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02.13.19

Links 13/2/2019: Tails 3.12.1, MongoDB Being Dumped

Posted in News Roundup at 7:41 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Ways To Contribute Back To Linux Community

    So you’ve been a part of the huge collaborative Linux community and have learned or benefited a lot from them. And now you hear about contributing back some love to the community through various means: developing software, maintaining, documenting, sharing, etc Maybe you are stuck figuring out at which to choose right now. Or have no idea at all where to start.

  • New Ports Bring Linux to Arm Laptops, Android to the Pi

    Like life itself, software wants to be free. In our increasingly open source era, software can more easily disperse into new ecosystems. From open source hackers fearlessly planting the Linux flag on the Sony Playstation back in the aughts to standard Linux apps appearing on Chromebooks and on Android-based Galaxy smartphones (Samsung’s DeX), Linux continues to break down barriers.

    The latest Linux-related ports include an AArch64-Laptops project that enables owners of Windows-equipped Arm laptops and tablets to load Ubuntu. There’s also a Kickstarter project to develop a Raspberry Pi friendly version of Google’s low-end Android 9 Pi Go stack. Even Windows is spreading its wings. A third-party project has released a WoA installer that enables a full Windows 10 image to run on the Pi.

  • Windows ARM Laptops Can Now Run Ubuntu

    A new open source project aims to bring fully functional Ubuntu to ARM Windows 10 laptops, like the HP Envy X2, pictured above.

    A crop of Windows 10 laptops that run atop Qualcomm Snapdragon ARM processors are available from major PC makers.

    Notebooks such as the HP Envy x2 and Asus NovaGo, though novel, and offering crazy-long battery life, have been criticised by users and tech bloggers alike for being slow.

    Poor performance and app incompatibilities around the ‘x86’ emulator Windows 10 for ARM uses have dogged these machines since their launch.

  • Desktop

    • Linux on DeX: Turn Your Samsung into a Computer

      When was the last time you heard of a computer-type experience on a mobile phone? Ubuntu Edge? If you haven’t heard about it yet, Samsung is masterminding housing the power of a whole computer on a mobile phone with Linux on DeX.

      Linux on DeX offers you a portable development environment by enabling you to cast a Linux development environment onto a desktop environment complete with a keyboard, mouse, and monitor anywhere, anytime.

      It requires a Galaxy Note9 or Galaxy Tab S4 running the Linux on DeX app and you can connect your device to a monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse for the full desktop experience.

  • Server

    • Sitting in the Linux Cockpit

      If you haven’t tried the relatively new Linux Cockpit, you might be surprised by all it can do. It’s a user-friendly web-based console that provides some very easy ways to administer Linux systems — through the web. You can monitor system resources, add or remove accounts, monitor system usage, shut down the system and perform quite a few other tasks — all through a very accessible web connection. It’s also very easy to set up and use.

      While many Linux sysadmins spend most of their time on the command line, access to a remote system using a tool like PuTTY doesn’t always provide the most useful command output. Linux Cockpit provides graphs and easy-to-use forms for viewing performance measures and making changes to your systems.

    • Open Outlook: Storage and the Power of the Stack

      The storage landscape has changed considerably over the past few years. We’ve seen the advent of Linux containers as a popular development tool, necessitating new forms of container-native storage solutions. Storage has evolved into software-defined storage (SDS) solutions that can provide consistent storage across on-premise, public and hybrid cloud environments. Hyperconverged infrastructure has emerged as a viable means of supporting both compute and storage.

      Indeed, storage has evolved since Red Hat acquired Gluster and InkTank (Ceph) in 2011 and 2014, respectively. At the time of those acquisitions, Red Hat was looking at the individual power behind both solutions, and how that power could be harnessed to make open source the de facto choice for organizations looking to dip their toes into SDS. In reality, we were laying the groundwork for the software-defined present we find ourselves in today. We were creating the building blocks for an integrated portfolio of solutions with storage as an important part of the puzzle.

    • OpenShift Protects against Nasty Container Exploit

      Red Hat OpenShift has been using Linux process-to-file type enforcement with multi-category security in its container orchestration platform for 8 years. SELinux has been set to enforcing in OpenShift since 2011. Red Hat Openshift Online is a publicly accessible hosted service that thousands of developers log into everyday to launch code as containers. Red Hat OpenShift Online had SELinux turned on from the beginning. How about the version of OpenShift you are running inside of your datacenter? That’s right: Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform has had SELinux turned on by default. And we don’t just mean it’s turned on; we mean it is configured to protect you out of the box against real world threats.

      I’m afraid I don’t know of another Kubernetes-based container orchestration platform that has used this protection method for this long. Unlike other Kubernetes distributions, Red Hat has bridged the gap between Linux and the container orchestration platform on top, enabling Red Hat OpenShift to track and address security issues across the stack, not just in one layer. And we’re able to do this by default, from day one.

    • Red Hat Virtualization 4.3 Beta is available now

      Virtualization is a cornerstone of the data center, providing a platform which organizations can use to more rapidly deploy new servers for applications, or to more confidently host existing applications which are critical to keeping the business operational. A virtualization platform should be a reliable and hardworking stalwart, ready to take on more work when needed.

    • Introducing a New Way to Try Red Hat OpenShift Online Pro

      Red Hat OpenShift Online hosting has been available since 2011, and to date, well over 4 million applications have been launched on OpenShift Online. This service has been available in two tiers: the free Starter plan and the paid Pro plan. Both services offered the same OpenShift experience, with the Starter plan geared toward developers who want to experiment and learn on the platform, and the Pro plan geared toward professional application development and hosting.

      We’re excited to announce that as of today, we’re offering a 30 day free trial of the Red Hat OpenShift Online Pro plan. The trial automatically converts to a fully supported, paying account after the 30 days to prevent any interruptions in service. This offering provides the full professional experience, allowing customers to utilize the full public cloud hosted power of OpenShift Online.

    • IBM Puffs Up Power Iron On Its Public Cloud
    • Big Blue Finally Brings IBM i To Its Own Public Cloud

      Well, that took quite a long time. After what seems like eons of nudging and cajoling and pushing, IBM is making the IBM i operating system and its integrated database management system, as well as the application development tools and other systems software, available on its self-branded IBM Cloud public cloud.

      Big Blue previewed its plans to bring both IBM i and AIX to the IBM Cloud at its annual Think conference in Las Vegas, on scale out machines aimed at small and medium businesses as well as to customers who want to run clusters of machines, and on scale up systems that have NUMA electronics that more tightly cluster them into shared memory systems.

      There are a lot of questions about how this will be all be packaged up and sold under the unwieldy name of the IBM Power Systems Virtual Server on IBM Cloud. But we will tell you all that we know and fill you in as we learn more.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

    • We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Repo | LINUX Unplugged 288

      The hype around a new security flaw hits new levels. Fedora has a bunch of news, and we discover what’s new in the latest Plasma release.

      Plus we fall down the openSUSE rabbit hole when Ell updates us on her desktop challenge.

      Special Guests: Alan Pope, Brent Gervais, Daniel Fore, Ell Marquez, Martin Wimpress, and Neal Gompa.

    • mintCast 302 – New Users, Start Here
    • 5 Linux Mint Issues For Windows Users

      5 Linux Mint Issues For Windows Users. Any Windows user considering the switch to Linux Mint would be wise to consider the following points before taking the leap into a new Linux distribution. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have you join us! But there are issues to consider before switching from Windows over to Linux Mint.

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux Foundation

      • Xen Summit

        The ​Xen Project ​Developer ​and ​Design ​Summit ​brings ​together ​the ​Xen ​Project’s ​community ​of ​developers ​and ​power ​users ​for ​their ​annual ​conference. ​The ​conference ​is ​about ​sharing ​ideas ​and ​the ​latest ​developments, ​sharing ​experience, ​planning, ​collaboration ​and ​above ​all ​to ​have ​fun ​and ​to ​meet ​the ​community ​that ​defines ​the ​Xen ​Project.

      • Linux Foundation Unveils Impressive Speaker Lineup for Open Source Leadership Summit 2019

        The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization enabling mass innovation through open source, today announced the speakers and schedule for Open Source Leadership Summit (OSLS), taking place March 12-14 at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay, Calif.

        The full lineup of sessions can be viewed here, and features speakers from Adobe, Comcast, Fidelity Investments, GitLab, Google, Huawei, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Netflix, Nokia, Red Hat, Uber, Walmart, Wipro, and others.

        An intimate, invitation-only event for Linux Foundation and LF Project members, OSLS gathers technical and business leaders transforming technology across a multitude of industry verticals – financial services, healthcare, software, transportation, telecom and energy to name a few, to share best practices and accelerate open source development and cross-industry collaboration.

      • 6 Key Metrics Driving Growth at the Cloud Native Computing Foundation

        There are a lot of different open-source organizations out there, but none had a bigger year in 2018 than the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) and 2019 looks to be no different.

        The CNCF published its 2018 annual report on Feb. 8 providing an overview of the organization’s activities and growth over the past year. The CNCF itself is part of the Linux Foundation and got its start with a single project in July 2015. That single project the Kubernetes container orchestrations system, is now just one of 31 open-source cloud projects hosted at the CNCF.

        The 31-page CNCF annual report provides all kinds of insight into the operations of the cloud organization, as well reviewing key metrics that define its current and likely future success. In this eWEEK Data Points article, we look at the reasons why the CNCF is growing and how the cloud native movement is poised for success in 2019 and beyond.

    • Graphics Stack

      • VK9 Project Stalls As Developer Leaves To Pursue Other Interests

        While VK9 was the first open-source project to pursue mapping Direct3D over Vulkan, at least for now the project has halted.

        It’s been almost three years that Christopher Schaefer has been near single-handedly working on this project to get Direct3D 9 running over the Vulkan graphics API. While he’s been successful in getting code samples and other bits running from D3D9 over Vulkan, he’s decided to throw in the towel at least for the time being.

      • NVIDIA Video Codec SDK 9.0 Officially Released

        Since the start of December the NVIDIA Video Codec SDK 9.0 update has been available in the company’s early access program while now this SDK with the NVENC/NVDEC APIs has rolled out as stable.

        The NVIDIA Video Codec SDK 9.0 brings some big changes particularly around the Turing GPU support with faster decode, support for higher image quality encoding on H.264/H.265, efficiency enhancements, better CUDA interoperability, and other new capabilities enabled for NVIDIA’s latest graphics processors.

      • AMD_DEBUG Can Now Be Used In Place Of R600_DEBUG For RadeonSI Options

        When setting various debug options for the RadeonSI Gallium3D driver — like enabling its NIR back-end among many other options — that has traditionally been done through the R600_DEBUG= environment variable. But that variable name makes little sense these days since RadeonSI doesn’t even support the now-vintage R600 GPUs. Thankfully, AMD_DEBUG= is now a supported alternative.

        Marek Olšák added the support on Tuesday so the AMD_DEBUG environment variable for RadeonSI can now be used as an alternative to R600_DEBUG — using that environment variable is still supported to keep any scripts, etc, working.

      • mesa 19.0.0-rc3

        Hi List,

        Mesa 19.0-rc3 is now available.

        Due to a bug I discovered in the script that scrapes for stable nominations
        (after uploading the tarball) there is basically nothing in the -rc3 release. As
        a result I’m planning to make a -rc4 tomorrow. You can see the staging/19.0
        branch to see the additional patches present.

        Dylan

      • Mesa 19.0-RC3 Released But It’s A Dud

        The latest weekly release candidate of Mesa 19.0 is now available for testing, but it’s a very petite release due to failing to include all of the latest back-ported patches intended for this release.

      • RadeonSI Picks Up Primitive Culling With Async Compute For Performance Wins

        Prolific open-source AMD Linux driver developer Marek Olšák has sent out his latest big patch series in the name of performance. His new set of 26 patches provide primitive culling with asynchronous compute and at least for workstation workloads yields a big performance uplift.

        The 26 patches allow for using async compute to do primitive culling before the vertex shader process. This work ends up yielding performance improvements for workloads that do a lot of geometry that ends up being invisible. This code is stable and passing nearly all conformance tests while working from GCN 1.1 through Radeon VII.

      • Linux-Firmware Adds Signed NVIDIA Firmware Binaries For Turing’s Type-C Controller

        While we are still waiting on NVIDIA to publish the signed firmware images for Turing GPUs in order to bring-up 3D hardware acceleration on the GeForce RTX 2000 series graphics cards with the open-source Nouveau driver, today they did post the signed firmware image files for their Type-C controller found on these new GPUs.

      • Open-Source NVIDIA “Nouveau” DRM Changes Begin Queuing Ahead Of Linux 5.1

        The Nouveau kernel driver tree where development happens on this open-source NVIDIA DRM driver saw a fresh batch of changes on Tuesday in aiming for new material with Linux 5.1.

        This latest work comes from Red Hat’s Ben Skeggs who continues serving as the Nouveau DRM driver maintainer and often responsible for many of the Nouveau DRM changes himself. There is just more than two dozen changes that landed into the Nouveau kernel repository.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Month of KDE Applications Snaps

        Snaps is a fancy new package format for Linux which allows applications to be shipped which run on pretty much any Linux distro. This nicely solves one of the headaches with shipping software for Linux, that you have to package it a dozen times using a dozen different methods to get anyone to be able to install it.

        The format and host for Snaps is made using Ubuntu and developed by KDE patron Canonical.

        We have been working on building Snaps from the KDE neon builders for some time and they’re now at a quality where we can move them into the stable channel. (Snap software gets hosted in channels depending on the risk you want to take, others being candidate, beta and edge.)

      • What’s new in KDE Plasma 5.15
      • KDE neon on xenial/16.04 EOL

        KDE neon was rebased onto Ubuntu bionic/18.04 last year and upgrades have gone generally smooth. We have removed xenial/16.04 build from our machines (they only hang around for as long as they did because it took a while to move the Snap builds away from them) and the apt repo will remove soon. If you haven’t already upgrade now.

      • Plasma v5.15 Released, NetBSD Switching to GCC v7, Django Announces Important Bug Fix, Xen Project Developer and Design Summit

        The KDE project launched the first stable release of Plasma in 2019 with version 5.15. The release boasts improvements in usability, notifications, eye candy and more.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • 24 Excellent GNOME Extensions (Updated)

        Freedom of choice is a central plank of open source software, and it’s very relevant when choosing and configuring a desktop environment. One of Linux’s best features is its modularity.

        Extensibility relates to the ability to customize a desktop environment to an individual’s preferences and tastes. This flexibility is offered by themes, extensions, and applets.

        GNOME ships with a System Settings tool which isn’t as diverse as some of its peers. There’s still useful options such as a simple way to enable remote access and file sharing. If you’re serious about customizing GNOME, you’ll need the GNOME Tweaks utility. It’s not an official GNOME app, but it offers some advanced tinkering. But when it comes to micro-configuring the GNOME desktop to your preference, Tweaks still leaves us asking for more. Fortunately, there’s an awesome range of extensions that provide additional functionality.

        Here’s our recommended GNOME shell extensions. Most of the extensions are not officially supported by GNOME. But they all take the desktop to the next level, either by adding useful functionality, improving your workflow, or simply offering a touch of panache to the desktop. All the extensions all compatible with the latest release of GNOME. Naturally there’s only open source goodness on offer.

        The extensions are best installed from the gnome-shell extensions website. Some extensions are installed by default with Linux distributions.

  • Distributions

    • Debian Family

      • Gemini NC14 + Debian

        My main machine is a Dell E7240. It’s 5 years old and, while a bit slow sometimes, is generally still capable of doing all I need. However it mostly lives in an E-Port Plus II dock and gets treated like a desktop. As a result I don’t tend to move it around the house; the external monitor has a higher resolution than the internal 1080p and I’m often running things on it where it would be inconvenient to have to suspend it. So I decided I’d look for a basic laptop that could act as a simple terminal and web browser. This seems like an ideal job for a Chromebook, but I wanted a decent resolution screen and all of the cheap Chromebooks were 1366×768.

        Looking around I found the Gemini Devices NC14. This is a Celeron N3350 based device with 4GB RAM and a 14” 1080p LCD. For £180 that seemed like a decent spec, much better than anything else I could see for under £200. Included storage is limited to a 32GB eMMC, with a slot for an m.2 SSD if desired, but as I’m not planning to store anything other than the OS/applications on the device that wasn’t a drawback to me. Box seem to be the only supplier, though they also list on Amazon. I chose Amazon, because that avoided paying extra for shipping to Northern Ireland.

        The laptop comes with just a wall-wart style power supply – there’s no paperwork or anything else in the box. The PSU is a 12V/2A model and the cable is only slightly more than 1m long. However there’s also a USB-C power on the left side of the laptop and it will charge from that; didn’t work with any of my USB-C phone chargers, but worked just fine with my Lenovo laptop charger. The USB-C port does USB, as you’d expect, but surprisingly is also setup for DisplayPort – I plugged in a standard USB-C → HDMI adaptor and it worked perfectly. Additional ports include 2 standard USB 3.0 ports, a mini-HDMI port, a 3.5mm audio jack and a micro SD card slot. The whole device is pretty light too, coming in at about 1.37kg. It feels cheap, but not flimsy – not unreasonable given the price point. The keyboard is ok; not a great amount of travel and slightly offset from what I’m used to on the right hand side (there is a column of home/pgup/pgdn/end to the right of the enter key). The worst aspect is that the power button is a regular key in the top right, so easy to hit when looking for delete. The trackpad is serviceable; the middle button is a little tricky to hit sometimes, but there and useful.

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • It’s Hard to Believe That This is a Screenshot of Ubuntu

            But although the underlying operating system is familiar the rest of what’s on show is made up of unfamiliar, custom code from the hands of Redditor Noah_The_Blob.

            He shared screenshots of his bespoke desktop set-up on the /r/unixporn sub-reddit this week. Here, the world, including me, duly gave him props, upvotes and endless questions about how to recreate the look for ourselves!

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Events

    • Jonathan Dowland: My first FOSDEM

      FOSDEM 2019 was my first FOSDEM. My work reason to attend was to meet many of my new team-mates from the Red Hat OpenJDK team, as well as people from the wider OpenJDK community, and learn a bit about what people are up to. I spent most of the first day entirely in the Free Java room, which was consistently over-full. On Monday I attended an OpenJDK Committer’s meeting hosted by Oracle (despite not — yet — being an OpenJDK source contributor… soon!)

      A sides from work and Java, I thought this would be a great opportunity to catch up with various friends from the Debian community. I didn’t do quite as well as I hoped! By coincidence, I sat on a train next to Ben Hutchings On Friday, I tried to meet up with Steve McIntyre and others (I spotted at least Neil Williams and half a dozen others) for dinner, but alas the restaurant had (literally) nothing on the menu for vegetarians, so I waved and said hello for a mere 5 minutes before moving on.

    • At MWC19 Barcelona 2019, the future is open!

      From open platforms, to open collaboration, to open innovation, more telecommunications service providers (SPs) are looking to open to deliver more services faster, to meet customer expectations, beat out competitors, and excel in the digital era. In a few short days, MWC Barcelona will be underway in Barcelona, giving the industry an opportunity to coalesce and take on new challenges together.

    • First Phase for openSUSE Conference Talks Begins

      openSUSE is pleased to announce the first phase for accepting talks for the openSUSE Conference 2019 (oSC19) has begun.

      A total of 80 talks were submitted during the call for papers, which began in late fall and ended Feb. 4. In total, there were 42 normal talks, two long workshops, four short workshops, 19 short talks and seven lighting talks submitted.

      The review team rated all the submitted abstracts and selected 22 normal talks, two long workshops, four short workshops, 13 short talks and five lighting talks.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Tails 3.12.1 is out

        This release is an emergency release to fix a critical security vulnerability in Firefox.

        It also fixes other security vulnerabilities. You should upgrade as soon as possible.

      • Mozilla to use machine learning to find code bugs before they ship

        In a bid to cut the number of coding errors made in its Firefox browser, Mozilla is deploying Clever-Commit, a machine-learning-driven coding assistant developed in conjunction with game developer Ubisoft.

        Clever-Commit analyzes code changes as developers commit them to the Firefox codebase. It compares them to all the code it has seen before to see if they look similar to code that the system knows to be buggy. If the assistant thinks that a commit looks suspicious, it warns the developer. Presuming its analysis is correct, it means that the bug can be fixed before it gets committed into the source repository. Clever-Commit can even suggest fixes for the bugs that it finds. Initially, Mozilla plans to use Clever-Commit during code reviews, and in time this will expand to other phases of development, too. It works with all three of the languages that Mozilla uses for Firefox: C++, JavaScript, and Rust.

        The tool builds on work by Ubisoft La Forge, Ubisoft’s research lab. Last year, Ubisoft presented the Commit-Assistant, based on research called CLEVER, a system for finding bugs and suggesting fixes. That system found some 60-70 percent of buggy commits, though it also had a false positive rate of 30 percent. Even though this false positive rate is quite high, users of this system nonetheless felt that it was worthwhile, thanks to the time saved when it did correctly identify a bug.

      • Facebook Answers Mozilla’s Call to Deliver Open Ad API Ahead of EU Election

        After calls for increased transparency and accountability from Mozilla and partners in civil society, Facebook announced it would open its Ad Archive API next month. While the details are still limited, this is an important first step to increase transparency of political advertising and help prevent abuse during upcoming elections.

        Facebook’s commitment to make the API publicly available could provide researchers, journalists and other organizations the data necessary to build tools that give people a behind the scenes look at how and why political advertisers target them. It is now important that Facebook follows through on these statements and delivers an open API that gives the public the access it deserves.

        The decision by Facebook comes after months of engagement by the Mozilla Corporation through industry working groups and government initiatives and most recently, an advocacy campaign led by the Mozilla Foundation.

        This week, the Mozilla Foundation was joined by a coalition of technologists, human rights defenders, academics, journalists demanding Facebook take action and deliver on the commitments made to put users first and deliver increased transparency.

        “In the short term, Facebook needs to be vigilant about promoting transparency ahead of and during the EU Parliamentary elections,” said Ashley Boyd, Mozilla’s VP of Advocacy. “Their action — or inaction — can affect elections across more than two dozen countries. In the long term, Facebook needs to sincerely assess the role its technology and policies can play in spreading disinformation and eroding privacy.”

      • ARCore and Arkit, What is under the hood: SLAM (Part 2)

        In our last blog post (part 1), we took a look at how algorithms detect keypoints in camera images. These form the basis of our world tracking and environment recognition. But for Mixed Reality, that alone is not enough. We have to be able to calculate the 3d position in the real world. It is often calculated by the spatial distance between itself and multiple keypoints. This is often called Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM). And this is what is responsible for all the world tracking we see in ARCore/ARKit.

      • This Week in Rust 273
      • Socorro: January 2019 happenings

        Socorro is the crash ingestion pipeline for Mozilla’s products like Firefox. When Firefox crashes, the crash reporter collects data about the crash, generates a crash report, and submits that report to Socorro. Socorro saves the crash report, processes it, and provides an interface for aggregating, searching, and looking at crash reports.

  • LibreOffice

    • New Tabbed Layout Coming On LibreOffice v6.2

      LibreOffice, the most popular open source office suite program is set to feature a new look and feel in the coming v6.2 release, called the tabbed layout. As of now, the current stable version is in v6.1.4 and its default look currently mimics the traditional menu-based GUI and some toolbars.

    • Expensive LibreOffice Extensions And Templates Website?

      I read a time ago about the myth of an expensive LibreOffice extensions and templates website. I investigated about this and had a look at the real numbers (they are public available on the wiki page: https://wiki.documentfoundation.org/TDF/Ledgers). I found some expenses only in two fiscal period: 2017 and 2018. TDF spent in 2017 6399.44 Euro and in 2018 642.60 Euro. The money was predominantly spent for content migration and an improved server environment. It included also an individual training for the TDF infrastructure team.

    • Announcing the dates of LibOCon Almeria

      LibreOffice Conference 2019 will be hosted by the Spanish city of Almeria during the month of September, from September 11 (Wednesday) to September 13 (Friday).

      On Tuesday, September 10, there will be the usual meetings of the community, to discuss topics of general interest for native language projects, such as localization, documentation, quality assurance, design and marketing.

      Collateral events such as the social dinner and the hackfest, which are a tradition of the LibreOffice Schedule, have not yet been scheduled.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

  • Programming/Development

    • snekde — an IDE for snek development

      I had hoped to create a stand-alone development environment on the Arduino, but I’ve run out of room. The current snek image uses 32606 bytes of flash (out of 32768) and 1980 bytes of RAM (out of 2048). I can probably squeeze a few more bytes out, but making enough room for a text editor seems like a stretch.

      As a back-up plan, I’ve written a host-side application that communicates with the Arduino over the serial port.

    • 3 new ways to contribute code to Ansible

      Here are the three ways that have me excited for would-be contributors to the Ansible community.

    • Introducing the Small Scale Scrum framework

      Scrum is a leading candidate for the implementation of Small Scale Agile for many reasons, including its popularity, developers’ preferences, high success rates for scrum adoption and project deliveries, and strong principles and values including focus, courage, openness, commitment, and respect.

      Small Scale Scrum can be best described as “a people-first framework defined by and for small teams (a maximum of three people) and supporting planning, developing, and delivering production-quality software solutions.” The proposed framework centers around the concept of team members occupying multiple roles on any project.

      Small Scale Scrum is valuable due to its strong support for the small, distributed teams found in organizations all over the world. Small teams need new ways to meet customers’ continuously growing expectations for rapid delivery and high quality, and Small Scale Scrum’s guidelines and principles help address this challenge.

    • GCC 8/9 vs. LLVM Clang 7/8 Compiler Performance On AArch64

      With Clang 8.0 due out by month’s end and GCC 9 due for release not long after that point, this week we’ve been running a number of GCC and Clang compiler benchmarks on Phoronix. At the start of the month was the large Linux x86_64 GCC vs. Clang compiler benchmarks on twelve different Intel/AMD systems while last week was also a look at the POWER9 compiler performance on the Raptor Talos II. In this article we are checking out these open-source compilers’ performance on 64-bit ARM (AArch64) using an Ampere eMAG 32-core server.

    • How Clear Linux Optimizes Python For Greater Performance

      Clear Linux’s leading performance isn’t limited to just C/C++ applications but also scripting languages like PHP, R, and Python have seen great speed-ups too. In a new blog post, one of Intel’s developers outlines some of their performance tweaks to Python for delivering greater performance.

      Last April, Victor Rodriguez Bahena of the Intel Open-Source Technology Center and longtime Clear Linux developer began shedding more light on their “magic” performance work for the distribution’s out-of-the-box performance. Finally this week the second post in that series is out as he details the optimizations made to their Python implementation.

    • Boosting Python* from profile-guided to platform-specific optimizations
    • Full integration to Salesforce with Red Hat Integration (Part 2)
    • Coding in Python 04 – Setting up Variables
    • Testing isn’t everything, but it’s important
    • Python, For The love of It – part 3 (What I Built With It)
    • PyCoder’s Weekly: Issue #355 (Feb. 12, 2019)
    • Qt 5.13 Alpha Released With WebAssembly Preview, Qt Lottie Technical Preview

      The Qt Company has announced the alpha release of the forthcoming Qt 5.13 tool-kit.

      Qt 5.13 is slated for release in May and is another Qt5 feature release ahead of the transition to Qt6 planned for late 2020.

    • Qt 5.13 Alpha Released

      I am happy to inform that Qt 5.13 Alpha is released today. You can download Qt 5.13 Alpha via online installer (both source and prebuild binary packages). Source packages are also available for commercial users in the Qt Account portal and in the download.qt.io for open-source users.

      Qt 5.13 New Features page contains information about most important changes coming with the release. Please remember creating the list is still in progress so something important can still be missing. List should be completed by Beta1.

      Target is to release Beta1 within coming weeks, when API reviews are concluded. And as with previous releases we will release regular beta n releases until we are ready for RC. Target for Beta1 is 26.2.2019, see whole schedule from Qt 5.13 wiki.

    • Defaulting New Projects to Python 3

      New projects that are just getting started with Read the Docs will now use Python 3 by default. While it is still possible to configure your project to use Python 2.7 with our configuration file, we think it’s important to help push the Python ecosystem towards adopting Python 3.

      Our default Python version is currently Python 3.7. Projects can also select Python versions 3.6 and 3.5 using our default build image. We will eventually remove support for building projects with Python versions 3.3 and 3.4, however it is still possible to select a build image with support for either version.

      To select a specific version of Python, other than our default, you can use our configuration file to specify a Python version, using the python.version configuration option.

    • Real Python: Supercharge Your Classes With Python super()

      While Python isn’t purely an object-oriented language, it’s flexible enough and powerful enough to allow you to build your applications using the object-oriented paradigm. One of the ways in which Python achieves this is by supporting inheritance, which it does with super().

    • Two demos of programming inside the Web browser with Theia for Java and PHP, using Docker

      Theia is a Web IDE that can be used to offer a development environment displayed in a Web browser.

      I’ve recorded 2 screencasts of running Theia inside Docker containers, to develop Java and PHP applications, respectively using Maven and Composer (the latter is a Symfony application).

    • Why and how I have just redesigned my (other) website
    • How to Learn Python for Data Science In 5 Steps
    • Coding in Python 06 – Converting Data Types
    • Coding in Python 05 – Lists and Dictionaries
    • Developer’s Toolkit – The Most Useful Tools for Programmers

      The most useful tools that every programmer should know and use. These tools are essential to every coding working and also increase productivity.

Leftovers

  • Jeremy Hardy: an Irreplaceable Comedic Voice

    Jeremy Hardy during a recording of the BBC Radio 4 programme You’ll Have Had Your Tea

    The late British stand-up comedian, radio commentator, radio-show panelist, scriptwriter (early on he did scripts for the award-winning puppet show Spitting Image), and Guardian columnist Jeremy Hardy had no American, or indeed British, equivalent.

    If one can imagine an individual X with a politics well to the left of Michael Moore, who combined this politics with surrealistic alternations between the ferocity of a Lenny Bruce and an “oh so English” polite self-deprecation, there in an approximative nutshell was Jeremy Hardy and his comedy.

    There are of course other British comedians who share Hardy’s political orientation. The superb Alexei Sayle, for instance, joined the British Communist Party as a teenager in 1968, though he let his membership lapse subsequently (while retaining his Marxism).

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Validity of a Supplementary Protection Certificate. Testing the boundaries in a new ruling by the Swiss Tribunal Federal

      The two plaintiffs are Genzyme Corporation (holder of supplementary protection certificate No C00716606/01), and its licensee, Sanofi-Aventis (holder of the authorizations for the products Renagel and Renvela). The defendant, Salmon Pharma, commercializes a generic version of the product “Renvela”, which includes the same active ingredient and falls under the scope of protection for the SPC. After being sued for infringement, the defendant claimed the SPC is invalid, based on the fact that the plaintiff, having missed the deadline for filing an SPC, thereafter requested a reinstatement of the deadline. Although there is no statutory basis to reinstate the deadline for an SPC application, the Federal Institute of Intellectual Property (FIIP) did so, thereby allowing the application for the SPC to be submitted.

    • ‘No More Paying For The Rich World’s Medicine’ – White House

      The Trump administration yesterday made some firm statements about reducing health care and drug prices for American consumers and making costs more transparent. The statements again appear to focus on other countries paying more for US-made drugs but also promote generic drugs.

    • Malaysia Still Under Pressure To Make Hepatitis C Medicine More Expensive

      The government of Malaysia continues to face pressure from the United States pharmaceutical industry and potentially the US government to undo an action taken to make a key hepatitis C medicine more affordable in the country. Now Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors Without Borders) has weighed in to defend the government’s right to use a patent flexibility in global trade law that allows them to take such actions on behalf of their citizens.

    • Americans Cross Border Into Mexico To Buy Insulin At A Fraction Of U.S. Cost

      When Michelle Fenner signed up to run this year’s Los Angeles Marathon, it got her thinking: Tijuana, Mexico, is only a 2½-hour drive from L.A. Why not take a trip across the border and buy some insulin for her son?

      “It’s so easy to just go across the border,” mused Fenner.

