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03.20.19

Links 20/3/2019: Google Announces ‘Stadia’, Tails 3.13

Posted in News Roundup at 4:07 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Server

    • Google Open-sources Sandboxed API, a tool that helps in automating the process of porting existing C and C++ code

      Yesterday, the team at Google open-sourced Sandboxed API, a tool that Google has been using internally for its data centers for years. It is a project for sandboxing C and C++ libraries running on Linux systems. Google has made the Sandboxed API available on GitHub.

      Sandboxed API helps coders to automate the process of porting their existing C and C++ code in order to run on top of Sandbox2, which is Google’s custom-made sandbox environment for Linux operating systems. Sandbox2 has also been open-sourced and is included with Sandboxed API GitHub repository.

      Christian Blichmann & Robert Swiecki, from Google’s ISE Sandboxing team, said, “Many popular software containment tools might not sufficiently isolate the rest of the OS, and those which do, might require time-consuming redefinition of security boundaries for each and every project that should be sandboxed.”

    • Google open-sources its Sandboxed API tools for isolating application processes

      Google LLC has open-sourced a new tool for developers that lets them sandbox C and C++ libraries that run on Linux-based operating systems.

      Developed internally by Google, the Sandboxed API has been used in its data centers for several years already, the company said in a blog post Monday announcing the move. Google has made Sandboxed API available to download on GitHub, together with its documentation that describes how to get it up and running.

    • Init Container Build Pattern: Knative build with plain old Kubernetes deployment

      With Kubernetes evolving at supersonic speed and seeing a lot of adoption in the enterprise world, the developer community is now looking for solutions to common Kubernetes problems, such as patterns. In this article, I will explore a new Kubernetes pattern using Init Containers.

      Let’s start with the use case that gave birth to this problem: Quarkus—Supersonic and Subatomic Java—has excited the Java developer community with its amazing speed and all new native build artifact for Java applications. As one of those excited developers, I want to quickly build and deploy a Quarkus application on to Kubernetes.

    • KubeEdge, a Kubernetes Native Edge Computing Framework

      Open source edge computing is going through its most dynamic phase of development in the industry. So many open source platforms, so many consolidations and so many initiatives for standardization! This shows the strong drive to build better platforms to bring cloud computing to the edges to meet ever increasing demand. KubeEdge, which was announced last year, now brings great news for cloud native computing! It provides a complete edge computing solution based on Kubernetes with separate cloud and edge core modules. Currently, both the cloud and edge modules are open sourced.

      Unlike certain light weight kubernetes platforms available around, KubeEdge is made to build edge computing solutions extending the cloud. The control plane resides in cloud, though scalable and extendable. At the same time, the edge can work in offline mode. Also it is lightweight and containerized, and can support heterogeneous hardware at the edge. With the optimization in edge resource utlization, KubeEdge positions to save significant setup and operation cost for edge solutions. This makes it the most compelling edge computing platform in the world currently, based on Kubernetes!

    • Red Hat Security: The Product Security Blog has moved!

      Red Hat Product Security has joined forces with other security teams inside Red Hat to publish our content in a common venue using the Security channel of the Red Hat Blog. This move provides a wider variety of important Security topics, from experts all over Red Hat, in a more modern and functional interface. We hope everyone will enjoy the new experience!

    • From virtualization to emerging workloads: How Red Hat and NVIDIA are driving enterprise innovation

      Innovations like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and other emerging workloads present a vision of IT’s future, one where intelligent solutions can more effectively analyze and address evolving business needs. But this vision can be limited by current IT infrastructure, which can often require significant investments in order to enable new workloads.

      One answer to this challenge is through workload acceleration, which uses specialized computational resources, like graphic processing units (GPUs) to tackle intense computing tasks. Established in scientific and research computing, GPUs such as those offered by NVIDIA are now catching the attention of enterprise IT as a technology that can accelerate compute-intensive operations found in data science and AI, extending their reach to a broader range of end users.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

  • Kernel Space

    • Intel Working On Some Interesting Coreboot Improvements: Multi-CPU Support, SMM

      Last week during Facebook’s Open Compute Project (OCP) Summit, some interesting details were revealed by Intel and their work on this open-source hardware initialization effort alternative to proprietary BIOS/firmware.

      One is that Intel is working on multi-CPU support within Coreboot for multi-socket server platforms. The code for this has yet to be published.

    • Handling Complex Memory Situations

      Jérôme Glisse felt that the time had come for the Linux kernel to address seriously the issue of having many different types of memory installed on a single running system. There was main system memory and device-specific memory, and associated hierarchies regarding which memory to use at which time and under which circumstances. This complicated new situation, Jérôme said, was actually now the norm, and it should be treated as such.

      The physical connections between the various CPUs and devices and RAM chips—that is, the bus topology—also was relevant, because it could influence the various speeds of each of those components.

      Jérôme wanted to be clear that his proposal went beyond existing efforts to handle heterogeneous RAM. He wanted to take account of the wide range of hardware and its topological relationships to eek out the absolute highest performance from a given system.

    • Linux Foundation

      • Sysdig Joins the Linux Foundation’s New Foundation to Support Continuous Delivery Collaboration
      • Linux Foundation Launches Red Team Project

        The Linux Foundation has launched a new project aimed at incubating open source cybersecurity tools. The Red Team Project’s main goal is to make open source software safer to use.

        The aim is to create cybersecurity tools for areas including cyber range automation, containerized pentesting utilities, binary risk quantification, and standards validation and advancement.

        [...]

        Current tooling from the project start with a Linux Exploit Mapper (LEM) that scans a Linux system for local exploits and maps them to known exploit code. When exploits are discovered using the mapper, they are curated, tested for efficacy and ease-of-use using a variant of the STRIDE scoring mechanism. An Ansible role called cyber-range-target is used to deliberately downgrade OS packages to a version vulnerable to a given CVE (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposure) for assessment purposes. The project also provides a Red Container. This offers containerized pentesting tooling, which can be launched from whole OSes or containerized environments like Kubernetes.

      • DataPractices.org Becomes a Linux Foundation Project

        The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization enabling mass innovation through open source, today announced DataPractices.org, the first-ever template for data best practices, will now be a hosted project under the Linux Foundation and offer open courseware for data teamwork.

        Datapractices.org was initially pioneered by data.world as a “Manifesto for Data Practices,” comprised of values and principles to illustrate the most effective, modern, and ethical approach to data teamwork. As an open project under the Linux Foundation, Datapractices.org intends to maintain and further develop a collaborative approach to defining and refining data best practices. The project will also facilitate collaboration and development of open courseware to guide organizations interested in aligning their data practices with the values (inclusion, experimentation, accountability, and impact) and principles of DataPractices.org.

        As a part of the Linux Foundation, DataPractices.org intends to enable a vendor-neutral community to further establish best practices and increase the level of data knowledge across the data ecosystem. The project’s new open courseware is available to anyone interested in data best practices—including novice practitioners, data managers, corporate evangelists, seasoned data scientists, and more. The project also welcomes expert practitioners to help refine and advance the courseware.

      • datapractices.org joins the Linux Foundation to Advance Best Practices & Offers Open Courseware Across Data Ecosystem

        The Linux Foundation has announced datapractices.org, a vendor-neutral community working on the first-ever template for modern data teamwork, has joined as an official Linux Foundation project.

        DataPractices.org was pioneered by data.world as a “Manifesto for Data Practices” of four values and 12 principles that illustrate the most effective, ethical, and modern approach to data teamwork. As a member of the foundation, datapractices.org will expand to offer open courseware and establish a collaborative approach to defining and refining data best practices.

    • Graphics Stack

      • RADV Vulkan Driver Gets Patches For VK_KHR_8bit_storage

        The Mesa Radeon “RADV” Vulkan driver has a series of patches pending for introducing VK_KHR_8bit_storage support.

        Rhys Perry of the Nouveau crowd worked on the VK_KHR_8bit_storage support for RADV back in February while it’s now being carried forward by Valve Linux developer Samuel Pitoiset. The VK_KHR_8bit_storage extension as implied by the name allows for using 8-bit types in uniform and storage buffers as well as push constant blocks.

      • xf86-video-ati / xf86-video-amdgpu 19.0.1 Released To Better Deal With DP MST Displays

        Radeon DDX wrangler Michel Dänzer of AMD has announced the releases today of xf86-video-amdgpu 19.0.1 and the xf86-video-ati 19.0.1 release for older Radeon hardware.

        The lone change with the xf86-video-amdgpu X.Org driver update is support for the RandR output tile properties in better dealing with DisplayPort Multi-Stream Transport (DP MST) displays. This was the change that landed last week in these X.Org drivers and ushering out these new point releases to ship this support finally — years after the support was added to the X.Org Server and xf86-video-modesetting.

      • Nvidia ray traces the heck out of Quake II… launching for free in April

        Nvidia has been working behind the scenes on Q2VKPT with creator Christoph Schied to build Quake II RTX: a cutting-edge reimagining of the old school classic. While Schied has been working on a ray-traced version of Quake II for some time, and doing a grand job of it too, Nvidia has lent its expertise to bring the classic shooter into 2019 and utilise all that ray tracing has to offer.

    • Benchmarks

      • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Linux Benchmarks

        Last week NVIDIA announced the GeForce GTX 1660 as the newest RTX-less Turing GPU but costing only $219+ USD. The GTX 1660 is a further trimmed down version of the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti that launched several weeks prior. After picking up an ASUS GeForce GTX 1660 Phoenix Edition, here are Linux OpenGL/Vulkan gaming benchmarks compared to a wide assortment of AMD Radeon and NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards under Ubuntu.

        The GeForce GTX 1660 features 1408 CUDA cores (compared to 1536 with the GTX 1660 Ti) while having a 1785MHz boost clock frequency and 1530MHz base clock frequency. The GeForce GTX 1660 opts for 6GB of GDDR5 unlike the 6GB GDDR6 used by the GTX 1660 Ti, which means only around 192GB/s of video memory bandwidth compared to 288GB/s with the Ti model. The other specifications are largely in common with the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti and the other Turing GPUs aside from lacking the RT/tensor cores.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • Latest MATE 1.22 Linux Desktop Is Out Now

      Latest version contains plenty of critical bug fixes and various features too. In the latest release, plenty of work has been done so that MATE 1.22 can work with Wayland display backend system.

      Wanda the Fish now works properly on HiDPI displays. Good news for the metacity themes lover as support for metacity-themes has finally been upgraded to version 3 in the macro window manager. The session manager now properly terminates all processes on systemd. Also the Tabs in pluma now have the ability to be switched with keyboard shortcuts and mouse scrolling. A few new key shortcuts have been added, including support for different types of media keys like Bluetooth, WiFi, touchpads, and global killswitches.

    • Sway – A Tiling Wayland i3-Compatible Compositor

      I have covered window tiling editors/managers previously with apps like herbstluftwm and Tilix so check them out if you haven’t already.

      Sway is a free and open source tiling Wayland compositor that is compatible with the i3 window manager, uses the same configuration syntax, and works with most of the software designed for i3.

      Sway makes use of all the available space on your screen and automatically adjusts window sizes as you open more apps and you can navigate between apps with your keyboard.

      App windows can be arranged horizontally, vertically, stacked, or tabbed and you can change their size as well as split windows into containers of several windows all without touching your mouse. You could, however, use your mouse to rearrange windows and even take windows out of the tiling grid and manipulate them.44

    • The Greenfield Wayland Compositor Can Now Run Apps Directly In Your Web Browser

      Greenfield is the nearly two year old effort providing an in-browser, HTML5 Wayland compositor. This open-source project has allowed for remote Wayland applications to run in browsers while running from remote hosts. Greenfield though can now run applications directly inside a user’s web browser via Web Worker threads.

      Erik De Rijcke who masterminded Greenfield announced that applications can now run directly in browsers thanks to Web Workers. But in order to do so, the application must be using JavaScript or WebAssembly. Among other hinderances, this also currently requires a custom Wayland buffer protocol to be supported by the application as well. But once working, all the work is done in the client’s web browser rather than running remotely on a web server.

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Google Removed the KDE Connect App from the Play Store (Update: It’s Back)

        The official KDE Connect Android app was briefly removed from the Google Play Store for “violating” app permission policies.

        Google yanked the phone-side companion app, which works with desktop tools like GSconnect, from its Android app store on March 19. It said the app did not adhere to its new rules on apps that can access to SMS messages.

      • Shallot – Qt-based file manager with plugin interface

        We recently published a comprehensive roundup of the best 15 Qt file managers, finally plumping on Krusader and Dolphin as our recommended tools to manage your file system.

        A few of our readers have emailed us requesting we take a spin of Shallot. Never one to disappoint, here’s our take on this file manager. It’s Qt-based with a plugin interface. We compare Shallot with the 15 Qt file managers.

        Shallot is billed as a file manager with the maximum degree of flexibility and customizability.

      • Making the Most of your Memory with mmap

        Sometimes it seems that we have nearly infinite memory resources, especially compared to the tiny 48K RAM of yesteryear’s 8-bit computers. But today’s complex applications can soak up megabytes before you know it. While it would be great if developers planned their memory management for all applications, thinking through a memory management strategy is crucial for applications with especially RAM intensive features like image/video processing, massive databases, and machine learning.

        How do you plan a memory management strategy? It’s very dependent on your application and its requirements, but a good start is to work with your operating system instead of against it. That’s where memory mapping comes in. mmap can make your application’s performance better while also improving its memory profile by letting you leverage the same virtual memory paging machinery that the OS itself relies on. Smart use of the memory mapping API (Qt, UNIX, Windows) allows you to transparently handle massive data sets, automatically paging them out of memory as needed – and it’s much better than you’re likely to manage with a roll-your-own memory management scheme.

        Here’s a real-life use case of how we used mmap to optimize RAM use in QiTissue, a medical image application. This application loads, merges, manipulates, and displays highly detailed microscope images that are up to gigabytes in size. It needs to be efficient or risks running out of memory even on desktops loaded with RAM.

      • KDAB at QtDay 2019

        On the 1st and 2nd of April, KDAB will once again be sponsors at this fast-growing Qt event in Italy: QtDay 2019.

        The biggest Qt event in the region, now in its 8th year, contrary to what its name suggests, QtDay 2019 boasts a full two days of technical talks and workshops, each day with two to three tracks.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • Parental controls & metered data hackfest: days 1 & 2

        I’m currently at the Parental Controls & Metered Data hackfest at Red Hat’s office in London. A bunch of GNOME people from various companies (Canonical, Endless, elementary, and Red Hat) have gathered to work out a plan to start implementing these two features in GNOME. The first two days have been dedicated to the parental control features. This is the ability for parents to control what children can do on the computer. For example, locking down access to certain applications or websites.

        Day one began with presentations of the Endless OS implementation by Philip, followed by a demonstration of the Elementary version by Cassidy. Elementary were interested in potentially expanding this feature set to include something like Digital Wellbeing – we explored the distinction between this and parental controls. It turns out that these features are relatively similar – the main differences are whether you are applying restrictions to yourself or to someone else, and whether you have the ability to lift/ignore the restrictions. We’ve started talking about the latter of these as “speed bumps”: you can always undo your own restrictions, so the interventions from the OS should be intended to nudge you towards the right behaviour.

        After that we looked at some prior art (Android, iOS), and started to take the large list of potential features (in the image above) down to the ones we thought might be feasible to implement. Throughout all of this, one topic we kept coming back to was app lockdown. It’s reasonably simple to see how this could be applied to containerised apps (e.g. Snap or Flatpak), but system applications that come from a deb or an rpm are much more difficult. It would probably be possible – but still difficult – to use an LSM like AppArmor or SELinux to do this by denying execute access to the application’s binary. One obvious problem with that is that GNOME doesn’t require one of these and different distributions have made different choices here… Another tricky topic is how to implement website white/blacklisting in a robust way. We discussed using DNS (systemd-resolved?) and ip/nftables implementations, but it might turn out that the most feasible way is to use a browser extension for this.

      • GNOME ED Update – February

        Another update is now due from what we’ve been doing at the Foundation, and we’ve been busy!

        As you may have seen, we’ve hired three excellent people over the past couple of months. Kristi Progri has joined us as Program Coordinator, Bartłomiej Piorski as a devops sysadmin, and Emmanuele Bassi as our GTK Core developer. I hope to announce another new hire soon, so watch this space…

        There’s been quite a lot of discussion around the Google API access, and GNOME Online Accounts. The latest update is that I submitted the application to Google to get GOA verified, and we’ve got a couple of things we’re working through to get this sorted.

      • Some Quick Graphics/Game Tests With GNOME 3.32 On Clear Linux

        For about one week already Intel’s rolling-release Clear Linux distribution has been shipping with GNOME 3.32. Here are some quick graphics and gaming benchmarks comparing GNOME 3.30.2 to 3.32.0.

        Using a Radeon RX Vega 56 graphics card, I tested Clear Linux between its releases having GNOME Shell 3.30 and the move to GNOME Shell 3.30.2. On both builds of Clear Linux, Linux 5.0.1 was in use along with X.Org Server 1.20.4 (they aren’t yet defaulting to a Wayland session), and Mesa 19.1-devel.

      • More GNOME Shell / Mutter Performance Optimizations & Latency Reductions Still Coming

        Over the course of the GNOME 3.32 that is nearly complete as well as GNOME 3.30 there was a lot of measurable performance fixes and enhancements to improve the fluidity of the GNOME desktop as well as addressing various latency issues. While in some areas these performance improvements make a night and day difference, work isn’t done on enhancing GNOME’s performance.

        One of the developers leading the charge on enhancing/fixing the performance of GNOME Shell and Mutter in particular has been Canonical’s Daniel Van Vugt. While he’s already made great strides in fixing issues himself, reviewing and collaborating on other patches, etc, the job isn’t done. Van Vugt shared there’s still some big ticket work pending.

  • Distributions

    • Reviews

      • KDE neon 5.15 review – Speed bumps ahead

        KDE neon 5.15 is a decent distro. But it’s not quite as pain-free as some of its predecessors, and I’ve hit a bunch of highly disappointing errors and bugs that simply shouldn’t be there. The network and phone experience needs to be better, smoother. There ought to be no crashes. Regressions are bad.

        Then, the upgrade process is robust and tight, the system is beautiful, and it purrs like a tiger – do tigers purr actually? You get the idea. Very sleek, very slick. Fast. You have a wealth of great software and a well-designed desktop environment that blends the bleeding-edge with pro-thought and good speed, and without being utterly beta. I’m quite happy overall, but I don’t like the lack of consistency between the live media and the installed system. Some of this feels rushed. A good release, but ultimately not calm enough for everyday use. Well, I guess that’s what LTS is for. 7/10. That would be all for today.

    • New Releases

      • LinHES R8.6 Released

        The LinHES Dev team is pleased to announce the release of LinHES R8.6!

        LinHES R8.6 updates MythTV to 30-fixes as well as updates to the kernel, system libraries, graphics drivers and many other parts of LinHES.

        Release notes and upgrade instructions can be found here.

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • SUSE Enterprise Storage 6 Beta Program

        SUSE Enterprise Storage 6, the upcoming release from SUSE, enables IT organizations to seamlessly adapt to changing business demands while reducing IT operational expense with new features focused on containerized and cloud workload support, improved integration with public cloud and enhanced data protection capabilities. This release of SUSE Enterprise Storage will be available for first customer ship in early June. However, you can download a BETA version today and give release 6 a test drive. It is built on the upstream Ceph release: Nautilus and updated to run on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 15 SP1 BETA. There are a lot of new features in SUSE Enterprise Storage 6.

