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02.14.19

Links 14/2/2019: “I Love Free Software Day” and Mesa 19.0 RC4 Released

Posted in News Roundup at 1:26 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Desktop

    • 5 Gorgeous Examples Of Truly Customized Linux Desktops

      Using Linux is anything but boring, especially when it comes to personalizing your OS. That extends way beyond just the ability to install multiple Desktop Environments like Budgie, Pantheon and KDE Plasma. Sure I’ve tinkered with them, tweaked the appearance a bit, installed some cool desktop widgets. But nothing prepared me for my first trip to /r/unixporn.

      I repeatedly insist that Linux makes your PC feel personal again, but the level of customization and pure creative beauty on display below left my jaw on the floor, and me with a desire to learn how to accomplish what’s been done here.

      Join me in a brief but drool-worthy tour of some truly unique Linux desktops.

    • Google Chrome is getting virtual desktops (probably)

      If you’re the sort of person who regularly runs a bunch of programs on your computer at once, you may already be a fan of using multiple monitors. You can put one set of apps on one screen and a different set on another and tilt your head a bit to switch your focus from one to the other.

      But if you have a laptop, you’re probably confined to using a single screen from time to time (unless you have a portable monitor that you take everywhere you go).

      Enter virtual desktops. Most modern operating systems offer a way to create multiple virtual workspaces that you can flip between. It’s not quite as seamless as using multiple displays, but it’s certainly more compact (and more energy efficient, for that matter).

  • Server

    • The long, slow death of commercial Unix [Ed: Microsoft propagandist Andy Patrizio should also do an article about the death of Windows Server.]

      In the 1990s and well into the 2000s, if you had mission-critical applications that required zero downtime, resiliency, failover and high performance, but didn’t want a mainframe, Unix was your go-to solution.

      If your database, ERP, HR, payroll, accounting, and other line-of-business apps weren’t run on a mainframe, chances are they ran on Unix systems from four dominant vendors: Sun Microsystems, HP, IBM and SGI. Each had its own flavor of Unix and its own custom RISC processor. Servers running an x86 chip were at best used for file and print or maybe low-end departmental servers.

    • What is Server Virtualization: Is It Right For Your Business?

      In the modern world of IT application deployment, server virtualization is a commonly used term. But what exactly is server virtualization and is it right for your business?

      Server virtualization in 2019 is a more complicated and involved topic than it was when the concept first started to become a popular approach nearly two decades ago. However, the core basic concepts and promises remain the same.

    • Transitioning Red Hat SSO to a highly-available hybrid cloud deployment

      About two years ago, Red Hat IT finished migrating our customer-facing authentication system to Red Hat Single Sign-On (Red Hat SSO). As a result, we were quite pleased with the performance and flexibility of the new platform. Due to some architectural decisions that were made in order to optimize for uptime using the technologies at our disposal, we were unable to take full advantage of Red Hat SSO’s robust feature set until now. This article describes how we’re now addressing database and session replication between global sites.

    • Red Hat named to Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list

      People come to work at Red Hat for our brand, but they stay for the people and the culture. It’s integral to our success as an organization. It’s what makes the experience of being a Red Hatter and working with other Red Hatters different. And it’s what makes us so passionate about our customers’ and Red Hat’s success. In recognition of that, Red Hat has been ranked No. 50 on Fortune Magazine’s list of 100 Best Companies to Work For! Hats off–red fedoras, of course–to all Red Hatters!

    • News from Fedora Infrastructure

      One of the first tasks we have achieved is to move as many application we maintain to use CentOS CI for our Continuous Integration pipeline. CentOS CI provides us with a Jenkins instance that is running in an OpenShift cluster, you can have a look at the this instance here.

      Since a good majority of our application are developed in Python, we agreed on using tox to execute our CI tests. Adopting tox on our application allows us to use a really convenient way to configure the CI pipeline in Jenkins. In fact we only needed to create .cico.pipeline file in the application repository with the following.

    • Mirantis to Help Build AT&T’s Edge Computing Network for 5G On Open Source

      The two companies hope other telcos will follow AT&T’s lead in building their 5G networks on open source software.

    • The Telecom Industry Has Moved to Open Source

      The telecom industry is at the heart of the fourth industrial revolution. Whether it’s connected IoT devices or mobile entertainment, the modern economy runs on the Internet.
      However, the backbone of networking has been running on legacy technologies. Some telecom companies are centuries old, and they have a massive infrastructure that needs to be modernized.
      The great news is that this industry is already at the forefront of emerging technologies. Companies such as AT&T, Verizon, China Mobile, DTK, and others have embraced open source technologies to move faster into the future. And LF Networking is at the heart of this transformation.
      “2018 has been a fantastic year,” said Arpit Joshipura, General Manager of Networking at Linux Foundation, speaking at Open Source Summit in Vancouver last fall. “We have seen a 140-year-old telecom industry move from proprietary and legacy technologies to open source technologies with LF Networking.”

    • Monroe Electronics Releases Completely Redesigned HALO Version 2.0

      With improvements including a new web-based interface and its shift to a unified web-server platform, HALO V2.0 simplifies and streamlines all of these critical processes. The new web-based interface for HALO V2.0 allows users to work with their preferred web browser (e.g., Chrome, Firefox, Safari). The central HALO server now runs on a Linux OS (Ubuntu and CentOS 7) using a PostgreSQL database.

  • Shows

    • Top 5 podcasts for Linux news and tips

      Like many Linux enthusiasts, I listen to a lot of podcasts. I find my daily commute is the best time to get some time to myself and catch up on the latest tech news. Over the years, I have subscribed and unsubscribed to more show feeds than I care to think about and have distilled them down to the best of the best.

      Here are my top five Linux podcasts I think you should be listening to in 2019, plus a couple of bonus picks.

    • BSD Strategy | BSD Now 285

      Strategic thinking to keep FreeBSD relevant, reflecting on the soul of a new machine, 10GbE Benchmarks On Nine Linux Distros and FreeBSD, NetBSD integrating LLVM sanitizers in base, FreeNAS 11.2 distrowatch review, and more.

    • FLOSS Weekly 517: Liverpool MakeFest

      Caroline is the co-founder of the free event called Liverpool Makefest, a festival to promote stem, foss and maker-education for young people. The festival is now in its fifth year has attracted over 20,000 visitors and is being expanded across the national libraries within the UK.

    • LHS Episode #271: The Discord Accord

      Welcome to Episode 271 of Linux in the Ham Shack. In this week’s episode, the hosts discuss ARISS Phase 2, the Peanut Android app for D-STAR and DMR linking, a geostationary satellite from Qatar, open source software in the public sector, a new open-source color management tool, Linux distributions for ham radio and much more. Thank you to everyone for listening and don’t forget our Hamvention 2019 fundraiser!

  • Kernel Space

    • Rusty’s reminiscences

      Rusty Russell was one of the first developers paid to work on the Linux kernel and the founder of the conference now known as linux.conf.au (LCA); he is one of the most highly respected figures in the Australian free-software community. The 2019 LCA was the 20th edition of this long-lived event; the organizers felt that it was an appropriate time to invite Russell to deliver the closing keynote talk. He used the opportunity to review his path into free software and the creation of LCA, but first a change of clothing was required.

      [...]

      He found his way into the Unix world in 1992, working on an X terminal connected to a SunOS server. SunOS was becoming the dominant Unix variant at that time, and there were a number of “legendary hackers” working at Sun to make that happen. But then Russell discovered another, different operating system: Emacs. This system was unique in that it was packaged with a manifesto describing a different way to create software. The idea of writing an entire operating system and giving it away for free seemed fantastical at the time, but the existence of Emacs meant that it couldn’t be dismissed.

      Even so, he took the normal path for a few more years, working on other, proprietary Unix systems; toward the end he ended up leading a research project developed in C++. The proprietary compilers were too expensive, so he was naturally using GCC instead. He did some digging in preparation for this talk and found his first free-software contribution, which was a patch to GCC in 1995. The experience of collaborating to build better software for everybody was exhilarating, but even with as much fun as he was having there was another level to aim for.

    • Fixing page-cache side channels, second attempt

      The kernel’s page cache, which holds copies of data stored in filesystems, is crucial to the performance of the system as a whole. But, as has recently been demonstrated, it can also be exploited to learn about what other users in the system are doing and extract information that should be kept secret. In January, the behavior of the mincore() system call was changed in an attempt to close this vulnerability, but that solution was shown to break existing applications while not fully solving the problem. A better solution will have to wait for the 5.1 development cycle, but the shape of the proposed changes has started to come into focus.
      The mincore() change for 5.0 caused this system call to report only the pages that are mapped into the calling process’s address space rather than all pages currently resident in the page cache. That change does indeed take away the ability for an attacker to nondestructively test whether specific pages are present in the cache (using mincore() at least), but it also turned out to break some user-space applications that legitimately needed to know about all of the resident pages. The kernel community is unwilling to accept such regressions unless there is absolutely no other solution, so this change could not remain; it was thus duly reverted for 5.0-rc4.

      Regressions are against the community’s policy, but so is allowing known security holes to remain open. A replacement for the mincore() change is thus needed; it can probably be found in this patch set posted by Vlastimil Babka at the end of January. It applies a new test to determine whether mincore() will report on the presence of pages in the page cache; in particular, it will only provide that information for memory regions that (1) are anonymous memory, or (2) are backed by a file that the calling process would be allowed to open for write access. In the first case, anonymous mappings should not be shared across security boundaries, so there should be no need to protect information about page-cache residency. For the second case, the ability to write a given file would give an attacker the ability to create all kinds of mischief, of which learning about which pages are cached is relatively minor.

    • Linux Kernel Getting io_uring To Deliver Fast & Efficient I/O

      The Linux kernel is getting a new ring for Valentine’s Day… io_uring. The purpose of io_uring is to deliver faster and more efficient I/O operations on Linux and should be coming with the next kernel cycle.

      Linux block maintainer and developer behind io_uring, Jens Axboe of Facebook, queued the new interface overnight into the linux-block/for-next on Git. The io_uring interface provides submission and completion queue rings that are shared between the application and kernel to avoid excess copies. The new interface has just two new system calls (io_uring_setup and io_uring_enter) for dealing with I/O. Axboe previously worked on this code under the “aioring” name.

    • Graphics Stack

      • No Surprise But Intel Linux Developers Are Working Towards Adaptive-Sync Support

        Back during the Intel Architecture Day event in December, Intel confirmed that finally with Icelake “Gen 11″ graphics there is Adaptive-Sync support after talking about it for several years. While they didn’t explicitly mention Linux support, they’ve been largely spot on for years with supporting new display features on Linux and this should be the case as well with Adaptive-Sync and their next-generation graphics.

      • Mesa 19.0-RC4 Released With More Fixes

        After yesterday’s botched Mesa 19.0-RC3 release, Mesa 19.0-RC4 is now available while it’s looking like two weeks or so until the stable debut.

        Due to the prior release candidates missing out on many fixes due to a scripting failure, Mesa 19.0-RC4 is out today with the corrected script that’s pulled in a great deal of fixes onto the 19.0 branch. Over the earlier release candidates, Mesa 19.0-RC4 adds in a surprisingly large number of Nouveau NV50/NVC0 fixes, several RADV Radeon Vulkan driver fixes, and a random assortment of other fixes as seen in the 19.0 branch.

