiga and Mishkin, but for some reason he never boarded the aircraft.

    • The Great Con of American Patriotism

      American soldiers born decades apart in the state of New York, Ron Kovic and Maj. Danny Sjursen, are two crucial dissenting voices that have experienced firsthand the futility and brutality of America’s interventionist wars. Kovic, a marine veteran who was paralyzed in the Vietnam war, has spent the rest of his life fighting against the U.S. war machine. The film “Born on the Fourth of July,” starring Tom Cruise, was based on his book, works he’d hoped would combine with his activism to dissuade young people from buying into the toxic patriotism that leads Americans to fight destructive, ultimately pointless wars.

      In the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” Kovic tells Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer, “I couldn’t stop speaking against that war. I was arrested a dozen times. I—every single day was life and death. Every single day I know that there could be another young man like Ron Kovic being paralyzed, another young man from a town or a farm somewhere in this country, being killed in that war that had to stop.”

      Yet Sjursen, who says he watched the film based on Kovic’s life before he was even of age to join the military, explains he sadly wasn’t able to hear past what he calls the “faux patriotism” that pushed him to attend the West Point Military Academy, as well as do tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      “I think the fact that I didn’t learn the lessons from Ron Kovic’s story,” Sjursen laments, “[is] proof of the power of the masculinity that is associated with military service, and this notion of nationalism and patriotism. It’s so prevalent that it’s, in some ways, if it’s not fought every day … it will continue despite the lessons before us.”

      Sjursen also reflects on the shame he feels for having led soldiers to their deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan long after he “no longer had any faith in the wars.”

    • Don’t Expect Rulers of Nuclear-Armed Nations to Accept Nuclear Disarmament―Unless They’re Pushed to Do So

      At the beginning of February 2019, the two leading nuclear powers took an official step toward resumption of the nuclear arms race. On February 1, the U.S. government, charging Russian violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, announced that it would pull out of the agreement and develop new intermediate-range missiles banned by it. The following day, Russian President Vladimir Putin suspended his government’s observance of the treaty, claiming that this was done as a “symmetrical” response to the U.S. action and that Russia would develop nuclear weapons outlawed by the agreement.

      In this fashion, the 1987 Soviet-American INF Treaty―which had eliminated thousands of destabilizing nuclear weapons, set the course for future nuclear disarmament agreements between the two nuclear superpowers, and paved the way for an end to the Cold War―was formally dispensed with.

      Actually, the scrapping of the treaty should not have come as a surprise. After all, the rulers of nations, especially “the great powers,” are rarely interested in limiting their access to powerful weapons of war, including nuclear weapons. Indeed, they usually favor weapons buildups by their own nation and, thus, end up in immensely dangerous and expensive arms races with other nations.

      Donald Trump exemplifies this embrace of nuclear weapons. During his presidential campaign, he made the bizarre claim that the 7,000-weapon U.S. nuclear arsenal “doesn’t work,” and promised to restore it to its full glory. Shortly after his election, Trump tweeted: “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability.” The following day, with his customary insouciance, he remarked simply: “Let it be an arms race.”

      Naturally, as president, he has been a keen supporter of a $1.7 trillion refurbishment of the entire U.S. nuclear weapons complex, including the building of new nuclear weapons. Nor has he hesitated to brag about U.S. nuclear prowess. In connection with his war of words with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Trump boasted: “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his.”

      Russian leaders, too, though not as overtly provocative, have been impatient to build new nuclear weapons. As early as 2007, Putin complained to top-level U.S. officials that only Russia and the United States were covered by the INF Treaty; therefore, unless other nations were brought into the agreement, “it will be difficult for us to keep within the [treaty] framework.” The following year, Sergey Ivanov, the Russian defense minister, publicly bemoaned the INF agreement, observing that intermediate-range nuclear weapons “would be quite useful for us” against China.

    • Ricardo Hausmann Is Taking Milton Friedman’s Lessons to Venezuela

      For a few years now, there has been a tendency to compare Donald Trump to Richard Nixon, but the more urgent comparison in the face of the Venezuelan crisis is one between two well-pedigreed economists: Milton Friedman and Ricardo Hausmann.

      Under Nixon’s reign, Milton Friedman was the “intellectual” who started to gain excessive power. Friedman was a trained economist, earning a doctorate at Columbia University, with teaching and research stints at the Universities of Chicago and Stanford.

      And under Trump, we have another trained economist: Ricardo Hausmann. He received his doctorate from Cornell University and is the director for the Center of International Development at Harvard University.

      For years now, Ricardo Hausmann has been suggesting that the solution for Venezuela’s socialist “crisis” is a U.S. invasion or “intervention.”

    • Death and Disappearance: Inside the World of Privatized War

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

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

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

      [...]

      These firms were hired to protect assets, not to engage in fighting. But as a company called Blackwater demonstrated when its guards shot 14 civilians dead in a Baghdad square in 2007, the lines can easily blur in a war zone. After the Blackwater scandal, the industry and its government clients scrambled to introduce voluntary professional standards. Soon, the US was winding down its presence in Iraq, and public concern about the ‘privatisation of war’ faded.

      The private security industry, however, did not go away – it evolved. Some firms were consolidated into larger entities through a process of buyouts and mergers. Many changed their focus to more discreet and profitable areas like cyber security and intelligence. Others carried on servicing the market for so-called hard security services, which got a boost from new government clients like China, Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates. The usefulness of contractors as a low-profile way of waging war was meanwhile noticed in other countries like Russia, where new firms started to grow.

      “It has grown more organic and wild, like an untended garden”
      There are still no binding regulations on the sector, though. There is not even an agreed definition of what a private military or security company is. Experts struggle to estimate the industry’s annual earnings, so it’s hard to say how much it has expanded. “It has grown more organic and wild, like an untended garden,” said Sean McFate, a former private military contractor who has written a book on the sector. “The industry has grown up and the US has gone away and stopped paying attention. It’s crazy now – Vegas meets military action.”

    • Mike Pompeo Claims Terror Threat as Cause for US Action in Venezuela

      “The Cubans invaded Venezuela. The Cubans have been controlling the security apparatus, protecting Maduro and destroying the way of life for the Venezuelan people for an awfully long time,” Pompeo explained to Regan.

      He added, “Today we tried to deliver humanitarian assistance from… the United States and Colombia into Venezuela and the Venezuelan military under the direction of Mr. Maduro stopped that. This is horrific stuff.”

      Pompeo has emerged as a controversial figure among Democrats for a previous declaration he has made to a Fox News host.

      Last month Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., criticized Pompeo for telling Fox News host Sean Hannity that there is a “risk that we have terrorists comes across that border.” In response, the New Jersey Democrat referred to the State Department’s 2017 Country Reports on Terrorism released in September, which said that “at year’s end there was no credible evidence indicating that international terrorist groups have established bases in Mexico, worked with Mexican drug cartels, or sent operatives via Mexico into the United States.” He also pointed out that U. S. Customs and Border Protection had only arrested six people who were “known or suspected terrorists” in the first half of 2018, “less than one percent of the inflated figure used by Trump Administration officials.”

      The crisis in Venezuela has also attracted attention from the left, particularly because of accusations that it was orchestrated by the United States.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Breeding the ‘Snot Otter’

      More colloquially these massive amphibians have a few more colorful sobriquets, including “mud devil,” “snot otter,” “Allegheny alligator” and even “old lasagna sides.”

      But if they could talk, some of the Ozark hellbenders living at Saint Louis Zoo might call each other by different names: Mom and Dad.

      Saint Louis Zoo is the only institution in the world that’s breeding Ozark hellbenders, and they’re doing it well. Since 2011 their program’s parent hellbenders have laid more than 6,500 eggs that have resulted in the births of more than 5,100 tiny hellbender hatchlings.

    • Campaign to Defend Mexico’s Sacred Lake Changes Global Activism

      An extraordinary event has occurred in the heart of Mexico with little attention from global mainstream media. The ancient Lake Texcoco has been a site of cultural, economic and physical conflict for more than 500 years. Its most recent battle is between the Mexican government and a coalition of citizens resisting the construction of a vast, $13 billion mega-airport on the outskirts of Mexico City.

      Mexico City’s New International Airport, known as NAICM for its Spanish abbreviation, was projected to increase flights up to 125 million passengers a year by 2062 in a country where only about 30 percent of the population has ever flown. The most directly affected community is the largely Indigenous farming population in the area of Atenco (which means “by the edge of the water” in Nahuatl), whose livelihood and culture depends on the local ecology.

