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03.12.19

Links 12/3/2019: Sway 1.0 Released, Debian Feuds Carry On

Posted in News Roundup at 12:25 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Desktop

    • Star LabTop Mk III Open Source Edition: An Interesting Laptop

      Star Labs Systems have been producing Laptops tailored for Linux for some time. Recently, they have recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for their upcoming ‘Open Source Edition’ laptop that incorporates more features as per the requests by the users or reviewers.

  • Server

    • NGINX to Join F5: Proud to Finish One Chapter and Excited to Start the Next

      I’m incredibly excited that today we announced NGINX has signed a definitive agreement to be acquired by F5. While there will be a lot of press and formal announcements explaining the reasoning behind the decision, I wanted to share a few words of my own.

      We’ve built an incredible company, which led to today’s event. As I reflect on how we achieved this success, I landed on three key themes: technology, family, and vision.

    • F5 acquires NGINX for $670M to move into open-source, multi-cloud services

      NGINX had last raised money nine months ago, a $43 million round led by Goldman Sachs to fuel expansion, and had positioned itself as a strong alternative to F5 in recent years. (It had not disclosed its valuation in that round.) F5 itself, by coincidence, was said to have retained Goldman Sachs in 2016 to field acquisition interest in itself, although that never led to anything.

    • F5 Networks Acquiring NGINX For $670 Million

      NGINX is being acquired by F5 for $670 million USD. F5 says they will continue the innovation and investment around the NGINX open-source project while focusing more on the end-to-end application services offerings. F5 Networks plans to integrate “F5 cloud-native innovations” into the NGINX software.

    • F5 Acquires NGINX to Bridge NetOps & DevOps, Providing Customers with Consistent Application Services Across Every Environment
    • Backups | Roadmap to Securing Your Infrastructure

      How many of you have ever needed to recover something from backups? I’m sure most of us have, and we were grateful when our data was successfully restored. Have you ever been disappointed when something wasn’t able to be restored? I’m sure some of you have felt that pain — it’s not fun. Imagine, if you will, your organization is hit with ransomware, and your primary application is crippled. Then, imagine if the backups of that application had been failing for months. Not a pretty picture, is it?

    • Become a FreeRADIUS Server Reseller

      We live in the internet era of software as a service (SaaS). Regardless of the type of SaaS offered, they all have in common one need: the need to authenticate, authorize and account their users. FreeRADIUS was designed to do just that and the protocol is widely supported by a long list of existing programs.

      Although very fast and powerful, a radius server can be difficult to install and configure, especially to the business owner that has a lot of other things to do.

      Having the opportunity to roll out a server with FreeRADIUS 3 + MySQL + daloRADIUS panel already installed and ready to authenticate your users is alluring to any SaaS developer or network manager.

    • You may not know it, but you already have a PaaS

      I read a blog recently (that I sadly can’t find again) about how important it is to use a Platform as a Service (PaaS). It made the argument that everyone running at any sort of scale has had to solve the same basic problems. This got me thinking about how every company doing software development already has a PaaS of some sort. It just might not be in software or explicitly defined.

      Regardless of your organization’s complexity or the scale you have to deal with, operational activities like provisioning, security, logging, and networking are still being done. These are processes that will happen naturally. They might be done trivially on the developers’ laptops then redeploying over a weekend into a public server. Or they might be done in the most headache inducing way through an email to the understaffed IT department for just booting servers.

    • SUSE Studio Onsite End of Support

      Anyone who’s used the Open Build Service will know how easy (and free!) it is to use when creating and distributing software packages. As this has proven to be such a success, I’m announcing the end of support, or sunset, of the data center edition of SUSE Studio, SUSE Studio Onsite, from the 31st of March 2019. The online service SUSE Studio was replaced by the Open Build Service in 2018, so it was an obvious choice to replace the SUSE Studio Onsite with Open Build Service in the data center.

    • Exploring a Metrics-Driven Approach to Transformation

      My team has been working with organizations adopting containers, Kubernetes, and Red Hat OpenShift for more than three years now. When we started providing professional services around enterprise Kubernetes, it became clear we needed a program-level framework for adopting containers that spelled out the activities of multiple project teams. Some participants would be focused on container platform management and operations, some on continuous delivery, some on the application lifecycle, and others on cross-cutting process transformation.

      We’ve had success using this framework to help customers rethink container adoption as less a matter of new technology implementation and more as an “organizational journey,” where people and process concerns are at least as important as the successful deployment of OpenShift clusters.

      Over time, we’ve realized the program framework is missing a guiding force that gets executive stakeholders engaged and can keep all participants focused on a consistent, meaningful set of objectives. Too often, we’ve seen IT and development managers concentrated on narrow, tactical objectives that don’t drive the big-picture, transformational needs of those enterprises. What we felt was lacking was a set of trackable and meaningful measures that could demonstrate progress to stakeholders in a more visible way.

    • Red Hat Summit 2019 Session Highlights: Developers

      2019 brings new opportunities for developers to decide how they want to shape the future of application development. The impact of new technologies, architectures and processes can be felt as microservices, containers and serverless are shifting the way we think about building, deploying, running and maintaining applications today.

      At Red Hat Summit 2019, we’re offering sessions, workshops, and hands-on trainings and labs to help our customers and partners and community members get the most from these innovative technologies and practices.

    • Distributed microservices architecture: Enterprise integration, Istio, and managed API gateways

      The rise of microservices architectures drastically changed the software development landscape. In the past few years, we have seen a shift from centralized monoliths to distributed computing that benefits from cloud infrastructure. With distributed deployments, the adoption of microservices, and system scaling to cloud levels, new problems emerged, as well as new components that tried to solve the problems.

      By now, you most likely have heard that the service mesh or Istio is here to save the day. However, you might be wondering how it fits with your current enterprise integration investments and API management initiatives. That is what I discuss in this article.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

    • Episode 16: Digital Stalking

      Katherine Druckman and Doc Searls talk about digital stalking, journalism, clickbait, and using ad targeting for evil.

    • What making a podcast taught us about branded content

      The Command Line Heroes podcast is best described as branded content. Branded content is a type of content marketing where companies raise awareness and build brand affinity by creating content that’s valuable, useful, and does not interrupt the lives of our audiences.

      Branded content like Command Line Heroes supports our company identity. It establishes Red Hat’s commitment to preserving and growing the open source movement and benefits both communities and enterprises.

    • mintCast 304 – Interview with Joshua Lowe
    • Episode 58 | This Week in Linux

      On this episode of This Week in Linux. We talk about the latest release of man-pages 5.0, Wireshark 3.0, Minetest 5.0, DAV1D video decoder and more. We also will cover some new distro releases with Pardus, 4MLinux, and Condres OS. We’ll also talk about some Linux Mobile news with Maru OS and Purism’s PureOS. Later in the show, we’ll discuss some unfortunate news regarding Microsoft potentially ending support for Skype for Web on Linux and Europe might be introducing some terrible regulations regarding firmware. Then we’ll end on a positive note by rounding out the show with some Linux Gaming news like a new Free to Play game and some new Humble Bundles. All that and much more on your Weekly Source for Linux GNews.

  • Kernel Space

    • linux-5.0-ck1, MuQSS version 0.190 for linux-5.0

      Announcing a new -ck release, 5.0-ck1 with the latest version of the Multiple Queue Skiplist Scheduler, version 0.190. These are patches designed to improve system responsiveness and interactivity with specific emphasis on the desktop, but configurable for any workload.

    • Linux 5.0-ck1 Kernel Rolls Out With MuQSS 0.190 Scheduler

      One week has passed since the official debut of Linux 5.0 and now long-time kernel hacker Con Kolivas is out with his 5.0-ck1 kernel patch as well as an updated MuQSS scheduler.

    • New Linux Kernel: The Big 5.0

      Linus Torvalds at last made the jump with the recent release of kernel 5.0. Although Linus likes to say that his only reason to move on to the next integer is when he runs out of fingers and toes with which to count the fractional part of the version number, the truth is this kernel is pretty loaded with new features.

      On the network front, apart from improvements to drivers like that of the Realtek R8169, 5.0 will come with better network performance. Network performance has been down for the last year or so because of Spectre V2. The bug forced kernel developers to introduce something called a Retpoline (short for “RETurn tramPOLINE”) to mitigate its effect. The changes introduced in kernel 5.0 “[...] Overall [give a greater than] 10% performance improvement for UDP GRO benchmark and smaller but measurable [improvements] for TCP syn flood” according to developer Paolo Abeni.

      What hasn’t made the cut yet is the much anticipated integration of WireGuard. Wireguard is a VPN protocol that is allegedly faster, more versatile and safer than the ones currently supported by the kernel. Wireguard is easy to implement, uses state of the art encryption, and is capable of maintaining the network link to the VPN up even if the user switches to a different WiFi network or changes from WiFi to a wired connection.

    • Linux 5.1 Might Add Support For Using Persistant Memory As System RAM

      There are numerous differences when it comes to traditional RAM and flash storage. While both might be using solid state technologies, RAM is known to be much faster, costly, and speedy. With new solutions like Intel Optane DC Persistent Memory, things are going looking a bit different as it continues to bridge the gaps between non-volatile storage and RAM.

      As the adoption of Optane memory is picking up the pace, it makes sense for Linux kernel to introduce the support for using the persistent memory as a traditional RAM.

    • Secure Launch Boot Protocol Being Worked On For The Linux Kernel, Advancing TrenchBoot

      Up for discussion on the Linux kernel mailing list is adding support for the Secure Launch boot protocol to Linux. This is part of the recent efforts to supporting Linux in “secure” boot environments around Intel Trusted Execution Technology and AMD SKINIT platform security.

      Developers from Oracle and other organizations have been working on Secure Launch and the open-source Trenchboot to allow Linux to be booted directly into a secure environment like Intel TXT (Trusted Execution Technology) and AMD SKINIT. Changes to the Linux kernel as well as the (GRUB) boot-loader are required.

    • BMQ “BitMap Queue” Is The Newest Linux CPU Scheduler, Inspired By Google’s Zircon

      While there is the MuQSS CPU scheduler that lives out of tree as a promising CPU scheduler for the Linux kernel, it is not alone. Another option has been the PDS scheduler while now its author, Alfred Chen, has announced another new CPU kernel scheduler option he has dubbed the BitMap Queue.

      The BMQ “BitMap Queue” scheduler started off from his existing PDS development experience and inspired by the scheduler found within Google’s Zircon, the kernel powering their Fuchsia OS initiative.

    • Linux Foundation

      • Open Source is Eating the Startup Ecosystem: A Guide for Assessing the Value Creation of Startups

        In the last few years we have witnessed the unprecedented growth of open source in all industries—from the increased adoption of open source software in products and services, to the extensive growth in open source contributions and the releasing of proprietary technologies under an open source license. It has been an incredible experience to be a part of.

        As many have stated, Open Source is the New Normal, Open Source is Eating the World, Open Source is Eating Software, etc. all of which are true statements. To that extent, I’d like to add one more maxim: Open Source is Eating the Startup Ecosystem. It is almost impossible to find a technology startup today that does not rely in one shape or form on open source software to boot up its operation and develop its product offering. As a result, we are operating in a space where open source due diligence is now a mandatory exercise in every M&A transaction. These exercises evaluate the open source practices of an organization and scope out all open source software used in product(s)/service(s) and how it interacts with proprietary components—all of which is necessary to assess the value creation of the company in relation to open source software.

        Being intimately involved in this space has allowed me observe, learn, and apply many open source best practices. I decided to chronicle these learnings in an ebook as contribution to the OpenChain project: Assessment of Open Source Practices as part of Due Diligence in Merger and Acquisition Transactions. This ebook addresses the basic question of: How does one evaluate open source practices in a given organization that is an acquisition target? We address this question by offering a path to evaluate these practices along with appropriate checklists for reference. Essentially, it explains how the aquirerer and the target company can prepare for this due diligence, offers an explanation of the audit process, and provides general recommended practices for ensuring open source compliance.

      • New Red Team Project Aims to Help Secure Open Source Software

        The Linux Foundation has launched the Red Team Project, which incubates open source cybersecurity tools to support cyber range automation, containerized pentesting utilities, binary risk quantification, and standards validation and advancement.

        The Red Team Project’s main goal is to make open source software safer to use. They use the same tools, techniques, and procedures used by malicious actors, but in a constructive way to provide feedback and help make open source projects more secure.

      • The Linux Foundation Announces CHIPS Alliance To Open-source Chip Designs

        The Linux Foundation, the non-profit working to support and encourage open source technologies, has announced the CHIPS Alliance.

        The early backers of the alliance include the likes of SiFive, Esperanto Technologies, Google, and WD. This group aims to fuel the open source chip innovation and back the growing popularity and support for free and open RISC-V architecture.

      • Linux Foundation to Host CHIPS Alliance Project to Propel Industry Innovation Through Open Source Chip and SoC Design

        The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization enabling mass innovation through open source, today announced its intent to form the CHIPS Alliance project to host and curate high-quality open source code relevant to the design of silicon devices. CHIPS Alliance will foster a collaborative environment that will enable accelerated creation and deployment of more efficient and flexible chip designs for use in mobile, computing, consumer electronics, and Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

        Early CHIPS Alliance backers include Esperanto Technologies, Google, SiFive and Western Digital, all committed to both open source hardware and continued momentum behind the free and open RISC-V architecture.

        “The RISC-V community is working to foster open source foundation technologies that will help unlock market innovation to move [artificial intelligence/machine learning and infrastructure composability] forward,” said Eric Burgener, research vice president of IDC’s Infrastructure Systems, Platforms, and Technologies Group, via a recent IDC report.

      • The Linux Foundation Launches New CommunityBridge Platform to Help Sustain Open Source Communities

        The Linux Foundation today announced CommunityBridge – a new platform created to empower open source developers – and the individuals and organizations who support them – to advance sustainability, security, and diversity in open source technology.

      • New Red Team Project Aims to Help Secure Open Source Software

        founded the Fedora Red Team SIG with some fellow Red Hatters at Def Con 25. We had some exploit mapping tools that we wanted to build, and I was inspired by Mudge and Sarah Zatko’s Cyber-ITL project; I wanted to make an open source implementation of their methodologies. The Fedora Project graciously hosted us and were tremendous advocates. Now that I’m at Google, I’m fortunate to get to work on the Red Team as my 20% Project, where I hope to broaden its impact and build a more vendor neutral community. Fedora is collaborating with LF, supports our forking the projects, and will have a representative on our technical steering committee.

      • The Linux Foundation on the future role of cloud-native network functions

        A year ago, the Linux Foundation (LFN) and Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) introduced the concept of CNFs – cloud native network functions. But with the telecoms industry still coming to terms with VNFs for their NFV deployments, why the need for something different? The two open source associations see CNFs as becoming the network architecture of the future, for many of the same reasons that containers and Kubernetes are becoming the standard platform for enterprise computing. To that end, they were using MWC to launch their joint CNF Testbed and to demo the same networking code running as VNFs on OpenStack and as CNFs on Kubernetes to show the performance improvements from avoiding virtualization overheads. Arpit Joshipura also provides an update on orchestration, ONAP and the improving relationship between open source communities and SDOs.

    • Graphics Stack

      • Announcing the release of sway 1.0

        1.0 is the first stable release of sway and represents a consistent, flexible, and powerful desktop environment for Linux and FreeBSD. We hope you’ll enjoy it! If the last sway release you used was 0.15 or earlier, you’re in for a shock. 0.15 was a buggy, frustrating desktop to use, but sway 1.0 has been completely overhauled and represents a much more capable desktop. It’s almost impossible to summarize all of the changes which makes 1.0 great. Sway 1.0 adds a huge variety of features which were sorely missed on 0.x, improves performance in every respect, offers a more faithful implementation of Wayland, and exists as a positive political force in the Wayland ecosystem pushing for standardization and cooperation among Wayland projects.

        When planning the future of sway, we realized that the Wayland ecosystem was sorely in need of a stable & flexible common base library to encapsulate all of the difficult and complex facets of building a desktop. To this end, I decided we would build wlroots. It’s been a smashing success. This project has become very important to the Linux desktop ecosystem, and the benefits we reap from it have been shared with the community at large. Dozens of projects are using it today, and soon you’ll find it underneath most Linux desktops, on your phone, in your VR environment, and more. Its influence extends beyond its borders as well, as we develop and push for standards throughout Wayland.

      • Sway 1.0 Released For This i3-Compatible Wayland Compositor
      • Announcing the release of sway 1.0
      • Nouveau NIR Support Slated To Land In Mesa 19.1 Over The Days Ahead

        The work done by Red Hat’s Karol Herbst over the past year for plumbing in NIR intermediate representation support within the open-source NVIDIA “Nouveau” Gallium3D driver will finally be landing.

        Karol Herbst sent out the latest 34 patches while sharing his intentions to go ahead and merge the code to Mesa over the next few days. This means the experimental Nouveau NIR support would be part of next quarter’s Mesa 19.1 release.

      • Updated Vega 20 Firmware Binaries & Other AMDGPU Files Land In Linux-Firmware.Git

        For those habitually riding the bleeding-edge open-source Radeon graphics driver stack, there are some updated firmware files now available for newer AMD graphics processors.

        Hitting Linux-Firmware.Git this morning are updated Vega 20 files for the likes of the Radeon VII, Polaris 12 updates, and updated firmware for the yet-to-debut Picasso APUs. Other generations of AMD Radeon GPUs are unchanged in the linux-firmware tree.

      • Mysterious AMD GPU Benchmark Submission Appears to Be Vega, Not Navi

        While it is hard to tell what exactly this GPU is, if Linux’s driver IDs can be trusted, it doesn’t appear to be Navi. Even if the GPU is from the Navi lineup, it’s hard to glean useful performance data and GPU specifications due to the nature of the CompuBench benchmark. For now, it appears more likely this is just another Vega 20 GPU, perhaps even a new WX Pro series model.

    • Benchmarks

      • Spectre/Meltdown Performance Impact Across Eight Linux Distributions

        While nearly all Linux distributions have been mitigated against the Spectre and Meltdown CPU vulnerabilities for over one year, the performance ahead associated with these speculative execution vulnerabilities can vary. This is especially more so with the enterprise Linux distributions that are generally shipping on older kernel branches prior to where the initial kernel support was mainlined. With recent kernel releases we’ve also seen varying optimizations and other changes around the Spectre/Meltdown/L1TF mitigations. So for those wondering about the varying impact, here are some side-by-side benchmarks.

        For those curious how the Spectre/Meltdown mitigation impact can vary between Linux distributions, on the same system I tested eight different Linux distributions while comparing the default mitigation costs to that of disabling all possible Spectre/Meltdown/L1TF mitigations that can be run-time disabled. The same up-to-date microcode of the BIOS/firmware was maintained the same with primarily going to the extents an end-user would if wanting to try to recover the performance costs involved with Spectre/Meltdown on each of the tested Linux distributions.

      • SVT-AV1 Performance Continues Speeding Ahead, Xeon/EPYC Video Encode Benchmarks

        The recently open-sourced Intel video encoders for VP9, AV1, and HEVC under the “Streaming Video Technology” (SVT) umbrella continue looking very positive especially for the newer VP9/AV1 video formats.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • XFCE + Global Menu + Capitaine Theme Pack

      Continuing KDE, GNOME, and MATE customization the series, it’s XFCE’s turn being customized with a global menu and Capitaine theme pack. We will use an XFCE theme, a GTK3 theme, an icon theme, tweak the top panel a little, and then install Plank as the dock, and finish them up with some more tweaking. I practiced this on Xubuntu 18.04 with XFCE version 4.12. I wish this helps everybody especially you who just started customizing XFCE desktop. Happy tweaking!

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • 10-year-old eeePC netbook – running Plasma

        The Plasma desktop environment does wonders, even to old hardware. I mean, just look at it. Plus, it’s really nice that it allowed me to squeeze an extra few milliliters of the proverbial digital juice out of the netbook’s feeble core. But was that enough to give this eeePC relevance in 2019? Nope.

        I do feel a bit sad that we’ve come to this. After all, it’s not unexpected, it does not come as a shock, and a system that was sort of a weakling even when it was brand new doesn’t really justify its place in the modern world. On the other hand, why not. It’s not that the world has cardinally changed. Most of the stuff remains the same, and the only major difference is unnecessary software bloat and Javascript-obese websites. This realization becomes even more acute when you realize that this eeePC worked great only two years ago.

