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03.02.19

Links 2/3/2019: Alpine 3.9.1 and New Wine

Posted in News Roundup at 12:28 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Server

    • Red Hat supports Rakuten Mobile Network’s cloud-native mobile network with open source technologies

      Rakuten Mobile Network is using Red Hat’s open source technologies in launching its new mobile network, which is planned to be launched in October. The fully virtualised cloud-native network will allow Rakuten Mobile Network to more agilely respond to customer needs and provide differentiated offerings from legacy mobile vendors, as well as better prepare the carrier to meet the forthcoming demands of 5G technologies.

    • Red Hat eyes Unix-to-Linux migrations in emerging ASEAN markets

      Red Hat will kick off its new fiscal year in ASEAN with an eye on Unix-to-Linux migrations in emerging markets.

      In an exclusive interview with Computer Weekly, Damien Wong, Red Hat’s vice-president and general manager for Asian growth and emerging markets, said enterprises in less mature markets still maintain a sizeable Unix footprint, offering Red Hat an opportunity to help them “do more with less”.

      Later this year, Red Hat is expected to announce the final release of the eighth version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), which supports containers natively and is well suited to run mission-critical applications on commodity hardware, said Wong.

      Red Hat’s latest flagship operating system (OS) is currently in beta, and offers a slew of new features, including application streams that make it possible to update user software packages without needing to make major updates to the underlying OS.

    • Rancher K3s shrinks Kubernetes for IoT devices

      Rancher Labs, creator of the Rancher Kubernetes management system and the RancherOS container-centric Linux distribution, has announced a new Kubernetes distro built to be slender and simple.

      K3s, as it’s called—a play on “K8s,” a common abbreviation for Kubernetes—is aimed mainly at the edge computing and standalone device markets, but can also support scenarios such as a self-contained Kubernetes-powered app distribution. The x86-64, ARM64, and ARMv7 platform architectures are all supported.

    • Red Hat: On bridging between the first wave of cloud and next generation platforms

      MWC19 For Red Hat, it may sometimes be easier to list what the company doesn’t do rather than what it does. The overall umbrella of ‘making open source technologies for the enterprise’ can range from containers, to cloud, to 5G. But ultimately, as the company has noted at MWC Barcelona this week, it’s all developing into a hybrid universe – and it’s a space where their customers and partners feel increasingly comfortable.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

    • Descenders | Linux Gaming | Ubuntu 18.04 | Native
    • Destination Linux EP110 – Matrix Revolutions

      On this episode of Destination Linux, we discuss the latest releases from Ubuntu, Kali Linux, Riot.IM, digiKam, Vulkan and more. Google backtracks on their adblocking fiasco, at least for now. The battles between AMD and NVidia is heating up with AMD hiring 10 more Open Source Developers and NVidia announces the GTX 1660. All that and much more including some Linux Gaming News plus our Tips, Tricks and Software Spotlight picks!

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux Lock-Down Kernel Patches Get Revived, Seeking Mainline Inclusion

      An effort ongoing for a few years now has been the CONFIG_LOCK_DOWN_KERNEL patches to prevent user-space from being able to modify the kernel image with blocking the ability to load unsigned kernel modules, no writing to /dev/mem, restricting PCI BAR and MSR access, ACPI restrictions, and more. Some Linux distributions are are already carrying this work in some form and enabling it with UEFI SecureBoot, but it hasn’t been mainlined although could soon change.

      Since 2016 these patches have gone through several rounds of improvements for tightening up access to different kernel bits in the name of security. But it’s never managed to cross the finish line of being accepted into the mainline kernel even though it’s used in different distribution kernels. Well known kernel developer Matthew Garrett at Google is working to carry this code over the finish line.

    • Linux Fix For Issue That Prevented Some MacBook Pros From Booting On Recent Kernels

      Seeming to affect mostly Apple MacBook laptops, some systems since Linux 4.17 and newer have failed to boot but fortunately a fix is now queued for landing into the mainline tree and being back-ported to the stable branches.

      Since January has been this bug report about a MacBook Pro 14,1 (13-inch 2017 model) failing to boot — as soon as 4.17+ start, the screen goes dark and nothing ends up happening. Fortunately, the issue has been tracked down and a fix is pending.

    • Systemd Lands Support For “XBOOTLDR” Extended Boot Loader

      Systemd has just merged support for the “Extended Boot Loader” partition, a.k.a. “XBOOTLDR”, that is their bootloader specification they hope will allow Linux distribution vendors to better support dual/multi-boot setups.

      XBOOTLDR is an alternative to the conventional EFI System Partition (ESP) for storing system boot information for bringing up an operating system. Their specification tries to make Linux system booting more robust, better handle multiple operating systems on a single disk, drop-in directory handling to avoid potentially clashing with another OS, and better unified support. This is an alternative or somewhat complementary to EFI boot menu logic.

    • FANOTIFY API To Become More Useful With The Linux 5.1 Kernel

      The fanotify API that is used for monitoring/intercepting file-system events is set to tack on a few more features with the upcoming Linux 5.1 kernel cycle.

      Fanotify allows monitoring objects on a file-system for accesses, opening, modifying, closing, reads, and opening while traditionally the inotify API has filled in the blanks for capabilities not offered by fanotify. With the upcoming Linux 5.1 kernel, there is fanotify support for directory events and other improvements to fill in some of those gaps for fanotify.

    • Linux 5.1 Should Sound Great… Well, At Least Work With More Audio Hardware

      The sound subsystem updates were submitted today for the upcoming Linux 5.1 kernel cycle. The pull request was submitted early due to the maintainer Takashi Iwai of SUSE traveling next week, but this is another exciting PR for audio hardware on Linux.

    • Linux Foundation

      • Automotive Grade Linux Releases Open Source Speech Recognition APIs

        Automotive Grade Linux (AGL), an open source project at the Linux Foundation developing a shared software platform for in-vehicle technology, today announced the latest release of the AGL platform, Unified Code Base (UCB) 7.0, which features open source voice recognition/speech APIs. AGL also welcomes five new members: BlackRidge Technology, Capgemini, Insignary, Nippon Seiki, and Total.

        “As part of our UCB 7.0 release, we are releasing new speech recognition APIs that allow application providers to easily integrate speech capabilities within their apps,” said Dan Cauchy, Executive Director of Automotive Grade Linux at the Linux Foundation. “But what’s really unique here is that application developers can speech-enable their apps independently of the underlying speech technology provider. This should really simplify the development process and get us closer to our goal of speech-enabling every app in the vehicle.”

        Developed through a joint effort by dozens of member companies, the AGL Unified Code Base (UCB) is an open source software platform that can serve as the de facto industry standard for infotainment, telematics and instrument cluster applications. Sharing a single software platform across the industry reduces fragmentation and accelerates time-to-market by encouraging the growth of a global ecosystem of developers and application providers that can build a product once and have it work for multiple automakers.

      • Collaboration is Key for Open Source Compliance at NHS

        A great example of this is a recent NHS case study published on openchainproject.org. NHS England is the public health services provider in England that treats more than 1.4 million patients every 24 hours. The organization needed a way to manage and leverage their open source assets across the organization without vendor lock in. Our partners at Source Code Control proposed the OpenChain Specification and brought us in to work with the Apperta Foundation, Code4Health initiative, OpenEyes, and AB EHR Digital for a training and pilot program.

      • 34 New Members Join the Linux Foundation and Invest in Open Source

        The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization enabling mass innovation through open source, announced the addition of 29 Silver members and 5 Associate members. Linux Foundation members help support development of shared technology resources, while accelerating their own innovation through open source leadership and participation in some of the world’s most successful open source projects including Hyperledger, Kubernetes, Linux, Node.js and ONAP. Linux Foundation member contributions help provide the infrastructure and resources that enable the world’s largest open collaboration communities.

    • Graphics Stack

      • Google Developer Contributes Universal Bandwidth Compression To Freedreno Driver

        A new feature addition to the Freedreno Gallium3D driver for open-source Qualcomm Adreno 3D graphics capabilities is UBWC, or Universal Bandwidth Compression.

        Fritz Koenig of Google has contributed UBWC support to the Freedreno driver with it being for the latest-generation Adreno 600 series graphics. UBWC reduces memory bandwidth via buffer compression. This may end up helping to increase performance or help with DDR memory power usage though no numbers were shared as part of the commit.

    • Benchmarks

      • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti OpenCL Benchmarks, 14-Way NVIDIA/AMD GPU Compute Tests

        On Monday we published the initial GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Linux benchmarks focused on gaming but due to having only a limited amount of time with that new Turing GPU at the time, CUDA/OpenCL benchmarks were yet to be completed. Our initial GPU compute tests with that “TU116″ graphics card is now complete and we have those Ubuntu Linux benchmark results for sharing.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Introducing KPublicTransport

        One of the larger missing pieces for KDE Itinerary is access to dynamic data for your current mode of transport. That is delays or other service interruptions, gate or platform changes, or finding a specific connection for e.g. an unbound train booking. At least for ground-based public transport we have been making some progress on this in the last few months, resulting in a new library, KPublicTransport.

      • Subsurface – an “outsiders” take on QML and Kirigami

        Dirk Hohndel talked about his experiences with QML and Kirigami at LCA 2019:
        Producing an application for both desktop and mobile

      • Latte bug fix release v0.8.7

        Latte Dock v0.8.7 has been released containing important fixes and improvements!

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • GNOME 3.32 Lands Long-Awaited Fractional Scaling Support

        GNOME 3.32 already picked up a wealth of improvements, polishing, and fixing this cycle, but as we hit the final stretch ahead of the desktop’s release in two weeks a big feature just squeezed in…

        To much surprise, hitting the Git branches of GNOME Shell and Mutter just minutes ago is the long in development work on fractional scaling! Nearly three years after Matthias Clasen opened up the bug to track fractional scaling, it’s finally been addressed.

      • Install GNOME Themes – Script To Install Over 40 Popular Gtk Themes

        If you want to try the most popular Gnome themes easily, or if you tend to change your Gtk theme frequently, then “Install GNOME Themes” is for you.

        This is a script that installs more than 40 popular Gnome themes (and that’s not counting light/dark or compact variants), by downloading their latest code from Git. The themes are automatically built from source when needed, and are installed in the user’s ~/.themes folder.

        To make it easy to install the “Install GNOME Themes” requirements, the project repository also includes two other scripts that automatically install the dependencies, for Fedora and Debian (this includes Ubuntu, etc.). Looking at the script repository, it seems the script supports not only Fedora and Debian / Ubuntu, but also Arch Linux (it does some Gtk version checks that are distro-specific). I only tried it on Ubuntu and Fedora though.

  • Distributions

    • An Ultimate List of Top Linux Distributions of All Time

      The global operating-system market is majorly settled on three platforms that include: Windows, Apple macOS, and Linux distributions. With Linux, the underlying essence might be the same, software solutions around it can be combined in different ways by vendors known as distributions. This post speaks about some of the top Linux distributions of all time that beginners may find ideal.

    • February 2019 donation report

      Many thanks to all of you for supporting Sparky!

      Your donations help keeping Sparky project alive.

    • New Releases

      • Alpine 3.9.1 released

        The Alpine Linux project is pleased to announce the immediate availability of version 3.9.1 of its Alpine Linux operating system.

      • 4MLinux 28.0 STABLE released.

        The status of the 4MLinux 28.0 series has been changed to STABLE. Edit your documents with LibreOffice 6.2.1.2 and GNOME Office (AbiWord 3.0.2, GIMP 2.10.8, Gnumeric 1.12.43), share your files using DropBox 66.4.84, surf the Internet with Firefox 65.0.2 and Chromium 72.0.3626.53, stay in touch with your friends via Thunderbird 60.5.2 and Skype for Web, enjoy your music collection with Audacious 3.10.1, watch your favorite videos with VLC 3.0.6 and mpv 0.29.0, play games powered by Mesa 18.2.0 and Wine 4.1. You can also setup the 4MLinux LAMP Server (Linux 4.19.19, Apache 2.4.38, MariaDB 10.3.12, PHP 5.6.40 and PHP 7.2.15). Perl 5.28.0, Python 2.7.15, and Python 3.7.0 are also available.

        As always, the new major release has some new features: improved installation script (new disk formatting options have been added), much more firmware available (for network devices, sound cards and scanners), added support for reading bar codes (via ZBar), better support for Debian and Fedora packages (via Midnight Commander and Engrampa), new web browser (NetSurf) as well as new download manager (Gwget). Additionally, Electrum is now available as a downloadable extension (both Bitcoin and Lite Coin wallets are supported by 4MLinux).

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

    • PCLinuxOS/Mageia/Mandriva Family

      • The March 2019 Issue of the PCLinuxOS Magazine

        The PCLinuxOS Magazine staff is pleased to announce the release of the March 2019 issue. With the exception of a brief period in 2009, The PCLinuxOS Magazine has been published on a monthly basis since September, 2006. The PCLinuxOS Magazine is a product of the PCLinuxOS community, published by volunteers from the community. The magazine is lead by Paul Arnote, Chief Editor, and Assistant Editor Meemaw. The PCLinuxOS Magazine is released under the Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial-Share-Alike 3.0 Unported license, and some rights are reserved. All articles may be freely reproduced via any and all means following first publication by The PCLinuxOS Magazine, provided that attribution to both The PCLinuxOS Magazine and the original author are maintained, and a link is provided to the originally published article.

        In the March 2019 issue:

        * Four More Google Casualties; More On The Way
        * GIMP Tutorial: Easy Ball Bounce Animation
        * PCLinuxOS Family Member Spotlight: Francesco bat
        * Short Topix: IoT Device Disposal A Security Nightmare
        * Casual Python, Part 2
        * ms_meme’s Nook: Texstar – A Mastermind
        * Making The Move To Interlink Painless
        * Alternatives To Dropbox: The Conclusion
        * I Am Not Amused! (Or How To Spot Phishing Attempts In 2019)
        * PCLinuxOS Recipe Corner
        * And much more inside!

        This month’s cover was designed by parnote.

        Download the PDF (10.6 MB)

        https://pclosmag.com/download.php?f=2019-03.pdf

        Download the EPUB Version (8.0 MB)

        https://pclosmag.com/download.php?f=201903epub.epub

        Download the MOBI Version (10.0 MB)

        https://pclosmag.com/download.php?f=201903mobi.mobi

        Visit the HTML Version

        https://pclosmag.com/html/enter.html

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • Tumbleweed Snapshots Bring New Mesa, php, python-setuptools

        There were three quality openSUSE Tumbleweed snapshot released this week bringing updates for python-setuptools, Mesa, php, Flatpak and both Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird.

        Eleven packages were updated in the latest snapshot of the week. Snapshot 20190226 updated the efivar 37 package, which is a tools and libraries package to work with Extensible Firmware Interface variables; the package add support for Embedded MultiMediaCard devices and for Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) root nodes without a device link in pseudo file system sysfs. The sensors 3.5.0 package add detection of Microchip MCP9808 and Nuvoton NCT6793D, which has yet to appear on the companies website. Bug fixes were made to the xclock 1.0.8, xev 1.2.3 and xfsinfo 1.0.6 packages. The xfsinfo package fixed a bug in 64-bit builds that caused the maximum request size to be incorrectly calculated. Other packages updated in the snapshot were File 5.36, python-idna 2.8 and python-python-dateutil 2.8.0.

        A little more than a handful of packages were updated in the 20190225 snapshot. Mozilla Firefox 65.0.1 improved playback of interactive Netflix videos and provided various stability and security fixes. The libyui-qt-pkg 2.45.26 fixed an icon display to a new libyui-qt function. A suggestion by a user at EuroPython 2018 was made in the python-decorator 4.3.2 package and now the path to the decorator module appears in the tracebacks. The caching proxy squid 4.6 is able to detect IPv6 loopback binding errors and fixed OpenSSL builds that define OPENSSL_NO_ENGINE. The sysconfig 0.85.2 package fixed the changes file to mention relevant github pull requests.

      • Should You Pay for an Open Source Distribution?

        All this information and software available at the click of a button, and even better? It’s free! Who doesn’t love free? It has been estimated that open source software collectively saves businesses around $60 billion a year. These days, for much of the paid for proprietary software solutions, you will find an open source version.

        Companies and governments are adopting open source software at rates that would’ve been unthinkable 20 years ago, and a whole new generation of programmers are developing software in plain sight and making it freely available for anyone to use.

    • Fedora

      • Fedora Picks a Pack of Perfect Wallpapers (Like Always)

        We can count on Ubuntu to deliver a solid computing experience atop the latest and greatest open source tech, every six months.

        We can count on elementary OS and Deepin Linux to wow the previously ‘unwowable’ Linux naysayers with sleek desktop designs.

        And we can count on the Fedora Linux community to serve up a stunning set of desktop backgrounds in its twice-yearly supplemental wallpapers pack.

        Yup, forget the forthcoming flicker-free-boot: Fedora 30’s artwork is the where the real eye candy is.

      • F29-20190301 updated Live isos released

        The Fedora Respins SIG is pleased to announce the latest release of Updated F29-20190301 Live ISOs, carrying the 4.20.12-200 kernel.

        This set of updated isos will save considerable amounts of updates after install. ((for new installs.)(New installs of Workstation have 1.2GB of updates)).

      • New Fedora package: ntfs-3g-system-compression
      • Fedora Community Blog: FPgM report: 2019-09
      • Fedora 31 Finally Planning To Gate Packages While Testing, More Stable Rawhide

        As something that arguably should have been done long ago, developers drafting plans for Fedora 31 are planning to introduce single-package gating so packages don’t actually land in Rawhide (the Fedora development repository) until they successfully pass their tests… This should help weed out broken packages in Fedora Rawhide and lead to a more usable experience for those living on Fedora’s bleeding-edge while also helping along a smooth release process.

        The initial plans call for this to be an opt-in process and only be done for single packages in the initial stage while multi-package updates will be handled later. The plan is to gate packages on continuous integration test results before being able to land within Rawhide, in order to prevent broken dependencies, uninstallable packages, and other headaches that come as a result of package failures.

    • Debian Family

      • My Free Software Activities in January & February 2019

        Hello all and welcome again to another of my monthly summary posts on my work in free software, with a focus on open engineering in Debian & Ubuntu. I’m fortunate to have the February 12th Debian 10 soft freeze deadline to scapegoat for my missed January update, and thanks too to February for being short enough to postpone it further and combine the two updates.

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Ubuntu 16.04.6 Released To Fix A Major Security Flaw

            Yesterday, Ubuntu announced an unscheduled point release of its 16.04 LTS version for both its server and desktop products. The Ubuntu 16.04.6 version was developed as a patch for a major vulnerability that was found in the popular Debian-based OS.

            The flaw allowed attackers to trick the operating systems Advanced Packaging Tool (APT) to install altered packages. Discovered by Max Justicz, certain parameters were handled incorrectly by the APT during redirects. This meant that if a MITM (Man-in-the-middle) attack was performed, attackers could potentially install altered packages.

          • New Crypto-mining Group Targeting Linux Servers, Creative Commons Holding a 24-Hour Web-a-thon for Open Education Week, Canonical Announces Support for Containerd, JDK Mission Control Now Available in Fedora 29 and Google Is Speeding Up the Back Button

            Canonical yesterday announced support for containerd in the 1.14 releases of Charmed Kubernetes and Microk8s. Carmine Rimi, product manager for Kubernetes at Canonical, says “Containerd has become the industry-standard container runtime focused on simplicity, robustness and portability. Enabling Kubernetes to drive containerd directly reduces the number of moving parts, reduces latency in pod startup times, and improves CPU and memory usage on every node in the cluster.” Containerd’s GitHub page is here.