      • From Paris with Love

        Last week, I had the great pleasure of being among the team representing SUSE at HPE’s Technology and Solutions Summit (aka HPE TSS) in Paris. HPE’s largest and most comprehensive technical and solutions knowledge transfer event is aimed at presales consultants and solutions architects from HPE and their partners, bringing together teams from within HPE and their partner community all with the aim of sharing knowledge about their products and services.

        Around 3,000 delegates converged upon the City of Lights to learn, exchange ideas and have a little fun in the city that is home to Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre Museum, the legendary Eiffel Tower, and of course the many creperies serving up delicious treats to hungry visitors!

    • Fedora

      • F29-20190319 updated Live isos released

        The Fedora Respins SIG is pleased to announce the latest release of Updated F29-20190319 Live ISOs, carrying the 4.20.16-200 kernel.

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

        This set also includes a updated iso of the Security Lab.

        A huge thank you goes out to irc nicks dowdle, Southern-Gentlem for testing these iso.

    • Debian Family

      • Debian members afraid to make or propose change, says leadership contender

        Michlmayr made the comments as part of his platform for the leadership elections; he and four others are contesting for leader of the project, with the campaigning period running until 6 April. Nominees also take part in online debates as part of pushing their claims to the post of leader.

        He said that he had not been active in Debian of late but believed that the role of DPL should have three sides to it: administrator, facilitator and leader.

        Having been the DPL in 2003 and 2004, Michlmayr said he was familiar with the role. “If I didn’t believe in Debian, I wouldn’t run in this DPL election. I acted as DPL before and know how difficult being the DPL can be sometimes. Yes, I see severe problems in Debian, but I firmly believe that together we can solve them!” he added.

      • Derivatives

        • Tails 3.13 is out

          This release fixes many security vulnerabilities. You should upgrade as soon as possible.

        • Tor-Powered Tails 3.13 Anonymous Linux OS Adds Extra Security and Latest Updates

          Powered by the Linux 4.19.28 kernel, the Tails 3.13 operating system is now available with latest TOR technologies to help you stay hidden while surfing the Internet, including the Tor Browser 8.0.7 anonymous web browser and Tor 0.3.5.8 client and server for the anonymous Tor network.

          However, probably the most important addition in the Tails 3.13 release is the updated Intel microcode to version 3.20180807a.2, which adds an extra security measure against more variants of the well-known Spectre, Meltdown, and L1TF (Level 1 Terminal Fault) security vulnerabilities.

        • Septor 2019.2 – changes

          Tor Browser is fully installed (8.0.7)
          System upgrade from Debian testing repos as of March 19, 2019

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Debug ACPI DSDT and SSDT with ACPICA Utilities

            Using acpidbg on Ubuntu 18.04 x64 can be quite handy; however, the Linux kernel with ACPI_DEBUGGER is not always available, such as on Ubuntu for ARM. In such cases, acpica also provides a set of utilities, named acpica-tools, for ACPI debugging.

          • NVIDIA Jetson Nano is a $99 Computer Built for AI, Powered by Ubuntu

            Sold as a complete compute solution, the Jetson Nano Developer Kit wants to let embedded designers, researchers, and DIY makers harness the power of AI, all at an affordable price.

            A NVIDIA’s JetPack SDK provides a ‘complete desktop Linux environment based on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS’, replete with accelerated graphics, NVIDIA CUDA toolkit support, and more.

            NVIDIA say developers will find it “easy” to install leading open-source Machine Learning (ML) frameworks like TensorFlow, Caffe and Keras. Frameworks for computer vision and robotics development like OpenCV and ROS are also available via the SDK.

            The JetPack 4.2 SDK [shipped on the microSD card] provides a complete desktop Linux environment for Jetson Nano based on Ubuntu 18.04 with accelerated graphics, support for NVIDIA CUDA Toolkit 10.0, and libraries such as cuDNN 7.3 and TensorRT 5,” Nvidia says of the nimble Nano dev kit.

            But how powerful is it?

          • Vertical rhythm and spacing in Vanilla Framework 2.0

            Vanilla, the CSS framework behind Canonical’s suite of products and services, has undergone significant changes over the last 12 months. We’ve introduced vertical rhythm, a new type scale, consistent white space in and between elements, and adjustable information density.

          • Ubuntu 19 04 Desktop Tour of New Features
          • Flavours and Variants

            • Pop OS 18.10 Linux Gaming Report: System76 Nails It For Nvidia And AMD Users

              Pop!_OS is, in my opinion, a seriously underappreciated Ubuntu-based operating that distinguishes itself in a couple major areas — in addition to its utter simplicity and slick installer. It was created primarily to be the accompanying OS for the variety of custom Linux desktops and laptops produced by System76, and they’ve added some features I prefer not to live without regardless of what hardware I’m using.

              First, Pop!_OS is one of the only distros I’ve tried that elegantly handles Hybrid graphics (that’s Intel CPU + Nvidia GPU as seen in laptops like the ThinkPad X1 Extreme) out of the box. Moreover, System76 ships two versions of Pop!_OS: one designed for Intel/AMD, and one designed for Nvidia GPUs. The Nvidia ISO installs the proprietary driver so that users don’t need to add a repository by hand and install it later.

            • And the next version of Zorin OS is…

              After a long development cycle, we’re excited to introduce the Beta of the next major version of our operating system: Zorin OS 15. Creating a Linux desktop operating system that’s designed for everyone – not only the engineers & power users – has always been the mission of Zorin OS, ever since the first release nearly 10 years ago. Zorin OS 15 takes this decade-long effort and amplifies it to the next level. Every aspect of the user experience has been re-considered and refined in this new release, from how apps are installed, to how you get work done, to how it interacts with the devices around you. The result is a desktop experience that combines the most powerful desktop technology with the most user-friendly design.

              This is a pre-release Beta version which we have created to get your feedback & bug reports on what we’ve built so far.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Managing changes in open source projects

    Why bother having a process for proposing changes to your open source project? Why not just let people do what they’re doing and merge the features when they’re ready? Well, you can certainly do that if you’re the only person on the project. Or maybe if it’s just you and a few friends.

    But if the project is large, you might need to coordinate how some of the changes land. Or, at the very least, let people know a change is coming so they can adjust if it affects the parts they work on. A visible change process is also helpful to the community. It allows them to give feedback that can improve your idea. And if nothing else, it lets people know what’s coming so that they can get excited, and maybe get you a little bit of coverage on Opensource.com or the like. Basically, it’s “here’s what I’m going to do” instead of “here’s what I did,” and it might save you some headaches as you scramble to QA right before your release.

  • Women win all open board director seats in Open Source Initiative 2019 board elections

    A person discussed six female candidates in misogynistic language on Slashdot, which is a tech-focussed social news website. The post also then labeled each woman with how much of a “threat” they were. Slashdot immediately took down this post “shortly afterward the OSI started seeing inappropriate comments posted on its website”.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Mozilla Improves Web Browser Security in Firefox 66 Update

        Mozilla released the Firefox 66 update on March 19, providing users of the open-source web browser with new features that enhance user experience and improve security.

        Among Firefox 66′s new features is one that blocks websites from auto-playing sound, which can be an annoyance. Also, the search feature within the browser has been improved with enhanced capability to search across multiple open tabs on a user’s system. Additionally, security gets a boost in the new browser release with patches for multiple vulnerabilities and an expansion of the number of web content loading processes.

      • Firefox 66: The Sound of Silence

        Firefox 66 is out, and brings with it a host of great new features like screen sharing, scroll anchoring, autoplay blocking for audible media, and initial support for the Touch Bar on macOS.

        [...]

        Starting with version 66, Firefox will block audible autoplaying video and audio. This means media (audio and video) have to wait for user interaction before playing, unless the muted property is set on the associated HTMLMediaElement.

      • Firefox 66 Released, This is What’s Changed

        Mozilla Firefox 66 is available to download for Windows, macOS and Linux desktops and Android devices.

        The browser update comes with a selection of interface tweaks, bug fixes and performance improvements across all operating systems. A few Linux-specific changes also feature.

        For more details on what’s new in Firefox 66, read on!

      • Firefox Quantum 66 blocks audio autoplay, improves scrolling behavior and adds option to search all tabs

        Android users gain the sound-blocking feature and scroll anchoring support, plus users can now open files from external SD cards and other storage. Firefox Quantum 66.0 and Firefox for Android 66.0 are both available now as a free, open-source download for supported versions of Windows, Mac, Linux and Android.

  • LibreOffice

    • LibreOffice Conference 2020: Call for Locations

      Once a year, the LibreOffice Community gathers for a global community event: the LibreOffice Conference, or LibOCon. After a series of successful events – Paris, October 2011; Berlin, October 2012; Milan, September 2013; Bern, September 2014; Aarhus, September 2015; Brno, September 2016; Rome, October 2017; and Tirana, September 2018 – the venue for 2019 is Almeria, Spain.

      To ease the organization, TDF Board of Directors has decided to open the call for location for 2020, to give the 2020 event organizers the opportunity of attending the conference in Almeria in September 2019. The LibreOffice Conference takes place between September and November, with a preference for September.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD

    • LLVM 8.0.0 released

      I’m pleased to announce that LLVM 8 is now available.

      Get it here: https://llvm.org/releases/download.html#8.0.0

      This release contains the work on trunk up to Subversion revision
      r351319, plus work on the release branch. It’s the result of the LLVM
      community’s work over the past six months, including: speculative load
      hardening, concurrent compilation in the ORC JIT API, no longer
      experimental WebAssembly target, a Clang option to initialize
      automatic variables, improved pre-compiled header support in clang-cl,
      the /Zc:dllexportInlines- flag, RISC-V support in lld. And as usual,
      many bug fixes, optimization and diagnostics improvements, etc.

      For more details, see the release notes:

      https://llvm.org/releases/8.0.0/docs/ReleaseNotes.html

      https://llvm.org/releases/8.0.0/tools/clang/docs/ReleaseN…

      https://llvm.org/releases/8.0.0/tools/clang/tools/extra/d…

      https://llvm.org/releases/8.0.0/tools/lld/docs/ReleaseNot…

      https://llvm.org/releases/8.0.0/projects/libcxx/docs/Rele…

      Special thanks to the release testers and packagers: Amy Kwan, Bero
      Rosenkränzer, Brian Cain, Diana Picus, Dimitry Andric, Kim Gräsman,
      Lei Huang, Michał Górny, Sylvestre Ledru, Ulrich Weigand, Vedant
      Kumar, and Yvan Roux.

      For questions or comments about the release, please contact the
      community on the mailing lists. Onwards to LLVM 9!

      Thanks,
      Hans

    • LLVM 8.0.0 released

      Version 8.0.0 of the LLVM compiler suite is out. “It’s the result of the LLVM community’s work over the past six months, including: speculative load hardening, concurrent compilation in the ORC JIT API, no longer experimental WebAssembly target, a Clang option to initialize automatic variables, improved pre-compiled header support in clang-cl, the /Zc:dllexportInlines- flag, RISC-V support in lld.” For details one can see separate release notes for LLVM, Clang, Extra Clang Tools, lld, and libc++.

    • LLVM 8.0 Released With Cascade Lake Support, Better Diagnostics, More OpenMP/OpenCL

      After being delayed the better part of one month, LLVM 8.0 officially set sail this morning.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • Install Fests: What to Do about the Deal with the Devil

      Install fests invite users to bring their computers so that experts can install GNU/Linux on them. This is meant to promote the idea of free software as well as the use of free software. In practice, these two goals conflict: users that want to reject nonfree software entirely need to choose their computers carefully to achieve that goal.

      The problem is that most computers can’t run with a completely free GNU/Linux distro. They contain peripherals, or coprocessors, that won’t operate unless the installed system contains some nonfree drivers or firmware. This happens because hardware manufacturers refuse to tell us how to use their products, so that the only way to figure out how is by reverse engineering, which in most cases has not yet been done.

      This presents the install fest with a dilemma. If it upholds the ideals of freedom, by installing only free software from 100%-free distros, partly-secret machines won’t become entirely functional and the users that bring them will go away disappointed. However, if the install fest installs nonfree distros and nonfree software which make machines entirely function, it will fail to teach users to say no for freedom’s sake. They may learn to like GNU/Linux, but they won’t learn what the free software movement stands for. In effect, the install fest makes a tacit deal with the devil that suppresses the free software movement’s message about freedom and justice.

      The nonfree software means the user sacrifices freedom for functionality. If users had to wrestle with this choice, they could draw a moral lesson from it, and maybe get a better computer later. But when the install fest makes the compromise on the user’s behalf, it shelters the user from the moral dimension; the user never sees that something other than convenience is at stake. In effect, the install fest makes the deal with the devil, on the user’s behalf, behind a curtain so the user doesn’t recognize that it is one.

      I propose that the install fest show users exactly what deal they are making. Let them talk with the devil individually, learn the deal’s bad implications, then make a deal—or refuse!

      As always, I call on the install fest itself to install only free software, taking a strict stance. In this way it can set a clear moral example of rejecting nonfree software.

      My new idea is that the install fest could allow the devil to hang around, off in a corner of the hall, or the next room. (Actually, a human being wearing sign saying “The Devil,” and maybe a toy mask or horns.) The devil would offer to install nonfree drivers in the user’s machine to make more parts of the computer function, explaining to the user that the cost of this is using a nonfree (unjust) program.

    • RMS article: “Install fests: What to do about the deal with the devil”

      Stallman explains that, because of obstacles deliberately devised to thwart back engineering, not all computers can function properly with a completely free distro. And that a choice, therefore, often has to be made, between freedom and convenience, between installing a fully free distro that won’t function as intended, and installing a nonfree distro that will. He argues that this choice should be made by the informed user alone, not silently by the install-fest volunteer.

      Stallman appeals to install fests to forgo the “tacit deal with the devil” that suppresses the free software movement’s message about freedom and justice, and to take advantage of the teachable moment, to introduce the user to the “moral dimension” of their computing choices. He suggests a number of things an install-fest could do (implement visual demarcations that help users understand when they’re about to “forfeit their freedom,” give technical advice regarding free software and free hardware, encourage users to lobby offending manufacturers) in order to “retain full moral authority when it talks about the imperative for freedom.” Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t, and, ultimately, better no devil at all.

    • About Musix’s removal from our list of endorsed distributions

      The maintainer of Musix requested that it be removed from our list of endorsed distributions, as the distribution is no longer maintained.

      In 2018 we updated our list of free GNU/Linux distributions to add a “Historical” section. We retired BLAG Linux and GNU at that time, as it was no longer maintained. We are sad to announce today that Musix will also being moving to the Historical section, as it is likewise no longer maintained. Founded in 2004, Musix was on the list of free GNU/Linux distributions for over a decade. The list helps users to find operating systems that come with only free software and documentation, and that do not promote any nonfree software. Being added to the list means that a distribution has gone through a rigorous screening process, and is dedicated to diligently fixing any freedom issues that may arise.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • MOREbot Introduces Kids to Robotics Using 3D Printed Parts

        MORE Technologies last week launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise US$20,000 for development of its open source robot ecosystem.

        The company will fund the project if it reaches its goal by April 21. As of this writing, $6,485 of that $20,000 goal has been pledged.

        The MOREbot project teaches real tech skills to the next generation of innovators and problem solvers using MOREbot — a series of open source, customizable robotics kits designed for classroom or home use.

        MOREbot is an expandable modular STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning robotic ecosystem. All robot parts are 3D printed, which makes it very affordable, according to the company.

      • gym-gazebo2 toolkit uses ROS 2 and Gazebo for reinforcement learning

        The first gym-gazebo was a successful proof of concept, which is being used by multiple research laboratories and many users of the robotics community. Given its positive impact, specially regarding usability, researchers at Acutronic Robotics have now freshly launched gym-gazebo2.

  • Programming/Development

Leftovers

  • Selling Used Panties Online Is Harder Than You Think

    “The education business is killing me, I am selling panties to buy groceries,” she admitted. This admission turned out to be an opening: To Charlotte’s surprise, the friend replied with a confession that the PR firm was a front, and that she was actually working as an escort. She offered to teach Charlotte the ropes.

  • Science

    • University of Illinois at Chicago Missed Warning Signs of Research Going Awry, Letters Show

      For a year, the University of Illinois at Chicago has downplayed its shortcomings in overseeing the work of a prominent child psychiatrist who violated research protocols and put vulnerable children with bipolar disorder at risk.

      But documents newly obtained by ProPublica Illinois show that UIC acknowledged to federal officials that it had missed several warning signs that Dr. Mani Pavuluri’s clinical trial on lithium had gone off track, eventually requiring the university to pay an unprecedented $3.1 million penalty to the federal government.

      UIC’s Institutional Review Board, the committee responsible for protecting research subjects, improperly fast-tracked approval of Pavuluri’s clinical trial, didn’t catch serious omissions from the consent forms parents had to sign and allowed children to enroll in the study even though they weren’t eligible, the documents show.

      The IRB’s shortcomings violated federal regulations meant to protect human subjects, putting it in “serious non-compliance,” according to one of five letters from UIC officials to the federal government the university turned over to ProPublica Illinois after a nearly yearlong appeal for the documents under open records laws.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • ‘We Already Spend More Than Medicare for All Would Cost Us’ – CounterSpin interview with Diane Archer on Medicare for All

      : The March 11 Washington Post headline told readers that the Medicare for All bill, recently introduced by Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, “reflects influence of hard-line progressive groups.” Not quite a hit piece, but something very like it, the article said “a slew of groups further to the left” shaped the bill, which would “upend health coverage for tens of millions of Americans,” and “cost many times more than the ACA.” Which is why, the Post claims, “To some progressives, this is a step (or steps) too far.”

      Words like “upend” and “drastically” do their work. And at one point, “advocates on the left” are counterposed with “most health policy experts.”

      “Supporters of the Jayapal bill insist there’s a groundswell of grassroots enthusiasm” for overhauling the country’s healthcare, the piece says—without reference to any of various polls that would indicate precisely that.

      The thing is, public support for a fundamental change in the way we do healthcare persists, despite years of this sort of elite media treatment—perhaps because for most Americans, healthcare is not a partisan debate, but a crisis.

      Joining us now to talk about how Medicare for All would respond to that crisis is Diane Archer. Founder and former president of the Medicare Rights Center, she is president of Just Care USA. She joins us now by phone from here in New York. Welcome to CounterSpin, Diane Archer.

    • Sweetened Drinks Linked to Higher Mortality Risk

      While sugary beverages seem to be the worst offenders, artificially sweetened drinks might also associated with health problems, an observational study suggests.

    • Kale, Strawberries, and Spinach Top List as Report Shows Nearly 70% of US Produce Contain Dangerous Pesticide Residue

      The majority of conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables contain pesticide residues that are not eliminated even after washing and peeling the food, scientists revealed Wednesday.

      The findings came in an annual report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. The study includes analysis of more than 40,000 samples of produce including kale, apples, spinach, and other popular fruits and vegetables that Americans buy every day. Pesticides were found in nearly 70 percent of the non-organic foods the study included.

      The samples EWG analyzed had been tested by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) itself. The government found 225 different pesticides on popular fruits and vegetables.