        But all good things must end. And so, apart from some light, non-essential use, this fabulous little machine will simply sit idle and watch the Internet buzz by. If you have any clever suggestions or ideas for testing, I’m all ears. Even so, I believe it’s time to send this little giant to its digital Valhalla. EeePC, you served me well, and I’m more than grateful for your rugged, feisty loyalty. May you be reborn sometime, somewhere and give someone else the sweet keyboard you gave me. So long, and thanks for all the fish.

      • Kdenlive: Time to merge!

        After many delays, we finally think the Timeline Refactoring branch is ready for production. This means that in the next days major changes will land in Kdenlive’s git Master branch scheduled for the KDE Applications 19.04 release.

  • Distributions

    • BackBox Linux for Penetration Testing

      Any given task can succeed or fail depending upon the tools at hand. For security engineers in particular, building just the right toolkit can make life exponentially easier. Luckily, with open source, you have a wide range of applications and environments at your disposal, ranging from simple commands to complicated and integrated tools.

      The problem with the piecemeal approach, however, is that you might wind up missing out on something that can make or break a job… or you waste a lot of time hunting down the right tools for the job. To that end, it’s always good to consider an operating system geared specifically for penetration testing (aka pentesting).

    • New Releases

      • ExTiX 19.3 (190307) With Kernel 5.0 Comes With Kodi 18.2 Leia Pre-Installed

        If there is something that everyone can agree about when it comes to Linux distributions, then it has to be the fact that there are too many of them. This makes it difficult for users to pick a Linux distribution, but this is also the great thing about Linux. There are lots of options to pick from and users can find the one that fits their needs the most. Nonetheless, the latest and most interesting distro to appear uses the all-new Linux 5.0 kernel and Ubuntu 19.04 Disco Dingo. The distro is called “ExTiX” and today we are going to check out everything there is to know about it.

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

    • Fedora

      • Wayland-Spun Firefox Is Being Given More Time To Get Ready For Fedora 30

        Fedora 30 is aiming to ship with the Wayland native version of Firefox by default rather than relying upon XWayland. This Wayland-native Firefox has long been offered in the Fedora repository but not used as the default browser. While it’s not all squared away yet, more time has been granted to get it ready for this spring update to Fedora.

        The “Firefox Wayland by default” change is currently among the list of incomplete changes for Fedora 30. While past the deadline, the Fedora Engineering and Steering Committee (FESCo) is letting this feature still land if it won’t end up delaying the Fedora 30 beta milestone.

      • Stories from the amazing world of release-monitoring.org

        Our story begins in August 2018. I was summoned by the Archmage (my ex-manager Jim Perrin) to be part of the mage conclave (Fedora Infrastructure team) and take care of a world that laid abandoned for some time. The name of this realm is release-monitoring.org and Jim recommended I start on the continent of Anitya (web server).

        I began to study this world and communed with the mage conclave, especially with previous caretaker of this world, honorable mage Jeremy Cline. I learned a lot about this realm (especially Anitya) and fixed a small issue here and there in order to make the world a better place for its inhabitants.

        After few weeks I became more confident when walking through the continent of Anitya, and started working on bigger things that hopefully helped the inhabitants of this world to have better life.

        Sometimes I made a mistake, which displeased the inhabitants greatly, but we identified these issues together (thanks for every bug report) and fixed most of them (thanks to all contributors).

        After a few months Jim Perrin came to me again with another task from the amazing realm of release-monitoring.org. He said to me: “Here in these lands lies a place that is key to this world and it lay abandoned for far too long. You have proven yourself when taking care of the continent of Anitya, so here by the power entrusted in me I’m naming you the caretaker of the island of the-new-hotness.”

    • Debian Family

      • John Goerzen: A (Partial) Defense of Debian

        I was sad to read on his blog that Michael Stapelberg is winding down his Debian involvement. In his post, he outlined some critiques of Debian. In his post, I want to acknowledge that he is on point with some of them, but also push back on others. Some of this is also a response to some of the comments on Hacker News.

        I’d first like to discuss some of the assumptions I believe his post rests on: namely that “we’ve always done it this way” isn’t a good reason to keep doing something. I completely agree. However, I would also say that “this thing is newer, so it’s better and we should use it” is also poor reasoning. Newer is not always better. Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not, but deeper thought is generally required.

        Also, when thinking about why things are a certain way or why people prefer certain approaches, we must often ask “why does that make sense to them?” So let’s dive in.

      • Debian BSP in Cambridge, 08 – 10 March 2019

        Lots of snacks, lots of discusssion, lots of bugs fixed! YA BSP at my place.

      • Daniel Pocock: Does character assassination make better software?

        Given the circumstances I had informed Lamb about in July, sending this type of message is completely unconscionable, especially for somebody in a highly trusted position of leadership.

        The monumental breach of trust compromises the privacy of multiple people, some of them never had any interaction with the Debian Project.

        How would you feel stumbling into the fallout zone of this email at Christmas?

      • Lucas Nussbaum: On Debian frustrations

        Michael Stapelberg writes about his frustrations with Debian, resulting in him reducing his involvement in the project. That’s sad: over the years, Michael has made a lot of great contributions to Debian, addressing hard problems in interesting, disruptive ways.

        He makes a lot of good points about Debian, with which I’m generally in agreement. An interesting exercise would be to rank those issues: what are, today, the biggest issues to solve in Debian? I’m nowadays not following Debian closely enough to be able to do that exercise, but I would love to read others’ thoughts (bonus points if it’s in a DPL platform, given that it seems that we have a pretty quiet DPL election this year!)

        Most of Michael’s points are about the need for modernization of Debian’s infrastructure and workflows, and I agree that it’s sad that we have made little progress in that area over the last decade. And I think that it’s important to realize that providing alternatives to developers have a cost, and that when a large proportion of developers or packages have switched to doing something (using git, using dh, not using 1.0-based patch systems such as dpatch, …), there are huge advantages with standardizing and pushing this on everybody.

        There are a few reasons why this is harder than it sounds, though.

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • ROS2 launch: required nodes

            This also creates a talker/listener system where, if the talker exits the system continues, but if the listener exits the launched system is shut down. However, you can see that, unlike the ROS1 example, there are a few steps required to get there. Specifically, it requires the LaunchDescription to include an event handler to listen for an exit event for every required node which then emits a Shutdown event, which then FINALLY causes the launched system to shut down. That doesn’t scale particularly well to a real system where a large number of nodes may be required to run successfully.

            We went through a few design iterations for how to best solve this, and decided that both the scaling and the boilerplate issues could be solved if the Node definitions could specify somehow that they were required. Rather than carry over that language from ROS1, though, we decided to keep some commonality with OnProcessExit and simply add an on_exit action list directly to the Node definition. We also added a new action called Shutdown. Using these two new features together allows one to very simply specify that, if a given node exits, it should shut the entire launched system down. This greatly reduces boilerplate and scales far better than adding an event handler for each node.

          • Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter Issue 569
          • Florida Based Startup Builds Ubuntu Powered Aerial Robotics

            Apellix is the only aerial robotics company with drones “capable of making contact with structures through fully computer-controlled flight”, claims Robert Dahlstrom, Founder and CEO of Apellix.

            “At height, a human pilot cannot accurately gauge distance. At 45m off the ground, they can’t tell if they are 8cm or 80cm away from the structure. With our solutions, an engineer simply positions the drone near the inspection site, then the on-board computer takes over and automates the delicate docking process.” He adds.

            Apellix considered many popular Linux distributions before zeroing in on Ubuntu for its stability, reliability, and large developer ecosystem. Ubuntu’s versatility also enabled Apellix to use the same underlying OS platform and software packages across development and production.

            The team is currently developing on Ubuntu Server with the intent to migrate to Ubuntu Core. The company is also making extensive use of Ubuntu Server, both on-board its robotic systems and its cloud operations, according to a case study by Ubuntu’s parent company, Canonical Foundation.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • SPI annual report

    Software in the Public Interest has released its annual report [PDF] for 2018. “During the current board term SPI continues to strive for self-improvement and renewal. Treasury teamsprints, bank visits, and legal consultations during in-person meetings have helped keep the wheels turning. An overhaul of our corporate bylaws that better meets our needs is being presented to the members for their approval. And we have improved our reimbursement workflow with a view toward speedier and smoother processing.”

  • Events

    • FOSDEM 2019, a recap

      As part of the Linux community, a team at Canonical that open sources its own code and who are avid users of free software, we of course wanted to participate, hoping to get some fresh ideas and an overview of the current state of affairs.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Apply for a Mozilla Fellowship

        Mozilla Fellows work on the front lines of internet health, at a time when the internet is entwined with everything from elections and free expression to justice and personal safety. Fellows ensure the internet remains a force for good — empowerment, equality, access — and also combat online ills, like abuse, exclusion, and closed systems.

        Mozilla is particularly interested in individuals whose expertise aligns with our 2019 impact goal: “better machine decision making,” or ensuring the artificial intelligence in our lives is designed with responsibility and ethics top of mind. For example: Fellows might research how disinformation spreads on Facebook. Or, build a tool that identifies the blind spots in algorithms that detect cancer. Or, advocate for a “digital bill of rights” that protects individuals from invasive facial recognition technology.

      • QMO: DevEdition 66 Beta 14 Testday Results

        As you may already know, last Friday – March 8th – we held a new Testday event, for DevEdition 66 Beta 14.

        Thank you all for helping us make Mozilla a better place: Iryna Thompson, Rok Žerdin (zerdo), gaby2300, noelonassis.

        From Mozilla India Community: Aishwarya Narasimhan.

        From Mozilla Bangladesh Community: Sayed Ibn Masud, Maruf Rahman, Saheda Reza Antora, Sajedul Islam, Hasibul Hasan Shanto, Kazi Ashraf Hossain and Mim Ahmed Joy.

      • Socorro: February 2019 happenings

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

      • This Month In Servo 126

        In the past month, we merged 176 PRs in the Servo organization’s repositories.

      • Spring Cleaning with Browser Extensions

        Flowers in bloom, birds singing, cluttered debris everywhere. It’s Spring cleaning season. We may not be able to help with that mystery odor in the garage, but here are some exceptional browser extensions for addressing digital life disorder.

      • Mozilla Open Policy & Advocacy Blog: Meet the newest walled garden

        Recently, Mark Zuckerberg posted a lengthy note outlining Facebook’s vision to integrate its three messaging services – WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram (through its Direct messaging functionality) – into one privacy and security oriented platform. The post positioned Facebook’s future around individual and small group conversations, rather than the “public forum” style communications through Facebook’s newsfeed platform. Initial coverage of the move, largely critical, has focused on the privacy and security aspects of this integrated platform, the history of broken promises on privacy and the changes that would be needed for Facebook’s business model to realize the goal. However, there’s a yet darker side to the proposal, one mostly lost in the post and coverage so far: Facebook is taking one step further to make its family of services into the newest walled garden, at the expense of openness and the broader digital economy.

        [...]

        How does this square with the very active conversations around competition and centralization in tech we’re witnessing around the world today? The German competition authority just issued a decision forcing Facebook to stop sharing data amongst its services. This feels like quite the discordant note for Facebook to be casting, even as the company is (presumably) thinking about how to comply with the German decision. Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission is actively pursuing an investigation into Facebook’s data practices. And regulators in the U.S., the European Union, India, Israel, and Australia are actively reviewing their antitrust and competition laws to ensure they can respond to the challenges posed by technology and data.

        It’s hard to say whether integrating its messaging services will further entrench Facebook’s position, or make it harder to pursue the kinds of remedies directed by the Bundeskartellamt and being considered by politicians around the world. But it seems like Facebook is on a collision course towards finding out.

        If Facebook believes that messaging as a platform offers incredible future innovation, the company has a choice. It could either seek to develop that potential within a silo, the way AT&T fostered innovation in telephones in the 1950s – or it could try the way the internet was built to work: offering real interoperability on reasonable terms so that others can innovate downstream.

      • 4 Firefox-derived browsers you can use to stave off the looming Chromium monoculture

        The Google led Chromium browser toolkit project is poised to take control over the entire web platform with it’s 72 % marketshare on desktop devices and 56 % of mobile. Firefox is Chromium’s main competitor on desktop computers and you should consider switching to it if you care at all about maintaining some competition and innovation in this market.

        Firefox itself might not be the perfect web browser for you, however. Here are four other web browsers built on top of Firefox that you may want to consider to stave off the looming Chromium web-monoculture.

        Most web browsers of today are based on either Google Chromium, Apple WebKit, or Mozilla Firefox. There are very few vendors crazy enough to attempt making a web rendering engine, yet alone a full web browser. Microsoft recently abandoned their EdgeHTML engine in favor of Chromium and thus further reducing competition in this space.

        But what does it really mean to build a web browser on top of another web browser? It can mean many things to many different developers and therein lies the possibilities for neat new feature that can delight users and make them more productive.

      • Firefox 66 new contributors
      • Smaller Firefox Updates

        Back in 2014 I blogged about several ideas about how to make Firefox updates smaller.

        Since then, we have been able to implement some of these ideas, and we also landed a few unexpected changes!

      • Firefox Student Projects in 2018: A Recap

        Firefox is an open-source project, created by a vibrant community of paid and volunteer contributors from all over the world. Did you know that some of those contributors are students, who are sponsored or given course credit to make improvements to Firefox?

        In this blog post, we want to talk about some student projects that have wrapped up recently, and also offer the students themselves an opportunity to reflect on their experience working on them.

        If you or someone you know might be interested in developing Firefox as a student, there are some handy links at the bottom of this article to help get you started with some student programs. Not a student? No problem – come hack with us anyways!

        Now let’s take a look at some interesting things that have happened in Firefox recently, thanks to some hard-working students.

      • Introducing Firefox Send, Providing Free File Transfers while Keeping your Personal Information Private

        At Mozilla, we are always committed to people’s security and privacy. It’s part of our long-standing Mozilla Manifesto. We are continually looking for new ways to fulfill that promise, whether it’s through the browser, apps or services. So, it felt natural to graduate one of our popular Test Pilot experiments, Firefox Send, send.firefox.com. Send is a free encrypted file transfer service that allows users to safely and simply share files from any browser. Additionally, Send will also be available as a an Android app in beta later this week. Now that it’s a keeper, we’ve made it even better, offering higher upload limits and greater control over the files you share.

  • Funding

    • Topics for GSoC 2019

      It is time for GNUnet to run properly on Android. Note that GNUnet is written in C, and this is not about rewriting GNUnet in Java, but about getting the C code to run on Android.

    • Introducing Season of Docs

      Google Open Source is delighted to announce Season of Docs, a new program which fosters the open source contributions of technical writers.

      Season of Docs brings technical writers and open source projects together for a few months to work on open source documentation. 2019 is the first time we’re running this exciting new program.

      Join us in making a substantive contribution to open source software development around the world.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • David Rheinsberg: Goodbye Gnu-EFI!

      The recommended way to link UEFI applications on linux was until now through GNU-EFI, a toolchain provided by the GNU Project that bridges from the ELF world into COFF/PE32+. But why don’t we compile directly to native UEFI? A short dive into the past of GNU Toolchains, its remnants, and a surprisingly simple way out.

      The Linux World (and many UNIX Derivatives for that matter) is modeled around ELF. With statically linked languages becoming more prevalent, the impact of the ABI diminishes, but it still defines properties far beyond just how to call functions. The ABI your system uses also effects how compiler and linker interact, how binaries export information (especially symbols), and what features application developers can make use of. We have become used to ELF, and require its properties in places we didn’t expect.

    • GNUnet 0.11.0 released

      We are pleased to announce the release of GNUnet 0.11.0.

      This is a major release after about five years of development. In terms of usability, users should be aware that there are still a large number of known open issues in particular with respect to ease of use, but also some critical privacy issues especially for mobile users. Also, the nascent network is tiny (about 200 peers) and thus unlikely to provide good anonymity or extensive amounts of interesting information. As a result, the 0.11.0 release is still only suitable for early adopters with some reasonable pain tolerance.

  • Licensing/Legal

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

  • Programming/Development

    • Building news word clouds using Python and Repl.it

      Word clouds are a popular way to visualise large amounts of text. Word clouds are images showing scattered words in different sizes, where words that appear more frequently in the given text are larger, and less common words are smaller or not shown at all.

      In this tutorial, we’ll build a web application using Python and Flask that transforms the latest news stories into word clouds and displays them to our visitors.

    • End of Life (EOL) for Python 2.7 is coming. Are you ready?

      We all knew it was coming. Back in 2014 when Guido van Rossum, Python’s creator and principal author, made the announcement, January 1, 2020 seemed pretty far away. Now we’re less than a year out from Python 2.7’s sunset, after which there’ll be absolutely no more support from the core Python team.Many utilized projects pledge to drop Python 2 support in or before 2020. (Here are all the currently Participating Projects.)

    • Understanding and Improving Conda’s performance

      Lately, we have been responding to issues about Conda’s speed. We’re working on it and we wanted to explain a few of the facets that we’re looking at to solve the problem.

    • Source{d} Can Help Solve Your Own Tabs-Versus-Spaces Debate

      The debate over tabs versus spaces has been going on for decades and, despite all attempts to end it, it is ongoing. StackOverflow co-founder Jeff Atwood once wrote of the debate, “It doesn’t actually matter which coding styles you pick. What does matter is that you, and everyone else on your team, sticks with those conventions and uses them consistently.”

      And to that end, among others, source{d} offers machine learning and analysis to ensure a consistent coding style adapting to various codebases. In other words, source{d} can solve this debate for you, not by asking those in charge and enforcing the style from the top down, but rather by analyzing your existing code base, extrapolating in-practice norms, and enforcing them across your entire code base. If you’ve ever attempted to enforce a uniform style using a style guide, you may be familiar with the feeling of futility that comes along with it, but it’s easier, says source{d} Vice President of Product Francesc Campoy, when a machine can do it for you.

    • Techiediaries – Django: Post Multipart Form Data in Python with Requests: Flask File Upload Example
    • The Past, Present, and Future of Deep Learning In PyTorch
    • Managing Multiple Python Versions With pyenv
    • Ways To Get More Productive On Netbeans Development Platform

      Netbeans is a cool Java integrated development environment packed with lots of features along with the capability of extending its functions by adding more plugins. However, there are some of the tools or features in the IDE we rarely use while coding our Java program. This article will provide some tips and tricks for getting more productive on Netbeans. By doing a task more efficiently and getting more from the IDE when in doubt before turning in to the search engines.

    • An overview of Eclipse Che

      This video is a brief overview of Eclipse Che presented by CodeReady Workspaces Product Manager Stévan Le Meur. The tour starts in a git repo that contains a link to a Che factory. Opening that factory loads the code from the git repo and sets up a complete development environment. From there, Stévan covers how to build, run, and debug the code within Che.

    • Programmatic way to find and set your timezone
    • Case study : PostgreSQL Kernel Parameters
    • Considering Fresh C Extensions

      Matthew Wilcox recently realized there might be a value in depending on C extensions provided by the Plan 9 variant of the C programming language. All it would require is using the -fplan9-extensions command-line argument when compiling the kernel. As Matthew pointed out, Plan 9 extensions have been supported in GCC as of version 4.6, which is the minimum version supported by the kernel. So theoretically, there would be no conflict.

      Nick Desaulniers felt that any addition of -f compiler flags to any project always would need careful consideration. Depending on what the extensions are needed for, they could be either helpful or downright dangerous.

      In the current case, Matthew wanted to use the Plan 9 extensions to shave precious bytes off of a cyclic memory allocation that needed to store a reference to the “next” value. Using the extensions, Matthew said, he could embed the “next” value without breaking various existing function calls.

      Nick also suggested making any such extension dependencies optional, so that other compilers would continue to be able to compile the kernel.

    • Return the probability of drawing a blue marble

      It seems like I have not decide yet which project am I going to create next so why not just work on another python solution on CodeWars in this chapter. I think I will work on a few more python questions in the next few chapters before starting a brand new python project.

    • GCC 9 will come with improved diagnostics, simpler C++ errors and much more

      The team added a left-hand margin that shows line numbers. GCC9 now has a new look for the diagnostics. The diagnostics can label regions of the source code in order to show relevant information. The diagnostics come with left-hand and right-hand sides of the “+” operator, so GCC highlights them inline. The team has added a JSON output format such that GCC 9 now has a machine-readable output format for diagnostics.

Leftovers

  • Boeing 737 Max 8s Under Scrutiny After Ethiopia Crash

    Airlines in Ethiopia, China, Indonesia and elsewhere grounded the Boeing 737 Max 8 jetliner Monday after the second devastating crash of one of the planes in five months. But Boeing said it had no reason to pull the popular aircraft from the skies.