          • Flavours and Variants

            • Linux Mint Monthly News – February 2019

              We’re working on a new design for our main website. When the current design (and logo) were originally designed they carried a strong identity and we grew quite attached to them. For a while now we were hoping to get a new unique design which would look brand new but still carry that very same feel, and that was very hard to achieve. In the meantime, we stayed with something that was stuck in the past and that just doesn’t work well nowadays. We’ve heard many people ask why our website looks so old, and I think it’s time we do something about that.

              Rather than waiting forever for the perfect design, we decided to purchase modern looking designs which were based on Bootstrap and to use them to build something clean, that would work on all devices and that could be maintained and modified easily going forward.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Univa steps up with Support Services for Open Source Grid Engine Users

    Today Univa announced that it will now provide support services to users in their open source community to assist them with installation, configuration and troubleshooting. Supported products include Open Source Grid Engine 6.2U5 and variants of Open Grid Scheduler and Son of Grid Engine (SGE) 8.1.9.

  • Univa Offers New Support Services to Open Source Grid Engine Users

    Univa, a leading innovator in enterprise-grade workload management and optimization solutions for on-premise and hybrid cloud high-performance computing (HPC), today announced that it will now provide support services to users in their open source community to assist them with installation, configuration and troubleshooting. Supported products include Open Source Grid Engine 6.2U5 and variants of Open Grid Scheduler and Son of Grid Engine (SGE) 8.1.9.

  • Univa Offers New Support Services to Open Source Grid Engine Users

    Univa®, a leading innovator in enterprise-grade workload management and optimization solutions for on-premise and hybrid cloud high-performance computing (HPC), today announced that it will now provide support services to users in their open source community to assist them with installation, configuration and troubleshooting. Supported products include Open Source Grid Engine 6.2U5 and variants of Open Grid Scheduler and Son of Grid Engine (SGE) 8.1.9.

  • Helping the Little Guy: The Power of Open Source Software for Startups

    It’s no secret that open source software holds many benefits for businesses looking to reap the rewards of these innovative, collaborative and incidentally free efforts of developers around the world. Even major companies such as Salesforce have opened up their software for developers to test, debug and improve. Other huge players that run on open source software include Netflix and Twitter. In fact, 78 percent of companies run on open source. So, what if I told you these benefits improve exponentially for startups using OSS to launch and scale their business?

  • Why You Need an Open Source Platform for your IoT Data

    Open source software is everywhere right now – from the data center to the IoT and the edge. In fact, some experts would argue that without open source, the Internet of Things would be impossible to scale and even create. How can you use this free software to power your IoT projects?

  • Deutsche Telekom partners with Reply to develop open-source backhaul system

    Deutsche Telekom said it partnered with Reply to develop a new backhaul system through its Access 4.0 open-source programme. Following a successful prototype in 2018, Deutsche Telekom and Reply will jointly conclude the development of the A4 platform for carrier-grade quality and scale by end-2020.

  • Led By Capital One, FINOS’ New Membership Class Reveals Breadth of Expertise and Surging Demand for Open Source

    / FINOS (the Fintech Open Source Foundation) today announces it is adding to its talented roster of financial institutions and innovative fintechs. Capital One joins from the financial services side as fintechs GitLab and Scott Logic will bolster FINOS’ growing cadre of technology upstarts. The new members will advocate for open source collaboration as well as contribute valuable code and leadership. The FINOS programs they will initially be involved in include FDC3, Data Technologies, Financial Delivery Acceleration (FDX) and Open Source Readiness (OSR).

  • Linux is well represented at Google Summer of Code 2019 with GNOME, Fedora, and Debian as mentor organizations

    Believe it or not, Google Summer of Code 2019 will be the 15 year anniversary of the open source student program. If you aren’t familiar, this is a program where Google pairs university students with open source organizations to work together over the summer. Yes, I said working together — the students don’t just observe, they get to actively participate in important open source projects! How cool is that?

    Today, Google announces all the organizations that have been accepted as GSoC mentors, and the Linux community is very well represented. In fact, two of the most significant Linux distributions — Fedora and Debian — are both participating. In addition, one of the most important Linux desktop environments, GNOME, is taking part too. Even KDE and The Linux Foundation are in the mix! With all of that said, Google Summer of Code is not a Linux-only affair — open source is the overall star of the show.

  • Arrow Electronics – Development platform and SoM ecosystems to accelerate open-source projects

    The STM32MP1 combines multicore MPU performance with industrial endurance. Its heterogeneous architecture lets users run open-source applications such as a Linux-based HMI on top of real-time control. Featuring a Vivante 3D GPU with OpenGL ES 2.0 support, it is perfect for entry-level to mid-range MPU applications including motor control, industrial communication, or building automation.

  • Open-Source Tool Set to Leverage the Power of Mobile Data for Humanitarian Assistance and International Development Purposes

    This new Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL) and Flowminder white paper lays out specific examples of how FlowKit..

  • Protect freedom on radio devices: raise your voice today!

    We are facing a EU regulation which may make it impossible to install a custom piece of software on most radio decives like wiki routers, smartphones and embedded devices. You can now give feedback on the most problematic part by Monday, 4 March. Please participate – it’s not hard!

  • Open-source software tracks neural activity in real time

    “People spent more time analyzing their data to extract activity traces than actually collecting it,” says Dmitri Chklovskii, who leads the neuroscience group at the Center for Computational Biology (CCB) at the Flatiron Institute in New York City.

    A breakthrough software tool called CaImAn automates this arduous process using a combination of standard computational methods and machine-learning techniques. In a paper published in the journal eLife in January, the software’s creators demonstrate that CaImAn achieves near-human accuracy in detecting the locations of active neurons based on calcium imaging data.

  • Neural activity can be tracked in real time with breakthrough open-source software

    Tracking neural activity manually is a laborious process that sees some scientists gather up to one terabyte of data in an hour using calcium imaging. But in January, a paper published in eLife announced that software CaImAn (an abbreviation of calcium imaging analysis) could achieve near-human accuracy while automating the entire process.

  • SD Times Open-Source Project of the Week: GrapesJS

    This week’s Open-Source Project of the Week focuses on the web builder framework GrapesJS, which was designed to make it easier and faster to build HTML templates. According to the team, GrapesJS can be used by anyone, even those with no coding knowledge.

    GrapesJS was initially designed with the goal of being used inside Content Management Systems (CMS) to speed up the process of creating dynamic templates.

  • VCs say these 19 startups for open-source software developers will blow up in 2019

    These companies often make the core of their software available as open source, meaning people can download and use the code however they want. The companies make money by offering additional features or better technical support to business users.

    While many in Silicon Valley were skeptical of the open-source business model for a long time, investors are now betting that it will help these kinds of companies spread like wildfire and find an audience. Last year’s megadeals have shone a light on just how pervasive it can be in the business.

    As we wait for the $34 billion Red Hat-IBM deal to close, we asked venture-capital investors to name the open-source software startups they think will boom in 2019. Those investors identified startups both within and outside their portfolios that they are particularly excited about for the rest of 2019.

  • Events

    • New LibrePlanet 2019 tees: explore new frontiers of free software

      Every year the Free Software Foundation creates a new collectible T-shirt to celebrate another LibrePlanet conference, and this space-themed tee is one you won’t want to miss. The LibrePlanet 2019 conference T-shirt design imagines this year’s theme, “Trailblazing Free Software,” as a space journey to unexplored frontiers, featuring a cute little spaceship zooming out of a wormhole filled with eerie green planetoids.

    • Atomicorp to Host OSSEC Open Source Security Conference March 20-21, 2019
    • TRA hosts OpenUAE open source community forum

      The UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has hosted the second OpenUAE forum for the open source software community in the Emirates.

      OpenUAE brought together open source experts and students to discuss open source software and open data. The agenda included discussions on important topics in areas of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain, Cyber Security, Smart Cities, and others.

      The second annual edition of the event was hosted by the TRA’s Center of Digital Innovation (CoDI) at the Etisalat Academy in Dubai.

  • Web Browsers

  • Databases

    • For CockroachDB, transactions first, then analytics is a feature — not a bug

      Cloud native databases. Serverless databases. However you want to call them, there’s a new breed of databases on the rise. One that promises automatic scalability on a global scale: No more toiling over configuration, management, replication and the like, just spin some instances in the cloud and go.

    • MariaDB CEO talks open source, Oracle and Amazon lock-in and IPO plans

      Open source database specialist MariaDB is continuing its assault on the market leader Oracle, but is also setting its sights on the increasingly powerful cloud vendors.

      CEO Michael Howard – who worked at Oracle for four years between 1996-2000, before he joined MariaDB in December 2015 – sat down with Computerworld UK to talk about becoming the “heir apparent” to Oracle, developing an autonomous database and its three-year plan to go public.

    • MariaDB CEO says big proprietary cloud vendors “strip-mining open-source technologies and companies”

      At the MariaDB OpenWorks held earlier this week, MariaDB CEO Michael Howard took a stab at big proprietary cloud vendors and accused them of “strip-mining open-source technologies and companies,” and “abusing the license and privilege, not giving back to the community.”

      His keynote at the event described his plans for MariaDB, the future of MariaDB, and how he plans for MariaDB on becoming an ‘heir to Oracle and much more’. Furthermore, the entire keynote saw instances of Howard targeting his rivals- namely Amazon and Oracle- and comparing MariaDB mottos to its rivals.

    • Walgreens turns to MariaDB as part of open source push

      US pharmacy giant Walgreens is looking to move all of its relational database needs to open source MariaDB as part of a broader shift towards the cloud and open source technologies.

      The Walgreens Boots Alliance signed a major partnership with Microsoft in January this year, which in part included a commitment to move the majority of its IT infrastructure to the Azure cloud. The company actually began a cloud strategy in 2017, but that naturally changed somewhat after the big deal with Microsoft was inked.

  • LibreOffice

    • LibOCon Almeria Call for Papers

      The Document Foundation invites all members and contributors to submit talks, lectures and workshops for this year’s conference in Almeria (Spain). The event is scheduled for early September, from Wednesday 11 to Friday 13. Whether you are a seasoned presenter or have never spoken in public before, if you have something interesting to share about LibreOffice or the Document Liberation Project, we want to hear from you!

    • GSOC

      It’s time to register to the GSOC programm for the different LibreOffice tasks.

      As the notebookbar is available for the regular users I hope to get students how are interested in Improve the LibreOffice notebookbar.

    • The Document Foundation is looking for an Administrative Assistant

      The Document Foundation is the home of the LibreOffice community and one of the most popular open source projects, with an estimated user base of 200 million people worldwide.

    • LibreOffice Extensions Site: Why The Latest Software Isn’t In Use?

      The LibreOffice extensions and templates website runs on Plone 5.0.x with some addons. I created this addons from scratch a time ago and improved them over the time. E.g. the current release number of the addon for the extension part of the site is 0.26. There is also a release 0.27 on TDF’s Github repository. The development version is currently 0.28.

      The LibreOffice extensions site uses instead of the current version only the old version 0.25-dev, which is three releases behind the current development state. The reason behind this is that there is nobody in the TDF infrastructure team who takes care of the site and is able or willing to run the Plone buildout script to update the software that runs the site.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • GNU Octave 5.1.0 Released

      GNU Octave version 5.1.0 has been released and is now available for download. An official Windows binary installer is available. For macOS see the installation instructions in the wiki.

      This major release improves compatibility with Matlab and contains many new and improved functions. A list of important user-visible changes is available by selecting the Release Notes item in the News menu of the GUI or by typing news at the Octave command prompt.

    • GNU Octave 5.1 Released With HiDPI Support, Drops OSMesa Usage

      GNU Octave, the numerical computing software package that competes with the likes of MATLAB, is up to version 5.1 with several improvements in tow.

      First up, the Octave’s plotting system finally has HiDPI support so it looks better on modern retina/HiDPI displays. Octave 5.1 is still supporting the Qt4 tool-kit too but they recommend users build against any version of Qt5.

  • Public Services/Government

    • World’s Largest Free And Open Source (FOSS) Facility Opened In Kerala

      Yesterday, Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan launched the worlds largest integrated Free and Open Source IT facility in the government sector, ‘Swatantra.’

      As reported by Indian Web 2, the facility was developed by the International Center for Free and Open Source Software (ICFOSS), which was set up by the Kerala government in 2009. The organization has a directive of popularizing FOSS within Kerala and around the world. Swatantra will house a Free and Open Source Software Traning Space and an Incubation Center.

    • Kerala Launches ‘Swatantra’, World’s Largest Integrated FOSS Facility in Govt Sector

      Today, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan launched ‘Swatantra’, which is billed as the world’s largest integrated Free and Open Source IT facility in a government sector.

      An initiative of the International Centre for Free and Open Source Software (ICFOSS), Swatantra would house the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) Incubation Centre & Training Space.

  • Licensing/Legal

    • Redis Labs Changes Open Source License

      Redis Labs has changed the way it licenses its Redis Modules, adding to the list of companies attempting to find ways to stop commercial organizations taking their products, rebranding them and selling them as services without contributing to the original creators.

      Redis made the announcement along with details of new funding of $60 million. Redis is best known for its open source advanced key-value store where the keys can contain strings, hashes, lists, sets and sorted sets. The news of the Redis license reworking follows similar announcements by other open source companies including MongoDB and Confluent.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Ryerson Library Publishes New “Web Design Primer” Open-Source Textbook

      “Web Design Primer” is a new open-source eBook published by the Ryerson University Library by authors Richard Adams, Associate Professor in the School of Graphic Communications Management, and Ahmed Sagarwala, Manager of Industry Relations in the Digital Media Zone (DMZ). The book explains the basics of the HTML and CSS codes used to create web pages, and related technologies including JavaScript, jQuery, audio, video, and animation. The book is designed to accompany a one-semester course on web design.

    • Animation software going open, a new open source medical tool, and more news

      In this edition of our open source news roundup, we take a look animation software going open, new open source medical tool, Nijmegen updates its open source policy, and more!

    • Open Data

      • Happy Open Data Day

        First of March is Open Data Day, at least it was here in Phnom Penh. So I did join the local event organized by Open Development Cambodia. Actually I decided to join because it was announced as a Hackathon unfortunately people in Asia or at least here in Cambodia understand with this always something else. So it was lesser a day on working with open data and help people processing them as a day full of talks, with an ending of a short hackathon.

        Except the first talk, about open source social media tools from John Weeks all talks been in khmer (thats why I stay away from such events) Johns talk can be easily summarized – https://deleteyourfacebook.today/. For me the only sad thing is tootle as desktop client isnt packaged for Fedora yet, but maybe saying this here changes it. Next talk was from Vimoil, she did gave an 101 about Open Data, following with the slides I would have only to add that interoperability and machine processability base on the use of Open Standards and Open Formats. Otherwise it was a good 101. It followed a panel discussion about “Tracking Public Money Flow” very boring for me, because in khmer and sorry the introductional slides been very uninformative.

    • Open Access/Content

      • As More Universities ‘Ditch’ Elsevier, Sci-Hub Blossoms

        The University of California (UC) is the latest institution to cancel its subscription to leading academic publisher Elsevier. UC cites high costs and the lack of open access research among the reasons. This likely means an increase in traffic for Sci-Hub, the site that’s often referred to referred to as ‘The Pirate Bay for Science’, which may actually play a bigger role than some suspect.

      • UC terminates subscriptions with world’s largest scientific publisher in push for open access to publicly funded research

        As a leader in the global movement toward open access to publicly funded research, the University of California is taking a firm stand by deciding not to renew its subscriptions with Elsevier. Despite months of contract negotiations, Elsevier was unwilling to meet UC’s key goal: securing universal open access to UC research while containing the rapidly escalating costs associated with for-profit journals.

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • Michigan Tech’s Joshua Pearce launches free open-source 3D printing course

        Dr. Pearce, an open-source champion and professor of Materials Science & Engineering and the Electrical & Computer Engineering at Michigan Tech is the author of Open-Source Lab: How to Build Your Own Hardware and Reduce Research Costs and several papers on the subject. He currently teaches the MY4777 course which is “an introduction to distributed additive manufacturing using open-source 3D printing.”

  • Programming/Development

  • Standards/Consortia

    • The field of ticketing: from open standard to open source

      Coming from a rather closed technical environment, transport ticketing is mainly based on proprietary solutions provided by specialised manufacturers. Operators, on the other hand, need to upgrade their systems regularly to offer new services to passengers and improve their financial performance. Increasingly driven by digital technologies, ticketing, which was stable for decades, now evolves at the speed of the digital age. The conjunction of solutions being closed and the increasing need for evolution lead inevitably to a deadlock.

Leftovers

  • US bans lithium batteries from plane cargo holds to limit explosion risk

    Yeah, so does the US Senate, which this week announced a ban on products containing lithium-ion batteries from the hold of aircraft.

    That means all your phones, tablets, computers, MP3 players and games consoles will need to be in your hand luggage, and yes, that means turning the whole lot out onto those frickin’ trays to go through the metal detectors.

  • How to Not Fall for Viral Scares

    Hoaxes like this are created by people with an agenda. And that agenda is virality and panic. The moment you share, you are playing right into their hands.

  • Unleashed Graphic Designers – Art Over Function

    Many readers object to illegible print in contemporary print newspapers and magazines. In today’s print news, legible print is on a collision course with flights of fancy by graphic artists.

    Admittedly, this is the golden age for graphic artists to show their creativity. Editors have convinced themselves that with readers’ shorter attention spans and the younger generation’s aversion to spending time with print publications, the graphic artists must be unleashed. Never mind what the ophthalmologists or the optometrists may think. Space, color, and type size are the domain of liberated gung-ho artists.

    There is one additional problem with low expectations for print newsreaders: Even though print readership is shrinking, there will be even fewer readers of print if they physically cannot read the printed word.

    I have tried, to no avail, to speak with graphic design editors of some leading newspapers about three pronounced trends that are obscuring content. First is the use of background colors that seriously blur the visibility of the text on the page. Second is print size, which is often so small and light that even readers with good eyesight would need the assistance of a magnifying glass. Third is that graphic designers have been given far too much space to replace content already squeezed by space limitations.

    Function should not follow art. Readers should not have to squint to make out the text on the page. Some readers might even abandon an article because of its illegible text! One wonders why editors have ceded control of the readability of their publications to graphic designers. Editors cannot escape responsibility by saying that the graphic designers know best.

    I am not taking to task the artists who combine attention-getting graphics with conveyance of substantive content. A good graphic provides emotional readiness for the words that follow.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Poisoning the Public: Toxic Agrochemicals and Regulators’ Collusion with Industry

      In January 2019, campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason lodged a complaint with the European Ombudsman accusing European regulatory agencies of collusion with the agrochemicals industry. This was in the wake of an important paper by Charles Benbrook on the genotoxicity of glyphosate-based herbicides that appeared in the journal ‘Environmental Sciences Europe’.

      In an unusual step, the editor-in-chief of that journal, Prof Henner Hollert, and his co-author, Prof Thomas Backhaus, issued a strong statement in support of the acceptance of Dr Benbrook’s article for publication. In a commentary published in the same issue of the journal, they write:

      “We are convinced that the article provides new insights on why different conclusions regarding the carcinogenicity of glyphosate and GBHs [glyphosate-based herbicides] were reached by the US EPA and IARC. It is an important contribution to the discussion on the genotoxicity of GBHs.”

    • Medicare for All Will Drastically Lower Prescription Drug Prices by Taking on Pharma’s Greed

      Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s (D-WA) recently introduced Medicare for All Act of 2019 is a powerful and comprehensive plan to make health care a right for every American. Drastically lowering the prices of prescription drugs, while ensuring that patients are always able to get the medications they need, is an essential part of that plan.

      The Medicare for All Act includes a key provision, modeled after the Medicare Negotiation and Competitive Licensing Act, which would lower drug prices for all Americans by allowing the government to negotiate lower drug prices with corporations.