      • AMDGPU DC Gets Fixes For Seamless Boot, Disappearing Cursor On Raven Ridge

        Should you be running into any display problems or just want to help in testing out the open-source AMD Linux driver’s display code, a new round of patches were published today.

  • Applications

    • 8 Best Free Linux Food and Drink Software

      Richard Stallman, an American software freedom activist, has profound views on what freedoms should be provided in software. He strongly believes that free software should be regarded in the same way as free speech and not free beer. Rest assured, this article is not going to become embroiled in an ideological debate, but instead focuses on a subject which really is essential for life itself.

      The necessary requirements for life are physical conditions which can sustain life, nutrients and energy source, and water. This article relates to the last two requirements. Linux software can play a key part in helping to improve our health and quality of life. If you want to stay fit, part of the solution is to ensure that you are eating the right types of food in the right quantity. Nutrition analysis is important to ensure that you have a healthy balanced diet containing a variety of foods including fruit, vegetables and lots of starchy foods.

      This article is not just limited to software that ensures you maintain a healthy diet. We also feature the best free Linux software for helping people to cook delicious food. Although this software will not help you turn into Gordon Ramsay, Paul Bocuse, or Bobby Flay, it will open new doors in the world of cooking. Rest assured, we have not forgotten beer lovers, as we also identify the finest beer software available.

      To provide an insight into the quality of software that is available, we have compiled a list of 6 high quality food and drink software. Hopefully there will be something of interest for anyone interested in keeping fit, making beer, or the art of cooking.

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Games

      • Gathering Storm Ships for Mac and Linux on Feb 14th!

        Launching for Mac & Linux on February 14, 2019, Civilization VI: Gathering Storm adds new advanced technologies, engineering projects, the fan-favorite World Congress, and introduces a living world ecosystem that showcases natural events that could enrich or challenge your growing empire.

      • Six years ago today, Steam was released for Linux – Happy Birthday

        Happy official birthday to the Steam client for Linux, today marks six years since it released for everyone.

        Who would have thought we would have everything we do now back in 2013? We’ve come a seriously long way! In that time we’ve seen the rise and fall of the Steam Machine and Steam Link (now available as an app), the Steam Controller, the HTC Vive headset and plenty more.

        We now have well over five thousand games available on the Steam store that support Linux. That’s a ridiculous amount, considering we’re still a very small platform even in comparison to Mac when going by the current Steam Hardware Survey showing the market share.

      • Team Cherry has announced Hollow Knight: Silksong, coming to Linux

        The sequel to Hollow Knight has now been officially announced by Team Cherry as Hollow Knight: Silksong.

      • Iron Marines from Ironhide Game Studio will be coming to Linux

        Ironhide Game Studio (Kingdom Rush) are working on a new real-time strategy game named Iron Marines and they’ve confirmed to us it’s heading to Linux.

        As we follow them on Twitter, we saw them link to the Steam page. Upon viewing it, we noticed it only listed Windows and Mac. After sending a quick message to them on Twitter, to ask if it will come to Linux they replied with an amusing gif that said “For Sure”—so there you have it!

      • Another little update on Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation for Linux

        While Stardock haven’t managed to get Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation onto Linux just yet, they did give another small update last month.

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Chakrma: Frameworks 5.55.0, Plasma 5.15.0, and Applications 18.12.2 by KDE are now available

        Most of our mirrors synchronize with the central repositories on the origin server within 24 hours. Use the mirror status web page to see when your mirror of choice last synchronized.

      • KDE neon Systems Based on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS Have Reached End of Life, Upgrade Now

        With the rebase of KDE neon on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (Bionic Beaver) on September 2018, the development team have decided it’s time to put the old series based on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus) to rest once and for all as most users already managed to upgrade their systems to the new KDE neon series based on Canonical’s latest Ubuntu LTS release.

        “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,” said the devs.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

  • Distributions

    • The Earliest Linux Distros: Before Mainstream Distros Became So Popular

      Take a look back into how some of the earliest Linux distributions evolved and came into being as we know them today.

    • Ethical Hacking, Ubuntu-Based BackBox Linux OS Is Now Available on AWS

      If you want to run BackBox Linux in the cloud, on your AWS account, you should know that the ethical hacking operating system is now available on the Amazon Web Services cloud platform as an Amazon Machine Image (AMI) virtual appliance that you can install with a few mouse clicks.

      The BackBox Linux operating system promises to offer Amazon Web Services users an optimal environment for professional penetration testing operations as it puts together a collection of some of the best ethical hacking tools, which are already configured and ready for production use.

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • Inkscape, GTK, glibc Updates Arrive in Tumbleweed

        The lone snapshot of the week was 20190209. ModemManager made the jump from version 1.6.14 to 1.10.0 and consolidated common tag names among all the supported plugins as well as provided a new tag to allow specifying flow control settings to use in serial ports. The Mozilla Thunderbird 60.5.0 package gave more search engine options in certain locations offering Google and DuckDuckGo available by default. The email client also added Thunderbird FileLink with WeTransfer to upload large attachments. Thunderbird Filelink provides support for online storage services and allows upload attachments to an online storage service and then replaces the attachment in the message with a link. General-purpose parser generator bison 3.3.1 removed support for the 32-bit C/C++ development system DJGPP. The compiler cache, ccache 3.6, which speeds up recompilation by caching previous compilations, fixed a problem due to Clang, which is a C language family frontend for LLVM, overwriting the output file when compiling an assembler file and added support for GNU Compiler Collection‘s `-ffile-prefix-map` option. The 1.12.12 version update for dbus stopped a few memory leaks and added a couple patches. The epson-inkjet-printer-escpr 1.6.35 version added support for new printer models EcoTank ET-M1100 and Epson WorkForce ST-2000. GNU C Library glibc 2.29 added getcpu wrapper function, which returns the currently used CPU and NUMA node, and optimized the generic exp, exp2, log, log2, pow, sinf, cosf, sincosf and tanf functions. Cross-platform widget toolkit gtk3 3.24.5 implement gdk_window_present for Wayland, updated translations and refreshed the theme. The health-checker 1.1 package added new plugins for cri-o and kubelet. Users of the professional-quality vector-graphics application Inkscape can now use the 0.92.4 version; the new version improves preferences of the measuring tool when grids are visible and fixes a crash that would happen when a user does a Shift/Ctrl-click when handling shapes. Tumbleweed users will have 1.7x faster performance with Ruby 2.6 as the default as compared to Ruby 2.5. Other library packages updated in the snapshot were libosinfo 1.3.0, libsodium 1.0.17, libsolv 0.7.3, libstorage-ng 4.1.86 and libzypp 17.11.1.

    • Debian Family

      • Futatabi video out

        After some delay, the video of my FOSDEM talk about Futatabi, my instant replay system, is out on YouTube. Actually, the official recording has been out for a while, but this is a special edit; nearly all of the computer content has been replaced with clean 720p59.94 versions.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Why I love free software

    The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is a charity that supports and promote the use of free software. Their latest income and expense report for 2017, shows that much of their efforts focus on, beyond basic infrastructure costs, public awareness, legal work, and policy work.

    Every year, they celebrate free software on February 14 around the world online and offline.

  • Let’s celebrate “I love Free Software Day”!

    One of our goals in the LibreOffice community is to make powerful productivity tools available to everyone. Releasing the software for free is an important part of that, but “free software” is about more than just the price. It’s about giving users fundamental freedoms in how they use their software and computers – giving control back to them.

    For instance, the source code for LibreOffice – that is, the human-readable “recipe” behind the program – is available for everyone to see, study and modify. You can download this code, see what it does, change it for your needs, and then turn it back into an executable version for your computer. Many hundreds of people have done this already, contributing back important changes and updates to LibreOffice. And then you’re free to share the changes with other users.

  • Show your love for free software this Valentine’s Day!

    Free software is crucial for a free society, and we love being able to use technology that respects our rights. Spread the love this Valentine’s Day and spread the word about free software by sharing this graphic, which invites your friends and family to learn more about computer user freedom, with the hashtag #ilovefs:

  • I Love Free Software Day 2019

    Free Software is a substantial part of my life. I got introduced to it by my computer science teacher in middle school, however back then I wasn’t paying that much attention to the ethics behind it and rather focused on the fact that it was gratis and new to me.

    Using GNU/Linux on a school computer wasn’t really fun for me, as the user interface was not really my taste (I’m sorry KDE). It was only when I got so annoyed from the fact that my copy of Windows XP was 32 bit only and that I was supposed to pay the full price again for a 64 bit license, that I deleted Windows completely and installed Ubuntu on my computer – only to reinstall Windows again a few weeks later though. But the first contact was made.

    Back then I was still mostly focused on cool features rather than on the meaning of free software. Someday however, I watched the talk by Richard Stallman and started to read more about what software freedom really is. At this point I was learning how to use blender on Ubuntu to create animations and only rarely booted into Windows. But when I did, it suddenly felt oddly wrong. I realized that I couldn’t truly trust my computer. This time I tried harder to get rid of Windows.

    Someone once said that you only feel your shackles when you try to move. I think the same goes for free software. Once you realize what free software is and what rights it grants you (what rights you really have), you start to feel uncomfortable if you’re suddenly denied those rights.

  • Events

    • Saving birds with technology

      Two members of the Cacophony Project came to linux.conf.au 2019 to give an overview of what the project is doing to increase the amount of bird life in New Zealand. The idea is to use computer vision and machine learning to identify and eventually eliminate predators in order to help bird populations; one measure of success will be the volume and variety of bird song throughout the islands. The endemic avian species in New Zealand evolved without the presence of predatory mammals, so many of them have been decimated by the predation of birds and their eggs. The Cacophony Project is looking at ways to reverse that.

    • Mozilla’s initiatives for non-creepy deep learning

      Jack Moffitt started off his 2019 linux.conf.au talk by calling attention to Facebook’s “Portal” device. It is, he said, a cool product, but raises an important question: why would anybody in their right mind put a surveillance device made by Facebook in their kitchen? There are a lot of devices out there — including the Portal — using deep-learning techniques; they offer useful functionality, but also bring a lot of problems. We as a community need to figure out a way to solve those problems; he was there to highlight a set of Mozilla projects working toward that goal.
      He defined machine learning as the process of making decisions and/or predictions by modeling from input data. Systems using these techniques can perform all kinds of tasks, including language detection and (bad) poetry generation. The classic machine-learning task is spam filtering, based on the idea that certain words tend to appear more often in spam and can be used to detect unwanted email. With more modern neural networks, though, there is no need to do that sort of feature engineering; the net itself can figure out what the interesting features are. It is, he said, “pretty magical”.

    • Lisp and the foundations of computing

      At the start of his linux.conf.au 2019 talk, Kristoffer Grönlund said that he would be taking attendees back 60 years or more. That is not quite to the dawn of computing history, but it is close—farther back than most of us were alive to remember. He encountered John McCarthy’s famous Lisp paper [PDF] via Papers We Love and it led him to dig deeply into the Lisp world; he brought back a report for the LCA crowd.