      The community of Atenco has brought attention to the destruction of the sacred wetlands, the displacement of tens of thousands of Indigenous peoples and rural farmers, and the theft of communal land through nefarious land grabs.

      The Mexican government and corporations’ ground-laying work alone, initiated without due process or consultation, has caused dozens of illegal open-air mines to extract tezontle (a type of rock common in the area) to fill the lakebed, the habitat destruction of more than 250 species of birds, and the drying out of nine healthy rivers and a major ecological reserve.

      In the face of overwhelming odds and a strong, coordinated capital-government complex, the community of Atenco found a way to shift the dominant public narrative and win the battle, stopping the construction of Latin America’s largest megaproject. Moreover, the Mexican government has recently announced that it will consider transforming the proposed airport site into a public park, an ecological and symbolic win for the community and country at large.

    • Energy from greenhouse gases is possible

      Researchers have found ways to realise a modern version of the medieval alchemists’ dream – not turning base metals into gold, but conjuring energy from greenhouse gases, exploiting abundant pollutants to help to power the world.

      Korean scientists have developed a sophisticated fuel cell that consumes carbon dioxide and produces electricity and hydrogen – potentially another fuel – at the same time.

      Researchers based in the US and Spain have devised a nanoscale fabric that converts electromagnetic waves into electrical current.

    • With Major Party Backing, Ocasio-Cortez and Markey Unveil Green New Deal Outlining ‘WWII Scale Transformation’

      With the early support of at least 60 House Democrats and major 2020 Democratic presidential contenders—including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.)—the resolutions calls for a “national mobilization” to build “resiliency against climate change-related disasters” and “achieve 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources” within the next ten years.

      “This resolution outlines a plan to launch a WWII scale transformation of our economy, including a just transition for workers and frontline communities, and moving to 100 percent clean and renewable energy by 2030,” declared the youth-led Sunrise Movement, which launched a petition calling on members of Congress to back the measure.

    • The Four Most Thought-provoking Environmental Books Coming in February

      Let’s start with the big one: The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells. The book lays out a pretty tough scenario, asking if the current extent of climate change means we’re already doomed. If the title and premise sound familiar, that’s because this is an expanded, book-length extrapolation of the author’s bleak, widely read and controversial New York Magazine article from 2017. Both the book and the article present a worst-case climate change scenario — warming and sea-level rise are just the start of the chaos to come, writes Wallace-Wells — and the book serves as a fright-fest and a call to action.

      If you want to know more about taking action, or about climate change in general, try The Thinking Person’s Guide to Climate Change by Robert Henson. This second edition of Henson’s classic book lays out the science of climate change, illustrates how we know what we know, talks about the debates in politics, and lays out a series of solutions for people, politicians and companies. The previous edition of this book, by the meteorologist-turned-journalist, is considered a must-read in many circles.

    • Imagine Being Homeless During the Polar Vortex

      It was noon one recent Saturday in Northern Michigan, and temperatures were 30 degrees below 0.
      Winter storm warnings were blaring about the necessity of staying indoors, with dire reminders of the lethal consequences for being outside. People had 10 minutes at best before frostbite set in, they warned.
      I logged onto Facebook and saw many posts reminding folks to bring pets inside — “if you’re cold, they’re cold.” I love animals, but I couldn’t help remembering that an awful lot of humans needed shelter too.
      I decided to conduct an informal study to see what it would be like to find shelter in Traverse City, Michigan, a largely white and affluent town near my own.
      I’ve known what it’s like to be without a home of my own, and I’ve seen others I love struggle with chronic homelessness. Several years ago, a woman I loved died alone in her Traverse City storage locker.
      With her on my mind, I called the permanent homeless shelter there and was informed that there were no openings. They had a “very, very long waiting list,” the receptionist told me. She didn’t take my contact information.
      When I asked for other options, she told me there was a warming shelter that opened at 6:00 pm. Was the shelter going to make people stand outside before they opened, like they usually do? She didn’t know.

    • UK’s Met Office Warns Global Temperature Could Soar Beyond 1.5°C Threshold Within Five Years

      As NASA on Wednesday confirmed that the past five years have been the hottest on record, the United Kingdom’s national weather service warned that the next five years could see global average surface temperature temporarily surpass the end-of-the-century target of the Paris climate agreement.

      The Met Office forecasts that the average for 2019 to 2023 will likely be between 1.03°C and 1.57°C above pre-industrial levels, fluctuating each year depending on variations in human activities that produce greenhouse gas emissions as well as natural phenomena such as La Ninã and El Niño.

      The global average reached 1.0°C for the first time in 2015, “and the following three years have all remained close to this level,” Adam Scaife, head of long-range prediction at the Met Office, noted in a statement. If that trend continues as expected, the decade from 2014 could be “warmest in more than 150 years of records.”

    • Welcoming a Green New Day

      This week, two key committees held their first climate change hearings of the 116th Congress. Today, the Green New Deal was introduced. The 116th Congress is turning belated and much-needed attention to the existential threat climate change poses to our families, communities, lands and wildlife, our nation, and the future.

      For the first time in over a decade, we can see a path forward toward meaningful and just climate policies.

      Late in 2018, the world’s top climate scientists presented the planet with a dire prediction. Based on the best data, and the best science, we have a little over a decade to transition away from fossil fuels and keep global warming below 1.5C maximum. Any warming above this threshold will cause more droughts, more food insecurity, more extreme heat, more super storms. Even a half degree above 1.5C could mean life or death for millions of people. Because the threat is so severe and so near, past policy proposals to deal with the problem, even from last decade, may no longer do enough, quickly enough, to prevent catastrophic climate change.

    • ‘This Is What Hope Feels Like’: Green New Deal Resolution Hailed as ‘Watershed Moment’ for New Era of Climate Action

      After years of congressional inaction and minor policy tweaks that failed to address runaway global warming with the urgency and ambition the science demands, experts and advocacy groups representing millions of Americans hailed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey’s (D-Mass.) Green New Deal rollout on Thursday as a “watershed moment” in the fight against the climate crisis that—with enough grassroots mobilization—could usher in a bold new era of action.

      [...]

      “Senator Markey and Representative Ocasio-Cortez are telling the truth about what it will actually take to prevent climate catastrophe—a WWII-scale climate mobilization that eliminates greenhouse gas emissions in 10 years and draws down excess [greenhouse gases] from the atmosphere,” said Margaret Klein Salamon, executive director of The Climate Mobilization.

      “We will continue to fight to protect humanity and the natural world by telling the truth about the climate emergency and addressing it at the speed and scale required,” Salamon added.

      While environmentalists were overwhelmingly supportive of the path-breaking Green New Deal resolution, they also pointed out—as Ocasio-Cortez herself acknowledged during Thursday’s press conference—that it is just an initial step that must be built upon and improved.

      In particular, green groups expressed concern that the resolution does not mention the words “fossil fuels,” even as scientific research makes clear that continued oil and gas extraction in the U.S. threatens to undermine global efforts to drastically slash carbon emissions before it’s too late.

    • The Green New Deal is what our planet has been waiting for

      Since she took office in January, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) Green New Deal initiative has generated much popular excitement. It’s no surprise since it is the single most ambitious and potentially transformative national project since Franklin Roosevelt’s original New Deal and World War II mobilizations of the early-mid-20th century.

      The Green New Deal is animated by two great ambitions.

      It is “Green” in its aim to modernize and decarbonize the U.S. economy. It’s focused on stopping the poisoning of our environment, subsidizing decaying infrastructure and sacrificing poor and working class communities to false wealth that benefits only a few.

      It is a “New Deal” in its working on a scale not seen since the New Deal of the 1930s — an historic national reconstruction that put scores of millions of Americans back into productive and high-paying jobs and transformed our economy into the greatest engine of production and broadly shared prosperity the world had ever known.

    • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Edward Markey Release ‘Green New Deal’ Bill

      The earth is at risk for a climate crisis as early as 2040 according to a 2018 report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That includes, as Coral Davenport explained in The New York Times, “worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs.” Amid this barrage of frightening news, advocates and lawmakers demanded solutions. They floated an ambitious “Green New Deal”; a set of policies designed to lower carbon emissions, reduce the use of fossil fuels, incentivize renewable energy and create jobs in the process.

      Now, as NPR reports Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., have introduced a bill they hope will be the first legislative step in taking the Green New Deal from a slogan into reality.