    • ‘This Policy Has Led to Reduced Access to Critical Health Services’ – CounterSpin interview with Nina Besser Doorley on Trump’s global gag rule

      Put in effect in 1984 by Ronald Reagan, the Mexico City Policy prevents foreign organizations that receive US government funding from performing abortions, even if they are using funds from non-US government sources, and even if abortion is completely legal in their country.

      But it’s better known as the “global gag rule,” because it does more: preventing funding for agencies that “counsel, refer or advocate” for abortion, forcing NGOs and healthcare providers to choose between crucial resources and their ability to provide the best care for their patients, including speaking freely about the full range of safe, legal options.

      The rule has been revoked and reinstated as the White House has changed parties—until Donald Trump, on his first full day in office, not only put it back, but expanded it categorically. Now the gag rule applies not just to family planning funding, but to all global health funding, some $9 billion a year worth of aid, including that going to projects fighting HIV/AIDS and malaria.

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Remember the Maine? CIA Intervention in Venezuela

      In January 1897, Frederic Remington, a 19th-century painter famous for his depictions of the Old West, was on assignment in Havana for William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal to illustrate Spanish atrocities against Cubans. He sent a telegram to Hearst, noting: “Everything is quiet. There is no trouble. There will be no war. I wish to return.” Hearst replied: “Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”

      One year later, on February 15, 1898, the battleship USS Maine mysteriously exploded in Havana Harbor. Pres. William McKinley ordered the battleship sent to Havana on January 25th to observe the growing tension between the U.S. and Spain. The explosion killed 268 of the crew’s 354 men and shocked the American public.

      The U.S. press went wild with headlines proclaiming, “Spanish Treachery!” and “Destruction of the War Ship Maine Was the Work of an Enemy!” Hearst and the Journal offered a $50,000 award for the “detection of the Perpetrator of the Maine Outrage.” “Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain!” became a rallying cry.

      To this day, no one knows what caused the explosion. Initial reports claimed the ship was sunk by a naval mine. Later investigations, one in 1911 and another in 1974, hypothesized that it was a coal dust fire. Still others believed it was due to sabotage, some speculating it was a covert Hearst operation to increase his newspaper’s readership.

      While McKinley sought to maintain peace with Spain, Theodore Roosevelt, the Sec. of the Navy, led the war faction. He insisted, “Let the fight come if it must. I rather hope that the fight will come soon. The clamor of the peace faction has convinced me that this country needs a war.”

    • The CIA’s View of Venezuela: What We Learn From the Archives

      In 2017, then-U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director Mike Pompeo said: “we are very hopeful that there can be a [political] transition in Venezuela and we the CIA is doing its best to understand the dynamic there [sic], so that we can communicate to our State Department and to others.” CIA monitoring of the political situation and interference in Venezuela is, of course, nothing new. Back in April 2002, just days before the coup that temporarily ousted President Hugo Chávez, a Senior Executive Intelligence Brief anticipated the removal of Chávez by the Venezuelan military.

      With the current crisis in Venezuela intensifying, thanks in no small part to the U.S. intelligence apparatus, it is worth examining the CIA’s declassified and partly-declassified Venezuela archives. The archives include memos, briefing notes, and reports from the Agency itself, as well as from the National Intelligence Estimate. The records on Venezuela date back to the founding of the CIA in the late-1940s. With the exception of more recent records obtained under Freedom of Information Act requests, many of them filed by Eva Golinger, the records dry up in the 1980s. Those released so far reveal much about the deeply entrenched attitudes of Cold War planners.

      The CIA records reveal that: 1) The main U.S. interest in Venezuela from the 1940s until at least the ‘80s is not just oil but the Venezuela’s role in the region as a symbol of the success of “constitutional democracy,” i.e., U.S. power; 2) The kind of “constitutional democracy” supported by the U.S. was a façade because the records also acknowledge that the military, not the Congress, retained the real political power; 3) The CIA and the wealthy business elites of Venezuela shared the conflation of mild state-socialism with “communism”; and 4) Intelligence analysts held two, contradictory beliefs, that Venezuelans were prosperous under U.S. patronage, but they also acknowledged that half the population lived in poverty.

      The historical records reinforce the evidence that, like the policymakers of all empires, U.S. elites think of sovereign nation-states in terms of their exploitability.

    • Tim Shorrock on Korea Summit, Jon Schwartz on Elliott Abrams

      The last thing you’ll get from US media’s assessment of the prospect of peace on the Korean peninsula? What Koreans think.

    • Walkout in Hanoi: the Second Trump-Kim Summit

      “Sometimes you have to walk and this was one of those times.” That was US President Donald Trump’s remark about something he has been doing a lot of lately: walking away from agreements or understandings in the hope of reaching the ultimate deal. North Korea’s Kim Jong-un had been pressing his advantage in Hanoi with an attempt to convince Trump that sanctions needed to be eased. He ended up seeing the back of Trump after the appropriate handshakes.

      The loose drama at such events is often hard to detach from the firmly rooted substance. Trump’s relationship with the accurate is tenuous and free flowing, so we have little to go on. Ahead of the meeting, the White House was busy sending various signals designed to baffle and confuse friend and foe alike. The president was keen to praise the “special relationship” with Kim, the sort of term reserved for gatherings such as those between the UK and US.

      At the end of January, Stephen Biegun, designated special representative for North Korea in the US State Department, suggested that Pyongyang had made a commitment in pre-summit talks to eliminate uranium and plutonium enrichment facilities for a price. His mood seemed to jar with the more bellicose stance taken by national security adviser and pro-bombing enthusiast John R. Bolton and fellow belligerent companion and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

      In carefully chosen words, the representative noted how, “Chairman Kim qualified next steps on North Korea’s plutonium and uranium enrichment facilities upon the United States taking corresponding measures.” Biegun was optimistic at the time, drawing upon themes of flexibility and novelty. “Neither leader is constrained by traditional expectations that might doom their teams to try the exact same approach as in the past, with no expectation of anything but the same failed outcome.”

    • Despite Collapse of Trump-Kim Summit, Diplomacy Is Still the Only Path

      The second summit meeting between President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, inspired hope for real progress in negotiations with North Korea, and an agreement on concrete steps toward denuclearization that has thus far proven elusive. While the talks ended with no agreement, diplomacy is still the only way forward.

      There are troubling reports that U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton may have played a negative role in scuttling a potential deal by inserting an eleventh-hour demand to address North Korea’s biological and chemical weapons. However, U.S. positions on sanctions relief, humanitarian exemptions to sanctions, denuclearization and steps toward inter-Korean reconciliation have been far too rigid since last year’s Singapore Summit. Fixing that is not rocket science.

      While no declaration announcing the end of the Korean War emerged from the Hanoi summit, that goal is still alive, and still crucial. While such a declaration could be seen as little more than a symbolic gesture, its benefits are actually quite concrete. Not only would it immediately relieve tensions and reduce the risk of renewed conflict, it would also provide the basis for further negotiations to conclude a formal peace agreement to finally and officially end the Korean War. Securing a final peace agreement is critical not only for reducing the risk of war, but also for advancing the goal of denuclearization, since the ongoing state of war is North Korea’s primary rationale for pursuing and maintaining a nuclear deterrent. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has already voiced his support for this type of declaration. Far from mere symbolic gestures, the end of war declaration and a formal peace agreement are both versatile diplomatic instruments that can be tailored to support U.S. interests while also mitigating North Korea’s security concerns.

    • North Korea Says Trump Overstated Kim’s Demand on Sanctions

      President Donald Trump said he walked away from his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un because Kim demanded the U.S. lift all of its sanctions, a claim that North Korea’s delegation called a rare news conference in the middle of the night to deny.

      So who’s telling the truth? In this case, it seems that the North Koreans are. And it’s a demand they have been pushing for weeks in lower-level talks.

      Trump’s much-anticipated meeting with Kim, held in the Vietnamese capital Wednesday and Thursday, ended abruptly and without the two leaders signing any agreements. Trump spoke with reporters soon after the talks broke down and said the dispute over sanctions was the deal breaker.

    • The “Failed” Hanoi Summit? Not From Beijing’s Point of View

      The failure of the Hanoi summit, from Beijing’s point of view, could yet turn out to be a success.

      North Korea’s most important relationship is with China. The most important relationship for China is with the United States. In January a train carrying North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un stopped in Beijing on a chilly morning. China’s president Xi Jinping held talks with Kim to prep him for the Trump summit. The exact details of the talks are off course shrouded in secrecy but it is not hard to imagine their general thrust. Xi probably instructed Kim to play hardball. Great, if you get what you want, fine, but in all probability even Trump, the dealmaker-in-chief, will not grant you the complete lifting of sanctions, would be a fair summing up of Xi’s argument. Trump retreating from Hanoi with empty pockets will make him even more prone to striking a trade deal with China, Beijing believes, to show the art of the deal is still alive. In the meantime China and Russia will invest in North Korea and the US will still be engaged. Not a bad outcome.

      The Hanoi talks were meant to trade some form of sanctions relief by the US for a freeze or dismantling of nuclear facilities in North Korea. This is broadly what China and Russia want and is the foundation stone of any potential deal. Perhaps there was a deal in the offing and either Trump or Kim pushed for more. Perhaps the two sides had misread what the other was willing to do. Certainly the setting of the talks were seen through a different perspective in Asia than in the West.

      In his State of the Union address last month Trump took credit for saving millions of lives by averting a “major war” on the Korean peninsula.

      Holding talks with a country that until recently you seemed to be close to war with, in a country where you suffered your greatest military defeat seemed perplexing to many in Asia and hardly a good omen.

    • Donald Trump is the worst presidential negotiator in history

      President Trump’s self-image is that of the master negotiator. “Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully or write poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals,” he wrote in 2014. But like the image itself, which is more the product of ghostwriters and reality TV producers than it is any actual business record, Trump’s actual skill at negotiation is appallingly poor. He is very probably the worst deal-maker in the history of the American presidency.

      Trump’s latest negotiation faceplant came in Vietnam, where he sat down with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un ostensibly to reach some kind of arrangement about cutting back their nuclear program in return for easing up on sanctions. But after only two days, Trump abruptly walked out of the meeting, complaining that Kim’s opening ask — full removal of sanctions in return for dismantling one nuclear installation — was too much.

      Now, one must admit the failure to achieve a lasting peace settlement here is quite unfortunate, if unsurprising. Finally formally ending the Korean War, defusing some of the tension between North and South Korea, and alleviating some of the terrible material deprivation among North Koreans would have been a great achievement.

    • Trump and Kim, Act II

      Trump was correct to describe denuclearization last June as a lengthy “process” that one summit meeting could not achieve. However, the second summit, in Hanoi at the end of February 2019, again showed that personal diplomacy divorced from an engagement process that incorporates flexibility and give-and-take raises the risk of failure. The Hanoi summit ended early without agreement, as Trump was unwilling to end sanctions in return for the closing of North Korea’s main (but not only) nuclear enrichment plant at Yongbyon. As it is, Trump played with a weak hand: Besieged by investigations at home, and the riveting public testimony of Michael Cohen that coincided with the summit, Trump may have had less maneuvering room than usual to make a deal. (Trump acknowledged the impact, saying: “I think having a fake hearing like that and having it in the middle of this very important summit is really a terrible thing.”)

      Had a better process preceded the summit, agreement might have been possible step-by-step, including time points for establishing diplomatic relations, freezing or reducing North Korea’s nuclear weapons in a verifiable way, and gradually easing US and South Korean sanctions. Indeed, early reports indicate that Kim might have been open to establishing a US liaison office in Pyongyang.

      In short, there is no objective reason why these talks should have failed. The North Koreans believed that after the first summit in Singapore, they had taken the first steps in confidence building, enough to justify an end to sanctions, and some US analysts agreed. But Trump’s hard-line advisers, wedded to the demand for “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization” (CVID), saw to it that the administration added to sanctions and rejected South Korean proposals for easing their own. (“They do nothing without our approval,” said Trump) In a sense, Pompeo and Bolton may have sabotaged the talks.

    • Trump Missed his Opportunity for a Deal on North Korean Sanctions

      The two sides may have been close to making an important agreement on denuclearization and lifting sanctions. It’s not clear what went wrong, but it seems that hardliners prevented an agreement, says Tom Collina of Ploughshares

    • Rapprochement, Dialogue, and a Peaceful Resolution of Jammu and Kashmir

      During the last two decades, each military crisis between India and Pakistan has been followed by attempts at diplomatic rapprochement, which have turned out to be fiascos. The two countries go through sporadic peacemaking efforts, characterized by negotiations. For instance, in January 2004, the then Indian prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and the then Pakistani president, General Pervez Musharraf, agreed “to the resumption of a composite dialogue” on all issues “including Jammu and Kashmir, to the satisfaction of both sides.” Musharraf assured the Indian government that he would not permit “any territory under Pakistan’s control to be used to support terrorism in any manner” (The Hindu, 6 January 2004). But this joint statement could not mitigate the existing skepticism.

      Despite international pressure, the India–Pakistan crisis has not been defused; on the contrary, it is highly volatile. Given their interests in South Asia, Russia, China, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union have expressed concern about the brinksmanship between the two countries. In order to facilitate a rapprochement, President Vladimir Putin of Russia offered to play the role of mediator between then Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee and then Pakistani President Musharraf at the scheduled regional summit conference in Almaty, Kazakhistan in 2002. Both Putin and the then Chinese president, Jiang Zemin, held talks with Vajpayee and Musharraf in order to create a space for political negotiations. But the two heads of state continued to remain aloof and uncompromisingly condemned each other’s belligerence. The one positive outcome of the summit talks, however, was the proposal of the Indian government for joint patrolling of the Line of Control (LOC) by Indian and Pakistani forces. But the Pakistani government was quick to reject this proposal and expressed the requirement for building a third-party force instead. Subsequently, the lethal and hitherto readily adopted practice of maneuvering a dangerous situation to the limits of tolerance mellowed, due to Vajpayee’s and Musharraf’s judicious approach to nuclear warfare. But the simmering grievances between India and Pakistan, and the distress of the Kashmiri people, remained unredressed.

    • Nuclear Catastrophe in the Subcontinent

      The countries cannot fight on, or even survive as nations. Countless millions of refugees are flooding out of cities all over the sub- continent. Every main route is verge-to-verge with snail-paced vehicles carrying terrified and hysterical people. The Rawalpindi-Peshawar highway, in a bizarre development, has seen countless thousands of refugees from both cities fleeing east and west and meeting at Nowshera where there is catastrophic panic and confusion. To the west, the Khyber Pass is choked. Similar scenes are evident in satellite pictures of the Mumbai-Pune road and at Hapur, half-way between Delhi and Moradabad.

      Nowhere on any escape routes are there hygiene or medical facilities that can cope with the exodus. Once refugees have exhausted their meagre supplies of food and water there will be hunger, looting, disease, violence and hideous death on a colossal scale.

      Tension heightened in the subcontinent after clashes along Kashmir’s Line of Control, and both sides prepared for war. Following a suicide bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir on February 14, which killed 43 para-military soldiers, India mounted an airstrike on the Pakistan side of the Line of Control dividing that beautiful but contested region. An Indian air force aircraft was shot down, and social media in India became hysterical.

      Both sides sent reinforcements to the border and moved missiles and warheads to emergency deployment positions. This activity was detected by foreign intelligence services and even by commercial satellites, but international concern had no effect.

      In a tragic series of actions, both nations moved towards nuclear catastrophe. Extreme nationalists, who abound in both countries, took to the streets and demanded “punitive action” which resulted in several more tit-for-tat operations; then all-out war began.

    • When Will We Ever Learn?

      On Tuesday evening, February 27, 2019, I attended a beautiful, yet painful, event, entitled, “Vigil in Remembrance of Those Affected by Gun Violence.” The event, sponsored by Moms Demand Action, was at a local church, in my hometown, in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Names of those who have been killed were read. Hopeful statements by survivors were also read by attendees, and while the familiar sites of many shootings were also named (Columbine, San Bernardino, Orlando, Sandy Hook . . . sadly, the list went on and on), we all lit candles. I was prepared to be there I thought. As a college professor of more than two decades, so many shootings have taken place at schools, that at the start of each semester, I have always looked around my classroom and imagined what I would do and say to protect students if someone with a gun appeared at the door.

      Part of my usual classroom routine has always been to put quotes on the board for students each day we met. I have a long list of favorites, but the list continues to grow. In 2015, I felt I had to add the following when I learned the details. A fellow English instructor at a community college was killed on the first day of class. As a tribute to his life, I wrote on the board for my students:

      “’Today is the first day of the rest of your life,’ written on the board on the first day of class in introductory Writing 115, at Umpqua Community College in Oregon by adjunct English professor, Larry Levine, 67, before he was shot along with nine others by a lone gunman.”

    • Officials arrest suspected teenage terrorist in Khabarovsk whose classmate gunned down two federal agents in 2017

      Federal agents arrested a student in Khabarovsk for plotting a terrorist attack. He was planning a school shooting.

      On February 21 in Khabarovsk, federal agents detained 18-year-old Alexander Onufrienko on charges of plotting a terrorist attack. The case is being handled by the regional branch of the Federal Security Service (FSB), which has not commented officially on the arrest.

    • The Kansas Bomb Plot: What Has the Media Missed?

      Resolution has been reached in the Kansas Bomb Plot case with the sentencing of three men on January 25 for conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against civil rights. Two of the men, Curtis Allen and Gavin Wright, were sentenced to 25 years on the first charge, and 10 years on the second, with sentences to be served concurrently. Wright also received an additional year for lying to the FBI. Patrick Stein, considered to be the ringleader, was sentenced to 30 years.

      The targets of the plot were a group of Somali immigrants. Why were they targeted? Because of their race, national origin and their religion, which is Islam. The community was very traumatized, and is still fearful. One of the victims testified by video at the sentencing, saying “Don’t hate us. Please don’t kill us. We are brothers and sisters. Please change your mind.”

      This was an undeniably horrible plan that was to take place the day after the 2016 election – if Trump were not elected. Although even the judge expressed doubt that the defendants could have carried out the plot, many innocent people would have died had it succeeded.

    • Draft Registration Will Be Either Ended or Imposed on Women

      A choice must now be made. It is officially unconstitutional to discriminate against 18-year-old women by not forcing them to sign up to be forced against their will to kill and die for Venezuela’s oil or some other noble cause.

      Yes, the fine U.S. judiciary has declared for-men-only Selective Service registration to be verboten.

      That’s not to say there isn’t debate on the matter. One side holds that women should be treasured as the delicate witless pieces of property they are because the Bible says so, and therefore they must be kept out of war entirely. The other side says that good modern liberal progressive feminists should demand the right of every woman to be forced, on pain of prison or even death, to help murder a million Iraqis for the cause of creating ISIS or some similar high purpose. Enlightened women demand not only equal pay, but equal moral injury, PTSD, brain injury, suicide risk, lost limbs, violent tendencies, and the chance to board airplanes first while everybody thanks them for their “service.”

    • China, Saudia Arabia and the Fate of the Uyghurs

      Beginning with the 9/11 attacks, much of the left decided that Saudi Arabia was the chief engineer of a Wahhabi plot to impose its reactionary, feudal, and patriarchal values on the rest of the world. Supposedly, the USA was being punished for its licentious and ungodly ways even if it was one of Saudi Arabia’s chief supporters in the Middle East, alongside Israel. While 9/11 Trutherism is hardly worth taking seriously, another line of investigation has implicated the Saudi state as providing the logistical support that made the attack possible while the USA looked the other way. The truthers claim that the FBI and CIA ignored the threat because they were in cahoots with al-Qaeda. What could American imperialism have possibly gained by such an attack? The answer is an excuse to invade Iraq, a ridiculous idea. But is it any more ridiculous to believe that Wahhabism, the official religion of Saudi Arabia, explains the attack or Saudi foreign policy in general?