      This idea had been in the back of Fenner’s mind for a while. Her son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes nine years ago, meaning he needs daily injections of insulin to live. The list price of the modern generation of insulin has skyrocketed since his diagnosis. On one trip to the pharmacy last year, Fenner was told that a three-month supply of insulin would cost her $3,700.

      That same supply would cost only about $600 in Mexico.

      So, when she booked her trip to Los Angeles, Fenner said, “I decided we need to update our passports and go and get more insulin.”

      Fenner is not the only one thinking like this. The U.S. government estimates that close to 1 million people in California alone cross to Mexico annually for health care, including to buy prescription drugs. And between 150,000 and 320,000 Americans list health care as a reason for traveling abroad each year. Cost savings is the most commonly cited reason.

    • Ralph Northam’s Yearbook Photo Is a Symptom of Racism in Medicine

      For centuries, this phrase has guided doctors as a solemn principle acknowledging the sacred trust placed in us by the communities we serve. When we violate this trust, we betray this intimate social contract.

      Dr. Ralph Shearer Northam, governor of Virginia and renowned pediatric neurologist and public servant, has betrayed this contract.

      Despite many calls from leaders and presidential candidates across the political spectrum, Governor Northam has refused to resign following the outrage erupting from a photo released recently from his 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School “student-produced” yearbook. He has denied that he is either of the two young men posing, one in blackface and the other in a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe, though he has admitted to wearing blackface in the past. This comes as Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring also admitted wearing blackface in the past and now Governor Northam is embarking on his apology tour in attempts to focus on racial inequity and save his political career.

      However, the gesture is an affront to many African Americans, especially to those who elected Northam. Once lauded for his progressive policies, Northam’s confirmed participation in this racist image — and his subsequently bizarre “sorry-not-sorry” denial, complete with an abandoned Michael Jackson moonwalk — has made him the subject of a national embarrassment.

      While Northam is under political fire, his profession should be under fire as well.

    • Seeking Treatment for Mental Health Should be Applauded

      A few weeks ago, some friends and I planned to meet up for drinks. One person was cagey about what time she was available to hang out that evening, and another said nothing at all — and then didn’t join.

      Ultimately it turned out the former had an appointment for mental health counseling and she was embarrassed to admit it, and the latter was in recovery. She wanted to spend time with friends, but didn’t wish to risk her sobriety.

      In my view, neither friend should have any need to feel embarrassed. People who take their mental health into their own hands like they have should be applauded, not stigmatized.

      I respect each of these people more for taking care of themselves, not less. (Also, I would have been glad to switch to a non-alcoholic activity if it meant I could have enjoyed my recovering friend’s company that evening. Friends are worth more than wine or beer.)

    • The Red Cross Crossroad

      A recent interview in a local Geneva newspaper with the director general of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Yves Daccord, and a letter/response from a former ICRC delegate, Thierry Germond, represent the tip of the iceberg of a crisis at the ICRC and within the humanitarian community. While a superficial reading of the arguments could be summarized as “tradition vs. change,” there is much more below the surface.

      The focus of the controversy revolves around the ICRC’s President Peter Maurer’s membership on the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum (WEF). The arguments for Maurer’s membership – access to decision-makers and potential donors – have been contrasted with the impartial, independent and neutral history of the Red Cross’ humanitarianism. Although ICRC founder Henry Dunant was searching for financial backing when he came upon the Battle of Solférino in 1859, humanitarianism has always prioritized the separation of the humanitarian from business and politics. Dunant never found sponsors, but he did start an organization that has won three Nobel Peace Prizes.

      Has Maurer’s membership sullied the ICRC’s image and put in peril the organization’s reputation? An article in Le Monde complements the Daccord interview and Germond’s response and highlights the importance of the controversy. The issue has even been raised in the Swiss parliament.

      The ICRC has a double mandate; to develop humanitarian law and make sure it is respected (“respecter et faire respecter”), and to have access to victims of war and other situations of armed violence.

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • We Are Not in Treblinka

      Because of my pronounced skepticism of war, my friends often prod me to consider whether there are any historic acts of mass violence that, given the opportunity, I actually would have supported. One such act always comes to mind, and its morally relevant characteristics are certainly not unique to it. This happened in 1943, well after the Nazis had made their genocidal intentions clear. The Allies had been faring well in battle, and prisoners in the Treblinka extermination camp—emboldened by Allied victories but simultaneously fearful that the embittered, flagging Nazis would move quickly to “finish the job” of Jewish annihilation—decided to strike their fascist captors before it was too late.

      Following months of anxious, painstaking preparation, a prisoner inaugurated the rebellion one August afternoon with a gunshot to the air. Several of the conspirators at that point lured Ukrainian sentinels into a death trap with offers of pilfered gold. After lighting buildings on fire and killing dozens of guards, hordes of prisoners bolted for their lives, many with weapons stolen from an arms cache that the rebels had opened with a counterfeit key. Although the surviving guards chased after them, roughly 70 prisoners avoided recapture and lived to see the end of the war.

    • “Bombing Toward Peace” in Afghanistan

      George Carlin said: “Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.” Given the timing I assume he was referring to how the Nixon Administration ramped up bombing in order to strengthen its hand against the North Vietnamese at the upcoming 1972 Paris peace talks. Thousands of residents of Hanoi were killed with no practical effect at the negotiating table. “The wording of the [final peace] agreement was almost exactly the same as it had been at the beginning of December—before the Christmas bombing campaign, Rebecca Cesby wrote for the BBC.

      Henry Kissinger, the chief U.S. negotiator in Paris, admitted as much. “We bombed the North Vietnamese into accepting our concessions,” said Nixon’s secretary of state, never missing a chance to be droll while bathing in the blood of innocents.

      Here Donald Trump goes again.

      “U.S. Heightens Attacks on Taliban in Push Toward Peace in Afghanistan,” read the headline in the New York Times on February 8th. One wag on my Facebook page commented: “It’s like the headline writers aren’t even trying anymore.”

    • U.S. Airstrikes Said to Kill at Least 10 Civilians in Afghanistan

      At least 10 civilians were killed and several others were wounded over the weekend during American airstrikes in southern Afghanistan, local officials and residents in Helmand Province said on Sunday.

      Two residents of the Sangin district of Helmand said eight members of a single family were killed by airstrikes in one house and two more in a nearby structure, among them women and children. Mohammad Hasim Alokozai, a member of Parliament from Helmand, put the death toll higher, saying in an interview that 14 civilians were killed and six wounded in the two houses.

    • What it Really Takes to Secure Peace in Afghanistan

      Hossein, a member of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, (APV), which hosted my recent visit to Afghanistan, rolled up his sleeve to show me a still-healing three-inch wound. Thieves had broken into his family home in Kabul. When they were discovered, one of the robbers stabbed Hossein.

      An APV coordinator, Zekerullah, was robbed and beaten by assailants in broad daylight. Ata Khan lost his camera and mobile phone to a gang of young thieves who accosted him and eight other people in a public park during the daytime. Habib, a recent young graduate of the APV Street Kids School program, suffered blows from several attackers a month ago.

      “I didn’t have anything they wanted to take,” he said, assuring me he is OK even though his lower back, where they beat him, is still sore.

      Attacks like these—which all happened within the last six months—are predictable in a chaotic war-torn city that absorbs new refugees every day. Some have been forced off their land by drought and food scarcity, while others flee the terror of violence carried out by various warring parties, including the United States. In 2018, the United States dropped 7,632 bombs on Afghanistan, more than any other full calendar year since the U.S. Air Force began documenting its attacks in 2006.

    • A Preference for Peace: Not the Same Thing as Support for the Bogeyman of the Week

      I’m not ashamed to admit it: I’m a peacenik. I think war is a bad thing. I’ve seen it up close and personal as an infantryman, and I’d like to see less of it, preferably none at all, either up close or from a distance.

      In part, this desire also makes me a “non-interventionist.” That is, in a world with 195 “sovereign nations,” it makes sense that the political officials in each one should mind his or her own state’s business and not try to decide who gets to run the other 194, or how they should do so.

      And this, in turn, leads to scolding claims that I am “soft on” politicians from states who happen to be at odds with the politicians from “my” country, the USA.

      If I don’t want a return to Cold War with what’s left of the former Soviet Union, I’m Vladimir Putin’s puppet.

      If I don’t support US sanctions on Iran, it must mean that I support whatever agenda my critic imputes to “Supreme Leader” Ali Khameni.

      If I don’t support the US invasion/occupation of Syria, I’m clearly a fan of president Bashar al-Assad.

      If I don’t think the US government should waste American treasure (and conceivably even American blood) trying to get Venezuelans to rally behind Juan Guiado’s “interim president” claim, it’s obvious that I want Nicolas Maduro and the Chavistas left in charge.

      Well, no, not at all. Not in any of those cases, nor in any of the other places around the world where American presidents, American Congresses, and American bureaucrats continuously try to seize control of the wheel from the people who, you know, live there.

    • London Gangs: a Tragic Remnant of British Colonialism

      London is plagued by street gangs. By the year 2016 there were an estimated 3,600 gangsters. According to government figures, these form some 225 gangs. Of these, 58 gangs are regularly active and are thought by police to be responsible for two-thirds of gang-related offences, including assault, theft, murder and, most of all, drugs. Ethnically, gangsters are mainly white, Asian, black and Eastern European. In the absence of official data, on-the-ground reports suggest that the majority of gangsters dealing in drugs, where the most violent crimes occur, are young black males, particularly Jamaican. This is not only a symptom of how successive British governments have failed young ethnic minorities, it reflects the tragic legacy of colonialism.

      The British Empire left Jamaica and its other regional colonies poor and devastated .One book on the topic notes that emancipation from slavery “removed the gross features of the slave system without basically upsetting the underlying class-colour differentiations.” Likewise, a London School of Economics report notes that although Jamaica’s Constitution of 1944 introduced so-called democracy, it was “overlaid onto a set of administrative structures and doctrines which had developed since the imposition of Crown Colony rule in 1866.”

      Jamaica’s pre-Independence gangs, like The Yardies, emerged from the poverty of the 1950s. Caribbeans experienced similar hardships when they and their parents moved to the UK after the Second World War. According to the British National Archives, between 1948 and 1970, almost half a million people from the West Indies (including the Caribbean) came to Britain, many of them on government initiatives, “to run the transport system, postal service and hospitals. Other West Indians were returning soldiers who had fought for Britain during the Second World War.” Most of the immigrants settled in London. One academic paper notes that “Britain’s experience of West Indian immigration” was “traumatic … Both first and second generations in the U.K. have experienced open hostility” from media, politicians and the public. Inner city violence, including white gangs vs. black gangs, affected Liverpool in the north, Handsworth in the Midlands and, in London, Brixton, Notting Hill and Tottenham.

    • Venezuela’s Maduro Denounces Warmongering by ‘White Supremacist’ Trump and His ‘Gang of Extremists’ Promoting Fascism Worldwide

      Calling President Donald Trump a person who is “publicly and openly” a white supremacist and accusing the current U.S. government of being run by a racist “gang of extremists,” Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro called on the people and leaders of the world to speak out against foreign intervention and instead back efforts for the nation to solve its problems peacefully from within.

      In an interview with the BBC that aired Tuesday night, Maduro characterized U.S. efforts—including recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as “interim president” and gestures of foreign aid—as part of a “political war of American empire” being pursued by the “interests of the extreme right” (which he equated with the Klu Klux Klan) who are “warmongering in order to take over” his country.

      Trump, said Maduro, “has encouraged fascist tendencies, the neo-fascists and the neo-Nazis, in the United States, in Europe, and Latin America. It’s an extremist grouping that hates the world. They hate us and they belittle us because they only believe in their own interests and in the interests of the United States.”

    • Venezuela Accuses U.S. of Secretly Shipping Arms After Weapons Found on Plane with Possible CIA Ties

      A North Carolina-based air freight company has halted flights to Venezuela following a report by McClatchy linking it to possible arms smuggling. Last week, Venezuelan authorities claimed they had uncovered 19 assault weapons, 118 ammunition cartridges and 90 military-grade radio antennas on board a U.S.-owned plane that had flown from Miami into Valencia, Venezuela’s third-largest city. The Boeing 767 is owned by a company called 21 Air based in Greensboro, North Carolina. The plane had made nearly 40 round-trip flights between Miami and spots in Venezuela and Colombia since January 11, the day after Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro was sworn in to a second term. The flights ended after McClatchy first reported on them. Venezuela accused the U.S. government of sending the arms as part of its attempt to topple the Maduro government. While no definitive links between 21 Air and the U.S. government have been established, McClatchy reports the chairman of 21 Air, Adolfo Moreno, as well as another employee at the company have ties to Gemini Air Cargo, which was involved in the CIA’s rendition program during the administration of George W. Bush. We speak to McClatchy reporter Tim Johnson, who broke the story. Johnson was part of a team that shared a 2017 Pulitzer Prize for its investigation of the Panama Papers.

    • The Deep Hurt: Lessons From American Coups

      Even swash-buckling Teddy Roosevelt was influenced, losing his zest for the idea of conquest. When he charged into the White House he held two views simultaneously, intervene to help other people, without oppressing them. Kinzer thinks that this dichotomy “torments our national psyche” (p. 229). In the early parts of the book Kinzer sets out the anti-imperialist (Mark Twain) and pro-imperialist visions (Henry Cabot Lodge). These speeches are worth gathering round for reflection.

      During the following hundred years much of what the anti-imperialists predicted has come to pass. The United States has become an “actively interventionist power. It has projected military or covert power into dozens of countries on every continent except Antarctica”(ibid.). George Frisbie Hoar was right, Kinzer points out, when he “warned that intervening in other lands would turn the United States into a ‘vulgar, commonplace empire founded upon physical force”” (ibid.).

      Anti-imperialists also predicted that an “aggressive foreign policy would have pernicious effects at home” (ibid.). Military budgets have soared to heights unimaginable in the days of fervent expansionism in the 1898 war with the Philippines. The armaments industries wield extraordinary clout. The wealth-soaked elites dominate politics. The invasion and overthrowing of distant regimes resides in the hands of a few decision-makers. And militaristic values and rituals saturate American life and expunge peaceful ones.

    • While State Leaders Make War, Spanish Children March for Peace

      Seven hundred and seventy primary and elementary school children, aged three to 12, walked and skipped three kilometers to the main square (Plaza de España) here in this town located n in Spain’s Andalusia province, and back to their municipal school, Jacaranda.

      On this 30th march for international peace in commemoration of the day that Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated (January 30, 1948), the children sang “No to War”, “Yes to Peace”, “Save the Children,” “Friendship Yes, Violence No”. (The event was postponed a week due to a storm.)

      They were accompanied by their 29 classroom teachers and about 100 parents and grandparents.

      For a week each January, these students study peace, solidarity and friendship values, and how to protect Mother Earth from man-made pollution. The day dedicated to “Save the Children” includes students asking their parents for donations of funds and clothing for poor children. Since 2011-2, they have raised some 7500 Euros ($8500). A committee of teachers and parents decides where to send the donations, sometimes in Spain and sometimes abroad.

      The students also make designs for banners and T-shirts. A committee of students and teachers decides what designs are used. The municipal marine sports and water firms donated 3000 Euros to manufacture 1000 T-shirts that the students and teachers wear.

    • ACTION ALERT: MSNBC’s ‘Resistance’ to Trump’s Venezuela Coup Ranges from Silence to Support

      Given MSNBC is the largest, most influential liberal platform in the US—one that has long marketed itself as a progressive counter to the lies and ruthless right-wing onslaught of the Trump government, one would think they’d be leading the charge against Trump’s old school, Cold War–style coup-mongering in South America.

      But a FAIR survey of MSNBC since Trump threw the US’s support behind self-proclaimed Venezuelan president Juan Guaidó (the effective start of the attempted coup) finds coverage has ranged from outright support to virtual silence—with only one five-minute segment on All In With Chris Hayes (1/29/19) broaching objections to Trump’s Venezuela policy. The only segment that comes close to criticizing Trump’s attempted coup, Hayes’ “Is Trump Moving Toward War in Venezuela?” largely framed his opposition as “just asking questions,” and had on Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro to insist the “timing” for sanctions and regime change wasn’t right.

    • ‘Don’t Listen to This War Criminal!’: Peace Activists Arrested at Elliott Abrams Hearing on Venezuela

      “Don’t listen to this war criminal!”

      So declared CodePink peace activists on Wednesday, as Trump-appointed special envoy to Venezuela Elliott Abrams testified before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, before they were ushered out of the room and arrested.

      “Venezuela needs negotiations, not a coup or military intervention,” said CodePink national co-director Ariel Gold, the first to be arrested, as she decried ongoing U.S. intervention in the Latin American country. “Don’t let Abrams take us down a path of war.”

    • Unhinged From Reality: the President and the Body-Slamming Congressman

      Last week Montana’s lone congressman, U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte, gave an address to the Montana Legislature. Perhaps best known for body-slamming a reporter, then lying about it and finally buying his way out of a serious and well-deserved assault charge, Gianforte echoed President Donald Trump’s agenda of cutting taxes and regulations as the path to a robust economy. Unfortunately, Gianforte appears as unhinged from reality as his fellow mega-millionaire now sitting in the White House.

      “Imagine if Montana took a page from our national pro-growth playbook,” said Trump parrot Gianforte, claiming that government should “get out of the way so all Montanans and Americans can prosper again.”

      Ironically — but actually rooted in reality — Gianforte’s call for getting government “out of the way” came only a day after Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality released a whopping estimate of at least $700 million to remediate Colstrip’s ash ponds. Perhaps Gianforte would like to step forward and pick up the tab since Colstrip’s ability to generate such an enormous sum to deal with the pollution the plants’ 50 years of operation has left behind is seriously in doubt.

      It’s even more incredulous that Gianforte claimed: “Government does not create prosperity, the private sector does.” Yet, what it actually appears the private sector has created in Montana are enormous, ongoing and incredibly expensive industrial pollution problems. There’s the largest Superfund site in the nation, the Butte-Anaconda-Clark Fork mining and smelting disaster now entering its fourth decade of so-called “cleanup” efforts with no end in sight — and not much “cleanup” either.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Voters Can’t Elect the Right Prosecutors if These Elected Officials’ Records Aren’t Made Public

      America’s locally elected prosecutors wield enormous and, all too often, unaccountable power. They have the authority to reinforce mass incarceration and racial disparities in the criminal legal system or combat these injustices. Across the country, voters are beginning to recognize the extent of this power, and they want them to use it for good.

      Nearly 90 percent of Americans want an elected prosecutor who will prioritize reducing incarceration and racial disparities in the criminal legal system. And we’re starting to see that impact at the ballot box. In recent years, voters in cities like St. Louis, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Dallas have all elected prosecutors who ran on platforms of reforming the criminal justice system so that fewer people go to jails and prisons. But change takes time, in large part because the vast majority of Americans represented by one of America’s 2,400 elected prosecutors have no way of knowing if their prosecutor shares their priorities.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • ‘This Is What Dem Leadership Looks Like’: Minnesota Gov. Praised for Backing Fight Against Line 3 Tar Sands Pipeline

      “Minnesotans have clearly voiced that they do not want this dirty pipeline, and Governor [Tim] Walz and Lieutenant Governor [Peggy] Flanagan showed today that they are listening,” declared Greenpeace USA tar sands campaigner Rachel Rye Butler.

      “By committing to refile the state’s appeal to Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline expansion,” Butler said, “he’s rightly putting Indigenous rights, our global climate, and the water resources for thousands of Minnesotans before fossil fuel industry profits.”

    • Can California’s Iconic Redwoods Survive Climate Change?

      California’s most iconic trees can live for centuries — but can they survive in a warming world?

      Populations of the state’s two redwood species — coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) and giant sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) — have already declined by 95 percent since 1850 due to logging and development. Now scientists want to know how climate change and drought will affect them in the near future.

    • The Age of Environmental Breakdown: We need the Green New Deal Now!

      Laurie Laybourn-Langton, Lesley Rankin and Darren Baxter Februhe at the Institute for Public Policy Research in Britain are warning in a new study as frantically as they can that “the extent, severity, pace and closing window of opportunity to avoid potentially catastrophic outcomes has led many scientists to conclude that we have entered a new era of rapid environmental change. We define this as the ‘age of environmental breakdown’ to better highlight the severity of the scale, pace and implication.”

      That is, we are not understanding our planetary climate emergency and not swinging into action nearly fast enough given the epochal severity of the catastrophe.

      Half of the carbon being flooded into the atmosphere is being produced by the richest 10 percent of the world. The authors insist we need a rapid, thorough and transformational response, and that to be effective it most come above all in the industrialized nations.

    • ‘Bring It On’: Green New Deal Champions Welcome McConnell’s Cynical Ploy for Up-or-Down Vote

      After McConnell told reporters on Tuesday that he plans to hold a floor vote the Green New Deal plan unveiled last week by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), environmentalists and progressive members of Congress argued that rather than revealing deep rifts in the Democratic Party, an up-or-down vote will spotlight the GOP’s total opposition to a widely popular policy that represents the best hope of adequately confronting the climate crisis.

      “Republicans don’t want to debate climate change, they only want to deny it,” Markey said in a statement after McConnell’s announcement. “They have offered no plan to address this economic and national security threat and want to sabotage any effort that makes Big Oil and corporate polluters pay.”

      Since the Green New Deal resolution was introduced last week, President Donald Trump, Republican lawmakers, and right-wing pundits have spread hysterical falsehoods about the measure and decried it as a “socialist fever dream” that would be political suicide for Democrats to support.

    • Enbridge Gave Massachusetts Studies by Climate Denier, ALEC Associate in Gas Project Assessment

      As part of an ongoing health evaluation of a proposed and contested Boston metro area gas compressor station, the energy distribution company Enbridge shared with the State of Massachusetts materials from dubious and controversial sources. As documents obtained by DeSmog reveal, these include studies by a climate change denier and an official associated with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Koch brothers-backed group working to undermine environmental regulations.

    • The Battle Lines Have Been Drawn on the Green New Deal

      “I REALLY DON’T like their policies of taking away your car, taking away your airplane flights, of ‘let’s hop a train to California,’ or ‘you’re not allowed to own cows anymore!’”

      So bellowed President Donald Trump in El Paso, Texas, his first campaign-style salvo against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey’s Green New Deal resolution. There will surely be many more.

      It’s worth marking the moment. Because those could be the famous last words of a one-term president, having wildly underestimated the public appetite for transformative action on the triple crises of our time: imminent ecological unraveling, gaping economic inequality (including the racial and gender wealth divide), and surging white supremacy.

      Or they could be the epitaph for a habitable climate, with Trump’s lies and scare tactics succeeding in trampling this desperately needed framework. That could either help win him re-election, or land us with a timid Democrat in the White House with neither the courage nor the democratic mandate for this kind of deep change. Either scenario means blowing the handful of years left to roll out the transformations required to keep temperatures below catastrophic levels.

      Back in October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a landmark report informing us that global emissions need to be slashed in half in less than 12 years, a target that simply cannot be met without the world’s largest economy playing a game-changing leadership role. If there is a new administration ready to leap into that role in January 2021, meeting those targets would still be extraordinarily difficult, but it would be technically possible — especially if large cities and states like California and New York escalate their ambitions right now. Losing another four years to a Republican or a corporate Democrat, and starting in 2026 is, quite simply, a joke.

      So either Trump is right and the Green New Deal is a losing political issue, one he can smear out of existence. Or he is wrong and a candidate who makes the Green New Deal the centerpiece of their platform will take the Democratic primary and then kick Trump’s ass in the general, with a clear democratic mandate to introduce wartime-levels of investment to battle our triple crises from day one. That would very likely inspire the rest of the world to finally follow suit on bold climate policy, giving us all a fighting chance.

    • On the Front Lines of the Climate Change Movement: Mike Roselle Draws a Line

      The beard is graying. The hair is clipped military-short. He is a large man, oddly shaped, like a cross between a grizzly and a javelina. It’s Roselle, of course, Mike Roselle—the outside agitator. He and a fellow activist have just spread an anti-coal banner in front of a growling bulldozer in West Virginia on a cold February morning in 2009. He’s in this icy and unforgiving land to oppose a brutal mining operation and will soon be arrested for trespassing. Massey Energy, the target of Roselle’s protest, is the fourth largest coal extractor in the United States, mining nearly 40 million tons of coal in Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee each year.

      The arrest was nothing new for Roselle, who cut his teeth in direct action environmental campaigns decades earlier as a co-founder of Earth First!, a top campaigner for Greenpeace US and later as the wit behind the tenacious Ruckus Society. Unlike most mainstream environmentalists, you are not likely to see Roselle sporting a suit and lobbying Washington insiders on the intricacies of mining laws—you are more apt to see this self-proclaimed lowbagger (one who lives light on the land, works to protect it and has few possessions to show for their hard work) engaged in direct, but nonviolent, confrontations with the forces of industrialization, using tactics honed during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. And his dissent in West Virginia is more than justified.

      The mountaintops of the Appalachia region, from Tennessee up to the heart of West Virginia, are being ravaged by the coal industry—an industry that cares little about the welfare of communities or the land that it is chewing up and spitting out with its grotesque mining operations.

      The debris from the mining pits, often 500 feet deep, produce toxic waste that is then dumped in nearby valleys, polluting rivers and poisoning local communities downstream. Currently, no state or federal agencies are tracking the cumulative effect of the aptly named “mountaintop removal,” where entire peaks are being blown apart with explosives, only to expose tiny seams of the precious black rock.

  • Finance

    • Bitmain S15 Firmware “Very Buggy”, Will This Claim Affect BTC Prices?

      Although Bitmain is a central player in the ASIC mining sphere, their latest firmware S15 has a weakness, a Twitter user has revealed. Luckily, BTC prices are steady, and with a combination of favorable candlestick arrangements and fundamentals, Bitcoin may end up trending above $3,800.

    • To Fix System That Let Trump Stop Paying Social Security Taxes 40 Minutes Into 2016, Sanders Says ‘Time to Scrap the Cap’

      “Donald Trump claimed that he made $694 million in 2016,” Sanders said, with the caveat that the president doesn’t always tell the truth about his finances. “If that is accurate, he stopped paying Social Security payroll tax 40 minutes into January 1st of that year.”

      “Meanwhile, the average middle class person paid Social Security taxes for the entire year,” the Vermont senator continued. “That is absurd, and that has got to end.”

      Under the current system, all income above the $132,900 cap is completely exempt from the Social Security payroll tax. Denouncing this approach as “absolutely regressive,” Sanders declared on Wednesday, “It is time to scrap the cap.”

      The Social Security Expansion Act, which Sanders introduced on Wednesday alongside several congressional Democrats, would subject all income over $250,000 to the Social Security payroll tax—a far more progressive tax structure that would help fund more generous benefits to low-income retirees while also ensuring the popular program’s solvency for more than five decades.

    • Popular Russian game show is rocked by cheating allegations

      Ilya Ber, the chief editor behind the television game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” has accused “What? Where? When?” veteran contestant Alexander Drouz of trying to cheat his way to a large cash prize. In his show’s LiveJournal community, Ber wrote that Drouz contacted him ahead of taping in November 2018 and asked him for an advance copy of the questions and correct answers in exchange for a share of the 3-million-ruble ($45,630) winnings.

    • Here’s How Much America’s Rising Income Inequality Is Costing Social Security

      Just a few weeks into the 116th Congress, Democrats’ takeover of the House of Representatives has already exposed the huge gulf between what American voters want and what the previous House leadership and the Trump administration have thrust upon them in recent years. Congressional Democrats’ bold agenda—such as higher taxes on the rich, universal health care, and expanding Social Security—has strong support not just among progressives but also across party lines. This popularity is a direct rebuke to Trump’s and his congressional colleagues’ massive 2017 tax giveaway to the wealthy and corporations; Trump’s ongoing efforts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid; and Trump’s and congressional Republicans’ continued efforts to cut Social Security.
      Perhaps nowhere is the gulf between voters’ wishes and the policies Trump and his colleagues in Congress are pursuing greater than when it comes to Social Security—a program that voters overwhelmingly want to see expanded rather than cut. A 2017 Pew Research Center poll found that 95 percent of Democrats and 86 percent of Republicans preferred to maintain or expand Social Security. Yet, despite promising not to cut Social Security on the campaign trail, President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2019 budget would have slashed $72 billion from the program—cruelly targeting people with disabilities—over the coming decade. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and then-House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) didn’t even wait until the ink was dry on their $2 trillion tax giveaway to begin insisting that everyday Americans face cuts to Social Security to pay for their deficit-busting tax bill.
      Fortunately, American voters finally have champions in the growing chorus of Democratic lawmakers calling for expanding Social Security. Their approach fits seamlessly into the growing calls for higher taxes on the wealthy from congressional leaders and 2020 presidential contenders: It pairs benefit increases with commonsense revenue raisers such as lifting the payroll tax cap so that higher earners pay into Social Security all year, just like other workers do. This is a move that more than two-thirds of Americans support and reflects the common desire of both voters and progressive policymakers to tackle the nation’s sky-high inequality by putting everyday workers and families—not the uber-rich—first.

    • The Robots Taking the Jobs Industry

      There is an old saying that the economy is too simple for economists to understand. There is plenty of evidence of this all around. After all, almost no economists could see the $8 trillion housing bubble, the collapse of which gave us the great recession. Back in the stock bubble days of the late 1990s, leading economists in both political parties wanted to put Social Security money in the stock market based on assumptions of returns which were at the least incredibly implausible, if not altogether impossible.

      The endless scare stories of robots taking all the jobs, or the threat of automation, fit this mode. While this is a recurring theme in major media outlets, it basically makes zero sense.

      Replacing human labor with technology is a very old story. It’s called “productivity growth.” We’ve been seeing it pretty much as long as we have had a capitalist economy. In fact, this is what allows for sustained improvements in living standards. If we had not seen massive productivity growth in agriculture, then the bulk of the country would still be working on farms, otherwise we would be going hungry.

      However, thanks to massive improvement in technology, less than 2 percent of our workforce is now employed in agriculture. And, we can still export large amounts of food.

    • Atlanta School Cheating Scandal: The Untold Story of Corporate Greed & Criminalization of Teachers

      As teacher strikes in Denver and Los Angeles join a wave of recent labor actions bringing attention to the plight of the American public school system, we take a fresh look at one of the largest public school scandals in U.S. history. Public schools in Atlanta, Georgia, were thrown into chaos in 2015 when 11 former educators were convicted in 2015 of racketeering and other charges for allegedly facilitating a massive cheating operation on standardized tests. Prosecutors said the teachers were forced to modify incorrect answers and students were even allowed to fix their responses during exams. The case has fueled criticism of the education system’s reliance on standardized testing, and elicited calls of racism. Thirty-four of the 35 educators indicted in the scandal were African-American. We speak with Shani Robinson, one of the 11 convicted teachers, who has written a new book on the cheating scandal with journalist Anna Simonton. It’s titled “None of the Above: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Public Schools Cheating Scandal, Corporate Greed, and the Criminalization of Educators.”

    • As Macron Prepares New Repressive Measures, Yellow Vests and Red Unions Strike Together

      On Tuesday, February 5, as the Macron government pushed harsh repressive laws against demonstrators through the National Assembly, the Yellow Vests joined with France’s unions for the first time in a day-long, nation-wide “General Strike.”

      At the very moment when in Paris the lower house was voting to implement Macron’s proposed laws designed to suppress public demonstrations (a legal right protected in both the French Constitution and the U.N. Human Rights Declaration) tens of thousands of their constituents were out in the streets all over the country demonstrating and striking against Macron’s authoritarian, neo-liberal government. The demonstrators’ demands ranged from better salaries and retirement benefits, restoration of public services, equitable tax codes, an end to police brutality, and banning the use of “flash-balls” on demonstrators, to Macron’s resignation and the instauration of participatory democracy.

      Deaf to the angry people’s legitimate grievances, unwilling to deal with them, Macron has given himself no other choice than to legislate new repressive legal restrictions to suppress their continued free expression. This resort to open repression can only serve to discredit the government’s handling of a crisis largely of his own making, treating a spontaneous social movement among the 99% as if it were a terrorist or fascist conspiracy. The unpopular President’s repressive tactics will inevitably backfire on him. The French are extremely jealous of their liberties, and Macron’s monarchical arrogance can only remind them of how their ancestors dealt with Louis XVI.