      The bill doesn’t set a specific date for eliminating fossil fuels, but does, as Lisa Friedman and Glenn Thrush write in The New York Times, “call for generating 100 percent of electricity through renewable sources like wind and solar in the next 10 years, eliminating greenhouse emissions in manufacturing and forestry ‘as much as is technologically feasible,’ and re-engineering cars and trucks to end climate pollution.”

    • Are Investors Finally Waking up to North America’s Fracked Gas Crisis?

      The fracked gas industry’s long borrowing binge may finally be hitting a hard reality: paying back investors.

      Enabled by rising debt, shale companies have been achieving record fracked oil and gas production, while promising investors a big future payoff. But over a decade into the “fracking miracle,” investors are showing signs they’re worried that payoff will never come — and as a result, loans are drying up.

  • Finance

    • The Venezuela Myth Keeping Us From Transforming Our Economy

      Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is getting significant media attention these days, after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview that it should “be a larger part of our conversation” when it comes to funding the “Green New Deal.” According to MMT, the government can spend what it needs without worrying about deficits. MMT expert and Bernie Sanders adviser professor Stephanie Kelton says the government actually creates money when it spends. The real limit on spending is not an artificially imposed debt ceiling but a lack of labor and materials to do the work, leading to generalized price inflation. Only when that real ceiling is hit does the money need to be taxed back, but even then it’s not to fund government spending. Instead, it’s needed to shrink the money supply in an economy that has run out of resources to put the extra money to work.

      Predictably, critics have been quick to rebut, calling the trend to endorse MMT “disturbing” and “a joke that’s not funny.” In a Feb. 1 post on the Daily Reckoning, Brian Maher darkly envisioned Bernie Sanders getting elected in 2020 and implementing “Quantitative Easing for the People” based on MMT theories. To debunk the notion that governments can just “print the money” to solve their economic problems, he raised the specter of Venezuela, where “money” is everywhere but bare essentials are out of reach for many, the storefronts are empty, unemployment is at 33 percent and inflation is predicted to hit 1 million percent by the end of the year.

    • Charter Schools Are Pushing Public Education to the Breaking Point

      When striking Los Angeles teachers won their demand to call for a halt to charter school expansions in California, they set off a domino effect, and now teachers in other large urban districts are making the same demand.

      Unchecked charter school growth is also bleeding into 2020 election campaigns. Recently, New York magazine columnist Jonathan Chait berated Democratic Massachusetts Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren for having opposed a ballot initiative in her home state in 2016 that would have raised a cap on the number of charter schools. “There may be no state in America that can more clearly showcase the clear success of charter schools than [Massachusetts],” declared Chait.

      But while Chait and other charter school fans claim Massachusetts as a charter school model, the deeper reality is that charters are driving Boston’s public education system to the financial brink.

      [...]

      As charter schools suck students and their per-pupil funding from the public system, the impact on Boston’s schools are glaring: “Decades-old buildings plagued by leaks. Drinking fountains shut because of lead pipe contamination. Persistent shortages of guidance counselors, nurses, psychologists, textbooks—even soap in the bathrooms. All the while, many Boston schools are under state pressure to increase their standardized test scores and graduation rates.”

      As funds for Boston schools dwindle due to the drain from charter schools, the district’s alternatives are painful any way you look at it.

      Closing schools is not a good alternative. First, it would have minimal impact on savings to the district. Also, school closures can significantly set back the academic achievement of students, particularly those students who transfer to new schools. The negative effects are most apt to be experienced in low-income communities and communities of color.

    • America Is Already Socialist, And That’s a Good Thing

      During Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech, many of the old, white, Republican Senators and Representatives must have gotten more exercise than in weeks, jumping to their feet to applaud almost every sentence of the endless rhetoric.

      One of the moments that got the loudest applause was Trump’s attempt to blame progressive Democrats for the problems of the current Venezuelan government, proclaiming the U.S. “will never be a socialist country” to a loud standing ovation from Republicans (and too many Democrats) and chants of “USA, USA, USA.”

      Like so much of Trump’s speech, the statement was false. I have news for the Donald: The United States—like every other country with an advanced economy, such as the U.K., Germany, France, and Japan—is already a partly socialist country, with a mixed economy and many government programs that serve the public good.

      By this defintion, Social Security is a “socialist” program: it’s a government-run pension system that cuts out private money managers. Medicare – a single-payer, government-run health insurance program for those over 65 – is too. Medicare-For-All would simply extend this to the rest of the population.

    • Brexit Is Hell, but It’s Not Politicians Who’ll Suffer Most

      “I’ve been wondering what the special place in hell looks like for those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan of how to carry it out safely,” said European Council President Donald Tusk on Wednesday, causing an uproar in the U.K. that was likely heard all the way across the North Sea in Brussels. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker piled on the drama with a restating of the religiously-charged word, saying his job at the E.U. currently is “hell.”

      While Tusk and Juncker suffering through the seemingly never-ending negotiations with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and her government can hardly be described as hell, I’ll tell you about a few people this ill-fated political game is actually hell for: the E.U. nationals living in the U.K. and the Brits living in E.U. member states whose futures are hanging in the hands of these incompetent politicians; the Brits with diabetes who fear they may not be able to get the insulin they need if negotiations fail; and let’s not forget the 1.7 million people that will likely be plunged into extreme poverty in nations like Cambodia thanks to Brexit.

      The list goes on and on. As the looming March 29 deadline for the U.K. to officially leave the E.U. gets closer, a deep panic is setting in throughout Europe. At this point, it’s almost impossible to keep track of all the times May has rushed to Brussels to renegotiate with E.U. officials—in fact, she’s there as I write this—only to return home with a plan that is almost identical to her vastly unpopular deal. It’s the very same deal that was voted down in U.K. parliament just last month, earning May the ignominious milestone of having suffered the biggest loss a PM has experienced in modern British history. You know, the deal that nearly lost the prime minister her job twice now.

      [...]

      Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, as well as his “shadow” Brexit minister, Keir Starmer, have both made staying in a customs union an essential part of their alternative proposal. Both have also reiterated several times the Party’s intention to stay close to the single market, with Corbyn laying out both points as requirements for Labour backing any deal May makes Wednesday.

      [...]

      Even though Tusk has recently told May—probably to her dismay—that he thinks Corbyn’s alternative plan represents a “promising way out” of the apparent Brexit mess, Labour is caught in a tricky place between its “remain” and “leave” constituents as well as its membership and members of Parliament. On Thursday, Starmer reassured the membership, a big chunk of which has been pushing for a second referendum, that Labour hadn’t yet ruled it out, despite trying to negotiate with May.

    • Ocasio-Cortez Not Fazed by Can ‘Democratic Socialism’ and ‘Capitalism’ Coexist Question

      Fresh off an introduction of a historic resolution on the Green New Deal, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) on Thursday evening did not have a problem grappling with the question over whether the ideologies of democratic socialism and capitalism can coexist, saying she is not one who thinks in simplistic terms about the nature of the economy but believes the most important thing is the power and voice that workers enjoy within businesses and beyond.

      “Can you be a democratic socialist and a capitalist?” asked MSNBC’s Chuck Todd in an one-on-one interview.

      Without falling for the binary gotcha format of the question, Ocasio-Cortez responded, “Well, I think it depends on your interpretation. So there are some democratic socialists that would say, ‘Absolutly not.’ There are other people who are democratic socialists that would say, ‘I think it’s possible.’”

      Asked which camp she fell into, Ocasio-Cortez said, “I think it’s possible.”

      “Do you say, ‘I’m a capitalist, but…’?” asked Todd.

      “I don’t say that,” Ocasio-Cortez quickly shot back. “If anything, I would say, ‘I believe in a democratic economy, but…’” With a smile she added, “But, the ‘but’ is there.”

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Trump Has Bigger Legal Problems Than Mueller

      Way back in May of 2018, I ruminated upon the idea that, for his own sake at least, Donald Trump really shouldn’t have run for president. “No one cared about his tax returns before the campaign,” I argued. “His lawyers weren’t coughing up file cabinets filled with all the dirty deeds done dirt cheap over the years, and it didn’t cost people 500 grand in legal fees to be his friend.”

      What was true nine months ago is now almost aggressively axiomatic. Trump’s five-front war in 2018 — against the Robert Mueller investigation, the news media, his own attorney general and Justice Department, an adult film actress, and the entire intelligence community — has exploded in the intervening months into a self-replicating pan-dimensional legal confrontation that appears destined to last well beyond his presidency.