      Grönlund noted that this was his third LCA visit over the years. He was pleased that his 2017 LCA talk “Package managers all the way down” was written up in LWN. He also gave his “Everyone gets a pony!” talk at LCA 2018. He works for SUSE, which he thanked for sending him to the conference, but the company is not responsible for anything in the talk, he said with a grin.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Welcoming a new Firefox/Toolkit peer

        Please join me in welcoming Bianca Danforth to the set of peers blessed with reviewing patches to Firefox and Toolkit. She’s been doing great work making testing experiment extensions easy and so it’s time for her to level-up.

  • LibreOffice

  • Funding

  • Programming/Development

    • WebKitGTK 2.23.90 Adds Support For JPEG2000, More Touchpad Gestures

      It missed the GNOME 3.32 Beta by a week, but out today is the WebKitGTK 2.23.90 release, the downstream of the WebKit web layout engine focused on GTK integration and used by the likes of GNOME Web (Epiphany).

      Interestingly, this WebKitGTK release adds support for JPEG2000. That support is a bit surprising considering outside of Apple’s Safari browsers, JPEG2000 isn’t really supported by other web browsers for this offshoot of JPEG that has never been widely adopted. But now nearly two decades after JPEG2000 was published, it’s at least supported by WebKitGTK.

    • Qt on CMake Workshop Summary – Feb 2019

      Last Monday and Tuesday a few brave souls from both the Qt Company and KDAB gathered together in the KDAB Berlin office premises to work on the CMake build system for building Qt. There was Mikhail, Liang, Tobias, Kai (QtCompany) as well as Jean-Michaël, Allen, Volker and me (KDAB) sitting together in a tight room, focusing solely on the CMake port of Qt.

    • Python 3.8 alpha in Fedora
    • Fedora 31 Is Already Planning Ahead For Python 3.8

      While Fedora 30 isn’t debuting for another three months, with the system-wide change deadline already having passed on that release, ambitious Fedora developers are already thinking about early feature plans for Fedora 31 that will debut in November.

      One of the first Fedora 31 system-wide change proposals is for upgrading from Python 3.7 to Python 3.8. Python 3.7 was released just last summer and the Python 3.8.0 release isn’t even expected until the end of October, but given it will be another big update to Python3, Fedora developers are working on coordinating the upgrade early to prevent possible fallout late in the cycle.

    • What You Don’t Know About Python Variables

      The first time you get introduced to Python’s variable, it is usually defined as “parts of your computer’s memory where you store some information.” Some define it as a “storage placeholder for texts and numbers.” We will soon find out that Python’s variable is deeper than this.

    • Some Attention to Detail
    • Mozilla GFX: WebRender newsletter #40
    • A GPIOZero Theramin for Valentine’s Day
    • Benchmarking The Python Optimizations Of Clear Linux Against Ubuntu, Intel Python

      Stemming from Clear Linux detailing how they optimize Python’s performance using various techniques, there’s been reader interest in seeing just how their Python build stacks up. Here’s a look at the Clear Linux Python performance compared to a few other configurations as well as Ubuntu Linux.

      For this quick Python benchmarking roundabout, the following configurations were tested while using an Intel Core i9 7980XE system throughout:

      - Clear Linux’s default Python build with the performance optimizations they recently outlined to how they ship their Python binary.

    • Python elects a steering council

      After a two-week voting period, which followed a two-week nomination window, Python now has its governance back in place—with a familiar name in the mix. As specified in PEP 13 (“Python Language Governance”), five nominees were elected to the steering council, which will govern the language moving forward. It may come as a surprise to some that Guido van Rossum, whose resignation as benevolent dictator for life (BDFL) led to the need for a new governance model and, ultimately, to the vote for a council, was one of the 17 candidates. It is perhaps much less surprising that he was elected to share the duties he once wielded solo.

      The other members of the steering council are Barry Warsaw, Brett Cannon, Carol Willing, and Nick Coghlan. Other candidates and their nomination statements are available as part of PEP 8100 (“January 2019 steering council election”). Warsaw, Cannon, and Coghlan are likely recognizable names to those who follow Python development (as is, of course, Van Rossum). Willing is perhaps less-known in the Python world, even though she is a core developer, has been a member of the Python Software Foundation (PSF) board of directors, and is a core developer and steering council member for the Jupyter project.

      The number of candidates for the Python steering council was rather large, especially when compared with either the eligible voter pool (96) or the number who actually cast ballots (69). Voting was restricted to active core developers, though nominees could come from outside of that set. Some concerns were expressed about allowing external nominees, but the PEP did explicitly allow core developers to nominate “outsiders”. Three of the nominees were not on the list of eligible voters: David Mertz, Peter Wang, and Travis Oliphant. However, Oliphant is a former core developer as can be seen in his nomination thread. The rest of the candidates are a mix of both older and newer core developers with interests ranging throughout the Python ecosystem.

Leftovers

  • K-pop and Fancy Sneakers: Kim Jong Un’s Cultural Revolution

    Dancers in hot pants. Factories pumping out Air Jordan lookalikes. TV dramas that are actually fun to watch.

    North Korean pop culture, long dismissed by critics as a kitschy throwback to the dark days of Stalinism, is getting a major upgrade under leader Kim Jong Un.

    The changes are being seen in everything from television dramas and animation programs to the variety and packaging of consumer goods, which have improved significantly under Kim. Whether it’s a defensive attempt to keep up with South Korea or an indication that Kim is willing to embrace aspects of Western consumer culture that his predecessors might have viewed as suspiciously bourgeois isn’t clear.

    “The most important thing for us is to produce a product that suits the people’s tastes,” Kim Kyong Hui of the Ryuwon Shoe Factory told The Associated Press recently in the facility’s showroom, which is filled with dozens of kinds of shoes for running, volleyball, soccer — even table tennis. “The respected leader Kim Jong Un has instructed us to closely study shoes from all over the world and learn from their example,” she added, pointing to a pair of flame-red high-top basketball shoes.

    To be sure, North Korea remains one of the most insular countries in the world. Change comes cautiously and anyone who openly criticizes the government or leadership or is seen as a threat can expect severe repercussions. But there appears to be more of a willingness under Kim to experiment around some of the edges.

  • “Radical Ireland’s Dead And Gone”: The Protest Outside Simon Harris’ Home

    “Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone, it’s with O’Leary in the grave”. Thus wrote W.B. Yeats over 100 years ago in his poem September 1913which castigated the Dublin middle class for their part in the Hugh Lane bequest controversy. Lane, an art dealer and collector, sought to offer his paintings to Dublin Municipal Corporation. The city’s middle class, however, descended into frenzied condemnation of the proposal and of the art – which included pieces by French impressionists Degas and Renoir – on moralistic and economic grounds.

    Yeats had also put pen to paper for September 1913 in the wake of the Great Dublin Lockout of that year, when “Big” Jim Larkin and James Connolly had led the city’s tram workers and the ITGWU in a protracted battle with the bosses and their figurehead William Martin Murphy. Yeats’ lines in the poem describing men fumbling “in a greasy till” to “add the halfpence to the pence” are understood to be attacks on the mean-spiritedness of both the middle and upper classes of Dublin during this period. With his reference to the Fenian, John O’Leary, a long-standing member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, Yeats yearned for an Ireland of upstanding political characters but despaired that such an era was “dead and gone”.

    In the hysterical reaction of the last few days by what is often termed “Middle Ireland”, as well as by those purporting to be on the left, to a protest held outside the home of Simon Harris, Minister for Health, it is clear that “radical Ireland is dead and gone”. Indeed, we might ponder whether it ever existed.

  • Hardware

    • Cameron Kaiser: So long, Opportunity rover

      Both Opportunity and Spirit were powered by the 20MHz BAE RAD6000, a radiation-hardened version of the original IBM POWER1 RISC Single Chip CPU and the indirect ancestor of the PowerPC 601. Many PowerPC-based spacecraft are still in operation, both with the original RAD6000 and its successor the RAD750, a radiation-hardened version of the G3.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • This May Be the Only Viable Alternative to ‘Medicare for All’

      Affordable health care providing universal access has long been a holy grail of the Democratic Party. Like the grail itself, however, many have tried to obtain it, and all have failed in the efforts.

      Even after the implementation of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, American health care is still neither particularly affordable (especially after repeated Republican efforts under the Trump administration to gut its main elements), nor is the access universal. Unlike in most other countries, U.S. health care is still largely predicated on employment, despite the insistence of many that it is a “universal right.”

    • Bernie Sanders Wants to Expand Social Security

      Today, Social Security plays a major role in safeguarding tens of millions of people from destitution — not just people over the age of sixty-five, but millions of children too. It is by far the most significant anti-poverty program in the country. Which is why Vermont senator Bernie Sanders has introduced the “Social Security Expansion Act” to expand Social Security by requiring the wealthy to contribute more equitably to our public retirement system and preventing them from exploiting it for personal gain.

      Over the last thirty years, skyrocketing inequality has threatened Social Security’s survival. The wealthiest have captured an increasing share of income gains above the taxable earnings cap, while workers’ wages have flat-lined. This trend has shrunk the share of national wages being taxed to fund Social Security. That’s why the program’s “total cost is projected to exceed its total income (including interest) in 2018 for the first time since 1982,” according to Social Security’s Board of Trustees.

      For decades, conservatives on both sides of the aisle have tried to raid Social Security to bankroll corporate tax cuts and/or turn it into a profitable industry. Sanders’s legislation pushes back on this agenda.

    • To Be Crystal Clear: ‘Medicare for All’ Does Not Mean ‘Medicare for Some’

      As the health care debate heats up, it’s time to be clear about what Medicare for All is and what it is not. Medicare for All does not mean giving people the option to “buy in” to Medicare under our current health insurance system—what might be called Medicare for Some.

      Members of Congress who support bringing everyone in America under one federally administered health insurance program are proposing Medicare for All. Members of Congress who support opening up Medicare to people as an additional insurance option are proposing a Medicare buy-in or Medicare for Some. Predictably, some members of Congress support both.

  • Security

    • Snapd flaw gives attackers root access on Linux systems
    • Canonical Patches Dirty Sock Vulnerability Affecting Ubuntu, Other Linux Distros [Ed: Shows what Microsoft thinks of Linux: "Microsoft Editor" (Bogdan Popa) in Softpedia keeps hijacking their Linux section only ever to spew FUD in there. Again today.]
    • Microsoft Developer: You Still Should Have Anti-Virus With Windows Subsystem For Linux [Ed: Microsoft is making GNU/Linux "great again" with NSA back doors]
    • 9 Best Linux-Based Security Tools

      Information security specialists and sysadmins need to be sure their networks are sealed against malicious attacks. This is why the practice of penetration testing is commonly employed, to sniff out security vulnerabilities before malicious hackers. Home Linux users should also be wary about the security of their systems. There are a huge variety of tools for accomplishing this, but some stand out in the industry more than others.

      In this article, we are going to highlight 9 of the best Linux-based security tools, which every pentester should be familiar with. Note this is only a list of some of the most widely used tools – if you’re interested in the latest security news, you can regularly read this website, which covers a lot of great infosec topics. Most of the tools on this list are also bundled with Kali Linux (specially designed for information security professionals, but not for home users or Linux newbies), but you can check out this literally massive list of all things related to hardware, security, programming, and other computer-related fields of interest to infosec people.