    • Are We Heading Towards a Synchronised Global Slowdown?

      When the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued its World Economic Outlook Update in January 2018, the future looked bright. Indeed, even the title of the update was very optimistic: Brighter Prospects, Optimistic Markets, Challenges Ahead. And under the cheer-leadership of the IMF, an overwhelming consensus was formed. The cyclical upswing underway since mid-2016 had continued to strengthen, producing in 2017 the broadest synchronised global growth upsurge since 2010, and the growth would last as far as the eye could see. Here, what is meant by global growth is the growth of the world gross domestic product (GDP) or the world income.

      It turned out that 2018 was a major disappointment and the IMF’s World Economic Outlook Update in January 2019, A Weakening Global Expansion, was a bit cautious.

    • Millionaires of New York to Governor Cuomo: Raise Our Taxes
    • Tax Refund Amounts Take a Dive Under GOP Tax Plan

      When Congress passed the $1.5 trillion Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in late 2017, President Donald Trump bragged it had “reached an agreement on tax legislation that will deliver more jobs, higher wages and massive tax relief for American families and for American companies.” Tara Golshan, writing in Vox, was less bombastic, calling it “a far cry from the simplified tax code that Republicans have long been promising” but still “a substantial reshaping of the nation’s tax base.”

      By June of 2018, The Washington Post reported, the bill didn’t deliver higher wages. In fact, as reporter Philip Bump wrote, “Year-over-year, the real average hourly earnings number has dropped by 0.1 percent,” according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

      Now, as America enters the first tax season under the new tax plan, it’s a chance to see whether it has resulted in greater returns for American taxpayers. Early results, however, are not promising. As Lisa Lambert reported at Reuters on Monday, 2019’s tax season “got off to a slow start in the first week, with data released on Friday showing a significant drop in returns and refunds.”

    • How a 70 Percent Marginal Tax Rate on Top Earners Can Reduce Inequality

      In recent weeks and in quick succession Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez promoted a top marginal tax rate of 70 percent on the part of incomes of the super-rich over $10 million, Elizabeth Warren proposed a wealth tax on ultra-millionaires and billionaires, and Bernie Sanders revealed his “For the 99.8%” proposal that would expand the estate tax on the wealthiest 0.2 percent of families. These proposals are not schemes to soak the rich, nor are they primarily about collecting revenue. Rather, they provide the basis for meaningful tax reform whose twin goals are reducing extreme income and wealth inequality and protecting American democracy from the predations of wealthy plutocrats.

      In the 34 years between 1946 and 1980, New Deal policies that included progressive income and estate taxation as well as financial reforms that regulated the accumulation of wealth led to rising wages for ordinary workers, a decline in income inequality, and a more equal distribution of wealth. In the years since 1980, tax cuts for the wealthy, the near extinction of the estate tax, and the rollback of financial regulations have led to a boom in incomes and an explosion of wealth for America’s ultra-rich families. Together with the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that allowed large political contributions, big corporations and rich individuals have used their wealth to protect their interests and to engage in philanthropy that indulges their impulses and imposes their preferences on society without any accountability to the public.

      The recent tax proposals seek to redress this situation by reducing income and wealth inequality, preventing the emergence of an aristocracy of inherited wealth, and defending American democracy against an army of lobbyists and lawyers paid to undermine it. Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s proposed 70 percent marginal tax rate on annual income above $10 million will begin to reverse this.

    • To Ensure Dignity for ‘Most Vulnerable’ Among Us, Bernie Sanders Introduces Bill to Expand Social Security

      In an effort to strengthen one of the nation’s most popular programs as the GOP pushes for cuts, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and several congressional Democrats on Wednesday introduced the Social Security Expansion Act to ensure that seniors can retire in dignity and “everyone with a disability can live with the security they need.”

    • Why Bezos Exposed Trump’s Pecker

      Jeff Bezos could be the world’s greatest exhibitionist.

      He’s certainly the world’s richest exhibitionist. He also might be the world’s smartest exhibitionist, having figured out how to make his (thus far) unseen dick pic into a cause célèbreof the Resistance and anyone whose privacy has been violated.

      In case you’ve been under a rock or that “log” that Jeff B. so majestically “rolled over” to “see what crawls out,” here’s the salacious and inspiring story in a nut (yep, those nuts) shell: A few hours after the Amazon founder and his wife of 25 years, MacKenzie, officially announced that they were amicably divorcing, the National Enquirer published an “exposé”of Jeff’s affair with media personality, Lauren Sanchez (who looks remarkably like MacKenzie, but that’s another fetish). The tabloid mentioned that it also had some photos in its possession that were “too” explicit to publish, though it did rummage up the moral justification (something to do with Bezos’ “fitness” to be a multi-billionaire) to publish a number of private, passionate sexts, such as:

      “I love you, alive girl. I will show you with my body, and my lips and my eyes, very soon”

      “I want to smell you, I want to breathe you in. I want to hold you tight.… I want to kiss your lips…. I love you. I am in love with you…”

    • Venezuela’s Popular Sectors and the Future of a Country

      Whereas protests in past years against the government have tended to be centered in wealthier neighborhoods, in January of this year, protests against Maduro began to break out across a number of poor and working-class neighborhoods, in places like Catia, La Vega, El Valle, and Petare. At the end of that month, we began conducting research on the recent turn of events connected to these protests.

      For some in the popular sectors, like previous confrontations between Chavismo and the opposition, this latest juncture is evidence that now more than ever one must stand firm against imperialism. Cristina, a single mother in her 30s who lives in the 23 de Enero neighborhood of Caracas and has supported the Bolivarian Revolution since her youth, says she has no more faith in Juan Guaidó—the current face of the opposition—than she did in Leopoldo López, leader of the hardline opposition party Voluntad Popular (Popular Unity), or Pedro Carmona, who the military appointed President during the two-day military coup in 2002. For her, they all represent a struggle to roll back the advances made by the revolution, to return power to the hands of the old guard.

      However, perhaps a more general sentiment in many popular sectors is that neither “side” can be trusted; in other words, the desconfianza (distrust) that made it difficult for some to support the opposition a few years ago has contaminated Chavismo as well. This is the sentiment that we have noted while conducting preliminary research in Catia, a poor and working-class sector in west Caracas, on perceptions of the current political situation in the country. As part of this research, we organized a conversation in Catia with eight women from the neighborhood of Los Magallanes about their thoughts on Maduro’s second inauguration amid allegations of unfair electoral practices, Juan Guaidó’s proclamation as president on January 24, and what it means for the future of the country. The women live in the same neighborhood but have diverse political histories. Two of the women, whom Hanson has known for eight years, were ardent Chavistas until a few years ago. Others had been long-time opposition supporters.

    • There’s Something Eerily Familiar About the West’s Approach to Venezuela

      The closest I ever came to Venezuela, many years ago, was a transit connection at Caracas airport. I noticed a lot of soldiers in red berets and a clutch of goons, and it reminded me, vaguely, of the Middle East.

      Now, sitting in the rain squalls of the wintry Levant, I flick through my newspaper clippings of our recent local autocrats – Saddam, Assad, al-Sisi, Erdogan, Mohammed bin Salman (you can fill in the rest for yourself) – and I think of Nicolas Maduro.

      The comparisons are by no means precise. Indeed, it’s not the nature of the “strongmen” I’m thinking about. It’s our reaction to all these chaps. And there are two obvious parallels: the way in which we sanction and isolate the hated dictator – or love him, as the case may be – and the manner in which we not only name the opposition as the rightful heir to the nation, but demand that democracy be delivered to the people whose torture and struggle for freedom we have suddenly discovered.

      And before I forget it, there’s one other common thread in this story. If you suggest that those who want presidential change in Venezuela may be a little too hasty, and our support for – let us say – Juan Guaido might be a bit premature if we don’t want to start a civil war, this means you are “pro-Maduro”.

      Just as those who opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq were “pro-Saddam”, or those who thought the west might pause before it supported the increasingly violent opposition in Syria were labelled “pro-Assad”.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Media Promised Better Coverage of the 2020 Race, and All I Got Was Kirsten Gillibrand’s Fried Chicken

      But Gillibrand has struggled to gain traction in the ever-growing, just-list-who-isn’t-running field of Democratic candidates. Some of that might be rooted in concern over how the upstate New Yorker morphed from a pro-gun centrist into an avatar of the Trump Resistance, and that’s a valid question. But that’s not exactly how the journalists following the 2020 race framed any doubts over Gillibrand’s viability over the weekend. Instead, they presented voters with #FriedChickenGate.
      The political trope about the candidate awkwardly gobbling down ethnic food is as old as pastrami itself, probably dating back to the penny press ripping John Adams for the way he gnawed on a fried possum. OK, I made that up, but I’m not making up how reporters parlayed any serious coverage of how a President Gillibrand might get us out of the giant mess that’s been created at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue into an analysis of what happened when she met African-American leaders at a joint called Kiki’s Chicken and Waffles in the critical early-primary state of South Carolina.
      The fact that Gillibrand started eating her chicken with a knife and fork, but then switched to her fingers after noting that all her companions were using their hands, wasn’t portrayed as the natural awkwardness that every sentient human being has felt at some social gathering where messy could-be finger food like greasy chicken or slathered barbecued ribs is on the table. No, the moment was a Grand Metaphor for a candidate who was “contrived,” who changed her stance on the Fried Chicken Question just like she’d changed her position on amnesty for undocumented immigrants.

    • A Preliminary Ranking of the Democratic Primary Contenders

      Joe Biden leads Bernie Sanders by twelve points, and Sanders leads Kamala Harris, in third place, by ten points in this week’s #10at10 preliminary rankings. Launched on social media on January 14, the model emphasizes two particular factors – how a candidate is polling on average versus other announced or potential Democratic candidates and how she or he is polling on average against Donald Trump. The model also allows some wiggle room in a bonus points section. The #10at10 preliminary rankings will be updated each week on Monday on Twitter in this thread and usually also in a column here on Wednesdays.

    • ‘For Billionaires, Things Are Already Fine’: Ocasio-Cortez Pinpoints Why Howard Schultz Has No Serious Tax Plan

      It did not take Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) long to figure out why former Starbucks CEO and “independent centrist” Howard Schultz didn’t want to talk about the specifics of higher tax rates on the ultra-wealthy during his CNN town hall Tuesday night.

      The reason, she noted on Twitter, is because for billionaires like Schultz “things are already going fine”—and therefore, his real plan for higher taxation on the rich is that there is no plan at all.

    • Finally One of Trump’s Racist Dog-Whistles May Come Back to Bite Him

      As a study in contrasts, it will be educational to watch the Democratic contenders in next year’s primary debates. Unlike the 2016 Republican debates in which Donald Trump insulted, intimidated and lied his way to the GOP nomination while making up degrading nicknames for his various opponents, I strongly suspect U.S. senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar will refrain from calling each other insulting names and commenting on each others’ appearances.

      In the meantime we can expect to hear the commander-in-chief continue to employ racist and childish nicknames for the Democratic contenders, most famously, his penchant for calling U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas.”

      Warren had hoped to deter Trump from using the racist nickname by taking a genetic test to prove she has Native American DNA. And, indeed, the test did show “strong evidence” that Warren had a Native American ancestor approximately six to 10 generations ago.

      If there is one thing I have learned over the past two years it’s that Trump and his base don’t give a damn about 1. Science and 2. The Facts. So it was no surprise that the test turned out to be a huge public relations disaster for Warren and another win for Trump. Native American groups criticized Warren for the stunt, while the test only served to give Trump more ammunition. “She doesn’t have any Indian blood,” Trump told his supporters in the small Southern Illinois town of Murphysboro. “I have more than she does, and I have none. Right? I have none, but it’s more than her.”

      Now as we brace for another two years of dog-whistles, the dynamic may have changed slightly. The president last week gave Warren a gift in the form of another racist tweet. The tweet may show a way for Warren to fight back, a way that won’t backfire like the genetic test.

    • Unity and Exceptionalism: Trump’s State of Union Flurries

      “Trump is hated by everyone,” comes one unnamed former official in an account to Vanity Fair, one supposedly sourced after the President’s State of the Union Address. Another claimed that all was wretched in the White House: “It’s total misery. People feel trapped.” Off record stuff, unnamed and, as ever, doing nothing to concern a leader whose interests have always lain elsewhere. Whatever the chronic dysfunction affecting the West Wing, what mattered for Donald Trump was simply getting his State of the Union address going. And long it was too – 82 minutes, making it the third longest in history.

      The address saw Trump return to what he is most comfortable with: campaign mode. Governance is less important than combat. When there are troubles, and when there is crisis, he searches for the rally, the reassurances of his formidable and, it would seem, unshakeable base still ignored on either side of the coast. The speech was seen by Susan Glasser of The New Yorker as “sort of gauzy” with hints of “World War II triumphalism”.

      The language was, in the main, thin puffery, that of the exceptional nation which had “saved freedom, transformed science” and done more than its bit to redefine “the middle class standard of living for the entire world to see.” In a sense, this is true: the paradox of US living is that it supposedly reconciles middle class living with horrendous swathes of indigence and an active food stamp culture, a true glory to the distortions of Social Darwinism.

    • ‘The National Popular Vote Movement Is Winning”: Colorado Bill to Scrap Electoral College Advances

      The movement to end the electoral college and select the U.S. president by popular vote—reinvigorated after President Donald Trump won the 2016 election despite Hillary Clinton receiving more than 3 million more votes—is poised to claim another victory as a bill in Colorado is close to becoming law.

      A state House committee voted 6-3 for the state to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, voting on party lines. The bill now moves to the Democratic-controlled state House and, if approved, is expected to be signed by Demoocratic Gov. Jared Polis.

      As Common Cause noted on Twitter, the proposal is popular among Colorado voters, with 84 people volunteering to testify before the House committee in favor of joining the compact.

    • Why Ann Coulter Has Power: U.S. Politics are Authoritarian by Design

      Recently a correspondent from overseas wrote to ask me how it is that Donald Trump perseveres with his absurd nativist demand – replete with threats of a second government shut-down or a Declaration of National Emergency – for a completed wall to stop a fake and racist brown menace on the southern United States border despite the fact that his demand and his threats are opposed by a solid majority of U.S.-Americans.

      The demand and the threats are still very much on the table in the wake of a State of the Union Address in which Trump made literally not a single mention of the 35-day nativist shutdown he ordered (at no small cost to hundreds of thousands of federal workers) last December and January.

      The short answer to my correspondent’s question is that Trump has strong support for his terrible Know Nothing Wall from white-nationalist Republicans who are granted political leverage far beyond their numbers by the nation’s militantly undemocratic political system

    • What is Democratic Socialism and Does America Need to be “Protected” from Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez?

      That when you look around the world, you see every other major country providing health care to all people as a right, except the United States. You see every other major country saying to moms that, when you have a baby, we’re not gonna separate you from your newborn baby, because we are going to have – we are gonna have medical and family paid leave, like every other country on Earth.

      For Sanders, economic justice and leveling the opportunity and income gap between the rich and poor is what part of what it means to be a democratic socialist. Yet historically the term has meant more that economic justice, it also included democratic control of the economy.

      Democratic socialism emerges as a political movement in response to Karl Marx’s criticism of capitalism in the mid nineteenth century. To simplify, Marx had argued that the core problem of capitalism was a class exploitation and struggle between the bourgeoisie and proletariat where the latter sells labor power which is extracted as surplus value by the former. The bourgeoisie own the means of production and over time in their race to maintain profits they increasingly replace human labor power with machines, they drive down wages placing more and more individuals into poverty. This process creates an economic crisis, intensifying class struggle, and eventually creating conditions for a capitalist struggle. As the theory was eventually amended by Engels, it suggested an economic inevitability for the revolution. With Lenin, the communist party would serve as a vanguard movement to lead the revolution. As further amended by Stalin, this party in practice was highly undemocratic.

      Starting in the late nineteenth century individuals such as Eduard Bernstein in Evolutionary Socialism argued that the revolutionary tactics and economic inevitability of the revolution were not practical or certain. He and others agreed with much of the basic criticism of Marx but instead tied the future of a classless society to parliamentary democracy. Specifically, the emphasis was upon linking universal franchise to socialist ideals with the hope that socialism could be brought about by elections. For Bernstein, socialism was an ethical imperative, it was about treating everyone with respect, and it was grounded in the French Revolution ideas of promoting “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.” It was taking the ideals of political liberalism and translating them into economic democracy. In effect, workers would have democratic control not just of the government but of the economy.

      There was serious debate over whether parliamentary socialism was possible, with writers such as Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Kautsky, and Leon Trotsky reaching various conclusions. But the core argument about what constituted democratic socialism centered on democratic control of the marketplace–it was democratic control of capitalism. It was about ensuring that workers and not capitalists made decisions about what to invest, not letting the choice simply remain in the boardrooms of corporate executives.

    • New Hampshire Law Illegally Targets Young Voters Ahead of 2020 Primary

      The state wants students to face criminal penalties if they don’t pay to change their out-of-state licenses after voting.
      The New Hampshire 2020 primary is still almost a year away, but state legislators are already working to disenfranchise voters. HB 1264, a law set to go into effect in July 2019, will change the definition of what it means to be a “resident” of New Hampshire, forcing people with out-of-state driver’s licenses or car registrations to switch to the state versions if they register to vote.

      While it may sound like an archaic DMV issue, it’s actually a burden on the right to vote. In New Hampshire, students are lawfully permitted to vote in the town where they live while attending school.

      By requiring people to pay up to hundreds of dollars in vehicle registration fees if they register to vote, the law unconstitutionally restricts voting rights and, in particular, targets New Hampshire’s students and young people to dissuade them for voting. That’s why we just filed a lawsuit on behalf of two Dartmouth College students, both of whom were eligible to vote in the 2018 elections but now would be forced to update their driver’s licenses if they participate in 2020.

      For our plaintiffs, this fight is about having a voice in the issues that matter most to them. Caroline, a sophomore, is heavily involved in get-out-the-vote efforts on her campus. She’ll be living in New Hampshire until at least 2021 and wants to make sure her voice will be heard by legislators in New Hampshire on the issues she cares about.

    • Did the Senate find “no direct evidence” of collusion? That doesn’t mean what Trump wants it to

      Senate Intelligence Committee chair Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican and former Trump campaign adviser, told CBS News last week: “If we write a report based upon the facts that we have, then we don’t have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia.” That comment didn’t garner much notice on its own, since Burr said exactly the same thing last September. But yesterday NBC News reported that the committee as a whole had concluded that there was no evidence of collusion and that Democrats on the panel were in agreement.

      [...]

      The NBC report’s headline said that the committee had found no “direct evidence” of conspiracy, which is a more specific legal term. Former U.S. attorney Chuck Rosenberg pointed out on MSNBC on Tuesday that it’s very rare to find “direct evidence” of conspiracy. He said, “In fact, in the dozens and dozens of cases I tried to a jury, only once ever did I have direct evidence of a conspiracy. You almost never see that.” He added that circumstantial evidence is just as important as direct evidence and “to say that there’s no direct evidence of a conspiracy is really not all that damning on the facts of the case.”

      This past week we learned that there may definitely be evidence of conspiracy that we haven’t heard about before — and it’s big. This report in Tuesday’s Washington Post compellingly lays out a narrative suggesting that former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort may have “directly” conspired with his former employee and suspected FSB officer Konstantin Kilimnik, who was likely working on behalf of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a close associate and ally of President Vladimir Putin.

      We’ve seen previous hints pointing in this direction. But this latest information, gleaned from a redacted transcript of a court hearing about Manafort’s cooperation agreement, makes it appear as if Manafort met with Kilimnik during the heat of the campaign and may have given him some valuable polling data which Kilimnik presumably passed on to Deripaska. What they would or could have done with that information, we do not know.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Russian legislators hope to multiply fines for posting ‘fake news’ and disrespecting the government

      As two State Duma bills that would penalize spreading “fake news” or disrespecting authorities online approach their second reading, some deputies are asking for the proposals’ fines to be increased by several times. TASS reported on the proposed increases and circulated a copy of the amendments supported by a group of Duma deputies.

      The original bills proposed a fine of 3,000 – 5,000 rubles ($46 – $76) for ordinary citizens and 30,000 – 50,000 rubles ($460 – $760) for public figures who share “unreliable” stories online or show disrespect on the Internet for state symbols or government figures. Deputies are now hoping for fines of 30,000 – 100,000 rubles ($460 – $1,522) for private citizens who violate the bills and 60,000 – 200,000 rubles ($913 – $3,043) for public figures.

    • The ‘Peacekeeper’ Vigilante Website and Freedom of Speech in Ukraine

      The 2013-2014 pro-European Union protest movement in Ukraine known as the ‘Euromaidan’ is officially celebrated in Ukraine and is largely recognized in the West as a pro-democratic, peaceful, popular revolution against the ‘corrupt autocratic regime’ (according to the mainstream Western and Ukrainian media) of president Victor Yanukovych. Ukrainians should now breathe more freely, live better and enjoy the rule of law and freedom of speech. And yet today, under the supposedly democratic, post-Euromaidan government, there is much less freedom in Ukraine and much more political violence.

      Examples abound. They include the official banning of Russian social networks, movies, books and other cultural products; persecutions and imprisonment of citizens holding dissenting opinion; searches of the offices of media outlets that dare to criticize the new Ukrainian power holders; attacks by ultra-right nationalists against journalists and media offices with the connivance of the state; cyber-bullying of journalists and bloggers who hold alternative opinions, carried out by so-called porokhoboty – bloggers and opinion leaders who propagate the ‘official’ truth with the informal support by the administration of President Petro Poroshenko; increasing state control of television channels through the oligarchic owners of these channels. And the list goes on and on. (For a detailed and well-researched analysis on freedom of speech and opinion in Ukraine, I refer the reader to the recent report presented to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe by the Ukrainian human rights platform Uspishna Varta in September 2018.)

      One of the new forms of intimidation of journalists and citizens who do not agree with the ‘official’ version of what is happening is Ukraine is the public exposure of their personal data by anonymous denunciators using the snitch Ukrainian website with the telling name ‘Myrotvorets‘, which translates as ‘Peacekeeper’ from Ukrainian. The website lists the names of journalists, Ukrainian citizens and foreign citizens accused of holding anti-Ukrainian and ‘pro-Russian’ views, foreigners who joined the military forces of the non-recognized ‘peoples republics’ of Donetsk and Lugansk, names of Russian volunteers assisting the republics or fighting on their side, and people who have entered Crimea through the territory of Russia instead of Ukraine. The Myrotvorets vigilantes cast their net really large: even a reposting from a Facebook group supporting the Anti-Maidan resistance movement in Ukraine is grounds for accusation of “treason”. The listing of persons on the website includes his/her profile on social media, home address and phone number, and personal data of relatives.

    • Well-Known URI vs DNS-SD for routing distributed web service discovery around internet censorship

      In this article, I want to discuss the use of Well-Known URIs and DNS based service discovery (DNS-SD) methods for mapping domain names to resources on the distributed web. I’ll focus on the different method’s ability to route around internet censorship and their centralization, and talk about some suggestions for improving the current implementations used by distributed web projects.

      There are two primary methods used to auto-discover services offered on a domain: you either send it a web request to a predetermined service-discovery address or you can query the Domain Name System (DNS) for a predetermined service-discovery record. The distributed web, like the regular web, relies on these two methods to discover the resource addresses used to retrieve content by a domain name in various distributed networks. I’ll discuss each of these methods in turn.

      Well-Known URIs (RFC 5785) are really simple to implement on any web server where you control the root of the domain and can expose files on the domain root. The Dat project and the Beaker Browser uses this method to discover websites that offer a distributed Dat archive by requesting the archive’s hash fingerprint from a file served at https://example.com/.well-known/dat.

    • Why Do Some Websites Block VPNs?

      One of the only ways to protect your right to privacy and information online is to use a VPN. Some websites infringe on those rights by blocking VPNs, but they do it for a good reason.

      The big names that are notorious for blacklisting VPNs are Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and the BBC. It’s hard to figure out exactly how many websites block VPN access, but the number could be in the thousands. Most of these sites aren’t actively at war with VPNs, but they manage to blacklist a lot of VPN IP addresses over time passively.

    • Obsolete Hot News Doctrine Back In The News As Bloomberg Is Sued For Reporting Too Quickly

      It’s been a few years since we’ve really talked about the Hot News doctrine, which was a mostly obsolete and, frankly, bizarre attempt to turn the idea of publishing a similar news story too quickly after the original reporters broke the story into a form of “misappropriation.” It stems from the International News Service v. Associated Press case from a century ago (literally: 1918), in which the AP argued that even though there is no copyright in facts, having INS release a similar story too quickly to AP’s articles was a form of “misappropriation” of its “hot news.” Incredibly, the court agreed. However, multiple later cases, plus the entire rewriting of copyright law in 1976 had most people believing that the entire concept of “hot news” was obsolete and effectively dead.
      Indeed, in 2003, Judge Richard Posner suggested that the entire concept “can be jettisoned” and he later committed to that in some of his rulings. However, around 2010, a variety of hot news cases popped up, and yet basically all of them have been losers (the one exception I can think of being a default judgment where the defendant didn’t even show up).

    • Utter Bullshit: Reporter Maria Ressa Arrested Over Bogus Charges For Her Critical Reporting

      We’ve written about reporter Maria Ressa, who started the successful news site The Rappler in the Philippines. Ressa, herself, is a force of nature, who has upset a lot of people with her incredibly detailed and thorough reporting. Last year, we wrote about how the Duterte government was trying to intimidate and silence her with bogus charges, claiming that because she had accepted grant money from US foundations, she was engaged in tax evasion.

      Today things ramped up quite a bit with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) (the Filipino equivalent of the FBI) coming to arrest Ressa at her offices, claiming that she violated a “cyberlibel” law. Incredibly, the article that the government claims is libelous… was written four months before the law they claim it violated actually became law.

      [....]

      This is why in the US (and other countries) we have what’s known as the single publication rule, in that the date of original publication is the date at which any statute of limitations clock starts ticking (mostly). Yet, it appears the Philippines is arguing for no single publication rule and that “continuous publication” means liability can last forever. Furthermore, even if this was libelous (which sounds questionable), shouldn’t libel be a civil matter between two private parties, rather than involving the criminal justice system?

    • Mozilla Open Policy & Advocacy Blog: Mozilla Foundation fellow weighs in on flawed EU Terrorist Content regulation

      As we’ve noted previously, the EU’s proposed Terrorist Content regulation would seriously undermine internet health in Europe, by forcing companies to aggressively suppress user speech with limited due process and user rights safeguards. Yet equally concerning is the fact that this proposal is likely to achieve little in terms of reducing the actual terrorism threat or the phenomenon of radicalisation in Europe. Here, Mozilla Foundation Tech Policy fellow and community security expert Stefania Koskova* unpacks why, and proposes an alternative approach for EU lawmakers.

      With the proposed Terrorist Content regulation, the EU has the opportunity to set a global standard in how to effectively address what is a pressing public policy concern. To be successful, harmful and illegal content policies must carefully and meaningfully balance the objectives of national security, internet-enabled economic growth and human rights. Content policies addressing national security threats should reflect how internet content relates to ‘offline’ harm and should provide sufficient guidance on how to comprehensively and responsibly reduce it in parallel with other interventions. Unfortunately, the Commission’s proposal falls well short in this regard.

    • Reddit Posts With Openload URLs Getting ‘Shadowbanned’
  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Creeped out by Facebook’s algorithms? Just wait until you see this new facial recognition tool released by anonymous Russian programmers.

      On February 11, Russian Internet users discovered a website, searchface.ru, that allows anyone to search the massive social media network VKontakte using a single image. The site’s functionality was simple: after uploading a photograph that included someone’s face, users could see a list of links to VKontakte pages with photographs that may depict the same person. On February 13, after the social media network announced that it would sue SearchFace for “gross violations of [VKontakte’s] rules,” the algorithm’s creators removed profile links from the site’s search results but retained the rest of its functions.

    • How to Get Settlement Money If You Bought a Vizio Smart TV

      Last year, Vizio was sued for reportedly spying on customers and using this data to target ads. This resulted in a $17 million class-action lawsuit that is now paying customers who bought a Vizio smart TV between February of 2015 and February of 2017.

      Starting now, owners of Vizio smart TVs can sign up to be part of said lawsuit and get their piece of the pie. Don’t expect a huge take here, of course, as the average payout is expected to be $13 to $31. You’ll just need to give them your name, address, phone number (which is how you’ll get the payment), and email address. They also want to know when you purchased your TV and what model it is if you know those things, but they’re not required.

      To collect your coin, head over to the Vizio TV Settlement website, click the “File a Claim” button, then fill out out the form with all the aforementioned information.

      After that, you’re good to go—just hang out and wait for your lunch money to show up. You don’t even have to be in a hurry here, either, as you have until April 29th to get it done. If you don’t do it before then, you give up your right to get anything from the settlement or sue Vizio for this in the future.

    • Kushal Das: Tracking my phone’s silent connections

      The first thing to notice is how the phone is trying to find servers from Apple, which makes sense as this is an iPhone. I use the mobile Twitter app a lot, so we also see many queries related to Twitter. Lookout is a special mention there, it was suggested to me by my friends who understand these technologies and security better than me. The 3rd position is taken by Google, though sometimes I watch Youtube videos, but, the phone queried for many other Google domains.

      There are also many queries to Akamai CDN service, and I could not find any easy way to identify those hosts, the same with Amazon AWS related hosts. If you know any better way, please drop me a note.

      You can see a lot of data analytics related companies were also queried. dev.appboy.com is a major one, and thankfully algo already blocked that domain in the DNS level. I don’t know which app is trying to connect to which all servers, I found about a few of the apps in my phone by searching about the client list of the above-mentioned analytics companies. Next, in coming months, I will start blocking those hosts/domains one by one and see which all apps stop working.

    • As Trump Prepares Ban On Huawei, Few Notice The Major Holes In The Underlying Logic

      During the Trump era, the government has dramatically ramped up claims that Chinese hardware vendor Huawei is a nefarious spy for the Chinese government, blackballing it from the U.S. telecom market. From pressuring U.S. carriers to drop plans to sell Huawei phones to the FCC’s decision to ban companies from using Huawei gear if they want to receive federal subsidies, this effort hasn’t been subtle.

      This week, there are rumblings that the Trump administration is about to take things further with a total ban on Huawei gear anywhere inside of the United States. The news is to be formally announced ahead of the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, likely with a heavy emphasis on how the move will cement U.S. dominance in the “race to 5G,” a largely nonsensical concept drummed up by networking hardware vendor marketing departments.

      The problem: there’s still no public evidence Huawei uses its network gear to spy on Americans, and much of the motivation for this assault on Huawei has been proven to be largely about protectionism, not national security.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • ‘The US Government Has Scarred My Daughter and Me for Life’: Families Sue Trump Over Deliberate and ‘Inexplicable Cruelty’

      Accusing the Trump administration of deliberate and “inexplicable cruelty” perpetrated against them under it’s so-called “zero tolerance” immigration policy, six families have filed suit against the U.S. government for the harm and “lasting trauma” they continue to suffer.

      In the filing, six mothers described having their children torn away from them, with officials giving them little to no information about where their children were, if they were safe, and when they would be reunited—treatment that the lawyers involved in the suit argue fit the legal definition of intentionally inflicting emotional distress.

      “It was the worst moment of my life, when officers tore my crying daughter from my arms. I didn’t know where she was going or when I’d see her next—and I couldn’t tell her she’d be safe. It was four months and one day until I saw her again,” said Leticia, one of the mothers. “We came to the U.S. because we feared for our lives in Guatemala, but rather than offering us safety, the U.S. government has scarred my daughter and me for life.”

      The American Immigration Council and the National Immigrant Justice Center were joined by two law firms in filing the lawsuit against the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Health & Human Services (HHS) on Monday.

      The families are demanding $3 million each in compensation for the suffering inflicted on them and their children, who were as young as five years old when they were separated—but advocates stressed that no amount of money can undo the harm caused by the family separation policy.

