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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.

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