    • Systemd 241 Released With Security Fixes & Other Changes

      Lennart Poettering has just tagged the systemd 241 update that includes the “system down” security fixes and other improvements to this widely-used Linux init system.

    • PostgreSQL 11.2, 10.7, 9.6.12, 9.5.16, and 9.4.21 released

      The PostgreSQL project has put out updated releases for all supported versions. “This release changes the behavior in how PostgreSQL interfaces with ‘fsync()’ and includes fixes for partitioning and over 70 other bugs that were reported over the past three months.”

    • Dimitri John Ledkov: Encrypt all the things

      Went into blogger settings and enabled TLS on my custom domain blogger blog. So it is now finally a https://blog.surgut.co.uk However, I do use feedburner and syndicate that to the planet. I am not sure if that is end-to-end TLS connections, thus I will look into removing feedburner between my blog and the ubuntu/debian planets. My experience with changing feeds in the planets is that I end up spamming everyone. I wonder, if I should make a new tag and add that one, and add both feeds to the planet config to avoid spamming old posts.

      Next up went into gandi LiveDNS platform and enabled DNSSEC on my domain. It propagated quite quickly, but I believe my domain is now correctly signed with DNSSEC stuff. Next up I guess, is to fix DNSSEC with captive portals. I guess what we really want to have on “wifi” like devices, is to first connect to wifi and not set it as default route. Perform captive portal check, potentially with a reduced DNS server capabilities (ie. no EDNS, no DNSSEC, etc) and only route traffic to the captive portal to authenticate. Once past the captive portal, test and upgrade connectivity to have DNSSEC on. In the cloud, and on the wired connections, I’d expect that DNSSEC should just work, and if it does we should be enforcing DNSSEC validation by default.

      So I’ll start enforcing DNSSEC on my laptop I think, and will start reporting issues to all of the UK banks if they dare not to have DNSSEC. If I managed to do it, on my own domain, so should they!

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Unhinged Mike Pence Warns of ‘New Holocaust’ as Team Trump Tries to Rally EU Leaders for War With Iran

      Pence accused Iran of being “the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world” and “the greatest threat to peace and security in the Middle East” while attempting to shame European leaders over their recent “effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions…against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime.”

      [...]

      Pompeo and Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton have been accused of fomenting unrest in Iran in the name of forcing regime change. Last month, just days after Pompeo delivered an “arrogant tirade” vilifying the country, it came out that Bolton had ordered the Pentagon to draw up military strike options against Iran. Earlier this week, Bolton marked the 40th anniversary of Iran’s 1979 revolution with barely veiled threats. Each move has provoked warnings that “the drums of war are beating.”

    • House Democrats Slam Trump on Yemen and Venezuela

      After years of standing on the sidelines as the United States waged war in countries across the globe, Democrats in Congress are challenging war hawks in the Trump administration and moving to curb the president’s ability to launch military operations in foreign countries without approval from lawmakers.

      With votes from a handful of isolationist Republicans, the Democratic majority in the House passed a resolution on Wednesday directing President Trump to halt U.S. military assistance to the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen, where an ongoing civil war has killed thousands of civilians and left millions more on the brink of starvation.

      The vote came shortly after a heated committee hearing where House Democrats warned White House officials against taking military action in Venezuela, where the U.S. is actively backing opposition politicians in the midst of a political and humanitarian crisis that has severely shaken the sitting government.

    • Ilhan Omar Grills Venezuela Envoy Elliott Abrams on U.S.-Backed Genocide, Death Squads & Massacres

      The new U.S. special envoy to Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, testified on Capitol Hill Wednesday on U.S. efforts to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Abrams spoke three weeks after the U.S. recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s new president. Since then, the U.S. has placed sweeping sanctions on Venezuela’s state-run oil company and rejected calls for an international dialogue to resolve the crisis. Elliott Abrams is a right-wing hawk who was convicted in 1991 for lying to Congress during the Iran-Contra scandal, but he was later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. Abrams defended Guatemalan dictator General Efraín Ríos Montt as he oversaw a campaign of mass murder and torture of indigenous people in Guatemala in the 1980s. Ríos Montt was later convicted of genocide. Abrams was also linked to the 2002 coup in Venezuela that attempted to topple Hugo Chávez. Democratic Congressmember Ilhan Omar of Minnesota questioned Abrams about his record on Wednesday during his testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

    • Rep. Ilhan Omar Applauded for Grilling Elliott Abrams Over Role in US-Backed Genocide, Massacres, and Death Squads in Latin America

      “You later said that the U.S. policy in El Salvador was a ‘fabulous achievement,’” Omar said. “Yes or no: Do you still think so?”

      After Abrams claimed that El Salvador became a “democracy” after the U.S. intervened, Omar pressed on, asking, “Yes or no, do you think that massacre was a ‘fabulous achievement’?”

    • Ilhan Omar Makes Convicted War Criminal Elliott Abrams Squirm

      As forensic experts in El Salvador continue the 26-year effort to exhume the bodies of the victims of the December 1981 El Mozote massacre, Minnesota Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar grilled the Trump administration’s Venezuela envoy, Elliott Abrams, on his role in human rights violations.

      “I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful,” Omar said during a House foreign affairs hearing on Venezuela on Wednesday. She was referencing the Iran-Contra scandal, after which Abrams pleaded guilty in 1991 to two misdemeanor counts for lying to Congress about using cash from arms sales to Iran to fund the Contra rebels in Nicaragua. Abrams was later pardoned by George H.W. Bush. As Abrams began to speak, Omar cut him off.

      “It wasn’t a question,” she said.

      “It was an attack,” Abrams said, raising his voice.

    • Elliott Abrams Melts Down As Muslim Congresswoman Questions Role In Crimes Against Humanity

      Elliott Abrams, the special envoy to Venezuela for President Donald Trump’s administration, had a meltdown when Representative Ilhan Omar highlighted his criminal conduct in the Iran-Contra scandal.

      The meltdown occurred during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, “Venezuela at the Crossroads.”

      “In 1991, you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding your involvement in the Iran-Contra affair for which you were later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush,” Omar stated. “I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful.”

      “If I could respond to that,” Abrams interjected. Omar replied, “That wasn’t a question.”

    • Keep Interceptor Missiles Out of Hawai’i

      It’s been reported that interceptor missiles might be deployed soon at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on the leeward coast of Kauai (“Hawaii could house missile interceptors sooner than later,” Star-Advertiser, Feb. 3). Defense against missiles from North Korea is the stated purpose. For the people of Hawaii, who experienced the false missile alert of January 2018, a defensive system might sound like a good idea.

      Despite the nomenclature, however, the ballistic missile defense system (BMDS) is an offensive weapon. Since ancient times, it has been well-understood that a shield renders one’s sword more formidable. The point of BMDS is to have first-strike capability against one’s enemies.

      The Pentagon’s 2018 National Defense Strategy shifted the focus from terrorism back onto great powers competition. Russia and China are the rivals, and North Korea and Iran are the “rogue regimes” of greatest concern. Making Hawaii a launchpad for missiles makes it a target. It makes us less secure. When you received the missile alert, did you look out the window toward Pearl Harbor?

      During the Cold War, the U.S. and the Soviet Union arrived at a stalemate via the principle of Mutually Assured Destruction. Either side had sufficient nuclear weapons, particularly submarine-launched ballistic missiles, to survive a first strike by the other side. The threat of devastation by the other side’s remaining weapons helped to stay the finger of American presidents and Soviet premiers on the nuclear button.

    • We’ve Been Reduced to Enemy Combatants in Our Own Country

      We have managed to survive crackdowns, clampdowns, shutdowns, showdowns, shootdowns, standdowns, knockdowns, putdowns, breakdowns, lockdowns, takedowns, slowdowns, meltdowns, and never-ending letdowns.

      We’ve been held up, stripped down, faked out, photographed, frisked, fracked, hacked, tracked, cracked, intercepted, accessed, spied on, zapped, mapped, searched, shot at, tasered, tortured, tackled, trussed up, tricked, lied to, labeled, libeled, leered at, shoved aside, saddled with debt not of our own making, sold a bill of goods about national security, tuned out by those representing us, tossed aside, and taken to the cleaners.

      We’ve had our freedoms turned inside out, our democratic structure flipped upside down, and our house of cards left in a shambles.

      We’ve had our children burned by flashbang grenades, our dogs shot, and our old folks hospitalized after “accidental” encounters with marauding SWAT teams. We’ve been told that as citizens we have no rights within 100 miles of our own border, now considered “Constitution-free zones.” We’ve had our faces filed in government databases, our biometrics crosschecked against criminal databanks, and our consumerist tendencies catalogued for future marketing overtures.

      We’ve seen the police transformed from community peacekeepers to point guards for the militarized corporate state. From Boston to Ferguson and every point in between, police have pushed around, prodded, poked, probed, scanned, shot and intimidated the very individuals—we the taxpayers—whose rights they were hired to safeguard. Networked together through fusion centers, police have surreptitiously spied on our activities and snooped on our communications, using hi-tech devices provided by the Department of Homeland Security.

    • Danny Glover: The U.S. Redefines the Term ‘Dictator’ as It Sees Fit

      Actor and activist Danny Glover places the conflict over Venezuela in the context of a long history of US-led coups in Latin America

    • Mistranslated or Not, Israeli PM’s ‘War With Iran’ Tweet Sparks Grave Concerns

      A deleted tweet from Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ignited fresh fears about his position on Iran, after his official Twitter account provided an English translation of his remarks to reporters on Wednesday while attending an American-led summit about the Middle East hosted in Warsaw, Poland.

      The initial tweet, translated from Hebrew, had the prime minister saying: “What is important about this meeting, and it is not in secret, because there are many of those—is that this is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries, that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran.” An amended translation replaced “war” with “combating.”

    • In House’s Yemen Vote, Congress Reasserts War-Making Powers

      Asserting congressional authority over war-making powers, the House passed a resolution Wednesday that would force the administration to withdraw U.S. troops from involvement in Yemen, in a rebuke of President Donald Trump’s alliance with the Saudi-led coalition behind the military intervention.

      Lawmakers in both parties are increasingly uneasy over the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and skeptical of the U.S. partnership with that coalition, especially in light of Saudi Arabia’s role in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the royal family.

    • House Makes History With Vote to End U.S. Role in Yemen War
    • ‘Historic’: House Approves War Powers Resolution to End US Complicity in Yemen

      The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a War Powers Resolution that would require President Trump to end U.S. military support for the ongoing Saudi-led war in Yemen.

      The bill, H.J. Res. 37 introduced by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), passed in a 248-177 vote—mostly along party lines in the Democratic-controlled House—and will now head to the Senate where a version of the resolution last year, despite Republican control, passed in historic fashion. Read the full roll call here.

    • One Year After Parkland Massacre, Student-Led Movement Celebrated for Renewed Progress on Anti-Gun Laws

      Hours before Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida was to mark the one-year anniversary of its deadly shooting, gun control groups applauded as major gun control legislation was advanced to the House floor for the first time in years—the latest stride in a renewed push for meaningful reform which has been led largely by Parkland survivors.