    • The Lure of the Past

      I recently read a very interesting but disturbing essay about history: past, present and the future. The author was the Russian writer Vladimir Sharov. He rejects any prospects we are capable of studying, much less learning, from history.

      He was probably so poisoned by his Soviet experience of enormous violence and death, he only sees manipulation of the past for the ephemeral needs of the present. As for the future, Sharov says, it is “cold, shorn of all detail, all the silliness and absurdity that distinguishes the living from the dead.”

      I don’t agree with the elimination or fabrication of history. In fifth-century BCE Athens, Euripides, a great dramatic poet, equated the study and learning of history with science and happiness and citizenship. People with historical knowledge, he said, are the protectors of democracy.

      The other reason I dispute the downgrading and indifference of history is that I earned a doctorate in history. So, I am biased in my love of history.

    • Google, Apple Called Out For Hosting Saudi Government App That Allows Men To Track Their Spouses’ Movements

      Seems like this would be something that would go without saying: if you’re an American tech company, don’t willingly assist oppressive regimes in the oppression of their populace. Twitter is forever helping the Turkish government silence critics and journalists. Facebook has allowed governments to weaponize its moderation tools, quite possibly contributing to government-ordained killings.

      Now, Ron Wyden is calling out both Apple and Google for making it easier for Saudi Arabian men to treat their spouses (and employees) like possessions, rather than people.

    • The Suffering of the Iranian People Has “Made in USA” Stamped on It

      So much terrible history rammed into one sentence: The brutal U.S.-backed regime of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi; the 1979 revolution and the 444-day hostage crisis that roiled the 1980 presidential election; four decades of turmoil, sanctions, secret deals and Cold War manipulation; a ray of hope after the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran that was slapped down by the Trump administration; a return to ruinous sanctions; and, as ever over these 40 years, a looming threat of war.

      There is a name missing from that Al Jazeera report, just as there is a name missing from this Washington Post report on the anniversary that nearly drips derision from its deliberately hidebound rewrite of history. That name is Mohammad Mosaddegh, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran who was deposed and imprisoned at the behest of powerful interests by Dwight Eisenhower and Winston Churchill over access to Iranian oil.

      Western politicians and the mainstream journalists who cover them shy away from the name Mosaddegh, for his name is an incantation summoning the bloody specter of blowback and the carnage that comes whenever the game of thrones is played for petroleum in the battered birthing bed of civilization. “Mosaddegh” is a condemnation, a warning, and a lesson yet to be heeded by those in Washington, D.C., who believe their power and wealth means they can outrun consequences.

    • The Iranian Revolution Turns Forty: Dare to Know, Have the Courage to Act!

      Legend has it that in 1972 when the Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai was asked about the impact of the French Revolution his response was that “it’s too soon to say.” Although the accuracy of the story has been questioned, I believe that legendary response remains historically apposite. What revolutions do, their failure or success, their lasting impact, their tangible and intangible achievements are often expressed in contradictory terms and difficult to ascertain. The Iranian revolution of 1979 is not an exception. Iranians mark the fortieth anniversary of their revolution at a moment that cries of regret are commonly heard all over the country, in rural areas as well as in urban centers. These voices are openly heard on the streets of big cities and small towns, among the downtrodden and affluent classes alike. The discontent is also echoed and encouraged by a host of exilic media, American and European Persian TV and radio networks, mourning the revolution and romanticizing the ancien régime. These broadcasts highlight ongoing corruption, repression, cultural and social alienation, gender and ethnic discrimination, economic hardship, and regional destabilization. And of course, every year on the anniversary of the revolution the question is asked for how much longer the regime will last, a question that is as old as the revolution itself.

      Those grievances are legitimate, particularly the problem of corruption and the deepening of social inequality. This is not a secret. It is discussed in every single session of the Iranian Parliament and widely written about in newspapers and op-ed pieces inside Iran. Almost invariably in these discussions, intellectuals, pundits, government officials, and members of the parliament still invoke the authority of revolutionary discourse to warn about the growing cleavage between the promises of the revolution and the realities of everyday life in the country. Long are gone the days that Ayatollah Beheshti, the once powerful Vice Chair of the Constitutional Assembly and the influential Head of the Judiciary until his assassination in 1981, set goal of the distribution of wealth in society to a one-to-three ratio between the lowest and the highest income. That egalitarian mantra lives but only as a shibboleth with no correspondence with the facts of life.

      All that is true. But should one question the wisdom of revolutionary transformation that ended the autocratic rule of the Shah, repositioned Iran as a regional power, and turned Iran into a vibrant, rights-conscious, participatory, and engaged society? The revolutionary will that once toppled the fifth largest military in the world with bare hands and marching feet also brought a historical awakening to Iran that shapes the collective consciousness of the nation to this day. That consciousness continues to manifest itself in different forms of dissent and civic engagement.

    • Following recent jail sentence, prominent human rights activist’s organization is blacklisted as ‘foreign agent’ for second time

      The 77-year-old activist said the Justice Ministry’s decision to reinstate the foreign agent label stemmed from his arrest on December 5 for promoting an unsanctioned rally. Ponomarev posted on social media to express support for protesters, who were demanding the release of young Russians accused of extremism. The Justice Ministry’s document check began later that month, and Ponomarev pointed out that his name was “mentioned multiple times” in a meeting between Russia’s federal human rights council and President Vladimir Putin after the human rights activist was sentenced to 25 days in jail.

    • Incarcerated Immigrants Are Being Tortured

      In El Paso, Texas, not far from where President Trump delivered a speech riddled with falsehoods and jingoism at a pro-wall rally on Tuesday, at least nine Sikh men reportedly fleeing persecution in India have been on hunger strike in an immigration jail for weeks.

      The asylum seekers are protesting their detention and the conditions of the jail, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have responded by force-feeding the men, throwing them in solitary confinement and threatening them with deportation when they refused the force-feeding, according to the Detention Watch Network.

      Force-feeding at the immigration jail involves tying the striker to a bed and pumping liquid nutrients down the nose and esophagus. Last week, human rights officials at the U.N. said the treatment of the strikers could constitute torture under international law. In a statement to Mother Jones, ICE denied placing the strikers in solitary confinement, but supporters of the striking Sikhs say they have continued to face abuse as retaliation for resisting the feeding tubes.

      Ruby Kaur, an attorney for the hunger strikers, said in a statement Friday that the hunger strikers have scars on their arms from IV needles, are suffering rectal bleeding and find blood in their vomit, in addition to experiencing “persistent stomach, chest and throat pain.” Liz Martinez, a spokesperson for Freedom for Immigrants, one of the groups supporting the strikers, told Truthout on Tuesday that the strikers are currently facing the same treatment.

      “We’re calling on lawmakers to conduct oversight in the facility,” Martinez said, adding that the strikers are demanding to be released and allowed to continue their asylum cases outside of jail. “We’ve got so many reports from there about not just force-feeding but other abuses by the staff.”

    • In Prison, the Power’s On, But There’s No Accountability

      The power is back on at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn and the street outside is relatively silent, but it shouldn’t take a week without heat during a polar vortex and hour after hour of hands hammering on windows, to sound an alarm about conditions in federal lock up.

      The Metropolitan Detention Center Brooklyn is a holding jail mostly for people awaiting federal trial, just a few miles from downtown Manhattan. It’s a grim, recreation-less place, more like warehouse than house, rife with abuse, including sexual abuse, even in the best of times.

      The end of January, as a record breaking freeze hit the Northeast, were not the best of times in the lock up. For at least a week, as far as we know, as many as1,600 inmates at MDC lost heat, light, electricity and access to phone and internet and attorneys and family visits.

      We don’t know for sure how many shivered in the cold for how long because although it’s a federal facility, which is to say, it’s publicly funded, it’s the opposite of public. City officials got access last week, but only after a protest, only after those hands started hammering on those walls and windows in panic.

    • Global Condemnation After Journalist Who Blamed Trump for Duterte’s Attacks on Free Press Arrested in Philippines

      Just a few months after directly blaming U.S. President Donald Trump for fueling crackdowns on the press in her country, award-winning Filipina journalist Maria Ressa—a long-time critic of the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte—was arrested Wednesday for what reporters and media advocates around the world denounced as “trumped-up and politically-motivated” libel charges designed to intimidate and silence Ressa and her colleagues.

      In November, while accepting an award from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Ressa said: “Our problems are partly caused by yours: American social media technology platforms, once empowering, now weaponized against journalists, activists, and citizens, spreading lies across borders; and, a president so much like ours whose attacks against the press (and women) give permission to autocrats (like ours) to unleash the dark side of humanity and extend their already vast powers with impunity, especially in countries where institutions have crumbled.”

    • Explaining Virginia’s Crisis (to Japanese People)

      The governor of the state of Virginia, Ralph Northam, is probably going to have to resign in a scandal involving a photo of him as a medical school student in 1984, either wearing blackface or dressed as a Klansman.

      This would normally mean that the vice-governor, Justin Fairfax, would succeed him. It was briefly speculated that the succession of an African-American might heal some of the pain caused by the revelations about his predecessor. But Fairfax may have to resign due to accusations of assault by two women in 2000 and 2004. The Virginia Senate looks set to impeach him, based on the allegations which he denies.

      Fairfax is thus probably out; this would normally mean that the state’s attorney general, Mark Herring, would succeed as governor. But Herring has admitted to wearing brown makeup “at a party” in 1980 as a nineteen-year-old while trying to imitate a rapper. This makes him as unsuitable as Northam for many.

      The Democrats have long since adopted a zero-tolerance level for people with these kinds of skeletons in their closets. This is to enhance the party’s appeal among voters most energized around—increasingly safe, uncontroversial, mainstreamed—identity politics, while diverting attention from the fundamental problems of capitalism and imperialism. (The party bosses are terrified by the election of “socialists” on their ticket, and scrambling to marginalize newcomers like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezes.) Hence the immediate condemnation of Fairfax by all his colleagues.

    • Russian government begins charging young activists for including minors in protests

      Russia’s State Duma approved a bill in mid-December that created administrative penalties for those charged with involving minors in unsanctioned protests and rallies. Now, 18-year-old activist Ivan Luzin has become the first protester to be charged under the new law. Luzin volunteers for the national opposition politician Alexey Navalny in the city of Kaliningrad and is also a volunteer for Russia’s Libertarian Party.

      Alexander Dobralsky, Luzin’s attorney, said officials have accused the teenager of organizing a picket on February 7 that included two underage women. Dobralsky said both women were also volunteers from Navalny’s local headquarters.

    • Paris Live: Who Will Protect Us From the Police?

      We sat on the steps of the Madeleine while the sirens skrieked and the scene unfolded like a ritual with no humans, like one of those unhappy films about the future where everything moves in choreographed, hypnotic motion, the narrative pulsing to a high pitch of danger and fear. You would have thought that Paris was on terror alert or at least some European director with a fat account was restaging the Nazi ballet for the umpteenth time.

      It was Acte XII on the new French (Gilets Jaunes) calendar and the police were ready this time – no surprises! – from the Arc de Triomphe all the way to Concorde : flexible barriers you couldn’t drive a truck through on the Elysée, at other places barricades or fences, tanks, a cordon of police at entry points, Rue Royale almost completely deserted. (How to get to Maxim’s for that drink with F. Scott ? Scheisse.) You could stroll through the gardens, if you could somersault over the guardians of the peace. If the whole acronym army in their riot gear didn’t scare you off such a harmless pasttime.

      The only problem was – there were no demonstrators, no Gilet Jaunes anywhere. These humble spectres, apparitions of the anti-Etat, were elsewhere. It was strange to sit there and watch it unfold, this display carried out so shop owners could get an extra hour’s sleep and nervous tourists could stand on line for the museums without fretting

      that something extraordinary might happen to them on their harmless holiday. We stared down Royale which leads straight to Concorde, and from our vantage, the entry to the Champs, Saint Honoré where the shops were open but no one was going in, the pastisserie packed and everything at twice the price…Which of us was going to race down Royale, slip into Concorde and – supposing we got that far – stand on the spot where Louis XVI got his, give the rebel yell, scream something incomprehensively obscene ? Not worth the weekend in jail. We already know what it’s like to the cops on your tail.

    • The Disappearing of Generation X

      Generation X — Americans born between 1961 and 1974 — have been “disappeared“ from the media like a fallen-out-of-favor Soviet apparatchik airbrushed out of a picture from atop Lenin’s tomb.

      Gen X was an important facet of the start of my career. I used to write and draw a lot about Gen X. I authored a seminal Gen X manifesto, Revenge of the Latchkey Kids (1996). For a while there, it seemed like we were going to take our rightful place as the third-biggest generational cohort—not the biggest by any means but at least…extant.

      Now the Internet is talking about a CBS News infographic in which zero Americans were apparently born between Boomers and the Millennials. CBS listed four generations:

      “The Silent Generation: Born 1928-1945 (73-90 years old)”

      “Baby Boomers: Born 1946-1964 (54-72 years old)”

      “Millennials: Born 1981-1996 (23-37 years old)”

      “Post-Millennials: Born 1997-present (0-21 years old)”

    • Robert Reich: Trump’s Attacks on Warren Can’t Be Tolerated

      Elizabeth Warren is one of the most talented politicians and policy leaders in America. We must not allow Trump or anyone else to “swift-boat” her because she identified herself as an American Indian three decades ago.

      At worst, Warren may have stretched the bounds of the definition of whiteness. That’s understandable. She grew up in Oklahoma, a state created from Indian Territory. She probably witnessed the disrespect and occasional brutality that Native Americans were, and still are, subject to. Her own genetic test showed at least one Native American ancestor. She has stressed that she is not a member of a tribal nation.

      Warren didn’t call Mexicans rapists. She didn’t call nations populated primarily by black or brown people “shitholes.” She didn’t assume all Muslims are terrorists. She didn’t characterize black neighborhoods as war zones. She didn’t assert that an American president was born in Africa. She has not sexually assaulted anyone. She has not paid hush money to prostitutes. She hasn’t insulted Native Americans by calling a leading politician “Pocahontas” and joking about the Trail of Tears in the 1830s.

      Warren got no career benefit from her self-designation. At every step of her exceptional rise in the legal profession, those responsible for hiring her saw her as a white woman. The fact that she claimed Indian descent on a Texas bar form that was meant to be confidential is further evidence that her identification arose from sincere belief.

    • Howard Schultz and the Media’s Unlearned Lesson

      A BILLIONAIRE FLIRTS with a run for president and gets grossly disproportionate free airtime. We all know the punchline. Howard Schultz, the running-but-not-yet-running former CEO of Starbucks, has attracted intense media interest over the past two and a half weeks, sitting for a string of newspaper and broadcast interviews, including a profile on 60 Minutes. Last night, he became the second potential 2020 candidate, after Kamala Harris, to get CNN’s town-hall treatment. In the run-up, prominent media-watchers criticized the network’s decision to offer Schultz such an elevated platform; CNN’s own polls, they pointed out, have Schultz way down. “These decisions can have a big effect on a candidacy,” Jay Rosen, a professor at NYU, told The Daily Beast. “But there’s no coherent logic to them.”

      As had been the case in his recent interview round, Schultz offered little of substance last night: he repeatedly bashed “far left” and “far right” bogeymen without proposing specific, distinctive solutions of his own. It took 10 minutes of biographical soft soap to get to a policy question at all. When one came, on immigration, Schultz’s answer was clichéd and contradictory—“We should be building bridges and allow people in,” but also securing the border to “not allow bad people in”—yet no request for clarification was made. Much later in proceedings, Poppy Harlow, CNN’s moderator for the night, did start asking for details. When she pushed him, however, Schultz simply sidestepped, and the conversation moved on. “What would you do to fix it?” Harlow asked on veterans’ healthcare. “You have to put the quality people in charge,” Schultz replied.

    • Traffic Calming and Immigration

      I just saw two Central American women with one baby each standing on a speed bump in the semi-rural central Mexican town in which I live making gestures to passersby to indicate that they were hungry. I walked home and returned with about half of the little food that I had on hand. (This is not to say that I’m poor but that I am not well-organized enough to keep a lot of food in the house.)

    • Freedom for All Begins With Freedom for the Most Marginalized

      There were about 10 of us in the group. Some looked around wondering if it was a trick question, while others blurted out, “Abraham Lincoln!” After some time, the docent finally offered his response: “Enlisted slaves freed themselves, with the help of Union soldiers.”
      I had a powerful reaction to this response, because history tells a different story of Lincoln as the “Great Emancipator.”
      The truth is, President Lincoln knew the Union army would be unsuccessful in its Civil War campaign without more able bodies to defeat the Confederate army.
      When he issued his Emancipation Proclamation, he didn’t merely announce the end of slavery in rebel territories. Lincoln also asked Blacks to enlist in the Union army, inviting “people so declared to be free” to be “received into the armed service of the United States.” Lincoln knew he needed troops, but he also knew he couldn’t make such a request without freeing the slaves.
      My ancestors didn’t go to war to help the Union army, or to prevent the South from seceding. Nor did they fight alongside Union soldiers because of a shared cause for a country undivided. My ancestors fought in the Civil War because freedom was the reward after centuries of enslavement.
      Blacks knew what was at stake. This wasn’t about politics, nor was it about patriotism. This was about freedom — freedom for themselves, their grandchildren, their great grandchildren — and freedom for me, a distant descendant. There was no other way around it. Sadly, war was their only hope.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • On the General Architecture of the Peer Web (and the placement of the PC 2.0 era within the timeline of general computing and the greater socioeconomic context)

      There is a common misconception (perhaps owing to its stated aims or a conflation with the nature of some of the fundamental protocols of the Internet) that the World Wide Web is decentralised. It is not and never has been.

      The fundamental architecture of the Web has always been client/server. In other words, centralised. The Centralised Web era was, in effect, a return to mainframe computing. The only difference is that the mainframes are now global in reach. Our new mainframes are household names like Google, Facebook, and Snapchat (and lesser-known data brokers and surveillance companies that lurk behind the scenes like Acxiom and Palantir).

      The Web today is an oligopoly of multinational corporations with business models based on surveillance and ownership of people by proxy. It was the Centralised Web that ushered in the socioeconomic system we call surveillance capitalism. Capitalism, of course, has always relied on some level of surveillance and ownership of people, all the way back to its basis in slavery. What is different today is the nature and scope of the surveillance and ownership.

      It is crucial that we understand that even in the early days, the Web was centralised. The centres (the servers) were just closer to each other in size. That changed when the Web was commercialised. The injection of venture capital with its expectation of exponential returns for Vegas-style high-risk betting provided the enzymatic pool that incentivised the centres to grow in tumour-like fashion until we got the monopolies of Google, Facebook, and their ilk. A new era of people farming was born. And while we diagnosed the tumours early, instead of recognising them as a threat, we started celebrating them and paving the way for a new type of slavery by proxy to sneak in through this digital and networked backdoor. This new slavery, let’s call it Slavery 2.0, is not as crude as Slavery 1.0. In Slavery 2.0, we no longer need physical possession of your body. We can own you by proxy by obtaining and owning a digital copy of you.

      Here’s how it works: The so-called consumer technologies of today, with few exceptions, have two facets. There is the face you see: the addictive, potentially useful one that you interact with as “the user” and the one you don’t see. The one that’s watching you and taking notes and analysing your behaviour so that it can use the intimate insight it gleams from this constantly-evolving profile of you as a digital proxy with which to manipulate and exploit you. In retrospect, the World Wide Web is a most fitting name for the construct that enabled this. It’s a web with a giant spider in the middle. The spider goes by many names… Google, Facebook, Snapchat…

      It’s also no coincidence that the centralised Web evolved alongside a period of unprecedented global concentration of wealth and power within the hands of a tiny group of billionaires. Surveillance capitalism, after all, is the feedback loop between capitalism (accumulation of wealth) and surveillance (accumulation of information). Surveillance capitalism is what you get when those with accumulated wealth invest that wealth in systems that result in the accumulation of information within the same hands which they then exploit to accrue further wealth.

      The power differential between the haves and the have nots in surveillance capitalism is compounded not just by a widening gap in the wealth of the former versus the latter but also by the information the former has on the latter. To put it simply, if I know everything about you and you know nothing about me, I essentially own you by proxy. If, further, I dictate the tools you use to experience the world around you, I get to filter (and thus create) your reality. In the film The Matrix, people’s minds inhabit a virtual reality while their bodies are farmed in physical space. On Earth, circa 2019, we inhabit a physical space while our minds are farmed from a virtual reality. But, as in any good science fiction story, there is hope that a band of plucky rebels might just turn the tide in the face of overwhelming odds… and that brings us to the present day where we find ourselves witnessing and helping shape the next era of technology: the Personal Computing 2.0 era.

      [...]

      Hypha has no release date, no big reveal, and makes no promises. It’s what I’m calling my current work on as I continue to tackle the general problem I’ve been working on in one shape or other for the past six years. At this point, I’m not looking for collaborators as I’m still working through the basic concepts on my own. But if you’re a developer and you want to start playing with some of the code, please do. Although it would probably be a more useful introduction to the space if you take the Kappa Architecture Workshop and the Learn Crypto Workshop (find my work files here), start hanging out in the Dat chat room, exploring the Dat project, checking out the Dat blog and reading through the excellent documentation and reference material.

      We’re at the very beginning of the Peer Web (PC 2.0) era. I saw yesterday that my blog, which is also available over Dat (use Beaker Browser to view that link), is currently the most popular Dat site on the Internet. Out of the ten that the researcher was able to find by scouring the top 2.4 million domains, that is. And Ind.ie’s web site (dat link) is the third most popular. That tells you just how nascent this all is. If you want to help write the next chapter of the Internet, now is the time to pick up your quills and join us in hyperspace.

    • Distributed web not ready for Runet cutoff from the Internet

      Russia is preparing a nation-wide experiment where the whole country temporarily disconnects from the global Internet to see if the country can rely on Runet alone. The effort is supposed to help Russia prepare for potential digital warfare against the nation, but some analysts are also speculating whether this is the first step towards deploying a nation-spanning censorship machine like “the great firewall of China.”

      This will likely cause major disruption to online services in Russia. However, I’m more interested in looking at how prepared the distributed web is for such a cut off and whether these networks will even remain operational.

      The promise of the distributed web (dweb) is that it will make us less dependent on just a few huge internet infrastructure companies and enable anyone to publish globally available resources.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • 250 million consumers v. Qualcomm: trial in 2019 no longer realistic

      Only two things worked out well for Qualcomm on the litigation front this year: the Lasinski cross-examination and the fact that the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit allowed Qualcomm’s interlocutory appeal of Judge Lucy H. Koh’s certification of a class of up to 250 million consumers suing Qualcomm for a partial refund of what those people paid for their smartphones (seeking $5 billion in total, or roughly $20 on average per person who bought a smartphone in the U.S. during the relevant period, which started in March 2011).

      Other than that, the first month and a half of this year have been a near-total disaster for Qualcomm, especially since its Chinese and German injunctions appear to have been worked around and some of Qualcomm’s offensive cases have recently failed.

    • Case Dismissed: No Standing When Deal Fell Through

      In this recent decision, the Federal Circuit dismissed Momenta’s appeal — finding that the company lacks standing to appeal its loss before the PTAB. The decision stands on fairly controversial grounds and in some tension with Supreme Court jurisprudence on appellate jurisdiction requirements. Still, I suspect it will be cabined-in by its facts and not have a large precedential impact.

      In 2015, Momenta petitioned for inter partes review of US Patent 8,476,239 owned by BMS. The patent covers a particular immunosuppressive formulation sold as ORENCIA . At the time, Momenta was exploring an ORENCIA biosimilar as part of a partnership with Mylan. And, over the years, Momenta has apparently conducted clinical trials on aspects of the product. According to Momenta, during that time the ‘239 patent has been a clear obstacle to the project’s success.

    • Athena Diagnostics, Inc. v. Mayo Collaborative Services, LLC (Fed. Cir. 2019)

      Last week, in Athena Diagnostics, Inc. v. Mayo Collaborative Services, LLC, the Federal Circuit affirmed the decision by the District Court for the District of Massachusetts, holding claims 6-9 of U.S. Patent No. 7,267,820 invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101. The Federal Circuit also affirmed the District Court’s dismissal under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) of a complaint filed by Athena Diagnostics, Inc., Oxford University Innovation Ltd., and the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Forderung der Wissenschaften E.V. against Mayo Collaborative Services, LLC for infringement of the ’820 patent.

    • NPEs Continue To Leave Their (Land)mark On Small Businesses

      There were 3,447 new patent lawsuits in 2018. Of those, around 35% were filed against SMEs. And of that 35%, around 40% are filed by non-practicing entities (NPEs) like Landmark. That means that, in 2018 alone, there were around 480 patent lawsuits involving an SME being sued by an NPE. Even if we assume that the average expenditure by an SME defendant is $150,000, far less than the cost to take a case through the initial motions phases, that’s still $72,000,000 SMEs will have spent defending against NPE lawsuits—most of which will fail.

      And of course, that ignores the significant number of patent demands which don’t wind up with infringement litigation. By one estimate, around 70% of all patent demands are never litigated, meaning that those 480 lawsuits are likely to represent at least another 1,120 unlitigated demands. And even an unlitigated demand has significant economic impact on a targeted company. Combining our previous conservative estimate of $31,600 per unlitigated demand with the 1,120 additional demands, that’s another $36,000,000. The real total is likely higher, but $108,000,000 is a reasonable lower bound for the negative financial impact on SMEs created by NPEs.

      [...]

      The best estimates show that the AIA and Alice decision have only reduced patent litigation to levels similar to those around the time the AIA passed—they’ve stopped the increase, but haven’t eliminated the problem that already existed. Efforts (like the soon to be re-introduced STRONGER Patents Act) to roll back inter partes review, overturn Alice, or re-institute automatic injunctions would reverse those successful reforms and impose new burdens on all American innovators and businesses ranging from Azure to U.S. Safety to Zillow (another Landmark target, back in 2015.)

    • A burden to bear – a brief comparison of Lyrica and the test for sufficiency in Australia and UK

      Two recent decisions in the UK and Australia in the long-running pregabalin litigations demonstrate the different approaches in these jurisdictions to determine if a patent specification has sufficiently disclosed an invention. Readers will recall that the judgments concerned Warner-Lambert’s Swiss-style claims for the use of the compound pregabalin (marketed as Lyrica) in the treatment of pain.

      On 14 November 2018, the UK Supreme Court handed down its judgment in Warner-Lambert Company LLC (Appellant) v Generics (UK) Ltd t/a Mylan and another (Respondents) [2018] UKSC 56. The Court found that Warner’s Lambert’s claim for a second medical use failed for insufficiency as the relevant patent claims did not meet the threshold for plausibility for the treatment of neuropathic pain of any kind.

      However, on 23 February 2018, the Full Federal Court of Australia (Full Court) in Warner-Lambert Company LLC v Apotex Pty Limited (No 2) [2018] FCAFC 26 had found that the equivalent claim sufficiently disclosed the invention.

      [...]

      The “plausibility” requirement reflects UK case law’s harmonisation with the practice and decisions of European Patent Office (EPO). On the other hand, the Full Court clarified that “classical insufficiency” is the relevant test in Australia.

Battistelli’s Bodyguard, Part IV: Suspected Offenses of Forgery and Possible Falsification

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:25 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Falsification scandals have been common at the European Patent Office as well

Mediapart selfie
Source: En pleine présidentielle, Benalla dégaine son arme pour un selfie

Summary: In a very underworld fashion, Benalla continues to break the law and create yet more scandals

THIS is the fourth part of a series of 5 English translations of French publications regarding the Benalla affair. Benalla had worked clandestinely at the European Patent Office (EPO) before the so-called ‘Benallagate’ broke out.

This article from 4 weeks ago deals with diplomatic passports granted to the armed-and-dangerous Benalla:

Alexandre Benalla in custody in the investigation of his diplomatic passports

The investigation was also extended to the offences of “forgery” and “use of forgery” after a report by the Presidency of the Republic.

Alexandre Benalla was taken into custody on the morning of Thursday 17 January in the investigation into the use of his diplomatic passports after his dismissal from the Elysée this summer, the Paris prosecutor’s office said, confirming information from the Le Parisien.

This investigation, opened on 29 December, in particular for “breach of trust”, “unauthorised use of a document proving professional status” and “carrying on an activity in conditions likely to create confusion in the mind of the public with the exercise of a public function”, was also extended on Wednesday 16 January to the offences of “forgery”, “use of forgery” and “improper obtaining of an administrative document” after a report from the Presidency of the Republic, the public prosecutor specified.

President Emmanuel Macron’s former collaborator has already been at the origin of a political storm last summer, after being identified on videos violently arresting demonstrators in Paris on May 1, 2018, while he was present alongside the police as an “observer”. For these facts, he has been charged twice.

Suspicions of falsification

The Benalla affair had bounced back in December, after the revelations of Mediapart and Le Monde that the former Elysée employee still had diplomatic passports despite his dismissal and that he was travelling on business with African leaders. This information led to the opening of a new preliminary investigation at the end of December, and the resumption of the work of the Senate committee investigating this case since July.

On Wednesday, before this committee, the director of the cabinet of President Patrick Strzoda said that after his dismissal from the Elysée, Mr Benalla had used diplomatic passports some 20 times between 1 August and 31 December 2018.

Mr. Strzoda also reported that Mr. Benalla had been in possession of two service passports, the first issued in 2016, “well before” his arrival at the Elysée, the second on 28 June 2018. Both were invalidated on 31 July 2018.

The Director of Mr. Macron’s Private Office added that the request for the second service passport had been made by Alexander Benalla to the Ministry of the Interior by a letter headed by the Chief of Staff of the Elysée, but “typed” and unsigned. In other words, “we suspect that Mr. Benalla made a forgery,” Mr. Strzoda said, before stating that the case had been brought to court.

These statements contradict the statement made by Alexandre Benalla at his own sworn hearing on 19 September that he had left the diplomatic passports in his Elysée office after his dismissal. The former head of mission is to be heard again by the Senate’s committee of inquiry on Monday 21 January.

Previously in the Benalla affair in relation to the EPO:

  1. Alexandre Benalla, Macron’s Violent Bodyguard, Was Also Battistelli’s Bodyguard
  2. It Wasn’t Judges With Weapons in Their Office, It Was Benoît Battistelli Who Brought Firearms to the European Patent Office (EPO)
  3. Benoît Battistelli Refuses to Talk to the Media About Bringing Firearms to the EPO
  4. Guest Post on Ronan Le Gleut and Benalla at the French Senate (in Light of Battistelli’s Epic Abuses)
  5. The Man Whose Actions Could Potentially Land Team Battistelli in Jail
  6. French Media Confirms Alexandre Benalla Just One of Six Battistelli Bodyguards, Employed at the Cost of €8,000-€10,000 Per Month (for Benalla Alone!)
  7. Corrupt Battistelli Paid a Fortune (EPO Budget) for Outlaw/Rogue ‘Bodyguards’ From Firm Linked to Russian Oligarch Iskander Makhmudov

The final part will be published by week’s end. It will include a video.

Battistelli’s Bodyguard, Part III: Mars, France Close Protection (Benalla’s Family), and Russian Oligarchy

Posted in Europe, Patents at 12:35 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Emmanuel Macron told Benalla, “you’re going to eat them,” according to Benalla

Benoît Battistelli

Summary: An article which examines the business background of Benalla, the outrageous salaries, the severance indemnity pay, and contract with a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin

THIS is the third installment of a 5-part series regarding the Benalla affair. Benalla had worked clandestinely at the European Patent Office (EPO) before the so-called ‘Benallagate’ broke out.

Today’s translation reveals transcripts from conversations Benalla was having about Macron with Vincent Crase, former head of security for the LREM party. It also explores business aspects of the operation. In spite of the scandal, Benalla is still employed with a monthly salary of 12,474 euros.

“Macron is like a madman”: Mediapart publishes recordings of Alexander Benalla

Mediapart publishes an enquiry on the former collaborator of the Elysée, based on unpublished audio recordings.