      Strawberries, spinach, and kale were among the most-contaminated produce according to EWG’s list of the “Dirty Dozen.” Among the 12 fruits and vegetables found to contain the most residues, several tested positive for two or more pesticides. Some of the kale samples contained as many as 18 different chemicals.

      “We were surprised kale had so many pesticides on it, but the test results were unequivocal,” said EWG toxicologist Alexis Temkin, who suggested that shoppers purchase organic versions of the Dirty Dozen, if possible.

    • A Second U.S. Jury Finds That Roundup Causes Cancer

      The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company’s glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff’s cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

    • Jury Finds Monsanto’s Roundup Guilty of Causing Cancer
    • Another Guilty Verdict for Monsanto as Jury Finds Roundup Was ‘Substantial Factor’ in Causing Man’s Cancer

      “Today’s verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people,” Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook said in a statement, referring to the active ingredient in Roundup. “As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up.”

      Edwin Hardeman, the plaintiff in the case, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) in 2015 after using Roundup to kill poison oak and weeds on his property for over 20 years. In 2016, Hardeman sued Monsanto, which was acquired by the German pharmaceutical giant Bayer last year.

      “The decision by Bayer to purchase Monsanto, a company with a long history of environmental malfeasance, could go down as one of the worst business decisions ever made,” said Cook. “The day of reckoning for Bayer and its cancer-causing weedkiller is getting closer.”

      The jury’s verdict comes just months after Monsanto was ordered to pay over $200 million in damages to a former school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson, who said Roundup caused his cancer.

      Michael Baum, an attorney who represented Johnson, told Buzzfeed that the jury’s verdict in the Hardeman case is “a huge win for all Roundup-induced NHL claimants and a devastating loss for Bayer/Monsanto.”

    • Latest Science Debunks Claim That Marijuana Significantly Harms Brain

      Claims that cannabis use is associated with lower cognitive functioning are largely based upon the findings of a single longitudinal study. The paper, published by Madeline Meier and a team of Duke University researchers in 2012, reported that the onset of cannabis use in early adolescence was associated with an average decline of eight IQ points by middle-age.

      However, a critique of Meier’s study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, opined that the reported differences in IQ were consistent with socioeconomic differences among the study’s participants and likely were not attributable to marijuana use. (This criticism is hardly surprising as data has historically shown that those of greater economic means tend to test higher on IQ tests than those who are poorer, and critics have also raised questions as to whether the test itself may possess inherent racial biases.) It countered that the Duke team likely “overestimate[d]” the impact of marijuana on IQ and opined that the “true effect [of cannabis exposure] could be zero.”

      This criticism is given additional merit by the fact that several later and better controlled studies have failed to replicate Meier’s initial findings. For example, a British study of more than 2,000 teens reported that cannabis exposure prior to the age of 15 “did not predict either lower teenage IQ scores or poorer educational performance … once adjustment is made for potential confounds.”

  • Security

    • 40 Linux Server Hardening Security Tips [2019 edition]
    • Why Trust Is Key for Cyber-Security Risk Management

      “Trust” is an often-overused term, but according to Rohit Ghai, president of RSA Security, trust is the key to understanding and managing digital risk.

      In a video interview with eWEEK, Ghai discusses his views on trust, where the concept of an artificial intelligence “digital twin” fits in and why there could well be a need to redefine industry cyber-security categories to better reflect how risk management technologies should work. He also provides insight into how RSA Security’s products, including Archer, Netwitness and SecurID, fit together to help organizations provide trust and manage risk.

      “As long as we pay attention to the idea of risk and trust co-existing and taking a risk orientation to security, I think we’ll be fine,” Ghai said. “Trust is important. We are living in an era where people are losing faith or trust in technology, and we have to act now to restore it.”

    • IPFire 2.21 – Core Update 129 is ready for testing

      The next release is available for testing – presumably going to be last release in the 2.21 series before we bring some bigger changes. This update has a huge number and significant changes for IPsec as well as many updates to the core system and various smaller bug fixes.

    • Superuser accounts: What they are and how to secure them

      Most security technologies are helpless in protecting against superusers because they were developed to protect the perimeter – but superusers are already on the inside. Superusers may be able to change firewall configurations, create backdoors and override security settings, all while erasing traces of their activity.

      Insufficient policies and controls around superuser provisioning, segregation and monitoring further heighten risks. For instance, database administrators, network engineers and application developers are frequently given full superuser-level access. Sharing of superuser accounts among multiple individuals is also a rampant practice, which muddles the audit trail. And in the case of Windows PCs, users often log in with administrative account privileges –far broader than what is needed.

    • Education and Science Giant Elsevier Left Users’ Passwords Exposed Online

      It’s not entirely clear how long the server was exposed or how many accounts were impacted, but it provided a rolling list of passwords as well as password reset links when a user requested to change their login credentials.

    • Norwegian aluminium firm goes manual after Windows ransomware attack

      Norwegian aluminium maker Norsk Hydro has been under what it describes as “an extensive cyber attack” that has affected several areas of the company’s operations. The malware affecting the firm is believed to the LockerGoga ransomware that attacks Windows systems.

    • “Severe” ransomware attack cripples big aluminum producer

      Norsk Hydro of Norway said the malware first hit computers in the United States on Monday night. By Tuesday morning, the infection had spread to other parts of the company, which operates in 40 countries. Company officials responded by isolating plants to prevent further spreading. Some plants were temporarily stopped, while others, which had to be kept running continuously, were switched to manual mode when possible. The company’s 35,000 employees were instructed to keep computers turned off but were allowed to use phones and tablets to check email.

    • Security updates for Wednesday
    • Microsoft Office Is The Most Exploited Software By Cybercriminals[Ed: Microsoft software is designed for back doors, not for security, and that still shows.]

      list of the top 10 most exploited vulnerabilities in 2018 has revealed that Microsoft Office was the favorite victim of cybercriminals. Microsoft Office vulnerabilities appear 8 times in the list with one Adobe Flash Player vulnerability and an AndroidRAT cyber vulnerability being the only mobile device flaw in the list.

    • Mirai botnet returns with sights set on enterprise IoT devices

      Researchers from Unit 42, the threat intelligence group of Palo Alto Networks, found the new variant targeting LG Supersign TVs and WePresent WiPG-1000 Wireless Presentation system, both of which are used by businesses with networks offering larger amounts of bandwidth.

    • Reproducible builds folks: Reproducible Builds: Weekly report #203
    • PuTTY in your hands: SSH client gets patched after RSA key exchange memory vuln spotted

      Venerable SSH client PuTTY has received a pile of security patches, with its lead maintainer admitting to the The Register that one fixed a “‘game over’ level vulnerability”.

      The fixes implemented in PuTTY over the weekend include new features plugging a plethora of vulns in the Telnet and SSH client, most of which were uncovered as part of an EU-sponsored HackerOne bug bounty.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Joint Chiefs Chairman: Google ‘Is Indirectly Benefiting The Chinese Military’

      “We have an American company that does not want to do work with our defense department which is one thing, but they’re happy to help the Chinese, at least the Chinese government that is, the Chinese military, at least indirectly, I think that’s just extraordinary,” he added.

    • Whose Blood, Whose Treasure?

      Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed that famed saying when summing up the Obama administration’s military intervention in Libya in 2011 — with a small alteration. “We came, we saw, he died,” she said with a laugh about the killing of Muammar Gaddafi, that country’s autocratic leader. Note what she left out, though: the “vici” or victory part. And how right she was to do so, since Washington’s invasions, occupations, and interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and elsewhere in this century have never produced anything faintly like a single decisive and lasting victory.

      “Failure is not an option” was the stirring 1995 movie catchphrase for the dramatic 1970 rescue of the Apollo 13 moon mission and crew, but were such a movie to be made about America’s wars and their less-than-vici-esque results today, the phrase would have to be corrected in Clintonian fashion to read “We came, we saw, we failed.”

      Wars are risky, destructive, unpredictable endeavors, so it would hardly be surprising if America’s military and civilian leaders failed occasionally in their endless martial endeavors, despite the overwhelming superiority in firepower of “the world’s greatest military.” Here’s the question, though: Why have all the American wars of this century gone down in flames and what in the world have those leaders learned from such repetitive failures?

      The evidence before our eyes suggests that, when it comes to our senior military leaders at least, the answer would be: nothing at all.

      Let’s begin with General David Petraeus, he of “the surge” fame in the Iraq War. Of course, he would briefly fall from grace in 2012, while director of the CIA, thanks to an affair with his biographer with whom he inappropriately shared highly classified information. When riding high in Iraq in 2007, however, “King David” (as he was then dubbed) was widely considered an example of America’s best and brightest. He was a soldier-scholar with a doctorate from Princeton, an “insurgent” general with the perfect way — a revival of Vietnam-era counterinsurgency techniques — to stabilize invaded and occupied Iraq. He was the man to snatch victory from the jaws of looming defeat. (Talk about a fable not worthy of Aesop!)

      Though retired from the military since 2011, Petraeus somehow remains a bellwether for conventional thinking about America’s wars at the Pentagon, as well as inside the Washington Beltway. And despite the quagmire in Afghanistan (that he had a significant hand in deepening), despite the widespread destruction in Iraq (for which he would hold some responsibility), despite the failed-state chaos in Libya, he continues to relentlessly plug the idea of pursuing a “sustainable” forever war against global terrorism; in other words, yet more of the same.

    • WATCH: Video Details Brazilian President Bolsonaro’s Ties to ‘Murderous’ Right-Wing Militias Ahead of Trump Meeting

      An in-depth video report detailed Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s growing list of scandals and deep ties to Brazil’s “most violent, lawless, and murderous paramilitary gangs” just before Bolsonaro is set to meet with his right-wing American counterpart Donald Trump in the White House Tuesday afternoon.

      “The facts around this trip are vital for the American media—and especially the American press covering the White House—to understand, so that they can report properly and question Bolsonaro during his trip to the White House about the realities of his presidency,” said The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, “rather than the branding and perception the Brazilian government is trying to sell around the world.”

      The image Bolsonaro is attempting to convey is one of a “strong” and “honest” leader, Greenwald said, but recent revelations have severely undermined this narrative while raising disturbing questions about the Brazilian president and his sons.

    • Empire of Absurdity: Recycled Neocons, Recycled Enemies

      There are times when I wish that the United States would just drop the charade and declare itself a global empire. As a veteran of two imperial wars, a witness to the dark underside of America’s empire-denial, I’ve grown tired of the equivocation and denials from senior policymakers. The U.S. can’t be an empire, we’re told, because – unlike the Brits and Romans – America doesn’t annex territories outright, and our school children don’t color its colonies in red-white-and-blue on cute educational maps.

      But this distinction, at root, is rather superficial. Conquest, colonization, and annexation are so 19th century – Washington has moved beyond the overt and engages in the (not-so) subtle modern form of imperialism. America’s empire over the last two decades – under Democrats and Republicans – has used a range of tools: economic, military, political, to topple regimes, instigate coups, and starve “enemy” civilians. Heck, it didn’t even start with 9/11 – bullying foreigners and overturning uncooperative regimes is as American as apple pie.

      Still, observing post-9/11, post-Iraq/Afghanistan defeat, Washington play imperialism these days is tragicomically absurd. The emperor has no clothes, folks. Sure, America (for a few more fleeting years) boasts the world’s dominant economy, sure its dotted the globe with a few hundred military bases, and sure it’s military still outspends the next seven competitors combined. Nonetheless, what’s remarkable, what constitutes the real story of 2019, is this: the US empire can’t seem to accomplish anything anymore, can’t seem to bend anybody to its will. It’s almost sad to watch. America, the big-hulking has-been on the block, still struts its stuff, but most of the world simply ignores it.

      Make no mistake, Washington isn’t done trying; it’s happy to keep throwing good money (and blood) at bad: to the tune of a cool $6 trillion, 7,000 troop deaths, and 500,000 foreign deaths – including maybe 240,000 civilians. But what’s it all been for? The world is no safer, global terror attacks have only increased, and Uncle Sam just can’t seem to achieve any of its preferred policy goals.

    • The Taliban Is Ascendant as Afghanistan Hangs in the Balance

      The tables have turned. The Taliban, the militants who sheltered the 9/11 attackers and earned the wrath of America, are now meeting their arch-nemesis in Doha, Qatar. Conducting the talks is Zalmay Khalilzad, a senior diplomat of Afghan descent who is currently serving as the U.S. State Department’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation.

      Since August 2018, the two parties have met five times. Last Tuesday, Ambassador Khalilzad tweeted: “Just finished a marathon round of talks with the Taliban in Doha. The conditions for peace have improved. It’s clear all sides want to end the war. Despite ups and downs, we kept things on track and made real strides.”

      It had been hoped that the peace talks would reach some positive conclusion by spring and a cease-fire announced. This has not happened. Ambassador Khalilzad has returned to Washington for further consultations.

      [...]

      Taliban authority is inevitable if the leadership in Kabul is kept out of the talks. Without his government’s participation, Ghani would have no say in the implementation of the final settlement and the power-sharing arrangement that is worked out. Moreover, once the U.S. forces are out of Afghanistan, it would be a walkover for the Taliban.

      Taliban leaders have already been discussing their future plans. Theirs would be an Islamic state, but they have moderated their tone somewhat, not wishing to revive memories of the ideological state they created from 1996 to 2001. Yet their extremist anti-female and anti-culture stance and militancy invites skepticism given their past record while in power.

      They have also promised to cultivate cordial and friendly relations with Islamabad. This is to be expected. After all, Pakistan has been a friend that has provided them support and helped them break out of their isolation. Islamabad’s role in paving the way for the Doha talks has been acknowledged by Washington.

    • Trump Praises Brazil’s Far-Right Leader at White House

      President Donald Trump praised Brazil’s new far-right leader Tuesday as he welcomed him to the White House, saying the man who’s been described as the “Trump of the Tropics” has done “a very outstanding job.”

      Trump said President Jair Bolsonaro had run “one of the incredible campaigns,” saying he was “honored” it had drawn comparisons with his own 2016 victory. And he predicted the two would have a “fantastic working relationship,” telling reporters as he opened a joint press conference that they have “many views” in common.

      The two leaders were expected to discuss a range of issues during their first sit-down, including expanding trade relations, increasing U.S. private-sector investment in Brazil and resolving the ongoing political crisis in Venezuela. Both are fierce critics of Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

      As they sat down for talks, Trump also said that he supports Brazil’s effort’s to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and is “very strongly” looking at U.S. support for Brazil’s effort to gain certain NATO privileges.

      “We’re very inclined to do that,” Trump told reporters, describing the relationship between the two countries as better than ever.

    • US Killing Civilians With ‘Impunity’ in Hidden War on Somalia: Report

      A human rights group is accusing the United States of waging a shadow air war in Somalia that is killing civilians with abandon.

      Amnesty International issued its findings on the African war Tuesday evening in a report titled The Hidden US War in Somalia (pdf).

      The U.S. has been covertly engaging in conflicts in Somalia for decades, but in April 2017, the Donald Trump administration upped airstrikes and attacks targeted at the rebel group Al-Shabaab.

      The human rights advocacy group studied five of more than 100 strikes on Somalia over the past two years and found that 14 civilians were killed in the attacks. Eight others were injured, the report says.

      “These five incidents were carried out with Reaper drones and manned aircraft in Lower Shabelle,” Amnesty said in a press release, “a region largely under Al-Shabaab control outside the Somali capital Mogadishu.”

      The U.S. military denied to Amnesty that any civilians have been killed as a result of American operations in Somalia.

      However, Amnesty’s report claims its methodology is sound and that the evidence is overwhelming.

      “The attacks appear to have violated international humanitarian law,” the organization said, “and some may amount to war crimes.”

      In comments provided to the media, Brian Castner, the group’s senior crisis advisor on arms and military operations, claimed that the continued airstrikes are also a sign of the Trump administration’s aggressive use of military action across the world.

      “The civilian death toll we’ve uncovered in just a handful of strikes suggests the shroud of secrecy surrounding the US role in Somalia’s war is actually a smokescreen for impunity,” Castner said.

    • Bloomberg’s Armsmaker-Funded Columnist Wants You to Know: Military Spending Is Woke

      Progressives are told to love the Pentagon budget (Bloomberg, 3/17/19) by a pundit whose connection to the military/industrial complex isn’t disclosed.

      You may not know it, but bloated Pentagon budgets are actually “progressive.” Or so says a recent opinion piece in Bloomberg News (3/17/19), “Progressives Should Learn to Love the Pentagon Budget,” by Hal Brands.

      Bloomberg identifies Brands as the “Henry Kissinger Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.” “Kissinger” is ominous enough, but surely Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments is some innocuous, wonky academic institution, no?

      In a piece explicitly defending bloated military budgets, however, perhaps it would be useful to know what exactly the “Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments” is. We can start by reading this section taken directly from their website (unabridged):

    • Venezuela Tops CIA’s Agenda for Brazil’s President

      On his first visit to the U.S., President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro eagerly receives his instructions from the CIA and Trump’s foreign policy team. Alex Main of CEPR analyzes the visit

    • California governor joins 18 states in outlawing death penalty

      California Gov. Gavin Newsom, D-Calif., signed an executive order Wednesday placing an indefinite moratorium on capital punishment, saying it goes against Californians’ “values.”

      Newsom said the death penalty has been meted out unevenly, often discriminating against the poor and people of color. He added that he personally opposes the measure.

    • Countdown to “Full Spectrum Dominance”

      The US is formally committed to dominating the world by the year 2020. With President Trump’s new Space Directive-4, the production of laser-armed fighter jets as possible precursors to space weapons, and the possibility of nuclear warheads being put into orbit, the clock is ticking…

      Back in 1997, the now-re-established US Space Command announced its commitment to “full spectrum dominance.” The Vision for 2020 explains that “full spectrum dominance” means military control over land, sea, air, and space (the so-called fourth dimension of warfare) “to protect US interests and investment.” “Protect” means guarantee operational freedom. “US interest and investment” means corporate profits.

      The glossy brochure explains that, in the past, the Army evolved to protect US settlers who stole land from Native Americans in the genocidal birth of the nation. Like the Vision for 2020, a report by the National Defense University acknowledges that by the 19th century, the Navy had evolved to protect the US’s newly-formulated “grand strategy.” In addition to supposedly protecting citizens and the constitution, “The overriding principle was, and remains, the protection of American territory … and our economic well-being.” By the 20th century, the Air Force had been established, in the words of the Air Force Study Strategy Guide, to protect “vital interests,” including: “commerce; secure energy supplies; [and] freedom of action.” In the 21stcentury, these pillars of power are bolstered by the Cyber Command and the coming Space Force.

    • Re-Targeting Cuba: Why Title III of U.S. Helms-Burton Act will be a Horror Show

      Embarked upon overthrowing Venezuela’s socialist government, the U.S. government now renews efforts to squash Cuba. The U.S. record of implacable hostility features terror attacks, military invasion, germ warfare, internal subversion, and almost 60 years of U.S. economic blockade. Devoid of natural resources ready for U.S. plunder, Cuba offends by having defended socialism and national independence. Now Title III of the U.S. 1996 Helms Burton Act joins an arsenal of weapons employed in what Cubans regard as genocidal aggression.

      Helms Burton is complex but centers on tightening the economic blockade; preparing for a transition government; and by means of Title III, inflicting suffering and destabilization. The latter is taking place now in Venezuela, by other means.