      A lot of folks seem to have forgotten about Trump’s mysteriously unavailable tax returns. It’s that, or the issue itself was subsumed by the avalanche of mayhem that is the president’s daily fare. The administration went from lying about it (“I can’t release them; I’m being audited,” was demonstrably false) to flat-out stonewalling the matter. Anyone asking to see them now is invited to take a long walk off a short pier, but that bit of legerdemain may be coming to a close.

      See, the good folks over on the majority side of the House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, have not forgotten. They intend to deploy a little-known law that allows the committee to gain access to the tax returns of any US citizen they choose, and they have chosen Donald Trump. Once the returns are in hand, a majority vote by the committee will release them to the entire House, and from there, one assumes, to the world.

      “The things in Trump’s past are appalling enough,” writes Paul Waldman for The Washington Post, “but it’s his current debts and business interests that we really need to understand. Trump himself obviously can’t be relied on to inform us of any conflicts of interest he might have; just look at how often he lied about Russia, claiming to have no business interests there when in fact during the campaign he was pursuing a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow that could have netted him hundreds of millions of dollars.”

    • With Sweeping New Probe and Hearing on Presidential Tax Returns, House Dems Take Aim at Trump’s Hidden Finances

      A month after taking control of the U.S. House, Democrats are taking steps to hold President Donald Trump accountable for his past financial dealings, with two House committees beginning investigations that they hope will result in the release of Trump’s tax returns.

      A House Ways and Means subcommittee will hold its first hearing Thursday on a portion of H.R. 1, the Democrats’ ethics reform bill, which demands that all presidential and vice presidential nominees from a major political party release 10 years of tax returns in order to shed light on any financial conflicts of interest including foreign investments.

    • 2020 moderates have a credibility problem

      Moderate Democrats, both at the presidential level and below, are facing a quandary. All the activist energy and ideas are on the left, with policies like Medicare-for-all, a Green New Deal, a child allowance, and so on. In the main, most moderates or former moderates — like Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Joe Biden, and so on — have expressed sympathy with lefty goals, but argued that less aggressive policy goals could be just as good. As Jon Lovett argued on a recent Pod Save America episode, “It doesn’t make you less liberal” to favor preserving private health insurance, so long as it leads to a similarly good outcome.

      The problem with this reasoning can be summed up in a single word: credibility. It could be the case that moderates simply think less aggressive programs are better politics and policy. Or it could be they are lying.

      Here’s an example of the danger I’m talking about. Ryan Grim at The Intercept reported Tuesday that immediately after the 2018 election, Nancy Pelosi’s top health-care policy guy, Wendell Primus, gave a presentation to Blue Cross Blue Shield executives where he “assured them that party leadership had strong reservations about single-payer health care and was more focused on lowering drug prices[.]” Democrats are in favor of universal coverage, but see strengthening ObamaCare as the best way to do it, he reportedly told them. He reportedly “said that Democrats would be allies to the insurance industry in the fight against single-payer health care.”

    • Whitaker Committee Testimony Uncertain Amid Subpoena Threat

      An expected congressional appearance by Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker was thrown into uncertainty Thursday after House Democrats threatened to subpoena his testimony about the special counsel’s Russia investigation.

      The back-and-forth between the Justice Department and the House Judiciary Committee raised questions about whether and under what conditions Whitaker, likely in his final days as the country’s chief law enforcement officer, would appear Friday before the House Judiciary Committee.

      Whitaker’s testimony has been highly anticipated by Democrats eager to press him on his interactions with President Donald Trump and his oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.

    • ‘This Needs to Happen Nationally’: Ohio City Ditches Columbus Day to Make Election Day Paid Holiday

      A poll released last Election Day by The Hill and HarrisX found that most respondents were in favor of making the day a national holiday. Another survey by Pew Research showed that of Americans who did not vote in the 2016 elections, 14 percent didn’t vote because their schedule didn’t allow them to get to the polls—suggesting that a paid holiday would help many to vote.

    • Like it or not, Mr. President, many Americans embrace democratic socialism

      In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Trump previewed a crisis threatening our nation. Rampant inequality? Nope. Climate change? Nope. Our vulnerability to cyber weapons? Nope. The latest scourge striking terror in the hearts of his “Make America Great Again” supporters is socialism. “Here in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country,” Trump said. “… Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”

      Republicans, and many Democrats, cowed by the Red Scare-rhetoric, rose and clapped.

      That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, socialism is un-American. Sure, polls show 70 percent of Americans support Medicare-for-all, 74 percent support a wealth tax such as the one proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposed 70 percent marginal tax rate finds comfortable majority support. But … socialism! Surely not.

      Trump would have us believe that these are our only two choices: We can either have smash-and-grab capitalism, where so many hands in the cookie jar has resulted in so many government scandals, and where the top 1 percent have more wealth than the bottom 90 percent, or we can have what’s happening in Venezuela, where the economy has collapsed and humanitarian and political crises have ensued.

    • How Mainstream Media Evolved into Corporate Media: A Project Censored History

      Historically the term “mainstream media” referred to the largest media outlets in the United States. Numbering in the hundreds, these newspapers and broadcast media outlets collectively reached a majority of the public. That was certainly the case in 1976 when Carl Jensen founded Project Censored. His concern was that the mainstream press increasingly left out important news stories; and, with Project Censored student researchers, he began to produce annual reports of the most important news stories ignored by the mainstream media. From the original photocopied reports to the first of the Project’s yearbooks published in 1993, Project Censored referred to the US media collectively as the press, mass media, or mainstream media. In the Project’s 20th anniversary yearbook, Carl wrote, “The Censored Yearbook is published annually in response to a growing national demand for news and information not published nor broadcast by the mainstream media in America” [Jensen, “20 Years of Raking Muck, Raising Hell,” in Censored: The News That Didn’t Make the News—and Why (New York: Seven Stories Press, 1996), p. 9].

      In the 1980s two important analyses of how mainstream media was changing in the US transformed the study of media and communications. In 1982, when Ben Bagdikian completed research for his book, The Media Monopoly, he found that fifty corporations controlled at least half of the media business. By December 1986, when he finished revisions for the book’s second edition, the concentration of power had shifted from fifty corporations down to just 29. Bagdikian noted that 98 percent of the nation’s 1,700 daily newspapers were local monopolies, with fewer than fifteen corporations controlling most of the country’s print media.

    • ‘Paging Senator Collins—This Is on You’: Efforts to Oust Maine Republican Intensify After Kavanaugh’s Anti-Abortion Vote

      “Brett Kavanaugh has declared war on Roe, and Susan Collins is the one who made it possible,” Demand Justice director Brian Fallon said. “Even as it was obvious to everyone else that Kavanaugh was a partisan warrior committed to rolling back abortion rights, Collins defended her vote for him by promising that he would follow Supreme Court precedent. It only took four months for Kavanaugh to prove Collins’ promises were a sham.”

      Highlighting new reports that Collins received more donations from Kavanaugh supporters than Mainers in the last quarter of 2018, Fallon declared that the Republican senator “now owns every decision” the right-wing judge makes.

      “We will make sure the people of Maine don’t forget Collins’ vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh,” he concluded.

    • #DefundHate: Progressives Tell Democrats Trump’s Anti-Immigration Agenda ‘Does Not Deserve a Dime’ More

      At a rally on Capitol Hill Thursday, two progressive freshman lawmakers with personal experiences having immigrated to the U.S. were among those demanding that Congress defund the agencies tasked with violating immigrants’ and refugees’ rights.

      “We don’t want money for an institution that is demonizing and criminalizing our immigrant neighbors,” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), whose Palestinian parents immigrated to the U.S., at the protest organized by United We Dream, Indivisible, MoveOn, and other progressive groups. “We don’t want a system that basically has taken away the core values of the American dream.”

      Democratic representatives to not only stand firm in their negotiations with the Republican Party and Trump by refusing to fund a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, but go further by demanding cuts to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

      The groups have called on constituents to call their representatives, asking them also to prevent those agencies from “raiding other accounts, and [demand] a commitment from Trump to not use emergency powers that undermine Congress.”

    • Warnings of Trumpism ‘Forever’ as Senate GOP Rams Through 44 Lifetime Judges in One Day

      Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said the move “disturbingly exemplifies the joint Senate Republican-Trump administration effort to distort our federal judiciary and roll back our civil and human rights.”