The Benalla case continues… The investigation website Mediapart is publishing, on Thursday 31 January, a new enquiry based on numerous documents, including unpublished audio excerpts.

“You’re going to eat them. You’re stronger than them.”

According to the revelations of our colleagues, Alexandre Benalla maintained important links with the Elysée for several months after his indictment. Mediapart publishes excerpts from a discussion held on 26 July between Emmanuel Macron’s former collaborator and the former head of security for the LREM party, Vincent Crase.

We hear Alexandre Benalla claiming the personal support of the Head of State on several occasions. The latter, he said, had sent him a support text message – which the Elysée denies. “He (Emmanuel Macron) does more than support us….. He’s like a madman[...]. And he said like that, he said, he said, he said to me: “You’re going to eat them. You’re stronger than them,” Benalla told Crase.

In the excerpts from this discussion, Alexandre Benalla does not at any time show any concern about the press revelations about him. He even uses a light tone, and seems to enjoy what is happening to him.

“It’s a good experience….. At 26, if you will, there are not many people living… who provoke two parliamentary committees of enquiry, who block the functioning of Parliament…”

“I’m going to put together a list for the Europeans.”

This discussion between Alexandre Benalla and Vincent Crase is all the more surprising as the two men, both indicted in the case of the May 1st violence, met on July 26th in clear violation of judicial control which prohibits them from any contact, recalls Mediapart.

And yet, Alexandre Benalla’s serenity is “total”, our colleagues write. The former collaborator claims to have the whole Elysée behind him. While Vincent Crase asks him who supports him, Emmanuel Macron’s former adviser answers:

“By the president, Mrs. (Brigitte Macron), Ismael (Emelien), who advises me on media and company.”

Ismael Emelien is not the only point of contact from Benalla to the Elysée,” adds Mediapart. He also continued to regularly visit Ludovic Chaker, a chargé de mission to the Chief of Staff of the President of the Republic. Our colleagues mentioned in particular a dinner in a Parisian restaurant on November 13, 2018. “He came by because Chaker and I had sent him a selfie,” says Nicolas Bays, an ex-member of parliament who was there that day.

“We often asked about him, at that time he had just been taken out of the Elysée for his coup de force on the Place de la Contrescarpe. Alexandre told me: “Nicolas, you’ll see, I’ll bounce back, I’ll get them all, I’ll put together a list for the Europeans, I’ll talk about security, immigration, they won’t be able to come and get me on these subjects. I told him he was unconscious, he couldn’t do that to the boss.”

A contract with a Russian oligarch

In his investigation, Mediapart also reveals that Alexander Benalla is personally involved in a security contract with a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin, who is also suspected of having links with the mafia. And that he lied about it on January 21 before the Senate committee of enquiry, which questioned him.

According to Mediapart, the former collaborator of the President met several times with the oligarch’s representative in France, businessman Jean-Louis Haguenauer, in the winter of 2017.

After the revelations of the May 1st affair, Alexandre Benalla is concerned about the repercussions it could have on the Mars security company, which belongs to Vincent Crase. In one of the excerpts published by Mediapart, we hear him warn the latter:

“Here you have to cut the branch. You have to change port to do what we planned to do and transfer… [...] You have to get out of the box.”

Finally, in mid-October, the two men set up another company, France Close Protection, run by a relative of Benalla and housed in the same domiciliation centre as Mars. In November, Alexandre Benalla is registered as an employee, reports Mediapart. And he already receives a first salary of 12,474 euros, while he was receiving a severance indemnity pay after leaving the Elysée.

Previously in the Benalla affair in relation to the EPO:

  1. Alexandre Benalla, Macron’s Violent Bodyguard, Was Also Battistelli’s Bodyguard
  2. It Wasn’t Judges With Weapons in Their Office, It Was Benoît Battistelli Who Brought Firearms to the European Patent Office (EPO)
  3. Benoît Battistelli Refuses to Talk to the Media About Bringing Firearms to the EPO
  4. Guest Post on Ronan Le Gleut and Benalla at the French Senate (in Light of Battistelli’s Epic Abuses)
  5. The Man Whose Actions Could Potentially Land Team Battistelli in Jail
  6. French Media Confirms Alexandre Benalla Just One of Six Battistelli Bodyguards, Employed at the Cost of €8,000-€10,000 Per Month (for Benalla Alone!)
  7. Corrupt Battistelli Paid a Fortune (EPO Budget) for Outlaw/Rogue ‘Bodyguards’ From Firm Linked to Russian Oligarch Iskander Makhmudov

The next part will likely be published some time tomorrow.

Links 13/2/2019: Plasma 5.15.0 and a Look at Linux Mint Debian Edition Cindy

Posted in News Roundup at 6:29 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • 2018 LinuxQuestions.org Members Choice Award Winners

    Desktop Distribution of the Year – Linux Mint (14.93%)
    Server Distribution of the Year – Slackware (25.69%)
    Live Distribution of the Year – antiX (24.70%)
    Database of the Year – MariaDB (44.59%)
    Browser of the Year – Firefox (57.63%)
    Desktop Environment of the Year – Plasma Desktop (KDE) (29.43%)
    Window Manager of the Year – Openbox (24.64%)
    Audio Media Player Application of the Year – VLC (24.10%)
    Digital Audio Workstation of the Year – Ardour (33.33%)
    Video Media Player of the Year – VLC (65.00%)
    Video Authoring Application of the Year – KDEnlive (41.67%)
    Network Security Application of the Year – Wireshark (20.25%)
    Host Security Application of the Year – AppArmor (31.25%)
    Network Monitoring Application of the Year – Nagios XI (30.51%)
    IDE of the Year – Visual Studio Code (19.08%)
    Text Editor of the Year – vim (24.92%)
    File Manager of the Year – Dolphin (25.68%)
    Open Source Game of the Year – SuperTuxKart / 0 A.D. tie (16.51%)
    Programming Language of the Year – Python (32.51%)
    Backup Application of the Year – rsync (43.36%)
    Log Management Tool of the Year – Logwatch (43.75)
    X Terminal Emulator of the Year – Konsole (20.94%)
    Browser Privacy Solution of the Year – uBlock Origin (31.21%)
    Privacy Solution of the Year – GnuPG (27.88%)
    Open Source File Sync Application of the Year – Nextcloud / Syncthing tie (25.93%)
    IRC Client of the Year – HexChat (47.67%)
    Universal Packaging Format of the Year – Appimage (38.89%)
    Single Board Computer of the Year – Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ (58.43%)
    Virtualization Application of the Year – VirtualBox (56.79%)
    Container of the Year – Docker (57.63%)
    Orchestrator of the Year – Kubernetes (74.19%)
    Linux/Open Source Podcast of the Year – GNU World Order (20.00%)
    Secure Messaging Application of the Year – Signal (40.00%)
    Video Messaging Application of the Year – Skype (44.90%)
    Raster Graphics Editor of the Year – GIMP (79.49%)
    Linux Desktop Vendor of the Year – System76 (55.17%)
    Linux Server Vendor of the Year – Dell (32.69%)
    Email Client of the Year – Thunderbird (61.54%)

  • Desktop

    • Run Linux On Windows 10 ARM Laptops With This Open Source Project

      Back in December 2017, Microsoft launched Windows 10 On ARM — a new operating system designed to run Windows 10 on laptops powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips. While the computers designed for this version of Windows have failed to make an impact on the market, they’ve surely attracted the attention of the open source community.

      Just recently, I came across a project named aarch64-laptops on GitHub. It’s a result of the desire of some Linux enthusiasts to bring distros like Ubuntu to ARM-running laptops. Currently, the Ubuntu 18.04 LTS images are available for Asus NovaGo TP370QL, HP Envy x2, and Lenovo Mixx 630.

    • Chrome OS 72 brings improved support for Android, Linux apps and more

      Chrome OS 72 is starting to roll out to users with a wealth of changes, including a tablet mode, improvements for Android apps and plenty more.

      For one, Chrome OS 72 brings native Google Assistant and Android Pie to more Chromebooks. Those features initially came with Chrome OS 71 but were limited to the Pixel Slate.

      Speaking of the Slate, it and Chromebooks like it now have access to a tablet mode that should improve usability.

    • Google Outs Chrome OS 72 with Android Improvements, Picture in Picture Support

      Google promoted the Chrome OS 72 operating system to the stable channel, a release that introduces several improvements to make your Chromebook experience better, more secure, and enjoyable.
      The Chrome OS 72 release introduces numerous improvements, especially for dealing with Android files. Among these, we can mention external storage access support for Android apps via /storage dir and MediaStore APIs, and the ability to search app shortcuts for Android apps in the Launcher.

      To find an app shortcut, you need to right-click or long-press on an Android app. Chrome OS 72 also introduces Picture in Picture (PiP) support and touchscreen support in tablet mode for the Chrome web browser, and the ability to view saved Google Drive through from Backup and Sync in the Files app under My Drive/Computers.

  • Server

    • The Modern Software Platform

      This is the first post in an ongoing series which will explore the changes, improvements, and additions we’re planning for the next big release of Red Hat OpenShift, version 4.0. Check in each week for more information that will prepare you for the shift to 4.0.

      From the time the fledgling Kubernetes community met at the Google office in Seattle for our first face-to-face meeting in the fall of 2014, I’ve believed that Kubernetes was a project that would transform how we build and run software. Over the last few years, we’ve seen countless others come around to that point of view (most enthusiastically, some grudgingly). At the same time, the public cloud providers have continued the massive investments in infrastructure and services that make IT and software easier, simpler, and available at a scale that few people anticipated when the decade began.

    • Red Hat CloudForms 4.7 released

      There’s an old, wise IT statement: “Never fix what’s broken.” Of course, there’s an equally true tech management thought, which goes: “You snooze, you lose.” So, trying to satisfy both the tortoises and hares of IT, Red Hat’s newest version of its old-school CloudForms management tool comes ready to integrate with Red Hat’s DevOps program of choice: Ansible Tower.

    • Blog: Building a Kubernetes Edge (Ingress) Control Plane for Envoy v2

      Kubernetes has become the de facto runtime for container-based microservice applications, but this orchestration framework alone does not provide all of the infrastructure necessary for running a distributed system. Microservices typically communicate through Layer 7 protocols such as HTTP, gRPC, or WebSockets, and therefore having the ability to make routing decisions, manipulate protocol metadata, and observe at this layer is vital. However, traditional load balancers and edge proxies have predominantly focused on L3/4 traffic. This is where the Envoy Proxy comes into play.

      Envoy proxy was designed as a universal data plane from the ground-up by the Lyft Engineering team for today’s distributed, L7-centric world, with broad support for L7 protocols, a real-time API for managing its configuration, first-class observability, and high performance within a small memory footprint. However, Envoy’s vast feature set and flexibility of operation also makes its configuration highly complicated – this is evident from looking at its rich but verbose control plane syntax.

      With the open source Ambassador API Gateway, we wanted to tackle the challenge of creating a new control plane that focuses on the use case of deploying Envoy as an forward-facing edge proxy within a Kubernetes cluster, in a way that is idiomatic to Kubernetes operators. In this article, we’ll walk through two major iterations of the Ambassador design, and how we integrated Ambassador with Kubernetes.

    • RIP Dr Peuto, Zilog and Sun’s bright SPARC

      The 16-bit Z8000 was the big brother of the 8-bit Z80, used in the first wave of low cost microcomputers like the Spectrum and TRS80, but had a starring role in its own right. As a 16-bit CPU it powered several Unix systems, including Commodore, Olivetti and Onyx, as well as Zilog’s own System 8000 machines.

      Astonishingly, the ambitious project began in early 1976, long before the personal workstation was a market.

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux 4.20.8

      I’m announcing the release of the 4.20.8 kernel.

      All users of the 4.20 kernel series must upgrade.

      The updated 4.20.y git tree can be found at:
      git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/stable/linux-stable.git linux-4.20.y
      and can be browsed at the normal kernel.org git web browser:

      http://git.kernel.org/?p=linux/kernel/git/stable/linux-st…

    • Linux 4.19.21
    • Linux 4.14.99
    • Linux 4.9.156
    • Removing Profanity from the Source Tree

      Linus Torvalds recently stepped away from kernel development temporarily in order to think about how to be less harsh with developers in certain situations. Simultaneous with his departure was a patch introducing a new Code of Conduct into the kernel source tree. The effects of this are beginning to be felt.

      Jarkko Sakkinen recently posted a patch to change a kernel comment containing the word “fuck” to use the word “hug” instead. So the code comment, “Wirzenius wrote this portably, Torvalds fucked it up” would become “Wirzenius wrote this portably, Torvalds hugged it up”.

      Steven Rostedt replied to this, saying that the code in question had changed so much that the original comment was out of date, and it should just be removed entirely. He said, “that will be an accurate change with or without CoC.”

      Jonathan Corbet remarked, “I’d much rather see either deletion or a rewrite over bleeping out words that somebody might not like.” And Jiri Kosina agreed, saying, “turning comments into something that often doesn’t make sense to anybody at all is hardly productive.”

      Sergey Senozhatsky pointed out that Linus was the author of the original self-deprecating comment. He asked, “Linus has made a comment, in his own words, about his own code. Why would anyone be offended by this?”

    • Google’s Chrome OS “Wilco” Driver Working Towards Mainline Linux

      For years now Google has been designing their own embedded controller (EC) for use within Chromebooks / Chrome OS devices.

      But after about five years of the “ChromeOS EC” (cros_ec), there is a new embedded controller they have been working on. Coming soon to the mainline Linux tree will be the kernel support for a new ChromeOS “Wilco” Embedded Controller.

      Wilco is Google’s new embedded controller wired up over an eSPI bus. The new driver doesn’t yield much to get excited about, however, but great that Google continues working on their own ECs and they are backed by open-source firmware and first-rate Linux support given their Chrome OS usage.

    • Radeon VII (Vega 20) Firmware Support Lands In Linux-Firmware.Git

      In addition to needing a recent version of the Linux kernel and Mesa (ideally, Linux 5.0 and Mesa 19.0 if enjoying the very best performance and features) for using a Radeon VII graphics card on Linux, you also need to have the necessary firmware binaries manually installed if not using the Radeon Software for Linux driver package. Those firmware bits are now in the linux-firmware.git repository.

    • Queued Linux Patches To Better Track AVX-512, Allowing For More Optimal Task Placement

      After going through several rounds of patch review in recent months, a patch series providing for tracking AVX-512 usage of tasks and exporting it to user-space is poised to be part of the upcoming Linux 5.1 kernel.

      As using complex AVX-512 operations can lead to lower turbo frequencies for those cores, the Linux kernel will be providing better tracking of AVX-512 usage of tasks that is readable by user-space for programs doing their own task placement. If keeping AVX-512 usage to particular core(s) and not intermixing them with non-AVX tasks, better performance can be achievable due to the differing turbo frequencies of CPUs when running Advanced Vector Extensions.

    • Qualcomm FastRPC Driver Going Mainline For Offloading Tasks To The DSP

      The latest Qualcomm driver working its way to the mainline Linux kernel is the FastRPC driver and should arrive with Linux 5.1.

      FastRPC is an in-kernel IPC mechanism for clients to make remote method invocations across DSP/APPS boundaries. The intent of Qualcomm FastRPC is allowing tasks to be easily offloading to the DSP hardware, such as easily punting work from the Snapdragon processor to the Qualcomm Hexagon on capable SoCs.

    • Benchmarks

      • GCC 8/9 vs. LLVM Clang 7/8 Compiler Performance On AArch64

        With Clang 8.0 due out by month’s end and GCC 9 due for release not long after that point, this week we’ve been running a number of GCC and Clang compiler benchmarks on Phoronix. At the start of the month was the large Linux x86_64 GCC vs. Clang compiler benchmarks on twelve different Intel/AMD systems while last week was also a look at the POWER9 compiler performance on the Raptor Talos II. In this article we are checking out these open-source compilers’ performance on 64-bit ARM (AArch64) using an Ampere eMAG 32-core server.

  • Applications

    • Better Bluetooth sound quality on Linux

      Over a year ago I got my first serious Bluetooth headphones. They worked with Fedora well, they paired, connected, sound was directed to them. Just the sound quality was not overwhelming. I learnt that because of limited bandwidth of Bluetooth a codec with audio compression has to be used. There are quite a few of them to pick from: AAC (very widely supported because it’s the only one iPhone supports, partly freely available), AptX (also very widely supported, but proprietary), AptX-HD (enhanced AptX with a higher bitrate, also proprietary), LDAC (probably the best codec available, highest bitrate, available in Android, supported mostly by Sony devices), MP3 (also possible, but supported by virtually no devices). And also SBC which is a native Bluetooth, first generation compression codec with rather bad sound quality.

      My headphones supported SBC, AAC, AptX, AptX-HD, LDAC, so all the advanced codecs. Sadly on Linux it fallbacked to the basic SBC because no other was available for Bluetooth, and headphones for €200 produced rather underwhelming sound. I mostly listen to music on Spotify. Listening to it on my headphones meant transcoding OGG 320 kbps to SBC and losing a lot of sound quality.

    • PulseAudio Plugin Allows For Better Bluetooth Audio Quality On Linux

      Right now on most Linux distributions when using higher-end Bluetooth headphones, the low-end SBC audio codec ends up being utilized by default which is subpar for the potential audio quality of the more expensive headphones. Fortunately, there are PulseAudio modules that allow for the higher-end codecs to be used.

      The low-complexity sub-band codec “SBC” is what ends up being used by default as it’s native to Bluetooth and not proprietary or encumbered by patents. But newer headphones on the premium end of the spectrum also support LDAC, AptX-HD, and others with higher bit-rates yielding better audio quality.

    • Top 10 Best Linux Media Server Software

      Did someone tell you that Linux is just for programmers? That is so wrong! You have got a lot of great tools for digital artists, writers and musicians.

      We have covered such tools in the past. Today it’s going to be slightly different. Instead of creating new digital content, let’s talk about consuming it.

      You have probably heard of media servers? Basically these software (and sometimes gadgets) allow you to view your local or cloud media (music, videos etc) in an intuitive interface. You can even use it to stream the content to other devices on your network. Sort of your personal Netflix.

    • Skrooge 2.18.0 released

      The Skrooge Team announces the release 2.18.0 version of its popular Personal Finances Manager based on KDE Frameworks.

    • Essential System Tools: QJournalctl – Graphical User Interface for systemd’s journalctl

      This is the latest in our series of articles highlighting essential system tools. These are small, indispensable utilities, useful for system administrators as well as regular users of Linux based systems. The series examines both graphical and text based open source utilities. For this article, we’ll look at QJournalctl, a Qt-based Graphical User Interface for systemd’s journalctl command. For details of all tools in this series, please check the table at the summary page of this article.

      For many years system and kernel logs were handled by a utility called syslogd. Most Linux-based operating systems have since moved to systemd, which has a journal. It’s a giant log file for the whole system. Various software and services write their log entries into systemd’s journalctl. To view the output, there’s the command-line journalctl utility.

      journalctl is a systemd utility. If your system doesn’t use systemd, you’ll have little interest in this utility. But given most popular Linux distros have adopted systemd, it’s likely you’ll need journalctl at one stage or another. It’s common sense to understand the system you’re running, and this utility will help you in this process.

    • BleachBit 2.1 Beta

      Designed for Linux and Windows systems, it wipes clean thousands of applications including Firefox, Internet Explorer, Adobe Flash, Google Chrome, Opera, Safari, and more. Beyond simply deleting files, BleachBit includes advanced features such as shredding files to prevent recovery, wiping free disk space to hide traces of files deleted by other applications, and vacuuming Firefox to make it faster. Better than free, BleachBit is open source.

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Games

      • 6 Months With Linux: The Ugly Truth About Gaming Without Windows

        While I admire the work developers are doing to create open source driver solutions, no gamer in their right mind would want to use Nouveau instead of Nvidia’s proprietary driver. And Nouveau doesn’t have Vulkan support, which rules out a considerable number of games with Steam Proton and Lutris.

        This means Nvidia gamers need to install the proprietary driver. Fortunately, Linux distributions like Pop!_OS, Ubuntu and Mint made this a straightforward process. But is it?

      • Suffered crashes in CS:GO Danger Zone? They should now be fixed on Linux

        Valve has finally fixed the issue in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Danger Zone crashing for Linux gamers.

      • Wraithslayer looks like a pretty fun boss battle game, coming soon

        Wraithslayer could be an interesting one, a back to basics 2D action boss battler that’s releasing soon.

      • Unreal Engine 4.22 Preview 1 now available

        Unreal Engine 4.22 will be releasing soon with a number of fixes and updates. In the meantime, the first Preview is now available for download from the Epic Games launcher.

        Preview 1 includes support for real-time ray tracing, Editor Utility Widgets, Blueprint indexing optimizations, virtual production updates, Oculus Quest support and the Unreal Audio Engine is now on by default for new projects.

        A full list of the upcoming changes to this build are available on the Unreal Engine forums. We invite you to provide feedback on Preview 1, and all subsequent releases. Please keep in mind that Preview releases are intended only to provide a sample of what is going to be released in the update and are not production-ready.

      • Unreal Engine 4.22 Preview 1 Released With Real-Time Ray-Tracing

        Unreal Engine 4.21 back in November was a big update for Linux gamers in that this game engine now defaults to the Vulkan renderer and also had various other fixes. With today’s Unreal Engine 4.22 Preview 1 release, there are no Linux/Vulkan-specific changes mentioned, but some other interesting changes in general.

        The release notes as of Unreal Engine 4.22 Preview 1 don’t indicate any Vulkan or Linux focused changes, but aside from that there is some interesting changes. Arguably most interesting is having experimental support for real-time ray-tracing and path tracing though sadly that’s limited for now to Direct3D 12 with DXR and not yet any Vulkan ray-tracing support.

      • Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus officially released for Linux, more content on the way

        Bulwark Studios and Kasedo Games have officially released Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus for Linux after having a ‘soft launch’ in December last year.

      • The Humble Great GameMaker Games Bundle is out with some sweet Linux games

        It’s almost midweek, time to refresh that gaming collection of yours with The Humble Great GameMaker Games Bundle that has some Linux games available.

      • Fun platformer ‘Million to One Hero’ where you can make your own adventures is releasing soon

        Million to One Hero from Spanish developer Over the Top Games seems like a very promising platformer and they’ve announced the release is this month.

        We previously highlighted the game earlier this month, at that time they did not have a release date available. They’ve since announced that it’s going to be available on Linux right at release, which will be on February 27th.

      • Barotrauma, a co-op submarine adventure set on Jupiter’s moon Europa is promising, has a demo

        For those after a more sci-fi take on the co-op submarine adventure, Barotrauma seems like it could be quite fun.

        Currently in a closed-beta before an Early Access release on Steam, you can actually grab an earlier version direct from their website here. They’re not taking on any more for the closed-beta, so the demo should still give a small glimpse into what’s possible.

      • JUMPGRID is a fantastic 2D dodge-em-up that will give your fingers a workout

        Did you enjoy Super Hexagon? JUMPGRID is a brand new dodge-em-up with simple and addictive gameplay. Note: Key provided by the developer.

      • Moving the player object in Pygame

        In the last chapter we have created the animation effect for the player object and in this chapter, we will move the player object in the x-axis. We will leave the wall and boundary collision detection mechanism to the next chapter. In the last chapter we have already linked up the keyboard events with the game manager class and in this chapter, we only need a slight modification to move the player across the scene when the left or the right arrow key has been pressed. One of the problems with the pygame event module is that we need to activate the repeated event detection process by our-self with this single line of code before the module can send the repeated keypress event (which means when someone is holding the same key on the keyboard) to us.

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Plasma 5.15.0

        Today KDE launches the first stable release of Plasma in 2019: Say hello to Plasma 5.15.

        For the first production release of 2019, the Plasma team has embraced KDE’s Usability & Productivity goal and has been working on hunting down and removing all the papercuts that slow you down.

        With this in mind, we teamed up with the VDG (Visual Design Group) contributors to get feedback on all the annoying problems in our software, and fixed them to ensure an intuitive and consistent workflow for your daily use.

        Plasma 5.15 brings a number of changes to the configuration interfaces, including more options for complex network configurations. Many icons have been added or redesigned to make them clearer. Integration with third-party technologies like GTK and Firefox has been improved substantially.

        Discover, Plasma’s software and add-on installer, has received tonnes of improvements to help you stay up-to-date and find the tools you need to get your tasks done.

      • KDE releases a new version of the Plasma desktop environment

        Say hello to Plasma 5.15, the newest version of KDE’s acclaimed desktop environment.

        This February release of KDE Plasma comes with a wide range of new features and improvements. The main focus of developers has been stamping out all minor problems and papercuts of the desktop, aiming to make Plasma smoother and easier to use.

        Plasma’s configuration interfaces have been redesigned, expanded and clarified to cover more user cases and make it simpler to adapt Plasma to everybody’s needs. Plasma has also improved the integration of non-native applications, so Firefox, for example, can now optionally use native KDE open/save dialogs. Likewise, GTK and GNOME apps now respect the global scale factor used by high-DPI screens.

      • KDE Plasma 5.15 Desktop Environment Officially Released, Here’s What’s New

        Six months in development, the KDE Plasma 5.15 desktop environment comes with a lot of changes to make your Plasma experience more enjoyable. These include various refinements to the configuration interfaces, new options for complex network configurations, redesigned icons, improved integration with third-party technologies and apps, and a much-improved Discover package manager.

        “For the first production release of 2019, the Plasma team has embraced KDE’s Usability & Productivity goal and has been working on hunting down and removing all the papercuts that slow you down,” reads today’s announcement. “With this in mind, we teamed up with the VDG (Visual Design Group) contributors to get feedback on all the annoying problems in our software, and fixed them to ensure an intuitive and consistent workflow for your daily use.”

      • KDE Plasma 5.15 Released With Wayland Improvements, Fixes To “Annoying Problems”

        The KDE community is out with their first big update to the Plasma desktop for 2019.

        Plasma 5.15 is a big update for KDE and among the many changes include:

        - Many Wayland improvements. There is support for more Wayland protocols, support for Wayland virtual desktops, and touch drag-and-drop support.

  • Distributions

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • Engaging the openSUSE community

        And that the openSUSE community should have a better ‘Marketing strategy’ (for the lack of a better term) to make the Contributor Journey a smoother experience. To try to get the roadblocks out of the way for the people that want to be informed or be involved. It is an area where I could see myself contributing to in the future.

    • Debian Family

      • Reproducible Builds: Weekly report #198
      • Markus Koschany: My Free Software Activities in January 2019

        Welcome to gambaru.de. Here is my monthly report that covers what I have been doing for Debian. If you’re interested in Java, Games and LTS topics, this might be interesting for you.

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Nautilus Exif, PDF And Audio Metadata Tag Columns Extension For Ubuntu

            These metadata tags added by the Nautilus Columns extension are not only useful for a quickly look at some particular audio, pdf or image information from the Nautilus list view, but also to sort some files by a particular metadata tag column to easily identify the files you’re looking for.

            Nautilus Columns is currently maintained by Spanish blogger Atareao, and it only supports English, Spanish and Galician languages.

            Judging from the extension code, it’s also supposed to support some video formats as well, but no information was shown for such files on my Ubuntu 18.10 desktop, so it probably needs some fixes in this area. Audio, PDF and Exif metadata was displayed with no issues on my Ubuntu 18.10 desktop.

          • Ubuntu Developers Seem To Be Really Pursuing ZFS Root Partition Support On The Desktop

            Earlier this month I reported on how Ubuntu developers indicated they were looking at ZFS support on the desktop as part of their work developing the new Ubuntu desktop installer GUI. It’s quite clear now that they are indeed pursuing the work to allow Ubuntu desktop installs via their work-in-progress installer to support ZFS root installations.

            As outlined in the aforelinked article, the developers indicated they were looking at “zfs on the desktop” after they had already been supporting ZFS as a standard offering for Ubuntu servers for a while and making the ZFS On Linux packages readily available. But their current Ubuntu desktop “Ubiquity” installer doesn’t allow easily setting up a ZFS root partition with this out-of-tree file-system support.

          • Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter Issue 565
          • Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter Issue 565
  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • No, you can’t take open-source code back

    Some people are still unclear about what it means or what happens once they’ve published their program under an open-source license. In the most recent example, mikeeusa, the author of an obscure game called GPC-Slots 2, claimed he was rescinding the program’s GPLv2 license from some people and “from anyone who adds a ‘Code of Conduct’ anywhere near my code (to ‘fight sexism’.).”

    While this specific case doesn’t really matter — the text-based casino game hasn’t been updated in over a decade and appears to have no players — the issue of whether one can block users from using code once it’s been placed under the GPLv2 bothered enough people that it’s been one of the hottest stories on the Linux Kernel Mailing List (LKML) for over a week.

  • What Return of the Jedi taught me about open leadership

    No matter where you are in an organization, you can benefit from observing others and learning from them. We can all learn lessons from someone else.

    I like to look for leadership lessons wherever I go. Sometimes I learn a few tips on public speaking by watching a skilled presenter. Or I’ll learn how to improve my meeting management style by reflecting on meetings that go well.

  • Is your enterprise’s open source strategy risky?

    Accurately evaluating this risk means developing a thorough understanding of an open source solution’s licensing terms, the health of its ecosystem, and the business models of the commercial organisations attached to the solution.

  • Events

    • CIB visiting FOSDEM 2019

      A new edition of FOSDEM (Free and Open source Software Developers‘ European Meeting) just ended. Our CIB LibreOffice team this year was represented by Thorsten Behrens, Michael Stahl and Marina Latini.

      The event is held annually during the first weekend of February, at the „Université Libre de Bruxelles„. For our team, attending FOSDEM means to be involved in a full week of meetings and collateral events related to LibreOffice and other open source communities.

    • Cloud Foundry Building the Future

      Whether you’re a contributor or committer building the platform, or you’re using the platform to attain your business goals, Cloud Foundry North America Summit is where developers, operators, CIOs and other IT professionals go to share best practices and innovate together.

    • Linux Kernel Maintainer Summit

      The Linux Kernel Maintainer Summit brings together the world’s leading core kernel developers to discuss the state of the existing kernel and plan the next development cycle. This is an invite-only event.

      Linux Kernel Summit technical tracks are offered at Linux Plumbers Conference 2019 and are open to all LPC attendees. More information, including how to register, will be available in the coming months.

    • Announcing the first round of Red Hat Summit keynotes

      For the past 14 years, Red Hat Summit has delivered inspirational, educational and actionable content, industry-shaping news, and innovative practices from customers and partners from around the world and across industries. As we prepare for Red Hat Summit 2019, we wanted to share some of the exciting keynotes you can expect from our main stage.

      Attendees will hear keynotes on the future of enterprise technology from several Red Hat leaders including: Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO; Paul Cormier, president of Products and Technologies; DeLisa Alexander, executive vice president and chief people officer; Chris Wright, vice president and chief technology officer; and Stefanie Chiras, vice president and general manager, Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

  • Web Browsers

    • Best web browser: Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Opera go head-to-head

      Let’s take a look at the four major browsers (including Edge) to see how they stack up in early 2019. You might be surprised to find that our favorite overall this year is Opera. Read on to find out why.

    • Mozilla

      • Making the Building of Firefox Faster for You with Clever-Commit from Ubisoft

        Firefox fights for people online: for control and choice, for privacy, for safety. We do this because it is our mission to keep the web open and accessible to all. No other tech company has people’s back like we do.

        Part of keeping you covered is ensuring that our Firefox browser and the other tools and services we offer are running at top performance. When we make an update, or add a new feature the experience should be as seamless and smooth as possible for the user. That’s why Mozilla just partnered with Ubisoft to start using Clever-Commit, an Artificial Intelligence coding assistant developed by Ubisoft La Forge that will make the Firefox code-writing process faster and more efficient. Thanks to Clever-Commit, Firefox users will get to use even more stable versions of Firefox and have even better browsing experiences.

      • Jingle Smash: Choosing a Physics Engine

        The key to a physics based game like Jingle Smash is of course the physics engine. In the Javascript world there are many to choose from. My requirements were for fully 3D collision simulation, working with ThreeJS, and being fairly easy to use. This narrowed it down to CannonJS, AmmoJS, and Oimo.js: I chose to use the CannonJS engine because AmmoJS was a compiled port of a C lib and I worried would be harder to debug, and Oimo appeared to be abandoned (though there was a recent commit so maybe not?).