      Title III opens the door for the former owners and the heirs of properties nationalized by Cuba’s revolutionary government to bring actions in U.S. courts to gain compensation for what they lost. Persons or companies presently occupying such properties, or profiting from them, and who are located in third countries, would be required by the courts to pay off the aggrieved parties. These live in exile, mainly in the United States. The courts would lack enforcement capabilities.

      In 1966, when the law was introduced, the European Union and other critics insisted that the U.S. government delay implementation of Title III. It did so and for the next 23 years, at six month intervals, the United States did announce one six-month delay after another. But a new era dawned on January 16 when the State Department declared that this time suspended implementation would end at 45 days. Something was up.

    • War Crimes in Yemen?
    • Trump’s $174 Billion Budget Lie

      Over the past week, the Trump administration put out their proposal for the federal budget for fiscal year 2020, which starts in October of this year.

      With this budget, Trump is trying to have his cake and eat it too: he wants to claim that he’s adhering to strict spending limits favored by deficit hawks in his party, but there’s just one problem.

      His budget leaves a spare $174 billion in extra Pentagon lying around in plain sight, while claiming that it doesn’t count toward spending limits.

      This isn’t a new trick. Congress has been passing extra money to the Pentagon in just this way for years.

      But the Trump administration is taking it even further. The $174 billion in extra funds that Trump is asking for is more than double what Congress passed last year.

      If Trump pretends that the Pentagon is also subject to strict spending limits, he can argue that his more than $50 billion in cuts to programs like the Environmental Protection Agency and Legal Aid are honest attempts to control federal spending.

    • When They Don’t Ignore, US Media Often Disparage Palestinians’ Right of Return

      For many years, US corporate media have consistently failed to adequately inform audiences about the Palestinian right of return.

      Even though the refugees are a crucial reason that the issue of Israel/Palestine remains unresolved, only a small portion of the coverage addresses the right of return. I used the media aggregator Factiva to search the databases of three major US newspapers: the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. In a combined search of these three publications, Factiva returns results for 45,285 pieces that mention the Palestinian issue over the last ten years. Of these, only 624 contain the phrase “right of return.” In other words, since March 2009 these outlets have published 44,661 articles that bring up the Palestinian question while omitting a phrase that is absolutely integral to it, and one of the main reasons that it remains unresolved.

      To put it another way, only 0.01 percent of coverage of Palestinians or Palestine in the last ten years in the Times, Journal and Post informs its audience about the right of return or even mentions it at all. That these are US media outlets writing for largely US audiences underscores the seriousness of this hole in the coverage, because US tax dollars are used to prevent the Palestinians from exercising this right.

      When the right of return is mentioned in media, pundits and other journalists often baselessly call its legitimacy into question. In the Wall Street Journal, Michael Weiss (2/1/11) referred to it as the “Palestinians’ so-called ‘Right of Return.’” The Post’s Jennifer Rubin (10/2/14) opted for the same formulation, criticizing Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, because he wouldn’t “give up the so-called right of return.”

    • White nationalism, born in the USA, is now a global terror threat

      The recent massacre of 50 Muslim worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand is the latest confirmation that white supremacy is a danger to democratic societies across the globe.

      Despite President Donald Trump’s suggestion that white nationalist terrorism is not a major problem, recent data from the United Nations, University of Chicago and other sources show the opposite.

      As more people embrace a xenophobic and anti-immigrant worldview, it is fueling hostility and violence toward those deemed “outsiders” – whether because of their religion, skin color or national origin.

    • White Supremacy Is a Genuinely Global Threat

      White supremacy — the belief that white people are somehow superior to people of other racial backgrounds, and should therefore politically, economically, and socially rule non-white people — isn’t going away any time soon.

      It’s been deeply woven into the fabric of our culture, systemically and institutionally ingrained into this country’s DNA. It’s at the root of every racist act. It’s metastasized into the soil of this land and beyond, shaping our nation — and our world — as it stands today.

    • The war on terror in our communities

      Let’s make visible the domestic war on terror and work to end it once and for all.
      As an anti-war activist and mother, for many years I’ve been acutely aware that we have been at war my teenage daughter’s entire life. March 20 is the 16th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. We are now living in a time when an entire generation of young people — including new Marine recruits and newly registered voters — have grown up with war as a routine condition. And most of the public is unaware that more than 244,000 civilians have been killed and that the U.S. continues to conduct “counter-terror” activities in 80 countries.

      The endless “war on terror” has multiple fronts, no clear conditions for ending, and has become so normalized as to be almost invisible. Yet perhaps even more obscured is the war on terror within the U.S., that targets and criminalizes entire communities – particularly Muslims, immigrants, and Black and brown people. As Deepa Kumar, professor of media studies at Rutgers University, has written, when the U.S. goes to war, “the end goal is to win consent for an imperial agenda through a process that orchestrates fear of the enemy within and preempts criticisms of empire-building.”

    • Trump Administration Fails to Roll Back Support for Landmark Women’s Rights Agreement at United Nations

      The U.S. delegation to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) tried and failed to roll back support for a landmark 1995 document that has long provided a blueprint for developing the rights, health, and safety of women and girls worldwide.

      According to draft documents acquired by The Guardian, the U.S. delegation came into this week’s CSW meetings intending to “water down” commitments to the health and well-being of women and girls as well as remove the word “gender” from the commission’s documents. At issue is the 1995 Beijing declaration and platform for action, a landmark blueprint outlining priorities for the global empowerment of women and girls, including protection from gender-based violence and access to basic reproductive health care. While the agreement is non-binding, advocates often use it to pressure governments into loosening restrictions on women’s lives.

      Tarah Demant, director of Amnesty International’s gender, sexuality, and identity program told Rewire.News that U.S.-led efforts to undercut support for the Beijing declaration failed late Monday.

    • Trump & Bolsonaro Join Forces to Back Regime Change in Venezuela & to Attack Media as “Fake News”

      Brazil’s far-right president and former Army captain Jair Bolsonaro visited President Trump at the White House for the first time on Tuesday. During the visit, Trump announced he would designate Brazil a major non-NATO ally, opening the door for Brazil to receive more U.S. military aid. Trump also suggested Brazil could even become a member of NATO. Both leaders criticized what they called the “fake news” and discussed increasing efforts to remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from office. We speak with Maria Luísa Mendonça, director of the Network for Social Justice and Human Rights in Brazil. She is a visiting scholar at the City University of New York Graduate Center.

    • ‘Military Keynesianism is Back!’: Democrats and Trump Agree on Pentagon Increase, Quibble on Details

      The Trump administration unveiled the details of its proposal to the public on March 12. At $750 billion, the military seeks to receive $36 billion more than last year’s record $714 billion budget—an increase that experts say is aimed at China and Russia. Democrats have signaled that the increase is a nonstarter, but their counter-offer of $733 billion isn’t exactly a difference in more than degrees, Matt Taibbi wrote in Rolling Stone.

      “The Democrats want to lower Trump’s number,” said Taibbi, “but still give the Pentagon a raise.”

      The budget increase marks a new direction on a number of levels. Trump is breaking with tradition on federal spending by increasing the military budget while slashing social services. That’s deceptive, wrote Lindsay Koshgarian, program director at the budget research organization National Priorities Project.

      “If Trump pretends that the Pentagon is also subject to strict spending limits,” Koshgarian said, “he can argue that his more than $50 billion in cuts to programs like the Environmental Protection Agency and Legal Aid are honest attempts to control federal spending.”

      Pentagon spending proposed in the new military budget will double the discretionary war funds the military uses while cutting the standing Pentagon budget by $71 billion. The sharp increase in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding, or “war funding,” is adding to the so-called “Pentagon slush fund.” It’s just a way of getting around budget caps, said Taibbi.

      “OCO funding is mainly used as a means to increase military spending above caps designated by Congress,” Taibbi explained. “Thanks to the Budget Control Act of 2011, Congress can only spend a certain percentage of overall appropriations on defense versus non-defense programs. In 2018, the cap was roughly 54 percent.”

      The increase in spending appears set to pass Congress. That’s “appalling” in a chamber now controlled by Democrats, journalist David Dayen wrote on Twitter.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Tulsi Gabbard: The U.S. Government’s Treatment of Wikileaks Will ‘Have a Chilling Effect on Investigative Reporting’

      This is a followup to similar statements she’s made about WikiLeaks before. During an event in New Hampshire, she said the stolen information that WikiLeaks published had “spurred necessary change.” During her Concord meet and greet she said: “Obviously the information that has been put out has exposed a lot of things that have been happening that the American people were not aware of and have spurred some necessary change there.”

      Her response was an answer to a question about President Donald Trump’s administration seeking to prosecute Julian Assange. Just this week, Chelsea Manning was jailed for not answering questions from a grand jury about Assange. She refused to testify before a grand jury investigation regarding WikiLeaks, AP shared. She said she objected to the secrecy of the grand jury process and had already shared everything that she knows. Because prosecutors granted her immunity for her testimony, she said she couldn’t invoke the Fifth Amendment to defend her right not to speak.

      The emails from the DNC shared by WikiLeaks did indeed ultimately bring about some changes, including lesser power to superdelegates in 2020. Donna Brazile, former DNC chairwoman, has said that the DNC primary in 2016 was “rigged” against Bernie Sanders. Brazile herself had even leaked some debate questions to Hillary Clinton before her debate with Sanders. Brazile has said that the DNC worked closely with Clinton’s campaign in 2016 because it needed the money, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz let Clinton’s campaign help cover the DNC’s debt in exchange for some level of control, the Miami Herald reported. The DNC is supposed to be impartial during Democratic presidential primaries, but Brazile said that was not the case.

      In July 2016, Wasserman Schultz stepped down as chair of the DNC after WikiLeaks published DNC emails that showed the organization strongly favored Clinton over Sanders during the primary. Brazile briefly served as interim chair before Tom Perez took over.

    • Attempts to prosecute Julian Assange on account of his publishing activities set a dangerous precedent against the freedom of the press throughout the world

      For more than 8 years, WikiLeaks’ founder and editor, Julian Assange has been under various forms of restrictions upon his liberty without charge in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Despite a Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruling in December 2015 (opinion No. 54/2015) that Mr Assange was being arbitrarily deprived of his freedom and demanded that he be released. The UK has not only refused to comply with this decision, but senior government representatives, including the Prime Minister, have condemned the decision.

      On 21 December 2018, UN human rights experts repeated the demand that the UK abides by its international obligations and immediately allows Mr. Assange to walk free from the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has been for over 6 years, fearing arrest by British authorities if he leaves, and extradition to the United States of America.

    • Daniel Ellsberg Calls Chelsea Manning “an American Hero”

      Two years after being released from prison where she had served seven years for exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, Chelsea Manning was jailed once again for refusing to answer questions before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.

      “I will not comply with this, or any other grand jury,” Manning declared in a written statement. “Imprisoning me for my refusal to answer questions only subjects me to additional punishment for my repeatedly-stated ethical objections to the grand jury system.”

      Noted whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg praised Manning. “Chelsea Manning is in jail again, this time for resisting a grand jury system whose secrecy and lack of witness rights makes it prone to frequent abuse,” Ellsberg told Truthout. “She is also resisting its current abuse, as it is used to attack freedom of the press by pursuing criminal charges for publication of the very war crimes and corruption she courageously revealed to WikiLeaks nine years ago.”

      Manning wrote, “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 testified for almost a full day about these events. I stand by my previous public testimony.”

    • Russian journalists find 50,000 court rulings between 2017 and 2018 that mostly duplicate previous convictions

      In a new report, the newspaper Novaya Gazeta studied 780,000 verdicts issued by Russian courts between 2017 and 2018, and found that 50,000 of these rulings were at least 80-percent copied from decisions previously issued by the same judges.

      Mostly copied verdicts are most common in rulings against defendants convicted of illegally acquiring and possessing narcotics. Of 136,000 such convictions, Novaya Gazeta’s study found nearly 25,500 verdicts (19 percent) that were largely copied from previous rulings. In terms of percentage, the most common copied verdicts were discovered in unpaid alimony cases (28.9 percent of 370 rulings) and draft dodging (26 percent of 294 rulings).

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • The Surprising Clue to Reducing Human-Elephant Conflict: Minerals

      The increasing human population and global intensification of agriculture have had a major impact on the world’s natural ecosystems. This, as we’ve seen, has had devastating effects for populations of mega-herbivores such as African savanna elephants (Loxodonta africana).

      Elephants and other animals with vast home ranges have found themselves forced into increasingly smaller geographical areas, often restricted by fencing or other human activities. These smaller areas are then, in turn, under huge pressures to meet the animals’ nutritional needs. This can cause animals to alter their movement patterns and search for new sources of food, potentially causing human-elephant conflict.

      Due to their vast food consumption — as much as 600 pounds a day for an adult bull — and sometimes destructive behavior, African savanna elephants can rapidly cause significant damage to crops and vegetation and pose a risk to human life and infrastructure. When elephants and humans come into conflict like this, people may feel the need to retaliate. All too often in these conflicts, the elephant ultimately loses. Human-elephant conflict will only worsen in the coming years due to continued increase in the global human population to 9.7 billion by 2050, the associated growth of agriculture, and a predicted reduction of 200–300 million hectares of wildlife habitat worldwide.

      To understand more about these conflicts — and how to prevent them — my colleagues and I conducted a review of existing research to understand how nutritional needs dictate the movements and migrations of elephants and other large species. Our paper was published recently in Peer J.

    • England Could Run Out of Fresh Water in 25 Years

      England faces an “existential threat” if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country’s Environment Agency warned Tuesday.

      In a speech at the Waterwise Conference in London, the agency’s Chief Executive James Bevan explained that the twin pressures of climate change and population growth could cause England to run out of fresh water within 25 years. Bevan referred to the point at which demand would outstrip supply as the “jaws of death,” NBC News reported.

      “Self-evidently, avoiding something called the jaws of death is by and large the sensible thing to do. So how do we do that?” Bevan asked the crowd.

    • The Future of Climate Authoritarianism Is Now

      It was the kind of headline one might encounter in the science fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin or Kim Stanley Robinson. Last month, citing a new study from the British science journal Nature, Quanta Magazine’s Natalie Wolchover explored the possibility of human-caused global warming forging a world without stratocumulus clouds by the end of the century. This would raise the temperature of the planet an additional 8 degrees Celsius (14.4 F)—double the increase for which we’re currently on pace.

      “To imagine 12 degrees of warming,” Wolchover notes, “think of crocodiles swimming in the Arctic and of the scorched, mostly lifeless equatorial regions during [prehistoric times].”

      While the scenario outlined in Quanta and the greater threat of feedback loops remain purely hypothetical, for the time being, the age of climate chaos we have entered is all too real. By 2050, the U.N. projects that there will be as many as 200 million climate refugees across the globe. That number could climb to as high as 1 billion if we fail to take radical action to reduce carbon emissions. To put those numbers in perspective, the Syrian civil war that has so roiled the West had produced 5 million refugees as of 2016. As David Wallace-Wells observes in his haunting “The Uninhabitable Earth,” we are not witnessing a “new normal” but something far more terrifying: “That is, the end of normal; never normal again.”

    • Hear the Song of the Earth While You Still Can

      “You have to understand,” said Cherokee elder Stan Rushworth as he sat across the table from me at a downbeat Santa Fe breakfast joint last week. “All this,” he continued with a sweep of his arm that encompassed the café, the high-end boutique selling Native-themed knickknacks next door, the city, the state and indeed the entire country from sea to shining sea, “is occupied territory to us.”

      At Stan’s right arm sat my friend Hannah, an artist who moved to Santa Fe from New England 10 years ago. To Stan’s left was Truthout’s climate reporter Dahr Jamail, who was in town to deliver a lecture on anthropogenic climate disruption for the Lannan Foundation. Stan was there for Dahr. I was there to introduce Dahr at the beginning of the lecture and then get out of the way. Little did I realize how transformative the experience would be, beginning at that table over a plate of huevos rancheros and a cup of coffee.

      We were there together because of Dahr’s new book, an essential yet harrowing read titled “The End of Ice.” The lecture he would give that night detailed his long journey around the world to places where climate change is not an argument, but an indubitable, constantly evident fact. From the retreating glaciers of Denali to the methane bombs lurking beneath the permafrost just south of the Arctic Circle to the dying coral of the Great Barrier Reef and beyond, Dahr saw and touched and tasted the climate of this world even as it radically shifted before his eyes.

      The Amazon rainforest, the lungs of our planet, is disappearing at a rate of 1.5 acres per second. You can no longer get a 30-year mortgage in Miami because the ocean is coming, and that city’s freshwater aquifer is in mortal peril. The Great Barrier Reef will be a graveyard in as little as 10 years. These are but some of the things we learned that night in Santa Fe.

    • Rat Poison Linked to Several Deaths of San Francisco’s Iconic Parrots

      Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.

    • ‘They Have Lied for Decades’: European Parliament To Scrutinise Exxon’s Climate Science Denial

      With millions of students taking to the streets and oil majors increasingly facing litigation, the fossil fuel industry is finally being held to account for its contribution to the climate crisis.

      This week, the EU is taking this accountability up a notch, with ExxonMobil’s decades-long denial of climate science facing the scrutiny of MEPs and the public at a hearing at the European Parliament in Brussels on Thursday.

      During the two-hour session, scientists, campaigners and a historian will examine the history of climate denial and in particular the misinformation spread by Exxon, with MEPs able to ask questions about the role and behaviour of the oil major.

    • Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact

      A report published today names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris Agreement’s adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.

      The top four banks that invested most heavily in fossil fuel projects are all based in the U.S., and include JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi, and Bank of America. Royal Bank of Canada, Barclays in Europe, Japan’s MUFG, TD Bank, Scotiabank, and Mizuho make up the remainder of the top 10.

    • Reaching New Heights

      Mapping out hurricane evacuation routes and floodplains are just two cases in which it is critical to know accurate land heights. That’s because heights tell us which way water will flow. How we calculate heights based on mean sea level today is good, but it’s complicated, expensive, and time-consuming. But National Geodetic Survey experts are working to make it better, faster, and cheaper.

    • Early-Season Wildfire Threatens Homes, Buildings in Oregon

      An early-season wildfire near Lyons, Oregon burned 60 acres and forced dozens of homes to evacuate Tuesday evening, the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) said, as KTVZ reported.

      The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.

    • Failing Students on Climate Change

      Last Friday hundreds of thousands of students around the globe walked out of classrooms to demand that our political leaders take concrete steps to address the deadly threat of climate change. They are right, of course, that the generations of their elders, from millennials to baby boomer grandparents, have failed in our responsibility to preserve a livable future for our ever more crowded, ever more polluted and ever more endangered planet.

      And while that’s a sad statement to make, it is an undeniable truth and a shameful guilt that should cause every one of the “elders” to think long and hard about whether they’re making the world better or worse for our young people.

      The movement, characterized by various identifiers such as #fridaysforfuture, #schoolstrike4climate and #climatestrike, is vast and growing. The strikes by young people staring an unlivable future in the face are now massive, but were inspired by a 16-year old Swede, Greta Thunberg, who has now been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. As Thunberg famously addressed the United Nations climate conference in Poland earlier this year: “You say you love your children above all else, and yet you’re stealing their future in front of their very eyes.”