    As the East African country mourned the 157 victims of the Ethiopian Airlines plane that went down in clear weather shortly after takeoff Sunday, investigators found the jetliner’s two flight recorders at the crash site outside the capital of Addis Ababa.

    An airline official, however, said one of the recorders was partially damaged and “we will see what we can retrieve from it.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of authorization to speak to the media.

    Ethiopian authorities are leading the investigation into the crash, assisted by the U.S., Kenya and others.

  • Science

    • GPS D-Day is less than a month away

      On the other hand, maybe very worried indeed: after all, GPS wasn’t used half as much then as it is today. Bill Malik, Trend Micro’s vice president told Tom’s Guide: “Ports load and unload containers automatically, using GPS to guide the cranes. Public-safety systems incorporate GPS systems, as do traffic-monitoring systems for bridges. Twenty years ago these links were primitive. Now they are embedded. So any impact now will be substantially greater.”

      To be clear, this doesn’t impact all GPS devices. Anything made in the past decade has got a longer fuse, using 13 bits for the week counter meaning a total of 8,192 weeks. That means your Apple Watch won’t start misbehaving until 2137, when you’ll be long dead (happy Monday!)

    • Bruce Schneier: It’s time for technologists to become lawmakers

      Bruce Schneier, a well-known security guru, called on technologists to become lawmakers and policy makers so countries can deal with issues such as the governance of artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.

      Schneier teaches at the Harvard Kennedy School of government, and he said the place is crawling with economists because they were able to answer many of the questions that arose in the 20th century. But in the 21st century, change is happening faster, and it’s driven by technology.

      “The future is coming,” Schneier said, speaking at the RSA security conference in San Francisco. “It’s coming faster than we think. And it’s coming faster than our existing policy tools can deal with. And the only way to fix this is to develop a new set of policy tools. With the help of the technologists, you understand the technologies.”

  • Hardware

    • XHCI (USB 3.0+) issues have finally been resolved!

      Users have been facing issues with XHCI (USB 3 host controller) bus driver since quite some time now. Last month, Waddlesplash, a team member at Haiku, worked towards fixing the XHCI bus driver. Though few users contributed some small fixes, which helped the driver to boot Haiku within QEMU. But there were still few issues that caused device lockups such as USB mouse/keyboard stalls.

      The kernel related issues have been resolved now. Even the devices don’t lock up now and even the performance has been greatly improved to 120MB/s on some USB3 flash drives and XHCI chipsets.

      Users can now try the improved driver which is more efficient. The only remaining issue is a hard-stall on boot with certain USB3 flash drives on NEC/Renesas controllers. The work related to USB2 flash drives on USB3 ports and mounting the flash drives has finished.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Dying to Make a Living: the Shame of Industrial Mortality

      The grim story of the W.R. Grace caused deaths and illnesses began when the company took over the Zonolite mining operations in 1963 to produce an estimated 80 percent of the world’s vermiculite from the Libby mine. Enormous amounts of asbestos-laden dust blanketed the workers, homes, yards, forests and general environment in the area while the vermiculite was used on everything from gardens to the local schools’ running tracks.

      The problem, which was well-known before Grace shuttered the operations in 1990, is that the vermiculite ore contained high concentrations of deadly tremolite asbestos fibers that penetrate the lungs to sicken and eventually kill those unfortunate enough to have inhaled them. Even worse, it wasn’t just the employees at the mine and mill, it was their families to whom they brought home their asbestos-coated work clothes.

      The true shame of Libby’s deadly disaster is that the state was being sued by those suffering asbestosis in the late 80s, which coincides with the time Marc Racicot, who was raised in Libby, was the state’s attorney general. As the state’s top law enforcement official, Racicot had to know about the sickness and deaths detailed in the lawsuits. But the mine continued to operate until 1990 and wasn’t a focus of Racicot’s attention when he became governor in 1993.

    • While Hiking Bloated Military Spending, Trump Budget Would Slash Medicaid By $1.1 Trillion

      While giving the bloated Pentagon “even more than it hoped for” by boosting U.S. military spending to $750 billion—an increase of $34 billion from last year—President Donald Trump’s 2020 budget would cut Medicaid by $1.1 trillion over the next decade.

      Set to be unveiled on Monday, the president’s budget will call for a total of $2.7 trillion in cuts to safety net programs, environmental protection, food and housing assistance, and foreign aid over ten years, according to a summary reviewed by the Washington Post.

      Top House Democrats were quick to declare the president’s request—which will also demand $8.6 billion in border wall funding—dead on arrival.

      Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said the proposal is “not even worth the paper it’s written on.”

      Trump’s call for deep cuts to Medicaid—which insures over 70 million low-income Americans—is in line with his administration’s previous budgets and his efforts to kick millions off the program by approving punitive work requirements at the state level.

    • Why Medicare for Some Is the Wrong Idea

      If you’re following the health care debate, you’ve already heard quite a bit about “Medicare for all,” the proposal to improve and expand Medicare, the government health insurance program for older adults and people with disabilities, to all Americans. As proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and others, Medicare for all provides all Americans the right to use physicians and hospitals of their choice anywhere in the country, eliminates premiums, deductibles and co-payments, and is projected to drive down national health care spending by $2 trillion to $5 trillion over the next 10 years.

      For most Americans, this sounds like a pretty good idea. And it looks even better when compared against the failures of our commercial health insurance system. Commercial insurance forces Americans to spend nearly twice as much on health care as our peers in Europe and Japan for significantly worse health care outcomes. Commercial insurance creates an estimated $500 billion a year in administrative waste, enables excessive and irrational provider rates, and forces one in four Americans under 65 to forgo necessary health care because they cannot afford their out-of-pocket costs.

    • Here Come the Frankenfish: Critics Warn GE Salmon Import Approval Puts Consumers and Fisheries at ‘Serious Risk’

      The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the decision on Friday, more than three years after approving GE salmon as the first biotech animal authorized for commercial sale and consumption in the United States.

      That approval as well as the agency’s repeal of the import alert are major wins for the biotech industry—and have come despite concerns (pdf) repeatedly raised by environmental and public health advocates about the threats to wild salmon populations and consumers.

    • With Trillions in Safety Net Cuts, Bernie Sanders Says Trump Budget ‘Breathtaking in Its Degree of Cruelty’

      That was how Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) characterized Trump’s $4.7 trillion budget request on Monday after the White House released details of the plan, which includes a massive increase in military spending and trillions of dollars in total cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

      “The Trump budget is breathtaking in its degree of cruelty and filled with broken promises,” Sanders, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, said in a statement. “Donald Trump promised the American people that he would be a different type of Republican, that he would be a champion of the working American and that he would not cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. But his budget does the exact opposite of what he promised the American people.”

      Over the next decade, Trump’s budget—officially titled “A Budget for a Better America”—would slash Medicaid by $1.5 trillion, Medicare by $845 billion, and Social Security by $25 billion, according to Sanders’ office. The president’s blueprint also requests $8.6 billion in border wall funding.

      “This is a budget for the military industrial complex, for corporate CEOs, for Wall Street, and for the billionaire class,” Sanders said. “It is dead on arrival.”

    • The Global Water Crisis May Have a Surprising Solution

      For many people a clean drink of water isn’t a certainty. Right now an estimated 1.2 billion people live in areas with chronic water scarcity, and upwards of 4 billion — two-thirds of the world’s population — experience shortages at least one month a year. This will only get worse with climate change and population growth, and as it does it will exacerbate food insecurity and inequality — in both rich and poor nations.

      As bad as this sounds, it’s not an unsolvable problem, according to a new book, The Water Paradox: Why There Will Never Be Enough Water — And How to Avoid the Coming Crisis, by Edward B. Barbier.

      Barbier, a senior scholar at Colorado State University’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability and a professor of economics, explains that our approach to solving water shortages with drastic measures in the moment of crisis isn’t a cost-effective strategy and won’t solve our long-term problems. Instead, he argues, we need to fix the root of the problem: not simply a lack of water but inadequate and poor management of the water we do have.

    • Self-Administered Abortion Could be Immigrant Women’s Only Option

      According to January 17, 2019 ReWire.News story by Tina Vasquez, immigrant women in the US, especially undocumented women of color, are often forced to rely on self-induced abortion methods because going to hospitals or getting any kind of reproductive health care services could get them deported.

      Although abortion is legal in the United States, undocumented women often do not feel safe at clinics. As Vasquez reported, one immigrant woman, Blanca Borrego, had lived in Texas for more than ten years when she had an unwanted pregnancy and proceeded to look for a gynecologist at a clinic. While waiting, the staff at the clinic called deputies on her and she was arrested in front of her daughters.

      Another case was that of Purvi Patel, an Indian woman living in Indiana. Afraid of getting taken into custody, she opted to take self-managed abortion drugs to end her pregnancy. When she suffered heavy vaginal bleeding afterward, she decided to go see doctors and told them she had had a miscarriage, declaring that the fetus was stillborn and she had put it in a dumpster. When the police found out that she had taken drugs to induce an abortion, she was charged with and convicted of an illegal abortion. Ultimately, she was sent to jail for 18 months.

    • Aqua America Seeks to Privatize Pittsburgh’s Water

      In January 2019, In These Times reported that a privately-owned water company, Aqua America, is buying Peoples Gas, the local natural gas company in the Pittsburgh area. In his article, Doug Shields revealed that the business deal, which dates back to October, 2018, is actually part of a plan to privatize Pittsburgh’s water system. Why is a private water company interested in purchasing a local gas company? As Shields, who works with Food & Water Watch, reported, “It’s a roundabout plan to privatize Pittsburgh’s water system by buying up the gas utility that has also been targeting the water system.”

      For months, Peoples Gas had been working with the city on a “strategic public-private partnership” intended to replace aging pipelines and to build a massive new water treatment facility, all allegedly without raising rates. However, as Shield reported, details of how the company plans to accomplish all this have been left very vague.

      Pittsburgh’s water system has had serious problems for the past few years. Although lead levels in city water had been improving, when the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) conducted new tests at the start of 2018, 43 homes were found to have lead in their water. The cost of replacing old lead pipes worried city officials who had already had to replace 1,341 lead lines by the end of December 2018.

    • Improving Health in Africa

      One of the lessons of the Ebola epidemic is the need to improve the African countries’ public health services, which have suffered the consequences of decades of neglect. Africa needs to rapidly upgrade those services as well as to improve the capacity of its medical and paramedical workforce.

      Although Africa bears one-quarter of the global burden of disease, it only has two percent of the world’s doctors. Progress has been hindered, particularly in rural areas, because the infrastructure and the health services are inadequate, and there is a widespread lack of trained medical personnel.

      [...]

      In addition to HIV/AIDS, South Africa has the highest tuberculosis death rate per capita worldwide, followed by Zimbabwe and Mozambique. This is due to a large extent to the increasing number of cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR) as well as drug-resistant (XDR) tuberculosis. TB is the leading cause of death for people living with HIV.

      In addition, there has been a sharp increase in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, cancer, and heart and lung diseases. The World Health Organization estimates that NCDs will rise in the region by 27 percent over the next 10 years, resulting in 28 million additional deaths.

      Mental health problems have traditionally been neglected by African governments. As a result, most mental health patients remain untreated. This “treatment gap” ranges from 75 percent in South Africa to more than 90 percent in Ethiopia and Nigeria. As Dr. Crick Lund, a Professor of Psychiatry and Mental Health at the University of Cape Town has remarked, “By neglecting mental health, it will be difficult to attain many of the Sustainable Development Goals related to poverty, malaria, gender empowerment, and education.”

      Many diseases affecting both children and adults could be addressed with minimum resources if they are adequately employed. This is the case of diarrhea and respiratory infections, measles, malaria, and malnutrition, which represent the greatest threats to children’s health. Malaria is the leading cause of death among African children under five years old. African women are approximately 175 times more likely to die during childbirth and pregnancy than women in industrialized countries.

      Health problems are worsened by the lack of health professionals, due in part to the continuing exodus of doctors and nurses to industrialized nations. If health care systems are to be effective, resources must be redirected from curative care in urban settings with high tech equipment to primary and preventive health care.

    • FDA Puts U.S. Consumers at ‘Serious Risk’ by Allowing GE Salmon ‘Frankenfish’ Imports

      The Trump administration has lifted a ban on importing genetically engineered or GE salmon, which critics have long called “Frankenfish,” in a move that consumer advocates charge “runs counter to sound science and market demand.”

      The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the decision on Friday, more than three years after approving GE salmon as the first biotech animal authorized for commercial sale and consumption in the U.S.

  • Security

    • Security updates for Monday
    • Fake Kodi Repos ‘Hijack’ Original GitHub Accounts To Push Updates

      Developers of Kodi add-ons usually host their tools on GitHub. While the popular code repository platform is perfect for development, it has one loophole which has been exploited for quite some time.

    • Lockdown Mode on the Librem 5: Beyond Hardware Kill Switches

      When I tell people I work for Purism and I’m asked what Purism does, the explanation I give to the average person is along the lines of: “we make privacy and security respecting hardware that runs free software.” Immediately after that, I almost always point to our hardware kill switches to demonstrate how we take a different approach from most other hardware out there. To me it’s a great example of a simple, easy-to-understand security measure that provides a tangible benefit to everyone.

    • Purism’s Librem 5 smartphone’s Lockdown Mode will shut off all sensors

      In other words, it’s a phone aimed at folks who are interested in software freedom and/or privacy.

      But Purism notes that there are other things you might want to shut off, like the phone’s GPS capability, proximity sensor, compass, and accelerometer. So rather than cover the Librem 5 in kill switches, the company is introducing a new feature called Lockdown Mode.

    • Skype for Web drops support for ChromeOS and Linux

      Skype released a brand-new version for Skype for web that enables the users to make Skype calls directly from their browsers. The twist in the story is that the web application has dropped support for Linux and Chrome OS.

      Last year Skype for web has introduced some new and exciting features such as Skype-to-Skype call recording, high-definition video calling, and a notifications panel.

    • 2 Billion Unencrypted Records Leaked In Marketing Data Breach –What To Do Next
  • Defence/Aggression

    • US threatens Germany: using Huawei gear will cut info sharing

      The US Government has threatened to withhold intelligence from Germany if Berlin uses equipment from Chinese telecommunications vendor Huawei Techologies or other Chinese firms in its 5G networks.

    • Trump’s “Coalition of the Willing” Against Venezuela Has Legitimacy Issues of Their Own

      Many right-wing South American governments that are supporting Trump’s effort to oust Venezuela’s President Maduro have their own legitimacy issues, such as Brazil and Honduras. Others are deeply dependent on the US, such as Argentina and Colombia. CEPR’s Mark Weisbrot analyzes the coalition

    • Abby Martin at Social Justice Week

      On this week’s program, we hear a speech by Abby Martin, delivered as part of Sonoma State University’s Social Justice Week activities. She describes and explains US corporate media’s parroting of Trump Administration propaganda, as Trump works to topple Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro. She also asks why almost no Democratic Party officeholders are speaking out against the attempted coup either.

    • Rubio’s ‘Explosion at Germán Dam’ Error Exposes Deeper Dishonesty of US Venezuela Policy

      A U.S. Senator’s claim about Venezuela Sunday made him the subject of ridicule, but the underlying message of destabilizing the Latin American country remains official American policy—even as the role of sanctions is ignored.

      On Sunday morning, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tweeted that a power failure and subsequent blackout in Venezuela was due to an accident at a location known as “German Dam.”

      “Today another transformer explosion at the German Dam in Bolivar State caused another massive blackout,” Rubio wrote.

      There was just one problem: Germán Dam is the name of a reporter covering the blackout story who tweeted about the transformer exploding, not the location of the accident. In fact, no such location exists in Venezuela.

    • Facebook Partners with US Government Surrogates to Fight Propaganda

      In a September 2018 article published by FAIR, Allan Macleod detailed how media conglomerate Facebook plans to join forces with “two propaganda organizations founded and funded by the US government: The National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI),” allegedly in an effort to combat “fake news.”

      The NDI and the IRI were both established under an umbrella organization called the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a nonprofit created by the US Congress in 1983 to influence politics and elections in developing countries. Facebook’s collaboration with these organizations is especially concerning because both organizations have “aggressively pursued regime change against leftist governments overseas.” In the 1980s, the NDI worked to destabilize the Sandinista government in Nicaragua and, more recently, the IRI supported the attempted 2002 coup d’état against Venezuela’s socialist president Hugo Chavez.

    • How US Sanctions are Hurting Iran: A Firsthand Report

      On a recent delegation to Iran, we experienced first-hand the legendary Iranian hospitality. Iranians are particularly thrilled to meet Americans, but as we discovered, our government’s policies are hurting the very people who want to be our friends.

      As our 28-person delegation traveled through the country wearing messages on our jackets proclaiming “Peace with Iran” in English and Farsi, we were surrounded by people—from schoolchildren to storekeepers—who wanted to practice their English and talk to us. Their eyes lit up when they heard we were from America. We were constantly posing for photos and exchanging Instagram accounts. We were offered endless cups of sweet tea and showered with more gifts than we could fit in our suitcases.

      A frequent refrain we heard was, “Americans good, Trump bad.” We did meet a few Trump supporters. At one roadside shop outside Tehran, we were shocked to find an entire collection of Donald Trump’s books for sale, in Farsi. One book buyer said Trump was good because would help get rid of the awful clerics who were running Iran. Most people, however, whether they liked or hated their own government, complained that US policies were not hurting the government or the wealthy, but the middle class and the poor.

    • Uncle Sam Sent Me to Rehab for PTSD

      I arrived an absolute mess; most of us did. Bloated cheeks, sunken eyes, wearing my PTSD and depression on every inch of my face. I can’t say I really wanted to be there, even if I hadvolunteered. Ironic, wasn’t it?

      This, a civilian treatment facility in nowhere, Arizona, was to be my last official duty as an officer in the U.S. Army—an ignominious end to a once-bright career. Still, the truth is I needed it: After several years of treatment for post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety, I wasn’t getting any better. The Army saw it and decided to retire me a few years early. Over the last year, my life ran off the rails—self medicating, spiraling, the standard drill for a broken vet.

      Only those closest to me saw it; however, these were the very ones I’d hurt, who couldn’t take it anymore—with the fallout of bridges burned and relationships sabotaged. Nonetheless, most of us remain publicly functional long after these afflictions have taken the wheel. The frightening paradox of it all was that while my writing only improved, my emotional health deteriorated. That said, kudos to the Army, I suppose, for footing the bill and offering the opportunity for inpatient treatment on my way out the proverbial door. That’s how they do it: Ask the impossible, shatter a life, send for help when you’re too far gone to be of much use any longer—the assembly line of endless wars and the unfortunates who fight them.

      It was a strange place, this facility on the outskirts of Phoenix. And expensive! Some 60 percent of the “clients” (as the staff unnervingly referred to patients) were wealthy professionals, well-off white folks with afflictions ranging from depression to suicidal ideation to personality disorders to heroin addiction. Some had Cadillac health insurance plans; a surprising number paid cash, a cool 60 grand.

    • The Political Class’s Disregard for Irish Life

      The families of the 13 innocent people shot dead by the Parachute Regiment when they took part in a civil rights march against internment without trial in Londonderry in 1972 will learn in the coming week if soldiers, who are alleged to have carried out the killings, will be prosecuted.

      There is no doubt about what happened on Bloody Sunday 47 years ago since Lord Saville’s report, 5,000 words long and the fruit of 12 years’ work, was published in 2010. It concluded that none of the casualties shot by the soldiers “were posing any threat of causing death or serious injury”. It said that all soldiers bar one responsible for the casualties “insisted that they had shot at gunmen or bombers, which they had not”. Saville added that “many of these soldiers have knowingly put forward false accounts in order to justify their firing”.

      Saville said the report was “absolutely clear” and there were “no ambiguities” about events in the city on that day. David Cameron later told the House of Commons that “what happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong.”

      But eight years after Cameron had apologised, the Commons heard another story from the Northern Ireland secretary, Karen Bradley, who said this week that the deaths caused by the British security services during the Troubles were “not crimes” but people acting “under orders and under instruction and fulfilling their duties in a dignified and appropriate way”.

    • Live From Venezuela

      Well, we made it to Venezuela, but it wasn’t easy. The US has closed the Venezuelan embassy because they do not recognize the government. Therefore, it is not possible to get a visa. This might be one reason that the US closed the embassy. If you can’t get a visa and go Venezuela, you can not see for yourself what is going on and challenge their narrative. But six of us did make it and others are delayed but are getting in too. American airlines was the worst. If you were on American airlines for the first leg of you journey, they just would not let you on the flight.