    • For the Sake of Peace, It’s Time for the West to Understand China on Its Own Terms

      It’s axiomatic among Chinese intelligentsia that the West seriously and repeatedly misreads China. For upwards of a century, Western analysts’ predictions about the country, ranging from its collapse to its evolution into a liberal democracy, have persistently been dashed by reality. Undeterred, they continue to pronounce on China – with equally embarrassing results.

      What accounts for this abysmal record? Different secondary factors crop up at different times. But a primary, underlying reason is simply that Westerners invariably seek to explain the Chinese experience through their own norms and values — and it’s just as bad on the left as it is on the right. By doing that, they inevitably set themselves up for mis-diagnosis.

      Of course, most people consciously or otherwise use their own cultural and historical yardsticks to measure others. But this problem of navel-gazing is especially egregious among the Western commentariat. Having dominated world affairs at least two centuries, the West and its non-Western admirers reflexively and hubristically assess China according to concepts familiar to them: democracy, capitalism, Manichean zero-sum, imperialist domination, overseas aggression and expansion, class struggle, dictatorship of the proletariat, etc, ad infinitum.

      None of these terms, as Westerners understand them, accurately or even adequately describe the complex, rapidly evolving realities of today’s China. Even when they use the same terms to describe themselves (largely due to the historical circumstance of Western domination), the Chinese usually do not mean the same things as the Westerners.

      That’s one reason the Chinese Communist Party, during its epically successful era of reform, had to invent the designation “Socialism With Chinese Characteristics” to describe China’s transformed agenda and realities. After descending into the bottomless pit of the class-struggle-driven Cultural Revolution, the party and nation would thenceforth be guided by a hard-headed realism, not ideological fantasies.

    • Pakistan Hands Over Captured Pilot to India

      Pakistan has handed over an Indian pilot captured after his plane was shot down by the Pakistani military this week amid a dramatic confrontation between the two nuclear-armed rivals over the disputed Kashmir region.

      Pakistani officials brought the pilot, identified as Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, to the border crossing with India at Wagah and handed him back to India on Friday.

      On the Indian side of the border, Indian officials greeted the pilot who was in a dark blue suit, accompanied by a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

      Islamabad has said that the handover was a gesture of peace that could defuse tensions and avoid another war between India and Pakistan.

      Varthaman was shot down on Wednesday in Pakistani-held Kashmir.

    • Kashmir Is Potentially The Flashpoint For A Future Nuclear War

      With his reckless “pre-emptive” airstrike on Balakot in Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has inadvertently undone what previous Indian governments almost miraculously, succeeded in doing for decades. Since 1947 the Indian Government has bristled at any suggestion that the conflict in Kashmir could be resolved by international arbitration, insisting that it is an “internal matter.” By goading Pakistan into a counter-strike, and so making India and Pakistan the only two nuclear powers in history to have bombed each other, Modi has internationalised the Kashmir dispute. He has demonstrated to the world that Kashmir is potentially the most dangerous place on earth, the flash-point for nuclear war. Every person, country, and organisation that worries about the prospect of nuclear war has the right to intervene and do everything in its power to prevent it.

      On Feb. 14, 2019, a convoy of 2,500 paramilitary soldiers was attacked in Pulwama (Kashmir) by Adil Ahmad Dar, a 20-year-old Kashmiri suicide-bomber who, it has been declared, belonged to the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad. The attack that killed at least 40 men was yet another hideous chapter in the unfolding tragedy of Kashmir. Since 1990, more than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict, thousands have “disappeared,” tens of thousands have been tortured and hundreds of young people maimed and blinded by pellet guns. The death toll over the last 12 months has been the highest since 2009. The Associated Press reports that almost 570 people have lost their lives, 260 of them militants, 160 civilians and 150 Indian armed personnel who died in the line of duty.

    • Hands off Venezuela

      Hope and US Aid at the Border: the title of a recent New York Times video deodorizes the US attempt to overthrow President Maduro of socialist Venezuela and replace him with a hand-picked member of the Venezuelan elite, capitalist class.

      As the major media presents it, the US is altruistically rushing to feed a people in economic crisis. And, of course, our government knows what is best for the Venezuelan people (just as we did for Afghani, Iraqi and Vietnamese peoples). Yet, photos of mass rallies reveal that millions of darker-skinned – indigenous and mixed-race Venezuelans, of poorer classes support their elected president, while smaller number of white descendants of early Spanish colonizers back the US-selected and designated new president, a legislator named Juan Guaido. Our troops and aid anywhere near Venezuela smell like regime change.

    • Caracas Chronicles, Part I of an Ongoing Series

      I just got back from Venezuela and I’ll be writing a lot about the country next week. Virtually everything you read or see about the country in the U.S. media is a lie.

    • Russian TV channel invites Trump and Maduro doppelgangers to comment on Trump and Maduro

      AFP correspondent Maria Antonova has noted that the Russian state-owned channel Rossiya-24 occasionally broadcasts interviews with expert commentators who look suspiciously similar to world leaders.

      The TV station invites these guests to discuss current events such as interference in Venezuelan politics and legal accusations against U.S. president Donald Trump. The expert invited to speak on Venezuela was Alexey Leonkov, an editor at the magazine Arsenal Otechestva. In its segment on Trump, the station posed questions to Eduard Lozansky, the president of the American University of Moscow. Antonova pointed out that Leonkov is similar to Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro while Lozansky’s appearance is reminiscent of Donald Trump’s.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Disclosing Subpoena for Testimony, Chelsea Manning Vows to Fight

      Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst convicted in 2013 of leaking archives of secret military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks, revealed in an interview that she had been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury — and vowed to fight it.

      The subpoena does not say what prosecutors intend to ask her about. But it was issued in the Eastern District of Virginia and comes after prosecutors inadvertently disclosed in November that Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has been charged under seal in that district.

      Ms. Manning, who provided a copy of the subpoena to The New York Times, said that her legal team would file a motion on Friday to quash it, arguing that it would violate her constitutional rights to force her to appear. She declined to say whether she would cooperate if that failed.

      “Given what is going on, I am opposing this,” she said. “I want to be very forthright I have been subpoenaed. I don’t know the parameters of the subpoena apart from that I am expected to appear. I don’t know what I’m going to be asked.”

    • Chelsea Manning Challenges Federal Grand Jury Subpoena, Support Committee Issues Statement in Solidarity

      Chelsea Manning has been summoned to appear and give testimony before a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA) on March 5, 2019. Following a rich history of contributions to activist communities, Chelsea will utilize every available avenue to challenge this subpoena. In support of Chelsea, activists have begun mobilizing through a support committee called “Chelsea Resists!” the following is the first statement from her support committee:

      “By serving Chelsea Manning with a grand jury subpoena, the government is attempting once again to punish an outspoken whistleblower for her historic disclosures. We stand with Chelsea in support of her refusal to participate in this repressive and undemocratic process.

    • ‘To Punish an Outspoken Whistleblower,’ Chelsea Manning Subpoeaned to Testify Before Grand Jury

      As such, the subpoena, according to journalist Glenn Greenwald, “shows that the Trump DOJ—as they’ve repeatedly vowed—is extremely serious about prosecuting WikiLeaks & Assange for publication of documents, which would pose a grave threat to press freedoms.”

      The newly-created Chelsea Resists support committee, meanwhile, argued that by “serving Chelsea Manning with a grand jury subpoena, the government is attempting once again to punish an outspoken whistleblower for her historic disclosures.”

      “Grand juries are notoriously mired in secrecy, and have historically been used to silence and retaliate against political activists,” the committee added. “Their indiscriminate nature means the government can attempt to artificially coerce a witness into perjury or contempt. Chelsea gave voluminous testimony during her court martial. She has stood by the truth of her prior statements, and there is no legitimate purpose to having her rehash them before a hostile grand jury.”

      The support network, which notes that Manning “risked so much for public good,” is raising funds to support her legal defense fund.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Amazon’s latest program to curb emissions? One delivery day per house, per week

      Grouping purchase deliveries will help Amazon cut down on emissions associated with sending a delivery truck to the same house multiple times a week, and the company says holding orders for a single day during the week will also allow it to group orders within a single package, thereby reducing packaging. Customers can select their preferred day of the week to receive shipments. According to CNN, customers can add items to their Amazon Day shipment up until two days in advance of the shipment.

    • Amazon’s new waste-reduction strategy: Deliver only once a week

      By 2030, Amazon wants half of its shipments to be carbon neutral. The company says Amazon Day will help it achieve that goal: The delivery option has already eliminated tens of thousands of boxes since testing the feature in November, according to Maria Renz, Amazon’s vice president of delivery experience.

    • Vaquita Still Doomed Without Further Disruption of Totoaba Cartels

      According to various sources in the Sea of Cortez, the price of raw totoaba swim bladder in Baja California is currently about $2,500 per bladder. This is down from highs of $5,000 to $8,000 per bladder in past years. Although this is a positive and promising development, a development that needs to continue and be supported, it is relatively unnoticed and undervalued by the media, other NGOs and government agencies currently trying to save the vaquita. A reduction in profit for the Totoaba Cartels is an important key to ending totoaba poaching in the Sea of Cortez.

    • Youth Climate Movement to World Leaders: We Will ‘Change Fate of Humanity, Whether You Like It or Not’

      Youth climate leaders from across the globe penned an open letter on Friday condemning the inaction of world leaders in the face of planetary catastrophe and vowing to “make change happen by ourselves.”

      “Young people make up more than half of the global population. Our generation grew up with the climate crisis and we will have to deal with it for the rest of our lives. Despite that fact, most of us are not included in the local and global decision-making process,” reads the letter, which was published in the Guardian ahead of a March 15 day of action spanning every continent. “We are the voiceless future of humanity.”

    • Global Warming Decimating World Fisheries—And Studies Warn It’s On Track to Get Worse Without Urgent Action

      A pair of new studies published Thursday adds to a growing body of research which warns that anthropogenic global warming poses a mounting threat to both populations of marine fish and the more than 56 million people worldwide who depend on fisheries for survival.

      First, a study in the journal Science found that from 1930 to 2010, the maximum sustainable yield—or the amount of fish that can be caught annually without endangering future harvests—fell by about 4.1 percent among the 124 marine species analyzed across 38 ecoregions, with some regions seeings declines as high as 35 percent.

      “We were surprised how strongly fish populations around the world have already been affected by warming, and that, among the populations we studied, the climate ‘losers’ outweigh the climate ‘winners,’” Christopher Free, a postdoctoral scholar at UC Santa Barbara who oversaw the research while earning a doctorate at Rutgers University, said in a statement.

    • The Dakota Access Pipeline Company Is Abusing the Judicial System to Silence Dissent

      A federal court threw out a baseless lawsuit against Greenpeace and other pipeline opponents and the company promptly refiled the case in state court.
      In a win for free speech, a federal court in North Dakota recently dismissed a baseless $900 million lawsuit brought by the Dakota Access Pipeline company against Greenpeace and a number of individual protesters. The company should have learned its lesson. Instead, it refiled the case in state court.

      These meritless cases are textbook examples of “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation,” or SLAPPs. This tactic is increasingly used by corporations to silence critics with expensive legal actions.

      The pipeline company, Energy Transfer LP, filed the lawsuit in 2017 against Greenpeace organizations and others, including individual Standing Rock protesters. It relied on defamation law and the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, a federal statute designed to prosecute mob activity.

      The company alleged that Greenpeace and the other defendants, in criticizing the pipeline’s potential environmental and cultural damage to the nearby Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, engaged in a criminal network of fraud and misinformation. The 231-page complaint described the defendants as a “network of not-for-profits and rogue eco-terrorist groups.”

    • ‘Devastating’ Impacts Feared as Oil Spill Threatens UNESCO Heritage Site in Pacific

      An oil spill in the Pacific Ocean’s Solomon Islands after a mining company’s cargo ship ran aground is threatening an endangered environmental gem.

      “The impact of this oil spill will have a devastating effect on the surrounding environment, including potentially on a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the livelihood of the people of Rennell,” Australia’s High Commissioner in the Solomon Islands Rod Brazier said in a statement.

      The ship, which was chartered by Indonesian mining company Bintan Solomon Islands, was carrying a load of bauxite—a stone used in aluminum production—when it ran aground on Rennell Island Feb. 5. Since then, oil has slowly leaked out of the ship into the surrounding waters.

    • USDA Loosens Oversight of Puppy Mills and Other Operations

      U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors documented 60 percent fewer violations at facilities that use animals in 2018 compared to 2017. The drop, reported by the Washington Post this week and also documented by our researchers here at the Humane Society of the United States, is the latest sign that the federal agency is pulling back from its job of enforcing the Animal Welfare Act, which protects animals used by puppy mills, zoos and research labs, among others.

    • Student Reporters in West Virginia Find Atlantic Coast Pipeline Offers Only Two Dozen Permanent Jobs

      It’s hard for anyone to miss a “help wanted” sign like this: “13,000 Union Workers Needed for Atlantic Coast Pipeline Project.”

      That’s how the website Oilfield Job Shop described the opportunities created by the $7 billion Atlantic Coast pipeline, planned to carry shale gas 605 miles from West Virginia into Virginia and North Carolina. Its builders, a group led by Dominion Energy, say all told, the project will support 17,000 jobs — no small amount of work anywhere, but especially in parts of West Virginia where the economy has long relied on coal mining.

      So, when high school students working with PBS NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs in Morgantown, West Virginia, set out to find out what “opportunity” looks like in 2019, they quickly zoomed in on pipeline jobs.

    • The First International Gathering of Sowers and Guardians of Water

      What does it mean to sow water? The sower of water is a very special person, who combines meteorological, hydrological, botanical, geological, zoological, historical, cultural, and spiritual knowledge – and more! – in an ancestral practice of generating and managing water, so that it may spring and flow; to care for and nurture the holistic and harmonious relation between the sky and the soil. These are beings in danger of extinction. Thus the urgency and importance of an international gathering of these elder sisters and brothers.

      Evo Morales, the President of Bolivia, once said that “the planet is suffering from a fever due to climate change, and the sickness if the capitalist development model.” In this sense and for this sickness we can wager that the most qualified doctors that humanity has in this moment are the sowers of water.

      Delegates arrived from Canada, the United States, Mexico, Venezuela, Guatemala, Chile, Turkey, Kurdistan, and from all the departments of Bolivia.

    • Beautiful Sight in Hamburg as Thousands of Students March in Latest Climate Strike

      Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg was among the thousands of students marching in Hamburg, Germany on Friday as part of a continuing global wave of weekly climate strikes.

      The youth, said Greenpeace Germany, “are fed up with politicians’ blah blah and call for #ClimateAction!”

      The thousands-strong march in Hamburg was just one of similar climate strikes taking place Friday in other cities across the globe from Dublin to Stockhold to Tokyo and Kamapala. They also come two weeks ahead of global coordinated actions set for March 15.

      Luisa Neubauer, who spoke at the rally alongside Thunberg, offered a simple and direct message for those in positions of power: “With regards to all the people who are currently planning to steal our future: Nice try. But no.”

    • Growing Up Near Nature Is Good for Your Adult Mental Health, New Research Suggests

      “If you are surrounded by more green space consistently throughout childhood, you will have an even lower risk of having a psychiatric disorder,” lead author Kristine Engemann, a postdoctoral fellow at Aarhus University, told Quartz.

      The researchers compiled demographic data from the Danish Civil Registration System of nearly 1 million Danish citizens and used satellite imagery from 1985 to 2013 to map the proximity of green space to their childhood homes.

      “Our data is unique,” Engemann said in a press release. “We have had the opportunity to use a massive amount of data from Danish registers of, among other things, residential location and disease diagnoses and compare it with satellite images revealing the extent of green space surrounding each individual when growing up.”

      Comparing the data revealed that people who grew up surrounded by nature had a significantly lower risk of developing one of 16 mental disorders, such as obsessive compulsive disorder or schizophrenia, later in life.

      For instance, subjects who grew up near green space had a 52 percent lower risk of developing substance abuse disorders overall, including a 55 percent decrease in risk for alcohol abuse, and a 40 percent lower risk of developing a neurotic, somatic or stress-related disorder, according to the study.

    • Will the Youth-led Climate Movement Use Labor’s Playbook?

      Middle and high school student activists carrying a large handwritten letter to Feinstein urged her to sign on to the Green New Deal and take the dramatic action necessary to save the planet. Feinstein dismissed the young activists and told them that they could learn a thing or two by listening — and to run for office when they’re old enough.

      When the students urged Feinstein to adopt the only kinds of radical transformations that will allow them to have a future on this planet, she said condescendingly: “You come in here, and you say it has to be my way or the highway. I don’t respond to that. I’ve gotten elected, I just ran. I was elected by a million vote plurality. And I know what I’m doing.”

      While Feinstein’s attempts to silence and shame these young activists is disgusting, their responses are what is so important: they aren’t quelled, but instead point out all the reasons that they can’t “wait and see.” They challenge Feinstein, stating: “We have 12 years to turn this around.”

      The socialist left should be paying attention to these answers. These young activists are radicalizing quickly, and they will gain a clearer understanding of the limitations of appealing to the Democrats for change. Where will they turn after that?

    • Wild Cats Have An Unexpected Safe Haven — A South African Industrial Site

      Ever since the industrial revolution, human activities have resulted in rapid environmental changes including degradation, fragmentation and destruction of habitat, climate change and biodiversity loss. Animals, such as large carnivores, are often among the first to disappear as human disturbance increases.

      The fact that human activities have had catastrophic consequences for some species is undisputed. But there are also instances where wildlife has befitted from human interventions, such as raccoons and coyotes that flourish in urban areas. This is because they can exploit resources like food and low levels of competition from other species that are less able to adapt.

      We made a startling discovery that provides another example of wildlife thriving in an industrial site. We found that servals, a wild cat, were living in the shadow of a huge petrochemical plant in South Africa.

    • Food security at risk as web of life unravels

      The biggest agricultural authority in the world has warned that the web of life is coming apart as the loss of biodiversity increases.

      The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations says the wholesale destruction and degradation of natural ecosystems puts human food security at risk, and adds a warning that the same loss could also seriously affect human health and livelihoods.

      Although conservationists and biologists have been warning for decades of the increasing threat of mass extinction of species, the FAO study focuses on what its authors call “associated biodiversity for food and agriculture” – that is the networks or ecosystems of living things that underwrite all human food, livestock feed, fuel and fibre, as well as many human medicines.

      These ecosystems include all plants, animals and microorganisms – insects, bats, birds, fungi, bacteria, earthworms, mangroves, corals, seagrasses and so on – that create soil fertility, pollinate plants, purify air and water, feed and protect fish, and fight crop and livestock pests and diseases.

    • Former Coal Lobbyist Andrew Wheeler Confirmed to Head the EPA

      The Senate voted to confirm former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as official head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Thursday.

      Wheeler has run the agency since July, when he replaced former administrator Scott Pruitt following a resignation prompted by numerous scandals. As acting administrator, Wheeler has confirmed the fears of environmentalists that he would be a “smarter” threat, pursuing President Donald Trump’s deregulatory agenda without the distraction of Pruitt’s more obvious corruption.

      “Unlike with some nominees, we do not have to speculate about what Mr. Wheeler will do in office,” Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) senior vice president for political affairs Elizabeth Gore told The Washington Post in an email. “From his actions as acting administrator for the past eight months, we have clear evidence of his agenda: undermine rules to limit toxic mercury, allow more smog and water pollution, and roll back protections against the threat of climate change. The senators who voted to entrust Mr. Wheeler with our environment know exactly what he will do with that power.”