      The House Judiciary Committee voted 21 to 14, along party lines, to send the Bipartisan Background Checks Act (H.R. 8) to the House Wednesday night after nine hours of debate. The bill would require background checks for all gun sales in the U.S. The committee also passed a bill to close a loophole in the current, weaker background checks law that allows a gun purchase to move ahead if the check is not conducted within three days.

      Along with the Judiciary Committee’s hearing last week—the first on gun control in more than a decade—the votes were the first significant anti-gun actions taken by the Democratic Party since it won control of the House in November.

    • One Year After Parkland, 1,200 More Kids Are Dead by Gunfire—But Students Still Fight for Gun Safety

      It’s been one year since the devastating massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School—the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that galvanized the nation to take action against gun violence and turned a generation of young people into activists. On February 14, 2018, a former student armed with a semiautomatic AR-15 entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and opened fire, gunning down 17 students, staff and teachers in just three minutes. It was one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. Students who survived the massacre quickly came to national prominence as leading activists for gun control. We speak with Lois Beckett, senior reporter at The Guardian covering gun policy. Her latest piece is titled “’We can’t let fear consume us’: why Parkland activists won’t give up.”

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Who’s Afraid of the Green New Deal

      In recent weeks, a polar vortex blew across the U.S., killing at least 20 people. At the same time, U.S. government scientists reported that 2018 was the fourth-warmest year on record, with the five hottest years occurring in the past five years. A huge hole in one of the largest glaciers in Antarctica is causing accelerated melting there, while across that continent, large lakes of meltwater are bending, buckling and threatening to collapse these vast ice sheets — all leading to rapidly increasing global sea level rise. Glaciers melting in the Himalayas threaten tens of millions of people downstream with flooding and the disruption of water supplies. As evidence that the planet is experiencing what has been called “the sixth great extinction,” a recent review of scientific data concludes that 40 percent of the world’s insects are on the brink of extinction.

      President Donald Trump’s response? During the polar vortex, he tweeted: “What the hell is going on with Global Waming? (sic) Please come back fast, we need you!” Yet there are signs of hope. Two Democrats, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, have submitted a resolution to Congress recognizing “the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal.” House Resolution 109 had a remarkable 67 co-sponsors in the House, all Democrats, and has been distributed to 11 different House committees for consideration.

      “Today is the day that we truly embark on a comprehensive agenda of economic, social and racial justice in the United States of America,” Ocasio-Cortez said, announcing the effort. “Climate change and our environmental challenges are one of the biggest existential threats to our way of life, not just as a nation, but as a world.”

    • Capitalism’s Ownership of Global Warming

      Capitalism not only owns global warming, there’s a big red mitigation arrow pointed at the heart of today’s rampant capitalism, which is eerily similar to the loosie goosie version of the Roaring Twenties, but with a high tech twist.

      After all, somebody’s got to pony-up for climate change/global warming mitigation. Who better than deep pocket capitalists?

      For historical perspective: Today’s brand of capitalism runs circles around the Eisenhower 1950s with its 90% top marginal tax rate amidst harmony and good feelings all across the land, an age of innocence aka Leave It To Beaver.

      In sharp contrast to the fifties era of good feelings with its emergence of spanking new suburbia, today’s landscape resembles the film Blade Runner (1982) high-tech, rich, and gleaming in some places but elsewhere (often times right next door) shabby and weakening as America’s middle class fizzles away attached to a ball & chain of indebted servitude.

      With increasing frequency as climate mitigation is investigated certain economic statistics stand out like a throbbing sore thumb: “The top three greenhouse gas emitters— China, the EU and the US—contribute more than half of total global emissions, while the bottom 100 countries only account for 3.5%. Collectively, the top 10 emitters account for nearly three-quarters (75%) of global emissions. The world can’t possibly successfully tackle the climate change challenge without significant action from these top-emitting countries.” (Source: World Resources Institute)

      Interestingly enough, the socio-politico-economic genesis of global warming as of nowadays is known as Late Capitalism, as defined by Ernest Mandel (Late Capitalism, Verso Classics, 1999) or in the parlance: “Increasing commodification and industrialization of more, and more, sectors of human life” as the social fabric splits apart, delineating “haves” versus “have-nots.”

    • New Report Warns Geoengineering the Climate Is a ‘Risky Distraction’

      A new report makes the case that the fossil fuel industry prefers geoengineering as an approach for addressing climate change because it allows the industry to keep arguing for continued fossil fuel use.

      In Fuel to the Fire: How Geoengineering Threatens to Entrench Fossil Fuels and Accelerate the Climate Crisis, the Center for International Environmental Law (CEIL) warns that geoengineering, which includes technologies to remove huge amounts of carbon dioxide and to shoot particles into the atmosphere to block sunlight, potentially offers more of a problem for the climate than a solution.

      “Our research shows that nearly all proposed geoengineering strategies fail a fundamental test: do they reduce emissions and help end our reliance on fossil fuels?” said CIEL President Carroll Muffett, who co-authored the report with the support of the Heinrich Boell Foundation.

    • Large Natural Gas Producer to Pay West Virginia Plaintiffs $53.5 Million to Settle Royalty Dispute

      The second-largest natural gas producer in West Virginia will pay $53.5 million to settle a lawsuit that alleged the company was cheating thousands of state residents and businesses by shorting them on gas royalty payments, according to terms of the deal unsealed in court this week.

      Pittsburgh-based EQT Corp. agreed to pay the money to end a federal class-action lawsuit, brought on behalf of about 9,000 people, which alleged that EQT wrongly deducted a variety of unacceptable charges from peoples’ royalty checks.

      The deal is the latest in a series of settlements in cases that accused natural gas companies of engaging in such maneuvers to pocket a larger share of the profits from the boom in natural gas production in West Virginia.

      This lawsuit was among the royalty cases highlighted last year in a joint examination by the Charleston Gazette-Mail and ProPublica that showed how West Virginia’s natural gas producers avoid paying royalties promised to thousands of residents and businesses. The plaintiffs said EQT was improperly deducting transporting and processing costs from their royalty payments. EQT said its royalty payment calculations were correct and fair.

      [...]

      Settlement payments will be calculated based on such factors as the amount of gas produced and sold from each well, as well as how much was deducted from royalty payments. The number of people who submit claims could also affect settlement payments. Each member of the class that submits a claim will receive a minimum payment of at least $200. The settlement allows lawyers to collect up to one-third of the settlement, or roughly $18 million, subject to approval from the court.

      The settlement is pending before U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey in the Northern District of West Virginia. The judge gave it preliminary approval on Monday, which begins a process for public notice of the terms and a fairness hearing July 11 in Wheeling, West Virginia. Payments would not be made until that process is complete.

    • Heat and the End of the World as We Know It

      I’m no climate scientist. The best I can say for myself is that I’ve been a pretty close student of varied specialties associated with climate science for about four decades.

      My somewhat lengthy acquaintance with climate science hasn’t led me to see a lifeless planet, a treeless planet, or human extinction across the entire planet. Nothing I know or think I know persuades me to expect anything quite that dire, at least not solely due to a hotter world.

      I do see us headed in that direction, just because we’re still cranking up the heat with just about everything we do in the normal course of our daily routines. Because this trend persists, and might persist for too long, I am persuaded that, beginning in the lifetime of children born since 1980, a plausibly hotter, hotter, and hotter world could set off a severe and gruesome culling of the human herd, and that we’ll be bringing a lot down with us.

      The end of the world? No. There’ll be some extinctions but, for humans, the effects of a hotter world are just a matter of increasing threat to familiar hopes for life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness – and capital wealth including household wealth. In other words, the end of the world as we know it.

      Some of this is clearly preventable, in theory, but the prevention clearly depends on our willingness to pull back from familiar daily routines of a recklessly comfortable way of life. A recent Ambio article by some heavyweights in climate sets out the situation well enough.

    • Savage heat engulfs temperate Tasmania

      Australia has been going through one of its hottest and stormiest summers on record and usually temperate Tasmania, its island state, has taken a battering..

      Climate change-related weather events have brought cyclones and raging floods to the north-east of the country, while drought and temperatures exceeding 40°C have resulted in parched lands and rivers drying up in areas of New South Wales.

      Summer on the island of Tasmania, Australia’s most southerly state, with a generally temperate climate, is usually a time for BBQs and beach swimming. This summer has been very different.

      A prolonged drought and record high temperatures have caused a series of devastating fires, destroying unique forests and vegetation and forcing people to leave their homes.

    • Tanzania Prepares to Hand Wildlife Reserves Over to Farmers and Livestock

      Some of the most important habitats in the United Republic of Tanzania, one of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots, could soon be inundated with farmers and livestock following a recent decree by President John Magufuli that orders relisting protected lands as village property.

      This is a major reversal for Tanzania, a country known for its wild spaces, including World Heritage sites ranging from the Ngorongoro Crater and Mt. Kilimanjaro to the vast Selous Game Reserve and famous Serengeti National Park. Tanzania’s protected areas support an amazing array of wildlife, including some of the largest remaining elephant and lion populations in Africa and the continent’s largest wildebeest and zebra migrations.

  • Finance

    • A Late Valentine? Millionaires Stop Paying into Social Security on February 18th

      By February 18th, someone making $1,000,000 in 2019 will have stopped paying into Social Security for the year. Social Security, which provides retirement, disability, and survivor benefits to countless Americans every year, only taxes the first $132,900 of a salary (up from $128,400 in 2018). If you make more than this cap, that income is not subject to the tax.

      Most people in the United States make less than $132,900 per year, so they will pay the 6.2 percent payroll tax every time they get a paycheck in 2019. Those who make over $132,900 get a break on any income above that amount.

      If a person made $50,000 in 2019, for example, they’d pay taxes until December 31st — and have an effective tax rate of 6.2 percent. But someone making $1,000,000 in 2019 would stop paying Social Security taxes on February 18th and see a bump in their pay afterwards. This person’s effective tax rate would be just 0.8 percent. The burden of Social Security taxes falls more heavily on those who make less.

    • Betsy DeVos Is Pushing a Terrible Double Standard on College Campuses

      In her proposed rules governing the treatment of sexual harassment and assault claims on college campuses and K-12 schools, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has managed to achieve exactly what the law she is enforcing prohibits: discrimination on the basis of sex.

      The Education Department is charged with enforcing Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which bans sex discrimination in schools receiving federal funding, but DeVos’s proposed rules would create a systemic double standard: They treat claims of discrimination based on sex fundamentally differently from claims of discrimination based on race — also forbidden under federal law. The Education Department offers no justification whatsoever for the disparities, and while women are, of course, accustomed to such differential treatment, that’s exactly what Title IX was designed to eliminate.

    • The Washington Post Wants to Cut Social Security Again

      I guess we can always count on The Washington Post to print misleading pieces calling for cuts in Social Security. After all, what are newspapers for? Anyhow, Robert Samuelson gives us one of his usual tirades, misrepresenting most of the key items in the debate.