      On our flight into Caracas, was Bahman Azad the organizational secretary of the US Peace Council, who is sponsoring the trip, Gerry Condon, pres. of Veterans for Peace, Sara Flanders, co-coordinator of the International Action Center, Ajamu Baraka, national coordinator of the Black Alliance for Peace, progressive journalist, Eva Bartlett and me, Joe Lombardo, co-coordinator of the United National Antiwar Coalition. Because we could not get visas before we left, the Venezuelan government sent us each a letter saying that we can enter the country and the authorities in Venezuela let us through.

      Later today and tomorrow, Sarah Martin from Women Against Military Madness, Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers of Popular Resistance, Darien De Lu, President of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom – US, Miguel Figueroa, president of the Canadian Peace Congress and Daniel Shea, board of directors, Veterans for peace will arrive to complete the delegation.

      We were met at the airport by members of COSI (Committee of International Solidarity). They took us to the hotel, where we are staying and explained to us the situation with the black outs and the two competing demonstrations yesterday. Western Caracas is an upper and upper middle-class area that is the base of the opposition to the Maduro government. Eastern Caracas is working class and Black with a lot of support for the Maduro government. It used to be a real shanti town, but the Bolivarian revolution put resources into this community and now the people live in nice apartment buildings.

    • San Francisco Democrats Adopt Venezuela Stance Diametrically Opposed to Pelosi’s

      At its most recent monthly meeting, San Francisco’s Democratic County Central Committee adopted a resolution on Venezuela diametrically opposed to the stance taken by the city’s top Democrat, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who represents the lion’s share of the city’s voters. The resolution opposed “any military intervention in Venezuela; all covert interference in that nation’s affairs; the use of economic sanctions and assets seizures designed to further immiserate its people; and all further measures designed to impose so-called ‘regime change’ from Washington.”

      Pelosi, on the other hand, in a statement remarkable for its similarity to one issued by Donald Trump, explicitly endorsed the President’s call for regime change, announcing that she supported “the decision of the National Assembly, Venezuela’s sole remaining democratic institution, to recognize Juan Guaidó, President of the National Assembly, as the Interim President.” The second part of the Democratic Committee’s resolution, calling upon the city’s “elected representatives in Congress to vigorously oppose such policies,” would appear, then, to fall on deaf ears in this instance.

      While far from the first time that the Committee—the Democratic Party’s official voice in San Francisco—has been at odds with Pelosi in this realm, the gap yawned particularly broadly this time, as the resolution passed 17-0, with eight abstentions. And only two of those eight came from members actually voted onto the committee, the other six being the proxies of elected officials, including Senator Dianne Feinstein, who serve ex officio. No proxies for Pelosi or the city’s other Representative, Jackie Speier, were in attendance.

    • The School Shooters of the Planet

      Here’s something that should still stun anyone, but has had no discernible impact in this country. Between December 29, 2001, when B-52 and B-1B bombers killed more than 100 revelers in a village in Paktia Province, Afghanistan, and December 2013, when a drone slaughtered perhaps 15 members of a car caravan headed for a wedding in Yemen, U.S. air power wiped out at least eight wedding parties — brides, grooms, musicians, relatives, celebrating villagers, you name it — in three countries across the Greater Middle East. To the best of my knowledge, only this website has ever tried to either count such incidents up or keep track of them over the years. As I’ve written in the past, if an Islamist terrorist had ever taken out an American wedding party here in the United States, the media coverage would have been overwhelming and unending — and I doubt the event would have been forgotten any time soon, if ever.

      In 2004, then-Major General James Mattis caught the spirit of the era perfectly. Responding to reports of the deaths of at least 40 celebrants in an Iraqi wedding party, including women and children, he asked, “How many people go to the middle of the desert… to hold a wedding 80 miles from the nearest civilization?” In fact, the almost- or just-wedded dead across the Greater Middle East never registered here at all. There were certainly individual news stories about such incidents, but no shock, no horror, no self-reflection whatsoever. Assumedly, the departed and instantly forgotten of Washington’s distant wars since September 11, 2001 — a day that will live in infamy, unlike the days when those wedding slaughters occurred — don’t matter a whit to Americans. Today, I doubt that one in a million of us even knows that the U.S. military ever did such things again and again and again.

    • Escalation Fears Grow in Venezeula as Guaidó Signals Support for Foreign Intervention and US Withdraws Diplomats

      Concerns over the Trump administration’s increasingly hostile policy in Venezuela grew Tuesday after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the U.S. was withdrawing all diplomatic personnel from the country.

      Pompeo cited the “deteriorating situation” in Venezuela that escalated in January after the U.S. recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as “interim president,” rebuking President Nicolas Maduro and coordinating efforts to overthrow the elected government.

    • The men who killed a Russian police detective last year were reportedly hired on the Darknet for 1 million rubles

      Sources tell the BBC Russian Service that someone paid 1 million rubles ($15,215) to arrange the murder of Interior Ministry detective Evgeniya Shishkina last October, hiring the gunman through the Darknet. Shishkina was shot twice outside her home in the town of Arkhangelskoye on October 10, 2018, as she was leaving her apartment building and walking toward the parking lot, on her way to work. She was a lieutenant colonel in the police, rising from inspector in the Moscow Railway Special Transport Department to senior detective in the Major Cases Division.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • “I Know No One More Patriotic”: Daniel Ellsberg Praises Chelsea Manning After She Is Jailed Again

      U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning has been sent back to jail after refusing to answer questions before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. Manning had been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors in Virginia’s Eastern District to appear for questioning about her 2010 leak to WikiLeaks of hundreds of thousands of State Department and Pentagon documents about the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Manning was imprisoned from 2010 to 2017 for the leak. President Obama commuted her sentence before he left office. We speak with Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg about the significance of Chelsea Manning’s actions.

    • ‘Grave Threat to Press Freedom’: Warnings Mount as Chelsea Manning Remains Behind Bars

      Whistleblower advocates are expressing renewed concerns about threats to press freedom after Chelsea Manning was jailed for refusing to testify in a secret grand jury hearing.

      Manning appeared last week before a grand jury believed to be investigating WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange. Manning refused to answer questions under oath and was thrown in jail Friday after a contempt hearing, where she shall stay “until she purges or the end of the life of the grand jury,” said U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton.

      “This ruling is clearly a punitive measure against Chelsea Manning, who had already testified at length during her court martial in 2013 about the information she shared with WikiLeaks,” said Daphne Pellegrino, advocacy officer for Reporters Without Borders’s (RSF) North America bureau, in an alert sent to supporters on Monday.

      “Rulings like these pose a grave threat to press freedom in the United States, where the bravery of whistleblowers like Manning inform some of the nation’s most impactful reporting. Whistleblowers must not be treated as criminals, and instead must be recognized for their critical role in maintaining a thriving democracy,” she continued.

      Manning was promised immunity for her testimony, but as the Associated Press noted, that “eliminates her ability to invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.”

      In a statement she released Friday, Manning said, “The grand jury’s questions pertained to disclosures from nine years ago, and took place six years after an in-depth computer forensics case, in which I tesified [sic] for almost a full day about these events. I stand by my previous public testimony.”

      Manning’s already spent extensive time behind bars. In 2013 she was given a 35-year sentence for leaking documents exposing U.S. war crimes to WikiLeaks—an act she’s repeatedly said she took of her own accord. President Barack Obama commuted her sentence in 2017 after she spent seven years in jail.

    • Be Careful What You Wish For: ‘Privacy Protection’ Now Used As An Excuse To Cut Off Investigative Journalists From Key Database

      We’ve been explaining for a long time that many people don’t really understand “privacy.” Privacy is a tradeoff not a “thing.” Assuming that privacy is a thing — and that “it” must be protected — leads to some bad results. Lexis Nexis has a tool called Trace IQ, that is widely used by investigative journalists to find out information about people — including their addresses and phone numbers. Some people might argue that just addresses and phone numbers should be kept private, but it really wasn’t that long ago that such information wasn’t just widely available to the public, but every six months or so a giant yellow-covered book was thrown in front of our doors with listings of everyone’s phone number and address in your geographic region. Remember that?

    • Deal reached to protect whistleblowers a victory for the truth

      Green MEP Molly Scott Cato has hailed the agreement of the EU Whistleblower Protection Directive [1], which was agreed late last night in trilogue negotiations between the European Parliament, EU Commission and Council, as a victory for the truth. This will give legal guarantees and protection to those individuals who want to speak out when they encounter wrong-doing in the work place.

      The Directive obliges all EU countries to adopt measures such as clear reporting channels, confidentiality, legal protections and sanctions for those who attempt to persecute whistleblowers.

    • ALERT: US – Chelsea Manning sent to jail for refusing to testify on Wikileaks

      Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is deeply concerned that US government whistleblower Chelsea Manning was sent to jail on March 8 for refusing to testify on WikiLeaks. This coercive measure by a federal judge has grave implications for press freedom under an administration that has vowed to crack down on whistleblowers.
      A federal judge in the US District Court ordered former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning into custody on March 8 for refusing to testify as part of an investigation into WikiLeaks, the website to which Manning shared information exposing the crimes and brutalities committed by the US military during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. She will remain in detention until agreeing to testify before a grand jury or until the grand jury no longer operates. Manning previously served seven years in prison before former President Barack Obama commuted her 35-year sentence and she released in 2017.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • BLM Pushes Ahead with Oil Drilling Permits on Sacred Ground, Unhindered By Shutdown

      The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) continues to push ahead with their latest attempt to lease land near Chaco National Historical Park in New Mexico and other sites, which are sacred to Native American tribes, to oil and gas drilling companies. The sale has been criticized in part because the park is a World Heritage site, filled with stone structures and other features that archaeologists say are of religious significance. As Susan Montoya reported, under the current plan, more than 50 parcels in New Mexico and Oklahoma will be up for bid.

      The battle over energy development around Chaco has been the focus of an agitated debate for years, which led to a partnership between the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Indian Affairs in an effort to revamp the area’s management plan. The partnership was meant to guarantee cultural sensitivity by ensuring that, prior to any drilling, tribes would be consulted with and scientific and archaeological analysis would be done.

      In recent years, land managers have declined oil and gas exploration on the land, but with the recent government shutdown, the tense situation over the expansion of oil and gas development came to a boiling point. Democratic members of Congress along with the tribal leaders have criticized the BLM for pushing ahead with their preparations for energy leases despite the recent government shutdown.

    • Serving the US Seafood Industry at the Cost of Irreplaceable Wildlife

      In January 2019, the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal reported that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had approved a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, a refuge meant to protect seabirds, grizzly bears, and caribou in isolation in Cold Bay, Alaska, in order to transport millions of dollars of seafood caught by Alaska fishermen to lucrative Asian markets.

      The Izembek National Wildlife Refuge has been protected as one of the wildest natural spots on Earth for six decades. In July, 2018, the refuge was suddenly disturbed by seven helicopters that swooped down a total of 80 times in two days. The cause for the helicopter disruption to the refuge was an order made by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, on orders from President Donald Trump, to survey the area before beginning to bulldoze a 12-mile road through it. A year before that, Zinke signed a secret land swap agreement with Aleut Natives, on the day the federal government briefly shut down. The deal permitted the 12-mile road to be built through the Izembek Refuge, completing a 37-mile long road to the Cold Bay Airport, in exchange for the federal government being given an equal amount of Aleut land.

    • Extinction Rebellion Activists Stage “Die-In” at Rockefeller Center

      On January 26, 2019, nine activists from the environmental group Extinction Rebellion (XR) staged a “die in” at Rockefeller Center’s Prometheus statue and ice rink. As eight protesters lay in the middle of the ice rink in the form of the group’s symbol (an hour glass inside a circle), one member, Greg Schwedock, climbed the Prometheus statue and hung a banner that read, “Climate Change = Mass Murder; Rebel for LIFE; [International] rebellion week April 15-22” The activists raised awareness that climate change poses a very real threat of extinction. All nine nonviolent activists were arrested for their demonstration.

    • Paris climate pledge would help world fishing

      Canadian scientists have worked out the way to make the most of the world’s fish stocks: by honouring the Paris climate pledge.

      Seagoing nations could raise revenues for their fishing fleets, put more seafood on the table and protect the most valuable commercial fish stocks simply by doing what they had promised in 2015 to do anyway.

      The key is the historic agreement reached then in Paris by 195 nations, to take steps to limit average global warming to “well below” a total of 2°C above the long-term average for most of human history, and to do this by 2100.

      In the last century or so the global temperature has already risen by around 1°C, as a consequence of ever-increasing combustion of fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

    • Undisturbed Sagebrush-Juniper Habitat is Vital for the Wildlife of the West

      Brett French’s excellent article in The Gazette, “Study: Big sagebrush may weather climate change,” details the resilience of native sagebrush and its vital importance for a vast array of Montana’s wildlife.

      [...]

      It’s common to see the large herd of antelope that reside between Canyon Ferry and the Elkhorn Mountains. This is exactly where the BLM wants to burn thousands of acres of sagebrush habitat. As the Gazette article states: “Pronghorns are one species that benefits from big sagebrush. One study found that the evergreen plant supplied 78 percent of the annual diet for pronghorns in Wyoming” and “more than half of the winter diet for deer and elk near Gardiner comes from sagebrush.” That’s important because theElkhorns are one of the premier elk hunting areas in the nation. Elkhorn bull permits are among the most sought after in Montana.

      The article also points out that large numbers of native birds depend on sagebrush habitat, noting the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service calls Big Sagebrush “perhaps the most important shrub on western rangelands.” Many birds, such as the imperiled sage grouse, live nowhere else.

      The BLM in their environmental analysis of the Iron Mask Project, ignored that cheat grass moves in after burning sagebrush and cutting down junipers. Cheat grass is a very aggressive noxious weed that has proven almost impossible to eradicate across the West, is inedible for wildlife or cattle after early spring, and has seeds that are so hard and sharp they can penetrate the stomach and intestines of animals that ingest them. The seeds can also blind the eyes of nesting birds that use sagebrush habitat and replaces the forbs that sage grouse depend on to feed their chicks.

      Burning large tracts of sagebrush also vastly increases wildfire risk, lengthening the fire season by two months in the spring and two months in the fall because once cheat grass dries out it becomes highly flammable, creating extreme wildfire hazards annually. By comparison, peer reviewed studies found undisturbed sagebrush habitat only burns every 100 to 200 years in the Intermountain West.

    • China, Australia and Coal Mania

      Fear them for their technology; fear them for their ideology and their authoritarianism. But embrace interference and involvement in the economy if it involves coal. This is the fancy hypocrisy of Australian politics, one driven to lunacy and inconsistency by that dark and dirty love.

      The contrast between a fear of Huawei, on the one hand, and an eager opening for a Chinese state-owned enterprise barging its way into the Australian market suggests that those in Canberra have finally twisted themselves into knots. The latter is particularly striking – the China Energy Engineering Cooperation (CEEC), the designated monster behind what promises to be 2000 megawatt of coal generation in the Hunter Valley north of Sydney. Two plants billed as users of efficient coal-fired technology will supposedly take root in the “failed industrial zone” and give it life. The cost would be in the order of $8 billion and generate over $17 billion worth of carbon liabilities.

      Australia’s dinosaur political class is delighted at the latest foray into environmental spoliation. “This is exactly what the market needs,” chuffed Coalition backbencher Craig Kelly. Furthermore, to show that the conservative wing of politics is happy to forfeit any laissez faire credentials regarding the economy when needed, Kelly is keen for generous taxpayers’ support. “If the Government needs to underwrite it, if it needs a little help, then that’s what we should be doing.”

      Gone from the conversational babble was China’s February announcement through the Dalian Port authorities restricting Australian coal imports. “The goals are to better safeguard the legal rights and interests of Chinese importers and to protect the environment,” explained Geng Shuang of the Chinese foreign ministry. The point is worth reiterating, since similar bans were not applied to the coal from other states. The indefinite ban was the bitter icing on that particular issue, confirming prolonged clearing times for Australian coal since the start of February.

    • How a Green New Deal Could Exploit Developing Countries

      The Green New Deal has changed the conversation among progressive Democrats about how to deal with climate change, from simply managing a disaster to how to take advantage of an existential threat to build a more just society.

      However, should this legislative concept be transformed from the hypothetical framework it is today into actual policies, some of the solutions it engenders could make global inequality worse. As a scholar of colonialism, I am concerned that the Green New Deal could exacerbate what scholars like sociologist Doreen Martinez call climate colonialism — the domination of less powerful countries and peoples through initiatives meant to slow the pace of global warming.

    • Oil and Chemical Spills

      Each year, there are thousands of oil and chemical spills in coastal waters around the nation. These spills range from small ship collisions to fuel transfer mishaps to massive spill events like the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

      The release of oil and chemicals into our coastal waterways can kill wildlife, destroy habitat, and contaminate critical resources in the food chain. Spills can also wreak havoc on the economies of coastal communities by forcing the closure of fisheries, driving away tourists, or temporarily shutting down navigation routes. And these environmental and economic damages can linger for decades.

      When dealing with oil and chemical spills, there are many questions that need to be answered. What was spilled? Where is the spill likely to travel in the water? How is the local environment affected now — and how might it be affected down the road? What’s the best way to clean up the spill? How will balance be restored to the environment after the damage has been done? NOAA brings scientific expertise to the table to help answer these questions.

    • Trump’s 2020 Budget Would Cut EPA Funding by 31%

      President Donald Trump released his budget for fiscal year 2020 on Monday, to a general outcry from environmental groups who say it underfunds key programs and agencies.

      EcoWatch has already reported on its biggest ask — $8.6 billion in funding for a border wall that would threaten borderland wildlife and communities — but the budget has been equally criticized for what it would cut, including a 31 percent decrease in funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a nine to 14 percent decrease for the Department of the Interior (DOI).

    • Military Moves into Environmental Management in South America

      Environmental and land management in South America is being slowly but persistently militarized, with the aim of controlling extractive industries, especially gold mining. In Colombia, Brazil and Venezuela, as well as other countries, both conservative and progressive governments participate in this militarization. The basic dispute is not so much in avoiding negative environmental and social impacts, as in controlling economic surpluses.

      [...]

      Several other South American countries face the same dilemma, especially Bolivia and Peru where alluvial gold mining is expanding rapidly at the foot of the mountains and in tropical forests. The activity takes a heavy toll on the environment, particularly from deforestation and mercury contamination. It also causes hugely negative social effects, from the trafficking of girls and adolescents to the illegal trade of inputs and minerals. (2).

      The Colombian development plan does not aim to end these mining practices, but rather to control them and transform them into formal business ventures. Its goal is for the State to decide which companies participate and under what conditions they can exploit gold and other mineral resources, while obtaining a portion of the profits that this produces.

    • Greenpeace Calls BS After Trump Cites ‘Paid Lobbyist’ Masquerading as Co-Founder to Peddle Climate Denial

      But as Greenpeace USA quickly noted in response to the president’s tweet, Patrick Moore is a “paid lobbyist” for major polluting industries—and he’s not even a co-founder of Greenpeace.

      “Patrick Moore was not a co-founder of Greenpeace. He does not represent Greenpeace,” the group wrote on Twitter. “He is a paid lobbyist, not an independent source. His statements about [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and the Green New Deal have nothing to do with our positions.”

    • As Hundreds of Thousands of Students Prepare for Global #ClimateStrike on March 15, Here’s How to Get Involved

      “I think we are only seeing the beginning. I think that change is on the horizon and the people will stand up for their future,” Thunberg told the Guardian about the mass mobilization planned for March 15. “It’s going to be very, very big internationally, with hundreds of thousands of children going to strike from school to say that we aren’t going to accept this any more.”

    • New Reports Link Climate Change and Food Production

      On January 16, 2019, Georgina Gustin of Inside Climate News highlighted a report by the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health, which gathered experts from around the world to suggest a global diet and changes to food production. These changes could meet the demands of the Paris Climate Agreement and other initiatives aimed at improving global health. The report’s recommendations will be a tough pill to swallow for meat lovers, however, as they call for the halving of global meat consumption. Furthermore, the plan proposes that agricultural systems adopt more eco-friendly growing methods that depend less on fertilizers. The entire proposal is no less than a “revolution” and it is not without just cause. As Gustin writes, “Agriculture consumes about 40 percent of global land, while food production contributes about 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.”