    • There’s Nothing Radical About the Green New Deal

      We are at the precipice of ecological collapse. There are no two ways about it. And despite what you hear, it is about far more than just catastrophic climate change. In a nutshell, our current biological predicament is the result of overuse of natural resources beyond their capacity to regenerate, the creation and mass production of never-before-known (often toxic) substances, and the accumulation of massive amounts of waste and pollution.

      Exploitation. Over-production. Over-consumption. Waste. Pollution. Greed. Opulence. Excess. Power. These vices constitute the origins of our ecological problems, including anthropogenic global warming. Not coincidentally, poverty, extreme inequality, racism, sexism, and militarism also stem from these same sources. And of course, they all form the roots of the tree of capitalism. But if we can sum up the fundamental cause of our existential crisis in one simple phrase, it is this: our way of life. It is a way of life predicated on the desire for more – more energy, more products, more technology, more synthetics, more manufactured goods (i.e., bads), and more manufactured wants. Yet, our insatiable yearning for more has left us with less of the one thing upon which our entire lives depend: the natural world.

    • Climate Change Is Too Serious for Political Labels

      This month the Green New Deal was introduced in the U.S. Congress with much fanfare, and its opponents quickly mobilized.

      The resolution is more than a set of specific legislative proposals. It is a framework for an ambitious commitment to address climate change through eliminating fossil fuels and reducing agricultural emissions while also reducing inequality, creating well-paying green jobs, and providing people the skills to fill them. Given the threat the climate crisis poses to the future of humanity, it is arguably more important than was Franklin Roosevelt’s bold New Deal response to the Great Depression.

      What followed was predictable: Opponents, both on the right and in the middle, immediately attacked the plan as unaffordable far-left socialist overreach, clearly hoping that the socialist label would scare people away. I’m sensing that for most of today’s electorate, the threat posed by wildfires, floods, mass extinctions, rising sea levels, and a shifting polar vortex is far more frightening than simplistic political labels.

      That’s especially the case for labels like “socialism” and “communism,” which date from a time that for many is ancient history.

    • Is Illinois America’s Next Clean Energy Leader?

      The bill (SB2132) would rapidly ramp up renewable energy in Illinois towards the 100 percent target by 2050, starting with a target of generating 45 percent of our electricity from renewable sources — and none from fossil fuels — by 2030. That rapid expansion of clean energy would place Illinois at the forefront of job growth, investments, customer savings and health benefits from renewable energy.

    • Washington Gov. Inslee Focuses on Climate Change in 2020 Bid

      Declaring climate change the nation’s most pressing issue, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee launched his 2020 Democratic presidential bid on Friday with a promise to refocus American government and society.

      “It is time for our nation to set a new priority,” Inslee told supporters gathered at a solar panel business in Seattle. “This is truly our moment. It is our moment to solve America’s most daunting challenge and make it the first, foremost and paramount duty of the United States … to defeat climate change.”

      The 68-year-old former congressman becomes the first governor to enter a race dominated by senators. Former Vice President Joe Biden and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke also are expected to make highly anticipated 2020 announcements in the coming weeks.

    • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee Says He’s Running for President in 2020 for One Urgent Reason: The Climate Crisis

      Washington Gov. Jay Inslee joined the crowded field of 2020 Democratic presidential contenders on Friday with a vow to make the global climate crisis the centerpiece of his campaign.

      “I’m running for president because I’m the only candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation’s number one priority,” Inslee declares in a campaign announcement video shared on social media.

    • Meet the Kids Who Confronted Sen. Feinstein: We’re the Ones Who Will Have to Live with It

      Youth climate activists as young as 7 years old confronted California Senator Dianne Feinstein last week in San Francisco, demanding she sign on to the Green New Deal. We speak with 12-year-old Rio and his sister, 10-year-old Magdalena, who were among the protesters who spoke to Senator Feinstein. They are members of Earth Guardians San Francisco Bay Area Crew.

  • Finance

    • Readership continues to decline for Finland’s print papers

      Digital subscriptions have not been able to replace dwindling print readership for most newspapers, according to the latest figures from MediaAuditFinland, which tracks the circulation of Finnish print and digital newspapers.

    • Microsoft is putting the final nail in the coffin for its Apple Watch competitor, and offering partial refunds to anybody still using it

      If you’re an active Microsoft Band user, Microsoft is offering partial refunds: Owners of the original Band will get $80, and those using the Microsoft Band 2 will get $175.

    • Lyft Touts Growth to IPO Investors as Losses Near $1 Billion

      Lyft’s revenue is exploding, but so is its net loss. Like many IPO candidates the San Francisco-based company has never turned a profit. The U.S. ride-hailing No. 2 lost $991 million in 2018 — up 32 percent from the year before, even as revenue for the same period doubled.

      Those losses have no end in sight. Under the potential risk factors listed in its filing with the Securities and Exchanges Commission, Lyft warns that its expenses are likely to increase and that it may not be able to “achieve or maintain profitability in the future.” As executives and advisers hit the road to market shares to possible investors in the next few weeks, they’re likely to be pitching to a group that’s no stranger to money-losing tech listings.

    • Amazon to open all-new grocery stores separate from Whole Foods

      It appears Amazon wants to grab a larger sector of the market by offering a wider variety of items in these new grocery stores than it currently offers at Whole Foods locations. Although the grocer has expanded its offerings since Amazon bought it back in 2017 for $13.7 billion, Whole Foods is generally considered an upper-scale grocery store chain and it continues to have strict food quality standards for the items it carries (no artificial flavor, colors, preservatives, sweeteners, etc).

      Aside from the fact that Amazon plans to open some stores this year, little is known about the intended layout. Reportedly, Amazon is looking to open in locations that are smaller than typical grocery stores—35,000 square feet instead of 60,000 square feet. The Wall Street Journal’s report also claims Amazon is looking into an “acquisition strategy” for purchasing smaller, local grocery store chains in order to more quickly expand its own plans.

    • Facebook and Telegram Are Hoping to Succeed Where Bitcoin Failed

      The [Internet] outfits, including Facebook, Telegram and Signal, are planning to roll out new cryptocurrencies over the next year that are meant to allow users to send money to contacts on their messaging systems, like a Venmo or PayPal that can move across international borders.

    • Economic Inequality and Taxation are Feminist Issues

      In recent years, women’s organizations, movements and advocates around the world have been outspoken about the links between tax evasion and tax avoidance and gender equality. When corporations do not pay their fair share of taxes, there is less money to invest in public services, sustainable infrastructure and social protection, which are the key drivers for gender equality. Providing education, health care and care facilities has a direct impact on women. Due to social norms, the unpaid care burden falls disproportionately on their shoulders—on average, they spend 3.3 times as much time as men do on unpaid care. Without affordable childcare services, for example, women often struggle to remain in the labour market and secure social protection entitlements through employment.

      Lower tax revenue also means less funding in infrastructure. Without investment in electricity, the productivity of women’s household work and of women farmers is also limited. Without investment, the digital gender gap will continue to increase, denying women equal access to information and educational opportunities. Poor water and sanitation systems also impacts women and girls. In sub-Saharan African countries, where two-thirds of the population do not have access to clean and safe water, the chore of fetching drinking water falls disproportionately on girls and women, considerably reducing their time go to school or to work.

      Without resources, countries cannot keep on investing in non-contributory social protection or social assistance. Nearly 65% of people above retirement age living without a regular pension are women. In Latin America and Asia, for example, the expansion of social assistance pensions has contributed to reducing gender gaps in coverage and provided women with greater access to personal income in their old age. Cash transfers have been associated with a rise in women’s empowerment relating to marriage, safe sex and fertility as well as reductions in physical abuse by male partners. Take Brazil: the program “Bolsa Familia” significantly increased women’s decision-making power regarding contraception.

    • “It’s Time”: Push Intensifies for Democrats to Use Cohen Testimony to Subpoena Trump Tax Returns

      Tax justice groups on Friday called on Democrats to make use of the most illuminating parts of Michael Cohen’s testimony at a House Oversight Committee hearing earlier this week—arguing that his detailing of President Donald Trump’s long history of alleged tax fraud gives lawmakers ample reason to subpoena the president’s tax returns.

      Thanks largely to pointed questioning by first- and second-term legislators including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Cohen described how he witnessed Trump devaluing assets to avoid paying taxes on them and shared the names of specific Trump associates who also knew about this activity. Cohen also alleged that Trump’s son, Donald Jr., and former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg repaid Cohen $130,000 in hush money he had given adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

      Ocasio-Cortez’s line of questioning was particularly credited by observers with building a case for subpoenaing the president’s tax returns, enabling members of Congress to compare the returns with his financial statements to confirm the fraud.

      The national advovacy group Tax March argued on social media that the Cohen hearing may open to door to a number of potential investigations into the president’s financial history.

      “The Cohen hearing demonstrated that there is a lot that Donald Trump could be hiding,” the group wrote on Twitter. “Democrats must move forward with obtaining and releasing Trump’s tax returns so the American people know the truth.”

    • Oakland Teachers Strike Ends With Tentative Deal for Raise

      Striking teachers in Oakland, California, celebrated after reaching a contract deal Friday with school administrators to end a seven-day walkout.

      To cheers and applause, union leaders from the Oakland Education Association announced that teachers had won everything they demanded — higher pay, smaller classes and more school resources — in a week of marathon negotiating sessions with the district.

      “This is a historic contract with a win in every major proposal we made,” the Oakland Education Association said in a statement.

    • Fair Housing Advocates Applaud Oregon’s Historic Rent Control Law—But Vow to Fight for Even Better Protections

      Oregon’s new rent control law, described as both “unprecedented” and “historic,” will help to combat the most unjust actions of landlords across the state—but fair housing advocates said Friday that while progress is welcome, the job is far from done.

      Democratic Gov. Kate Brown signed Senate Bill 608 into law on Thursday, enacting the United States’ first statewide “rent control” law to help alleviate Oregon’s growing homelessness crisis and provide relief to tenants, some of whom have seen their rents explode by more than 100 percent from year to year.

      “S.B. 608 should be recognized for limiting extreme rent hikes and beginning to curtail the use of harmful no-cause evictions,” said Portland Tenants United (PTU), a local tenants’ rights group, in a statement. “That these protections will be statewide is indeed historic and unprecedented, and is the result of a strong tenant movement that PTU is proud to a be part of.”

      But PTU argued that the law will only “prevent the most egregious of landlord behaviors while still leaving many Oregon tenants vulnerable to displacement.”

    • Starving Kids Won’t Make Them Read Better

      An Arkansas lawmaker wants to cut school lunch funding for schools that fail to improve their students’ reading levels.

      I’m sorry, what?

      I think I understand the logic behind such a proposal. I just strongly disagree with it. It’s cruel, but even more than that, it’s based on a misunderstanding of human nature and human society.

      The logic is this: When people do bad things, you should punish them. When they do good things, reward them.

      If the schools do a bad thing (fail to teach kids to read), this bill punishes them (takes away their lunch money). Honestly that sounds more like the actions of a playground bully than an advanced democracy.

      Perhaps the punishment model of governing would work if schools and teachers and students and parents were naturally bad, or if they were only failing to improve reading levels because they weren’t trying. Maybe if that were the case, a punishment might be the incentive they needed. Maybe.

      But what are the odds that an entire state’s worth of schools and children and their families are all trying to do poorly?

    • Is New York’s Amazon Overthrow a Turning Point in Capitalism?

      In recent highly publicized events, huge global megacorporations humiliated the same public officials who had earlier begged and bribed them to locate in their jurisdictions. Amazon did that to New York’s governor and New York City’s mayor. Foxconn did it to President Trump and Wisconsin’s Governor Walker. In both cases, top corporate officials made decisions that exposed public officials to major public criticism, opposition and contempt.

      At issue were public officials’ offers of billions of dollars in tax breaks and subsidies if only the megacorporations would locate some of their operations in the communities “represented” by those public officials. Corporate and public officials, aided by an ever-compliant mainstream media, focused on the jobs to be “created.” As usual, the job promises were vague on details of these prospective jobs, such as how many job holders would be “new” versus existing employees relocated from other areas.

      When Foxconn officials later sharply reduced their investment plans from huge promises made earlier, exposed public officials scrambled. They sought to minimize their public humiliation and consequent condemnation. Having deflected scarce public resources (taxpayer funds) to enhance profits of already super rich corporations, they were then shown to have also been hustled by them. The megacorporations had changed plans entirely on their own despite the social effects of doing so. While exposed public officials quickly drew new corporate promises, public disgust grew.

    • NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo Slammed for ‘Groveling at the Feet’ of Billionaire Bezos in Effort to Revive Amazon HQ2

      “The governor has had multiple phone conversations with Amazon executives, including Mr. Bezos, over the past two weeks,” the New York Times reported, citing two people with knowledge of the discussions. “In those calls, Mr. Cuomo said he would navigate the company through the byzantine governmental process.”

      News of Cuomo’s behind-the-scenes talks with Amazon comes just over two weeks after the company decided to cancel plans to build a second headquarters in New York—a project for which it would have received more than $3 billion in taxpayer subsidies.

      The Amazon deal was strongly opposed by local progressive advocacy groups, major unions, and a number of New York politicians, who argued that the proposed HQ2 would contribute to already soaring housing prices and staggering income inequality in the state.

    • The City That Refused to Play Amazon’s Game

      The richest man in the world, who heads one of the world’s largest and richest corporations, is also filthy rich in arrogance and pomposity.

      Jeff Bezos of Amazon demanded that a city’s officials kowtow to him by handing billions of taxpayer dollars to his retail behemoth, essentially bribing him to locate an Amazon headquarters there. But — lo and behold — the city mustered its collective integrity and pride to say “no” to his devil’s bargain.

      The city I’m bragging on isn’t New York City, which recently made national news by rejecting Amazon’s attempt to fleece its taxpayers. Rather, I’m saluting San Antonio, Texas, which in 2017 simply refused to play Bezos’ con game when he first rolled it out.

    • GM is Closing My Plant, What are Politicians Going to Do About It?

      For the past 20 years, I’ve walked at least nine miles a day on the body shop floor of the General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio, where I help assemble the Chevy Cruze. In a few weeks, when GM shutters our plant, I’ll walk my last mile.

      I don’t know what’s next for me and nearly 15,000 other workers who are being laid off at GM plants across the country.

      What I do know is that GM is forcing my fellow workers to choose between mandatory relocation to other plants, hundreds of miles away from their families, and the unemployment line.

      For me and many of my co-workers, this is a false choice. I can’t just pick up and leave. My entire family lives in the Lordstown area — my 84-year-old mother is too frail to move and she relies on me for her care. I’m also expecting my first grandchild here in June. But if I don’t relocate, I may not be able to find another job that pays a living wage.

      Which is why I’m choosing instead to fight for the fair treatment and dignity that I deserve.

      The truth is that our political leaders have failed America’s workers. President Donald Trump promised to revive the auto industry, but he hasn’t done anything to force GM to save our jobs. In fact, instead of punishing GM, the Trump administration has awarded the company with billions of dollars in federal contracts.

    • Columnist Thiessen, in Calling AOC ‘Economically Illiterate,’ Displays Instead Own Economic Ignorance

      Listening to President Trump, you’d think the socialist barbarians were at the gates of America preparing to overrun the US with a Soviet-style state-run economy where every car would be the same make and color, everyone would be wearing Mao suits and freedom and social mobility, those great mythical assets that we supposedly have in unique abundance here in the land of the free and home of the brave, would vanish.

      “Socialists” (that’s another discussion) like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez want the US to be like Venezuela, Trump warns in his whiney little voice. Speaking to an audience of wealthy Venezuelan self-exiles in Florida, he said, “The socialists have done in Venezuela all of the same things that socialists, communists, totalitarians have done everywhere that they have had a chance to rule…This will never happen to us.”

      In most parts of the world, Trump’s over-the-top and wildly ignorant denunciation of socialism would be greeted with uproarious laughter, as would his cartoonish characterization of Venezuela’s current crisis (which is really the result mainly of the collapse in oil prices and economic sanctions by the US). But there’s little amusement here in America, where socialism is, for many, still a dirty word, akin to Stalinism.

      That’s because almost uniquely in the world, Americans have been insulated and cut off from information about how in many very democratic nations, especially in Europe, socialist-influenced policies and programs, like free college education, generous unemployment benefits, highly progressive tax rates, retirement schemes that actually allow people to retire without falling into poverty, state-funded health systems that guarantee quality care to everyone, labor laws that guarantee generous vacations to all workers, and publicly funded, modern mass transit systems that make it so families don’t need to pay for and drive two cars can exist and thrive in societies that are often freer and that boast more social mobility than the US.

    • Dollar Hegemony, Again

      The United States Entity lost the war in Iraq. That fact determines the Entity’s position in the Middle East today. After having destroyed Saddam’s army and dispossessing the Sunnis in favor of the Shi’ites, after Abu Ghraib and it’s indelible pictures, after the total destruction of Fallujah, in short after a victory achieved with the utmost brutality, contempt and humiliation of Iraq and Iraqis, the Entity was in charge. Then the “insurgents” appeared. They put improvised explosive devices along the roads so, with a phone call, they could destroy patrols of the Entity. They made car bombs so that every vehicle approaching a check-point might spell doom. They donned suicide vests to blow themselves and any nearby Entity soldiers up. Entity soldiers couldn’t go into the streets. Every move they made could be their last. The enemy was everywhere and nowhere. These people would rather die then be ruled by these idiotic mechanized barbarians. Everything seemed peaceful, but at any moment, out of nowhere, they could be blown to pieces. That kind of thing wears on you. Their patrols, pointless bouts of Russian roulette, ended up as parked “search and avoid” missions. Life went on without the clanking monsters. Entity bases were like Kaposi sarcoma in AIDS patients. The Entity’s attempts at reconstruction were comically inept – roads to nowhere and chicken processing plants for chickens no one wanted. In short the Entity’s occupation of Iraq after the victory, other than being a disaster of comical incompetence, was non-existent. Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shi’ite cleric, had much more power than the Entity. Eventually Iraq rejected the Entity’s status of forces agreement (SOFA). In other words the Iraqi puppets the Entity had installed unceremoniously kicked the Entity out of the country.

      Until that time the Entity had been running a protection racket in the Middle East. But after the loss of Iraq these threats seemed a lot less plausible. The game was: oil had to be sold in dollars. Know as Dollar Hegemony, this racket allowed the Entity to print money. Oil backed the dollar just as gold once had. Governments had to maintain large supplies of dollars to protect against “emergencies,” that is, dollar shortages during speculative attacks on their currencies. “To prevent speculative and manipulative attacks on their currencies, the world’s central banks must acquire and hold dollar reserves in corresponding amounts to their currencies in circulation.” The Entity enforced dollar hegemony with military threats. One of the most important reasons for the Entity’s attack on Iraq was Saddam’s abandoning of dollar hegemony. He had begun to sell oil in euros. The Entity had to stop that. It invaded, and as soon as it was victorious, reversed that policy. Dollar hegemony restored. But the loss in Iraq revealed The Entity’s protection racket as a bluff. It’s threats were suddenly unconvincing.

    • Blockchain 2.0: An Introduction

      The Blockchain is now easily distinguishable as a transformational technology poised to bring in revolutionary changes in the way people use the internet. The present series of posts will explore the upcoming wave of Blockchain 2.0 based technologies and applications. The Blockchain is here to stay as evidenced by the tremendous interest in it shown by different stakeholders.

      Staying on top of what it is and how it works is paramount to anyone who plans on using the internet for literally anything. Even if all you do is just stare at your friends’ morning breakfast pics on Instagram or looking for the next best clip to watch, you need to know what this technology can do to all of that.