      Truer words were never spoken. Just look at what these young people are up against. Here in the United States, the second-largest producer of greenhouse gasses in the world, we have a president who not only doesn’t believe 97 percent of the world’s scientists who acknowledge human-caused climate change, he demands that we exert “energy dominance” by drilling, fracking, pumping and burning more fossil fuels than any nation on the planet.

      For decades our citizens have been told it was necessary to exploit every manner of fossil fuel because our national security relied on “energy independence” from foreign sources. It was bogus then and it’s bogus now. Had we spent a fraction of what has gone into subsidizing fossil fuel production on renewable resources, we would have true national security with independent distributed energy from solar panels, tidal generators and wind power. Instead, we got massive coal-fired power plants hooked to vast electrical grids that are susceptible to interruption and destruction by even the most primitive of means, to say nothing of their vulnerability to the sophisticated hacking of utility computer systems.

    • Global Kids Strike

      Children’s crusades do not necessarily end well. During the years of armed missions to the Holy Land, when Jerusalem meant something to the sacredly inclined in Europe, children were encouraged to take to the rough and dangerous road as it wound its way towards Palestine. In 1212, a boy of 12 is said to have begun preaching at Saint-Denis in France. God had supposedly taken some time to communicate a pressing wish: Christian children were to head to the Holy Land and liberate it from the Infidel. How they would do so was not clear.

      They subsequently starved, suffered deprivation, were killed and enslaved on route to their destination. The modern student movement against climate change stresses another Jerusalem, that there will be nothing to salvage if nothing is done now. We are all, in short, for the chop if climate change is not arrested. As an Oakland high-schooler by the name of Bruke told Wired, “My GPA isn’t going to matter if I’m dead.” And much else besides.

      To such movements can also be added other acts of striking in peaceful protest. Tens of thousands of US students did so in 2018 swathed in the grief and despair of gun shootings, the most immediate being the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. The National School Walkout of March 14 and the March for Our Lives ten days later had a biting clarity of purpose: students and staff were entitled to feel secure in the teaching and learning environment. The movement was characterised by much eloquence wreathed in anger and tears, not least of all Emma Gonzalez, who chided those political representatives “who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been ever done to prevent this”.

    • Oceanic carbon uptake could falter

      Scientists can now put a measure to the role of the waves as a climate shock absorber: they estimate that oceanic carbon uptake by the deep blue seas has consumed 34 billion tonnes of man-made carbon from the atmosphere between the years 1994 and 2007.

      This is just about 31% of all the carbon emitted in that time by car exhausts, power station chimneys, aircraft, ships, tractors and scorched forest, as human economies expand and ever more fossil fuel is consumed.

      This confident figure is based on a global survey of the chemistry and other physical properties of the ocean by scientists from seven nations on more than 50 research cruises, taking measurements of the ocean from the surface to a depth of six kilometres.

      The researchers report in the journal Science that they already had the results of a global carbon survey of the oceans conducted at the close of the last century, and had calculated that from the dawn of the Industrial Revolution – when humans started using coal, and then oil and gas – to 1994, the oceans had already absorbed 118 billion tonnes.

    • Coal Tax Cut Endangers Funds for Black Lung Treatmen

      Former coal miner John Robinson’s bills for black lung treatments run $4,000 a month, but the federal fund he depends on to help cover them is being drained of money because of inaction by Congress and the Trump administration.

      Amid the turmoil of the government shutdown this winter, a tax on coal that helps pay for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund was cut sharply Jan. 1 and never restored, potentially saving coal operators hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

      With cash trickling into the fund at less than half its usual rate, budget officials estimate that by the middle of 2020 there won’t be enough money to fully cover the fund’s benefit payments.

      As a surge of black lung disease scars miners’ lungs at younger ages than ever, Robinson worries not only about cuts to his benefits, but that younger miners won’t get any coverage.

    • Study: Americans Are Happy to Let Wind Turbines Be Their Neighbors

      That’s the conclusion of a University of Delaware (UD) study published in Nature Energy Monday. UD Prof. Jeremy Firestone and undergraduate Hannah Kirk looked at data from a survey of people who lived within eight kilometers (approximately five miles) of a wind turbine. They found that around 90 percent of them preferred the wind turbine over an alternative plant located at a similar difference, whether it was fueled by coal, natural gas or uranium.

      Firestone said the study offered a more realistic gauge of American’s energy preferences.

      “We’ve looked at social acceptance of wind projects examining factors such as effect of landscape change, sound and place attachment. In those studies, the ultimate question is whether a community member supports or opposes a local project — that is, wind power or nothing,” he explained in a UD press release. “But that’s not the societal choice, which is instead, among wind power, solar, coal or natural gas. Even when residents might have less than positive attitudes toward a local project, the majority appear to conclude that their local wind power project is better than the alternatives.”

    • ‘The Trend Is Unmistakable’: New Analysis Shows Heat Records Broken Twice as Often as Cold Ones

      A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the United States have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts’ warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.

      The study was conducted by The Associated Press, which reviewed nearly a century’s worth of data and spoke with climatologists who confirmed the reporters’ conclusions about more frequent hot days and fewer cold ones align with scientific peer-reviewed findings. According to the experts, “the trend is unmistakable.”

      “We are in a period of sustained and significant warming,” said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) climate monitoring chief Deke Arndt, “and—over the long run—will continue to explore and break the warm end of the spectrum much more than the cold end.”

    • Restoring Tropical Forests Isn’t Meaningful if Those Forests Only Stand for 10 or 20 Years

      Tropical forests globally are being lost at a rate of 61,000 square miles a year. And despite conservation efforts, the global rate of loss is accelerating. In 2016 it reached a 15-year high, with 114,000 square miles cleared.

      At the same time, many countries are pledging to restore large swaths of forests. The Bonn Challenge, a global initiative launched in 2011, calls for national commitments to restore 580,000 square miles of the world’s deforested and degraded land by 2020. In 2014 the New York Declaration on Forests increased this goal to 1.35 million square miles, an area about twice the size of Alaska, by 2030.

    • The Secret to Funding a Green New Deal

      As alarm bells sound over the advancing destruction of the environment, a variety of Green New Deal proposals have appeared in the U.S. and Europe, along with some interesting academic debates about how to fund them. Monetary policy, normally relegated to obscure academic tomes and bureaucratic meetings behind closed doors, has suddenly taken center stage.

      The 14-page proposal for a Green New Deal submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., does not actually mention Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), but that is the approach currently capturing the attention of the media—and taking most of the heat. The concept is good: Abundance can be ours without worrying about taxes or debt, at least until we hit full productive capacity. But, as with most theories, the devil is in the details.

      MMT advocates say the government does not need to collect taxes before it spends. It actually creates new money in the process of spending it; and there is plenty of room in the economy for public spending before demand outstrips supply, driving up prices.

      Critics, however, insist this is not true. The government is not allowed to spend before it has the money in its account, and the money must come from tax revenues or bond sales.

      In a 2013 treatise called “Modern Monetary Theory 101: A Reply to Critics,” MMT academics concede this point. But they write, “These constraints do not change the end result.” And here the argument gets a bit technical. Their reasoning is that “the Fed is the monopoly supplier of CB currency [central bank reserves], Treasury spends by using CB currency, and since the Treasury obtained CB currency by taxing and issuing treasuries, CB currency must be injected before taxes and bond offerings can occur.”

    • Flooding of Nebraska Air Force Base Illustrates Security Risk Posed by Climate Change

      The historic flooding that devastated Nebraska last week has also submerged one third of an Air Force base, offering a further illustration of the threat posed to national security by climate change.

    • Nebraska flooding shows (again) how extreme weather can threaten national security

      A massive winter storm created a “bomb cyclone” over parts of the country last week, and dumped snow and rain on Nebraska. Rain slicked off frozen ground, snow melted, and ice thawed on rivers — kicking off devastating floods that killed at least two people in the state and destroyed hundreds of homes. “This was a monster, no question about it,” Greg Carbin at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Weather Prediction Center told the Omaha World-Herald.

    • Orangutan shot 74 times goes blind while her baby starves to death

      Rescue workers in Aceh, Indonesia, found Hope with dozens of bullets in her body and her one-month-old infant was by her side, malnourished and dehydrated

    • US Government Knew Climate Risks in 1970s, National Petroleum Council Documents Show

      A series of newly discovered documents clarify the extent to which the U.S. government, its advisory committees and the fossil fuel industry have understood for decades the impact carbon dioxide emissions would have on the planet.

      The documents obtained by Climate Liability News show how much the National Petroleum Council (NPC), an oil and natural gas advisory committee to the Secretary of Energy, knew about climate change as far back as the 1970s. A series of reports illuminate the findings of government-contracted research that outlined the dangers associated with increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    • Climate Change: Now Will the Older Generation Step Up?

      On Friday, the youth spoke. And they spoke loudly. In excess of a million young people skipped school and colleges and marched around the globe demanding urgent action on climate change. They did so in over a hundred countries.
      Listening to one young activist about why their generation cares so much about climate change, they replied: “it is the urgency of the problem. It is our future at stake.”
      So will the older generation quicken the fight against climate change in response to Friday’s climate strike? You would hope so. In response to Friday, António Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations, wrote: “My generation has failed to respond properly to the dramatic challenge of climate change. This is deeply felt by young people. No wonder they are angry.”
      He added: “These schoolchildren have grasped something that seems to elude many of their elders: we are in a race for our lives, and we are losing. The window of opportunity is closing – we no longer have the luxury of time, and climate delay is almost as dangerous as climate denial.”
      Guterres is right to say we are losing the battle, but the fight is not yet over. The status quo can change. It does not have to be this way. There are already millions of people who are committed to climate action, who every day, either professionally or personally make a difference in fighting climate change. But collectively, the pace is glacial and not near fast enough as the science demands.

    • Transformative Climate Action Is Possible—If Polluters Stay Away

      Last year was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in “the number of Americans who say they worry ‘a great deal’ about climate change.”

      That was before the release of two reports in the fall by scientists commissioned by the United Nations and the U.S. federal government. Both reports painted a dire picture of the coming climate catastrophe and a clear timeline. They warned that if we don’t take drastic action to cut emissions globally, we will face global catastrophic effects of climate change. According to the U.N., we have about a decade. That’s no time at all.

  • Finance

    • The Green New Deal: A Strategy for a More Equal United States

      The Green New Deal often gets portrayed as simply a program for climate protection. But the Green New Deal — as proposed in a new congressional resolution from Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey — stands just as boldly as a strategy to counter America’s grotesque and growing inequality. The resolution they’ve introduced calls for “a new national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization on a scale not seen since World War II and the New Deal era.”

      Such a mobilization, notes their resolution, provides “a historic opportunity to create millions of good, high-wage jobs, virtually eliminate poverty in the United States, provide unprecedented levels of prosperity and economic security for all U.S. persons, and counteract systemic injustices.”

      The Green New Deal resolution outlines a vision of what we need to do to address the dual crises of climate change and runaway inequality. What policies and programs could help us realize that vision? My recent Labor Network for Sustainability discussion paper — Eighteen Strategies for a Green New Deal: How to Make Climate Mobilization Work — lays out a comprehensive strategic framework that draws on the experience of the original New Deal and the homefront mobilization for World War II. This framework envisions a Green New Deal active on a variety of fronts.

      The Green New Deal will use the powers of government to rectify past and present injustices. Green New Deal jobs protecting the climate will be available to those individuals and groups who’ve been denied equal access to good jobs, with job recruitment programs that include strong racial, gender, age, and locational affirmative action to counter our current employment inequalities.

      Green New Deal programs will also require standards for local hiring and minority business enterprises and provide job ladders within and across employers so those who currently face only dead-end jobs won’t face only dead-end jobs in the climate-protection economy.

      Green New Deal projects will remedy the concentration of pollution in marginalized and low-income communities and counter the deprivation of transportation, education, health, and other facilities in poor neighborhoods.

      The Green New Deal will ensure full employment. The original New Deal used the tools of what came to be known as macroeconomic or Keynesian economic policy to steer the economy as a whole. That New Deal employed budget deficits and other fiscal policies as well as low interest rates and other monetary policies to fight unemployment.

    • Trillion Dollar Wall Street Bailouts, Bernie Sanders, and the Washington Post

      Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post Fact Checker gave Bernie Sanders two Pinocchios yesterday for saying that the Wall Street banks got a trillion dollar bailout. Kessler raises several points of contention. First, whether the Wall Street banks actually got that much money. Second, whether it can really be called a bailout, since the government made a profit on the loans. Third, that the bailout was necessary to keep the financial system running.

      Taking these in turn, Kessler points out that the money that went from the TARP to the Wall Street banks, the congressionally approved bailout, was in the low hundreds of billions, far less than $1 trillion. He does note that a much larger amount of loans went from the Federal Reserve Board to the banks, however the piece points out both that the Fed is nominally independent of the government and that many of these loans were short-term, so that rolling them over would count twice. (If a bank got overnight loans for $1 billion for a week, this would count as $7 billion.)

      Sanders seems on pretty solid ground here when including the Fed loans. First, the reason the Fed has the power it does is because it is the central bank of the United States. It is true, that when it was established in 1913 it was set up as a mixed public-private entity, with the banks having a direct voice in setting policy. However, its ability to print an essentially unlimited amount of money is due to the fact that it is the central bank of the United States. All the other major central banks (e.g. the European Central Bank, the Bank of England, The Bank of Japan) are fully public institutions. The fact that the United States allows private banks to have a voice in setting Fed policy doesn’t really change the fact that it is a government institution and therefore loans from the Fed should be seen as coming from the government.

    • Trump Budget Ends Medicaid Expansion, Axes Affordable Housing Programs

      On Monday, the Trump administration released full details of its 2020 budget request, the general outlines of which were released last week. The initial release called for cuts to nearly every federal agency, with deep cuts to the State Department, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and others. Only the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs would receive substantial increases.

      With this week’s release, the administration provided a fuller picture of its anti-government, pro-military vision for the U.S. The long list of cuts targets programs for the poor, middle-income Americans, the environment and peacekeeping.

    • UNESCO Report Shows World’s Most Vulnerable and Poor Paying More Than Rich for Clean Water

      The 2019 edition of the World Water Development Report, entitled Leaving No One Behind, was published Tuesday by UNESCO. (Graphic: UNESCO)

      Globally, those who are poor or marginalized because of their identities pay far more than the rich to acquire clean water.

      That’s according to the new World Water Development Report (WWDR 2019), which is published annually by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s World Water Assessment Program (UNESCO-WWAP). This year’s report, entitled Leaving No One Behind, was unveiled Tuesday at an ongoing session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

      Access to safe, affordable, and reliable drinking water and sanitation facilities such as toilets and showers are internationally recognized human rights.

      But as the report lays out (pdf), “billions are being left behind” in their access to both, often due to factors such as gender, age, poverty, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disabilities, religion, socio-economic class, and geographic location.

    • Ukania’s Great Privatization Heist

      Margaret Thatcher was very good at telling tall tales. Ukania’s tragedy is that far too many Brits fell for these tales.

      Probably the biggest of these tales concerned the notion of a share-owning democracy.

      The idea here was simple, but utterly misguided – sell off the publicly-owned enterprises, and everyone will be able to buy shares in the newly privatized companies. By buying however many shares you want, you will become a part of Thatcher’s great British share-owning democracy.

      Many of us knew at that time that it was never going to be like this at all. As Marx noted, the stock exchange, where the shares of the newly privatized companies would of course be traded, is “where the little fish are swallowed by the sharks and the lambs by the stock-exchange wolves”.

      The wealthy have always used their resources to acquire a monopoly on company shares. So when the public enterprises were put on sale at rock-bottom prices by Thatcher and her cronies, the wealthy rushed to collar the majority of the share offerings, the ensuing demand drove-up the price of the shares, and in so doing put nearly all of them beyond the reach of Joe and Jill Normal.

      So what actually happened to the “great British share-owning democracy”?

    • With Help of Democrats, Regulators Move to Gut ‘Last Line of Defense’ Against Wall Street Gambling

      “At issue is the supplementary leverage rule, which was adopted in the aftermath of the 2008 collapse as a last line of defense against financial excess,” HuffPost’s Zach Carter reported Tuesday. “Four out of five top officials at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission want the Fed to lower leverage requirements by changing the way the officials treat derivatives.”

      Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), a member of the House Financial Services Committee and a banking regulation expert, condemned the plan to gut post-crisis protections as “another example of Trump regulators listening to Wall Street’s wish list.”

      “Between this, the banking deregulation bill passed last year, and other changes proposed by the Fed and [Office of the Comptroller of the Currency],” Porter added, “we can expect Too Big to Fail banks to get riskier and have less of a cushion to guard taxpayers from bailouts.”

      The plan to weaken post-crisis leverage requirements on the nation’s six largest banks—backed by Schumer appointees Rostin Behnam and Dan Berkovitz—was presented to the Fed last month, according to HuffPost.

      Gregg Gelzinis, a policy analyst at the Center for American Progress told HuffPost that the proposal would “only increase the likelihood of another crash.”

    • “Say It Ain’t So, Joe:” the Latest Neoliberal from the War and Wall Street Party

      Like an annoying rash that could become dangerous, the Wall Street and war wing of the Democratic Party is back for yet another reprise in its run in the 2020 presidential primary and election. Think these representatives of wealth and war and power went away with the mid-evening swing toward doom of the New York Times polls on election night 2016? Think again… Hillary Clinton has been supplanted by Joe Biden. Power and wealth will not give up because those forces have an almost psychopathic hold on a wing of the Democratic Party, like an out-of-control vehicle careening to certain doom down a mountainside.

      In the 1970s, Biden was a fierce opponent of school busing toward the end of eliminating segregation in schools (”As Joe Biden Hints at presidential Run, Andrew Cockburn Looks at His ‘Disastrous Legislative Legacy,’” Democracy Now, March 13, 2019).

      During the 1980s and 1990s, Biden became a law and order legislator, teaming up with none other than Strom Thurmond and Bill Clinton to put people away and fueling the epidemic of mass jailing. Readers know the result that those “crime” fighting sprees had on the black community.

      Then, during the confirmation process of Clarence Thomas, Biden refused to call witnesses that would have supported Anita Hill’s testimony about Thomas.

    • The Real College Admissions Scandal

      In what’s being called the largest college admissions scam ever, a number of wealthy parents, celebrities, and college prep coaches have been accused of offering large bribes to get rich students into Ivy League schools, regardless of their credentials.

      The parents facing charges allegedly paid up to $6.5 million to get their kids into college.

      Shocking as it is, this is hardly a new phenomenon in higher education. Wealthy and privileged students have always had an upper hand in being accepted to prestigious universities.

      They’re called “legacy preferences.”

      “Many U.S. colleges admit ‘legacies,’ or students with a family connection to the university, at dramatically higher rates than other applicants,” The Guardian explains, because “they are widely seen as a reliable source of alumni donations.”

      Some of our countries most prominent figures have benefited from legacy preferences. When applying to Harvard, future president John F. Kennedy noted that his father was an alumnus. And although his academic record was unspectacular, he was admitted into the Ivy League school.

    • Calls for Breaking Up Tech Giants Grow Louder After EU Hits Google With $1.7 Billion Antitrust Fine

      “Google is dominant when it comes to online advertising brokerage market, with market shares in Europe of above 70 percent,” said Margrethe Vestager, the EU commissioner for competition. “Google abused its dominance to stop websites using brokers other than the AdSense platform.”