      Gustin wrote a follow-up article that details another similar study, originally published in the journal Nature Research. This time the focus was on an increased frequency of “food production shocks” resulting from climate change. Scientists “identified nearly 230 food production shocks, in 134 countries, from 1961 to 2013, and said the frequency of crop production shocks driven by extreme weather had been increasing steadily.” Gustin also reported on investor groups contacting major food companies about combatting looming threats to health and the environment.

    • “The House is on Fire,” Climate Strikes Come to America March 15

      Record-breaking heat last summer, inspired-15-year-old Greta Thunberg to pack a water bottle, a book, and a snack and take a stand outside the Swedish parliament with a handmade sign “School Strike for Climate.” By January 2019, school strikes were spreading across Europe and some 70,000 teens hit the streets to demand action in Brussels, where the EU Parliament meets.

      At the World Economic Forum in Switzerland in January, Thunberg addressed some of the most powerful people on earth with a stark message. “Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people, to give them hope,” Thunberg said, “But I don’t want your hope… I want you to panic. I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is.”

    • ‘AOC Gets It’: Bill Nye Supports Ocasio-Cortez and Her Efforts to Fight Climate Change

      Bill Nye, the famous TV scientist behind Bill Nye the Science Guy, gave his support to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her efforts to fight climate change while addressing income inequality.

      Ocasio-Cortez has co-sponsored a Green New Deal resolution with Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey that calls for a 10 year program to reach net zero greenhouse-gas emissions, wean the U.S. off of fossil fuels and nuclear energy, shift to 100 percent renewable energy and do so while promoting green jobs and helping communities on the frontlines of climate change.

    • Right-Wing State Legislators Working to Destroy Climate and Science Education, Analysis Warns

      While some bills already have failed, NCSE deputy director Glenn Branch emphasized that it is still important to make people aware of efforts to weaken science education—especially with respect to legislation that doesn’t specifically mention climate or science more broadly, but would ultimately impact what is allowed in the classroom.

      “They’re not aware there’s a sizable constituency that likes to see these bills introduced and hopes they will be passed,” Branch told the Post. “The only way to be sure they don’t pass is to raise public awareness of them and to localize concerns about the integrity of public science education by speaking about them.”

      Last month, Branch published a blog post on NCSE’s website outlining 14 anti-science measures introduced this year. The list includes bills in Indiana and South Carolina that would allow school districts to teach creationism as well as so-called “anti-indoctrination” legislation in Arizona, Maine, South Dakota, and Virginia.

    • ‘Was That Disruptive?’ Congressman Blasts Air Horn to Make Seismic Testing Proponents Hear a Fraction of What Whales Hear

      A congressman found a creative way to make himself heard about the impact of seismic air gun testing on North Atlantic right whales during a committee meeting Thursday.

    • Underwater Mudslides Are the Biggest Threat to Offshore Drilling, and Energy Companies Aren’t Ready for Them

      Like generals planning for the last war, oil company managers and government inspectors tend to believe that because they survived the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, they are ready for all contingencies. Today they are expanding drilling into deeper and deeper waters, and the Trump administration is opening more offshore areas to production.

      In fact, however, the worst-case scenario for an oil spill catastrophe is not losing control of a single well, as occurred in the BP disaster. Much more damage would be done if one or more of the thousand or so production platforms that now blanket the Gulf of Mexico were destroyed without warning by a deep-sea mudslide.

    • Clean Energy Coalition Challenges Duke Energy’s Monopoly

      A newly-formed coalition of advocacy groups has launched a campaign to end Duke Energy’s longstanding monopoly control over most of North Carolina’s electric system in hopes that permitting competition among power generators would hasten the shift to clean energy and bring pollution relief to vulnerable communities.

      The members of the Energy Justice NC coalition include local, regional, and national environmental and social justice organizations. Among them are 350.org, Appalachian Voices, Center for Biological Diversity, Down East Coal Ash Coalition, Food and Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, and the NC Environmental Justice Network. Another member of the coalition is climate watchdog NC WARN, which has long pressed for an end to Duke’s monopoly.

      The coalition recently held a press conference in Raleigh to announce its formation and outline its goals, which also include getting state and local officials to stop accepting the company’s political contributions and appointees to the N.C. Utilities Commission who will stand up to Duke and put the public interest first. The coalition announced it was launching a petition for energy choice in North Carolina and invited individuals, organizations, and businesses to sign on. It also said it is pursuing legislation, though none has been introduced yet.

      “Duke’s energy monopoly, where dirty power is king, needs to end,” said Jean Su, energy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The climate crisis demands we ditch fossil fuels as fast as possible, but Duke’s stranglehold on North Carolina is stopping the clean energy transition in its tracks.”

      Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Duke Energy is the largest U.S. power provider, generating 90 percent of the electricity used in its home state. It’s also the top carbon emitter among U.S. utilities, according to the Energy and Policy Institute. In 2017, it released about 105 million metric tons of carbon dioxide alone, down from almost 153 million in 2014.

    • Has Climate Gentrification Hit Miami? The City Plans to Find Out

      Liberty City, Florida, feels a world apart from the glitzy beaches, posh boutiques and multimillion-dollar residences of Miami Beach, though it’s only four miles away as the pelican flies. You may recognize this community from the Oscar-winning film Moonlight. Here, the streets thrum to the beat of Miami bass, the aroma of Haitian griot and banan peze (fried pork and plantains) wafts out from the area’s restaurants, and homes are painted in bright hues that speak of their owners’ Caribbean roots. According to longtime residents, though, the character of the neighborhood is changing as wealthier Miamians move in.

      [...]

      The second step is identifying what policies exist (or are needed) to help renters and homeowners stay put if they wish to. One move in the right direction is the Miami Forever bond, which dedicates $400 million to addressing sea level rise through improving seawalls, roads, and stormwater pumps, in addition to creating more affordable housing opportunities. Still, more support is needed.

      According to a 2015 report issued by Miami-Dade County, more than 60 percent of its 2.7 million residents are struggling to make ends meet, and around 21 percent live below the poverty level with annual incomes of less than $16,000. The Miami Herald reports that in Miami Beach, wage increases aren’t keeping pace with housing prices (rental or otherwise), causing service workers and public servants to leave. Now, the threat of getting priced out is creeping up the real estate map’s contour lines.

    • Climate Crisis Be Damned, ‘Shale Revolution’ Poised to Make US Net Exporter of Oil in Three Years

      The United States is pumping out so much oil as a result of the so-called “shale revolution” that it’s set to become a net oil exporter in 2021.

      That’s according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), which announced the projection Monday in its five-year forecast. “U.S. production growth has exceeded expectations,” the analysis states.

      [...]

      In a sign of the surge, data from the agency show that in 2010 U.S. shale, extracted through fracking, represented barely a blip in production but zoomed up to over 7 million barrels per day (mb/d) at the start of 2019.

      By 2024, the report says, the U.S. will export more oil than Russia and will edge up to the number two exporter spot, right behind Saudi Arabia. Brazil, now under the leadership of right-wing Jair Boslanaro, is also projected to experience a surge in oil supply. The report additionally finds no peak in oil demand; it is set to increase at an annual average of 1.2 mb/d until 2024.

      Author Jeremy Leggett, whose books include The Solar Century, took great issue with the IEA’s language choice. He said in a tweet: “It isn’t acceptable, in 2019, that the @IEA puts out a press release like this, full of triumphalist echoing of Big Oil’s messaging, without mentioning the #climate implications in any way.”

    • Exclusive: Rhode Island Governor Nixed Agency Critiques of LNG Facility, Silencing Health and Justice Concerns

      Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, squashed a letter by her own state health agency, which raised serious concerns about a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility in a densely populated Providence neighborhood. Documents obtained by DeSmog show that last summer Raimondo nixed a letter by the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) critical of National Grid’s Fields Point Liquefaction project right before it was to be submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

  • Finance

    • The Fight for Hampshire College: How One School’s Financial Calamity Exposes a Crisis in Higher Ed

      Students and faculty are fighting to save Hampshire College from unprecedented financial crisis and potential collapse, following a series of devastating cuts and administrative decisions. In January, Hampshire College President Miriam Nelson announced the board of trustees and senior administrators would seek to merge the school with a “strategic partner.” The announcement was followed by staff layoffs in the school’s development and admissions offices, and news that the school would not be admitting a full class in the fall. We host a discussion with Hampshire professor Margaret Cerullo; Hampshire senior Desta Cantave, who is also a member of Hampshire Rise Up; and Hampshire College trustee William Null.

    • Top-Tier College Pay-to-Play Bust Nets Coaches, Actresses

      Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were charged along with at least 40 other people Tuesday in a scheme in which wealthy parents bribed college coaches and insiders at testing centers to help get their children into some of the most elite schools in the country, prosecutors said.

      “These parents are a catalog of wealth and privilege,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in announcing the $25 million federal bribery case.

      Those charged included several athletic coaches.

      Prosecutors said parents paid an admissions consultant from 2011 through last month to bribe coaches and administrators to label their children as recruited athletes, to alter test scores and to have others take online classes to boost their children’s chances of getting into schools.

      “For every student admitted through fraud, an honest and genuinely talented student was rejected,” Lelling said.

      The racketeering conspiracy charges were brought against coaches at schools including Wake Forest, Stanford, Georgetown, the University of Southern California and University of California, Los Angeles.

    • Warren is Correct about Busting Up Big Tech

      Presidential hopeful Senator Elizabeth Warren announced Friday she wants to bust up giants like Facebook, Google, and Amazon.

      America’s first Gilded Age began in the late nineteenth century with a raft of innovations – railroads, steel production, oil extraction – but culminated in mammoth trusts run by “robber barons” like JP Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, and William H.(“the public be damned”) Vanderbilt.

      The answer then was to bust up the railroad, oil, and steel monopolies.

      We’re now in a second Gilded Age – ushered in by semiconductors, software and the internet – which has spawned a handful of hi-tech behemoths and a new set of barons like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

    • It Sure Sounds Like Elizabeth Warren Wants To Bring The EU Copyright Directive Stateside

      Why, that sounds quite familiar. Indeed, Warren’s announcement even uses “keep more of the value their content generates,” which appears to be a reference to the completely made up notion of a “value gap” between what internet platforms make and what they should be paying artists.

      It’s no secret, of course, that those pushing strongest for Articles 11 and 13 plan to bring them to the US as soon as possible. Indeed, that’s why we pointed out that it is quite important for Americans to pay attention to what’s happening there — as it’s likely to follow across the Atlantic before too long. The fact that a leading Presidential candidate is already mimicking the language of such controversial European legislation is quite amazing, and suggests a Warren campaign that is very out of touch with what people actually want from their internet.

      It’s also kind of odd for someone who paints themselves as a “progressive politician” who will stand up “against big business” to be hinting at policies that are obviously designed solely as a wealth transfer mechanism to the giant Hollywood studios, major record labels, and large newspaper publishers. It’s difficult to square that position with helping the little guy.

    • HUD Plans to Reduce Notice Given Before Inspections, but Advocates Are Unimpressed

      In 2016, senior officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development drafted recommendations to fix the agency’s broken inspection system for publicly subsidized housing after a series of scandals revealed deplorable living conditions across the country. Chief among them was a proposal to revise the agency’s much-maligned scoring system to put a greater emphasis on health and safety concerns facing tenants inside their units, such as severe infestation, mold and peeling paint that could contain lead.

      More than two years later, HUD has yet to take that step.

      Instead, late last month, HUD announced plans to reduce the advance notice that is provided to property managers about pending inspections from up to four months to a maximum of 21 days. In a statement, HUD Secretary Ben Carson said reducing the notice time of a pending inspection would prevent landlords from “gaming the system.” HUD also said it would hold “listening sessions” on other proposed improvements.

    • Blockchain 2.0: Redefining Financial Services [Part 3]

      The previous article of this series focused on building context to bring forth why moving our existing monetary system to a futuristic blockchain system is the next natural step in the evolution of “money”. We looked at the features of a blockchain platform which would aid in such a move. However, the financial markets are far more complex and composed of numerous other instruments that people trade rather than just a currency.

      This part will explore the features of blockchain which will enable institutions to transform and interlace traditional banking and financing systems with it. As previously discussed, and proved, if enough people participate in a given blockchain n­­etwork and support the protocols for transactions, the nominal value that can be attributed to the “token” increases and becomes more stable. Take, for instance, Bitcoin (BTC). Like the simple paper currency, we’re all used to, cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ether can be utilized for all the former’s purposes from buying food to ships and from loaning money to insurance.

    • The Global Economy Is a Time Bomb Waiting to Explode

      In the aftermath of the greatest financial calamity since the Great Depression, then–chief of staff for the Obama administration Rahm Emanuel made the call for aggressive action to prevent a recurrence of the meltdown of 2008.

      Although the U.S. government’s system of checks and balances typically produces incremental reform, Emanuel suggested that during times of financial upheaval, the traditional levers of powers are often scrambled, thereby creating unique conditions whereby legislators could be pushed in the direction of more radical reform. That’s why he suggested that we should never let a crisis go to waste. Ironically, that might be the only pearl of wisdom we ever got from the soon-to-be ex-mayor of Chicago, one of those figures who otherwise embodied the worst Wall Street-centric instincts of the Democratic Party. But give Rahm props for this one useful insight.

      But we did let the crisis of 2008 go to waste. Rather than reconstructing a new foundation out of the wreckage, we simply restored the status quo ante, and left the world’s elite financial engineers with a relatively free hand to create a wide range of new destructive financial instruments.

    • The Big Cheat of 2018: Corporations Make Billions in Profits, Demand Tax Refunds from the American Public

      Many of our country’s largest corporations make billions of dollars in income, use deferrals and write-offs and credits to underpay their current tax bills by staggering amounts, and in some cases claim foreign profits and U.S. losses despite having much of their sales and assets in the United States. These captains of American capitalism are brazenly ignoring their responsibility to their own nation, a nation in desperate need of funding for education and infrastructure and job training.

      The corporate tax rate nosedived from 35% to 21% in 2017, but the thirty companies listed here paid only 8.7% of their reported U.S. income in current federal taxes (even worse, an estimated 7.4% if U.S. income were based on a true percentage of sales). That’s $30 to $35 billion—from just 30 companies—that is owed to the American public.

    • Illinois Places Disastrous Bet on Video Gambling; Other States Likely to Follow

      In 2009 Illinois legislators signed into law the Video Gaming Act which legalized video gambling and paved the way for rapid and massive installation of such machines across the state. These machines were supposed to solve the state’s woeful finances—instead, a decade later, the state has lost over $1 billion on video gambling and has opened the gates to a flood of new problems—including a whirlwind rise in gambling addiction—that underfunded municipalities must now address. Nevertheless, more states are preparing to embrace video gambling machines as the solution to their budget problems.

      According to a ProPublica Illinois investigation, in October, 2018, Illinois lawmakers met with gambling executives and lobbyists at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas to discuss the possibilities of gambling expansion in Illinois—including the introduction of video gambling in Chicago, the only city in Illinois as of now where it remains illegal. But the state seems to have its eyes on the jackpot instead of the crises that video gambling entails.

      The machines were projected to generate $300 million a year, but they didn’t come close to that until 2017, nearly a decade after their installation. By then, the state had borrowed billions of dollars against the projected revenue from video gambling and was $1.3 billion short of what it had anticipated.

    • Top EU Court Rules Public Interest Is More Important Than Protection Of Commercial Interests

      In 2018, a US court ordered Monsanto to pay $289 million in damages to a former school groundkeeper who sued the company after he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which he claimed was caused by his exposure to glyphosate. The award was later reduced to $78 million, still a significant sum.

      In the EU, a group of four members of the European Parliament, and another individual, asked separately to see two key industry studies that were used by EFSA in coming to its decision in favor of approval. EFSA refused, because it claimed that disclosure of the information might seriously harm the commercial and financial interests of the companies that had submitted the data, and that there was no overriding public interest justifying disclosure. Those seeking access appealed to one of the EU’s highest, but least-known, courts, the General Court of the European Union. Its job is to hear actions taken against the institutions of the EU, as in this case.

    • Why Free Trade Is Bad for You (or Most of You at Any Rate)

      Free trade is in real trouble today. But the promoters of free trade brought this on themselves. However, it is not because they have been tepid in their defense of free trade, as the description of this debate has it. They have been guilty of far greater sins.

      The first sin is hypocrisy. Free trade ideologues have enshrined the WTO as the so-called “jewel in the crown of free trade and globalization.” Yet, the WTO promotes monopoly, not free markets, in its key agreements. The Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS) seeks to restrict the diffusion of knowledge and technology and reserve for giant corporations the fruits of technological innovation by significantly tightening patent rules.

      The Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIMS) agreement was meant to preserve and expand the markets of the existing automobile giants by outlawing local content policies that had enabled developing countries like Korea and Malaysia to develop their motor vehicle industries — industries which had, in turn, been central to the comprehensive industrialization of these economies.

      The Agreement on Agriculture (AOA) has been nothing but an instrument to pry open developing country markets to highly subsidized agricultural products from EU and the United States.

      Free trade is simply a euphemism for the corporate capture of international trade.

    • The Tragedy of Baltimore

      On April 27, 2015, Shantay Guy was driving her 13-year-old son home across Baltimore from a doctor’s appointment when something — a rock, a brick, she wasn’t sure what — hit her car. Her phone was turned off, so she had not realized that protests and violence had broken out in the city that afternoon, following the funeral of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old man who drew national attention eight days earlier when he died after suffering injuries in police custody.

      As she saw what was happening — fires being set, young people and police officers converging on the nearby vortex of the disorder — she pushed her son, Brandon, down in his seat and sped home. “Mom, are we home yet?” Brandon asked when they pulled up at their house just inside the city line, where they lived with Guy’s husband, her grown daughter and her husband’s late-teenage son, brother and sister-in-law.

      “Yeah,” she told him.

      “You’re still holding my head down,” he said.

      Guy grew up in an impoverished, highly segregated part of West Baltimore near what was now the focal point of the street clashes, but she had long since climbed into a different stratum of the city’s society; she was working as an information-technology project manager for T. Rowe Price, the Baltimore-based mutual-fund giant. Seeing her old neighborhood erupt changed her life. After long discussions with her husband, who manages the office of a local trucking company, she quit her job and went to work for a community mediation organization. “It just felt like it was the work I was supposed to be doing,” she said.

      In Baltimore, you can tell a lot about the politics of the person you’re talking with by the word he or she uses to describe the events of April 27, 2015. Some people, and most media outlets, call them the “riots”; some the “unrest.” Guy was among those who always referred to them as the “uprising,” a word that connoted something justifiable and positive: the first step, however tumultuous, toward a freer and fairer city. Policing in Baltimore, Guy and many other residents believed, was broken, with officers serving as an occupying army in enemy territory — harassing African-American residents without cause, breeding distrust and hostility.

      In 2016, the United States Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division concurred, releasing a report accusing the city’s Police Department of racial discrimination and excessive force. The city agreed to a “consent decree” with the federal government, a set of policing reforms that would be enforced by a federal judge. When an independent monitoring team was selected to oversee the decree, Guy was hired as its community liaison. This was where she wanted to be: at the forefront of the effort to make her city a better place.

    • Can Journalism Be Saved? A Tax Credit System for Creative Work

      The latest round of layoffs at Buzzfeed, the Huffington Post, and other major news outlets has raised new questions about the future of the traditional model of advertising-supported journalism. While a small number of news outlets, like The New York Times, continue to thrive, few others seem to be profitable in the current environment.

      This raises the prospect of a future in which there will be ever fewer reporters to keep the public informed and to scrutinize the actions of public officials and regulatory agencies. While we all recognize the inevitability of abuse and corruption with a regime that bans a free press, we will get the same outcome in a world where the market is structured in a way to make the operation of independent media difficult or impossible.

      We can look to structure the market in a way that overcomes this problem. Specifically, we can have a modest individual tax credit ($100 to $200 per person) that can be used to finance journalism and other creative work.

      The basic problem faced by news outlets, and other producers of creative work, is that the Internet has made it possible to transfer written material, as well as recorded music and video material, at near zero cost. This means that the condition loved by economists, with the price being equal to the marginal cost, implies that this material would be available for free. If users pay what it costs to deliver a news article, song, or movie over the web, they would pay nothing, leaving no money to support the workers who produced the material.

      This problem is not altogether new. The point of a copyright monopoly was to allow the creator of a creative work to charge a price that was well above the marginal cost of transferring material. However, the Internet makes this problem far more serious with the cost of transferring material falling to zero and copyright enforcement becoming ever more difficult. In this context, it makes sense to look to alternative mechanisms.