      • Retailers: All We Want for Valentine’s Day is Basic Security

        This has been the case with smart dolls, webcams, doorbells, and countless other devices. And the consequences can be life threatening: “Internet-connected locks, speakers, thermostats, lights and cameras that have been marketed as the newest conveniences are now also being used as a means for harassment, monitoring, revenge and control,” the New York Times reported last year. Compounding this: It is estimated that by 2020, 10 billion IoT products will be active.

        Last year, in an effort to make connected devices on the market safer for consumers, Mozilla, the Internet Society, and Consumers International published our Minimum Security Guidelines: the five basic features we believe all connected devices should have. They include encrypted communications; automatic updates; strong password requirements; vulnerability management; and an accessible privacy policy.

      • Anyone can create a virtual reality experience with this new WebVR starter kit from Mozilla and Glitch

        Here at Mozilla, we are big fans of Glitch. In early 2017 we made the decision to host our A-Frame content on their platform. The decision was easy. Glitch makes it easy to explore, and remix live code examples for WebVR.

        We also love the people behind Glitch. They have created a culture and a community that is kind, encouraging, and champions creativity. We share their vision for a web that is creative, personal, and human. The ability to deliver immersive experiences through the browser opens a whole new avenue for creativity. It allows us to move beyond screens, and keyboards. It is exciting, and new, and sometimes a bit weird (but in a good way).

        Building a virtual reality experience may seem daunting, but it really isn’t. WebVR and frameworks like A-Frame make it really easy to get started. This is why we worked with Glitch to create a WebVR starter kit. It is a free, 5-part video course with interactive code examples that will teach you the fundamentals of WebVR using A-Frame. Our hope is that this starter kit will encourage anyone who has been on the fence about creating virtual reality experiences to dive in and get started.

  • LibreOffice

    • Tabbed Toolbar waste vertical space

      With default settings the standard toolbar need 110 px vertical space (menubar + 2 toolbar height), tabbed toolbar need 100 px and Groupedbar compact 72 px. So the default toolbare need most vertical space.

  • CMS

    • Drupal 6 – Security Support Continued

      Believe it or not, I just upgraded my old Drupal 6 instances serving e.g. my blog [1] to Drupal 6 LTS v6.49.

      Thanks a lot to Elliot Christenson for continuing Drupal 6 security support.

  • Funding

    • Paying money for things

      Sometimes it’s hard to make money from software. How do you make money from something that can be copied infinitely?

      Right now there are 3 software tools that I pay for. Each one is supplied by a small company, and each one charges a monthly or annual fee. I prefer software with this business model because it creates an incentive for careful, ongoing maintenance and improvement. The alternative (pay a large fee, once) encourages a model that is more like “add many new features, sell the new version and then move onto something else”.

    • Here’s why investors are throwing money at startups that give away their software for free

      OSS Capital founder Joseph Jacks, whose venture capital firm focuses on open source startups, reckons that there was roughly $70 billion in mergers and acquisitions, private equity and IPOs involving open source last year. And he estimates that there’s been another $2 billion in funding for commercial open source startups in the past year, as startups like Confluent, Neo4j, HashiCorp and GitLab raised money.

  • BSD

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • FSFE Newsletter – February 2019

      This month’s Newsletter is introducing our new expert policy brochure “Public Money? Public Code” and reflecting the importance of source code availability for trust and securitys…

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Data

      • EU’s New ‘Open By Default’ Rules For Data Generated By Public Funding Subverted At The Last Minute

        In December last year, the European Parliament proposed a version of the text that would require researchers in receipt of public funding to publish their data for anyone to re-use. However, some companies and academics were unhappy with this “open by default” approach. They issued a statement calling for research data to be “as open as possible, as closed as necessary”, which would include some carve-outs.

        According to Science|Business, that view has prevailed in the final text, which is not yet publicly available. It is now apparently permissible for companies and academics to invoke “confidentiality” and “legitimate commercial interests” as reasons for not releasing publicly-funded data. Clearly, that’s a huge loophole that could easily be abused by organizations to hoard results. If companies and academic institutions aren’t willing to share the fruits of their research as open data, there’s a very simple solution: don’t take public money. Sadly, that fair and simple approach seems not to be a part of the otherwise welcome revised PSI Directive.

  • Programming/Development

    • Next C++ workshop: Recursion (14 February at 19:00 UTC)

      Improve your C++ skills with the help of LibreOffice developers! We’re running regular workshops which focus on a specific topic, and are accompanied by a real-time IRC meeting. For the next one, the topics is recursion. Start by watching this presentation:

    • IBM Is Looking At Adding AIX Support To LLVM / Clang

      While IBM has their own in-house XL C/C++ compiler for their AIX operating system and GCC is also supported there too, IBM engineers are looking at adding AIX support to LLVM/Clang.

      As a move that’s “about time”, IBM engineers are looking at adding support for LLVM and the Clang C/C++ compiler to their AIX operating system. Besides having another C/C++ compiler option, having LLVM working on AIX will open more code to running on AIX given the growing number of open and closed-source systems leveraging the LLVM compiler stack.

    • Django bugfix release: 2.0.13
    • Python, For The love of It – part 2
    • small stuff about python3 print()
    • Introducing Cloud Playground: Even More Hands-On Training Features
    • Algorithms != Programs and Programs are not “One size fits all”
    • Return the list of the number and its power with python
    • PyPy 7 speeds up Python 2.7, Python 3.5, and Python 3.6 alik

      PyPy, the Python runtime that uses just-in-time compilation to achieve major performance improvements over the stock CPython distribution, is now available in version 7.0 releases supporting Python 2.7, Python 3.5, and Python 3.6.
      According to a post on the official PyPy Status Blog, all three versions use “much the same codebase, thus the triple release.” The Python 3.6 interpreter is “the first official release of PyPy to support Python 3.6 features, although it is still considered alpha quality.” Most of the improvements to PyPy over the last release involve memory management and interfacing with external C code built for Python.
      CPython provides programmatic hooks into its garbage collection subsystem. PyPy 7 goes a step further, running the garbage collector in incremental steps to prevent the garbage collection process from bringing programs to a halt for too long.

    • PyCon: Hatchery programs at PyCon 2019!

      The PyCon Hatchery program was introduced last year to allow for the addition to PyCon of new tracks, summits, demos, or any other imaginable events which share and fulfill the mission of the Python Software Foundation.

      The Hatchery program was first run as a trial in 2018, welcoming the PyCon Charlas as it’s inaugural program. This year we are happy to have built upon that trial and are delighted to have received so many proposals and to have accepted many more events!

    • The day you start to use rc builds in production – Kafka 2.1.1 edition

      tl;dr If you want to run Kafka 2.x use 2.1.1rc1 or later.

      So someone started to update from Kafka 1.1.1 to 2.1.0 yesterday and it kept crashing every other hour. It pretty much looks like https://issues.apache.org/jira/browse/KAFKA-7697, so we’re now trying out 2.1.1rc1 because we missed the rc2 at http://home.apache.org/~cmccabe/kafka-2.1.1-rc2/. So ideally you go with rc2 which has a few more fixes for unrelated issues.

    • Mike Driscoll: Creating a Calculator with wxPython

      A lot of beginner tutorials start with “Hello World” examples. There are plenty of websites that use a calculator application as a kind of “Hello World” for GUI beginners. Calculators are a good way to learn because they have a set of widgets that you need to lay out in an orderly fashion. They also require a certain amount of logic to make them work correctly.

    • Downloading Files using Python (Simple Examples)

      Also, you will learn how to overcome many challenges that you may counter such as downloading files that redirects, downloading large files, multithreaded download, and other tactics.

    • Hypha Spike: Persistence 1

      2019/02/12: This is a Work In Progress (WIP). I will be live-updating this post as I work on the spike. If you want to get streaming updates without having to refresh your browser, open the DAT version in Beaker Browser and toggle the live reloading feature. Please feel free to talk to me about this on the fediverse as I work on it, perhaps via Mastodon.

Leftovers

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Anti-vaxxers plan to subvert changes to vaccination laws

      Eliminating non-medical vaccine exemptions isn’t enough; CA medical exemptions tripled.

    • Study Shows Toxic Pesticide Levels in Families Dropped by 60% After One-Week Organic Diet

      “This study shows that organic works,” said study co-author Kendra Klein, PhD, senior staff scientist at Friends of the Earth. “We all have the right to food that is free of toxic pesticides. Farmers and farmworkers growing our nation’s food and the rural communities they live in have a right not to be exposed to chemicals linked to cancer, autism and infertility. And the way we grow food should protect, not harm, our environment. We urgently need our elected leaders to support our farmers in making healthy organic food available for all.”

      The study tested the urine of four diverse American families in Oakland, Minneapolis, Atlanta, and Baltimore after eating their typical diet of conventional food for six days and then after a controlled diet of all organic food for six days.

    • Can Russian children get vaccinated without their parents’ permission?

      In late January, the writer Andrea Phillips pointed out that children in the United States had been posting frequently on Reddit to ask how they could receive immunizations without their parents’ permission. U.S. law on the matter varies from state to state, but it typically prohibits children under 18 from requesting health care on their own. In some cases, exceptions can be made. For example, some states allow doctors to determine whether they believe a child is mature enough to make decisions about their own treatment.

      English-language media coverage on the issue has been extensive. Much of it has focused on the case of Ethan Lindenberger, an 18-year-old American whose story was first reported by the pop science publication Undark.

  • Security

    • Apple sued because two-factor authentication is inconvenient

      Class-action lawsuit, filed by one Jay Brodsky in California takes issue with the fact that two-factor authentication (2FA) can’t be disabled after two weeks of use, which “imposes an extraneous logging in procedure that requires a user to both remember password; and have access to a trusted device or trusted phone number.” Yep, that’s 2FA alright.

    • Apple being sued because two-factor authentication on an iPhone or Mac takes too much time

      The suit, filed by Jay Brodsky in California alleges that Apple doesn’t get user consent to enable two-factor authentication. Furthermore, once enabled, two-factor authentication “imposes an extraneous logging in procedure that requires a user to both remember password; and have access to a trusted device or trusted phone number” when a device is enabled.

    • 617M Hacked Accounts Up For Sale To Make “Life Easier” For Hackers

      A hacker is selling 617 million stolen accounts online collected from 16 popular websites on Dream Market Cybersouk which can be accessed on the Tor network.

      As reported by The Register, the data can be purchased for less than $20,000 Bitcoin and comprises of account holder names, passwords, and email IDs. Buyers need to crack the hashed, one-way encrypted passwords before using them.

    • 620 million accounts stolen from 16 hacked websites now for sale on dark web, seller boasts

      Some 617 million online account details stolen from 16 hacked websites are on sale from today on the dark web, according to the data trove’s seller.

      For less than $20,000 in Bitcoin, it is claimed, the following pilfered account databases can be purchased from the Dream Market cyber-souk, located in the Tor network:

      Dubsmash (162 million), MyFitnessPal (151 million), MyHeritage (92 million), ShareThis (41 million), HauteLook (28 million), Animoto (25 million), EyeEm (22 million), 8fit (20 million), Whitepages (18 million), Fotolog (16 million), 500px (15 million), Armor Games (11 million), BookMate (8 million), CoffeeMeetsBagel (6 million), Artsy (1 million), and DataCamp (700,000).

      Sample account records from the multi-gigabyte databases seen by The Register appear to be legit: they consist mainly of account holder names, email addresses, and passwords. These passwords are hashed, or one-way encrypted, and must therefore be cracked before they can be used.

    • Researchers Warn of Malicious Container Escape Vulnerability

      A new serious vulnerability in container technology was publicly reported on Feb. 11, one that could potentially enable an attacker to gain unauthorized access to the host operating system.

      Container technology led by the Docker engine has become increasingly popular in recent years as a way to build and deploy applications into isolated segments, on top of a server operating system. At the core of the modern container technology stack is a low-level component known as runc, which spawns and runs containers. The new CVE-2019-5736 vulnerability is a flaw in runc that could enable a malicious container to escape the confines of its isolated process segment.

    • PyPy v7.0.0, Vulernability Affecting runc and Container Technologies, Ubuntu for ARM-based Windows Laptops, antiX MX v18.1

      A vulnerability was just discovered (CVE-2019-5736) affecting runc and the management of container technologies which include Docker, cri-o, containerd, Kubernetes, etc. Learn more about this security hole and the ways it is being patched here.

    • Container Bug Allows Attackers to Gain Root Access on Host Machine
    • Apple acknowledges UCR grad student for locating flaws in OS security, receives international recognition
    • How to Protect Sensitive Financial Data from Ransomware with Next-Gen Cloud Infrastructure
    • Container Escape Flaw Hits AWS, Google Cloud, Linux Distros

      A vulnerability recently addressed in runc could allow malicious containers to gain root-level code execution on the host.

      Introduced in 2015, runc is a lightweight, portable container runtime that includes all of the code used by Docker to interact with system features related to containers. The runtime is used in most containers out there, including cri-o, containerd, Kubernetes, Podman, and others.

    • CVE-2019-5736: runc container breakout

      Hello,

      I am one of the maintainers of runc (the underlying container runtime
      underneath Docker, cri-o, containerd, Kubernetes, and so on). We
      recently had a vulnerability reported which we have verified and have a
      patch for.

      The researchers who found this vulnerability are:
      * Adam Iwaniuk
      * Borys Popławski

      In addition, Aleksa Sarai (me) discovered that LXC was also vulnerable
      to a more convoluted version of this flaw.

      == OVERVIEW ==

      The vulnerability allows a malicious container to (with minimal user
      interaction) overwrite the host runc binary and thus gain root-level
      code execution on the host. The level of user interaction is being able
      to run any command (it doesn’t matter if the command is not
      attacker-controlled) as root within a container in either of these
      contexts:

      * Creating a new container using an attacker-controlled image.
      * Attaching (docker exec) into an existing container which the
      attacker had previous write access to.

      This vulnerability is *not* blocked by the default AppArmor policy, nor
      by the default SELinux policy on Fedora[++] (because container processes
      appear to be running as container_runtime_t). However, it *is* blocked
      through correct use of user namespaces (where the host root is not
      mapped into the container’s user namespace).

      Our CVSSv3 vector is (with a score of 7.2):

      AV:L/AC:H/PR:L/UI:R/S:C/C:N/I:H/A:H

      The assigned CVE for this issue is CVE-2019-5736.

      [++]: This is only the case for the “moby-engine” package on Fedora. The
      “docker” package as well as podman are protected against this
      exploit because they run container processes as container_t.

      == PATCHES ==

      I have attached the relevant patch which fixes this issue. This patch is
      based on HEAD, but the code in libcontainer/nsenter/ changes so
      infrequently that it should apply cleanly to any old version of the runc
      codebase you are dealing with.

      Please note that the patch I have pushed to runc master[1] is a modified
      version of this patch — even though it is functionally identical
      (though we would recommend using the upstream one if you haven’t patched
      using the attached one already).

      == NON-ESSENTIAL EXPLOIT CODE ==

      Several vendors have asked for exploit code to ensure that the patches
      actually solve the issue. Due to the severity of the issue (especially
      for public cloud vendors), we decided to provide the attached exploit
      code. This exploit code was written by me, and is more generic than the
      original exploit code provided by the researchers and works against LXC
      (it could likely be used on other vulnerable runtimes with no
      significant modification). Details on how to use the exploit code are
      provided in the README.

      As per OpenWall rules, this exploit code will be published *publicly* 7
      days after the CRD (which is 2019-02-18). *If you have a container
      runtime, please verify that you are not vulnerable to this issue
      beforehand.*

      == IMPACT ON OTHER PROJECTS ==

      It should be noted that upon further investigation I’ve discovered that
      LXC has a similar vulnerability, and they have also pushed a similar
      patch[2] which we co-developed. LXC is a bit harder to exploit, but the
      same fundamental flaw exists.

      After some discussion with the systemd-nspawn folks, it appears that
      they aren’t vulnerable (because their method of attaching to a container
      uses a different method to LXC and runc).

      I have been contacted by folks from Apache Mesos who said they were also
      vulnerable (I believe just using the exploit code that will be
      provided). It is quite likely that most container runtimes are
      vulnerable to this flaw, unless they took very strange mitigations
      before-hand.

      == OTHER NEWS ==

      We have set up an announcement list for future security vulnerabilities,
      and you can see the process for joining here[3] (it’s based on the
      Kubernetes security-announce mailing list). Please join if you
      distribute any container runtimes that depend on runc (or other OCI
      projects).

      [1]: https://github.com/opencontainers/runc/commit/0a8e4117e7f…
      [2]: https://github.com/lxc/lxc/commit/6400238d08cdf1ca20d49ba…
      [3]: https://github.com/opencontainers/org/blob/master/securit…


      Aleksa Sarai

    • Linux container bug could eat your server from the inside – patch now!

      If you’re a fan of retro gaming, you’ve probably used an emulator, which is a software program that runs on computer hardware of one sort, and pretends to be a computer system of its own, possibly of a completely different sort.

      That’s how your latest-model Mac, which has an Intel x64 CPU, can run original, unaltered software that was written for a computer such as the Apple ][ or the Nintendo GameBoy.

      One advantage of emulators is that even though the running program thinks it’s running exactly as it would in real life, it isn’t – everything it does is controlled, instrumented, regimented and mitigated by the emulator software.

    • Latest Linux Crypto-Mining Malware Terminates Other Malicious Miners on Installation [Ed: The issue here isn't "Linux" but machines already compromised by something else]
    • Security updates for Tuesday
  • Defence/Aggression

    • Facts Don’t Interfere With Propaganda Blitz Against Venezuela’s Elected President

      The Miami Herald (2/8/19) reported, “Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro continues to reject international aid—going so far as to blockade a road that might have been used for its delivery.“

      The “Venezuelan leader” reporter Jim Wyss referred to is Venezuela’s elected president. In contrast, Wyss referred to Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s “interim president.”

      Guaidó, anointed by Trump and a new Iraq-style Coalition of the Willing, did not even run in Venezuela’s May 2018 presidential election. In fact, shortly before the election, Guaidó was not even mentioned by the opposition-aligned pollster Datanálisis when it published approval ratings of various prominent opposition leaders. Henri Falcón, who actually did run in the election (defying US threats against him) was claimed by the pollster to basically be in a statistical tie for most popular among them. It is remarkable to see the Western media dismiss this election as “fraudulent,” without even attempting to show that it was “stolen“ from Falcón. Perhaps that’s because it so clearly wasn’t stolen.

    • Why Does the United States of America Want to Overthrow the Government of Venezuela?

      Since 1998, the United States of America has tried to overthrow the government of Venezuela. What threatened the government of the United States since then was the Bolivarian dynamic set in motion by the election of Hugo Chávez as president of Venezuela that year. Chávez won the elections with a mandate from Venezuela’s workers and poor to overhaul the country to tend to their long-neglected needs.

      Venezuela, with the world’s largest proven oil reserves, had enriched the U.S.-based oil companies and its own oligarchy. Venezuela’s key oil minister in the early 1960s (and architect of OPEC—the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonso rightly called oil the “devil’s excrement.” It promised so much and delivered so little. Chávez arrived as the embodiment of popular hope. He threatened the oil companies and the oligarchy, which is why the United States tried to overthrow him.

      The first attempt at a coup came in 2002, when the United States egged on the military and the oligarchy to overthrow Chávez. They failed. He was supremely popular, the Chavista base eager for change that would improve their lives. They had no faith in the United States or the oligarchy, both of whom had suffocated them for the past century.

      Never has the Monroe Doctrine—which the United States invoked to control the American hemisphere—done much good for the millions of people from the southern tip of Argentina to the northern reaches of Canada. It has helped along the big corporations and the oligarchs, but not the ordinary people—the base of the Chavistas.

    • The Most Dangerous Weapon Ever Rolls Off the Nuclear Assembly Line

      Last month, the National Nuclear Security Administration (formerly the Atomic Energy Commission) announced that the first of a new generation of strategic nuclear weapons had rolled off the assembly line at its Pantex nuclear weapons plant in the panhandle of Texas. That warhead, the W76-2, is designed to be fitted to a submarine-launched Trident missile, a weapon with a range of more than 7,500 miles. By September, an undisclosed number of warheads will be delivered to the Navy for deployment.

      What makes this particular nuke new is the fact that it carries a far smaller destructive payload than the thermonuclear monsters the Trident has been hosting for decades — not the equivalent of about 100 kilotons of TNT as previously, but of five kilotons. According to Stephen Young of the Union of Concerned Scientists, the W76-2 will yield “only” about one-third of the devastating power of the weapon that the Enola Gay, an American B-29 bomber, dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Yet that very shrinkage of the power to devastate is precisely what makes this nuclear weapon potentially the most dangerous ever manufactured. Fulfilling the Trump administration’s quest for nuclear-war-fighting “flexibility,” it isn’t designed as a deterrent against another country launching its nukes; it’s designed to be used. This is the weapon that could make the previously “unthinkable” thinkable.

      There have long been “low-yield” nuclear weapons in the arsenals of the nuclear powers, including ones on cruise missiles, “air-drop bombs” (carried by planes), and even nuclear artillery shells — weapons designated as “tactical” and intended to be used in the confines of a specific battlefield or in a regional theater of war. The vast majority of them were, however, eliminated in the nuclear arms reductions that followed the end of the Cold War, a scaling-down by both the United States and Russia that would be quietly greeted with relief by battlefield commanders, those actually responsible for the potential use of such ordnance who understood its self-destructive absurdity.

      Ranking some weapons as “low-yield” based on their destructive energy always depended on a distinction that reality made meaningless (once damage from radioactivity and atmospheric fallout was taken into account along with the unlikelihood that only one such weapon would be used). In fact, the elimination of tactical nukes represented a hard-boiled confrontation with the iron law of escalation, another commander’s insight — that any use of such a weapon against a similarly armed adversary would likely ignite an inevitable chain of nuclear escalation whose end point was barely imaginable. One side was never going to take a hit without responding in kind, launching a process that could rapidly spiral toward an apocalyptic exchange. “Limited nuclear war,” in other words, was a fool’s fantasy and gradually came to be universally acknowledged as such. No longer, unfortunately.

    • Not-So-Veiled Threat of War as John Bolton Says Iran May Not Have ‘Many More Anniversaries to Enjoy’

      In video posted to the White House’s official Twitter page on Monday, Bolton echoed false assertions and repeatedly debunked claims by the Trump that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons and described the Iranian government as the “central banker of international terrorism.”

      Responding to Bolton’s video, Sen. Chris Murphy warned in a tweet on Tuesday that Trump’s hawkish national security adviser is knowingly lying to build momentum for a U.S. military attack on Iran.

      “Here Bolton says Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. This simply isn’t true. The intelligence says the opposite and he knows it,” Murphy wrote. “He is laying the groundwork for war and we all must be vigilant.”

    • Senate Committee Grills Navy Official Over 2017 Collisions, Seeking Data to Prove Conditions Have Changed

      A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday called on Navy officials to provide hard data showing they have improved conditions on their ships in the months since two destroyers were involved in back-to-back collisions that left 17 sailors dead.

      The senator, Angus King of Maine, made the demand of Adm. Philip Davidson, the top military commander in the Pacific, days after ProPublica published an investigation into the deadly mishaps in 2017, the Navy’s worst accidents at sea in four decades. The investigation showed that the Navy’s most senior leaders, uniformed and civilian, had failed to act on repeated warnings that the 7th Fleet, based in the Pacific and renowned as the largest armada in the world, was at risk — its sailors poorly trained and overworked, its ships in physical decline.

      The Navy since the accidents has pledged a host of reforms, from improved staffing to better training.

      “I want real numbers. I don’t want general ‘We’re working on staffing’ or ‘We’re working on more training,’ because these were avoidable tragedies,” King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. “I would like to see specific responses from the Navy. Not promises and not good feelings.”

      Davidson was in charge of ensuring that the Navy’s fleets were properly manned at the time of the collisions, and he personally drafted a reform plan. He praised the Navy’s track record by pointing out that most ships were not colliding.

      “The fact of the matter is 280-odd other ships weren’t having collisions,” Davidson said. “More than a dozen of those ships were performing exceptionally well.”

      King interrupted Davidson.

    • Juan Guaidó: The Man Who Would Be President of Venezuela Doesn’t Have a Constitutional Leg to Stand On

      Donald Trump imagines Juan Guaidó is the rightful president of Venezuela. Mr. Guaidó, a man of impeccable illegitimacy, was exposed by Cohen and Blumenthal as “a product of a decade-long project overseen by Washington’s elite regime change trainers.” Argentinian sociologist Marco Teruggi described Guaidó in the same article as “a character that has been created for this circumstance” of regime change. Here, his constitutional credentials to be interim president of Venezuela are deconstructed.

      Educated at George Washington University in DC, Guaidó was virtually unknown in his native Venezuela before being thrust on to the world stage in a rapidly unfolding series of events. In a poll conducted a little more than a week before Guaidó appointed himself president of the country, 81% of Venezuelans had never even heard of the 35-year-old.

      To make a short story shorter, US Vice President Pence phoned Guaidó on the evening of January 22rd and presumably asked him how’d he like to be made president of Venezuela. The next day, Guaidó announced that he considered himself president of Venezuela, followed within minutes by US President Trump confirming the self-appointment.

    • Canada vs. Venezuela: The Murky Background

      Following the closed-door, Feb. 4th meeting of the Lima Group in Ottawa, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland was holding a press conference to issue “the Ottawa Declaration for Venezuela” when suddenly protestors swarmed in front of her podium, unfurled a banner and began chanting “Hands off Venezuela!”
      As security guards removed the protestors, Freeland deftly moved off-script to say that the Lima Group’s plans for Venezuela would uphold “the kind of democracy which political protestors in Canada do enjoy and I’m sad to say that political protestors in Venezuela do not.”

      It was a bizarre statement for a variety of reasons – including the recent RCMP arrests of 14 peaceful land and water-protectors in Indigenous territory in B.C. – but especially because Freeland’s words coincided (but conflicted) with current mainstream media claims of massive protest marches taking place in Venezuela against president Nicolas Maduro and in favour of opposition figure Juan Guaido, who emerged from obscurity to declare himself interim president on January 23.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • HUD’s System for Processing Public Records Requests Died During the Shutdown

      The partial federal shutdown ended weeks ago, but one lingering effect turns out to be citizens’ ability to get public records from a government agency.

      The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s public records management and tracking system has been offline since early January, when a contract to run it lapsed.

      Four Freedom of Information Act officers at HUD said the lack of a system has drastically slowed their ability to process requests and has presented challenges in tracking the dozens of them the agency receives each week.

      Members of the public can no longer submit requests via HUD’s website or track their status. Late last week, the agency updated its website to include new instructions for filing a FOIA request via email, fax or mail.

      “We knew the government was going to go dark during the shutdown, but we did not anticipate that the machinery would literally be removed while it was shut down,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, a nonprofit ethics watchdog that has filed numerous Freedom of Information Act lawsuits against federal agencies during the Trump administration.

    • Meme showing Julian Assange posing with UK newspaper is doctored
  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Senate Backs Massive Public Lands, Conservation Bill

      The Senate on Tuesday approved a major public lands bill that revives a popular conservation program, adds 1.3 million acres of new wilderness, expands several national parks and creates four new national monuments.

      The measure, the largest public lands bill considered by Congress in a decade, combines more than 100 separate bills that designate more than 350 miles of river as wild and scenic, create 2,600 miles of new federal trails and add nearly 700,000 acres of new recreation and conservation areas. The bill also withdraws 370,000 acres in Montana and Washington state from mineral development.

    • New York Like Arkansas? Bay Area Like L.A.? Warming May Make It Feel So

      The climate in New York City in 60 years could feel like Arkansas now. Chicago could seem like Kansas City and San Francisco could get a Southern California climate if global warming pollution continues at the current pace, a new study finds.

      In 2080, North Carolina’s capital, Raleigh, could feel more like Florida’s capital, Tallahassee, while the nation’s capital will have a climate more akin to just north of the Mississippi Delta, if the globe stays on its current carbon pollution trend. Miami might as well be southern Mexico and the beautiful mornings in future Des Moines, Iowa, could feel like they are straight out of Oklahoma.

      That’s according to a study Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications that tries to explain climate change better.

    • Greenwashing the Climate Catastrophe

      It is hard not to notice a stirring of consciousness regarding humanity’s dire ecological predicament beginning to seep into the mainstream these days. How can it not? Year after year records are shattered. Month after month scientists continue to be shocked and demoralized by more and more evidence of rising seas, a climate careening into a chaotic and terrifying unknown, and countless species succumbing in a biosphere perpetually under siege. Even the corporate media which has been designed as a mouthpiece of capitalist interests cannot completely veil our collective crisis. Unsurprisingly, the ruling class has begun to react, not in a way that meaningfully addresses the death cult of the current socioeconomic order, but to ensure its survival albeit with a greener face. Their cynical approach to what is the biggest existential crisis of our age is using youthful optimism and justified outrage and terror to cloud their machinations.

      One such prominent youth these days is Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish girl who delivered a rousing speech at the UN Climate Change Conference and before the world’s wealthiest at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Indeed, her speech was inspiring and I do not doubt her passion or honest devotion to climate activism for a minute, but to ignore the powerful machine looking to co-opt her message would be a grave mistake. For instance, Thunberg has been given interviews in the corporate press, has been endorsed by a tech start-up company (We Don’t Have Time), and has been lauded by industry for promoting “sustainable development.”

      Now certainly Thunberg is not the one manipulating any of these actors, and she should not face any kind of criticism for her part in addressing the greatest existential issue of our times. But it should be clear that most people who get interviews in the corporate media are generally not deemed to be a serious challenger to the status quo political/economic order. Corporate approved dissent is a form of censorship that gives the illusion of a lively debate, but essentially establishes a firm line in the sand when if comes to radically questioning or opposing the capitalist framework itself. And if finance companies are behind something we can be pretty sure that they are primarily in it for the money. In addition to this, the term sustainable development is a meaningless on a planet that is literally on the edge of a cliff, but under the dominant economic dictatorship of money the co-opted mainstream environmental movement has pumped out these tropes making them a form of collective social conditioning.

      And this ties into the notion of personal responsibility. Solutions to our environmental crisis have been reduced to “life style changes” which have also become the en vogue activism of the day. It is a line of thinking that is accepted and even endorsed by corporations, banks and neoliberal governments because it poses no real challenge to their power or their ongoing destructive practices. To the mainstream, tweaking one’s lifestyle is all that is needed. Buy an electric vehicle or use a bicycle. Don’t take a plane on your vacation. Buy reusable bags. Choose organic only. Go vegan. Buy reusable straws. While there is nothing wrong with doing these things in general, they must be understood as individual choices that are based on privilege and that have little impact in addressing urgent crisis our biosphere is facing right now.

    • World is halfway through its hottest decade

      Here is a climate forecast that climate scientists, meteorologists, politicians, voters and even climate sceptics can check: the next five years will be warm, and will probably help to complete the hottest decade ever.

      They will on a global average be at least 1°C higher than the average temperature of the planet 200 years ago, before the accelerating combustion of fossil fuels.

      That is because the planet is already midway through what may well prove to be its warmest 10 years since records began on a planetary scale in 1850. There is even a possibility that within the next five years, the global temperature rise could tip 1.5°C above the long-term average for human history.

      [...]

      Climate is what people can reasonably bank on; weather is what they get. The forecast is significant because it is evidence of swelling confidence in the understanding of global warming and climate change science.

      Climate researchers began warning at least 40 years ago of the potentially calamitous consequences of climate change: they were, at the time, unwilling to link any single weather event – flood, drought, windstorm or heat wave – to long-term global warming as a consequence of the steady increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, released from power stations, factory chimneys and vehicle exhausts.

    • Green Party responds to IPPR report on climate change

      The Green Party of England and Wales have today responded to the report – This is a Crisis: Facing up to the Age of Environmental Breakdown – released by the Institute for Public Policy Research.