      Former New York attorney general candidate Zephyr Teachout celebrated the penalty. “Europe is cracking down on Google’s corrupt business model,” she tweeted. “The abuse of power is real. But the tide has changed.”

      “The U.S. should act too,” Teachout said, pointing to Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) plan to break up tech giants. While unveiling her plan this month, the senator and 2020 presidential candidate charged that companies such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook have “ too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy.”

      In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Matt Stoller, a fellow at the Open Markets Institute, concurred with Teachout and Warren. “Breaking up big tech isn’t the only solution,” he said, “but it’s the necessary first step to actually addressing the problem of big tech.”

    • May Asks for Delay of Brexit Until June 30

      France’s foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, has set three criteria that Britain must meet if British Prime Minister Theresa May is to be granted a Brexit extension.

      Speaking at the National Assembly ahead of the meeting of EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday where May’s request for an extension to the country’s departure date from March 29 to June 30 will be discussed, Le Drian warned that the country would likely crash out of the bloc without a deal if the conditions are not met.

      He said that the May must convince leaders that “the purpose of the delay is to finalize the ratification of the deal already negotiated” and that the deal agreed last November “won’t be renegotiated.”

      He also said that the short delay request has to be conditioned on the U.K. not participating in the European parliamentary elections from May 23-26.

    • 68% Want to Hike Taxes on the Rich to Help the Poor, Survey of 21 OECD Nations Shows

      A large majority of residents in the world’s leading capitalist nations responded with a resounding “yes” to a survey asking whether they support hiking taxes on the rich to fund social programs for the poor.

      Most residents in all 21 countries included in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) survey published Tuesday said their governments should “tax the rich more than they currently do in order to support the poor.”

      In the United States, over 50 percent of those polled said they support hiking taxes on the wealthy to help the poor. Average support for the idea among all 22,000 people surveyed was at 68 percent.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Democrat Beto O’Rourke raises $6.1 million during first 24 hours as a 2020 presidential candidate

      Beto O’Rourke raised $6.1 million during his first 24 hours as a presidential candidate, his campaign said Monday, in what amounts to be the largest initial fundraising haul of any 2020 Democratic contender who has disclosed their figures to date.

      The former Texas congressman took in $6,136,763 in online contributions from all 50 states within the day after announcing his White House bid, according to his campaign. O’Rourke did not, however, reveal how many individual donors contributed to his campaign or their average donation. Still, his initial fundraising haul surpasses the $5.9 million one-day total Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont raised last month after announcing his campaign, with donations averaging just $27 — a figure mirroring the average donation size he repeatedly touted in his first bid for the White House in 2016. The other closest 2020 Democratic contender to disclose his or her complete first-day fundraising total was Sen. Kamala Harris of California, who raked in $1.5 million from 38,000 donors in 24 hours — the average online contribution was $37 — a number that, at the time, raised eyebrows.

      “In just 24 hours, Americans across this country came together to prove that it is possible to run a true grassroots campaign for president — a campaign by all of us, for all of us, that answers not to the PACs, corporations and special interests but to the people,” O’Rourke, who has ruled out PAC donations of any kind, said in a statement announcing the total.

    • Rep. Devin Nunes Sues Internet Cow For Saying Mean Things About Him Online

      Last year, Devin Nunes co-sponsored the Discouraging Frivolous Lawsuits Act. Twelve days ago, he voted for a House Amendment “to express a sense of Congress that free speech should be protected.”

      And yesterday, he sued an internet cow for making fun of him.

      By now you may have heard, as first reported by Fox News, that Rep. Devin Nunes — who spent two years making a total mockery of the House Intelligence Committee — has decided to sue Twitter and some satire accounts, and a real political commentator for a variety of “offenses” from defamation to shadow banning. The complaint, filed in a local court in Virginia, is not yet available anywhere but Fox News’ posting of it (so you can click the link above, but we can’t embed it yet).

      Let’s just get the first part out of the way: the complaint is utter nonsense. It is a complete joke. It makes a total mockery of the judicial system and its an embarrassment that Nunes thought this was a good idea. We’ll get into the details in a moment, but rest assured, we see a lot of really dumb lawsuits, and this one is up there on the list of truly special ones.

    • After three decades, Nazarbayev is quitting Kazakhstan’s presidency, but the ‘national leader’ will retain enormous influence

      On March 19, Nursultan Nazarbayev addressed the nation of Kazakhstan and announced that he is stepping down as president — a title he’s held since 1990. “As the founder of the independent Kazakhstani state, I see my future task as ensuring that a new generation comes to power that will continue the country’s ongoing transformation,” Nazarbayev said.

      The new head of state is Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the speaker of the Senate and a professional diplomat who headed the Foreign Ministry from 1994 to 1999 and again from 2002 to 2007, before serving as U.N. deputy secretary general from 2011 to 2013. According to Kazakhstan’s Constitution, Tokayev will take over Nazarbayev’s current term, serving until the next scheduled elections in the spring of 2020. The only formal limit Tokayev faces on his normal presidential powers is that he cannot initiate constitutional amendments before he is elected.

    • The Military-Industrial Complex: Trump’s Ties to Boeing in Spotlight Amid Probes of 737 MAX 8 Jets

      The Trump administration’s close ties to Boeing are facing new scrutiny in the wake of deadly plane crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia involving the Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet. President Trump has publicly praised Boeing hundreds of times in his two years in office and participated in efforts to sell its planes, including the 737 MAX series, to countries and airlines around the world. Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg praised Trump’s support at a dinner last August at Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who was appointed by Trump, spent 31 years as a Boeing executive. And Trump’s former U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, has been nominated to the Boeing board of directors. We speak to William Hartung, the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. His recent piece in The Nation is titled “A Former Boeing Executive Is Now Running the Pentagon.”

    • Fulfilling Vow to Run 2020 Campaign Differently, Sanders Campaign Claims 70% of Top Leadership Now Women

      Facing previous criticism that his campaign team during his 2016 presidential run was “too white” and “too male,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) received praise on Tuesday after it was reported his campaign has hired a diverse slate of high-caliber women for key posts on his 2020 leadership team.

      As journalist Natalie Gontcharova of Refinery29 was the first to report, the Sanders campaign now claims that “every single one of its teams — management, political, policy, organizing, communications, advance, digital, and fundraising — has women, and predominantly women of color, in leadership positions. Overall, the national leadership team is around 70% women.”

    • What does 30 years in power look like? Follow Kazakhstan’s outgoing president from the Soviet Communist Party Congress to his handshake with Donald Trump
    • Everyone Must Condemn Trump’s Sly Encouragement of Lawless Violence

      Racism is not natural. Babies — black, brown, white — explore the world and each other with wonder, not hate. Racism has to be taught. It is learned behavior. To assume that a person is inherently superior or inferior to another based upon race is unnatural and ungodly. Racism is used for political manipulation and economic exploitation. In a land founded on the belief that all men are created equal, slavery could not be justified without a racism that depicted slaves as sub-human.

      These basic truths need restating in this terrible time. Across the world, we see the rise of racism, anti-Semitism and islamophobia, and its violent expression. Parishioners in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, are gunned down; worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue are attacked and killed. Now the murders in the mosques in New Zealand. Christians, Jews and Muslims must now stand as one and resist the rise of hate, and the hate-filled propaganda that feeds it.

      In this, Donald Trump can no longer duck responsibility. When an American president speaks, the world listens. When Barack Obama was elected, it sent hope across the world. Blacks were elected to parliaments for the first time across Europe. Some hoped a new era of peace and reconciliation might begin.

      Yet his election incited a harsh reaction as well, a new trafficking in hate, fear and violence. Donald Trump used his celebrity to claim that Obama was illegitimate, literally un-American. He had relished spreading racial fears before. When five young men were falsely arrested in New York City, Trump took out newspaper ads calling for the death penalty, inciting fear of young African-American males. When DNA testing proved their innocence, Trump simply denied the truth. His campaign for president was stained by his race-bait politics: slurring immigrants as rapists and murderers, promising to ban Muslims, denouncing a judge of Mexican descent, born in Indiana, as too biased to rule on the case involving students defrauded by Trump University.

      As president, Trump has used his position to continue to foster hatred and racial division: the Muslim ban, the “wall” and the continued slander of immigrants, African nations as “s–thole countries.” In Charlottesville, he equated Nazis marching through the streets with tiki torches, chanting “Jews will not replace us,” with those protesting Nazism and racism; “good people,” he said, on “both sides.”

      He’s also fanned the flames of violence. He told his followers at a campaign rally in 2016 that if they beat up a young protester, he’d pay their legal fees. He talked about “Second Amendment people” — gun owners presumably — taking care of liberal judges or of Hillary Clinton, if she appointed them. He encouraged police officers to rough up suspects.

      Now, as he appears more and more unhinged, he did an interview with the right-wing Breitbart news in which he suggested that his people “play it tougher,” intimating that if he didn’t get his way, brown shirt violence might follow: “I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

    • Alabama Prisoners Associated With Anti-Violence Program Put In Solitary, Launch Hunger Strike

      Eight Alabama prisoners have followed in the footsteps of incarcerated activist Robert Earl Council by initiating a hunger strike, arguing they, like Council, were arbitrarily placed in solitary confinement.

      Council, who has organized with other prisoners for years with the Free Alabama Movement, ended his hunger strike on March 14 after refusing food and liquids for one week. He was assured by Commissioner Jeffrey Dunn that he would be moved to general population.

      According to Unheard Voices OTCJ, which is supporting these prisoners, they were part of a group of 30 men, who were awoken at 2:00 in the morning on February 28 and found they would be transferred hundreds of miles away to the Holman Correctional Facility.

      At Holman, the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) placed 22 of the men in general population and sent eight to solitary confinement without initiating any disciplinary action or notifying them about any rules violations.

      Unheard Voices received a statement from the hunger strikers announcing their action would begin at 12:01 AM on March 18 “in protest of being held in solitary without just cause.” They said their “loved ones and community members are mobilizing outside support, and more folks are expected to join the strike.”

    • ‘McConnell Is Afraid of Democracy’: Progressives Push Senate Majority Leader to Stop Blocking Vote on HR1

      Progressives are ramping up their pressure campaign against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in an effort to force a vote on the “For the People Act” when Congress returns from recess.

      The bill, also known as H.R. 1, passed the Democratic House earlier this month without support from a single Republican. In a move that outraged pro-democracy organizations, McConnell vowed to stop the bill from getting a vote in the Senate.

      Asked why he is blocking the legislation, McConnell said, “Because I get to decide what we vote on.”

    • ‘A Poll Tax By Any Other Name’: Florida GOP Undermines Newly-Restored Voting Rights For 1.4 Million People

      Civil rights advocates Tuesday slammed Republicans in Florida for passing a bill that would severely undermine a law approved by voters last year that restored voting rights to residents with felony convictions.

      Four months ago, Florida voters passed Amendment 4 in a state referendum to allow many of the state’s former felons to vote. But on Tuesday, the Republican-controlled House Criminal Justice Subcommittee passed CRJ 3 in a party-line vote.

      While the passage of Amendment 4 was celebrated by voting rights advocates nationwide, the new GOP measure would undermine the hard won victory by requiring former felons to pay all court fees in order to have their right to vote granted.

      Critics including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Public Citizen denounced CRJ 3 as a poll tax.

    • Bernie Sanders Makes the Case for His Electability

      On the trail, Sanders is quick to note that some of his policy ideas have moved from the fringe to the mainstream of the Democratic Party.

    • Meet the Press Chuck Todd and the Boeing Blackout

      That crash has not been mentioned once on NBC’s Meet the Press with Chuck Todd in the twenty episodes since.

      On March 10, 2019, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, a Boeing 737 MAX 8, crashed after taking off from Addis Ababa killing all 157 passengers and crew on board.

      That crash has not been mentioned once on NBC’s Meet the Press with Chuck Todd in the two episodes since.

      Two Boeing plane crashes, 346 people dead and no mention on Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

      And it’s not as if Meet the Press with Chuck Todd doesn’t do disasters. They do. For example, on the March 17, 2019 episode of Meet the Press, the March 15 Christchurch, New Zealand massacre, which killed 50, was a major topic of conversation throughout the show.

      What might explain this discrepancy?

      Boeing is at the center of both crashes and is now under criminal investigation.

    • Special Counsel Zeroed In on Cohen Early, Documents Show

      Hundreds of pages of court records made public Tuesday revealed that special counsel Robert Mueller quickly zeroed in on Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer, in the early stages of his Russia probe.

      The heavily blacked-out records, released by a judge at the request of news organizations, show that Mueller was investigating Cohen by July 2017 — much earlier than previously known.

      That was two months after Mueller was appointed to investigate Moscow’s election interference and practically a year before an FBI raid on Cohen’s home and office.

      The full scope of Mueller’s interest in Cohen is not clear from the documents, which include search warrant applications and other records. More extensive files from the special counsel investigation remain under seal in Washington.

      But the documents made public Tuesday show that Mueller’s investigators early on began looking into possible misrepresentations Cohen made to banks to shore up his financially troubled taxi business.

    • Jailed Birds of a Feather May Sing Together

      From childhood we learn that you can know somebody by his or her company. Our present president, Donald Trump, values loyalty. He favors people who like what he likes and who think like him. For his closest helpers, he has chosen people who have appeared devoted (or related) to him and who have endorsed goals he has championed. Many, however, have landed in jail and more may be on the way to the same destination, including even the man for whom they were backers or fixers.

      Now in the third year of the Trump presidency, we can tote up some of the results. Many of Trump’s cabinet picks have been accused of serious ethical breaches such as using government planes for private entertainment ventures. It now appears that the current EPA administrator, then lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, consulted secretly with then Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in 2017 on omitting areas rich in coal and uranium (plus sacred Native American sites and unique dinosaur fossils) from the redrawn borders of two national monuments in Utah.

      Whether those whom Trump gave major jobs were actually competent for their assigned task seems to have been irrelevant. The only apparent rationale for choosing a brain surgeon to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development was that he had lived in one or more homes. As HUD secretary, Dr. Ben Carson has done little except to sign off on some expensive office furniture allegedly ordered by his wife. On the other hand, some appointees do know their assigned domain, if only from the perspective of an industrial owner or lobbyist. The ex-governor of carbon-rich Texas, Rick Perry, was notorious for vowing to demolish the Department of Energy even before Trump asked him to head it.

    • Trade Bill – Green win protects current standards

      The government are due to amend the Trade Bill today to protect existing standards for animal welfare, workers rights and the environment in future trade agreements. They have submitted a slightly tweaked version of the amendment put forward by Green Party Baroness Jones.

      Jenny Jones’ amendment on the Trade Bill was debated two weeks ago and she received a lot of cross party support from Labour. She has also met the Minister to discuss it. It contains the current protections for the standards we have. But the Government had seemed reluctant to accept it, even though the Prime Minister had committed herself to not weakening existing standards in future trade agreements. At the moment it would be possible for Ministers to use statutory instruments to change the rules on this, but this amendment would guarantee these minimum standards were kept for rolling over all the trade deals that we currently have as a result of EU membership.

    • Where Have All the Flowers Gone?: Requiem for a Fictional Party

      Do you remember the Democrats, dearest motherfuckers? Not the neoliberal, gutter capitalist, Clintonista kind or even Bernie’s brand of drone-strike socialists, but the peace loving hippie kind. The doves who tried to end the Cold War and marched against the draft and stuck flowers in the barrels of National Guard rifles. The liberal lions who took on the war machine, who made love not war, who couldn’t hug their children with nuclear arms, and braved the perils of grassy knolls and brainwashed Arabs to bring just one ounce of sanity to Capitol Hill. Sure they were corny and preachy and a little grabby in cocktail party coatrooms but they had character and cojones and conviction. What ever happened to those liberals, before their bleeding hearts were eaten whole by those nasty neos? Where have all the flowers gone? Tell me, dearest motherfuckers, do you remember the Democrats?

      Yeah, me neither, and here comes another one of my famously merciless reality checks. With the exception of few fantastic McGovern hiccups, they never actually fucking existed. The Democrats have always been a war party, even back when the Republicans were still Lindbergh worshiping isolationists. Don’t get me wrong, the Dems were always big on that Feed the World-style, Kumbaya charity shit, but there chief staple was usually more white phosphorous than whole grain granola. Both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam; all started by Democrats. Even the Republican crusades in the Persian Gulf initially passed with broad Democratic support and lingered into holocausts with broad Democratic indifference. Much like the Republicans relationship with putting America first, the Democrats only get in touch with their hippie-dippie side when it serves their partisan needs, with Yemen as your latest rule-proving exception.

    • 16 Years After US Invaded Iraq, Anti-War Groups Demand No Regime Change in Venezuela

      Anti-war voices are marking the 16th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq with a demand the U.S. government not take a page out of the same playbook and unleash similar catastrophe and carnage in Venezuela.

      “Thousands of U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis lost their lives because of a war entered into under false pretenses,” said Paul Kawika Martin, senior director for policy and political affairs at Peace Action, in a statement. “Surveying the foreign policy challenges of the present, from Iran, to North Korea, to Venezuela, we must not repeat the mistakes of the past. Regime change has a disastrous track record.”

      Codepink also marked the anniversary of when the U.S. “illegally, immorally, and unconstitutionally invaded Iraq.”

      “We can’t do the same to Venezuela!” the organization said.

      The U.S. is backing self-declared interim president Juan Guaido and imposing economic sanctions. The Trump administration has also warned that “all options are on the table” in terms of Venezuela.

    • Why Did Bush Go to War in Iraq? The Answer Is More Sinister Than You Think

      Sixteen years after the United States invaded Iraq and left a trail of destruction and chaos in the country and the region, one aspect of the war remains criminally underexamined: why was it fought in the first place? What did the Bush administration hope to get out of the war?

      The official, and widely-accepted, story remains that Washington was motivated by Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programme. His nuclear capabilities, especially, were deemed sufficiently alarming to incite the war. As then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, “We do not want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”

      Despite Saddam not having an active WMD programme, this explanation has found support among some International Relations scholars, who say that while the Bush administration was wrong about Saddam’s WMD capabilities, it was sincerely wrong. Intelligence is a complicated, murky enterprise, the argument goes, and given the foreboding shadow of the 9/11 attacks, the US government reasonably, if tragically, misread the evidence on the dangers Saddam posed.

      There is a major problem with this thesis: there is no evidence for it, beyond the words of the Bush officials themselves. And since we know the administration was engaged in a widespread campaign of deception and propaganda in the run-up to the Iraq war, there is little reason to believe them.

      My investigation into the causes of the war finds that it had little to do with fear of WMDs – or other purported goals, such as a desire to “spread democracy” or satisfy the oil or Israel lobbies. Rather, the Bush administration invaded Iraq for its demonstration effect.

      A quick and decisive victory in the heart of the Arab world would send a message to all countries, especially to recalcitrant regimes such as Syria, Libya, Iran, or North Korea, that American hegemony was here to stay. Put simply, the Iraq war was motivated by a desire to (re)establish American standing as the world’s leading power.

      Indeed, even before 9/11, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld saw Iraq through the prism of status and reputation, variously arguing in February and July 2001 that ousting Saddam would “enhance US credibility and influence throughout the region” and “demonstrate what US policy is all about”.

    • Why is the Kremlin replacing multiple regional governors right before Russia’s fall elections?