      The basis of his outrage is a bill proposed by Representative John Larson to increase Social Security. The proposal is for a modest overall increase in benefits with a larger increase for the poor. The proposal also calls for indexing benefits to a cost of living index designed to monitor the expenses faced by seniors, instead of the population as a whole. Samuelson complains that this could lead to higher benefits.

      The gist of Samuelson’s argument is that seniors are doing very well right now. He cites a recently done study by C. Adam Bee and Joshua Mitchell, two economists were at the Census Bureau at the time, that found, based on tax filings that seniors had higher incomes than we had realized.

    • And Now This Message From Some Very Rich People: ‘Please Raise Our Taxes’

      Imploring New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to allow them to contribute to the state’s future in a way that benefits all New Yorkers, four dozen millionaires are demanding that lawmakers pass a “Multi-Millionaires Tax” to raise billions of dollars for education, infrastructure, and other programs for the greater good.

      Forty-eight millionaires sent a letter to Cuomo and the New York State Assembly as lawmakers weigh proposals for closing the state’s $2.3 billion deficit—arguing that raising their taxes could provide the state with an additional $2 to 3 billion per year.

      “We millionaires and multi-millionaires of New York can easily invest more in the Empire State, and lawmakers like you have a moral and a fiduciary duty to make sure we do so,” wrote the Patriotic Millionaires, including former Blackrock executive Morris Pearl and filmmaker and entertainment heir Abigail Disney.

    • JP Morgan Is Launching Its Own Cryptocurrency ‘JPM Coins’

      .P. Morgan Chase is set to become the first major U.S. bank to launch its own cryptocurrency. The bank has created its digital currency dubbed ‘JPM Coin’ that will be used to carry out a few transactions initially.

      The engineers at the New York-based bank have leveraged blockchain technology to create digital tokens that will drive a fraction of $6 trillion that bank moves around the world each day. With its digital currency, the bank wants to envision a future where its own cryptocurrency will be used to perform cross-border transactions, corporate debt issuance, etc.

    • Ripple can be the dark horse cryptocurrency of 2019: Ripple Price Predictions – XRP Price Today

      Many of the investors are looking for cryptocurrencies which can actually rise significantly in 2019. Most of the investors are looking at the lesser known cryptocurrencies or at the mainstream cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or the Ethereum. The truth is that it can be Ripple which can be the dark horse cryptocurrency of 2019.

    • ‘No One Should Be Surprised’: After Long Career Stiffing Workers, Trump Blocks Back Pay for Federal Contractors

      As a real estate mogul, Donald Trump was notorious for swindling low-wage workers out of pay.

      So—as economist Robert Reich put it—”no one should be surprised” that Trump is continuing this cruel practice as president, this time by reportedly refusing to sign any government funding deal that includes back pay for the estimated 580,000 federal contractors who were furloughed or forced to work without pay for over a month due to the shutdown.

    • 35 Days Without Pay Show How Precarious Federal Jobs Have Become

      As U.S. Congress attempts to avert yet another shutdown, federal workers and contractors are still recovering from the longest government closure in American history. President Trump used workers as a bargaining chip in his xenophobic demand for a border wall, with many turning to food pantries or the more than 2,000 GoFundMe campaigns to make ends meet. Those 35 days of lost wages exposed how precarious federal labor has become after decades of rhetoric meant to delegitimize the work of the public sector.

      One illustrating point: the sweeping privatization of public jobs. In an economy where one in five jobs are held by contract workers, the federal government’s turn toward privatization translates to unstable wages, lack of benefits and temporary employment for the workers who clean, serve food and guard government buildings.

      Despite the shutdown’s end, an estimated four million federally contracted workers from private companies have still not received a paycheck for the five weeks of work they lost due to the government’s closing. Federal contractors include support staff in federal buildings, who are among the lowest-paid workers, earning between $450 and $650 per week. While Congressional Democrats have introduced legislation to give contract workers back pay, it remains unclear if the bill will pass.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • What Swings the Swing Voter?

      According to conventional wisdom, the Democrats must appeal to middle-of-the-road swing voters in order to defeat Trump in 2020. Supposedly these voters want a moderate who “crosses the partisan divide,” “finds common ground with all classes and income groups,” “removes barriers to advancement,” “builds public/private partnerships,” “works for the common good against all special interests,” “avoids the extremes of the right and the left,” and “shuns costly pie-in-the-sky programs.”

      Wrong.

      Mounting evidence suggests that the swing voter is one who faces the stark daily realities of rising inequality and all its related issues — expensive or non-existent health care, astronomical student debt, unaffordable housing, and a generation’s worth of wage stagnation. As the New York Times recently reports (“For Democrats Aiming Taxes at the Superrich, ‘the Moment Belongs to the Bold’”)

      The soak-the-rich plans — ones that were only recently considered ridiculously far-fetched or political poison — have received serious and sober treatment, even by critics, and remarkably broad encouragement from the electorate. Roughly three out of four registered voters surveyed in recent polls supported higher taxes on the wealthy. Even a majority of Republicans back higher rates on those earning more than $10 million, according to a Fox News poll conducted in mid-January.

    • The Lobbying Swamp Is Flourishing in Trump’s Washington

      It’s been more than two years since President Donald Trump, who rallied campaign supporters with calls to “drain the swamp” of lobbyists and their ilk, took office. But despite that campaign promise, Washington influence peddlers continue to move into and out of jobs in the federal government.

      In his first 10 days in office, Trump signed an executive order that required all his political hires to sign a pledge. On its face, it’s straightforward and ironclad: When Trump officials leave government employment, they agree not to lobby the agencies they worked in for five years. They also can’t lobby anyone in the White House or political appointees across federal agencies for the duration of the Trump administration. And they can’t perform “lobbying activities,” or things that would help other lobbyists, including setting up meetings or providing background research. Violating the pledge exposes former officials to fines and extended or even permanent bans on lobbying.

      But loopholes, some of them sizable, abound. At least 33 former Trump officials have found ways around the pledge. The most prominent is former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who resigned in December after a series of ethics investigations. He announced Wednesday that he is joining a lobbying firm, Turnberry Solutions, which was started in 2017 by several former Trump campaign aides. Asked whether Zinke will register as a lobbyist, Turnberry partner Jason Osborne said, “He will if he has a client that he wants to lobby for.”

      Among the 33 former officials, at least 18 have recently registered as lobbyists. The rest work at firms in jobs that closely resemble federal lobbying. Almost all work on issues they oversaw or helped shape when they were in government. (Nearly 2,600 Trump officials signed the ethics pledge in 2017, according to the Office of Government Ethics. Twenty-five appointees did not sign the pledge. We used staffing lists compiled for ProPublica’s Trump Town, our exhaustive database of current political appointees, and found at least 350 people who have left the Trump administration. There are other former Trump officials who lobby at the state or local level.)

    • Didactic Truancy: Blackface and the Fallacy of “Teachable Moments”

      History abounds with teachable moments, but they have meaning only if its students show up. The ceaseless onslaught of reports of blackface has proven, well, instructive. It seems that almost daily we are inundated with a flood of blackface incidents. In Virginia alone, it has been revealed that three top political leaders from both parties have blackening up in the past and cakewalked their way into belated infamy.

      We keep revisiting blackface, or rather, like a parasitic house guest, it never quite packs up and leaves. When it comes to blackface in America, every day is Groundhog’s Day, an endlessly recycling time loop, though without the redemptive ending. Only a year ago former NBC talk show host Megyn Kelly opined that “Back when I was a kid, that was OK, just as long as you were dressing as a character.” The good old days Kelly, 48, describes are not those of America’s pre-civil rights era but, presumably, the 1980s. Her sentiments are shared by Ralph (“Coonman”) Northam, the embattled Democratic governor of Virginia, who saw nothing wrong with moonwalking in blackface as Michael Jackson in 1984. (Ironically, had he waited twenty years to imitate Jackson, he might not have felt compelled to use shoe polish, but that’s another act in the tragicomedy of American racial performativity and a subject for another article.) If Kelly’s case has a teachable moment, it is that you can insult black people, get “fired” for it and come away with a $62 million severance package. Lesson learned, though this was perhaps not the teachable moment NBC intended.

      It may indeed be that for many white people, blackface is not an issue. Judging by its continued popularity, it may never become an issue for them despite almost two centuries of black efforts to enlightened them. However, it has been an issue for most blacks and not, as some whites have claimed, only recently: Black hatred of the practice goes back to its beginnings in the 1830s, with Frederick Douglass in 1848 denouncing its practitioners as “the filthy scum of white societywho have stolen from us our complexion denied to them by nature in such a way to make money and pander to the contempt of their fellow white citizens.”

    • If You Hate Campaign Season, Blame Money in Politics

      Amy Klobuchar could’ve waited for the temperature to rise above 15 degrees before launching her 2020 presidential bid. Instead, she chose to risk frostbite and make her pitch in the middle of a snowstorm—all for an election more than 600 days away.

      The Minnesota senator is just one of around a dozen Democrats who’ve already thrown their hats into the presidential ring or hinted they intend to soon.

      What’s the big rush?

      People in other countries think we’re insane for having such long political races. By one count, in the timeframe of the 2016 U.S. election, you could’ve fit about four elections in Mexico, seven in Canada, 14 in the UK, and 41 in France.

      If lengthy campaigns boosted voter education and turnout, I’d be all for them. But there’s scarce evidence of that. The United States ranks 26th out of 32 industrialized countries in the share of the voting age population that shows up at the polls.

      So what can we do to avoid contests that shift politicians’ focus away from governing to endless campaigning?

    • Republicans Deny Collusion as Manafort Busted Again

      The similarity between these two situations is so obvious as to be almost not worth mentioning: The House committee back then was controlled by a Republican majority and chairman, as is the Senate committee today. Congressional Republicans, nearly to a person, have stapled their fate to the whims and vagaries of the anthropomorphic wrecking ball in the White House. “Nothing to see here, move along” has been the party’s mantra since Trump slithered down that golden elevator in June of 2015… So, yeah, it sounds totally legit when they wave the whole thing off, again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

      Back in March of 2018, Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee erupted in rage and disgust when the GOP majority abruptly shut down the investigation after claiming there was no there, there. “The work is too important to be left undone,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California), then the ranking minority member. “The American people need to know whether the Russians still have something they can hold over the president’s head. If this is where the GOP is coming from, it represents to me the completeness of their capitulation to the White House, and that leaves little common ground.”

      House Democrats on that 2018 committee even went so far as to release their own dueling report denouncing Republicans for ending the investigation, listing a long litany of witnesses who were never interviewed and documents that were never subpoenaed or examined. “The decision to shut down the investigation before key witnesses could be interviewed and vital documentary evidence obtained will prevent us from fully discharging our duty to the House and to the American people,” read the rebuttal.

      Those same House Democrats are now running the show on the Intelligence Committee, chaired by Schiff, who has reopened the investigation and is actively sharing information with Robert Mueller and his crew. “The concern that we have always had is whether this president is acting in the national interest, or because of some hidden financial motivations,” Schiff recently told The Washington Post. “I think we need to find out.”

  • Censorship/Free Speech

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Privacy is not a science, it is a human right

      Given the levels of institutional corruption in academia and in the regulatory bodies and advocacy institutions that should be protecting our privacy, very few things shock me these days. So hats off to Bart van der Sloot for managing the impossible and finding a new low by framing institutional corruption as scientific neutrality in his article Dubbele petten in de privacywetenschap.