      Gupta also accused Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the committee’s chairman, of defying “the committee rules and basic fairness in jamming through more than 40 nominees for lifetime appointments, many of whom have a demonstrated hostility to our rights.”

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • When Colleges Confine Free Speech to a ‘Zone,’ It Isn’t Free

      Arkansas State University’s policy requiring preapproval from the school for protest anywhere on campus violates the First Amendment.
      On certain college campuses, administrators have created “Free Speech Zones” — spaces where people are allowed to speak, protest, or gather signatures for causes they believe in. While it may sound like these zones are designed to promote speech, they actually do the opposite by confining political expression to designated areas, often in out-of-the-way locations on campus.

      That’s why this week, in a legal challenge to Arkansas State University’s “Free Expression Areas” policy, we filed a friend-of-the-court brief along with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education arguing that such rules violate the First Amendment.

      A university’s job is to teach students how to be contributing members of society, not to stifle expression. And our brief — which we filed on behalf of Peace & Love, a student group at Arkansas State University devoted to promoting harmony and understanding through random acts of kindness — aims to make sure that administrators don’t forget that.

      The First Amendment firmly protects speech in public areas such as streets and parks. This is just as true on the campuses of public colleges — and for good reason. Our history is filled with examples of student demonstrations that have raised awareness about crucial issues in our society, from protesting the Vietnam War to opposing apartheid in South Africa to standing up for the rights of sexual assault survivors.

      Notwithstanding the importance of public speech and protest, the government can constitutionally impose rules to limit when, where, and how people speak in public forums — but only if the rules are clearly defined, narrowly tailored to important government interests, and leave open many other ways through which people can get their message out.

    • The Russian government is planning to isolate the country’s Internet to facilitate censorship and security measures. How is this going to work?

      Russian Senator Andrey Klishas has proposed the Internet isolation plan as an amendment to an existing Russian communications law. His amendment would require all online services that operate in Russia to install specialized equipment that would enable them to block websites banned by the Russian government with greater efficiency. That technology would necessarily make the Russian segment of the World Wide Web independent from the rest of the global network. Klishas and his co-sponsors have justified the bill on the grounds that it would enhance Russia’s ability to withstand external cyberattacks.

    • Russian journalist charged with ‘justifying terrorism’ for a single phrase she used on the air

      Officials searched the residence of Radio Liberty correspondent Svetlana Prokopyeva on February 6. The searches followed charges brought under Article 205 of Russia’s criminal code: prosecutors accused Prokopyeva of “justifying terrorism.” Those charges stemmed from a statement the journalist made on the radio station Echo of Moscow in Pskov regarding an October 2018 attack on the local Federal Security Service (FSB) headquarters in the northern city of Arkhangelsk. Prokopyeva said “the government itself raised” a generation of citizens that decided to struggle against it. Article 205 carries a fine of up to one million rubles ($15,160) or a prison sentence of up to seven years.

    • On Eve Of Lego Movie 2 Release, WIPO Acts To Block Pirated Version

      On 7 February, WIPO issued a decision against a ripoff site called “the-legomovie.com” which as of press time still was live on the Web with links offering free access to the first and and not-yet-released second film. The domain name was transferred to the complainant, Lego.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Wireless Carriers Busted Sharing User 911 Location Data

      Recent scandals involving companies like Securus and LocationSmart made it clear that cellular carriers are collecting and selling an ocean of user location data without any meaningful oversight. Several reports have highlighted how that data is then being routinely abused by everybody from ethically dubious local Sheriffs to bounty hunters. Subsequent investigations have shown how easy it is for bounty hunters and others to access this data, and how the FCC under several administrations has failed utterly to hold cellular carriers and data brokers accountable for any of it.

      This week, Motherboard exposed another location data scandal with a report highlighting how cellular carriers are also selling private user A-GPS data with companies that aren’t supposed to have access to it. A-GPS, or assisted GPS, involves using a device’s onboard GPS chip as well as cellular network data to more quickly and precisely determine a user’s location. Wireless industry filings with the government indicate this data can pinpoint a user’s location indoors up to 50 meters; more precisely if a device’s MAC and Bluetooth data are also utilized.

    • Did the National Enquirer blackmail Amazon’s Jeff Bezos to Protect the Saudi Crown Prince?

      And Spencer Ackerman had reported on Pecker’s strange move to put a pro-Saudi glossy magazine in grocery store check out lanes in spring of 2018. It is as though he thought American housewives would thrill to the soap opera in Riyadh, where the Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr.-Hyde crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman had in summer of 2017 sidelined his rival Mohammed Bin Nayef, dethroning him as crown prince and greedily taking his place, before he kidnapped many in the Saudi elite to shake them down for $100 bn while imprisoning them in the Ritz Carlton. Days of Our Lives had nothing on the Saudis.

      In short, there is every reason to believe that Pecker is entangled with the Saudi royal court of King Salman, perhaps, as Bezos alleges, in search of investment opportunities.

      One question I have long had is whether investigators looking at the Russian element in the election of Trump are not unduly downplaying a United Arab Emirates and Saudi angle. That is, did those two oil monarchies help put Trump in power in the first place, and is there a prehistory to their entanglements with his circle?

    • Jeff Bezos Claims National Enquirer Is Threatening To Release His Nudes

      Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, via a long post on Medium, has accused the National Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc. (aka AMI), of blackmail and extortion.

      The post (going by the name “No thank you, Mr. Pecker”) suggests that AMI is threatening Bezos to leak his personal and nude images if he doesn’t publically make a statement implying AMI doesn’t have politically influenced or motivated coverage.

    • Microsoft to update Office Pro Plus after Dutch ministry questions privacy

      Microsoft and the Dutch justice ministry agreed on the changes as part of an “improvement plan” with an April deadline. A ministry spokesman told POLITICO that if Microsoft’s responses proved “unsatisfactory,” the ministry could raise the concerns with European data protection authorities for further action that could include “enforcement measures.”

    • German Data Protection Authority Says GDPR Requires Email To Use At Least Transport Layer Encryption

      As Techdirt has reported, the EU’s GDPR legislation certainly has its problems. But whatever you think of it as a privacy framework, there’s no denying its importance and global reach. That makes a recent ruling by a data protection authority in Germany of wider interest than the local nature of the decision might suggest. As Carlo Pilz reports in his post examining the case in detail, the Data Protection Authority of North Rhine-Westphalia (Landesbeauftragte für Datenschutz und Informationsfreiheit Nordrhein-Westfalen — LfDI NRW for short) looked at what the GDPR might mean for email — in particular, whether it implied that email should be encrypted in order to protect personal information, and if so, how.

      [...]

      Because of the way GDPR is enforced, it’s worth noting that the opinion of the LfDI NRW does not automatically determine the policies everywhere in the EU. It may influence the thinking elsewhere, but it’s possible that other data protection authorities in the EU might disagree with this interpretation — in which case the Court of Justice of the European Union would be called upon to adjudicate and offer a definitive interpretation. However, at the very least, the LfDI NRW’s position indicates that the GDPR is likely to impact when and how email encryption is deployed by companies operating in the EU, along with all the other areas it touches upon.

    • Australian Government Agencies Already Flexing Their New Encryption-Breaking Powers

      Claiming the nation was beset on all sides by national security threats and rampant criminality, the Australian government hustled an encryption-breaking law through Parliament (and past concerned members of the public) at the end of last year. The law compels companies to break encryption at the drop of a court order to give government agencies access to data and communications they otherwise can’t access.

      Supporters of the law did everything they could to avoid using the term “backdoor,” but backdoors are what they’re expecting. How this will all work in practice is anyone’s guess, as each demand for “exceptional access” will likely collide head-on with quality assurance processes meant to prevent the creation of security flaws in software and hardware. Agencies that want exceptional access will either have to bring a majority of a company’s personnel on board (and hope no one leaks anything to the public) or risk having their “not a backdoor” rejected after the code is submitted for approval.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Pennsylvania Can’t Be a Model for Reform if We Undermine People’s Rights

      Members of the state’s General Assembly should deny ballot access to a “victims’ rights” constitutional amendment that threatens due process.
      Elected officials and corrections administrators in Pennsylvania have been doing a bit of a victory lap after the recent announcement that our state prison population dropped by 1,000 people in 2018. On the heels of the passage of the Clean Slate Act — a new law to automatically seal some people’s criminal records from public view — some have gone so far as to call Pennsylvania “a model” for criminal justice reform.