      On March 19 and 20, three Russian regional leaders all handed in their resignations. Even more regional government heads are expected to join their colleagues from Chelyabinsk Oblast, Kalmykia, and the Altai Republic and resign in the coming weeks. Russian political experts argue that this series of resignations stems from high disapproval ratings among certain regional governors and conflicts in the Russian provinces that may cause difficulties for the Kremlin in September’s nationwide elections.

      The “bundled” resignations that are a staple of pre-election season in Russia have begun in earnest: Chelyabinsk Oblast’s Governor Boris Dubrovsky, Kalmyk government head Alexey Orlov, and Altai Republic leader Alexander Perdnikov have all tendered their resignations. Russian media sources also reported that Governor Marina Kovtun of Murmansk Oblast has already drafted an announcement in preparation for leaving her post, while Orenburg Oblast’s Governor Yury Berg denied that he would also resign. That list of names may grow in the coming days.

    • Time for the Electoral College to die: Can the popular-vote compact save America?

      For many years, I was a relatively strong believer in the wisdom of the Electoral College as our method of choosing a president. Foolishly, I thought the intent of the Constitution’s framers was a smart one — specifically Alexander Hamilton’s express intent to build a procedural roadblock in the path of would-be villains and populists.

      In fact, Hamilton wrote in Federalist 68 that the Electoral College was intended to obstruct presidential candidates with “talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity,” a pair of traits that ought to sound familiar to anyone who followed Donald Trump’s despotic rise to power.

      Of course the Electoral College has never functioned as intened at any point in American history. It utterly failed to live up to this mandate in 2016, allowing Trump to ooze through the cracks despite his obvious treachery and criminality — and despite the fact that he lost the national popular vote by nearly three million.

      In the face of history and our founding documents, the Electoral College was yet again revealed to be nothing more than a pointless technicality — a turnkey rather than a last line of defense against Trump and his “talents for low intrigue.” Consequently, I’ve changed my mind. It’s time for the Electoral College to die, and a growing list of states are busily plunging knives into its back.

      The latest state to join the process of killing the Electoral College is Delaware, where the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact passed the state legislature and is on its way to the governor’s desk.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Sen. Josh Hawley is making the conservative case against Facebook

      After years of escalating scandals, Congress is looking for ways to crack down on the size and power of tech companies like Facebook and Google. On the Democratic side, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has taken the lead by calling for new antitrust regulations that would break up the companies and usher in a new era of anti-monopoly action. Republican concerns have been harder to pin down, often veering off into deplatforming conspiracies or conflicting theories of free speech, but no less aggressive.

      Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, has emerged as a surprising Republican voice on those issues. The youngest working lawmaker in the Senate, Hawley has taken a lead on the ongoing investigations into Facebook, joining with Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) in February for a letter probing the company’s teen data collection practices, and penning legislation with Democrats that would extend more rigorous privacy protections for children. He’s also been outspoken in calling for changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, often seen as the central legal protection for online platforms.

      On February 28th, The Verge sat down with Sen. Hawley at his temporary office on Capitol Hill. Hawley and his staff currently work in the basement of the Dirksen office building with other junior senators as they await a more permanent place to set up shop. Despite the temporary nature of the office, Hawley was surrounded by reminders of his home state, including a map of Missouri and its state flag.

    • Facebook blocked Trump’s social media director because they thought he was a bot

      Trump White House social media director Dan Scavino got a personal apology from Facebook, after some features on his account were blocked for a few hours on Monday. The social media firm says its automated systems identified his activity as likely being that of a bot.

    • Facebook apologizes after mistaking Trump social media director for a bot

      In a statement issued soon after the president’s tweet, a Facebook spokesperson explained, “In order to stop automated bots, we cap the amount of identical, repetitive activity coming from one account in a short period of time, such as @mentioning people. These limits can have the unintended consequence of temporarily preventing real people like Dan Scavino from engaging in such activity, but lift in an hour or two, which is what happened in this case.”

    • ECHR Judgement: Høiness v. Norway

      The domestic courts’ refusal to impose liability on an Internet forum
      for anonymously posted comments was not in breach of Article 8

      In today’s Chamber judgment1in the case of Høiness v. Norway (application no. 43624/14) the
      European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

      no violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private life) of the European Convention on Human
      Rights.

      The case concerned the domestic courts’ refusal to impose civil liability on an Internet forum host
      after vulgar comments about Ms Høiness had been posted on the forum.

      The Court found in particular that the national courts had acted within their discretion (“margin of
      appreciation”) when seeking to establish a balance between Ms Høiness’s rights under Article 8 and
      the opposing right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the news portal and host of the
      debate forums. Moreover, the domestic court

    • ‘Russia Today’ staff face 5-million-ruble penalties if they criticize the network on social media

      The autonomous nonprofit organization “TV-Novosti,” which technically owns the Russia Today television network, reportedly requires staff to sign strict non-disclosure agreements that prohibit reporters, camera operators, and other employees from discussing anything happening at RT with outsiders or criticizing the network in interviews or on social media. According to documents obtained by the website Znak.com, these NDAs remain in force not only while staff are employed at RT, but also for 20 years afterwards. Offenders can be forced to pay RT five million rubles (more than $77,670) in compensation. The agreements bear the signature of TV-Novosti CEO Alexey Nikolov.

      The non-disclosure agreements describe confidential information as anything pertaining to TV-Novosti in terms of “production, technical aspects, finances, managerial hierarchy, or otherwise.” This applies to the organization’s internal structure, performance indicators, how the organization and staff operate, and its work style and methods, including any information learned at workshops or about partners. Staff are also prohibited from divulging information about their own NDAs.

    • @DevinCow Now Has More Twitter Followers Than Devin Nunes

      Yesterday we wrote about the completely ridiculous lawsuit that Rep. Devin Nunes — a real live Congressional Representative — filed against Twitter, a political communications expert, and two satirical fake Twitter accounts: one pretending to be his cow, and one pretending to be his mom. As we noted, in the lawsuit itself, Nunes’ lawyer points out that the satirical cow had a grand total of 1,204 followers when the lawsuit was initiated. For reference, Devin Nunes’ own Twitter account has ~394,000 followers. When we did our post yesterday, @DevinCow was up to 106,000. And now?

    • Police are reportedly investigating several news websites that criticized Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin

      Police in Moscow have reportedly opened a criminal investigation in response to defamation charges filed by Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, against Internet publications that have criticized his job performance. Sources in law enforcement told the newspaper Kommersant that Rogozin singled out the websites Rospres.org and Kompromatural.ru.

      According to Kommersant, Rogozin originally complained to the Attorney General’s Office. Deputy Attorney General Viktor Grin then referred the matter to a preliminary investigative unit in the Interior Ministry, which decided in late February to launch a formal criminal inquiry. The case is now reportedly being investigated by a special group led by Police Lieutenant Colonel Pavel Milovanov. Sources told Kommersant that officials have already established that the offending websites use equipment and domain names located in the United States and the Netherlands.

    • Terrified Of The Internet, Putin Signs Laws Making It Illegal To Criticize Government Leaders Online

      Russia’s efforts to clamp down on anything resembling free speech on the internet continues unabated. Putin’s government has spent the last few years effectively making VPNs and private messenger apps illegal. While the government publicly insists the moves are necessary to protect national security, the actual motivators are the same old boring ones we’ve seen here in the States and elsewhere around the world for decades: fear and control. Russia doesn’t want people privately organizing, discussing, or challenging the government’s increasingly-authoritarian global impulses.

      After taking aim at VPNs, Putin signed two new bills this week that dramatically hamper speech, especially online. One law specifically takes aim at the nebulous concept of “fake news,” specifically punishing any online material that “exhibits blatant disrespect for the society, government, official government symbols, constitution or governmental bodies of Russia.” In other words, Russia wants to ban criticism of Putin and his corrupt government, with experts telling the Washington Post that the updated law effectively removes the pesky legal system from what was already a fairly draconian system….

    • Florida College Asked Local Sheriff To Declare Faculty Member’s Artwork Obscene

      Cops may not know art, but they know what they don’t like. Blowing past the First Amendment to give their official opinion on art critical of law enforcement is never an acceptable “solution,” but it’s one that happens nonetheless.

      Last year, a high school decided it would rather demonstrate its subservience to local law enforcement than stand behind its students and their First Amendment rights. Photos of a painting of a cop in Ku Klux Klan hood pointing a gun at a black child appeared in the school newspaper. Instead of running the article, a teacher ran down to the cop shop to offer a profuse apology on behalf of “99.9% of the teachers at the school.” Returning to school with the aftertaste of boot polish still lingering in his mouth, he engaged a full-on tongue kiss with the town’s mayor, who offered his own profuse (and cowardly) apology to the offended police department.

      Now, as Sarah McLaughlin of FIRE reports, another institute of learning has decided the best approach to controversial artwork is to display its soft underbelly to law enforcement as quickly as possible. A faculty member’s artwork was deemed “controversial.” This is an unsurprising development. Controversy and artwork have enjoyed a long and healthy relationship for many, many years.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Trump administration requests nearly $86B for spy budget

      The Trump administration wants nearly $86 billion for its intelligence programs in fiscal 2020, a 6 percent jump from last year.

      Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats on Monday revealed that the administration wants $62.8 billion for its U.S. intelligence agencies, while the Pentagon released its $22.95 billion request for its military intelligence program (MIP).

      Details of the so-called black budget are secret, but the funds cover a range of expenses including spy planes and satellites, intelligence gathering through spies and informants, and cyber weapons.

      The higher request comes despite the fact that President Trump has had a contentious relationship with his intelligence agencies since taking office.

      Coats, CIA Director Gina Haspel and FBI Director Christopher Wray made headlines in January with their congressional testimony on global threats, in particular because their statements appeared to conflict with Trump’s policy agenda.

    • EFF Submits Consumer Data Privacy Comment to the California Attorney General

      The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) requires the California Attorney General to take input from the public on regulations to implement the law, which does not go into effect until 2020.

      The Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed comments on two issues: first, how to verify consumer requests to companies for access to personal information, and for deletion of that information; and second, how to make the process of opting out of the sale of data easy, using the framework already in place for the Do Not Track (DNT) system.

    • Here’s Why You Can’t Trust What Cops and Companies Claim About Automated License Plate Readers

      In response to an ACLU report on how law enforcement agencies share information collected by automated license plate readers (ALPRs) with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, officials have been quick to deny and obfuscate despite documentary evidence obtained directly from ICE itself through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit

      Let’s be clear: you can’t trust what ALPR company Vigilant Solutions and its clients says. It’s time for higher authorities to conduct an audit.

      Through years of research spanning California (and beyond), EFF has discovered that agencies that access ALPR data are often ignorant or noncompliant when it comes to the transparency and accountability requirements of state law. Furthermore, their agreements with the vendor Vigilant Solutions often include “non-disparagement” and “non-publication” clauses that contractually bind them to Vigilant Solutions’ “media messaging” and prevent agencies from speaking candidly with the press. Meanwhile, training materials created by Vigilant Solutions explicitly recommend that police leave ALPR out of its reports whenever possible.

    • Uber used spyware to surveil and poach drivers from Australian rival service Gocatch

      A senior source at Uber has confirmed to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Four Corners programme that Uber Australia illegally deployed an in-house piece of spyware called Surfcam in order to spy on drivers for a rival rideshare company called Gocatch; Uber was able to compile lists of drivers’ emails, car registration numbers and other details and it used these to poach Gocatch drivers and turn them into Uber drivers.

    • Only politicians get exemption from encryption law

      The Federal Government’s encryption law spreads its net far and wide in society, but exempts one class of person — politicians — from its tentacles, according to an analysis of the law by lawyer and consultant Matthew Shearing.

      “This Bill (which is now law) has a number of small but powerful provisions tucked away in its 220 pages – but none might raise more eyebrows than the provision regarding members of Parliament,” Shearing pointed out in his analysis which came to iTWire’s notice after InnovationAus editor James Riley mentioned it.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Attorneys and Reporters Interrogated at Border About Political Beliefs In ‘Outrageous’ Violation of Rights

      Rights advocates are issuing fresh warnings of intimidation and repressive tactics in the wake of new reporting about U.S. border patrol agents detaining and interrogating journalists and immigration lawyers, including questions about their political beliefs.

      NBC News reported Monday that at least one journalist and four immigration lawyers were stopped at Customs and Border Protection (CBP) stations near the border in Texas and Arizona in an apparent attempt to identify individuals in the area who oppose the Trump administration.

      [...]

      As Common Dreams reported last year, a change in the Immigration and Nationality Act more that 70 years ago resulted in a 100-mile zone near all U.S. borders—where 200 million people live—in which Americans officially do not have constitutional rights protecing them from warrantless searches and demands by CBP agents.

      The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly held up the rule over the objections of the ACLU and other rights groups. The ruling has resulted in incidents like Levy’s and Ruiz’s detentions, as well as those of a documentary filmmaker and two other lawyers.

      Esha Bhandari, an attorney with the ACLU, rejected the notion that the CBP can legally seize reporters’ and lawyers’ phones and detain them without cause within the 100-mile zone.

    • Among Questions Raised by Pompeo’s Faith-Based Only Press Call: ‘How Many Muslim Reporters Invited?’

      A secretive State Department briefing restricted to all but faith-based reporters is raising questions among reporters about access and press freedoms.

      On Monday evening, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a phone briefing for reporters from the religious press. Secular news agencies—including the main networks and newspapers—were not invited to participate in the call.

    • ICE Officers Forging Signatures, Deploying Pre-Signed Warrants To Detain Immigrants

      Oxley forged signatures of supervisors. Other ICE officers didn’t go that far. Many simply phoned up the supervisor who was supposed to be reviewing the warrants — you know, to ensure they were compliant with the Constitution — and then signed them on their behalf. In all the cases reviewed by CNN, no one was following the rules.

      The President claims the “crisis” at the southern border warrants a national emergency declaration. The job ICE does is, apparently, too important to be done correctly. The agency is cooking the books to make it appear as though the nation is overrun by dangerous immigrants. Simultaneously, ICE threw manpower and funding at creating a fake college so it could sweep up immigrants and visitors attempting to comply with the law.

      This warrant process that can barely be called a “process” is resulting in the illegal detention of immigrants who haven’t violated the law. The Fourth Amendment is supposed to limit government wrongdoing, but ICE officers appear to believe civil rights are inconveniences to be routed around. It wants to make the fun part of the job — rounding up people and detaining them — more efficient.

    • ACLU: The U.S. Is Acting Like an Authoritarian Regime by Barring ICC Officials Probing War Crimes

      The Trump administration has barred International Criminal Court investigators from entering the United States. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Friday that the U.S. will start denying visas to members of the ICC who may be investigating alleged war crimes by the U.S. military in Afghanistan. In September, national security adviser John Bolton threatened U.S. sanctions against ICC judges if they continued to investigate alleged war crimes committed by U.S. troops in Afghanistan. A 2016 ICC report accused the U.S. military of torturing at least 61 prisoners in Afghanistan during the ongoing war. The report also accused the CIA of subjecting at least 27 prisoners to torture, including rape, at CIA prison sites in Afghanistan, Poland, Romania and Lithuania. We speak with Jamil Dakwar, director of the Human Rights Program at the American Civil Liberties Union.

    • Facebook Revamps Its Ad-Targeting System To Stop Discrimination

      Facebook has been under users’ scrutiny for various reasons; one of them is discrimination caused by the ads on the platform. To curb this, the social networking site is revamping its ad-targeting system for housing, employment and credit ads.

      The new ad-targeting system will no longer discriminate against users on the basis of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion.

    • Facebook Changes Its Ad Tech to Stop Discrimination

      The settlement resolves five separate cases that had been brought against Facebook over discriminatory advertising since 2016, following a ProPublica investigation that revealed Facebook let advertisers choose to hide their ads from black, Hispanic, or people of other “ethnic affinities.” Lawsuits soon followed. The most recent case was an EEOC complaint by the American Civil Liberties Union in September, alleging that Facebook allowed job ads to discriminate against women.

    • Facebook Settles Suits Over Ad-Targeting Discrimination

      Facebook settled five lawsuits alleging that its advertising systems enabled discrimination in housing, credit and employment ads. For the social network, that’s one major legal problem down, several to go, including government investigations in the U.S. and Europe over its data and privacy practices.

      As part of that settlement, Facebook says it will overhaul ad targeting for housing, credit and employment ads so they can’t be used to discriminate on the basis of race and ethnicity, gender and other legally protected categories in the U.S., including national origin and sexual orientation. The social media company is also paying about $5 million to cover legal fees and other costs.

      Facebook and the plaintiffs — a group including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Fair Housing Alliance and others —called the settlement “historic.” It took 18 months to hammer out. The company still faces an administrative complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in August over the housing ads issue.

    • Facebook Won’t Let Employers, Landlords or Lenders Discriminate in Ads Anymore

      Facebook advertisers can no longer target users by age, gender and ZIP code for housing, employment and credit offers, the company announced Tuesday as part of a major settlement with civil rights organizations.

      The wide-ranging agreement follows reporting by ProPublica since 2016 that found Facebook let advertisers exclude users by race and other categories that are protected by federal law. It is illegal for housing, job and credit advertisers to discriminate against protected groups.

      ProPublica had been able to buy housing-related ads on Facebook that excluded groups such as African Americans and Jews, and it previously found job ads excluding users by age and gender placed by companies that are household names, like Uber and Verizon Wireless.

    • Facebook Settles Civil Rights Cases by Making Sweeping Changes to Its Online Ad Platform

      The ACLU expects other social media and advertising platforms to follow suit in recognizing that civil rights laws apply online.

      The ACLU, along with our client Communications Workers of America and other civil rights groups, announced a historic settlement agreement with Facebook that will result in major changes to Facebook’s advertising platform. Advertisers will no longer be able to exclude users from learning about opportunities for housing, employment, or credit based on gender, age, or other protected characteristics.

      This policy change follows years of work by civil rights advocates — including a legal challenge from the ACLU, the Communications Workers of America, and the civil rights law firm Outten & Golden LLP. In September, we collectively filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of CWA and individual job seekers against Facebook and a number of companies that targeted certain ads for jobs to younger male Facebook users. These charges joined other litigation asserting race discrimination in job, housing, and credit ads and age discrimination in job ads.

      Most Facebook users were likely not even aware that this type of exclusionary ad targeting was happening. Some 30 years into the digitization of our daily lives, we’re still coming to grips with the fact that the vast trove of data we hand over with each and every “like,” search, post, or click — often without our knowledge or consent — will be used to target advertisements to us.

      This kind of data mining is ubiquitous on Facebook, which attracts advertisers by touting its targeting tool’s power to show users only the ads Facebook or advertisers think they’d be interested in, based on how individualized data describes them. But there’s a discriminatory flip side to this practice. Ad-targeting platforms can be used to exclude users on the basis of race, gender, or age as well as interests or groups that can serve as proxies for those categories (think “soccer moms” or “Kwanzaa celebrators”).

    • Following protests against migrant workers in Yakutsk, dozens of bus drivers stay home from work and kiosk vendors are told to shut down for their own safety

      In Yakutsk, where protests against migrant workers have continued for the past two days, between 80 and 90 buses didn’t run their routes on March 19. According to Andrey Sharygin, the director of Yakutsk’s Unified Dispatch Service, most of the drivers are foreigners.

      “With just 420–430 buses in total, this hits us pretty hard. Right now, we’re trying to figure out what happened. The drivers are reporting technical issues, and some say they fear for their safety,” Sharygin told the website SakhaDay, adding that crew foremen and route directors are covering for many missing drivers.