      A tax credit for supporting creative work should not be seen as an altogether new concept. This can be viewed as a variation on the tax deduction for charitable contributions. Under this system, the government effectively subsidizes any charitable organization a taxpayer chooses to support.

    • ‘They Treat Us Like Robots’: Frequent 911 Calls From Amazon Warehouses Reveal Employees Driven to Despair

      An extensive report by the Daily Beast paints what one critic called a “worrying, distressing” picture of life for employees at Amazon’s hundreds of warehouses and fulfillment centers—detailing the high volume of 911 calls that come from the facilities and why workers are so frequently driven to desperation.

      Between 2013 and 2018, emergency workers responded to at least 189 calls from Amazon warehouses across the country, Max Zahn and Sharif Paget reported. The calls detailed by the Daily Beast were not an exhaustive list, but applied to only about a quarter of Amazon’s U.S. facilities—46 warehouses in 17 states.

      The calls detailed in the report mainly dealt with employees having mental health episodes including suicide attempts and expressing suicidal thoughts, with workers linking their episodes to the social isolation, surveillance, and break-neck pace of work they were subjected to at Amazon.

      “It’s this isolating colony of hell where people having breakdowns is a regular occurrence,” Jace Crouch, a former employee who had worked in Lakeland, Florida, told the Daily Beast. Crouch said it had been “mentally taxing to do the same task super fast for 10-hour shifts, four or five days a week.”

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • GOP funds messaging sites that look remarkably like trusted local news

      A variety of Republican Party messaging websites has been popping up, styled after local news sites. These sites claim to be “unbiased,” but they are actually funded by Republican donors, candidates, and organizations. Politico has been chronicling the appearance of these sites, and an investigation from Snopes published last week reveals GOP funding sources for three similar sites: The Tennessee Star, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun.

      The trend started gaining steam in 2017. In Maine, a website called the Maine Examiner was revealed to be owned by a top Maine Republican Party official after the site had reportedly influenced a contentious mayoral election. Democrats lodged an ethics complaint, but the party official, Jason Savage, said his work on the website was not related to his work for the party.

    • Self-Funding Candidates Represent Themselves, Not Constituents

      Early and often, presidential candidate Donald Trump proclaimed that he was self-funding and that would keep him from being influenced by special interests who “owned” his primary contenders. Early in the 2016 race, this spending claim was mostly true. At the end of 2015, Trump’s campaign had raised approximately $19.4 million. Of that, Trump contributed nearly $13 million. This was much more of his personal wealth than any other presidential contender in the cycle, with Hillary Clinton having contributed just over $368,000 and Jeb Bush about $389,000 by the end of 2015.

      Without the $66 million that President Trump contributed to his campaign, and without the Supreme Court’s repeal of the self-funding provision, which would’ve limited him to spending $270,000, it is likely that there would have been no President Trump. The Federal Election Campaign Act as amended in 1974, which would likely have prevented the Trump presidency, only existed for a brief and shining moment it was stripped from the law by the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo landmark campaign finance decision by the Supreme Court.

      Why does it matter where the money comes from? Can we agree all politicians represent best those who fund their campaigns and political parties, with larger donations receiving greater political representation? Accepting that politicians represent best those who fund them, it becomes a corollary that self-funding candidates will represent themselves and their cohort.

      President Trump is the most self-funding candidate to win federal office to date. Only Ross Perot with his $63.5 million, ($114 million in 1992 adjusted dollars) contributed more of his own money for federal election, with Mitt Romney a distant third at $45 million of his own contributions spread out across two presidential campaigns. It would be hard even for Trump’s supporters to argue that he is not the most self-representing and self-interested president to date. This is entirely predictable. It is not simply his personality that compels this fact set, it is economic incentive.

    • Trump Donor Claimed She Could Offer Access to the President

      A company run by a donor to President Donald Trump claimed it could provide Chinese clients with a chance to mingle and take photos with the president, along with access to his private club in Palm Beach, Florida.

      It remains unclear how much Li Yang charged for the services and whether she was ever hired to provide them.

      But the company’s claims and other eyebrow-raising activity, which were first reported by The Miami Herald and Mother Jones, mark the latest in a litany of complications and ethical issues stemming from Trump continuing to own and operate a private club where dues-paying members and their guests rub shoulders with the president of the United States and his family, friends, White House staff and members of his Cabinet.

      The Associated Press has previously reported that aides who accompany the president on frequent trips to the club are always on alert for club members and guests with nearly unlimited access who like to buttonhole the president. They raise pet projects, make policy suggestions and share oddball ideas ranging from the benefits of nuclear-powered cars to personal plans for Mideast peace.

      Former administration officials have described the lengths to which aides have gone to try to run interference, including reserving the dinner table next to Trump’s to keep as close an eye on him as possible and scanning guest lists for visitors who might prove problematic.

    • Biden on the Relaunch Pad: He’s Worse Than You Thought

      When the New York Times front-paged its latest anti-left polemic masquerading as a news article, the March 9 piece declared: “Should former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. enter the race, as his top advisers vow he soon will, he would have the best immediate shot at the moderate mantle.”

      On the verge of relaunching, Joe Biden is poised to come to the rescue of the corporate political establishment — at a time when, in the words of the Times, “the sharp left turn in the Democratic Party and the rise of progressive presidential candidates are unnerving moderate Democrats.” After 36 years in the Senate and eight as vice president, Biden is by far the most seasoned servant of corporate power with a prayer of becoming the next president.

      When Biden read this paragraph in a recent Politico article, his ears must have been burning: “Early support from deep-pocketed financial executives could give Democrats seeking to break out of the pack an important fundraising boost. But any association with bankers also opens presidential hopefuls to sharp attacks from an ascendant left.”

      The direct prey of Biden’s five-decade “association with bankers” include millions of current and former college students now struggling under avalanches of debt; they can thank Biden for his prodigious services to the lending industry. Andrew Cockburn identifies an array of victims in his devastating profile of Biden in the March issue of Harper’s magazine.

    • Applause for Pete Buttigieg as 2020 Hopeful Strays From ‘Trite Script Most Politicians Cling To’ During Town Hall

      Many viewers of South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s town hall on Sunday were intrigued by the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate’s thoughtful remarks and intent on making sure they’re able to hear more from Buttigieg throughout the campaign.

      Progressives around the country wrote on social media about their hope that the 37-year-old would be included in the Democratic primary debates scheduled to begin in June, and their goal in helping to make sure he isn’t shut out of the process.

    • Donald Trump Deserves an “F” on Trade

      We learned from Michael Cohen’s testimony last month that Donald Trump went to great lengths to ensure that his high school and college grades and test scores would never see the light of day. We can be pretty certain that they were not very good, since Donald Trump is a person who is quick to brag about anything he has done, and even many things he has not done. If Trump had been a straight-A student, we would all know about it.

      Ordinarily, there would be no reason to care about how a politician did in an English class more than half a century ago, except that Donald Trump felt that it was important to talk about President Obama’s grades, which he claimed, with no evidence, were “terrible.” Trump called on Obama to release his college transcripts. It is striking that Trump is apparently now scared to death that anyone will see his high school or college grades.

      We don’t need to see Trump’s grades in school to know how he is doing now, however; we can look at his record. And, with respect to the trade deficit, an issue that was central in Trump’s campaign, it’s terrible.

    • What If High Schoolers Could Vote? We May Soon Find Out

      While canvassing her district while running for state senator in Oregon in 2018, one event changed the tone of Sen. Shemia Fagan’s conversations with voters: the deadly Parkland, Florida, school shooting, which took place that February.

      Her constituents discussed how the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School seized the national conversation on gun safety.

      “As I was out at the doors, I had many conversations with older voters who were so impressed with the results the Parkland students were getting,” Fagan said. “The examples of the 16- and 17-year-olds out there were moving the needle.”

      It’s what inspired her to propose Feb. 18 that Oregon lower its minimum voting age to 16. She said it would allow teens who are old enough to drive, pay taxes, and be charged as an adult in the criminal justice system to also establish good civic habits at a younger age.

    • Canada’s No-Sex, No-Money Scandal Could Topple Trudeau

      There’s no money, no sex and nothing illegal happened. This is what passes for a scandal in Canada.

      U.S. President Donald Trump has been engulfed in allegations involving possible collusion with Russia and secret payments to buy the silence of a porn star. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is facing a controversy that seems trivial by comparison, but it could topple him in elections later this year.

      Two high-profile women ministers in Trudeau’s Cabinet, including Canada’s first indigenous justice minister, resigned in protest, and his top aide and best friend quit too.

    • A Tribal Camp in South Texas Is Vowing to Resist Trump’s Wall

      The 1,600-member Carrizo/Comecrudo tribe of South Texas knows no borders. Called the Esto’k Gna in their Native language, the tribe’s people have been aboriginal to both sides of the Rio Grande River for centuries, and have maintained sacred sites and burial grounds along its banks for just as long, but the tribe is not recognized by the state or federal government.

      Tribal Chairman Juan Mancias tells Truthout that many of the tribe’s ancestors made efforts to anglicize during the 1800s as a means of surviving the violent colonization that is still shaping South Texas, and that many are now laid to rest under anglicized names at the 154-year-old Eli Jackson Cemetery just a mile north of the river in the border town of San Juan, Texas. Mancias says he is also a distant descendant of some of those laid to rest there.

      The quarter-acre cemetery inters 150 South Texans, including Nathaniel Jackson, the white son of a plantation owner, and likely his wife, Matilda Hicks, an emancipated slave, who together founded a 5,500-acre ranch and community here with several other families. Just a short walk back up the road sits the Jackson Ranch Methodist Chapel and its separate cemetery. A small stone marker indicates the U.S.-Mexico boundary to the chapel’s right.

      Just a few yards north of Eli Jackson’s headstones is a sloped earthen river levee where President Trump hopes to build one of the first sections of his border wall — a 14-mile stretch of concrete and steel fence, 30 feet tall. Congress gave Trump $1.6 billion to build this segment, among others in the Rio Grande Valley, in 2018.

    • Democrats Choose Milwaukee for Convention, Citing Party Values

      Milwaukee will host the 2020 Democratic National Convention, party leaders announced Monday, highlighting the battleground state of Wisconsin that helped elect President Donald Trump and now will launch an opponent who could oust him.

      Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez chose Milwaukee over Houston and Miami after deliberations lingered longer than party leaders or officials from the three finalist cities had expected.

      “Where you hold our convention is a very strong statement of your values and who and what we are fighting for,” Perez said Monday surrounded by state and local officials.

      Perez praised Milwaukee’s diversity and its labor unions, along with Wisconsin’s working-class identity. He called it an ideal backdrop for Democrats to launch a fall campaign to reclaim the White House four years after Trump stunningly outpaced Hillary Clinton across the old industrial belt of the upper Midwest and Great Lakes.

    • Facebook and Twitter Turned to TurboVote to Drive Registrations. Officials Want Them to Turn Away.

      In 2018, Facebook and Twitter decided to play a role in helping people register to vote in what promised to be a momentous midterm election. To do so, the social media platforms directed users almost exclusively to a website called TurboVote, run by a nonprofit organization known as Democracy Works. TurboVote was launched in 2012, and it promised to streamline voter registration and remind people to cast ballots on Election Day.

      Evidently, things did not go seamlessly.

      The National Association of Secretaries of State, or NASS, whose members oversee elections in all 50 states, has claimed that TurboVote occasionally failed to properly process registrations, and that in other instances it failed to notify people who thought they had registered to vote but had not actually completed the necessary forms.

    • Facebook Engages in “Friendly Fraud” of Children Playing Online Games

      In January 2019, the Center for Investigative Journalism’s Reveal reported that a US district court judge had required Facebook to release documents showing that it had targeted children to make online games, including Angry Birds, PetVille, and Ninja Saga, more profitable. One internal Facebook memo described the practice that encouraged children to spend large sums of money on gaming apps without parental consent, as “friendly fraud,” Reveal’s Nathan Halverson reported. The documents showed that when underage users clicked on “offers” that would give them in-game upgrades, such as extra lives or cosmetic items, a credit card previously linked with the user’s account would be automatically charged. It is estimated that between 2008 and 2014, users under the age of eighteen generated more than $34 million dollars in revenues for Facebook.

      The documents made public by US District Court Judge Beth Freeman’s order span a time period of 2010 to 2014 and include 135 pages of internal Facebook memos, secret strategies, and employee emails. As Halverson reported, internal documents also show that, for years, the company “ignored warnings from its own employees that it was bamboozling children.”

      Many popular “free-to-play” games, such as Fortnite, offer players options to purchase additional downloadable content to enhance game play. But Facebook’s “free” online games differ from Fortnite and others, which require players to confirm purchases multiple times before transactions are completed. In Facebook’s online games, players were asked if they wanted additional items, but not informed that they would have to pay for them or that a parent’s credit card would be charged.

    • American Greatness?

      “Make American Great Again” proclaims Donald J. Trump, and millions thrill at the thought. Millions of others cringe or bristle. National division and animosity escalate.

      [...]

      George Gershwin rejected longstanding barriers between Beethoven and Tin Pan Alley, jazz and opera—and thus helped create a uniquely American crossover style of music. He was a Jew accepted by a largely Christian culture with little contempt or discrimination, celebrated by America when European culture treated Jews with hatred and exclusion. As Gershwin could learn from both African-American jazz and French composing theory, so America was able learn from the son of Jewish immigrants what its own popular music could become. This too is American greatness.

      Using scientific knowledge to challenge reckless and damaging pesticides, best-selling nature writer Rachel Carson helped create a new kind of public identity: someone who was at once scientist, citizen, and environmental activist. In a time of unchallenged sexism she became both a widely recognized technical expert and a political and cultural icon. Despite attacks on her as a communist, a cat loving “old maid,” and a lesbian, she was invited to give advice about the dangers of pesticides to congress and to President Kennedy. Her book Silent Spring won a National Book Award, sold millions of copies, and led to an hour long prime time TV interview. Like Thoreau, she combined a scientific sensibility and a deep questioning of the assumption that nature exists only to be dominated. Like him, she sought a way for humanity and nature to thrive together.

    • It’s Time.

      I’ve lost all patience with moderates, centrists, incrementalists and mainstream establishment Democrats who think the status quo is not so bad, just needs a little tweaking around the edges. They’d be satisfied just getting rid of Trump – which is fine as far as that goes, it just doesn’t go nearly far enough.

      Anybody with a clear-eyed view of the status quo understands the horror of US foreign policy and the shameful neglect of US domestic policy. The system has failed us. The duopoly has frustrated all serious efforts to change things for the better. The owners of the USA, the billionaire class, like things just the way they are. There is no profit in peace or taking care of the needy or delivering justice to the masses. America is owned and dominated by greed monsters who don’t care that their money comes drenched in the blood of patriots and innocent victims of US war crimes.

      I’m still furious with the DNC for ripping off Bernie and his millions of supporters and ushering in the Trump presidency.

      Mainstream Democrats have failed us. They like to claim to be progressives, liberals and/or part of ‘the left’ but in truth they are none of those things.

    • Pelosi Waves Off Impeachment, Says It Would Divide Country

      House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is setting a high bar for impeachment of President Donald Trump, saying he is “just not worth it” even as some on her left flank clamor to start proceedings.

      Pelosi said in an interview with The Washington Post that “I’m not for impeachment” of Trump.

      “Unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country,” she said.

    • Nobody Likes Trump, But He Could Still Beat a Centrist Democrat in 2020

      One of the most stunning numbers in politics is the fact that some 40 percent of those polled still approve of Trump. Pundits, politicians and the media seem to walk around in a state of disbelief that this buffoon retains any support at all.

      In reality, it’s no mystery.

      Look, nobody actually likes Trump. His base is composed of people who are angry at the Washington plutocracy which has been screwing them for decades. Trump is a virtual Molotov cocktail they throw into the system to signal their anger at the politicians from both parties who have left them behind in order to make it easier to beg campaign funds from the ultra-rich and corporations. And no, it doesn’t matter that Trump hasn’t drained the swamp – that he in fact has broadened and deepened it. His appeal isn’t based on what he does, so much as what he claims to be against.

      There’s one statistic that shows how both parties have been creating a government of the rich, for the rich and by the rich. Between 1980 and 2015, the top .01 percent saw their income rise by 322 percent, while income for the bottom 90 percent rose by just .03 percent. No wonder people are angry. This is why talk about full employment and a growing economy hasn’t changed people’s dim view of government.

      Rural whites – the core of Trump’s base – are also upset about the startling changes they’ve seen in their communities. Over the last five decades, non-metropolitan America has been dominated by the 3 D’s: death, depopulation, and diversity. In most non-metropolitan communities death rates exceed birth rates which has led to depopulation. At the same time, diversity has skyrocketed as immigrants and minorities have moved into many rural areas.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • The French Genocide That Has Been Air-Brushed From History

      In fact, it was a fake amnesty. On January 17 1794, General Turreau set out with two armies of six divisions each on a ‘Crusade of Liberty’ to deal with what remained of the brigands. He ordered his lieutenants to spare nobody: women and children were also to be bayoneted in the stomach if there was the slightest hint of suspicion. Houses, farms, villages and thickets were all to be set on fire. Anything that could burn would have to burn. Soldiers in the ‘Infernal Columns’ of the Crusade had explicit instructions to wipe out every last possible trace of resistance or rebellion.

    • Zero Hedge Says Facebook Banned Users From Sharing Its Posts

      Readers of the blog reported being unable to share links to Zero Hedge articles via the social media platform, which has previously said it’s making a concerted effort to clamp down on fake news and harmful content amid mounting criticism. Alerts from Facebook said such stories “couldn’t be shared, because this link goes against our Community Standards.”

    • With Blocked Ads Proving Her Point, Warren Says Facebook Shouldn’t Have Power to Decide What Is and Isn’t Allowed for ‘Robust Debate’

      In a move Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) described as a perfect example of why her plan to break up tech giants is necessary, Facebook late Monday took down ads from Warren’s presidential campaign that promoted the proposal and denounced tech corporations—including Facebook itself—for exploiting users’ private information for profit.

    • Facebook proves Elizabeth Warren’s point by deleting her ads about breaking up Facebook

      According to Politico, the ads that were taken down were identical and used the same images and text in each one. Warren’s ads point out that without placing ads on Facebook, the campaign wouldn’t be able to spread its platform or message as efficiently due to the company’s sheer size and ability to target specific voters. `

    • Facebook restores Warren ads removed for criticizing the platform

      Facebook on Monday restored three ads from Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) campaign it had briefly taken down that highlighted her push for the breakup of massive tech giants, including the social media platform.

    • Russian social media network caught deleting photos of mock Putin grave

      On March 10, in the city of Naberezhnye Chelny, activists affiliated with the group Unlimited Protest installed a sculpture designed to be a mock grave of Russian president Vladimir Putin. The sculpture consisted of a black gravestone with Putin’s photograph and the engraving 1952-2019, and it was created as part of broader protests against the separation of the Russian Internet from the World Wide Web. A channel on the social platform Telegram published the first known photograph of the piece alongside the caption, “Putin buried the free Internet — the residents of Naberezhnye Chelny buried Putin.”

    • Russia Blocks ProtonMail Citing Security Reasons

      Russia has directed internet providers in the country to block the encrypted email provider ProtonMail. The orders for blocking the service came directly from Federal Security Service, formerly known as the KGB.

      According to a Russian blog, the block was enforced after accusing ProtonMail and several other email providers of facilitating a platform to send bomb threats.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • When Facial Recognition Is Used to Identify Defendants, They Have a Right to Obtain Information About the Algorithms Used on Them, EFF Tells Court

      We urged the Florida Supreme Court yesterday to review a closely-watched lawsuit to clarify the due process rights of defendants identified by facial recognition algorithms used by law enforcement.

      Specifically, we told the court that when facial recognition is secretly used on people later charged with a crime, those people have a right to obtain information about how the error-prone technology functions and whether it produced other matches.

      EFF, ACLU, Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy & Technology, and Innocence Project filed an amicus brief in support of the defendant’s petition for review in Willie Allen Lynch v. State of Florida. Prosecutors in the case didn’t disclose information about how the algorithm worked, that it produced other matches that were never considered, or why Lynch’s photo was targeted as the best match. This information qualifies as “Brady” material—evidence that might exonerate the defendant—and should have been turned over to Lynch.

      We have written extensively about how facial recognition systems are prone to error and produce false positives, especially when the algorithms are used on African Americans, like the defendant in this case. Researchers at the FBI, MIT, and ProPublica have reported that facial recognition algorithms misidentify black people, young people, and women at higher rates that white people, the elderly, and men.