    • Ambitious Danish island ends fossil fuel use

      Tackling climate change is urgent. It’s too urgent to be feasible, say some critics. But as one Danish island ends fossil fuel use, its story shows it may be time to think again.

      In five years, by 2023, the UK Met Office says, global warming could temporarily rise by more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, the target agreed by 195 governments in 2015. So the world needs to switch fast from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

      The island of Samsø, off Denmark’s east coast, has wasted no time. Between 1998 and 2007 it abandoned its total dependence on imported fossil fuels and now relies entirely on renewables, mainly wind and biomass. It’s been singled out as the world’s first 100% renewable island by the Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA), which says Samsø can teach the world some vital lessons about changing fast and radically.

    • Meduza explains the controversy surrounding a pipeline that could cut Ukraine out of Europe’s gas business

      On February 12, European Union officials will discuss the status of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which is currently being built from the Russian town of Ust-Luga to the German city of Greifswald along the bottom of the Baltic Sea. The United States and many European countries oppose the project, but it seems Russia and her main ally in this undertaking — Germany — are nearly at the finish line, following a compromise reached late last week in the EU. Meduza takes a closer look at Nord Stream 2 and why it’s fueled so much international tension.

    • Guest Post — Rising Carbon Dioxide Levels: Capture Methods & Patent Trends [Ed: Some patent monopolies that merely exacerbate global warming]

      While there are multiple methods for incorporating CO2 capture into the fossil-fuel based power generation processes currently utilized, the approach that is most amenable to existing infrastructure is a post-combustion approach where the flue gas exiting a coal or natural-gas fired power plant, consisting primarily of CO2 and water vapor, is subjected to a CO2 capture process. Currently, this is most frequently performed using aqueous solutions of chemical compounds with amine functionalities, such as monoethanolamine, in a CO2 capture unit, also known as a CO2 scrubber. During the operation of a CO2 scrubber, post-combustion flue gas is sent through an adsorption column that contains the lean amine solution, where lean indicates low CO2 content. The lean amine undergoes a reversible chemical reaction with CO2, resulting in the formation of rich amines, which are composed primarily of carbamate or bicarbonate.3 Rich amines are then transferred to a desorber system that converts rich amines back to lean amines via competitive water adsorption using steam. This process releases CO2, which can be collected for later conversion steps.

    • The End of Ice: Dahr Jamail on Climate Disruption from the Melting Himalayas to Insect Extinction

      A new report finds at least a third of the Himalayan ice cap will melt by the end of the century due to climate change, even if the world’s most ambitious environmental reforms are implemented. The report, released by the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment earlier this month, is the culmination of half a decade’s work by over 200 scientists, with an additional 125 experts peer reviewing their work. It warns rising temperatures in the Himalayas could lead to mass population displacement, as well as catastrophic food and water insecurity. The glaciers are a vital water source for the 250 million people who live in the Hindu Kush Himalaya range, which spans from Afghanistan to Burma. More than 1.5 billion people depend on the rivers that flow from the Himalayan peaks. We speak with Dahr Jamail, independent journalist and author of the new book “The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption.”

    • ‘We Have Entered the Age of Environmental Breakdown’: Report Details World on Edge of Runaway Collapse

      The two-part transformational response envisioned by the authors would mean a socioeconomic overhaul “to bring human activity to within environmentally sustainable limits while tackling inequalities and providing a high quality life to all” as well as major steps to boost resilience to the impacts of environmental breakdown, including improvements to “infrastructure, markets, political processes, social cohesion, and global cooperation.”

      However, as lead author Laurie Laybourn-Langton emphasized to the Guardian, even considering a response that matches the scope of the crisis requires first raising public awareness: “People are not frank enough about this. If it is discussed at all, it is the sort of thing mentioned at the end of a conversation, that makes everyone look at the floor, but we don’t have time for that now… It’s appearing more in media, but we are not doing enough.”

    • Because Society ‘Leaps Forward’ When People Take Action, UK Headteachers Union Backs Student #ClimateStrike

      As students across the United Kingdom prepare to join the global “climate strike” movement later this week by walking out of class, the nation’s union of headteachers—representing principals, headmasters, and other school leaders—has endorsed the coordinated actions as a demonstration to be “applauded.”

      The National Association of Head Teachers in a statement offered their support to students in at least 30 towns and cities nationwide who have vowed to strike.

      “Society makes leaps forward when people are prepared to take action,” a spokesperson for the union said. “When you get older pupils making an informed decision, that kind of thing needs to be applauded. Schools encourage students to develop a wider understanding of the world around them, a day of activity like this could be an important and valuable life experience.”

    • Fatal Rail Accident ‘Eerily Similar’ to Lac-Mégantic Oil Train Disaster

      The only way to have a rail accident that is “eerily similar” to the Lac-Mégantic oil train disaster that killed 47 people and wiped out the small Quebec downtown is if a massive regulatory failure did not address the causes of that 2013 tragedy.

      Which is exactly what has happened. And is why a fatal train accident on February 4 in Field, British Columbia, was dubbed “eerily similar” to the one in Lac-Mégantic by Garland Chow, a professor and transportation expert at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business.

    • Youth Movements Changing Tactics in the Face of Climate Crisis

      Back in 2015, a group of youth warriors bravely filed a lawsuit against the federal government for failing to protect their right to life and liberty by willfully ignoring the dangers of climate change. Last month, the 21 plaintiffs of Juliana v. United States gathered under the same roof for the first time in quite a while at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. The group convened with leaders of the most powerful movements of our time to share their experiences and discuss what need to be done to address our climate crisis.

      The youth plaintiffs were joined at the “Changing Tactics in the Face of Climate Emergency” by leaders of the most vivid movements of our time, lifting up organizing systems that are multiracial, where women hold primary positions of power and political leadership. Vic Barrett, one of the youth plaintiffs, was on the panel with Julia Olson, the executive director of Our Children’s Trust and the legal representation in the lawsuit, 350.org communications manager Thanu Yakupitiyage, and Sara Blazevic, the co-founder and managing director of the Sunrise Movement.

      Sunrise is building the power of youth to urge the country to take climate change seriously while reclaiming democracy. Addressing the crisis, Sunrise says, means ending the influence of fossil fuel profiteers on American politics and creating good jobs to update national infrastructure. The group skyrocketed to national headlines after occupying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office to demand Congress pass a Green New Deal. Blazevic told the crowd that Sunrise organizers had dedicated months of time to winning back the House of Representatives for Democrats. “We thought they owed us more than lip service on the biggest issue facing our generation,” she said.

      “We need to transform our entire economy to prevent [the climate crisis] and we also have an incredible opportunity to create millions of good jobs and actually increase equity and justice in this country in the process,” Blazevic said. “Sunrise is protesting to bring the crisis to the forefront of the minds of every American and bring the urgency of those fires, floods and droughts we hear the plaintiffs talk about from our television screens to our politicians’ scripts.”

  • Finance

    • Governments in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh & Nepal look up to India’s digital transformation

      A recent industry report stated that almost half of the Fortune 500 companies that existed in the year 2000 have now shut down. There is a huge transformation of business happening at every level; not just related to IT. [...]

    • Sweden’s Cashless Experiment: Is It Too Much Too Fast?

      In 2018, only 13 percent of Swedes reported using cash for a recent purchase, according to a nationwide survey, down from around 40 percent in 2010. In the capital, Stockholm, most people can’t even remember the last time they had coins jingling in their pockets.

      [...]

      Another concern is that the majority of local bank branches have stopped letting people take out cash or even bring cash into the bank. Even Sweden’s central bank — the Riksbank — which largely supports the transformation of the country’s payment system, has also argued that going completely cashless can be risky.

    • Universal income study finds money for nothing won’t make us work less

      The experiment ended on 31 December 2018 and preliminary results were published this morning. It compared the income, employment status and general wellbeing of those who received the UBI with a control group of 5000 who carried on receiving benefits.

    • Denver Teachers Strike over Bonus-Based Pay System, Demanding Reliable Salary Plan & Better Wages

      Public school teachers in Denver, Colorado, are striking for the second day, after negotiations between the teachers’ union and the school district failed to reach a contract over the weekend. The Denver Classroom Teachers Association is demanding an increase in teachers’ base salaries rather than putting money in incentives and bonuses. The Denver teachers walked out Monday following 15 months of negotiations over a controversial bonus-based pay system that educators say leaves them unable to predict their salaries and guarantee financial security. The starting salary for a Denver teacher for the 2019-2020 school year is $43,255, according to The Denver Post. This is the district’s first teacher strike in 25 years. We speak with Henry Román, a Denver elementary school teacher and president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association.

    • SEC’s Action Against Decentralized Exchange Raises Constitutional Questions

      A recent public statement from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission implied that those engaged in writing and publishing code might need to worry about running afoul of securities laws. In its statement about the cease and desist order against the co-founder of decentralized cryptocurrency exchange EtherDelta, the SEC indicated that someone who simply “provides an algorithm” might be found to be running a securities exchange. In the order itself, the SEC stated that EtherDelta’s creator had violated securities laws because he “wrote and deployed” code that he “should have known” would contribute to EtherDelta’s alleged violations. EFF today sent a public letter reminding the agency that writing and publishing code is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment, and that the courts don’t take kindly to government agencies requiring people to obtain licenses before exercising their free speech rights.

      EtherDelta was founded by Zachary Coburn. The SEC charged Coburn with running an unregistered national securities exchange, and he settled and agreed to pay over $300,000. While EFF takes no position on whether other aspects of EtherDelta violated the law or SEC regulations, EFF urged the SEC to clarify its dangerously broad language regarding potential liability for merely writing and publishing code.

    • A tax on wealth is long overdue

      What if the final blow for French President Emmanuel Macron came not from the yellow vests but from US Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts? Warren, who announced her candidacy for president on Saturday, has proposed what will doubtless be one of the key points of her campaign — the creation of a genuine federal progressive wealth tax.

      Carefully calculated by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, the Warren proposal sets a rate of 2 percent on fortunes valued between $50 million and $1 billion, and 3 percent above $1 billion. The proposal also provides for an exit tax equal to 40 percent of total wealth for those who relinquish their American citizenship. The tax would apply to all assets, with no exemptions, with dissuasive sanctions for people and governments that do not transmit appropriate information on assets held abroad.

    • Universal income study finds money for nothing won’t make us work less

      The most robust trial of universal basic income yet shows that it boosts well-being and doesn’t decrease employment, as some had feared

    • America’s Widening Inequality of PlaceYou’ve heard me talk…

      You’ve heard me talk about inequalities of income and wealth and political power. But another kind of inequality needs to be addressed as well: widening inequalities of place.

      On the one hand, booming mega-cities. On the other hand, an American heartland that’s becoming emptier, older, whiter, less educated, and poorer. Trump country.

      To understand what’s happening you first need to see technology not as a thing but as a process of group learning – of talented people interacting with each other continuously and directly, keying off each other’s creativity, testing new concepts, quickly discarding those that don’t work, and building cumulative knowledge.

      This learning goes way beyond the confines of any individual company. It now happens in geographic clusters – mostly along the east and west coasts in places like Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Boston and suburban Washington D.C.

      Bright young college graduates are streaming into these places, where their talents generate more value–and higher wages–together than they would separately.

      [...]

      California, now inhabited by almost 40 million people, gets two senators – as does Wyoming, with just 579,000.

    • Beyond Corporate Power

      The problem is not that the corporations are “out of control,” the problem is that the corporations are so much “in control.” By seeing neoliberalism as Free Market Fundamentalism (FMF) rather than Corporate Power we underestimate the challenges ahead. FMF does not help us to know what tactics and strategies are best because it cannot tell us about the enemy we face: Corporate Power.

      If the corporations have merged with the state, then the liberal-regulatory state is finished and our faith in its ability to protect us is a poor substitute for self-knowledge and self-determination. Instead, we should realize that we are finally on our own. Mass movements making revolutionary demands and organizing projects aimed at building independent people power will have the best chance at overthrowing the corporate power.

      The tension between seeing the problem as FMF or as corporate power will only be resolved by the highest stakes gamble imaginable. Can we dismantle corporate power and stop climate change through normal electoral means or will revolutionary upheavals provide the answers we need?

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • National Enquirer parent company AMI asked Justice Dept. if it should register as foreign lobbyist

      Remember that weird glossy magazine that came out last year promoting Saudi crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman? Daily Beast called it Saudi propaganda, and it was.

      AMI, the parent company of The National Enquirer, produced it.

    • National Enquirer’s parent firm asked U.S. if it should register as foreign agent for Saudis

      The company that publishes the National Enquirer was concerned enough that it may have acted as an agent of Saudi Arabia that it asked the Department of Justice last year whether it needed to register as a foreign lobbyist, a person with knowledge of Saudi Arabia’s lobbying efforts in the United States confirms to NBC News.

      [...]

      But in its letters to the Justice Department in May and June 2018, AMI acknowledged that it had asked a Saudi adviser to submit content for the magazine, given the adviser an early draft to review and then made changes to the final version that were suggested by the Saudi adviser.

    • Tencent Buys Stake In Another U.S. Social Network — Reddit

      Reddit also started to sell cost-per-click ads, cost-per-impression ads, promoted posts, and video ads. Its revenue surpassed $100 million in 2018, according to CNBC, fueled by a 22% jump in engagement and 30% increase in total views. However, Reddit’s heavy dependence on venture capital suggests that it isn’t profitable, and its workforce of roughly 350 is based in pricey San Francisco.

      Tencent will reportedly invest $150 million in Reddit, which would make it one of the social platform’s top stakeholders. Publisher Condé Nast acquired a majority stake in 2006, and that stake now belongs to its parent company, Advance Publications. Reddit still operates independently from both companies.

    • Reddit valued at $3 billion after raising $300 million in latest funding round

      The series D funding round saw a $150 million investment from Tencent and the company’s former investors, including Sequoia, Fidelity, Tacit and Snoop Dogg.

    • 50,000 Heck*ng Facebook Ad Variants?!

      So, I just slid on over to the Facebook Ad Archive to see some of the ads the Harris campaign had been running recently (note this was running for only about 24 hours). And, as I’ve highlighted above, there are really about 8 pieces of the ad you can tweak to create your total number of ad variants, that you then bulk upload and let the Facebook robots sort out for you, culling the ones that don’t generate the most response (most of them), and displaying more the of the ones that do, generating happier customers for Facebook, and vast numbers of email signups and filthy lucre for the political advertiser.

    • 83% Of Consumers Believe Personalized Ads Are Morally Wrong, Survey Says

      A massive majority of consumers believe that using their data to personalize ads is unethical. And a further 76% believe that personalization to create tailored newsfeeds — precisely what Facebook, Twitter, and other social applications do every day — is unethical.

      At least, that’s what they say on surveys.

    • Trump supporter attacks BBC cameraman at El Paso rally

      He has claimed journalists are “the enemy of the people” and slammed the “fake news” for reports he deems unfavourable.

      Mr Skeans said the man almost knocked him and his camera over twice before he was wrestled away by a blogger.

    • BBC cameraman victim of ‘violent attack’ during Donald Trump rally

      Mr O’Donoghue said Mr Trump’s 2020 election campaign, which he thinks has begun, will be as “hostile and ill-tempered and divisive as the one we saw last time”.

    • BBC cameraman suffers ‘incredibly violent attack’ during Trump rally

      Rod Skeans was filming a rally in El Paso, Texas, when he was suddenly shoved by a Trump supporter who got onto the reporters’ platform.

    • White House Correspondents Condemn Attack on BBC Cameraman at Trump Rally

      Olivier Knox, the president of the WHCA, condemned the attack and said that they were “relieved that, this time, no one was seriously hurt. The president of the United States should make absolutely clear to his supporters that violence against reporters is unacceptable.”

    • BBC Journalist Violently Attacked at Texas Rally After Crowd ‘Whipped Up Into a Frenzy’ by Trump’s Anti-Press Rhetoric

      A BBC correspondent shared on social media a video of his colleague being attacked at President Donald Trump’s rally in El Paso, Texas Monday night, laying blame with the increasingly anti-press rhetoric the president spouts at his public appearances, including at this one.

      Around the time Trump told the crowd that a wall at the southern U.S. border would cut down on violent crime in the U.S., cameraman Ron Skeans was violently shoved by a Trump supporter wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. The attacker was filmed shouting, “Fuck the media!” as he stormed the press area.

      Correspondent Gary O’Donoghue shared footage of the attack, saying it followed Trump’s “goading” of the crowd against journalists and others he considers opponents.

    • Russian lawmakers just passed legislation designed to kick soldiers off social media

      Lawmakers in the State Duma have passed the second reading of legislation banning soldiers from using any electronic recording devices and from talking online about their military service. In the bill’s explanatory note, the authors say the law is necessary because soldiers’ posts on social media have allowed investigative journalists to write about the actions of Russian troops in Syria. The legislation would also reduce the information available about fighting in eastern Ukraine, hazing in armed forces, and military training exercises. Read Meduza’s report on this legislation from September 2018.

    • Bernie 2020 Campaign Has Corporate Democrats Running Scared

      Bloomberg News supplied the typical spin in a Feb. 8 article headlined “Sanders Risks Getting Crowded Out in 2020 Field of Progressives.” The piece laid out the narrative: “Sanders may find himself a victim of his own success in driving the party to the left with his 2016 run. The field of Democratic presidential hopefuls includes at least a half-dozen candidates who’ve adopted in whole or in part the platform that helped Sanders build a loyal following . . .”

      Yet Bernie is also being targeted as too marginal. The same Bloomberg article quoted Howard Dean, a long-ago liberal favorite who has become a hawkish lobbyist and corporate mouthpiece: “There will be hardcore, hard left progressives who will have nobody but Bernie, but there won’t be many.”

      So, is Bernie now too much like other Democratic presidential candidates, or is he too much of an outlier? In the mass media, both seem to be true. In the real world, neither are true.

      Last week, Business Insider reported on new polling about Bernie’s proposal “to increase the estate tax, the tax paid by heirs on assets passed down by the deceased. Sanders’ idea would lower the threshold to qualify for the tax to $3.5 million in assets, down from the current $11 million. The plan would also introduce a graduating scale of tax rates for the estates of wealthier Americans, eventually reaching a 77 percent marginal rate for assets over $1 billion.”

    • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is under fire because she’s right

      The big guns are out for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the charismatic first-term legislator from New York.

      In an apparent swipe at Ocasio-Cortez, Donald Trump used part of his rambling State of the Union address to say he was “alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country.”

      Billionaire former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz cited Ocasio-Cortez’s support for a 70 percent tax rate on income above $10 million a year as one reason he may decide to run as an independent for president, and not as a Democrat.

      [...]

      Dr. Martin Luther King used to teach that “cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And then expedience comes along and asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? Conscience asks the question, is it right? There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.”

      Politicians worry about donors. They hear from lobbyists, from special interests, from corporations that can spend unlimited money in political campaigns without revealing it.

    • ‘Ah, Yes,’ Says Ocasio-Cortez of Trump After Jab at Green New Deal, ‘A Man Who Can’t Even Read Briefings Written in Full Sentences’

      Responding to a comment President Donald Trump reportedly made to Breitbart News denigrating the Green New Deal resolution she introduced to Congress last week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) late Monday night offered no quarter to buffoonery of the president and reminded people on Twitter the president is a person who famous for not reading things and someone who fails to prove basic comprehension of complex (and simple) subjects on a near constant basis.

      [...]

      Though perhaps a low blow, Trump—despite making claims he’s “like, really smart” and a “stable genius” with a “very, very large brain”—is notoriously heckled for not being that bright. As Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman wrote in 2017: “Trump has many serious flaws, including incorrigible dishonesty, rampant narcissism, contempt for women and a fashion sense that makes him think that hairstyle of his is flattering. But nothing compares to his most prominent, crippling and incurable defect: He’s dimmer than a 5-watt bulb.”

    • Resisting the Weaponization of Ignorance in the Age of Trump

      Ignorance now rules the U.S. Not the simple, if somewhat innocent ignorance that comes from an absence of knowledge, but a malicious ignorance forged in the arrogance of refusing to think hard about an issue. We most recently saw this exemplified in Donald Trump’s disingenuousness 2019 State of the Union address in which he lied about the amount of drugs streaming across the southern border, demonized the immigrant community with racist attacks, misrepresented the facts regarding the degree of violence at the border, and employed an antiwar rhetoric while he has repeatedly threatened war with Iran and Venezuela. Willful ignorance reached a new low when Trump — after two years of malicious tweets aimed at his critics — spoke of the need for political unity.

      Willful ignorance often hides behind the rhetoric of humiliation, lies and intimidation. Trump’s reliance upon threats to impose his will took a dangerous turn given his ignorance of the law when he used his speech to undermine the special council’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. He did so with his hypocritical comment about how the only things that can stop the “economic miracle” are “foolish wars, politics or ridiculous partisan investigations,” to which he added, “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.” According to Trump, the Democrats have a choice between reaching legislative deals and pursuing “ridiculous partisan investigations” — clearly the country could not do both.

      William Rivers Pitt is right in claiming that in one moment Trump thus tied “the ongoing Robert Mueller investigation inextricably to terrorism, war and political dysfunction.” As Mike DeBonis and Seung Min Kim point out, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi added to this criticism by “accusing Trump of an all-out threat to lawmakers sworn to provide a check and balance on his power.”

    • The Last Time the U.S. Wanted a Wall, 70,000 People Were Sterilized

      Since his presidential campaign, Donald Trump has been advocating for the construction of a wall along the southern U.S. border. Amid continuously fanning the flames of racism and xenophobia, from the moment of his election to the present, this has been one campaign promise that keeps eluding him. In a desperate attempt to construct his wall, Trump even forced a government shutdown.

      While many might think this policy suggestion is new, historical examination reveals it has been proposed at least once before. Over 100 years ago, a group of wealthy white men advocated creating a wall around the entire United States to keep out those they called “degenerates,” “defectives” and the “unfit.” But this was only part of their advocacy.

      These individuals were part of a movement that promoted eugenics, which, over the course of the 20th century, led to the forced sterilization of more than 70,000 individuals. To understand Trump’s call for a border wall, we must understand the history of a movement that advocated for a wall before Trump was even born.

    • This Country Belongs To The People

      In need of a reprieve from the El Paso derangement – journalists attacked, babies executed, teachers as losers, fictional numbers, a Green New Deal that will ban cows and end “a little thing called air travel” – let us honor Abraham Lincoln, born on this day in 1809. So was Charles Darwin, another moral and intellectual giant, but he’s happily escaped the fate of our idiotpretender comparing himself to him, probably ’cause he’s never heard of him. We take enormous solace in Beto and his ilk. But we also celebrate the enduring wisdom and self-evident truths of Lincoln, whose prescience in this time and place resonates more than ever. To wit:

      “If you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

      “No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.”

      “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.”

      “The time comes upon every public man when it is best for him to keep his lips closed.”

    • Disappointment (and a Little Hope) in First Foreign Policy Test of the New Congress

      The “Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019,” which passed on a 77 to 23 vote, also increases unconditional taxpayer-funded arms transfers to Israel, strengthens military ties with the autocratic Kingdom of Jordan and endorses state government efforts to punish socially conscious businesses that choose to boycott illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

      Besides receiving near-unanimous support from Senate Republicans, a slight majority of Democrats also backed the contentious bill, introduced by Republican Senator Marco Rubio as the very first bill (S.1) placed before the Senate this session.

      Yet, in a surprising development with possible future political implications, seven out of the eight Democratic Senators running or considering running for President voted no.

      In a rebuke to arms control analysts who have long argued that the Middle East has been overly militarized, Congress is insisting there are not enough armaments in the region and the United States needs to send even more. In reauthorizing the U.S.-Jordan Defense Cooperation Act and pledging more than $33 billion in additional arms and weapons systems to Israel, the bill has sent a clear message of bipartisan support for continuing the arms race in a violent and unstable region.

    • The Moderates

      A multibillionaire met his first appointment of the day, a political candidate looking for a donation to his party before an upcoming election. “So just where do you stand on taxes”, the billionaire inquired of his guest as they were waiting for the pheasant soufflé to arrive.

      “Well, Sir, our party doesn’t believe that wealth creators should be taxed at all”.

      “Excellent”, the billionaire said as he rubbed his gnarled fingertips together in glee. “May I ask what your stance is on fossil fuels?”

      “We are wholly committed, Sir, to extracting every last drop of them. We fully intend to push pipelines wherever we damn please. Preferably up the asses of the Chinese, if you’ll pardon my French. As for the so-called endangered species and coral reefs, they can complain to the Board of Extinction . As far as we’re concerned, they can get in line behind the autoworkers, licensed taxi drivers, and brick-and-mortar retail staff.”

      After a hearty, minute-long chuckle, the billionaire composed himself and barked, “Nuclear Disarmament!”

    • Will Trump Resign Before the 2020 Election?

      As Donald Trump gave his 2019 “State of the (Dis)Union” speech, an unasked question haunted the event – will he be forced to resign before the 2020 election? Much media attention is focused on “Russia Gate” and the Mueller investigation as well as the dozen or so investigations getting underway by the new Democrat-controlled Congress. However, Trump’s real threat may come from the investigations of his – and his family’s – business practices being separately undertaken by the governments of New York, New Jersey, Washington, DC, and Maryland.

      Trump’s leading biographer, David Cay Johnston, pulls no punches in his assessment of Trump’s questionable business practices. “He comes from a family of criminals,” Johnston explains. “His grandfather made his fortune running whorehouses in Seattle and in the Yukon Territory. His father, Fred, had a business partner named Willie Tomasello, who was an associate of the Gambino crime family. Trump’s father was also investigated by the U.S. Senate for ripping off the government for what would be the equivalent of $36 million in today’s money.” Following the family line, Johnston notes, “Donald got his showmanship from his dad, as well as his comfort with organized criminals.”

      Since the 2016 presidential campaign and election, a growing number of business scandals have undercut Trump’s self-promoted image of a successful real-estate tycoon. The dubious practices of Trump University (TU) shadowed him during the primary and, shortly after he took office, the case was settled with Trump agreeing to pay a $25 million settlement to resolve outstanding suits.

    • The Kids Are Alright In Denver

      Proclaiming their school district “can’t put students first when they put teachers last” and “I’d rather be teaching but this is important,” Denver teachers stayed out on strike into a third day to protest some of the country’s lowest wages, an arbitrary merit pay bonus system, corporate-driven privatization and other “reforms” they say fail to meet the needs of either teachers or students, especially low-income kids of color. The long-gestating strike, one of a record number last year by educators, has garnered support from Democrats like Warren, Sanders, and Harris as well as Democratic Socialists, who have set up a strike solidarity fund. Officials say about 2,630 teachers, or roughly 60%, went out on Monday; perhaps galvanized by Little Donnie Douchebag’s ignorant “loser teacher” crack in El Paso, both more teachers and more supporters joined them Tuesday as talks dragged on. Meanwhile, three-quarters of the district’s 92,000 students showed up at school; many left because classrooms were chaotic, unskilled subs were giving them busywork, or they wanted to join the picket lines.

      To an impressive extent, like the gun reform and climate change movements, students – notably working class kids of color – have taken the organizing lead. In the days before the strike, over 1,000 high schoolers held discussions, protests and sit-ins to support union demands; once picket lines went up, students at one school walked out en masse and at another they held a rowdy pro-strike dance party. Officials are pushing back: Tuesday, administrators were trying to ban students from school as “agents of a media source” for sharing protest photos; the kids say they’re “just trying to get the word out.” They’ve also “started to feel our power,” blasting “people in charge (who are) turning a system that’s supposed to be for us (into) a way to make profits for themselves.” Junior Jhoni Palmer is supremely cogent on the subject: “I don’t understand how not paying Denver teachers is helping us students of color. What we really need is more funding and a better curriculum.” In a wealthy state and a country that seems always able to afford war, she adds, “We know the money is there – but it’s just not going to those who need it.”

    • “Second Shutdown” Theatrics: Heads Trump Wins, Tails America Loses

      Unless Congress and the Trump administration reach a new spending deal by February 15, the federal government will go back into “partial shutdown” status. As of February 10, congressional negotiators seem to be nearing agreement on a deal that includes about $2 billion in funding for President Trump’s “border wall” project. Trump, as before the recent shutdown, is seeking $5.7 billion.

      My prediction: There are three ways this can come out. One is highly unlikely, and both of the other two would constitute a victory for Trump and a loss for Congress in general, even more so for congressional Democrats, and most of all for the American people.

      Let’s get the unlikely outcome out of the way first: There’s probably not going to be another shutdown. Trump is going to sign whatever deal lands on his desk.

      If the deal includes the $5.7 billion he’s demanding (it won’t), he’s obviously the winner. Expect a lavish White House Rose Garden signing ceremony, even if there’s snow on the ground.

      If the deal offers a lesser amount (it will), congressional Democrats will have lost anyway, by buckling on their previous opposition to funding the wall at all. That’s a bad outcome for a new Democratic majority in the House. It signals a lack of political will to take on the Republican agenda.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Twitch Streamer Claims She Was Banned for Saying There Were Two Genders

      During a recent YouTube broadcast, which can be seen above, Helena detailed the situation, stating that the comments in question were in regards to her belief that “there are only two genders.” This did not go over very well with everyone in the community, which led to Twitch informing Helena that her partnership had been terminated. In the same email, it was noted that this was not the only cause for her account being banned, as the streamer had previously been reported twice “for hateful conduct in the last two months.”

    • Russian court orders report of illegal fishing by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to be deleted

      A court in Sochi, Russia, has ordered the investigative outlet The Insider to delete a 2018 article that exposed illegal hunting and fishing in a Caucasian nature preserve, Svobodnye Media reported. Fishing, hunting, and gathering are all prohibited in the area, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

      The Insider’s report accused Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of participating in illegal fishing on the preserve. The preserve’s director, Sergei Shevelev, sued the publication for defamation. He demanded that the article be replaced with a public denial and requested 100,000 rubles ($1,518) in damages. The court reduced that amount to 10,000 rubles ($158).

    • Stephen Cohen on War with Russia and Soviet-style Censorship in the US

      On stage at Busboys and Poets in Washington, D.C. this past week was Princeton University Professor Emeritus Stephen Cohen, author of the new book, War with Russia: From Putin & Ukraine to Trump & Russiagate.

      Cohen has largely been banished from mainstream media.

      “I had been arguing for years — very much against the American political media grain — that a new US/Russian Cold War was unfolding — driven primarily by politics in Washington, not Moscow,” Cohen writes in War with Russia. “For this perspective, I had been largely excluded from influential print, broadcast and cable outlets where I had been previously welcomed.”

      On the stage at Busboys and Poets with Cohen was Katrina vanden Heuvel, the editor of The Nation magazine, and Robert Borosage, co-founder of the Campaign for America’s Future.

      During question time, Cohen was asked about the extent of the censorship in the context of other Americans who had been banished from mainstream American media, including Ralph Nader, whom the liberal Democratic establishment, including Borosage and Vanden Heuvel, stiff armed when he crashed the corporate political parties in the electoral arena in 2004 and 2008.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Hearing Wednesday: EFF Asks Court to Unseal Phone Tap Order That Was Among Hundreds of Questionable Wiretaps Approved By California Court

      EFF Client Targeted As Record Number of Wiretap Orders Raised Questions About the Legality of Riverside County’s Wiretapping Process
      Riverside, California—On Wednesday, February 13, at 10:00 am, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will ask a state court to unseal a wiretap order issued against individuals with no criminal records to learn why the phones were tapped and whether the warrant authorization process was legitimate.

      The order was among hundreds of questionable wiretaps issued by a single county in 2015, which accounted for over half of all reported wiretaps from California, and over one-fifth of all state wiretaps issued nationwide. The individuals were never notified that their phones were being tapped, despite a law requiring such notice within 90 days of the wiretap’s conclusion, and were never charged with any wrongdoing.

      EFF and Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP represent a targeted individual whose phone was ordered tapped by Judge Helios J. Hernandez. The judge authorized a record number of wiretaps during the 2015 calendar year, not a single one of which resulted in either a trial or conviction. After a series of stories in USAToday uncovered Riverside County’s massive surveillance campaign and questioned the legality of the surveillance, watchdogs warned that the wiretaps likely violated federal law.