      But before anyone gets carried away with the idea that the commonwealth suddenly gets it on smart justice, tap the brakes: The legislature is on the verge of granting ballot access to a state constitutional amendment that would undermine the fundamental rights of people who are accused of crimes in pursuit of “victims’ rights.” We all feel sympathy and compassion for people who have been victimized. It’s neither right nor fair that some people are harmed by someone else’s behavior. If the government can create programs to support victims, that’s all the better.

      But the pending constitutional amendment — known as Marsy’s Law and bankrolled by a California billionaire — is a deeply flawed and downright dangerous undercutting of defendants’ rights. Supporters of the proposal say that they want the rights of victims to be equal in the Pennsylvania Constitution to the rights of the accused. Their narrative fails to appreciate why the state constitution includes the provisions it does — and excludes others.

      A person accused of a crime faces the full weight of the state bearing down upon them. The state is attempting to deprive that person of their liberty, possibly even their life. Pennsylvania’s constitutional framers did not want the government to have the power to jail someone without layers of protections. That’s why our principles as a state — and a nation — include due process, a guarantee of counsel, and a presumption of innocence.

      Contrast these with victims’ rights, which arise out of a dispute between two private people. One person’s rights against another person are fundamentally different than a person’s rights against the awesome power of the government. This is why our constitution, which lays out the restrictions on government power, includes defendants’ rights and why victims’ rights are primarily contained in statute.

    • Sheriffs’ Union Boss Says Officers Have No Reason To Do Their Job If They Can’t Score Forfeiture Cash On The Side

      Civil asset forfeiture is an abomination loaded with perverse incentives for law enforcement. Investigations and convictions are too much work. Seizing cash from random motorists or residents is so much easier than legitimate police work. The laws barely governing this practice allow the agency performing the seizure to keep all or most of what’s seized, which has led directly to the widespread abuse we see around us today.

      The practice always has its defenders. Most of those defenders come from the same agencies that are directly profiting from asset forfeiture. They say the expected stuff about fighting the good Drug War — that taking $500 from a random motorist somehow creates a ripple effect felt all the way at the top of the drug distribution chain. Everyone knows they’re full of shit, but there are enough true believers in most state legislatures that the practice remains largely unaltered across the United States.

      But there are some outliers. Some people see the perverse incentives asset forfeiture creates and say perverted cops are the best cops.

    • Border Town in Arizona to Trump: Tear Down This Wall… of ‘Inhuman’ Razor Wire

      It was, in a way, Reaganesque.

      On Wednesday night, the city council of Nogales—an Arizona border town with a population of 20,000 people—unanimously passed a resolution calling for the Trump administration to remove razor wire that covers in near entirety a border wall that passes through its downtown.

      The resolution characterized the installation of the razor wire, recently installed by U.S. Army personnel, as “not only irresponsible but inhuman.”

    • Democrats Speechless as Scandal Engulfs Virginia’s Leaders

      With Virginia’s top three elected officials engulfed in scandal, fellow Democrats were rendered practically speechless, uncertain of how to thread their way through the racial and sexual allegations and their tangled political implications.

      Gov. Ralph Northam’s career was already hanging by a thread over a racist photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook when a woman publicly accused the lieutenant governor of sexually assaulting her 15 years ago, and then the attorney general admitted that he too wore blackface once, as a teenager.

      Everyone in Richmond, it seemed, was waiting Thursday for Virginia’s Legislative Black Caucus to respond to the latest developments. “We’ve got a lot to digest,” the group’s chairman, Del. Lamont Bagby, said Wednesday.

    • Fighting Racism With a Racist in the White House

      The election of Obama did two important things. One, it actually helped to spark interest in Black life and conditions in Black communities for really the first time outside of some social catastrophe.

      Typically, the portrayal of what was happening with African Americans was based around the Katrina disaster or the Los Angeles riots of 1992 or some other horrible thing. But with Obama’s administration, there was the sense that you might need to know something about what racism actually looked like in everyday life.

      The other feature was just what it meant socially for Black people, having been treated as marginal and invisible for so long, to have a Black family in the White House. Even with the frustrations with the Obama administration, that created some kind of relationship to politics and the governing institutions of this country that otherwise didn’t exist.

      Clearly, that’s changed drastically. I think there’s one remaining African American in the Trump administration, and that’s Ben Carson. With the outward displays of racism by the administration, there’s no kind of relationship or connection to governing institutions — in fact, they’re overtly hostile now.

    • Political Scientist: Blackface Is a National Problem & Virginia’s Top Officials Must Step Down

      A reckoning about racism and sexual assault has left Virginia’s government in disarray, with the state’s top three elected officials—all Democrats—facing political crises that threaten to upend their careers and the state’s leadership. The controversy that has enveloped Virginia since Governor Ralph Northam admitted last week to wearing blackface took a shocking turn Wednesday, when Attorney General Mark Herring also admitted to wearing blackface at a college party. Just days prior, Herring—who is second in line for Virginia’s governorship—had called for Governor Northam to resign. The first in line, Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, is also embroiled in scandal after a woman who’s accused him of sexual assault came forward Wednesday with details of the encounter. Governor Northam has refused to step down since a racist photo from his 1984 medical school yearbook page emerged featuring a man wearing blackface posing next to a man wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit. If all three of the Democratic politicians resign, Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox is next in line to become governor. We speak with Khalilah Brown-Dean, an associate professor of political science at Quinnipiac University, who is from Lynchburg, Virginia, and a graduate of the University of Virginia. Her forthcoming book is titled “Identity Politics in the United States.”

    • Jim Crow Jumps into the Game

      The controversial picture shows two guys standing next to each other, holding cans of (most likely) beer. One is dressed up in a Klan hat and robe; the other is smeared in blackface. For reasons that now seem incomprehensible, it was posted on Northam’s own page in the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook. He has publicly denied that he himself is in the picture, but . . . too bad. That’s not enough to make the scandal disappear. The picture’s impact is visceral.

      Should Northam resign because of it? This is a question that instantly pulls me in two directions: yes and no. For now I’ll let it hover as “maybe” and move on to the real story here, which isn’t the governor’s youthful indiscretion or personal morality, but America’s dark, still-buried history: not simply of racism and violence, but of the apple-pie normalcy of it.

      Suddenly it is the normalcy of it that is being clawed into accountability and purged. Consider how much things have changed. Remember Robert Byrd? He was the longest-serving senator in U.S. history and a liberal Democrat. He was also a member, in his younger days, of the Ku Klux Klan — an officer, for God’s sake. He was a Kleagle and an Exalted Cyclops.

      Remember Hugo Black? He was also a liberal Dem, serving for 10 years in the Senate and 34 years on the U.S. Supreme Court. He also joined the Klan in his younger days and never exactly apologized for doing so. “I would have joined any group if it helped get me votes,” he once said, by way of explanation.

    • Will Dems lose Virginia governorship? State’s top three officials embroiled in scandal

      Democrats swept all three statewide races in Virginia in 2017, but all three office-holders are now embroiled in multiple scandals that could result in Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox becoming the commonwealth’s new governor.

      Last week, the conservative news site Big League Politics published a photo from Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook showing two men, one dressed in blackface and the other in a Ku Klux Klan robe, and purporting that one of them was Northam.

      Northam initially apologized, saying he was in the photo. Later he backtracked, denying that he was either of the men pictured. He admitted, however, that he wore blackface on a separate occasion for a Michael Jackson costume in 1984.

      Virtually every Virginia Democrat, and most major figures in the party, called for Northam to resign, a move that would in the normal line of succession elevate Democratic Lt, Gov. Justin Fairfax to the governor’s mansion.

    • A Cruel War on Immigrants

      “Make America Cruel Again.” That’s how journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Shipler has reformulated Donald Trump’s trademark slogan. Shipler’s version is particularly apt when you think about the president’s record over the last two years on refugee resettlement and other humanitarian-related immigration issues.

      President Trump’s border-wall obsession and the political uproar over it have dominated the news, while the alleged dangers of illegal immigrants — whose numbers he wildly exaggerates — have dominated his rhetoric. But the way he’s altered immigration policy affects many more people than just the migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border who are at the center of the wall debate. Many of those currently or potentially harmed by his actions are not outside the law, but are in the United States legally, some with permanent residence status and others on a temporary or provisional basis. Many more, including tens of thousands of refugees who would be eligible for resettlement, are seeking entry or lawful residence through normal immigration procedures, not trying to sneak into the country.