    • Privacy Advocates Sound Alarm as CBP ‘Scrambling’ to Deploy Facial Recognition at Major US Airports

      The 346 pages of government records—obtained by the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and shared exclusively with BuzzFeed News—bolster mounting concerns among privacy advocates about sweeping, secretive government surveillance as well as the pitfalls of facial recognition technology.

      “Facial recognition is becoming normalized as an infrastructure for checkpoint control,” said Jay Stanley, an ACLU senior policy analyst. “It’s an extremely powerful surveillance technology that has the potential to do things never before done in human history. Yet the government is hurtling along a path towards its broad deployment—and in this case, a deployment that seems quite unjustified and unnecessary.”

      Stanley is just one of many privacy advocates critical of efforts by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)—a federal law enforcement agency under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—to implement the “Biometric Entry-Exit System.”

      Through the program, according to three internal documents (pdfs) from DHS, “CBP will transform the way it identifies travelers by shifting the key to unlocking a traveler’s record from biographic identifiers to biometric ones—primarily a traveler’s face.”

    • Teenagers Getting Paid to be Spied on by Facebook?

      Since 2016, Facebook has been paying teenagers as young as 13 to install the “Facebook Research” app on their phone. According to a January 29, 2019, TechCrunch article by Josh Constine, the app allows Facebook to collect nearly all of the accessible data on users’ phones. This data includes what they search for online, photos or videos sent through social media messaging, location information, and emails. Facebook, Constantine reported, has been “paying users ages 13 to 35 up to $20 per month plus referral fees” for their online data. Even after Apple informed Facebook that a previous program, Onavo Protect, violated Apple’s data collection policies, Facebook paid users to use a new app, Facebook Research, from outside of Apple’s App Store.

      One of the biggest concerns with Facebook’s spying is that teenagers do not necessarily understand how much information they are selling and why it could be dangerous. Smart phones carry sensitive information including locations, bank account information, and other personal information, and Facebook could take advantage of the fact that teens want to make money without understanding what they are giving up in return. Although Apple shut down the Facebook Research app, it is still available for Android users, meaning many teens still have access to it.

    • It’s Apparently Easy To Pretend To Be A Cop, Grab Location Data From Cellular Carriers

      In many instances the third parties are exploiting telecom company procedures for “exigent circumstances,” allowing them to request and receive real-time location data by fabricating law enforcement data request documents telecom operators aren’t properly verifying. Of course as the New York Times noted more than a year ago, law enforcement officers have also been busted abusing this system to spy on judges and other law enforcement officers.

      Like so many sectors, wireless carriers were so excited by the billions to be made selling your daily habits, they forgot to actually protect that data. As reporters like Cox continue to dig deeper, you have to think that many cellular carriers are scrambling hard to clean up their mess as inevitable class action lawsuits and regulatory investigations wait in the wings. This scandal is getting so ugly, even the carrier-cozy Trump FCC may, at some point, be forced to actually do something about it.

    • Finland passes enhanced surveillance bills without a vote

      Parliament approved a package of intelligence law reforms in a nearly-empty plenary chamber on Monday afternoon. Finnish lawmakers effectively approved two bills which will enhance the surveillance capabilities of military and civil intelligence agencies.

      The bills had been the source of a good deal of controversy since they were introduced. They were also considered by some to be among the most important pieces of legislation during Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s administration, which came to a sudden end last week, when he tendered his government’s resignation to the president on Friday.

    • Amazon’s Alexa has 80,000 Apps—and No Runaway Hit

      “This platform is almost four years old, and you can’t point me to one single killer app,” says Mark Einhorn, who created a well-reviewed Alexa game that lets users operate a simulated lemonade stand and is one of 10 developers interviewed for this story.

      Amazon, which declined to comment, created a novel new technology with Alexa. But it poses problems for developers, who encounter a steep learning curve in building voice apps. Swapping visual cues for verbal ones forces them to unlearn old habits from building software for smartphones and the web. Even after creating an app, there’s no guarantee people will find it. While smartphone users can quickly eyeball a list of available apps on a screen, multiple options get lost easily on a voice-based service.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Can Native American Tribes Protect Their Land If They’re Not Recognized by the Federal Government?

      Louise Miranda Ramirez has fought to protect her ancestral lands and cultural sites for most of her 60-plus-year lifetime.

      “It’s so hard to save our lands and ancestors when we’re living in areas with people who make lots of money and don’t care about us,” says Ramirez, the tribal chairwoman of the Ohlone/Costanoan Esselen Nation, known as OCEN. Ramirez and her fellow leaders have a rough task on their hands: Their traditional lands encompass Carmel, Pebble Beach, Big Sur, Asilomar and other highly coveted — and uber-expensive — communities along the Central California coast and Coast Ranges. Preserving burial sites, protecting traditional gathering areas from development and preventing villages from being bulldozed was at one time virtually impossible, as the tribe lacks federal recognition.

      Nearby, the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band is addressing similar issues.

      “Creator gave us the responsibility to care for Mother Earth and all living things,” says Chairman Valentin Lopez. The Amah Mutsun’s lands lie within the contemporary northern Salinas Valley, portions of San Benito County and Pinnacles National Park. “We knew that we had to find a way to exert stewardship over those lands to restore our relationship with the land.” Like Ramirez’s tribe, Amah Mutsun is also not federally recognized.

    • Brazil: Arrests are First Sign of Progress in Investigation Into Killing of Marielle Franco
    • Auto Finance Company Sues Massachusetts City Over Its Unconstitutional Sale Of Seized Vehicles

      There’s a genuine question of property interest in a vehicle whose title still resides with the financing company. This can’t be the first time a company has complained about a vehicle of theirs being auctioned off without notice, but this is the first federal complaint I’ve seen directly challenging a state’s seizure of vehicles from drivers who don’t actually own the vehicles they’re driving.

      This was filed ten days before the Supreme Court held that certain forms of asset forfeiture violate Constitutional protections against excessive fines. Honda’s complaint seems to anticipate the high court’s displeasure with abusive forfeitures and pulls no punches in its description of the program the city of Revere participate in.

    • The Leniency Shown to Paul Manafort Should Be the Norm for Everyone — Not Just Rich White Men

      To end mass incarceration, the criminal legal system should stop pushing long prison sentences as a default solution to punishing crime.
      Last week, Americans got a front row seat to the two systems of justice we have in America, one reserved for rich white men and the other for communities of color. Unfortunately, though, many people may have drawn the wrong lessons from these examples.

      On Thursday, Paul Manafort, a white man, got a 47-month sentence for massive tax and bank fraud, far less than the 24 years recommended by prosecutors. People were outraged, rightfully pointing out that every day in America, Black people face harsher sentences for less serious offenses. Many even called for Manafort to receive more prison time as a way to address this inequity.

      One day later, another high profile case hit the news, just in time to pour salt on the Manafort-sentencing wound. Jussie Smollett, a Black man, got indicted on 16 felonies for lying to the police, meaning that he could face up to 64 years in prison if convicted.

      So here in plain sight was the double standard so many of us decry. A rich white man gets leniency, while a Black man, an actor notwithstanding, gets the book thrown at him.

      The outrage over these two systems of justice is entirely justified. There is systemic racism in our nation’s criminal legal system, where Black people are incarcerated at six times and Latinos at threes time the rate of non-Latino whites. One in three young Black men can expect to serve time in prison if current trends continue. To put this in context, the United States imprisons a larger percentage of its Black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid.

    • Western Russian province celebrates spring by burning the Night King from ‘Game of Thrones’ in effigy

      On the traditional East Slavic holiday of Maslenitsa, revelers celebrate the coming of spring by eating blintzes and burning a large straw doll to symbolize the resurrection of the world through the destruction of winter.

      In Argamach Archeological Park, located in western Russia’s Lipetskaya Oblast, that doll took the form of the Night King, a prominent character in the Game of Thrones series. Photographs of its celebratory burning were posted on the social site Pikabu and the image service Imgur, where they were also spotted by English-speaking users.

    • Head of New York City’s Private Trash Industry Regulator Is Stepping Down

      The head of the agency that regulates New York City’s private trash collection is resigning, a move that comes after months of embarrassing news coverage and calls for the agency to step up its oversight of the industry.

      Daniel Brownell, appointed to lead the Business Integrity Commission, or BIC, by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2014, is expected to join a private security and corporate compliance firm. He will leave office in roughly the next month.

      In a statement, de Blasio said Brownell’s resignation was voluntary, and he credited him with having played “a big role in crafting legislation to protect the most vulnerable workers in the trade waste industry.”

      Brownell did not respond to requests for comment.

      This year, after a rash of fatal accidents and a series of reports by ProPublica raising questions about the BIC’s record of oversight, the New York City Council announced it was launching an investigation of the agency’s performance. The council sent the BIC pages of questions concerning its work and demanded a vast assortment of records.

      “I suspect there are systemic failures, but I want to be careful not to pre-judge an investigation,” Ritchie Torres, chairman of the council’s Committee on Oversight and Investigations, said at the time.

    • US Women Face Prison Sentences for Miscarriages

      Many American women fear that the new Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade, stripping their right to choose. But there’s more at stake, according to Naomi Randolph in a 2019 Ms. Magazine blog post: pregnant women could face a higher risk of criminal charges for miscarriages or stillbirths, due to lawmakers in numerous states enacting laws that recognize fetuses as people, separate from the mother. One example that Randolph provides is in Alabama, where voters recently passed a measure that “endows fetus’ with ‘personhood’ rights for the first time, potentially making any action that impacts a fetus a criminal behavior with potential for prosecution.” Collectively, these laws have resulted in hundreds of American women facing prosecution for the outcome of their pregnancies.

      In Arkansas, Anne Bynum was convicted of “concealing a birth” when she delivered a stillborn child at her home in 2015, per an Arkansas statute that leaves women in the same situation vulnerable to conviction if they wait even a minute before contacting authorities.

      In Mississippi, Rennie Gibbs faced murder, then manslaughter charges at age 16 after delivering a stillborn child. Although experts advised that drugs were not the cause of the baby’s death, the jury concluded she had “willingly and feloniously” killed the child by using drugs.

    • Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Outed as Misogynist and Rape Apologist

      If you’re not a fan of radio shock jocks. you may not be familiar with Todd Clem, aka Bubba the Love Sponge, a friend of Howard Stern who rose to nationally syndicated prominence with stunts like “No Panties Thursdays.” Legal troubles stemmed from some of those stunts, including the time he slaughtered a pig on air (he was acquitted of animal cruelty).

      Fox News host and alt-right favorite Tucker Carlson, however, is very familiar with Bubba. According to unearthed recordings from media watchdog organization Media Matters, Carlson used weekly calls to Clem’s show from 2006 to 2011 as an opportunity publicly degrade prominent female journalists, celebrities and politicians.

      Carlson, Media Matters reports, “diminished the actions of Warren Jeffs, then on the FBI’s ’Ten Most Wanted Fugitives’ list, for his involvement in arranging illegal marriages between adults and underage girls, talked about sex and young girls, and defended statutory rape.”

    • No Apology: Tucker Carlson and Jeanine Pirro Use Outrage Over Comments to Promote Their Shows

      Two controversies over statements past and present engulfed Fox News personalities Tucker Carlson and Jeanine Pirro over the weekend, but neither showed any regret or offered an apology.

      Instead of contrition, both Pirro and Carlson—under fire for remarks about Muslims and women respectively—responded by saying people that might be upset should simply tune into upcoming episodes.

      In her Saturday evening show, “Justice with Judge Jeanine,” Pirro mused over whether Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress and the first to wear a hijab, might be more loyal to Islam than the U.S. After all, Pirro said, Omar wears a headscarf for religious reason.

      “Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to sharia law which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution?” Pirro asked the audience during her opening monologue.

    • Tucker Carlson Called Iraqis ‘Semiliterate Primitive Monkeys’ in Racist Radio Tirade

      Fox News host Tucker Carlson referred to Iraqis as “semiliterate primitive monkeys” who should “just shut the fuck up and obey us” in recordings posted Monday night by Media Matters.

      The recordings were part of a larger dump of clips showing Carlson’s racism toward a number of groups. The comments came between 2006 and 2011, during which time Carlson was a frequent call in guest to “The Bubba the Love Sponge Show.” Carlson was a contributor to both Fox and MSNBC during those years, joining Fox in 2009.

      Monday’s revelations followed a story Sunday evening from Media Matters that detailed multiple statements from Carlson about women, rape, and underage girls.

    • Journalists, Lawyers & Activists Targeted in Sweeping U.S. Intelligence Gathering Effort on Border

      Newly revealed documents show the U.S. government created a secret database of activists and journalists who were documenting the Trump administration’s efforts to thwart a caravan of migrants hoping to win asylum in the U.S. An investigation from San Diego’s NBC 7 revealed the list was shared among Homeland Security Investigations, ICE, Customs and Border Protection and the FBI. It included the names of 10 journalists—seven of whom are U.S. citizens—along with nearly four dozen others listed as “organizers” or “instigators.” House Democrats are now calling for the full disclosure of the government’s secret list. We speak with one of the activists targeted by the government, Nicole Ramos, director of Al Otro Lado’s Border Rights Project. The project works with asylum seekers in Tijuana, Mexico. We also speak with Ryan Devereaux, staff reporter at The Intercept. In early February, he wrote an article titled “Journalists, Lawyers, and Activists Working on the Border Face Coordinated Harassment from U.S. and Mexican Authorities.”

    • More than Cyntoia Brown: Thousands of Sexual Violence Survivors Languish behind Bars

      In January, 2019, Cyntoia Brown was granted clemency by Tennessee’s Republican governor, Bill Haslam, after spending fifteen years in prison. Brown was originally sentenced to life in prison at age sixteen after being convicted of first-degree murder for shooting her rapist. Brown was sexually trafficked, as well as abused and drugged repeatedly. In a January 10, 2019, interview with Democracy Now!, Mariame Kaba, the co-founder of Survived and Punished, an organization supporting survivors of violence who have been criminalized for self-defense, said that there are thousands in Brown’s position.

      At age sixteen, Brown killed her rapist, fearing for her life. Rather than showing sympathy for Brown’s circumstances, the court tried her as an adult and ultimately sentenced her to life in prison. After serving fifteen years, Brown had the chance to speak at her clemency hearing in May 2018. She earnestly admitted to wrongdoing in killing her rapist. This clemency hearing received attention from celebrities, such as Rihanna, expressing disgust at a system that enables rapists and incarcerates victims. Media coverage led to national attention, resulting in the governor’s office receiving 6,000 calls in a day urging the court to release Brown.

    • #MeToo whistleblowing is upending A century-old legal precedent in US demanding loyalty to the boss

      When was the last time you agreed to keep a secret?

      Perhaps it was a personal confidence shared by a close family member or friend. Or it might have been in a contract with your employer to safeguard confidential information. Either way, you probably felt a strong sense of obligation to keep that secret.

      At least when it comes to the workplace, that’s no accident. In the United States, the idea that workers owe their employers a duty of loyalty goes back more than 100 years. It is deeply ingrained in legal rules and American culture.

      But it has been fraying, most recently in the form of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s damning congressional testimony against the president.

      This trend was also on full display when the #MeToo movement went viral in 2017. #MeToo was, of course, about sexual harassment and assault. But it was also a form of mass whistleblowing. The movement signaled victims’ willingness – at an unprecedented scale – to defy promises of secrecy to their employers in service of a larger truth by revealing their experiences of workplace harassment.

      While researching a book on the duty of loyalty, I realized that the #MeToo movement isn’t merely a rift in the ordinary order of workplace relationships in the United States. It is part a larger legal and cultural shift that has been in the works for decades.

    • WikiLeaks: UK, Saudi traded votes to secure UN position

      A new WikiLeaks document has raised suspicion over the appointment of Saudi Arabia – one of the world’s worst human rights offenders – to oversee the UN Human Rights Council. The international non-profit organisation that publishes secret information, news leaks, and classified media has uncovered secret documents showing that the UK had a major role in the controversial decision.

      According to documents released last month by WikiLeaks under the headline: “What has WikiLeaks revealed about David Cameron and the Conservatives”, the UK engaged in secret vote-trading with Riyadh to ensure both states were elected to the UN body. It also suspects that payments may have been made to get the Saudis appointed to the coveted position.

      [...]

      The Saudi cables also reveal Saudi meddling in Bahrain’s internal affairs during the latter’s brutal crackdown on the opposition in 2011. The Saudi government is said to have sent a letter to the British Foreign Secretary at the time, William Hague, and a duplicate letter to the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, asking them to intervene in lifting the arms embargo on Bahrain, claiming the country was facing serious security challenges and violent acts supported by other regional forces.

      Details of David Cameron’s disastrous handing of the Libyan invasion were also released in the same document. As the war was still raging, in September 2011, a US cable reveals that Cameron and his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy were both jockeying for their oil companies to be rewarded by the new Libyan government due to their role in the war.

    • Justice for Stephon Clark: Protests Erupt as DA Fails to Charge Cops Who Killed Unarmed Black Father

      Protests in Sacramento continue more than a week after the county’s district attorney announced the two police officers who shot and killed 22-year-old, unarmed African American Stephon Clark in his grandmother’s backyard last year will not face criminal charges. Since the news broke, organizers have joined walkouts at local colleges and high schools, demonstrations at the City Council, an ongoing occupation of a Sacramento police station, a die-in at UC Davis and a protest in one of the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods that led to 84 arrests. This marks the 34th consecutive police shooting review in which Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert found that the officers acted legally, according to The Sacramento Bee. We speak with Berry Accius, founder of Voice of the Youth and a Sacramento community activist.

    • Fascism by Another Name

      Americans have been easily buffaloed by an English accent ever since the upper crust of that little island started dropping their Rs to sound posh, and mediocre but quotable Brits first sought their fortunes upon our shores. We have no such excuse for David Frum, a Canadian immigrant who moved through a series of conservative publication sinecures, worked for George W. Bush, joined the American Enterprise Institute, got canned from the AEI because he wasn’t mad enough about the Affordable Care Act, and bounced around on a number of projects before landing at The Atlantic.

      As a speechwriter for the younger Bush, Frum became famous as the reputed author of the phrase, “Axis of Evil,” which stands alongside Peggy Noonan’s Reagan-era “slipped the surly bonds of Earth”—which she cribbed without attribution from a poem by John Gillespie Magee Jr.—as one of those extremely memorable quotations that evaporates into nonsense if you stare at it for more than a minute. He has since reinvented himself as the character second only to our Oxbridge friends in its ability to boondoggle America’s political and professional classes: the reasonable conservative. The reasonable conservative, as a type, exists to assure liberal and leftist Americans that they must immediately do what the savage hard right most fervently desires, lest those on the savage hard right do it themselves.

      In this instance, Frum has decided to expand on the thesis of a 2017 Atlantic article in which he memorably warned that “[w]hen liberals insist that only fascists will defend borders, then voters will hire fascists to do the job liberals won’t do.” He has seen the enemy, and it is the face of a feckless Western liberalism in the face of the “rising tides of color.” He is too fluent in the acceptable language of meritocracy to put it in such crude terms; he can’t say, like the vulgar President he supposedly disdains, that we should reject immigrants from “shithole countries” in favor of an imagined influx of pale Norwegians dissatisfied with the highest human development index in the world.

    • House Republicans Hide Behind ‘Lesbian Radical Feminist’ to Push Anti-Trans Agenda

      A baffling sentence opened the Thursday testimony of Julia Beck, an anti-trans conservative speaking at the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

      “I am a lesbian radical feminist,” said Beck, who was removed from the Baltimore City LGBTQ Commission Committee on Law and Policy for her anti-transgender advocacy, “and I am politically homeless.”

      In fact, Beck had found a welcoming political home for her testimony on Thursday, as she had when she spoke to Fox News’ Tucker Carlson in February and at the Heritage Foundation in January. Beck’s home is among conservatives, where she is granted a platform to give the right wing’s anti-transgender activism the veneer of bipartisanship.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • The Lost Worlds of Telnet

      Most people think of Telnet as “that thing I used to use to remotely access servers.” But a few hearty souls are still keeping their Telnet services online — and it’s a great way to experience some good old-fashioned time-wasting fun!