      Even though the basic concept behind the Blockchain was first talked about in academia in the 1990s, its prominence to being a trending buzzword among netizens is owed to the rise of payment platforms such as Bitcoins and Ethers.

    • Michael Cohen builds the case against Trump: The president’s inflated net worth provides big clues

      When Michael Cohen told a congressional hearing on Wednesday that President Donald Trump regularly lies about the extent of his wealth, he may have hinted — intentionally or otherwise — at potential crimes committed by the president. Cohen hinted at other unknown investigations into Trump being conducted by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Could these be tied to his lying about his wealth?

      “It’s possible,” Juliet Sorensen, director of the Bluhm Legal Clinic at Northwestern Law and the Harry R. Horrow Professor in International Law, told Salon. “With any discussion of the criminal investigations, it is important to bear in mind how little is in the public record at this point.” Sorensen added, “With respect to what has been charged: Both the action brought by the attorney general’s office against the Trump Organization and, of course, the criminal case against Michael Cohen, we have charging documents. We have a complaint case. In Michael Cohen’s case, we have a charging document in a criminal case. But we don’t have access to a full record, we don’t have access to pre-trial discovery, to witness testimony.

      “It is quite possible that Trump’s inflating or deflating his income as it suits him … is related to an investigation into tax fraud either as it relates to his personal taxes or to tax issues around the Trump Organization and their nonprofit entity.”

    • Putin’s press secretary pushes back against reports that Baring Vostok firm funded opposition movements

      Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary for Russian president Vladimir Putin, has responded to reports that financial charges against the investment firm Baring Vostok and its American leader, Michael Calvey, might have followed suspicions that the firm funded Russian opposition groups. The independent television station Dozhd reported earlier on an anonymous source close to the Kremlin who said the firm had funded opposition efforts in advance of Russia’s most recent presidential election.

    • Belarusian president raises possibility of common currency with Russia

      Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko revealed new details during a press conference regarding recent negotiations with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Lukashenko said the two state leaders discussed transferring their economies to a common currency under the legal framework of the Union State of Russia and Belarus. The Union was formed in 1995 and has since been a source of hope for those who would like the two countries to be fully reunited as a single state. Since then, the Union’s precise nature has remained vague, but some commentators have speculated that Putin could use the structure to retain power after the end of his current term in 2024.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Trump-Era Congressional Hearings Have Succumbed to Conspiracy Politics

      In a way, the internet dumped butane on the fire started by televising the Red Scare. It’s now possible to consume only curated snippets of the news that suit your own mores and biases, and conspiracy theorists have never been so able to easily rally together or had access to a wider swathe of humanity to sway. That’s when objective reality starts to slip. “We’re not able to decide when something is a conspiracy anymore,” says Adam Klein, who teaches a course on propaganda at Pace University. “The stigma of believing in a conspiracy theory might start going away because people disagree about basic reality, and have very partisan ideas about who the conspirators are.”

      This, of course, is the danger. If everyone can occupy a universe of information of their own choosing, it’s not just politicians who are apt to fall prey to bias-confirming conspiracies—we all are. But that’s just a theory.

    • Political group placed thousands of robocalls impersonating the president, report says

      The calls used recordings of President Trump asking for support, likely taken from former speeches and events. “I’m Donald Trump. Tonight I am asking you to defend our very dangerous southern border, out of love and devotion to our country,” CNN reported one call script saying.

      Pre-recorded political robocalls are not necessarily illegal on their own, but the Federal Communications Commission requires the organizations placing them to disclose the committee placing them. A callback number must be provided in the message as well. The Federal Trade Commission also has rules on these practices and could determine that the calls were deceiving for consumers.

    • Group running robocalls impersonating Trump’s campaign has already raised more than $100,000

      A CNN KFile investigation into the group behind the calls, Support American Leaders PAC, reveals it is run by 32-year-old Matthew Tunstall, who has a history of managing shadowy groups that target people with politically charged calls in order to raise money while doing very little — if anything at all — to put that money toward a political purpose. Tunstall made more than $300,000 through these groups in the 2016 presidential cycle, FEC records show.

      The operation effectively amounts to an income cycle of wash, rinse, repeat: paying for ads to raise money to pay for more ads to raise more money and so on, with Tunstall taking home whatever money doesn’t get used to pay for more ads. The enterprise may also be breaking spending rules policed by three different federal agencies on impersonation and ad disclosure.

    • How The National Enquirer Covered Trump In The ’90s

      But there is the New York Public Library, which maintains an Enquirer collection that begins in 1957, stops abruptly in 1973 and picks up again in 1993.1 In the midst of the Jeff-Bezos-versus-Enquirer-blog-post fallout, I went to comb those stacks. From 1993 to the start of the Pecker era, in early 1999, I found seven cover stories related to Trump, along with a smattering of articles that weren’t featured on the cover.

      These earlier Enquirer stories portray Trump as another of the publication’s society and celebrity fascinations. But even then, there were whispers of political ambition coming from Trump Tower. And when Trump’s friend Pecker took over, these whispers turned to shouts in the pages of the magazine, often with exclamation points at the end.

    • Ivanka’s Attack on AOC Reveals Ignorance About Universal Basic Income

      When Ivanka Trump recently went after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal by suggesting that the “idea of a guaranteed minimum is not something most people want” because “people want to work for what they get,” it was difficult not to gag. Here was the recipient of a fortune inherited from a tax-dodging father waxing on about the American work ethic as if she had any idea about what most Americans want. This level of ignorance and hypocrisy was, of course, hardly surprising coming from a member of the Trump family.

      But instead of quickly dismissing her statement and moving on, it might be more productive to take this opportunity to open a wider public discussion on exactly what Ivanka Trump was referring to when she talked about a “guaranteed minimum.” It could be a reference to a minimum wage or job guarantee — but it feels a bit more general than that. What she seems to have been saying is that she doesn’t think Americans want guaranteed protections that will keep them from falling below a certain threshold of economic security.

      One of the “guaranteed minimums” found in the Green New Deal is what’s referred to by the authors of the policy as “basic income programs.” Known to most as a universal basic income, the idea is quite simple: pay people just for being alive. As the reaction by Ivanka and a number of right-wing outlets suggest, it might sound a bit outrageous at first, but it’s actually one of those ideas that begins to seem more and more sensible once you really start thinking about it. So what is a universal basic income anyways, and why was it in, of all places, a climate change policy proposal?

    • #FireKushner Surges After NYT Reports Trump Ordered Security Clearance for Son-in-Law

      The fallout from a Thursday revelation in The New York Times that President Donald Trump personally intervened to give his son-in-law Jared Kushner a security clearance has some calling for Kushner to be fired.

      The #FireKushner hashtag was trending on Twitter Friday morning as a number of commentators called for Kushner—a White House senior advisor—to either resign voluntarily or be removed from his position.

    • Zarif Resigns, Then Returns With Stronger Hand

      When Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif announced his resignation through a cryptic post on Instagram, everyone was taken by surprise. This was a risky but clever ploy for a vote of confidence at a time where both he and his ministry were suffering from being ignored, attacked, or kept out of the loop. Today, Zarif is back at work, and with a stronger hand to tackle upcoming regional and international issues.

      Zarif announced his resignation through a surprise post on Instagram—not yet blocked in Iran—on February 25, apologizing for the “shortcomings.” This followed a day of meetings between Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani, IRGC General Qasem Soleimani, and President Bashar -al-Assad in Tehran. Zarif was nowhere to be seen. The Iranian new outlet Entekhab quoted Zarif as saying that his absence at those meetings stripped him of his credibility as a foreign minister.

      Although Syria was the excuse, it certainly wasn’t the only reason behind Zarif’s move.

    • The Circus that Never Leaves Town

      The circus that is called U.S. governance continues to entertain with its bizarre acts. This week, an awestruck public witnessed yet another one, this time with the Cohen clown testifying before Congress.

      Yes, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and ‘fixer’ (is that really a thing?) Michael Cohen stood before a Congressional committee and swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This is the same man who, in May, will begin a prison sentence for, among other things, lying to Congress.

      And what did we learn? Let’s look at just a few tidbits of information; we won’t call them facts, due to Cohen’s known record of lying to Congress.

    • Anarchy in the USA

      Culture is an essential element of human existence. Not only does it encourage the creation and development of community, it also provides a common understanding in terms of what defines art, literature and music. In turn, these phenomena determine a community’s values regarding their fellow humans and the nature of their society. In a capitalist society like the United States, the dominant culture is one that encourages individuals over the community, money over compassion, and war over peaceful resolution. Of course, this situation does not mean that all those living in a capitalist society participate in that culture. Indeed, the very nature of that culture ensures that there will be cultures that reject and even resist it.

      The first examples which come to mind for many of those who think about such things would probably be bohemian subcultures such as the Beats, the so-called hippies, and the bohemian milieu of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in the United States. These cultures, while nominally political, were located more in the realms of art, music, and literature. They were often informed by sexual freedom and the use of various mind-altering substances ranging from marijuana to opiates, alcohol and LSD. Their primary political involvement came in response to repression by religious and civil authorities claiming to be appalled by their licentiousness.

      [...]

      While weaving this tale of conflict between capitalism and the anarchists, Lenzi delves into the divisions within the anarchist movement and the conflicts between anarchists, socialists and communists. The result is a history that is both detailed, factual and considerably more than a story of a historical curiosity. Indeed, while examining the history of this New London community, Facing Toward the Dawn also describes a community which ultimately was a microcosm of the greater world of international anarchism. Conflicts between those anarchists who eschewed mass organizing in favor of individual acts of terror are presented as are various differences over political and economic philosophy. According to Lenzi, it was the former who were the dominant force in the New London community, although during certain work actions and in the face of state repression, those differences tended to fade the background in face of the common enemy. Likewise, the creation of an anarchist culture tended to diminish these otherwise intensely divisive political differences.

    • Our Resolution: Bomber Bernie Sets Sights on 2020

      Colonel Bernard Sanders has long despised by the powers that be for his “different” ways. The rich surely despise him because he is a Jewish person talking about economics. But their conscious hatred of the Colonel mostly has to with his consistent and largely successful efforts to keep track of the least of us here in America. Differences between the consistent Sanders and the lurching rightward corporate duopoly have only become more evident. Bernie remained serious while the popular class got more and more frivolous, ridiculous and out of touch. Bernie only became grumpier, but stayed just as determined. Many tried to give him the boot, but he had his fringe of weirdo lefties in Vermont, and they kept him around, seemingly as a fringe group.

      Bernie, after many years of being sidelined, thought, what the heck, I have little to lose, let’s run for President. This was necessary, and just by itself, very courageous, as the Democratic Party agreed as a unit to rig the 2016 race for establishment third way Wall St. Hawk Hillary Clinton. To the surprise and horror of the establishment, Bernie’s ideas, while seemingly fringe and coo-coo, were more popular than theirs. Bernie was hastily sabotaged, smeared and cheated out of contention for a race he should have won. The damage, in many ways, had already been done for the establishment. Bernie folded to their needs, but a restless populace began to carry many of his ideas forward in the electoral field. Bernie tried to cover for his speaking out of turn. He tried lying about the Clintons, the Democrats and the political establishment in general. But it did no good. Bernie was just too sincere to be a proper puppet, even if it was in his nature to try.

    • The Social Drama of Gov. Northam and Lt. Gov. Fairfax

      Some years ago, OK many years ago, when I was teaching at UC Davis, I invited Professor Michael Rogin (1937–2001), a political scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, to come talk to my class on blackface and politics. He actually showed up, and although I can’t remember what he told my class, I do remember that we had a wonderful lunch in the sunshine somewhere and talked about politics and blackface in the movies. We talked about the new movie “Pulp Fiction” as a form of blackface. In fact, I interviewed Professor Rogin on the Quentin Tarantino film for my article, “That Same Old Shoe,” a critique of the Academy Awards for 1995. Two of the films up for best picture that year were Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump.

      The professor agreed with me that Pulp Fiction’s success with the popular audience was rooted in its minstrelsy tradition. “The racist thing is at the center of Pulp Fiction,” he told me. “It’s hard to believe that people are not aware of the racist subtext, but nobody ever writes about it, and it is never talked about.” We agreed that Pulp Fiction, Blues Brothers, and Forest Gump were all rooted in blackface minstrelsy with whites impersonating blacks, as American fun and entertainment.

      For him, the whole of American culture was, in fact, indebted to blackface minstrelsy in a fundamental way. It was, in his view, the foundation of our national character. We have become a racialized society, he claimed, and our national character is that of the blackface white man. Blackface minstrelsy was an objective correlative—a visible symbol of submerged unconscious workings of a basically flawed system, a performance of a white man in a black body. The tradition went all the way back to Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson, who fathered several children by his black slave, also wrote the leading document for our country’s freedom. Except, however, he wrote two declarations of independence, according to Professor Rogin to ensure that, “immigrants could become Americans and blacks could turn white.”

    • Russia’s top investigator is very proud of the justice system’s low acquittal rate, and it’s actually just half of what he thinks

      Interfax reported the same, writing that “Bastrykin considers [Russia’s] low acquittal rate to be a sign of the Federal Investigative Committee’s efficiency.” The news agency attributes the following quote to Bastrykin: “The numbers speak for themselves. In 2018, there were 516 people acquitted. That amounts to 0.51 percent of the total volume of our investigative work.” RIA Novosti reported a similar Bastrykin quote: “Of 108,000 criminal cases that were sent to the courts by the Investigative Committee, there were just 516 acquittals, which amounts to 0.51 percent of the total volume of our investigative work.” (Other news agencies reported Bastrykin’s statement without mentioning specific numbers, perhaps because 516 of 108,000 is 0.48 percent, not 0.51 percent.)

    • Other People’s Money, Other People’s Blood: the Cohen Micro-Episode: the Cohen Episode

      The system of American Empire has never been static. The perpetual growth demands of its capitalism, its deeply-felt imperative to control all potentials for disruption, and its fundamental intolerance of enclaves inaccessible to US capital drive the emergence of inevitable crises. Until now generations of its power elites, through their responses to both systemic and exogenous crises, have maintained coherence as a managerial class and successfully presided over the reproduction of the Empire’s structures of power and of its underlying domestic consensus of patriotic faith. The system transforms through each round of crisis. Crisis is its brand, as a movie once said. (Not that it was ever easy. Oh, the travails of the ruling class and its managers!) This has always come at an uncountable cost in Other People’s Blood. And so the main structures of the Empire have remained entrenched as a form of permanent government, finance, and international governance: the military-industrial and national security and “intelligence” and arms-trade complexes, their vast archipelago of overseas bases and networks of military alliances formal and otherwise, their multitudes of corporate contractors, parapolitical friends and mobbed-up networks; the symbiotic industries of resource extraction, especially in energy; the many adjunct industries, both in the profit and non-profit sectors, of captured politics, knowledge production, media and propaganda, and the economic development complex; above all, the global dollar hegemony, from which Wall Street lives and to which Main Street is tied, the latter less like a baby to an umbilical cord and more like a dying patient to a respirator full of morphine.

    • Britain’s Witchfinders are Ready to Burn Jeremy Corbyn

      “McCarthyism” is a word thrown around a lot nowadays, and in the process its true meaning – and horror – has been increasingly obscured.

      McCarthyism is not just the hounding of someone because their views are unpopular. It is the creation by the powerful of a perfect, self-rationalising system of incrimination – denying the victim a voice, even in their own defence. It presents the accused as an enemy so dangerous, their ideas so corrupting, that they must be silenced from the outset. Their only chance of rehabilitation is prostration before their accusers and utter repentance.

      McCarthyism, in other words, is the modern political parallel of the witch hunt.

      In an earlier era, the guilt of women accused of witchcraft was tested through the ducking stool. If a woman drowned, she was innocent; if she survived, she was guilty and burnt at the stake. A foolproof system that created an endless supply of the wicked, justifying the status and salaries of the men charged with hunting down ever more of these diabolical women.

      And that is the Medieval equivalent of where the British Labour party has arrived, with the suspension of MP Chris Williamson for anti-semitism.

    • A Political Renaissance in Ethiopia: What Should Change Look Like?

      This is an extraordinary time in Ethiopia’s history, a time of tremendous opportunity and hope. Long overdue reforms initiated by Prime-Minister Abiy Ahmed, who took office on 2nd April 2018, offer the prospect that democracy and social unity could at last become a reality in the country.

      Before PM Ahmed took office Ethiopia was ruled by one of the most violent and repressive regimes in the world; freedom of the media, freedom of expression and assembly, political dissent and the judiciary, were all tightly controlled by the TPLF regime, which had been in power since 1991. Miraculously, all of this has now changed, and within a very short space of time, it offers hope not only for Ethiopia, but for the region and the wider world.

      The new governments reform program has three main ‘pillars’ as they are called: 1. A vibrant democracy. 2. Economic vitality. 3. Regional integration and openness to the world. All very general and nothing extraordinary, but positive actions have followed and goodwill built. If democratic change can occur in Ethiopia it can take place anywhere, but, over and above the obvious elements, such as the observation of human rights, political pluralism, freedom of the media, independent judiciary etc., what should that change look like?

    • The Uncomfortable Truth About Journalism’s Glory Days

      At a time when journalism consistently is said to be imperiled, two esteemed reporters beg to differ. Los Angeles Times reporter Patt Morrison and Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer point out a surprising fact about journalism through the ages.

      “The paradox,” Morrison says, “is that [journalists] were always in the hands of rich people, because those were the people who owned the printing presses. Some of them were only comparatively rich, some of them were truly rich, like the Jeff Bezoses of the world.”

      In her latest book, “Don’t Stop the Presses: Truth, Justice, and the American Newspaper,” Morrison traces the history of the Fourth Estate in the U.S. and delivers an impassioned defense of print news while highlighting crucial issues journalism faces today. Throughout their conversation in the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” Morrison and Scheer are careful to avoid the trap of whitewashing American journalism’s often sexist and racist past. Morrison, who started her career at the renowned Los Angeles Times at age 19, recalls a newsroom sorely lacking women and people of color.

    • Our Reporting on Michael Cohen: A Reading Guide

      The roughly five hours that Michael Cohen spent this week testifying before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform provided riveting viewing. Alternately contrite and pugnacious, Cohen — who at various times has been the personal attorney for President Donald Trump, deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee, an executive with the Trump Organization and a wheeler-dealer who held millions of dollars’ worth of New York City taxi medallions, and is soon to be an inmate in federal prison after pleading guilty to lying to Congress — described a way of doing business at the Trump Organization that many likened to a mob operation. Among other things, Cohen testified that Trump, using code, urged him to lie about the Trump Organization’s plans for a tower in Moscow. The White House dismissed Cohen’s testimony as the fabrications of a perjurer.

      ProPublica and WNYC have reported on many of the subjects Cohen touched on in his testimony.

      During Cohen’s testimony, for example, he was asked about reporting by the “Trump, Inc.” podcast that the Trump International Hotel in Washington overcharged the Trump inaugural committee.

    • Truthdigger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New Face of the Democratic Party

      Despite her short career in politics, there’s already a lot to praise about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Rising to fame by unseating Democratic heavyweight Joe Crowley in a shocking primary upset last year, the freshman representative from New York’s 14th District has scarcely been out of the limelight since. Even before she won the 2020 midterm election, she began to garner fame as the new face of the Democratic Party, much to the discomfort of some political elites: Young, female, queer, Latinx, democratic socialist—“New party, who dis?” indeed.