      [...]

      First off, let’s get this straight: privacy is not a science, it is a human right. There is no such thing as “privacy science”. There never was. There never will be. It’s not a science any more than human rights is a science. I can see what you’re trying to do, Mr. Sloot, and it’s duplicitous as all hell.

      Let me tell you why privacy is not a science: because there is no scientific reason for us to have privacy any more than there is a scientific reason why we should not be slaves. Mr. Sloot purposefully conflates ethics, which asks “what is good?” and “how should we live?” with evolutionary biology, and perhaps sociology, which study the way things are and how they came to be the way they are and maybe even extrapolate to how they might be in the future given a certain set of constraints. The latter do not make value judgements. The former is all about value judgements. To the extent that studies in the latter follow the scientific method, we call them sciences. The former is not science, it is philosophy.

      It is science that tells us how a projectile can be propelled from a hand-held device at such velocity as to cause terminal damage to another human being and exactly how it causes that damage. It is ethics that tells us we should not shoot people. Only people interested in providing some sort of pseudoscientific justification for their desire to shoot people conflate the two.

    • Facebook and Data Mining: Is Anything Private?

      Facebook knows us. Exceptionally well.

      Facebook tracks who we talk to, what we talk about, what we like, what we’re interested in. It tracks where we are and what transactions we conduct. Facebook can pick your face out of other people’s pictures and automatically tag you in media. It can even find you in the background of crowd shots (“isn’t it cool that I’ve been tagged in so many pictures?”).

      After gathering all this personal data, who does Facebook sell it to? Any buyer who can afford it. Even foreign actors, as we saw in the 2016 election. If there’s a small smidgen of our intimate life that Facebook can sell, it will do so.

    • California Governor Wants Users to Profit From Online Data

      California Gov. Gavin Newsom has set off a flurry of speculation after he said the state’s consumers should get a piece of the billions of dollars that technology companies make by capitalizing on personal data they collect.

      The new governor has asked aides to develop a proposal for a “data dividend” for California residents but provided no hints about whether he might be suggesting a tax on tech companies, an individual refund to their customers or something else.

      “Companies that make billions of dollars collecting, curating and monetizing our personal data have a duty to protect it,” the Democrat said in his first State of the State speech Tuesday. “California’s consumers should also be able to share in the wealth that is created from their data.”

      Tech companies, for example, sell the data to outside businesses that target ads to users. The European Union and Spain’s socialist government last year each proposed taxing big internet companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon.

      Common Sense Media, which helped pass California’s nation-leading digital privacy law last year, plans to propose legislation in coming weeks that would reflect Newsom’s proposal, founder and CEO James Steyer said, without providing details.

      Starting next year, California’s European-style privacy law will require companies to tell customers upon request what personal data they have collected and why, which categories of third parties have received it, and allow consumers to delete their information and not sell it.

    • French Data Protection Authority Takes on Google

      France’s data protection authority is first out the gate with a big decision regarding a high-profile tech company, and every other enforcer in Europe is taking notes. On January 21, France’s CNIL fined Google 50 million Euros for breaches of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This is about 57 million U.S. dollars. The decision relates to Google’s intrusive ad personalization systems, and its inadequate systems of notice and consent when users create accounts for Google services on Android devices.

      Since the GDPR came into effect on May 25, 2018, many companies have simulated compliance with the law while manipulating users into granting them consent by means of deceptive interface design and behavioral nudging. If a major company is seeking to get a free pass from another national data protection authority, that decision will now be critically contrasted with the approach of the CNIL.

      Hopefully, the CNIL’s recent decision is a harbinger of a robust enforcement approach which will deliver critical privacy protections to users.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Russia and the U.S. are racing to negotiate with Islamists. So far, they’re neck and neck.

      Russian-mediated negotiations between the Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah are scheduled to conclude in Moscow today. The negotiations took place amid rumors that the White House is preparing a “deal of the century” to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and may make its plan public this spring. In the last several months, Moscow and Washington have taken part in a lively contest to assert their influence in Middle Eastern conflicts, often by entering talks with parties that are widely considered extremist or terrorist groups. Here, Meduza reports on the most important episodes of that ongoing diplomatic game.

    • Can California Revolutionize Rape-Kit Testing?

      On a warm Friday night in May 2008, as a young woman and her friend got into a car in Berkeley, Calif., a stranger approached and held a gun to her head. He got into the back seat and ordered her to drive until she reached a dead-end street. There, he first raped the older teenager, and then the younger one.

      After the assault, the teens went to a hospital, where the older one agreed to complete a rape kit so that DNA evidence from the attack could be collected from her body.

      Had her rape kit been tested right away, it would immediately have revealed that her attacker was a California resident with a long criminal history, according to a 2016 report published by the San Francisco Chronicle.

      Instead, her kit sat on a shelf in the Berkeley Police Department’s evidence room until 2014, when it was finally processed by a crime lab.

      As a result of the long delay, the perpetrator remained free, and he raped another woman in 2015.

    • As Hunger Strike Resumes, Corcoran Prisoners Describe Life Under Lockdown

      Prisoners in 3C Unit at the state prison in Corcoran, California resumed their hunger strike after the warden backed out of negotiations to end a months-long lockdown and violence orchestrated by prison officials.

      At its peak, 270 people participated in the Corcoran hunger strike, in which prisoners refused food trays for three weeks in January. They suspended their action when Warden Ken Clark agreed to negotiate and pledged to meet two of their six demands by restoring access to packages and the canteen.

      But prisoners say negotiations have not progressed in the weeks since that first meeting and Warden Clark has failed to keep his promises. Family members and supporters gathered outside the prison on February 9 and 10 to protest during what would have been visitation hours.

      On February 11, the prisoners once again refused meals and held a day-long noise demonstration by banging on the doors and windows of their cells.

    • Federal Judge Thinks The Best Fix For An Accidentally Unsealed Court Doc Is Prior Restraint

      Kim did it anyway, resulting in the US Press Freedom Tracker taking notice of this unconstitutional blip on its radar. Judge Kim’s order blows right past Supreme Court precedent and attempts to do damage to the First Amendment protections the Chicago Sun-Times enjoys.

      Not that any of Kim’s courtroom bluster matters… at least not at this point. The Chicago Sun-Times published its article anyway using the source document the court system failed to keep sealed. And now Chicagoans know yet another of their politicians engaged in questionable — if not illegal — business dealings. Readers are likely unsurprised, but even so, there’s a strong public interest in political corruption, which should easily outweigh anything Judge Kim might try to summon in support of his free speech blindside hit. It’s apparent the US attorney’s office won’t be backing him up, so he’s going to have to go it alone if he’s going to take a run at contempt of court hearings. Good luck with that.

    • Another One: Falling Asleep In Your Car Outside Taco Bell While Black

      Yeah, it’s still happening. It took six Vallejo, CA. police officers firing “multiple rounds” in four seconds to kill Willie McCoy, a 20-year-old rapper who fell asleep in his car in a Taco Bell parking lot with a gun in his lap, woke up, “suddenly” moved and was evidently too startled to follow their commands to “keep his hands visible.” “However the driver quickly reached for the handgun on his lap,” read a police statement. “In fear for their own safety, the officers discharged their weapons.” Police were responding to a 911 call from a Taco Bell employee who said a man was “slumped over” the wheel of a silver Mercedes; police found the car running and the doors locked. Relatives said McCoy had been at a studio recording session – he performed as Willie Bo with the group FBG – dropped off his girlfriend, was getting something to eat and was likely exhausted. After firing, police kept shouting commands, removed him from the car and “rendered medical assistance.” He died on the scene.

    • Someone Impersonated New Jersey’s Attorney General To Demand Cloudflare Takedown 3d Printed Gun Instructions

      Buckle in, folks. Here’s a crazy one involving 3D printed guns, angry lawsuits and an apparently forged letter from the New Jersey Attorney General.

      Over the past few years, we’ve been highlighting a whole bunch of stories concerning the lengths that some people will go to in an effort to block certain content online. One version that we’ve seen quite a bit in the past few years is forging takedown demands, including forged court orders. However, now we’ve seen it expand to a different arena — touching on another issue we’ve written about before. Last year (not for the first time) we wrote about the moral panic and hysteria around 3D printed guns that had resulted in a few states claiming the right to order 3D files offline.

      Not much had seemed to happen on that front, until a week or so ago when various 2nd Amendment groups, including the somewhat infamous Defense Distributed (makers of 3D printer files for firearm components) filed a lawsuit, seeking an injunction against New Jersey’s Attorney General, Gurbir Grewal, arguing that he had sent an unconstitutional takedown letter to Cloudflare, which was the CDN service that Defense Distributed was using for its website CodeIsFreeSpeech.com.

      In theory, this was setting up an important potential 1st Amendment case. But, on Tuesday, something unexpected happened. The State of New Jersey showed up in court to say no one there actually sent the takedown — and that they believed it was forged, and sent via a proxy service in the Slovak Republic. Really.

    • One Way Ralph Northam Can Redeem Himself

      Nearly four decades after smearing his face with shoe polish and doing a blackface impersonation of Michael Jackson, Virginia governor Ralph Northam says he wants to be a beacon of racial reconciliation. To that end, advisers tell BuzzFeed News, Northam has embarked on a survey course in wokeness: boning up on the horrors of U.S. slavery via Alex Haley’s Roots; studying the legacy of American racism through Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Case for Reparations”; watching the heroic cinematic portraiture of the Ku Klux Klan in Birth of a Nation. (A film, it should be noted, that features an astounding amount of blackface.) Northam’s apology-slash-rebranding campaign is also slated to feature a policy agenda focused on racial equity, putting desperately needed resources into public transportation, affordable housing and Virginia’s historically black colleges.

      Also supposedly on Northam’s to-do list? Finally calling for the removal of Virginia’s many racist statues and monuments glorifying the Confederacy, a nation founded specifically to ensure the preservation of black chattel slavery. According to BuzzFeed, “a source close to the governor said Northam is telling people privately that if the commonwealth’s legislature puts a bill on his desk that provides the authority to bring down Confederate statues that he would sign it.”

      Like the rest of his all-racial-equality-all-the-time platform, this sits somewhere between a shift and a pivot for Northam. The article notes that while stumping for the governorship, Northam was vocal about the need for Virginia’s Confederate markers to come down, but “later softened his position, saying what should be done with the statues should be left up to localities.” The Richmond Times-Dispatch makes particular note of the fact that in “August 2017, following the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Northam—then the Democratic nominee for governor—said in a statement that Confederate statues ‘should be taken down and moved into museums.’ He has not pursued that policy as governor.”

    • The Psychology of the Wall

      Geopolitics, like thermodynamics, has its laws of conservation. If a wall comes down in one place, you can bet that it will go up somewhere else.

      It wasn’t long after the Berlin Wall fell that different kinds of walls went up in Eastern Europe. New borders separated the Czech Republic from Slovakia, and then, after much bloodshed, the new successor states of former Yugoslavia.