      Although, as a work tool, Telnet has long been deprecated in favor of the Secure Shell (SSH), a few minutes of exploration quickly reveals that there’s still a whole forgotten subculture around the places Telnet can take you to. “Connect to other servers through Telnet to view their animated ASCII art, games, etc,” explained a directory at Mewbies, a site offering tutorials on “the installation and usage of (mainly unconventional) softwares.” Last updated in 2014, the web site includes a list titled “FUN ON THE TERMINAL” — along with some simple instructions. If you’re not already accessing Telnet from the command line of your shell account, just paste the site’s Telnet address into any terminal client.

    • Breaking: Net Neutrality Activists Are Crowdfunding a Billboard to Call Out Senator Kyrsten Sinema

      Digital rights group Fight for the Future has launched a crowdfunding campaignto put up a billboard in Phoenix targeting Senator Kyrsten Sinema, the only Democratic member of the US Senate who has not cosponsored the Save the Internet Act––common sense legislation that would reverse the FCC’s resoundingly unpopular repeal of net neutrality.

    • ‘Nowhere to Hide’: Billboard to Target Kyrsten Sinema as Only Senate Democrat Standing Against Net Neutrality

      Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), the lone Democratic holdout, is now the target of a grassroots campaign by internet advocacy group Fight for the Future, which is crowdfunding a billboard that accuses her of “siding with corporate donors to kill net neutrality.”

      “There’s no excuse for not supporting this bill,” Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, said in a statement. “Voters from across the political spectrum are outraged and overwhelmingly want their elected officials to support real net neutrality protections.”

      According to Fight for the Future, the Sinema billboard will be displayed at “one of the busiest intersections in Phoenix, Arizona.”

      “Senator Sinema needs to decide right now whether the corporate donations she’s getting from Comcast and AT&T are really worth the cost of being seen as a telecom shill and one of the most corrupt members of her party,” Greer said. “We’re crowdfunding this billboard so she knows that there’s nowhere to hide—she can do the right thing or be sure that the entire internet will know she sold them out.”

      Fight for the Future said Sinema received more than $130,000 in campaign donations from the telecom industry when she served in the House of Representatives.

    • Thousands protest in Moscow against the ‘isolation’ of the Russian Internet

      Over the weekend, Russia’s Libertarian Party staged a public demonstration at Sakharov Prospect in Moscow in support of Internet freedom, as two controversial bills outlawing “fake news” and “insults against state officials” make their way through Parliament. According to monitors from “White Counter,” 15,200 people attended the event. (As usual, the estimate from police was smaller: 6,500 people.) Law enforcement detained more than a dozen demonstrators before the rally even began, including eight activists carrying armfuls of blue balloons, which the authorities seized as “unmanned aerial vehicles.” By the end of the day, 28 people had been detained. Similar demonstrations also took place on March 10 in other cities across the country.

    • Sick of Scammers? John Oliver Unveils Epic Robocall Operation to Give FCC a Taste of Surging Problem

      On Sunday, HBO’s John Oliver zeroed in once again on an injustice perpetrated on the American people and took direct action—this time focusing his attention on robocalls and the Trump administration’s refusal to combat them.

      Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” production team set up an automated message that was programmed to dial the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) every 90 minutes.

      The host aimed to drive home the point made by more than 200,000 Americans who called the agency to complain about to robocalls last year—that the calls “vary from the irritating to the outright illegal,” and that the FCC must act to stop companies from continuing their usage.

    • The World Wide Web Turns 30. Where Does It Go From Here?

      The web is for everyone, and collectively we hold the power to change it. It won’t be easy. But if we dream a little and work a lot, we can get the web we want.

    • Tim Berners-Lee says we can still save the web

      Berners-Lee admits that the [Internet] now has a lot of problems. Users are plagued by online harassment, state-sponsored hacks, and other criminal behavior. Ad-based revenue models reward clickbait, while there is a constant viral spread of fake news. And even though they can be rewarding, social media platforms have also become home to political outrage and polarizing conversations.

    • 30 years on, what’s next #ForTheWeb?

      The fight for the web is one of the most important causes of our time. Today, half of the world is online. It is more urgent than ever to ensure the other half are not left behind offline, and that everyone contributes to a web that drives equality, opportunity and creativity.

    • The Web turns 30: Dream or nightmare?

      Berners-Lee wrote, “Suppose all the information stored on computers everywhere were linked. Suppose I could program my computer to create a space in which everything could be linked to everything.” We, of course, don’t have to imagine this. We live in that world.

      The idea of a universal, easily accessible, internet-based knowledge system wasn’t new with Berners-Lee. You can trace it back to Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think” article in July 1945. Personally, I think Ted Nelson’s 1960 Xanadu hypertext vision had even more influence on how the web would turn out. Later, Apple’s HyperCard gave us a hypertext system that might have beat Berners-Lee to the web… except HyperCard was totally network unaware.

    • When the web grew up: A browser story

      Recently, I shared how upon leaving university in 1994 with a degree in English literature and theology, I somehow managed to land a job running a web server in a world where people didn’t really know what a web server was yet. And by “in a world,” I don’t just mean within the organisation in which I worked, but the world in general. The web was new—really new—and people were still trying to get their heads around it.

      That’s not to suggest that the place where I was working—an academic publisher—particularly “got it” either. This was a world in which a large percentage of the people visiting their website were still running 28k8 modems. I remember my excitement in getting a 33k6 modem. At least we were past the days of asymmetric upload/download speeds,1 where 1200/300 seemed like an eminently sensible bandwidth description. This meant that the high-design, high-colour, high-resolution documents created by the print people (with whom I shared a floor) were completely impossible on the web. I wouldn’t allow anything bigger than a 40k GIF on the front page of the website, and that was pushing it for many of our visitors. Anything larger than 60k or so would be explicitly linked as a standalone image from a thumbnail on the referring page.

      To say that the marketing department didn’t like this was an understatement. Even worse was the question of layout. “Browsers decide how to lay out documents,” I explained, time after time, “you can use headers or paragraphs, but how documents appear on the page isn’t defined by the document, but by the renderer!” They wanted control. They wanted different coloured backgrounds. After a while, they got that. I went to what I believe was the first W3C meeting at which the idea of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) was discussed. And argued vehemently against them. The suggestion that document writers should control layout was anathema.2 It took some while for CSS to be adopted, and in the meantime, those who cared about such issues adopted the security trainwreck that was Portable Document Format (PDF).

      How documents were rendered wasn’t the only issue. Being a publisher of actual physical books, the whole point of having a web presence, as far as the marketing department was concerned, was to allow customers—or potential customers—to know not only what a book was about, but also how much it was going to cost them to buy. This, however, presented a problem. You see, the internet—in which I include the rapidly growing World Wide Web—was an open, free-for-all libertarian sort of place where nobody was interested in money; in fact, where talk of money was to be shunned and avoided.

    • The web turns 30: from proposal to pervasion

      In an open letter published on the World Wide Web Foundation, the web’s founder urged citizens, governments and organisations to come together to create a contract for the web to enable it to remain a force for good.

      In the letter, Berners-Lee wrote: “Given how much the web has changed in the past 30 years, it would be defeatist and unimaginative to assume that the web as we know it can’t be changed for the better in the next 30. If we give up on building a better web now, then the web will not have failed us. We will have failed the web.”

      Thirty years ago, while working at CERN, Berners-Lee identified a major problem with keeping track of scientific knowledge, given the large numbers of researchers who spent time at the research facility.

      “A problem, however, is the high turnover of people. When two years is a typical length of stay, information is constantly being lost. The introduction of the new people demands a fair amount of their time, and that of others, before they have any idea of what goes on,” he wrote. “The technical details of past projects are sometimes lost forever, or only recovered after a detective investigation in an emergency. Often, the information has been recorded, it just cannot be found.”

    • Google Doodle celebrates the 30th anniversary of the World Wide Web

      The World Wide Web was conceived on March 12, 1989 by computing legend Tim Berners-Lee.

    • Much Of The Broadband Growth Ajit Pai Credits To Killing Net Neutrality Was Actually Due To A Clerical Error

      So a few weeks ago we noted how the Ajit Pai FCC has been trying to pretend that some modest recent broadband growth is directly thanks to its unpopular policies — like killing net neutrality. Except a closer look at the report shows the data they used was only accurate up to the tail end of 2017, when net neutrality wasn’t even formally repealed until June of 2018 (read: the growth couldn’t have been due to killing net neutrality yet, because it hadn’t technically happened yet). A lot of the “record fiber growth” Pai also tried to credit his policies for was actually courtesy of the fiber build-out conditions affixed to the AT&T DirecTV merger by the previous FCC.

      In short, Pai’s office has been falsely taking credit for some modest industry growth in broadband availability it had nothing to actually do with. And in a few instances, the FCC tried to claim that broadband growth was due to “deregulation,” when market intervention (merger conditions) was actually to thank.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • German Federal Supreme Court – Legal Interest for the Declaration of Non-Infringement

      The German Federal Supreme Court has decided on what is necessary to establish a legal interest in a declaratory judgment of non-infringement under German law. The Supreme Court’s decision, which we will discuss in this post, is available in German (X ZR 62/16 – “Slug Bait”).

      The case concerned the declaration of non-infringement (“DNI”) of a patent protecting a process for manufacturing slug bait for slug traps. Before the DNI claimant had filed the action for a declaratory judgment, his premises in Germany had been inspected by the patentee in independent inspection proceedings. The expert report rendered in these proceedings did not find infringement. This caused the DNI claimant to file an action for the DNI. While the Regional Court had ruled in favour of the DNI claimant in first instance proceedings, on appeal the Higher Regional Court dismissed the action as inadmissible for a lack of the necessary legal interest. The Supreme Court overruled the Higher Regional Court’s decision, remitted the case and gave guidance on what is necessary for a legal interest in a DNI judgment.

      The Supreme Court reminded of the established practice that a legal interest in a DNI is basically given if the patentee maintains having a claim against the DNI claimant. On the one hand, it is not necessary that the patentee asserts having an enforceable claim against the DNI claimant, because the DNI claimant’s legal position is already affected in a manner worthy of protection if it is asserted that an existing legal relationship may give rise to a claim against it under certain conditions whose occurrence is still unclear (Federal Supreme Court, NJW 1992, 436). On the other hand, the mere announcement of the patentee that it will review potential claims against the DNI claimant does not account for a legal interest in the DNI ( Federal Supreme Court, GRUR 2011, 995 – Specific Mechanism).

    • Munich I Regional Court schedules additional June trial over Qualcomm’s four zombie patent lawsuits against Apple

      Four of Qualcomm’s eight Spotlight-related patent infringement actions against Apple in Munich were dismissed in January for non-infringement, while the proceedings relating to the other four cases (two lawsuits per patent targeting different Apple entities) were reopened because Qualcomm had not yet had the opportunity to argue that a panel of three examiners at the EPO’s Opposition Division erred when they preliminarily agreed with Apple and Intel that those patents are invalid.

      I checked again with the press office of the Landgericht München 1 (Munich I Regional Court) and was told yesterday that “for the time being” the court scheduled another trial session for June 13, 2019. The parties already argued (non-)infringement at a first hearing as well as a trial last year, so presumably the sole focus of the additional June session will be on (in)validity.

      [...]

      Qualcomm isn’t going to gain any leverage from those Spotlight (a search feature) cases anyway as iOS 12 contains a workaround. Any “win” would be purely symbolical, as would any potential damages. But Qualcomm is facing huge problems in its patent infringement actions against Apple, which is presumably the reason why it keeps spending a lot of money on cases that won’t result in any serious leverage. Qualcomm is desparately trying to prove that its patents (in these cases, non-standard-essential patents) have value, and to portray Apple as an infringer–even when there’s already a workaround in place.

      Maybe Qualcomm will stipulate to a stay so the Munich court won’t have to hold the mid-June trial session and write up an order to stay the case. Given that the EPO will decide only five and a half months later, it’s hard to imagine (though I have no idea of what Qualcomm told the court as to why it believes the EPO got it wrong) that Qualcomm will be able to dissuade the court from staying the cases. It’s also very, very likely that the EPO will revoke those patents, in which case Qualcomm will have to appeal the Opposition Division’s decision to a Technical Board of Appeal. All of his is taking time, but those cases are pretty clearly going nowhere.

    • In re Qapsule Technologies, Inc. (Fed. Cir. 2019)

      Procedurally before the Board Applicants overcame grounds of rejection under §§ 102 and 103 over references not discussed in the opinion, but (improvidently, as it turned out) when faced with new grounds of rejection from the PTAB decided not to reopen prosecution but to request rehearing under 37 C.F.R. § 41.50(B)(2). When that proved unavailing this appeal followed. The new grounds of rejection disclosed the following…

      [...]

      The Federal Circuit affirmed, in an opinion by Judge Newman joined by Judges Chen and Stoll. The panel recognized that Applicant had the burden to overcome the deference the Federal Circuit is compelled to give the PTO on fact questions (such as anticipation) and accordingly found that the Board had adduced sufficient evidence to support its rejection of these claims under § 102. Specifically, the Court rejected several distinctions drawn by Applicant because they were not affirmatively recited (despite being negative limitations). For example, to Applicant’s argument that viral assembly as disclosed in the cited art requires viral ribonucleoproteins (RNPs), the Court notes that the claims recite that the claimed synthetic capsule construct “comprises” the recited elements (and in other limitations recites the open claim language “having”) and thus does not exclude embodiments that include such RNPs. Accordingly, “it does not affect the Board’s ground of rejection that Qapsule has purportedly created a capsule that will assemble in the presence of only a shell protein, cargo protein, and bifunctional polynucleotide, . . . for representative claim 1 is not so limited,” and the panel held that the Board’s conclusion was supported by substantial evidence. Similarly, the Court found unpersuasive other aspects of the recombinant influenza virus disclosed in the Perez reference not recited in the rejected claims (the viral lipid envelope, the other proteins comprising the virus) using the same reasoning, as well as arguments related to the different functions of the claimed construct and the prior art virus. These distinctions did not persuade the panel because “unclaimed functional distinctions or uses are insufficient to overcome anticipation,” and, in the only faint glimmer of hope provided to Qapsule in the opinion, “[i]t is not before us to decide whether further specificity in the claims might distinguish these references.”

      [...]

      And yet influenza virus (indeed, any paramyxovirus) is not disclosed. It is possible that Qapsule will pursue claims having a scope that can better differentiate claimed embodiments supported by its disclosure from prior art recombinant virus, if only for claims withdrawn pursuant to a restriction requirement. But the procedural history of this case and the PTAB’s and Federal Circuit’s decisions on the merits provide yet another cautionary tale of the difficulties and uncertainties occasioned by the patenting process.

    • Appellate Standing, Biosimilars, and the Federal Circuit

      After a long wait, the Federal Circuit last month decided Momenta Pharms. v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (Fed. Cir. 2019), dismissing Momenta’s appeal of an adverse PTAB decision based on standing and mootness concerns. (The PTAB had instituted Momenta’s petition for inter partes review of Bristol-Myers Squibb’s patent on certain formulations of an immunosuppressive agent, but ultimately sustained the patentability of all the challenged claims. Momenta, a biosimilar applicant, had sought inter partes review preemptively, with no prior infringement suit by BMS.) The Federal Circuit’s conclusion that Momenta lacked Article III standing has important implications for access to appeals in unsuccessful PTAB challenges.

      Building on Professor Crouch’s initial analysis of the Momenta decision, we explore the Federal Circuit’s developing case law on what counts as an adequate injury for a petitioner to have appellate standing from a PTAB decision. Of particular interest is the persistent ambiguity about how potential future patent infringement and the PTAB estoppel provisions of the AIA affect standing to appeal.

      [...]

      We conclude that the Momenta decision has ultimately done little to ease concerns about who does and does not have standing to appeal. It is an important development in the ongoing evolution of Article III standing for appeals from PTAB trials, to be sure, as well as an informative survey of the relevant case law. Still, it may have created further confusion by injecting the issue of mootness into the debate. While courts have no control over the parties’ positions or the status of any particular appeal, the Federal Circuit’s decision making seems to reflect some discomfort with taking evidence on appeal in the first instance—as, for example, the D.C. Circuit does. This reluctance has led to longer briefing schedules and more complicated and uncertain appellate fact patterns. The weight of that uncertainty ultimately falls upon the parties and Federal Circuit panels themselves.

    • USPTO replaces precedent on motions to amend

      By designating as precedential a new decision on motions to amend last week, the USPTO is signalling its plans to roll out a proposed amendment pilot programme

      The Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (PTAB) February 25 Lectrosonics v Zaxcom decision was designated as precedential on March 7. It provides guidance on motions to amend by specifically defining…

    • Trademarks

      • Court Blocks Unconstitutional Government Seizure of Mongols Motorcycle Club Trademark

        In a win for free speech, a federal judge soundly rejected “the government’s affronts to the First Amendment.”

        More than 10 years ago, the Department of Justice launched an unconstitutional campaign of censorship against a motorcycle club and its mostly Latino membership. Now a federal court has decided against the government, sharply criticizing its overreach and abuse of power.

        Under the guise of a racketeering prosecution using a law known as RICO, the government sought to seize the Mongols Motorcycle Club’s trademark in its logo and strip members of the right to wear their distinctive patch.

        On Feb. 28, Judge David O. Carter rejected the government’s attack on free expression and rebuked its repeated “affronts to the First Amendment.”

        The ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties challenged the government’s campaign from the outset, representing a member of the club and winning court orders to stop the government from confiscating jackets, vests, and other items from club members. As the court held in 2009 and again in 2011, the government could not seek forfeiture because it had charged only individuals and not the actual owner of the trademark — the Mongols Motorcycle Club.

    • Copyrights

      • 170 Years Of German Publishers Demanding Special Copyrights For The Press Because Of New Technology

        It goes on from there into modern times, and the story is always the same. German publishers demanding special extra copyrights on factual reporting, and whining over and over again about new technology upsetting its business model and threatening the “future of journalism” or whatever. And every single time they were wrong. They didn’t get the special copyrights and journalism survived (and in some cases thrived).

        Given this background, why is it that EU bureaucrats are now suddenly taking those very same German publishers at their word when they insist that the internet is destroying their business, and they need these special copyrights (with the friendly name of “neighboring rights”) that serve no purpose other than as a wealth transfer from internet companies to legacy publishers who have failed to innovate?

      • More Copyright Policy Should Be As Boring As This Supreme Court Decision

        The Supreme Court ruled unanimously last Monday in Fourth Estate v. Wall-Street.com, a copyright case that hinged on whether the “registration” of a work—which, by statute, must precede most kinds of infringement lawsuits—happens when the author sends in their application, or whether it happens when the Copyright Office makes a determination and sends back a certificate. There was a circuit split on the issue, in which some courts had gone with the “application approach,” and others had gone with the “registration approach,” and legal experts were divided on the question.

        As of last Monday it is resolved. The Supreme Court went with the “registration approach” and said that unless you’re subject to one of the handful of statutory carve-outs you must wait until the Copyright Office does its thing before you can sue.

        The Supreme Court decided correctly, for what it’s worth — as Mike wrote about earlier. But, as even a dedicated copyright nerd like your humble author must admit, it’s a pretty boring question. Copyright law is a field where small changes can have profound effects on people’s lives, where de facto speech policies can be shaped, and where new technologies and media can be formally blessed or condemned to utter oblivion. But it’s also a field of industrial regulation, cobbled together in large part by technocrats with domain expertise figuring out what works for all the parties in the room. To its credit, Fourth Estate is a case that limits its impact largely to that latter area.

        But the fact that one body of law must do both things is the source of a lot of headache and heartache. Writing effective policy is hard, even when you’re not trying to write a single rule that governs both billion dollar studio contracts and comments on a blog. The consequences can be extreme, as Cory Doctorow once explained: “A funny thing happened on the way to the 21st century: copyright policy ceased to exist. Because every copyright policy that we make has a seismic effect on the Internet, and because you can’t regulate copying without regulating the Internet.” And of course, “as we make the transition from a world where everything we do includes an online component to a world where everything we do requires an online component, it’s becoming the case that there’s no such thing as ‘Internet policy’ – there’s just policy.”

      • Disaster In The Making: Article 13 Puts User Rights At A Disadvantage To Corporate Greed

        Supporters of Article 13 in the EU Copyright Directive love to insist that all of the harms and concerns that many of us raise about how it will impact user rights are wrong, because the text of Article 13 says that user rights won’t be harmed. This is only sort of true. It does say that… but gives no instructions on how to make it a reality. Indeed, abiding by the rest of the law makes it impossible. In other words, it’s the equivalent of a law mandating everyone flies into the Sun, and when some of us point out that we’ll all burn up and die, the legislators tack onto the end of the bill “… and don’t let anyone burn up and die” without any further instruction.

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