      The 29-year-old campaigned on a progressive agenda shaped during her stint as an organizer in Bernie Sanders’ historic 2016 primary challenge, a campaign that ended up winning her a seat in Congress as the youngest member in U.S. history. She’s made Medicare-for-all, tuition-free college and other progressive goals the tenets of her tenure from the get-go, making good on her promise to fight for “a modern, moral … Society [in which] no American [is] too poor to live.” Ocasio-Cortez has also been getting under the skin of both the Republican and Democratic establishments with her fierce determination to stick to her left-leaning principles despite a constant barrage of criticism from all sides. It is likely her staunch sense of purpose that has led her to become one of the most influential politicians in the U.S., with Democratic presidential hopefuls already vying for her endorsement in the 2020 race.

    • Eyeing 2020, White House Steps Up ‘Socialism’ Attack on Dems

      As the White House gears up for the 2020 campaign, it’s pressing the case that Democrats are rallying behind what it’s calling the policies of “socialism.”

      Trying to portray Democrats as out of step with ordinary Americans, Vice President Mike Pence said in a speech Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference that the choice in the next election is “between freedom and socialism, between personal responsibility and government dependence.”

      It was the latest step in a coordinated effort by President Donald Trump and his allies to drive up enthusiasm among the GOP base by sowing fears about the policies pushed by Democrats.

      “The moment America becomes a socialist country is the moment America ceases to be America,” Pence told the crowd of conservative activists.

    • 2020 Vision: The F-Bomb

      The Republicans are already using the S-word: Socialism. At the same time, the 2020 election might very well hinge on when, where, and how the Democrats might choose to use the F-Bomb: Fascism.

      If the opposition is successful in branding the Democrats as the “party of radical socialism” all is lost.

      Thus, the Democrats might have the dual task before them of first explaining their national vision as one of “lean progressivism” (eschewing inordinate new taxes and with it the ocotopodal creation of new bureaucracies) AND the strong judicial use and/or increasingly worrying suggestion of Trump’s Fascist tendencies.

      Both strategies go together. If the Democrats want to seriously win and more importantly effect essential national change; they must be persuasive as both a progressive party AND present themselves as at least somewhat fiscally conservative. They must try to come up with ways that further social, economic, and environmental justice without necessarily resorting to federal schemes of tax, spend, and expand. There are ways to do this. Tax incentives, an innovative system of vouchers, and a national pooling/coordination of scientific research assets are all possible avenues to work on and develop.

      More problematically however, will come the decision of whether to fight fire with fire, and to thus increasingly and viscerally label Trump as a Fascist, vigorously drawing attention away from his “red scare” electoral tactics..

      Putting a “brown shirt” on Trump will prove tricky though. Democrats do not want to appear hysterical and thus on the fringe of American political discourse. Also, they must judiciously avoid equating those who voted for Trump as Fascists themselves. Trump voters must be courted as a group that potentially could get much more out of a modern progressive movement than dubious nostalgia politics could ever offer them. Thus negative political attacks should primarily focus on the authoritarian person and style of Trump while encouraging the electoral defection of Trump voters by taking the issues that concern them very seriously. Calling them “desperate gun clingers” won’t do this time around.

    • Netanyahu to be Indicted on Bribery, Fraud, Press Tampering: Israeli AG

      Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has announced that he will indict Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu on bribery and fraud charges.

      I think it should be underlined that two of the charges have to do with tampering with press coverage of the prime minister, which is to say, tampering with the Fourth Estate, one of the key elements of democracy.

      Israeli politics are not truly democratic, in part because of the occupation of 5 million stateless Palestinians whose fates are decided by the Israeli military and political elite, and in part because of severe censorship of the press. But Netanyahu’s thuggish threats and sweetheart deals to manipulate press coverage of himself are on top of all that.

      [...]

      A final indictment awaits a set of hearings where Netanyahu’s attorneys will attempt to make a last attempt to avert the indictment. This process won’t begin until after the next election, and could drag on for many months.

      Some Israel watchers are convinced that the indictment will make no difference. Netanyahu’s right wing coalition may well win the 61 seats in parliament needed for a majority, and his far right wing Likud Party will likely be the largest party in the coalition. Netanyahu may well be reelected prime minister despite the charges.

    • In Step Toward Ending Dark-Money Elections, Court to Review Case That Created Super PACs

      “Super PACs weren’t created by Congress, or the U.S. Supreme Court,” Ron Fein, legal director of Free Speech for People, said in a statement. “They were created by a lower court decision, based on faulty assumptions, that has never been reviewed or revisited.”

      In the 2010 case SpeechNow.org v. FEC, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit applied the Supreme Court’s infamous Citizens United decision to rule that limits on the amount individuals could contribute to “independent expenditure-only” groups violated the First Amendment.

      The court’s ruling, according to critics, unleashed a flood of corporate money into the U.S. political system that further corrupted the democratic process and gave big business even more power over election results.

      “We need to put ‘We the People’ back in charge, and that starts by closing the gaping super PAC loophole that has allowed dark money to overwhelm our elections,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), a plaintiff in Lieu v. FEC, which seeks to overturn the SpeechNow decision. The lawsuit was initially filed by Free Speech for People in 2016 on behalf of Merkley, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), and the late Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.).

      In Thursday’s decision, the federal district court said its hands are tied by SpeechNow until the 2010 ruling is overturned. According to Free Speech for People, the case is now set to be reviewed for the first time by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

    • Online voting and other reforms are coming to Russia in September. Opposition politicians are skeptical.

      Just before Russia’s most recent presidential elections in 2018, several fundamental changes were made to the country’s election laws. Absentee ballots were replaced with the so-called Mobile Voter system, which allowed voters to switch precincts ahead of the election either online or in person. Both election observers and opposition politicians immediately criticized the new system. Less than one year later, Russian authorities have decided to introduce two new absentee voting systems, including opportunities for online voting. Here, Meduza summarizes these new proposals, which are set to take effect as early as September 2019.

    • All Ran According Plan and Without a Host

      It is no coincidence that Mexican filmmakers have done well in the Age of Trump, and even before it during the more numerous deportations of the Obama years.

    • Rampant Abuses in Immigration Detention Prove ICE Is Rotten to the Core

      Immigration detention poses life-threatening health and safety risks for the tens of thousands of people who are locked up across the country.

      Last Friday, a Honduran asylum seeker suffered an unthinkable tragedy when she had a stillbirth while in ICE detention in Texas. While the facts of this case are still coming to light, it is only one of many tragic incidents involving immigrants detained by the federal government in recent months.

      According to reports, the 24-year-old woman who was six months pregnant had spent days detained in Border Patrol custody before being transferred to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Port Isabel Detention Center in South Texas. From there, she was taken to a hospital where she suffered this terrible trauma.

      And hers is far from an isolated incident.

      Since fall 2017, we and our partners have been tracking the treatment of pregnant women in ICE detention following a policy change by the Trump administration that eliminated the presumption of release for pregnant women and removed internal reporting requirements. ICE does not publicly report this information, but recent statements to the media note that 1,655 pregnant women were booked into ICE custody over a 10-month period between 2017-2018 and that 28 women may have miscarried in ICE custody over the past two years.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • YouTube is banning comments on videos of children

      In a blog post, YouTube explained how the new changes will be implemented. First of all, videos featuring very young children will have comments automatically disabled. Videos featuring older children will generally allow comments, but the block will also apply to “videos featuring older minors that could be at risk of attracting predatory behavior.” It’ll be interesting to see how an algorithm interprets that clear-as-mud instruction.

    • Twitter is testing a feature to let you hide replies you don’t like

      Actually, moderation is a bit strong, because it would only allow you hide tweets, rather than delete them completely. They’d still be visible, but only for people determined to find them by pressing “show more replies”. That way, public figures can’t just brush all dissent under the carpet. Or rather they can, but it would be a pretty bumpy carpet, and people would keep shouting “hey, what’s up with this bumpy carpet?”

    • West Java cracks down on ‘adult’ foreign pop including Ed Sheeran’s Shape Of You

      The West Java provincial broadcast commission identified 85 songs labelled “adult” that can be aired only between 10pm and 3am. These include Ed Sheeran’s Shape Of You, Bruno Mars’ That’s What I Like and Ariana Grande’s Love Me Harder.

      The world’s biggest Muslim-majority country has seen a rise in restrictions on content or behaviour deemed pornographic, sometimes through local by-laws based on syariah in the officially secular country.

    • Tripura man arrested on sedition charge for social media post

      A case under sedition charge was lodged against Krishnendu Debbarma of Sonacharanpara village in Khowai district by police suo motu for allegedly uploading the video on Facebook on the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF jawans were killed, they said.

    • Facebook Wants You to Know if You’re Getting Your News From the Wrong Government

      When the questions were asked together—reminding people that restrictions on press freedom could be placed on their own country’s journalists, as well as on those of an official enemy—support for allowing access to Communist reporters doubled to 73 percent. (Ninety percent said that US reporters should be allowed to report freely from Russia—suggesting that only a relatively narrow slice of the population openly subscribed to the principle of free speech for me but not for thee.)

      I thought of this experiment when Rania Khalek (who’s written for FAIR) told me that the viral video company she works for, In the Now, was taken off Facebook because of its indirect connection to the Russian government. (A majority stake in In the Now’s parent company, Maffick Media, is owned by a subsidiary of RT—a Moscow-based media group that, although organized as a private entity, is funded by the Russian government.)

    • With FOSTA Already Leading to Censorship, Plaintiffs Are Seeking Reinstatement Of Their Lawsuit Challenging the Law’s Constitutionality

      Internet websites and forums are continuing to censor speech with adult content on their platforms to avoid running afoul of the new anti-sex trafficking law FOSTA. The measure’s vague, ambiguous language and stiff criminal and civil penalties are driving constitutionally protected content off the Internet.

      The consequences of this censorship are devastating for marginalized communities and groups that serve them, especially organizations that provide support and services to victims of trafficking and child abuse, sex workers, and groups and individuals promoting sexual freedom. Fearing that comments, posts, or ads that are sexual in nature will be ensnared by FOSTA, many vulnerable people have gone offline and back to the streets, where they’ve been sexually abused and physically harmed.

      Plaintiffs Woodhull Freedom Foundation, Human Rights Watch, Alex Andrews, the Internet Archive, and Eric Koszyk filed suit last June to invalidate the law. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit last summer without reaching the merits of our arguments that the law is unconstitutional. Instead the judge found that none of the plaintiffs had standing—meaning could not show they have or will be harmed— to challenge the law. EFF is co-counsel for plaintiffs with Davis, Wright & Tremaine, Walters Law Group, and Daphne Keller.

      That decision was wrong and the plaintiffs are appealing it. They filed filed their opening brief February 20 explaining how the trial judge got it wrong and why the law should be enjoined. And several organizations filed amicus briefs in the appeals court last week supporting these arguments.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • WATCH: Naomi Klein and Shoshana Zuboff Discuss Mounting Dangers of ‘Surveillance Capitalism’

      A live-streamed discussion about “the unprecedented form of power called ‘surveillance capitalism’ and the quest by corporations to predict and control our behavior” featuring Naomi Klein, a senior correspondent for The Intercept, and Harvard Business School professor emerita Shoshana Zuboff is planned for Friday evening.

      The conversation is set to begin at 7pm ET. Hosted by The Intercept on Facebook Live and YouTube, the discussion follows the January release of Zuboff’s latest book, entitled The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power.

    • Massive Database Leak Gives Us a Window into China’s Digital Surveillance State

      Earlier this month, security researcher Victor Gevers found and disclosed an exposed database live-tracking the locations of about 2.6 million residents of Xinjiang, China, offering a window into what a digital surveillance state looks like in the 21st century.

      Xinjiang is China’s largest province, and home to China’s Uighurs, a Turkic minority group. Here, the Chinese government has implemented a testbed police state where an estimated 1 million individuals from these minority groups have been arbitrarily detained. Among the detainees are academics, writers, engineers, and relatives of Uighurs in exile. Many Uighurs abroad worry for their missing family members, who they haven’t heard from for several months and, in some cases, over a year.

      Although relatively little news gets out of Xinjiang to the rest of the world, we’ve known for over a year that China has been testing facial-recognition tracking and alert systems across Xinjiang and mandating the collection of biometric data—including DNA samples, voice samples, fingerprints, and iris scans—from all residents between the ages of 12 and 65. Reports from the province in 2016 indicated that Xinjiang residents can be questioned over the use of mobile and Internet tools; just having WhatsApp or Skype installed on your phone is classified as “subversive behavior.” Since 2017, the authorities have instructed all Xinjiang mobile phone users to install a spyware app in order to “prevent [them] from accessing terrorist information.”

      The prevailing evidence of mass detention centers and newly-erected surveillance systems shows that China has been pouring billions of dollars into physical and digital means of pervasive surveillance in Xinjiang and other regions. But it’s often unclear to what extent these projects operate as real, functional high-tech surveillance, and how much they are primarily intended as a sort of “security theater”: a public display of oppression and control to intimidate and silence dissent.

      Now, this security leak shows just how extensively China is tracking its Xinjiang residents: how parts of that system work, and what parts don’t. It demonstrates that the surveillance is real, even as it raises questions about the competence of its operators.

    • Facebook Finally Shuts Down Its Snooping, Bullshit ‘VPN’ After A Full Year Of Complaints

      Just about a year ago we noted how Facebook was taking some heat on the security and privacy fronts for pitching a “privacy protecting” VPN to consumers that actually violated consumer privacy. Based on the Onavo platform acquired by Facebook back in 2013, the company’s “Onavo Protect – VPN Security” app informed users that the product would “keep you and your data safe when you browse and share information on the web” and that the “app helps keep your details secure when you login to websites or enter personal information such as bank accounts and credit card numbers.”

      It didn’t take long before many began to notice those claims weren’t, well, true.

    • Seventh Circuit Ignores Two Supreme Court Decisions To Hand Out Bad Precedent On Cell Site Location Info

      If this is what the court wants to believe, then the Carpenter decision no longer exists in the Seventh Circuit. Every cellphone owner agrees to have information collected when they purchase a phone and use the provider’s phone service. They may agree this information can be handed over to law enforcement, but the Supreme Court clearly said this does not negate their privacy interest in the information shared with service providers.

      As Orin Kerr points out, this ruling also ignores precedent set by another recent Supreme Court ruling. In Byrd, the court held that people who rent cars have a privacy interest in the rented vehicle, one that isn’t overcome by the driver not being “authorized” by the rental agreement. In both cases, the court stated that contractual agreements with private companies are not enough to eliminate citizens’ Fourth Amendment protections.

      What could have been an open-and-shut case reaffirming two obvious conclusions — the lack of inherent retroactivity in the Carpenter decision and the inability of private searches (T-Mobile’s investigation) to violate Fourth Amendment protections — is instead a mess of precedential hot takes that directly contradict two recent Supreme Court decisions. Citizens residing in this circuit have just been informed their Fourth Amendment isn’t worth as much as it is elsewhere in the country.

    • The Age of Tyrannical Surveillance

      That’s what we have been reduced to in the eyes of the government and Corporate America: data bits and economic units to be bought, bartered and sold to the highest bidder.

      Those highest bidders include America’s political class and the politicians aspiring to get elected or re-elected. As the Los Angeles Times reports, “If you have been to a political rally, a town hall, or just fit a demographic a campaign is after, chances are good your movements are being tracked with unnerving accuracy by data vendors on the payroll of campaigns.”

      Your phones, televisions and digital devices are selling you out to politicians who want your vote.

      Have you shopped at Whole Foods? Tested out target practice at a gun range? Sipped coffee at Starbucks while surfing the web? Visited an abortion clinic? Watched FOX News or MSNBC? Played Candy Crush on your phone? Walked through a mall? Walked past a government building?

      That’s all it takes for your data to be hoovered up, sold and used to target you.

      This is the age of surveillance capitalism.

    • 9 Major Flaws That Tech Companies Need To Fix Immediately

      Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the California-based digital rights group, has launched an initiative called “Fix It Already” that highlights 9 big privacy and security related issues that tech companies need to resolve immediately. The 9 issues are spread across different tech platforms including social media companies, operating system, enterprise platforms and more.

      As EFF describes, some of these issues exist dues to wrongly implemented business decisions by companies, whereas, others are security flaws that could risk users’ privacy and data.

      [...]

      9. Microsoft should allow Windows 10 users to keep their disk encryption keys to themselves even if they do not sign with their Microsoft account. This is a failure in Microsoft’s business encryption mechanism. The company should provide an option if users do not want to share the encryption key with Microsoft.

    • Police in Canada Are Tracking People’s ‘Negative’ Behavior In a ‘Risk’ Database

      Documents obtained by Motherboard from Ontario’s Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS) through an access to information request show that at least two provinces—Ontario and Saskatchewan—maintain a “Risk-driven Tracking Database” that is used to amass highly sensitive information about people’s lives. Information in the database includes whether a person uses drugs, has been the victim of an assault, or lives in a “negative neighborhood.”

    • German Data Privacy Commissioner Sounds Alarm Over ‘Upload Filter Oligopoly’

      Germany’s Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information has issued a warning over the data privacy implications of the EU’s proposed Article 13 legislation. Ulrich Kelber says an “oligopoly” of filtering vendors would have significantly increased access to vast swathes of user data, unless the EU can explain how its aims can be achieved without filtering.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • A new cybersecurity law in Thailand has residents very worried

      The Thai government – which came to power via the democratically-limited military coup route in 2014 – has just passed a law that has human rights activists alarmed. Ostensibly designed for cybersecurity purposes, the vague wording of the bill effectively allows the government to seize data and equipment in cases where it’s deemed to be a national emergency.

      That means the law now allows for internet traffic monitoring and access to private data without a court order. The bill passed by 133 votes to zero, although 16 legislators were absent.

    • Top investigator says the Russian justice system’s 0.51-percent acquittal rate proves his agency’s effectiveness

      Alexander Bastrykin, a secret poet better known as the director of Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee, says the country’s staggeringly low acquittal rate is proof positive of his agency’s bang-up job. In comments reported on Friday by the news agency TASS, Bastrykin said Russia’s 0.51-percent acquittal rate in 2018 (just 516 not-guilty verdicts all year) demonstrates the stability and high quality of investigators’ work. By that metric, however, the Investigative Committee under-performed when compared to 2017, when Russia’s acquittal rate was just 0.42 percent.

    • Cohen’s Overlooked Warning – and Other Media Silences Worth Hearing

      Here in Chicago, the Jussie Smollett and R. Kelly cases were recently all the local media rage. By contrast, recent reports that 63 Black people have so far been exonerated after having bags of heroin and cocaine planted on them by the Chicago police (at the Ida B. Wells housing project earlier in this century) are just blips on the dominant media screen. Many of the victims served long prison sentences.

      This is unsurprising to people who track racial media bias. The Smollett and Kelly stories match the predominantly white viewing public’s conditioned attachment both to celebrity and to racism-denial. The Smollett case involves a Black television star who appears to have staged a fake racist assault. The Kelly story plugs into the longstanding white image of Black men as sexual predators (and to say that is not to deny that Kelly is likely a predator).

      The evidence-planting story is about institutional police state racism. That’s not a popular plotline in the audience targeted by the 10 O’clock News’ commercial sponsors.

      Meanwhile, violence in the Black ghettoes continues to be a nightly news obsession in Chicago as across urban America. By contrast, the underlying, violence-generating nature of social and economic conditions in those segregated, opportunity-bereft neighborhoods is a perpetual non-story (kind of like the deletion of climate change from the nightly weather reports).

    • Activists, Banks and For-Profit Immigrant Detention

      JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo lend to GEO Group and CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), for-profit operators of immigrant detention facilities under contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A campaign to end these banks’ financial role is underway.

      Autumn Gonzalez is with the Sacramento-based NorCal Resist, a migrant activist group advocating on behalf of the incarcerated immigrants held in GEO Group and CoreCivic facilities. “We are circulating petitions to send to the CEOs and boards of directors of GEO and CoreCivic to end their lending to private prison operators,” she said by phone. “I had a mortgage with Wells Fargo and have told them that I am not satisfied with it lending to both private prison companies.”