      Among those lawfully here who have been affected by Trump’s policies are nearly three-quarters of a million “Dreamers.” Brought here illegally by their parents, they have qualified to remain under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Those young people have spent well over a year not knowing if they will lose that protection under the current administration, despite strong public support and bipartisan political approval of the program’s premise that it would be inhumane and unfair to penalize young people because of their parents’ actions.

      Another 250,000 people face possible deportation if the administration wins its legal battle to terminate their temporary protected status (TPS), which allows those who have been displaced by natural or manmade disasters in their countries to remain in the United States. If it weren’t for court rulings blocking both the enforcement of a presidential order to end DACA and a series of directives from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ending TPS for recipients from specific countries, a large majority of the one million people in those two categories would lose their legal status between now and September.

    • Meet Victorina Morales, an Undocumented Immigrant Who Spent Five Years as Trump’s Housekeeper

      Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey is calling on the FBI and Department of Homeland Security to investigate whether employees at Trump National Golf Club broke the law by helping undocumented employees obtain fake work papers amid news reports that the Trump company has fired at least 18 undocumented workers from five golf courses in New York and New Jersey in the past two months. On Monday, Menendez called on the federal government to allow former undocumented employees of the Trump properties to remain in the country while the investigation proceeds. We speak with an undocumented housekeeper from Guatemala named Victorina Morales, who helped expose what was happening on the Trump properties by speaking on the record to The New York Times. Morales spent years making Donald Trump’s bed and performing other duties at his New Jersey club, even though she was undocumented. She attended the State of the Union as a guest of Democratic Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey. We speak with Morales, Watson Coleman and Morales’s lawyer, Anibal Romero.

    • New feminist ad campaign by Reebok Russia features cunnilingus joke that’s promptly deleted

      On February 7, the Russian branch of the footwear and apparel company Reebok unveiled its new advertising campaign. Titled “Ni v kakie ramki” (Out of Control), the promotion is intended to “dispel myths about traditional male and female professions.” The ads are modeled on the English-language “Be More Human” campaign, which focuses on “strong women.”

      Reebok’s Russian ads feature European wrestling champion Anzhelika Pilyaeva, mixed martial artist Justyna Graczyk, and Zalina Marshenkulova, the co-creator of the feminist Telegram channel Zhenskaya Vlast (Woman Power). On social media, Reebok shared several photos and videos showing the women talk about how they have succeeded in life, despite gender stereotypes.

    • Trump Pushes an Anti-Abortion Agenda Abroad While Paying Lip Service to Women’s Empowerment

      President Trump, during Tuesday’s State of the Union, announced, with few details, that the administration would be “launching the first ever government-wide initiative focused on economic empowerment for women in developing countries.”

      But while we share the goal of empowering women in developing countries, the overall health and socioeconomic wellbeing of women and girls depend in no small part on the availability of evidence-based health care services and information.

      The administration has adopted a dangerous and politicized approach to the health and rights of the very women it now offers to empower, using U.S. aid for global health initiatives as a way to limit medical services to women that do not align with its political views.

    • You’re Killing Us: On Love, Grief, Rage, Action and Dead Baby Jokes

      We’re still seething from the moment in Wednesday’s House gun control hearing when GOP Florida douchebag, Trump fan and drunk driver Rep. Matt Gaetz started blathering the greatest danger facing us isn’t our insane arsenal of firearms but “illegal aliens” – 786th note to racist jackasses: no human is illegal – and we need a wall to be safe not these no-brainer background checks the vast majority of Americans, in fact, support. This, at the first legislative gathering to address gun violence in over eight years – attended by all 24 Democrats and five of 17 Repubs – even though there’s a shooting nine out of ten days in America affecting about 100 people a day, with nearly 40,000 Americans dying from guns in 2017, a 40 year-high. Despite that all-American carnage, Republicans kept spewing garbage denials; they were topped by Gaetz jabbering “the greatest driver of violence (was) not the firearm,” so yeah, go wall.

      Gaetz’ prompted outrage in the roomful of young March For Our Lives activists, and in two outspoken fathers of Parkland victims – Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was killed, and Manuel Oliver, who lost his 17-year-old son Joaquin, known as “Guac.” When Oliver stood and shouted back, Gaetz issued his appalling ejection threat. Oliver, of course, has seen much, much worse. A 51-year-old Venezuelan immigrant and graphic artist, he has spent the year since his son’s murder engulfed in grief, anger, and a fierce never-again resolve to turn his loss into change, using the power of art to advocate for “a new generation of dead kids.” He has painted scores of murals, held die-ins, testified often in D.C., and organized voter registration drives – “Just Fucking Vote.” In all, “I’m being as rebellious as democracy is letting me be.”

    • Following Hunger Strike, Corcoran Prisoners Say Negotiations With Warden Have Fallen Apart

      Hundreds of California prisoners, who led a hunger strike against an oppressive and months-long lockdown, suspended their protest following negotiations with the warden and the fulfillment of two of their six demands.

      But advocates for the incarcerated say negotiations may now be falling apart, and the hunger strikers are contemplating their next move.

      Over 250 people incarcerated in the “3C Unit” at the state prison in Corcoran, California, joined the hunger strike after living under lockdown conditions since September 2018.

    • Meet Fellow Worker Gritty, the Anti-Fascist Mascot

      “Non-binary leftist icon?” Absolutely. While the official Flyers’ Gritty has dodged questions about politics, the magic of memes has made it clear that “Gritty is antifa,” and no amount of grumbling at the Wall Street Journal is going to change that. As the anarchist writers with the CrimethInc. Collective recently noted, “On the level of meme warfare, the anti-fascist Gritty supplanted the alt-right Pepe the Frog as the most recognizable politicized cartoon character. This is a hard-won victory — if a weird one.”

    • ICE detainees on hunger strike are being force-fed, just like Guantánamo detainees before them

      U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, is force-feeding nine detainees who are on a hunger strike at a detention center in El Paso, Texas.

      The protesters are mostly from India and are being held in ICE custody while their asylum or immigration cases are processed. Since the beginning of the year, they have been protesting their detainment and mistreatment by guards who they allege have threatened them with deportation and withheld information about their cases, according to the detainees’ lawyers.

      In mid-January, a federal court ordered ICE to force-feed the strikers. An ICE official stated: “For their health and safety, ICE closely monitors the food and water intake of those detainees identified as being on a hunger strike.” ICE policy states that the agency authorizes “involuntary medical treatment” if a detainee’s health is threatened by hunger striking.

      [...]

      The strike overwhelmed camp commanders. In December 2005, they called in help from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which had previously authorized force-feeding. The consultants observed as strikers were force-fed twice a day and recommended using the emergency restraint chair, a “padded cell on wheels.”

      That requires strapping detainees down onto the chair, making it easier for guards to insert and remove a feeding tube. Detainees referred to it as the “execution chair.” This had the desired effect on the prisoners: Only a handful continued the hunger strike and it was over by February 2006. The camp ordered 20 more chairs.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Apple Helps AT&T Mislead Consumers With Fake 5G

      Last month we noted how AT&T had pissed off competitors and consumers alike by pretending its existing fourth generation wireless network (4G) was actually 5G. More specifically, AT&T has been changing the “4G” icon on its customers phones to say “5G E,” despite the fact that actual 5G service at scale is still probably several years away. Technically, AT&T simply took some of the improvements it recently added to its 4G networks (like better MIMO antennas and more efficient 256 QAM technologies), and decided to call this “5G Evolution” in a bid to pretend it was the first to launch actual 5G.

      Over-hyping your product’s capabilities and availability isn’t a particularly bright idea, since you’re only associating your brand and the 5G standard with disappointment.

    • A Deeper Look At Verizon’s Early 5G ‘Launch’ Finds It’s Barely Available

      Wireless carriers haven’t quite gotten the message that their relentless hype surrounding 5G may result in consumers being more annoyed than excited, potentially undermining the entire point.

      While 5G is certainly going to be a good thing in that it will provide faster, more resilient connectivity, we’ve discussed at length how the talk about a “race to 5G” is largely just marketing nonsense pushed by cell carriers and network hardware vendors. As are claims that 5G is going to fundamentally transform the universe in some mystical capacity (like this piece claiming 5G will soon have us all working four day workweeks). 5G is good in that it will provide lower latency, faster connections, but it should be seen more as a modest evolution than some kind of dramatic revolution.