      By the end of the 1990s, barriers were being established in small towns in the Czech Republic, in Slovakia, and in Romania to separate Roma and non-Roma populations. Germans on both sides of the former Berlin Wall were declaring that they were one people. But in other countries in the region, the majority population was insisting, rule of law notwithstanding, that the citizenry was not one people and a wall was necessary to emphasize the distinction.

      These discriminatory walls anticipated the next round of walls in the region: to keep out immigrants. Hungary built a wall on its border with Serbia in 2015, and then a second one in 2017 just to be sure. Germany was letting in more than a million desperate people. Hungary and most of the rest of Eastern Europe, after making the earlier case that they belonged in the European Union, were shutting the door after themselves.

      It’s not just Eastern Europe. The Brexit vote was basically an effort to build a big wall across the English Channel to separate the United Kingdom from Europe. Keeping out immigrants was a major motivating factor.

      Walls are practically everywhere, alas. You can find a very sad set of walls separating Israel from the Occupied Territories. Spain has walled off its cities of Ceuta and Melilla from the rest of Morocco (yes, there are two Spanish towns in North Africa). There’s a wall between Saudi Arabia and Iraq. According to Elisabeth Vallet, a geography professor at the University of Quebec-Montreal, there were 15 border walls around the world in 1989. That has jumped to 77 today.

      As with so many of his fixations, Donald Trump’s call for a wall is hardly original. And this wall, too, is a response to the collapse of walls elsewhere. Economic globalization was responsible, from the 1980s on, for gradually tearing down all manner of barriers: to trade, to finance, and to the movement of manufacturers. Trump and his economic populists have done as much as they can to put back some of those barriers, for instance by withdrawing from the Trans Pacific Partnership and by slapping tariffs on products from allies and adversaries.

      But Trump’s wall along the Mexico border is first and foremost about keeping people out. Economic globalization removed some barriers to the movement of people, but primarily those with highly sought-after skills. As for the truly desperate who were trying to climb over walls and breach borders, they were often motivated more by war and the violence of non-state actors.

    • Putin proposes new law to punish crime bosses

      Russian president Vladimir Putin has proposed an addition to the country’s criminal codex that would penalize “occupying a high rank in the criminal hierarchy.” The proposal prescribes a prison sentence of 8 – 15 years.

      The clarifying note that accompanied Putin’s bill, which has been submitted for consideration to the State Duma, stated that Russian criminal authorities can currently avoid responsibility for their actions “thanks to their position.” “At the same time, current law does not place criminal responsibility on these figures for the fact of their leadership in the criminal hierarchy alone,” the president’s note explained.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • In Wake Of Verizon Flub, New Law Would Ban Wireless Throttling Of First Responders

      Last summer Verizon got caught in a PR shitstorm after it throttled the wireless data connection of a California fire department — just as they were fighting one of the biggest forest fires in California history. When the firefighters complained to Verizon about the throttling (which occurs on all of Verizon’s “unlimited but not really” data plans), instead of fixing the issue Verizon tried to upsell the department to a more expensive plan. While some responsibility lies with the department for not understanding the data connection they’d bought, Verizon ultimately admitted that throttling any first responders violated the company’s policies and should have never happened
      .
      In the months since, Verizon has been running ads (including one during the Super Bowl) in a bid to burn the PR kerfuffle out of the public consciousness.

      But the damage had already been done. The incident has now been a cornerstone of net neutrality activist arguments as to why some basic rules on this front are necessary, and it was brought up repeatedly during the recent opening arguments in the latest net neutrality court battle.

      [...]

      It’s been a bold lobbying gambit that has seen incredible success in the Trump era, largely while the general public (and even many in the tech press) remain oblivious to the full scope. And it’s a gambit ISPs like Verizon are desperately hoping will be upheld by Brett Kavanaugh should it wind its way to the Supreme Court.

  • DRM

    • Patently unfair – Epson takedowns continue

      As a verified rights-owner (VeRO) on eBay UK and by using Amazon UK’s reporting notice system, Seiko Epson Corporation (“Epson”) has free rein to remove any and all third-party cartridge listings that it wishes. It simply has to inform eBay or Amazon of the offending listing, provide its patent number and assert patent infringement. Listings are always removed, and affected sellers cannot prevent, challenge or appeal removal.

      This one-sided system is fundamentally unfair. If Epson genuinely believes that its patents are being infringed it should issue court proceedings to enforce its rights. Instead, eBay and Amazon’s automatic takedown notice procedures provide the multi-million-dollar corporation with a blunt tool it can brazenly use to circumvent fair judicial process.

      Targeting online sellers is a low move by Epson. The primary focus for patent enforcement should be compatible cartridge manufacturers or importers. Resellers are the least important part of the chain. However, online sellers have the disadvantage of being visible, and eBay and Amazon’s automatic and inflexible takedown policies make them by far the easiest target.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • User Interface Claims are Technological and Thus Not Subject to Business Method Review

      This appeal stems from Covered Business Method (CBM) Review decisions on four related patents owned by TT. The PTAB instituted all four CBM reviews. However, by the time of final decision, two of the challenged patents had been already upheld on eligibility by the Federal Circuit. For those two patents, the PTAB followed the court’s lead and found the patents were directed to eligible subject matter. However, claims of the second set of patents were ruled invalid as ineligible and obvious.

      On appeal, the Federal Circuit took a shortcut. Rather than directly addressing the underlying patentability question, the court vacated the PTAB determinations on jurisdiction grounds. The court held that the inventions at issue are “technological” and therefore not “covered business methods.”

      Section 18 of the America Invents Act (AIA) creates the “Transitional Program for Covered Business Method Patents.” The program, which sunsets in 2020 allows broad challenges of business method patents — including challenges on eligibility grounds. However, the law includes a strict and limited definition of what counts as a “covered business method patent.”

    • Unified files IPR against US 8,768,077 owned by Velos Media, LLC

      On February 12, 2019, Unified filed a petition (with Baker Botts serving as lead counsel) for inter partes review (IPR) against U.S. Patent 8,768,077, owned by Velos Media, LLC (Velos) as part of Unified’s ongoing efforts in its new SEP Video Codec Zone.

      The ‘077 patent and its corresponding extended patent family is the largest family known to be owned by Velos and represents approximately 5.3% of Velos’ known U.S. assets. Including this petition, Unified has now challenged patents representing 10% of Velos’ total known U.S. assets.

    • ‘eBay decision has led to much better understanding of how injunctions affect markets’

      Injunctive relief has become an increasingly popular weapon in patent conflicts. Conditions for granting patent remedies define the scope of patent protection; injunctions that are granted automatically significantly strengthen patentees’ position. However, Rafał Sikorski of the Faculty of Law of the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland, and editor of the book Patent Law Injunctions, thinks injunctive relief should be applied in a flexible manner. ‘Otherwise, there is a danger that it will be used by the right holders as a tool to obtain excessive compensation for the use of their inventions, one that does not reflect properly their real value.’ Kluwer IP Law interviewed Sikorski.

    • Apple’s workaround for German fake injunction–Qualcomm-based variants of iPhone 7 and iPhone 8–exacerbates Qualcomm’s antitrust woes

      At the end of my shareholder-value-focused analysis of Qualcomm’s $1.5 billion deposit for the immediate enforcement of a Germany-wide patent injunction against the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 8, I predicted it was going to be “a Pyrrhic victory.” By now it’s clear that “Pyrrhic victory” is a euphemism. It’s a total disaster for Qualcomm, actually. A waste of money; zero leverage over Apple (which as of today is again selling all iPhone models in Germany without restrictions); zero proof of patent portfolio strength; a significant risk of additional EU antitrust problems because it underpins a complaint by Apple that had already given rise to preliminary investigations by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition (DG COMP); and adverse effects on Qualcomm’s reputation in U.S. and Asian competition circles.

    • Copyrights

      • Movie Torrents Shown To Actually Boost Box Office Sales For Post-Release Movies

        With what is now many, many years covering issues of piracy and intellectual property, it will come as no surprise to you that we’ve specifically dived into the intersection of copyright infringement and the film industry over and over. What is something of a counter-intuitive notion, however, is that we also have a decade-long post history pointing out that, despite all the fear-mongering about how piracy is killing the movie industry, box office records keep getting broken on the regular. The easy point to make is that obviously piracy is not killing the film industry, given how many movie tickets are being sold. But perhaps, according to a recent study, we should have gone one further and explored whether box office records were being broken in part because of piracy.

        Researchers from the University of Houston and Western University dug into the effect of The Pirate Bay’s offline status in part of 2014 and came away with some surprising findings.

      • The Final Version of the EU’s Copyright Directive Is the Worst One Yet
      • EU Moves Forward With Agreement To Fundamentally Change The Internet From Open To Closed

        Despite the fact that even the staunchest supporters of Article 13 were asking for it to be dropped from the final version of the EU Copyright Directive, that didn’t happen. In the final trilogue negotiations between the EU Council, the EU Commission and the EU Parliament, it appears that the agreed upon “compromise” is basically as bad as we feared. It will fundamentally change the entire nature of the internet. And not in a good way. As we recently discussed, the only way this makes sense is if the goal is to have the law be so bad that big internet companies feel forced to pay their way out of it.

        [...]

        If this becomes law, I’m not sure Techdirt can continue publishing in the EU. At the very least, it will require us to spend a large sum of money on lawyers to determine what our liability risk is — to the point that it might just not be worth it at all. Article 13 makes a commenting system untenable, as we simply cannot setup a filter that will block people from uploading copyright-covered content. Article 11 potentially makes our posts untenable, since we frequently quote other news sites in order to comment on them (as we do above).

        This is, of course, the desire of those supporting both bills. It is not just to close the (made up, mythical) “value gap.” It is to fundamentally change the internet away from an open system of communications — one that anyone can use to bypass traditional gatekeepers, to a closed “broadcast” system, in which key legacy gatekeepers control access to the public, via a complicated set of licenses that strip all of the benefits and profits from the system.

      • EU Copyright Rules: Provisional Deal Struck On Changes

        The European Council’s Romanian presidency announced today it has struck a provisional agreement with the EU Parliament on a draft directive that makes changes to existing European Union copyright rules. The draft agreement, which will go before the full Council of member states and Parliament for approval, would make changes such as a controversial new “publishers’ right” or “snippet tax,” and strengthens copyright protections on online content sharing platforms. It also would introduce copyright exceptions for a range of purposes such as text and data mining, online teaching, and cultural heritage.

      • Mozilla Open Policy & Advocacy Blog: Mozilla statement on the conclusion of EU copyright directive ‘trialogue’ negotiations

        The Copyright agreement gives the green light to new rules that will compel online services to implement blanket upload filters, with an overly complex and limited SME carve out that will be unworkable in practice. At the same time, lawmakers have forced through a new ancillary copyright for press publishers, a regressive and disproven measure that will undermine access to knowledge and the sharing of information online.

        The legal uncertainty that will be generated by these complex rules means that only the largest, most established platforms will be able to fully comply and thrive in such a restricted online environment.

        With this development, the EU institutions have squandered the opportunity of a generation to bring European copyright law into the 21st century. At a time of such concern about web centralisation and the ability of small European companies to compete in the digital marketplace, these new rules will serve to entrench the incumbents.

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