      People from around the world are in immigrant detention stateside.

      “In El Paso right now there are Sikh detainees from Punjab hunger striking, and in Yuba City (north of Sacramento) we have detainees from Southeast Asia as well as Central America and Mexico,” according to Gonzalez. “Some are folks whose families came without papers years ago, and due to some kind of minor interaction with law enforcement, such as a traffic violation, they’ve gotten caught in the ICE process.”

      CoreCivic and GEO Group, based on current estimates, hold about 70 percent of the 48,000 migrants held in immigrant detention facilities, according to Emily Claire Goldman, founder and director of ESG Transparency Initiative. Its Educators for Migrant Justice Campaign recently led CalSTRS (the U.S.’s second-biggest pension fund) to divest from CoreCivic and GEO Group. CalPERS is the nation’s largest pension fund, which the Educators for Migrant Justice Campaign is focusing on to divest from CoreCivic and GEO Group.

    • On Democracy, Did Our Highest Court Ignore Its Strongest Argument?

      Americans may disagree about many things, but most of us come together in loathing the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United. We know it helped degrade our democracy as it opened the floodgates to independent, corporate campaign spending and enabled additional rulings that have led to Super PACs, along with ever-more “dark money.”

      Three-fourths of us want Citizens United overturned. I’m certainly one, and I’d long assumed I knew everything I needed to know about this unfortunate ruling. But I was in for a big surprise.

      Buried in the 1976 Supreme Court decision that first equated political spending and speech, unleashing “big money” in politics—and cited one hundred times in Citizens United—is an argument against the Court’s own findings, and one that crystalizes a key purpose of the First Amendment.

    • When We See the Sacred in Each Other, Social Movements Flourish

      Deep in our hearts, humans hold a longing for authentic presence with one another, the need to deeply see and be seen. In his book, The Desire for Mutual Recognition, Peter Gabel traces this longing as it shows up in different forms, in different places and times.

      Sometimes this longing bursts forth in waves within a community and draws many people out of their protective shells all at once. The 1960s saw such an upwelling of “redemptive mutuality” as many Americans collectively took the risk of loving one another and freeing one another from their existential solitary confinement. The counterculture reverberated with this newfound communitarian freedom. Gabel makes the case that it is this very kind of mutual liberation that “moves” in social movements. It is the heart and the foundational prerequisite of anything else that social movements may try to accomplish.

      Along with this concept, Gabel describes our pattern of retreat. Starting at a young age, our participation in the social world is predicated on our withdrawing our true and authentic self. We are forced to deny the innocent, loving child within, and interact with others through filters, masks and social roles. We then build social structures that reflect and refract these filters, masks and roles. We reduce ourselves and all our rich, shared humanity to isolated monads, each negotiating and hustling for our own self-interest.

    • Saudis Join With US to Kill EU Effort to Create Dirty Money Blacklist

      The United states and key ally Saudi Arabia saw their lobbying efforts pay off on Friday after the European Commission’s proposed dirty money blacklist—which included the oil-rich kingdom and several American territories—fizzled.

      “The Americans fell on us like a tonne of bricks,” an anonymous Brussels official told the Financial Times.

      The effort “to protect the integrity of the EU financial system,” the commission said last month, included blacklisting 23 territories that had “strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing frameworks.” They included American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico as well as Saudi Arabia.

      However, as the Wall Street Journal reported Friday, “European governments, under pressure from Washington and Riyadh, have refused to endorse” the list.

      “The rejection of the governments is a farce at the expense of security,” declared Sven Giegold, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from Germany, in a statement quoted by Bloomberg. “France and the U.K. want to remove Saudi Arabia and other countries from the list. Spain is protecting Panama. The United States is exerting massive pressure because four U.S. jurisdictions,” he said.

    • In ‘Historically Dubious’ CPAC Speech, Pence Claims ‘Freedom’ Ended Slavery

      Vice President Mike Pence on Friday said that “freedom” ended slavery and defeated Hitler—a claim that was derided as historically inaccurate by critics.

      Speaking in front of a packed house at the 2019 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Pence said that “freedom”—an apparent stand-in for capitalism—was the reason for the major global and American victories of the past two centuries.

      “It was a freedom, not socialism, that ended slavery, won two world wars, and stands today as the beacon of hope for all the world,” Pence declared.

    • Algorithmic Bias: How Algorithms Can Limit Economic Opportunity for Communities of Color

      Racial and gender bias in algorithms impacts communities of color in disproportionate and frightening ways. The urgency of addressing this issue cannot be stressed enough. Algorithmic bias goes beyond privacy and surveillance issues that we have seen in the past. Biased algorithms can determine my access to healthcare, jobs, loans, and broadly, economic opportunity — and yours, too.

      As a young person of color who relies heavily on technology, I worry about the ways inequality is becoming automated, normalized and worsened through computerized decision-making systems. I have first-hand experience of what happens when we leave discrimination unchecked. As a Muslim raised post 9/11, I have seen Islamophobia continue to increase. I watched as Mohammed became Mo, as aunties took off their hijabs, as my community did all but shed their skin to hide their Muslim identity.

    • Doctors Group, Citing Dangerous Conditions, Demands Immediate Release of Babies Detained by ICE

      “We write to demand the simultaneous release of these infants and their mothers,” wrote the American Immigration Council, American Immigration Lawyers Association, and Catholic Legal Immigration Network. “ICE is required to meet basic standards of care for minor non-citizens in its custody. It repeatedly has demonstrated an inability to do so.”

      The infants are all under a year old—some are younger than six months—and although they are being detained with their mothers, any detention of children will likely have serious lasting effects on their emotional and physical health, three doctors with Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) wrote in an accompanying letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

    • Hovering Parents Don’t Need Lectures, They Need a More Equal Nation

      A good many of us aging baby boomers are having trouble relating to the “helicopter parents” of our modern age — those moms and pops constantly hovering over their kids, filling their schedules with enrichment activities of every sort, worrying nonstop about their futures.

      Back in the middle of the 20th century, baby boomers didn’t grow up like that. We lived much more “free-range” childhoods. We pedaled our bikes far from hearth and home. We organized our own pick-up games. We spent — wasted! — entire summers doing little bits of nothing.

      We survived. So did our parents. So why do parents today have to hover so much?

      The standard explanation: Times have changed. Yes, today’s parents take a more intense approach to parenting. But they have no choice. The pressures of modernity make them do it.

      Economists Matthias Doepke of Northwestern University and Fabrizio Zilibotti of Yale have followed all the debate over helicopter parenting, and they’re not jumping on this blame-modernity bandwagon. If the pace and pressures of our dangerous digital times are driving parents to hover, the pair points out, then we ought to see parents helicoptering across the developed world.

      We’re not.

    • Activist Faces Prison for Climbing Statue of Liberty & Southwest Key HQ to Protest Family Separation

      Last week, immigrant activist Patricia Okoumou climbed the Southwest Key building in Austin, Texas, to protest the company jailing immigrant children. Now a judge in New York will decide whether to revoke her bail from her first arrest, when she climbed the Statue of Liberty on July 4 to protest President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy. Okoumou was with the group Rise and Resist on July 4 last year as they dropped a banner from the statute that read ”ABOLISH ICE.” She broke away from the group and climbed all the way to Lady Liberty’s left foot, where she continued to protest and refused to leave until she was arrested. She has since pleaded not guilty to trespassing, interference with government agency functions and disorderly conduct. Her sentencing is scheduled for March 19, but prosecutors claim her latest protest was a violation of the terms of her bond, and she has been ordered back to court today. She joins us just hours before her appearance.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Former FCC Chair Tom Wheeler Says the Internet Needs Regulation

      But his views weren’t shaped by experience alone. Wheeler’s term as FCC chair interrupted his work on a book on the history of network technology and how those networks help and hinder innovation. Wheeler wasn’t able to finish the book until after he left the FCC in 2017. From Gutenberg to Google: The History of Our Future finally arrived this month. WIRED spoke with Wheeler about his work and what the history of information technologies tells us about how to regulate today’s information giants like AT&T, Comcast, Google, and Facebook.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Facebook filed a patent for a ‘civil’ political debate forum

      The patent, titled “Providing digital forums to enhance civic engagement,” covers a localized and politics-focused form of social networking. The system would identify a proposed new law or amendment, then use existing social networking data to find and invite people “having a predicted interest in the proposed law.”

    • E-Trading Patents Are “For Technological Inventions,” Not Subject To CBM Review

      In a nonprecedential per curiam decision, the Federal Circuit vacated the PTAB’s final written decisions in five covered business method (“CBM”) reviews on four related e-trading patents as “arbitrary and capricious” because those patents are “for technological inventions” and therefore not subject to CBM review. In reaching this conclusion, the Federal Circuit considered as instructive its prior decision upholding the eligibility of two of the challenged patents under 35 U.S.C. § 101.

      Trading Technologies (“TT”) owns four patents that share the same specification and claim methods and apparatus for electronic trading. The patents describe a graphical user interface (“GUI”) for a commodity trading system that includes “a dynamic display for a plurality of bids and for a plurality of asks in the market for the commodity and a static display of prices corresponding to the plurality of bids and asks.” For two of those patents, the Federal Circuit previously affirmed a district court’s decision upholding the patent eligibility under § 101.

    • February 2019: ITC Treatment of IPR Decisions

      The International Trade Commission (“ITC”) is a fast-paced venue for claims involving intellectual property rights. These claims, adjudicated as Section 337 investigations, typically reach trial less than ten months after the initial complaint. Because the overwhelming majority of Section 337 investigations involve allegations of patent infringement, it is important for practitioners to understand the interplay between the ITC and another fast-paced patent adjudication vehicle—the inter partes review (“IPR”) proceeding conducted by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”).

    • Trademarks

      • EU General Court proves it can be a real heartbreaker when it comes to trade mark applications

        If a company holds a trade mark registration consisting of a heart for pharmaceutical drugs, would it then be permissible for that same company to register that identical logo for cardiovascular research services?

      • USPTO warns TM attorneys of foreign foul play

        Some foreign trademark attorneys are looking to cheat a proposed rule by the USPTO by bribing US attorneys in order to use their information

        A spate of foreign fraudsters, particularly from China, have approached US trademark attorneys and offered to pay to use their information in filings, following the USPTO’s proposed requirement that foreign filers be represented by US counsel.

      • Can the god of wealth be registered as a trade mark, and why?

        Several cultures have gods or goddesses of wealth, for example Pluto and Fortuna (Roman), Lakshmi (Hindu), Renenet (Egyptian), and Teutates (Celtic). The Chinese god of wealth is Caishen (财神).

        To some extent, Caishen is the Chinese version of Santa Claus, because, like him, he is a generous, jolly man in red who dishes out good stuff (in the form of luck and prosperity) and is tremendously loved by billions of people. He is normally depicted wearing a traditional civil official’s red robe and a minister’s hat and carrying auspicious objects such as gold ingots, a ruyi sceptre, or scrolls with propitious words.

      • 3D Trademarks and Other Non-Traditional Trademarks – Report on the Joint University of Geneva/INTA Yearly Conference on Intellectual Property
      • Registered #hashmarks: Yes, No, or Maybe?

        The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in § 1202.18 of The Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (TMEP) provides that a mark consisting of variants of the term HASHTAG or the hash symbol mayfunction as a mark only when such mark “functions as an identifier of the source of the applicant’s goods or services”. In other words, when a hashtag is merely used to reference or organise keywords or topics of information to facilitate searching a topic, i.e. not as a trade mark (see In re Safariland Hunting Corp.), it “adds little or no source-indicating distinctiveness to a mark” (cf. In re Hotels.com) and is deemed unregistrable. In this regard, the USPTO draws a parallel between a hashtag and a domain path.

    • Copyrights

      • Don’t Sacrifice Fair Use to the Bots

        The European Parliament is weeks away from a vote on Article 13, which would force most platforms, services, and communities that host user uploads to install filters to block uploads that seem to match materials in a database of copyrighted works. If the filter detected enough similarity between your video and something from the list of copyrighted works, your video would be banned. Hollywood lobbyists have proposed similar measures here in the U.S.

        When platforms over-rely on automated filters to enforce copyright, users must cater their uploads to those filters.

        There’s a lot to say about the dangers of Article 13—how it would censor the whole world’s Internet, not just Europe’s; how it would give an unfair advantage to big American tech companies; how it would harm the artists it was supposedly intended to help—but there’s another danger in Article 13 and other proposals to mandate filtering the Internet: they undermine our fair use rights. When platforms over-rely on automated filters to enforce copyright, users must cater their uploads to those filters.

        If you’ve ever seen the message, “This video has been removed due to a complaint from the copyright owner,” you’re familiar with YouTube’s Content ID system. Built in 2007, Content ID lets rightsholders submit large databases of video and audio fingerprints and have YouTube continually scan new uploads for potential matches to those fingerprints. Despite its flaws and frequent false positives, Content ID has become the template for copyright bots on other online platforms.

        It’s also served as a persistent thorn in the side of YouTube creators—particularly those who make fair use of copyrighted works in their videos. As one creator who makes pop culture criticism videos noted, “I’ve been doing this professionally for over eight years, and I have never had a day where I felt safe posting one of my videos even though the law states I should be safe posting one of my videos.”

      • Producer Scott Rudin Going Around Killing Off Licensed Community Theater Shows Of To Kill A Mockingbird

        If you wanted to think of a children’s story style “evil” character who must be stopped, you can’t get much better than the evil rich out of towner going around the country trying to kill off local community theater productions of a beloved play, so that he can stage a massive Broadway reboot. So, step on up, Hollywood producer Scott Rudin, to the role of evil villain. Rudin is producing a new Broadway adaptation of Harper Lee’s classic To Kill A Mockingbird. Of course, there already is a play based on the book, written by Christopher Sergel, that is widely performed around the country. Rudin, however, is producing a totally new version, written by famed Hollywood writer Aaron Sorkin.

        Now, a normal, thinking, kind person would immediately recognize that local community theater productions can easily co-exist with this giant Broadway production with all the big Hollywood names behind it. But, that’s apparently not Scott Rudin. Rudin’s lawyers claim that part of the contract between the company that holds the rights to the earlier play — a company called Dramatic Publishing Company — if there is any version of Mockingbird on Broadway, there cannot be any other Mockingbird performances within 25 miles of any city that had a population of 150,000 or more in 1960. First off: what a weird contract. Second: this still seems like something any person with the slightest bit of emotional empathy would ignore in putting on the new Broadway show.

      • NZ Study Yet Again Concludes That Piracy Is A Function Of Price And Ease Of Access

        With rates of copyright infringement fluctuating year by year, and country by country, the end result is a debate that goes on as how to best keep rates trending downward. One side of this argument urges a never ending ratcheting up of enforcement efforts, with penalties and repercussions for infringement becoming more and more severe. The other side of the argument suggests that when content is made available in a way that is both convenient and reasonably priced, piracy rates will drop. A decent number of studies have been done that show the latter is the actual answer in this argument, including a study done last summer, which showed innovative business models fare far better than enforcement efforts.

        Yet it seems it’s going to take a compounding series of these studies to get the point across, so it’s worth highlighting yet another study that has come out of New Zealand that concludes that piracy rates are a function of pricing and ease of access to content.

      • Don’t Celebrate Copyright Being Used For Political Censorship Just Because You Don’t Like The President

        But, even if you absolutely loathe the President and his silly partisan gloating, you should be very concerned about this. And, I know, that some people are already screaming (because they did it already on Twitter when I first brought this up) that REM has “every right” to control its work how it wants to and that includes not letting the President use their music. That’s mostly true. And the video may, indeed, have been infringing.

        But the problem is that this wasn’t used for any of the reasons that copyright specifically enables. It was flat out used because the band didn’t like the politics or the political message. In other words, it was using the law to stifle political speech. That was the entire intent behind the move (REM and Universal have let other similar clips remain up) — which REM and Mills are basically admitting with their tweets. They used copyright to censor a political message because they disagree with it. Copyright (in the US) isn’t supposed to be used that way. Other countries have something called “moral rights,” which would make such a takedown legitimate under moral reasons, but in the US copyright is explicitly an economic right, and not a moral one. And thus, any use of copyright — even if otherwise legit — is a form of copyfraud, in which the power of copyright is used not because of economic concerns, but directly to censor speech.

      • 31 countries offer ‘site blocking’ in cases of copyright infringement, but Switzerland is not one of them

        “The Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland just said “no” to a an application of a Swiss movie studio which had requested local ISP Swisscom to block its customers from accessing an infringing website (case No. 4A_433/2018).

        Readers of this blog are familiar with website blocking as one of the many tools right owners rely on when trying to combat online copyright infringement. Ever since the CJEU’s UPC Telekabel decision [here], it is clear that an ISP (like Swisscom) can be required to block access by its customers to a website which infringes copyright.

        One of the main reasons for this is that ISPs are considered an intermediary whose services are used to infringe a copyright or related right within the meaning of Article 8(3) of the InfoSoc Directive. In its 2017 Filmspeler judgment [here], the CJEU confirmed that users who access (=stream, not necessarily download) content that is available online without the right owners’ consent, infringe copyright, and that the acts of reproduction are not covered by the exemption in Art. 5(1) of the InfoSoc Directive.

      • Pirate Site Blocking Rejected By Swiss Supreme Court

        The Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland has rejected an application to have one of the country’s largest ISPs block pirate sites. The Court recognized that the overseas ‘pirate’ platforms were breaking the law but said that Swisscom, one of the country’s largest ISPs, was not involved in that infringement.

      • Sony Wants $16,800 in Damages From ‘Jailbroken’ PS4 Seller

        Sony Interactive Entertainment (Sony) is requesting $16,800 in damages from a California man they accuse of selling jailbroken PS4 consoles filled with pirated games. Because the man failed to respond to the accusations, Sony is now asking the court to issue a default judgment for violating the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions.

      • Once Again, Sharing Streaming Passwords Is Not ‘Piracy’ Or ‘Freeloading’

        We’ll apparently have to keep making this point until it sinks in. For years now, streaming video providers like HBO and Netflix have taken a relatively-lax approach to password sharing. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has gone so far as to say he “loves” password sharing, and sees it as little more than free advertising. Execs at HBO have similarly viewed password sharing in such a fashion, saying it doesn’t hurt their business. If anything, it results in folks signing up for their own accounts after they get hooked on your product (often true with kids who leave home, or leave college and old friends behind).

        In other words, the actual streaming providers consistently say they see password sharing as a form of marketing. And most of these services have built in limits on the number of simultaneous streams per account that can operate at any one time, deflating much of the utility for heavy users looking to piggyback on others’ accounts. That caps the phenomenon from operating at any scale that could prove truly harmful (say by 20 users sharing one Netflix account).

      • Why Is The EU Parliament Pushing Fake Propaganda From Hollywood?

        Reda then notes that, as a member of Parliament, she has submitted a request to inspect the internal documents that resulted in this video being made and published on the official EU Parliament Twitter feed. I actually think Reda could have gone even further. Beyond the flat out lies by Axel Voss in the video (saying 10 million Euros “or” less than 5 million uniques, and leaving out that those only apply to companies less than 3 years old), Voss also makes this odd statement, saying that if a company qualifies they are “a little bit exempted.” How is one “a little bit exempted”? He’s actually choosing his words carefully, because he knows that even if you qualify for all three conditions (which will only cover a very small number of platforms) you’re not really exempted at all. You just have slightly less onerous conditions thrust upon you.

        Of course, with elections coming up in just a few months, it does seem like the EU Parliament may regret this decision. Just skimming through most of the responses to this tweet, it doesn’t seem to be convincing anyone of anything… other than that they want to vote the bums out in May.

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