      From claims that 5G will magically build the smart cities of tomorrow to lobbying org proclamations of 5G as a job creator, 5G is routinely heralded as something far grander than it actually is by industry. Much of this is tactical; carriers have been using 5G for several years now as a carrot on a stick for gullible regulators, informing them that unless they do everything the industry wants (like, say, gut all meaningful government authority over predatory natural monopolies), the United States will be the laughing stock of the world.

    • ‘Same BS From Big Cable Funded Politicians’: Alarm Bells Over ‘Deceptive’ GOP Bills Designed to Destroy Net Neutrality

      Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) has introduced a bill that claims its aim is “to amend Title I of the Communications Act of 1934 to provide for internet openness, and for other purposes,” and Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Greg Walden (R-Ore.) have announced plans to put forth similar proposals.

      Although the drafts of their bills are not yet available, activists and reporters are taking cues from their voting records and public statements, including what they said during a House Communications and Technology subcommittee hearing on Thursday.

      Free Press general counsel Matt Wood told Gizmodo that “despite what the new House minority claims, none of these bills would safeguard net neutrality or internet users’ rights.” Instead, he warned, they would “undermine the FCC’s ability to protect people online by removing broadband and wireless companies from nearly all agency oversight.”

      “This is just more of the same BS from Big Cable funded politicians,” declared Fight for the Future’s Evan Greer. “They’re intentionally trying to confuse the public and derail real efforts to restore net neutrality by pushing weaksauce legislation that would undermine the open Internet while claiming to save it.”

    • Lack Of Internet Access Threatens 2020 Census Success And The Future Latino Voting Power

      American elections are threatened by more than just Russian hacking; the lack of internet access for the growing Latino population undermines our democracy thanks to a shift to online counting for the 2020 census.

      Russian agents have and can again hack algorithms and voting systems — but it matters little in the grand scheme of things if Latinos (the largest minority group in the U.S.) are blocked from participating in the election process before they even get to the voting booth. Without home internet access, the online 2020 census will be another modern civic duty millions of American Latinos won’t have the luxury of participating in, and Congress needs to do something about it.

      In 2015, 44 percent of Latinos did not have a broadband connection at home. Connecting to the internet is essential to participate in the 21st century economy. Without internet access, Latinos are shut out from many government benefits and responsibilities — including the 2020 census. With so many Latinos on the wrong side of the digital divide, the census moving online could cause a domino effect for policies that rely heavily on census data — like drawing voting districts.

    • Real Net Neutrality Is More Than a Ban on Blocking, Throttling, and Paid Prioritization

      The majority of Americans support net neutrality protections. Based on the comments in the most recent Congressional hearing on net neutrality, you could come away with the idea that most of Congress and most of the giant Internet Service Providers do, too. But if you read between the lines, what we really heard today was a definition of net neutrality designed to leave loopholes for companies to slither through.

      When we talk about net neutrality protections, we often talk about the explicit bans on blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization. Those three terms got a lot of play at the hearing in the House. But net neutrality is not just those three things.

    • Mozilla Heads to Capitol Hill to Defend Net Neutrality

      Today Denelle Dixon, Mozilla COO, had the honor of testifying on behalf of Mozilla before a packed United States House of Representatives Energy & Commerce Telecommunications Subcommittee in support of our ongoing fight for net neutrality. It was clear: net neutrality principles are broadly embraced, even in partisan Washington.

      Our work to restore net neutrality is driven by our mission to build a better, healthier internet that puts users first. And we believe that net neutrality is fundamental to preserving an open internet that creates room for new businesses and new ideas to emerge and flourish, and where internet users can choose freely the companies, products, and services that put their interests first.

    • The Death of the Internet

      The feature story that follows was originally published in 1997.

  • DRM

    • Steam Responds To Epic’s Competition By Weaponizing The Steam Community

      Despite the occasional criticism over how it communicates to the public, I’ve generally been a fan of Valve’s Steam platform. Valve’s not perfect, of course, but the company has generally tried to make Steam a place that is friendly to both major publishers and indies, all while taking steps that have been quite good for the average gamer as well, especially when it comes to policing games and reviews to ensure everything is on the up and up. It’s probably for this reason that Steam hasn’t had to endure much in the way of competition for some time. Yes, GOG.com exists, but the two game stores generally cater to different audiences and for different reasons.

      Well, if you’re someone who pays attention to the games industry, you will already know that Epic Games has made a great deal of noise by pushing its own online marketplace to compete with Steam. Coverage of Epic’s platform peaked this past week, when Epic managed to lure the latest iteration of the Metro game franchise to being an Epic exclusive for a year, even after pre-orders were available for the game on Steam’s store for the past several weeks.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Swedish Patents and Market Court of Appeal finds request for blocking injunction against ISP disproportionate

      Last year, the Swedish Patent and Market Court – by way of an interim request – was asked to issue an injunction against Swedish internet service provider (ISP) Telia to block access to the likes of The Pirate Bay, Dreamfilm, Nyafilmer, Fmovies, and several other related proxies and mirror sites [here].

      Following the request, the Patent and Market Court held that Telia was liable as an accessory and ordered it to block access to the above-mentioned sites [here].

      Telia appealed to the Swedish Patents and Market Court of Appeal, which this week found that the request for a blocking injunction was disproportionate. The decision cannot be appealed and is therefore final.

      Several issues were raised in the appeal by both Telia and the rightholders. This posts aims to provide an overview of the proportionality principle and the fundamental freedoms, which played a significant role in the assessment of this request for preliminary injunction.

    • Pre-Grant Opposition Filed Against Janssen’s Bedaquiline Fumarate Application In India

      Nandita Venkatesan and Phumeza Tisile – both Tuberculosis survivors, have now jointly filed a pre-grant opposition under Section 25(1) of the Patents Act, 1970 against this ‘1220 Application. Indian patent law allows any person to file a pre-grant opposition to a patent application. Such person would, for instance, include patients, civil society and pharmaceutical companies. This Opposition filed at the Mumbai Patent Office, argues multiple legal grounds against the patentability of ‘1220 and it also brings to light a potentially disturbing aspect of patenting.

    • USPTO Releases Performance and Accountability Report for FY 2018

      The Report also notes that the number of applications filed decreased from 650,350 in FY 2017 to 643,349 in FY 2018, which constituted a 1.1% decrease in filings (see Table 1 below).

    • Copyrights

      • Fix the Gaping Hole at the Heart of Article 13: Users’ Rights

        The Article 13 cliffhanger continues. Disagreements between France and Germany over exemptions from the requirement to use upload filters halted progress on finalising the new legislation, and offered hope Article 13’s deep damage to the Internet might be avoided at the last minute. But the two countries appear to have reached a compromise that is arguably worse than the original text. It implies that in practice, even the smallest sites will be forced to seek licences, and accept whatever terms are offered to them. This is a recipe for even more abuse from the copyright industry, and will drive digital startups away from the EU.

      • That German-French Deal to “Rescue” the EU Copyright Directive? Everyone Hates It. EVERYONE.

        This week started with a terrifying bang, when German and French negotiators announced a deal to revive the worst parts of the new EU Copyright Directive though a compromise on “Article 13,” which requires copyright filters for any online service that allows the public to communicate.

        The Franco-German “compromise” was truly awful: German politicians, worried about a backlash at home, had insisted on some cosmetic, useless exemptions for small businesses; French negotiators were unwilling to consider even these symbolic nods towards fairness and consideration for free speech, competition, and privacy.

        The deal they brokered narrowed the proposed German exemptions to such a degree that they’d be virtually impossible to use, meaning that every EU-based forum for online communications would have to find millions and millions to pay for filters — and subject their users to arbitrary algorithmic censorship as well as censorship through deliberate abuse of the system — or go out of business.

        Now that a few days have passed, European individuals, businesses, lobby groups and governments have weighed in on the proposal and everyone hates it.

      • Copyright Holders Still Don’t Support EU’s Already Awful Upload Filter Proposal; Demand It Be Made Worse

        As we discussed, over the weekend, France and Germany agreed to a deal to get the EU Copyright Directive moving forward again, specifically around Article 13. The problem was that the “deal” made Article 13 ridiculously bad. It removed all safe harbors, except for the tiniest of new internet platforms, and removed any requirement for copyright holders to actually help internet platforms by identifying what was infringing. It was utter nonsense. And, as we noted, even that wasn’t good enough for MEP Axel Voss, the main member of the EU Parliament leading the charge on the EU Copyright Directive. He insisted that no safe harbor for platforms was acceptable at all.

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