    • Lauri Love begins legal battle to retrieve computers seized by the NCA
    • Minnesota Judges Spent Only Minutes Approving Warrants Sweeping Up Thousands Of Cellphone Users

      Given the scope of the area covered and the imprecise nature of location data, each warrant has the potential to generate a ton of false positives — people who happen to live, work, or travel through these busy areas. If a map had been provided, there’s a good chance judges would have taken a little longer considering these requests.

    • Apple, Google slammed for sporting app that allows Saudi men to track women

      According to a report in Insider on Friday, the app called ‘Absher’ lets men to give women permission to travel, and also get SMS when a woman uses her passport at the border.

      For making the apps available on Google Play and Apple’s App Store, the US-based tech giants have been accused of facilitating misogyny and helping “enforce gender apartheid”.

    • Apple and Google accused of helping ‘enforce gender apartheid’ by hosting Saudi government app that tracks women and stops them leaving the country

      Apple and Google have been accused of helping to “enforce gender apartheid” in Saudi Arabia, by offering a sinister app which allows men to track women and stop them leaving the country.

      Both Google Play and iTunes host Absher, a government web service which allows men to specify when and how women can cross Saudi borders, and to get close to real-time SMS updates when they travel.

    • When Did Mark Zuckerberg Learn Facebook Targeted Children?

      “These findings point to a problematic culture of putting profits ahead of your users’ financial wellbeing and raise serious concerns regarding the company’s willingness to engage responsibly in its interactions with children,” U.S. Sens. Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal wrote in their joint letter to Zuckerberg.

      The Reveal story was based on more than 135 pages of internal Facebook memos, secret strategies and employee emails that paint a troubling picture of how the social media giant targeted children as it looked to grow revenue from games such as Angry Birds, PetVille and Ninja Saga.

    • What would happen if Facebook was turned off?

      Those booted off enjoyed an additional hour of free time on average. They tended not to redistribute their liberated minutes to other websites and social networks, but chose instead to watch more television and spend time with friends and family. They consumed much less news, and were thus less aware of events but also less polarised in their views about them than those still on the network. Leaving Facebook boosted self-reported happiness and reduced feelings of depression and anxiety.

      It also helped some to break the Facebook habit. Several weeks after the deactivation period, those who had been off Facebook spent 23% less time on it than those who had never left, and 5% of the forced leavers had yet to turn their accounts back on. And the amount of money subjects were willing to accept to shut their accounts for another four weeks was 13% lower after the month off than it had been before. Users, in other words, overestimate how much they value the service: a misperception corrected by a month of abstention. Even so, most are loth to call it quits entirely. That reluctance would seem to indicate that Facebook, despite its problems, generates lots of value for consumers, which would presumably vanish were the network to disappear.

    • Govt wants encryption bill powers for anti-corruption bodies

      The Federal Government will try to push amendments to the encryption law on Wednesday to give anti-corruption bodies the right to use its powers, while Labor will try to get an amendment through to define a systemic weakness.

    • India Seeks Access to Private Messages in WhatsApp Crackdown

      In the latest skirmish, the government is targeting Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp, the popular messaging service increasingly important to its parent’s bottom line. Frustrated that the service has been used to incite violence and spread pornography, the government is pressing WhatsApp to allow more official oversight of online discussions, even if that means giving officials access to protected, or encrypted, messages. Facebook has refused, risking punitive measures or even the possibility of a shutdown in its biggest market.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • U.S. Islamists Cry Martyr

      CAIR and other American Islamist groups are now using Khashoggi’s terrible fate to attack Saudi Arabia, and steer American politicians towards the agendas of Western Islamist movements and those financing it — particularly the Qatari regime.

    • [Reposted] AP Exclusive: Undercover spy exposed in NYC was 1 of many

      When mysterious operatives lured two cybersecurity researchers to meetings at luxury hotels over the past two months, it was an apparent bid to discredit their research about an Israeli company that makes smartphone hacking technology used by some governments to spy on their citizens. The Associated Press has now learned of similar undercover efforts targeting at least four other individuals who have raised questions about the use of the Israeli firm’s spyware.

    • Nearly 15,000 Counter Trump Event With El Paso Rally to Reject ‘Hatred and Bigotry’

      Less than a mile away from the El Paso, Texas stadium in which President Donald Trump delivered what critics described as a bigoted and lie-filled case for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, as many as 15,000 Texans rallied and marched Monday night in a powerful display of opposition to both the wall and the broad anti-immigrant agenda it represents.

      “This is the strong and resilient border community I proudly grew up in,” Cynthia Pompa, advocacy coordinator with the ACLU’s Border Rights Center, said as the “March for Truth” kicked off early Monday evening. “No boots. No detention beds. No border walls. No more dollars for DHS.”

    • One Minute to Midnight

      Late last month, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists unveiled its “Doomsday Clock” for the 26th time since its creation in 1947, declaring that the hands on the clock would remain where they had been at the last setting, in 2018. Rachel Bronson, the bulletin’s president, described the environment in which the bulletin assesses the threats faced by the world today (which have expanded beyond nuclear to include climate change and cyber) as the “new abnormal,” and noted that no one should take comfort from the fact that the hands of the clock have not moved.

    • Presidential Primaries Are Racist. Period.

      More than a year out from the 2020 presidential Democratic primary, hopefuls have begun to put their names in the hat as the best bet in kicking Trump out of the White House. The US left is ready to do battle, no matter how fresh the wounds of the 2016 election may still be.

      Whether or not opposing Trump should be Democrats’ one and only concern is a conversation worth having; but before the Democrats have that conversation, there is something more urgent to consider: candidates must fight through an inherently racist presidential primary cycle.

      For instance, Sen. Cory Booker and Tom Steyer are already spending valuable political capital in Iowa testing the waters. Presidential 2020 hopefuls Senators Elizabeth Warren, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand and others have likewise been reaching out to campaign staffers in Iowa, who are suddenly a hot commodity.

      What could be so important about Iowa? It’s not super politically representative of the nation as a whole, unlike, for example, the very purple state of Virginia. It doesn’t have massive amounts of voters; its population is 3.1 million and it has only six electoral votes. So, what’s the catch? Iowa is the most important stop in any primary run because the state holds the very first caucus, and the winner of the Iowa caucus is most often the winner of the primary. Let’s take an honest look at the state.

    • Anti-corruption activist is beaten to death outside Moscow

      An anti-corruption activist has been beaten to death in a town outside Moscow. Late on February 11, masked assailants attacked Dmitry Gribov, the regional head of the Combatting Government Corruption Center, crushing his head with metal rods. The incident reportedly occurred in Vinogradovo, north of the capital.

    • California Court Says New Records Law Covers Past Police Misconduct Records

      The battle over public records in California continues. A new law made records of police misconduct releasable to the public, kicking off predictable legal challenges from law enforcement agencies not accustomed to accountability.
      These agencies believe the law isn’t retroactive. In essence, they think the passage of the law allows them to whitewash their pasts by only providing records going forward from the law’s enactment. None other than the law’s author, Senator Nancy Skinner, has gone on record — with a letter to the Senate Rules Committee and the state Attorney General’s office — stating the law applies retroactively.

      This has been ignored by the state AG, who has stated in records request denials that he believes the law can’t touch pre-2019 misconduct files. This is exactly what agencies challenging the law want to hear. Unfortunately for them, they’ve just been handed a loss by a California court.

    • Key Supporter Of FOSTA, Cindy McCain, Misidentifies ‘Different Ethnicity’ Child; Claims Credit For Stopping Sex Trafficking That Wasn’t

      In the wake of 9/11, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) in New York City hired an ad agency, Korey Kay & Partners, to come up with a “creative exercise” in dealing with the post-9/11 world. They came up with slogan “If you see something, say something” and plastered it all over subways. Incredibly, the MTA trademarked the term (despite its lack of “use in commerce”) and later licensed it to DHS (insanely, the MTA has been known to threaten others for using the slogan). However, despite now sounding like common wisdom, the program has been an utter disaster that has not stopped a single terrorist, but has created massive hassles for innocent people, and law enforcement who have to deal with busybodies freaking out about “weird stuff.”

      Take, for example: Cindy McCain. The wife to the late Senator John McCain, recently decided she had seen something and had to say something. Specifically, as she herself claims, she was at an airport and saw a woman with a child of a “different ethnicity.”

    • Moscow State University student officially detained after repeated arrests and alleged torture

      A district court in Moscow has ordered Moscow State University graduate student Azat Miftakhov to be held under guard until March 7 or later. Prosecutors said Miftakhov, who is suspected of anarchist activity, participated in a 2018 attack on the Moscow office of Russia’s ruling political party, United Russia.

      Miftakhov, a student of mechanics and mathematics, was first arrested on February 1 after a raid on multiple Moscow residences. He was accused of planting an explosive device near a gas line, but the device was found to be fake, and Miftakhov claims it was planted.

    • Russian Supreme Court chief doubles down on Jehovah’s Witnesses ban

      The Chair of Russia’s Supreme Court, Vyacheslav Lebedev, argued today that the country’s ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses is not motivated by religious animus. His statement came several days after an elder in the organization was sentenced to six years in prison on charges of organizing an extremist group.

    • Latest allegations of sexual assault show how the legal system discourage victims from coming forward

      Virginia’s Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax is refusing to resign after denying charges by two women who have said that he sexually assaulted them.

      The first woman to come forward was Vanessa Tyson, a politics professor at Scripps College. She initially contacted The Washington Post after Fairfax’s election in December 2017, alleging that Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex in 2004.

      The Post stated it did not publish a story at that time because it “could not corroborate Tyson’s account or find similar complaints of sexual misconduct.”

      So Tyson’s story did not make national headlines until this week, when it was first published by the conservative blog Big League Politics.

      The second woman to come forward is Meredith Watson, who alleges Fairfax raped her while they were both students at Duke University in 2000. According to a statement written by her attorneys, Watson told a dean at the school about the rape, and the dean “discouraged her from pursuing the claim further.”

      On Feb. 9, Fairfax asked the FBI to investigate their allegations. While it’s not clear that the FBI will investigate, the controversy raises important questions about how the legal system deals with cases of sexual assault.

    • New Mexico Governor Orders National Guard Away From Border

      Editor’s note: Yesterday, California’s governor joined New Mexico in withdrawing National Guard troops from the US-Mexico border. He announced the withdrawal of almost 400 of California’s troops.
      While the United States suffered through an excruciatingly long State of the Union address on Tuesday, an interesting piece of news quietly dropped: New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grishman ordered most of the National Guard recalled from the border in her state.

      It was a sharp rebuke to the president, who has been heatedly insisting that the U.S.-Mexico border is a hotbed of crime that can only be controlled with a wall — or metal barrier. Trump has wasted considerable resources on security theater at the border, and the governor’s move signaled that she was disinterested in being used as a pawn in the ongoing conversation about border security.

      Some of the slightly over 100 troops posted at the border will be left in place for humanitarian work, with the governor noting that groups of migrant families in very poor health are in need of medical attention. Troops being used as law enforcement, however, will be sent home — and not just to New Mexico.

    • Shutdown Deal Corners Trump — But He Could Still Wreak Havoc

      Another week, another adult dose of whiplash chaos. Is that even a thing? It is now.

      Sunrise on Tuesday morning brought news that the “shutdown committee” had cobbled together a bipartisan agreement “in principle” to avoid yet another government closure. According to reports, the deal will include $1.375 billion for 55 miles of border fencing and caps the overall number of detention beds Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be allowed to maintain. Democrats dropped their demand to cap the number of immigrants who could be detained within U.S. borders.

      There is no steel and concrete border wall present in the existing deal, a fact that represents yet another stinging defeat for Donald Trump should he accept the proposal as it stands. Speaking at a Monday night rally in El Paso, Texas, the president feigned ignorance of the proposed deal and the wall it vividly lacks, choosing instead to whip up the partisan crowd with his standard-issue lather of lies and exaggerations. “They say that progress is being made with this committee,” Trump told the audience at one point. “Just so you know, we’re building the wall anyway.”

      That does not bode well.

    • ‘We Will Be That Lantern on the Shore’: Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley Rally With TPS Holders Outside Trump White House

      Immigrant rights advocates and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders from Nepal and Honduras—joined by Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.)—rallied outside the White House on Tuesday morning to protest the Trump administration’s moves to revoke protected status from people residing in the United States due to dangerous conditions in their home countries.

      Critics charge that the ongoing efforts to end TPS are motivated by President Donald Trump’s racism against “non-white, non-European immigrants.” The TPS holders, activists, and lawmakers who turned out for the March for TPS Justice despite the winter weather called on Congress to “take action to #SaveTPS and create permanent protections that give residency to immigrant youth and TPS holders.”

    • Showdown in El Paso: Trump and Beto’s Dueling Rallies and the Uncertain Future of the Wall

      On Monday night, while Donald Trump was holding his campaign rally at the El Paso County stadium to tout his plan for a border wall, about 7,000 citizens in the diverse, Democratic-leaning city marched in the streets, holding an ebullient celebration of the diversity, cultural richness, and, yes, safety, of their border town.

      Former Congressman and progressive rock star Beto O’Rourke made a speech at the end of the march, which CBS broadcast live, apparently straight from someone’s shaky iPhone camera. O’Rourke extolled the virtues of his diverse community and denounced the cruelty and senselessness of the Trump Administration’s attacks on migrants and refugees.

      “In El Paso, we are secure because we treat one another with dignity and respect,” O’Rourke said at the event. “We know that walls do not save lives. Walls end lives.”

    • ‘Policing For Profit’ Is Alive and Well in South Carolina

      An investigative series finds that police have amassed millions through civil asset forfeiture, mostly affecting the poor and people of color.
      In Conway, South Carolina, a 72-year-old widow hides inside, her curtains drawn, fearing that local law enforcement will attempt to take away her home for a third time. Ella Bromell has never been convicted of a crime. So how has her house been at risk of seizure for over a decade?

      The answer is simple, but the process is obscure, discriminatory, and all-too commonplace: civil asset forfeiture.

      Civil asset forfeiture grants law enforcement officers the authority to take possession of property simply because they suspect that the property was used to commit a crime. Property owners don’t have to be suspected, charged, or convicted of criminal conduct for law enforcement to take their belongings. But, of course, property doesn’t commit crimes.

      Perhaps it’s unsurprising that a system built on such a silly legal fiction is so corrupt and abusive. So even though Bromwell has never been convicted of a crime, her home is at risk because neighbors sell small quantities of drugs on her front yard while she is away or sleeping without her consent.

    • Chicago Activists Demand Candidates For Mayor Back Civilian Police Accountability

      The chant “16 shots and a cover-up” is one that has echoed through the streets of Chicago for several years. It refers to the killing of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager killed by a white Chicago police officer. McDonald’s death came less than three months after Michael Brown, another black teenager, was shot dead in St. Louis by a white police officer and sparked national protests.
      The grim details of McDonald’s death laid buried for more than a year. But as they emerged, details amplified an already deafening call for police accountability both in Chicago and America, one which shaped elections and shook seats of power.

      “There are 34 sitting alderman that are worried about their reelection. I’m here to let them know that we don’t give a fuck about your reelection,” declared Tanya Watkins of Southsiders Organizing for Unity and Liberation during a demonstration outside Chicago City Hall in October.

      Watkins was with hundreds who gathered for the verdict in the trial of former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, who was later sentenced to a little more than six years in prison on second-degree murder charges for killing McDonald.

      “We hope this will reverberate through this police department,” said Watkins. “We hope that they will understand that we won’t stop until we win.”

    • Giving Trump Far Too Much in Shutdown Deal, Progressives Warn Democrats ‘Throwing Immigrants Under the Bus’

      After Democratic negotiators dropped their demand for a limit on how many immigrants the Trump administration can detain and agreed to provide over $1.3 billion for fencing and other barriers at the U.S.-Mexico border, immigrant rights advocates warned on Tuesday that Democrats are conceding far too much to President Donald Trump and handing “Nativist Republicans more money to jail and deport immigrants.”

    • ‘MBS Has Ushered in an Era of Unprecedented Crackdowns and Repression of Political Speech’ – CounterSpin interview with Sarah Aziza on Saudi repression of women

      You actually saw reporters swarming on the photo-op of Saudi women driving. And one can see why: It’s both a symbolic and a material change that seems to say that Saudi Arabia, under the influence particularly of Mohammed bin Salman, is on the road to reform. But subsequent and even previous events should tell us that that’s not really the story here. What should we know about bin Salman as liberator of Saudi women?

    • Appeals Court Rules Key Anti-Age Discrimination Protections Don’t Apply to Job Seekers, Only Employee

      In a decision last month, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago has sharply limited a federal law that protects workers who are 40 and older from age bias by ruling that key provisions only apply to those who already have jobs, not those seeking them.

      The 8-4 decision, written by Circuit Judge Michael Scudder, a Trump administration appointee, said the “plain language” of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act shows that in enacting the measure, Congress aimed its sweeping prohibition against discrimination at employees but “did not extend that same protection to outside job applicants.”

      The ruling prompted a fierce dissent from Circuit Judge David Hamilton, an Obama administration appointee, who accused the majority of taking a “deliberately naïve approach” to the law and “closing its eyes to fifty years of history, context and application.”

      The ADEA’s anti-discrimination language originally matched that of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which covers race, gender, religion and other categories. And for much of the last half-century, federal courts have treated provisions of the two laws as largely interchangeable.

      The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by an Illinois lawyer, Dale Kleber, who was 58 in 2014 when he applied for a senior attorney position with CareFusion Corp., a unit of medical device maker Becton Dickinson & Co., but was passed over for an interview. The job eventually went to a 29-year-old candidate.

    • Roaming Charges: Back in Blackface
    • Activists at the Local and Global Levels

      Mickey interviews two activists who work at the local and global levels, respectively. High School student Lucia Garay explains how she became motivated to work for social justice, and the challenges that young people face even in a “liberal” region. Then Steven Jay returns to the show to explain his latest project, Mobilized.news.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • This net neutrality rule has real consequences for cellular data bills

      A lack of net neutrality rules can have real-world consequences on wireless data prices, according to a new study by Epicenter.works. The new data from dozens of countries in the European Union suggest that when a country allows zero-rating programs, it ends up seeing an increase in wireless prices over time.

    • What Happens If Russia Cuts Itself Off From the Internet

      The [Internet] was invented in the United States, and US companies now control a significant portion of the infrastructure that powers it. It’s possible that Russia simply wants to gain more autonomy over Runet, but Russian president Vladimir Putin could also be seeking to beef up his cyberwar capabilities or to further censor the online information available to his citizens. While its motives are fuzzy, what’s clear is that Russia has been preparing for greater [Internet] independence for years. In fact, it first proposed disconnecting from the global net back in 2014.

    • Russia Is Considering An Experiment To Disconnect From The Internet

      The bill would require Internet providers to make sure they can operate if foreign countries attempt to isolate the Runet, or Russian Internet. It was introduced after the White House published its 2018 National Security Strategy, which attributed cyberattacks on the United States to Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

    • Russian lawmakers pass first draft of Internet-isolation legislation

      The State Duma has passed the first reading of legislation co-authored by Senator Andrey Klishas that would allow the federal authorities to take control over the connection points linking Russia to the global Internet. Ostensibly as a defensive measure, lawmakers want to build the technical infrastructure necessary to sustain the Russian segment of the Internet in isolation from the rest of the world.

    • Russia plans to ‘unplug’ from internet

      The test will mean data passing between Russian citizens and organisations stays inside the nation rather than being routed internationally.

    • Zero Rating Actually Costs Broadband Customers More, EU Study Finds

      For years now we’ve discussed how large ISPs have (ab)used the lack of competition in the broadband market by imposing completely arbitrary and unnecessary monthly usage caps and overage fees. ISPs have also taken to exempting their own content from these arbitrary limits while still penalizing competitors — allowing them to use these restrictions to tilt the playing field in their favor. For example an AT&T broadband customer who uses AT&T’s own streaming service faces no penalties. If that same customer uses Netflix or a competitor they’re socked with surcharges.

      The anti-competitive impact of this should be obvious.

      But large ISPs have muddied the water by claiming that zero rating is the bits and bytes equivalent of a 1-800 number for data or free shipping. Customers who don’t understand that usage caps are arbitrary nonsense from the get go often buy into this idea that they’re getting something for free. And Ajit Pai’s FCC has helped confuse the public as well by trying to claim that this model is somehow of immense benefit to low income communities.

      Guess what: it’s not. Studies from Mozilla have shown that zero rating isn’t some mystical panacea. You might recall that Facebook has spent years trying to offer a walled-garden internet service to developed nations where select content is “zero rated,” something that was banned in India when regulators realized that letting Facebook determine which content was most widely accessed was a decidedly stupid idea. Facebook’s altruism on this subject was ultimately revealed to be a ham-handed attempt to dominate advertising in developing nations.

    • Internet freedom expert says Russia lacks the means to pull off an isolated Web like China’s

      On February 12, 2019, the State Duma has passed the first reading of legislation that will allow the federal authorities to take control over the connection points linking Russia to the global Internet. Ostensibly as a defensive measure, lawmakers want to build the technical infrastructure necessary to sustain the Russian segment of the Internet in isolation from the rest of the world.

      In an interview with Meduza, Internet freedom activist and “Roskomsvoboda” technical director Stanislav Shakirov argues that Russia lacks the domestic investment infrastructure to develop its own tech startups the way China does. Not only are Russian Internet users accustomed to having their pick of Western online services, but Russia’s domestic market isn’t big enough to sustain competition in isolation, and its unfriendly business climate remains a major hindrance, Shakirov says.

    • Google Fiber Leaves Louisville As Alphabet Retreats From Telecom

      When Google Fiber launched in 2010, it was lauded as a game changer for the broadband industry. Google Fiber would, we were told, revolutionize the industry by taking Silicon Valley money and disrupting the viciously uncompetitive and anti-competitive telecom sector. Initially things worked out well; cities tripped over themselves offering all manner of perks to the company in the hopes of breaking free from the broadband duopoly logjam. And in markets where Google Fiber was deployed, prices certainly dropped thanks to Google Fiber market pressure. The free marketing courtesy of press coverage was endless.

      That was then, this is now.

      In late 2016 Alphabet began getting cold feet about the high costs and slow return of the project, and effectively mothballed the entire thing — without admitting that’s what they were doing. The company blew through several CEOs in just a few months, laid off hundreds of employees, froze any real expansion, and cancelled countless installations for users who had been waiting years. And while Google made a lot of noise about how it would be shifting from fiber to wireless to possibly cut costs, those promises so far appear stuck in neutral as well.

  • DRM

    • IP and the Right to Repair

      I thought this was an interesting and provocative paper, even if I am skeptical of the central thesis. I should note that the first half of the paper or so makes the normative case, and the authors do a good job of laying out the case.

      Many of the topics are those you see in the news, like how laws that forbid breaking DRM stop others from repairing their stuff (which now all has a computer) or how patent law can make it difficult to make patented repair parts.

      The treatment of trade secrets, in particular, was a useful addition to the literature. As I wrote on the economics of trade secret many years ago, my view is that trade secrecy doesn’t serve as an independent driver of innovation because people will keep their information secret anyway. Thus, any innovation effects are secondary, in the sense that savings made from not having to protect secrets so carefully can be channeled to R&D. But there was always a big caveat: this assumes that firms can “keep their information secret anyway,” and that there’s no forced disclosure rule.

      So, when this article’s hypothesized right to repair extended to disclosure of manuals, schematics, and other information necessary to repair, it caught my eye. On the one hand, as someone who has been frustrated by lack of manuals and reverse engineered repair of certain things, I love it. On the other hand, I wonder how requiring disclosure of such information would change the incentive to dynamics. With respect to schematics, companies would probably continue to create them, but perhaps they might make a second, less detailed schematic. Or, maybe nothing would happen because that information is required anyway. But with respect to manuals, I wonder whether companies would lose the incentive to keep detailed records of customer service incidents if they could not profit from it. Keeping such records is costly, and if repairs are charged to customers, it might be better to reinvent the wheel every time than to pay to maintain an information system that others will use. I doubt it, though, as there is still value in having others repair your goods, and if people can repair their own, then the market becomes even more competitive.

    • Intellectual Property Law and the Right to Repair

      In recent years, there has been a growing push in different U.S. states towards legislation that would provide consumers with a “right to repair” their products. Currently 18 states have pending legislation that would require product manufacturers to make available replacement parts and repair manuals. This grassroots movement has been triggered by a combination of related factors. One such factor is the ubiquity of microchips and software in an increasing number of consumer products, from smartphones to cars, which makes the repair of such products more complicated and dependent upon the availability of information supplied by the manufacturers. Another factor is the unscrupulous practices of large, multinational corporations designed to force consumers to repair their products only through their own offered services, and ultimately, to manipulate consumers into buying newer products instead of repairing them. These factors have rallied repair shops, e-recyclers, and other do-it-yourselfers to push forward, demanding a right to repair.

      Unfortunately, though, this legislation has stalled in many of the states. Manufacturers have been lobbying the legislatures to stop the enactment of the right to repair laws based on different concerns, including how these laws may impinge on their intellectual property rights. Indeed, a right to repair may not be easily reconcilable with the United States’ far-reaching intellectual property rights regime. For example, requiring manufacturers to release repair manuals could implicate a whole host of intellectual property laws, including trade secret. Similarly, employing measures undercutting a manufacturer’s control of the market for replacement parts might conflict with patent exclusivity. Nonetheless, this Article’s thesis holds that intellectual property laws should not be used to inhibit the right to repair from being fully implemented.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Trademarks

      • Owner Of Harry Caray’s Restaurants Finds You Can’t Just Trademark A Widely Used Hashtag

        As someone who spends a great deal of time writing about trademark law and trademark disputes, I am often repeating that trademark law was put in place specifically to keep the public from being confused as to the source of affiliations of a particular good or service. This is a necessary repetition, as far too many people think that trademark law was designed to allow opportunists to lock up language for commerce simply because they thought to do so. While the USPTO has historically been far too lenient on trademark matters, it is a fact that a mark that doesn’t function to inform the buying public as to the source of a good or service is an invalid mark.

    • Copyrights

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

        What’s significant there is the mention of users’ rights. Discussions about them have been conspicuous by their absence most of the time the EU’s Copyright Directive has been under development. That is truly scandalous, and highlights just how one-sided the proposed legislation is. It is all about giving yet more rights to the copyright industry, with no regard for the negative impact on everyone else. That overriding consideration is so extreme that the dire consequences Article 13 will have on the Internet in the EU were first denied, and then ignored.

        One of the most obvious manifestations of that indifference to the facts, and contempt for EU citizens, concerns memes. As we explained some months back, it is not true that memes will be unaffected by Article 13, as many politicians have insisted. There is no EU-wide copyright exception for memes: in some countries memes would be covered by some of the existing exceptions, in others not.

      • Article 13 Negotiations Move Ahead, Artists Slam Labels For Disrespecting Them

        EU governments will press ahead with Article 13 based on the deal struck by France and Germany, despite calls by music labels and other content groups for it to be scrapped. Meanwhile, representatives for artists are hitting back at their paymasters for “disregarding” their interests.

      • Article 13 is Not Just Criminally Irresponsible, It’s Irresponsibly Criminal

        In a previous editorial, I pointed out that at the heart of Article 13 in the proposed EU Copyright Directive there’s a great lie: that it is possible to check for unauthorised uploads of material without inspecting every single file. The EU has ended up in this absurd position because it knows that many MEPs would reject the idea of imposing a general monitoring obligation on online services – not least because the e-Commerce Directive explicitly forbids it. Instead, the text of Article 13 simply pretends that technical alternatives can be found, without specifying them. The recently-issued “Q and A on the draft digital copyright directive” from the European Parliament then goes on to explain that if services aren’t clever enough to come up with other ways, and use upload filters, then obviously it’s their own fault.

        Imposing legal obligations that are impossible to fulfil is deeply irresponsible law-making. But there is another aspect of Article 13 that is even worse: the fact that it will encourage a new wave of criminality. It’s hard to think of a greater failure than a law that increases lawlessness.

        The problem arises once more from the flawed idea of forcing companies to install upload filters. Just as EU lawmakers seem unable to grasp the fact that online services will be obliged to conduct general monitoring in order to comply with Article 13, so their lack of technical knowledge means that they don’t understand the tremendous practical challenges of implementing this form of general monitoring.

      • Project Brand Integrity Aims to Purge Ads From Pirate Sites

        The Trustworthy Accountability Group, an anti-piracy certification program operated by giants including Google, Facebook, Disney and Warner, has launched Project Brand Integrity in Europe. With the assistance of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit and Europol, the aim will be to purge ads from pirate sites.

Battistelli’s Bodyguard, Part II: Fishing Expedition for Sources in the Alexandre Benalla ‘Underworld’ Scandal

Posted in Europe, Patents at 4:47 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Protecting criminals from those who expose them

Control Risks

Investigation Unit

Summary: An utter lack of respect for the privacy of the media and of its sources, in the name of protecting the privacy of those convicted of crimes, as seen in France just like the European Patent Office

THIS is the second part of a series of 5 (part one here) regarding the Benalla affair. Benalla had worked clandestinely at the European Patent Office (EPO) before the so-called ‘Benallagate’ broke out.

As it turns out, France is now mimicking the EPO modus operandi. The EPO hired a dodgy private firm to help spy on the staff, as we noted in:

The next translation comes from a reader, who read “Mediapart s’oppose à une perquisition de ses locaux dans l’affaire Benalla” and put it all in English as follows:

Mediapart opposes a search of its premises in the Benalla case

The leaders of the information site say they refused a search conducted in the context of an investigation for a restriction of Benalla’s privacy.

The Paris Public Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation into “restriction of privacy” and the conditions for recording a conversation between Alexandre Benalla and Vincent Crase in late July, after its broadcast last week by Mediapart, it was reported on Monday from a judicial source.

The online media reported that on Monday morning it refused a search of its premises, where two prosecutors and investigators who wanted to seize the recordings in question as part of this procedure came forward. “There are diligences to find our sources, it is a particularly worrying situation,” denounced Fabrice Arfi, co-responsible for the online newspaper’s surveys, to AFP.

Mediapart had published on Thursday excerpts from a recording of a conversation between Alexandre Benalla, Emmanuel Macron’s former advisor, and Vincent Crase, former LREM employee and reservist gendarme.

According to the news website, this conversation took place on 26 July, a few days after the two men were indicted for violence against demonstrators on 1 May 2018 and in violation of their judicial control.

The judicial source specified that the opening of the preliminary investigation, which also concerns the “unlawful possession of devices or technical devices likely to enable the interception of telecommunications or conversations”, took place following the receipt by the Paris prosecutor’s office of “elements”, the nature of which has not been specified.

A source close to the investigation added that it was not triggered following a complaint from Alexandre Benalla.

“As we are in the context of a preliminary investigation, we have the right to refuse a search and we have therefore obviously refused it, allowing us to comment on this unprecedented situation in the history of the newspaper, and which we consider particularly serious for the newspaper,” also explained Fabrice Arfi.

Previously in the Benalla affair in relation to the EPO:

  1. Alexandre Benalla, Macron’s Violent Bodyguard, Was Also Battistelli’s Bodyguard
  2. It Wasn’t Judges With Weapons in Their Office, It Was Benoît Battistelli Who Brought Firearms to the European Patent Office (EPO)
  3. Benoît Battistelli Refuses to Talk to the Media About Bringing Firearms to the EPO
  4. Guest Post on Ronan Le Gleut and Benalla at the French Senate (in Light of Battistelli’s Epic Abuses)
  5. The Man Whose Actions Could Potentially Land Team Battistelli in Jail
  6. French Media Confirms Alexandre Benalla Just One of Six Battistelli Bodyguards, Employed at the Cost of €8,000-€10,000 Per Month (for Benalla Alone!)
  7. Corrupt Battistelli Paid a Fortune (EPO Budget) for Outlaw/Rogue ‘Bodyguards’ From Firm Linked to Russian Oligarch Iskander Makhmudov

The next part will be published either later today or tomorrow.

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