      Sergey Maximov, the head of the public utility “Yakut Passenger Trucking Company,” confirmed to Ykt.ru that roughly 80 buses missed their routes on the morning of March 19. By midday, he says, about 40 lines were still out of service. “I emphasize that this is happening only with commercial public transportation. All our shuttle vans are on schedule,” Maximov told the news agency Interfax, adding that some drivers stayed home on Tuesday because they “fear reprisals.”

    • ‘Terrible News’: US Supreme Court Rules for Indefinite Detention of Immigrants

      A Supreme Court ruling Tuesday stating undocumented immigrants with criminal records can be detained indefinitely by U.S. authorities at any time after an initial arrest—even years later—generated outrage and disappointment from advocacy groups around the country.

      The case, Nielsen v. Preap, was decided by a majority of 5-4. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) brought the suit against Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to the Supreme Court in October 2018.

      The case rested on whether or not the government can detain immigrants convicted of crimes at any time after their sentences and for any amount of time.

      A law passed by Congress in 1996 allowed for the detention of undocumented immigrants after their sentence was served, but that law had largely, until now, been interpreted as only applying immediately after sentencing. Tuesday’s ruling means that application parameter no longer exists.

      “For two terms in a row now, the Supreme Court has endorsed the most extreme interpretation of immigration detention statutes, allowing mass incarceration of people without any hearing, simply because they are defending themselves against a deportation charge,” Cecilia Wang, ACLU deputy legal director, said in a statement. “We will continue to fight the gross overuse of detention in the immigration system.”

    • The Trump Administration Is Detaining Migrant Children in Clandestine Shelters

      The federal government is relying on secret shelters to hold unaccompanied minors, in possible violation of the long-standing rules for the care of immigrant children, a Reveal investigation has found.

      The Office of Refugee Resettlement, the government agency that cares for unaccompanied minors, has never made the shelters’ existence public or even disclosed them to the minors’ own attorneys in a landmark class-action case.

      It remains unclear how many total sites are under operation, but there are at least five in Arkansas, Florida, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Virginia, holding at least 16 boys and girls for the refugee agency, some as young as 9 years old.

      Minors being held at the clandestine facilities initially were placed at known shelters around the country but later were transferred to these off-the-books facilities that specialize in providing for youth with mental health and behavioral challenges.

      The refugee agency’s standards for transferring youth in its care state that the agency “makes every effort to place children and youth within the ORR funded care provider network,” but makes room for out-of-network transfers, adding that “there may be instances when ORR determines there is no care provider available within the network to provide specialized services needed for special needs cases. In those cases, ORR will consider an alternative placement.”

    • Officer’s Body Cam Fails To Capture Footage Of Woman Shooting Herself In The Head While Her Hands Were Cuffed Behind Her

      The police department has 356 cameras and deploys “40-60 per shift.” The department has 525 officers so it seems the odds were in favor of there being multiple cameras on the scene. But the only footage recorded didn’t capture the incident. Multiple police cruisers were on the scene, but the Chesapeake PD decided to eliminate dash cams when it acquired body cameras, removing one more impartial witness.

      With the official word from the state, the Chesapeake PD closes the book on an extremely dubious “suicide.” Whether this is just a bunch of lies or some very terrible police work, the end result is the same: someone in handcuffs ended up dead. The odds that this person decided to escalate a traffic stop to a successful suicide attempt are incredibly low. Something fucked up happened that afternoon and the police department hasn’t even attempted to explain how something like this might have happened. Since the medical examiner has spoken, the Chesapeake PD has decided it’s no longer obligated to provide an explanation.

    • Black Sites for Kids: Rights Advocates Outraged Over Child Immigrants Being Held at ‘Off-the-Books’ Detention Facilities

      Immigrant rights advocates were horrified Tuesday by a new report which confirmed that the Trump administration is sending some immigrant children to clandestine facilities that are not known to their families and lawyers and are not equipped to provide care to vulnerable minors.

      An investigation by Reveal on Monday showed that at least 16 young immigrants—as young as nine years old and in need of mental or behavioral health treatment—have been sent by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to “off-the-books” facilities outside the network of federally-funded detention centers. The administration is housing immigrant children with an even greater degree of secrecy than was previously known, in violation of U.S. law.

    • Christian Charity Gave Over $50 Million to Hate Groups, Report Reveals

      The National Christian Foundation is America’s eighth largest public charity, but it doesn’t build houses, educate children, feed the hungry, or provide other goods or services one might commonly associate with a charity. It’s also not a household name like the Red Cross, but that doesn’t prevent it from having vast influence. According to a new investigation from Sludge, the far-right, evangelical NCF “has donated $56.1 million on behalf of its clients to 23 nonprofits identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as hate groups.”

      These nonprofits include multiple anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant hate groups. In fact, as reporter Alex Kotch points out, Inside Philanthropy has said that NCF “is probably the single biggest source of money fueling the pro-life and anti-LGBT movements over the past 15 years.”

      In addition to not being a direct service charity, the NCF is also not a conventional foundation that a wealthy donor uses as a vehicle to grow and then give away their money to multiple other charities over time. Instead, it’s a donor-advised fund, offering its Christian donors “expert guidance and creative giving solutions,” Kotch writes.

    • What Republicans and Billionaires Really Mean When They Talk About ‘Freedom’

      America is having a heated debate about the meaning of the word socialism. We’d be better served if, instead, we were debating the meaning of freedom.

      The Oregonian reported last week that fully 156,000 families are on the edge of homelessness in our small-population state. Every one of those households is now paying more than 50 percent of its monthly income on rent, and none of them has any savings; one medical bill, major car repair or job loss, and they’re on the streets.

      While socialism may or may not solve their problem, the more pressing issue we have is an entire political party and a huge sector of the billionaire class who see homelessness not as a problem, but as a symptom of a “free” society.

    • Lady Liberty Gets Probation

      After Trump put people in cages, Okoumou said of her action, “I had had enough. We have gone so low as a country I had to climb as high as I could to raise consciousness.”

    • Police in Yakutia detain several people for acts against migrant workers, following a rape case that has put the region on edge

      Police in Yakutsk detained the organizer of an unscheduled protest on March 17 against migrant workers, after he used instant messengers to invite others to join his demonstration. A court later fined the man 20,000 rubles ($310) for organizing and staging the event without advance notice.

      [...]

      The region’s police department denies rumors that three men from Central Asia were recently murdered in Yakutsk, as well as claims that 20 migrant workers were attacked and hospitalized.

      Demonstrations against migrant workers started in Yakutsk after a Kyrgyz man was charged with kidnapping and raping a local woman. On March 17, roughly 200 people attended an unplanned protest in the city. The next day, the city’s mayor and the region’s governor hosted roughly 6,000 people for a town hall meeting, where they promised to crack down on illegal migrant workers, relying in part on massive police sweeps of local businesses.

    • Border Patrol and ICE Routinely Violate Immigrants’ Religious Rights

      Seizing rosaries, forbidding turbans, and serving pork sandwiches to Muslims are just some of the reasons we’re demanding an investigation.
      One pork sandwich every eight hours for six straight days. That’s the only food that Border Patrol provided to Adnan Asif Parveen, a Muslim immigrant who was detained in South Texas in January because his work permit had expired and was pending renewal. Mr. Parveen reportedly informed officials that his religion forbids him from eating pork, but they didn’t care. All he could eat were the slices of bread from the sandwich.

      Mr. Parveen’s experience was not an isolated incident. While President Trump and his administration have repeatedly proclaimed their commitment to religious liberty, in practice, this has only translated to religious freedom for some. Detained immigrants are apparently not among them. Detained immigrants from various faiths — Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, and Christians — have reported incidents in which Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement brazenly violate their religious-freedom rights.

      Take, for instance, Border Patrol’s treatment of Christians. Despite the agency’s “Religious Sensitivity” policy, which directs officers and agents to “remain cognizant of an individual’s religious beliefs while accomplishing an enforcement action in a dignified and respectful manner,” officials have seized rosaries from Catholic immigrants. One janitor found so many rosaries discarded by Border Patrol officials that he was able to create and photograph an entire collection of them. Immigrants have had their Bibles confiscated at the border, including Catholic and Seventh Day Adventist men represented in a lawsuit filed last year by the ACLU.

    • Lawmakers in Colorado Should Abolish the Death Penalty

      The death penalty is a broken tool riddled with bias that must be abandoned. A new bill in Colorado can do just that.
      In July 2012, Coloradans were devastated by the now-infamous murder of 12 moviegoers in the town of Aurora. Despite the trauma and grief that crime caused, a local jury three years later refused the prosecutor’s request to impose the death sentence against the convicted perpetrator. At the time, The Denver Post observed, “The death penalty in Colorado has effectively expired. And it didn’t happen because of bleeding-heart lawmakers or activist judges. It happened because juries themselves wanted no part of it.”

      Coloradans turned their back on the death penalty in one of the state’s darkest hours this century. They were right to do so. Now, with a new bill, the state has the chance to abolish the practice once and for all.

      The problems with the death penalty are well known and damning. The practice is irreparably biased; it delays justice for victims’ families and draws out their suffering; and it devours millions of law enforcement dollars that would be better invested where they could actually protect the public — which the death penalty does not. The death penalty is so broken that even law enforcement officials have little faith in it.

    • Leader of Russia’s notorious Tambov gang sentenced to 24 years total for murder and organizing a criminal group

      A St. Petersburg court has sentenced Vladimir Barsukov, born Vladimir Kumarin, to 12 years in a high-security prison for founding a criminal society. Barsukov is known as a leader of the so-called Tambov gang, which rose to be one of the most notorious criminal organizations in Russia beginning in the late 1990s. The gang leader had previously been sentenced to 23 years for murder and will spend a total of 24 years behind bars. His accomplice Vyacheslav Drokov received an identical sentence for founding a criminal society and will spend 21 years in a prison colony overall. The sentences come amid an effort on the part of the Putin administration and the State Duma to make holding leadership positions in criminal groups a crime in its own right even for non-founders.

    • Federal Judge Tosses Cops’ Lawsuit Against A Councilmember Who Said The Police Dept. Had Committed Murder

      A federal judge in Washington just reminded two Seattle police officers that a politician saying unkind things about law enforcement is not defamation.

      [...]

      The lawsuit is done. Dismissed with prejudice. These cops paid for the chance to learn that people saying unkind things is not actually defamation, especially when the person saying these things never names names. Thanks to this stupid lawsuit, Seattle taxpayers will be doubling up paying for these officers’ actions. First, they paid for the city’s defense of Councilmember Sawant’s non-defamatory statements. They’ll be asked to foot the bill again in the near future to defend these officers from a lawsuit brought by the family of the man they killed.

    • The Roots of Police Violence in Chicago: How Cops Have Targeted Communities of Color for Decades

      We look at the long history of police brutality against Latinos in Chicago. Latinos, especially immigrants, have faced police violence and killings for decades, and have a long history of fighting back against brutality through community organizing and activism. But their stories have received little news coverage. We speak with Lilia Fernández, a professor of history and Latino studies at Rutgers University and the author of “Brown in the Windy City: Mexicans and Puerto Ricans in Postwar Chicago.” We also speak with Flint Taylor, an attorney with People’s Law Office and author of “The Torture Machine: Racism and Police Violence in Chicago.”

    • Kamala Harris’ Record as Tough-On-Crime Prosecutor Far From Progressive – Documentary Report

      Democrat and presidential hopeful Kamala Harris says she supports a Sanders-style progressive agenda, but given her record as AG of California, can she be trusted to enact it if elected?

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • How the Chaos of Studying Subatomic Particles Inspired the Creation of the Web

      30 years ago this month, Tim Berners-Lee penned his original proposal for what would become the World Wide Web.

    • For Africa, Chinese-Built Internet Is Better Than No Internet at All

      The Chinese telecommunications company Huawei has made huge inroads in Africa in recent years even as the United States urges its allies around the world to avoid working with the firm over cybersecurity concerns.

      Huawei has built about 70 percent of the continent’s 4G networks, vastly outpacing European rivals, according to Cobus van Staden, a senior China-Africa researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs. The construction is often accompanied by loans from Chinese state banks, which are approved faster and with fewer conditions than loans from international institutions.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Natural Alternatives International, Inc. v. Creative Compounds, LLC (Fed. Cir. 2019)

      Last week, in Natural Alternatives International, Inc. v. Creative Compounds, LLC, the Federal Circuit reversed and remanded a decision by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California granting a motion for judgment on the pleadings filed by Creative Compounds, LLC that the asserted claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 5,965,596, 7,825,084, 7,504,376, 8,993,610, 8,470,865, and RE45,947 are not patent eligible. In reversing the District Court, the Federal Circuit found that Creative Compounds had failed to demonstrate that the asserted claims were not patent eligible in view of Natural Alternatives’ proposed claim constructions.

      The patents at issue, which are owned by Natural Alternatives International, Inc., relate to dietary supplements containing beta-alanine. Beta-alanine is an amino acid, which together with the amino acid histidine, can form dipeptides that are found in muscles, which in turn are involved in the regulation of intracellular pH during muscle contraction and development of fatigue. Variations in dipeptide concentrations affect the anaerobic work capacity of individual athletes. The asserted claims relate to the use of beta-alanine in a dietary supplement to increase the anaerobic working capacity of muscle and other tissue.

      Natural Alternatives has asserted the patents at issue in multiple suits in the Southern District, including against Creative Compounds. Creative Compounds responded by moving for judgment on the pleadings, which the District Court granted. The District Court determined that all of the asserted claims were directed to patent ineligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101 and lacked an inventive concept sufficient to render the claims patent eligible. Although the District Court indicated that it had accepted Natural Alternatives’ proposed claim constructions in performing its eligibility analysis, the Federal Circuit, applying those same proposed claim constructions, determined that “the complaint’s factual allegations, together with all reasonable inferences, plausibly establish the eligibility of the representative claims.”

    • Symantec Corp. v. Zscaler, Inc. (N.D. Cal. 2018)

      In a suit by Plaintiff Symantec Corp. (“Symantec”) against Defendant Zscaler, Inc. (“Zscaler”), Symantec alleged that Zscaler’s cloud-based security products infringe seven of Symantec’s patents. Zscaler moved to dismiss infringement claims for four of the patents, U.S. Patent Nos. 6,285,658 (the ’658 patent), 7,587,488 (the ’488 patent), 8,316,446 (the ’446 patent), and 8,316,429 (the ’429 patent), on grounds that the claims of the patents are directed to patent-ineligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101. Earlier this month, Judge Jon S. Tigar of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted the motion in part, denied the motion in part as moot, and held the remainder of the motion in abeyance pending briefing on Symantec’s assertion of assignor estoppel.

      The ’658 patent claims relate to a system for managing network bandwidth based on data contained in packets flowing in various Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) protocol layers (e.g., network layer, transport layer, and application layer). The ’488 patent claims relate to filtering and dynamically rating Internet content. The ’446 patent claims relate to a system for blocking unwanted software downloads. And the ’429 patent claims relate to extracting and categorizing encrypted Internet communications between clients and hosts servers without having to decrypt network traffic between those clients and host servers.

      During pendency of the motion to dismiss, the parties stipulated to dismiss the infringement claims with respect to the ’658 patent with prejudice, and thus the Court denied the motion with respect to the ’658 patent as moot. The Court also holds the motion in abeyance with respect to the ’446 and ’429 patents until the parties’ cross-motions for partial summary judgement on the basis of assignor estoppel are resolved. Additionally, the Court noted that it would not consider the motion with respect to the ’429 patent because the PTAB recently instituted inter partes review of the asserted claims of that patent.

    • Google Patents now includes Unified PTAB and District Court litigation data

      This collaboration incorporates all PTAB and district court litigation from Unified’s Portal and its new BigQuery deployment into the events area of Google’s patent search for any patent which has been in dispute. Unified is only entity providing completely free, public accessibility to this information. For example, a Dominion Harbor Patent US6014089 was recently found mostly invalid and the PTAB information can be seen in the events section.

    • Unified files IPR against US 9,014,494 owned by Velos Media, LLC

      On March 18, 2019, Unified filed a petition (with Baker Botts serving as lead counsel) for inter partes review (IPR) against U.S. Patent No. 9,014,494, owned by Velos Media, LLC (Velos), as part of Unified’s ongoing efforts in its SEP Video Codec Zone.

      The ’494 patent and its corresponding extended patent family is one of the largest families known to be owned by Velos. Including this petition, Unified has now challenged patents representing 29% of Velos’ total known U.S. assets.

    • Patent case: Final term to claim patent infringement in arbitration against generic applicants,Portugal

      The Constitutional Court held that the 30-day period to initiate mandatory arbitration proceedings against applicants for authorization to introduce generic medicines onto the market is a final (or expiration) term.

    • Physical-Realm: The Federal Circuit’s New Machine-or-Transformation

      Note here, that the court did not give itself Bilski-style wiggle-room by suggesting that its physical-realm identity offered a “clue” to eligibility. Rather, the court held that the invention was not in the physical-realm (other than its use of computers) and therefore was abstract. Now, to be clear, I believe that the InvestPic decision could be interpreted a different way. However, the easiest reading of the case is that the court meant what it said – the claim is directed either to something abstract or something physical.

    • Copyrights

      • More than 130 European businesses tell the European Parliament: Reject the #CopyrightDirective

        The EU’s Copyright Directive will be voted on in the week of March 25 (our sources suggest the vote will take place on March 27th, but that could change); the Directive has been controversial all along, but it took a turn for the catastrophic during the late stages of the negotiation, which yielded a final text that is alarming in its potential consequences for all internet activity in Europe and around the world.

        More than 5,000,000 Europeans have signed a petition against Article 13 of the Directive, and there has been outcry from eminent technical experts, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on free expression, and many other quarters.

        Now, a coalition of more than 130 EU businesses have entered the fray, led by file storage service NextCloud. Their letter to the European Parliament calls Article 13—which will lead to mass adoption of copyright filters for online services that will monitor and block user-submitted text, audio, video and images—a “dangerous experiment with the core foundation of the Internet’s ecosystem.” They also condemn Article 11, which will allow news publishers to decide who can quote and link to news stories and charge for the right to do so.

        Importantly, they identify a key risk of the Directive, which is that it will end up advantaging US Big Tech firms that can afford monitoring duties, and that will collect “massive amounts of data” sent by Europeans.

        March 21st is an EU-wide day of action on the Copyright Directive, with large site blackouts planned (including German Wikipedia), and on March 23, there will be mass demonstrations across the EU. Things are getting down to the wire here, folks.

      • Europe-wide street protests to take place Saturday against Article 13 of EU copyright reform bill (I’ll speak at the Munich demonstration)

        Tomorrow (Thursday, March 21), the Conference of Presidents (= political group leaders) of the European Parliament will set the schedule for next week’s Strasbourg plenary session, with the plenary debate on the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (“EU Copyright Directive”) most likely to take place on Tuesday (March 26) and the vote later that day or the next day. In light of various developments, most notably a position paper by the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) of Germany (= Merkel’s party) on the subsequent transposition of the EU directive into German law, I’m convinced the best and smartest thing to do for the Parliament, its largest parties and even for the EU as a whole would be to postpone the vote into the next legislative term. Certain discontinuity effects would be felt, with hundreds of new MEPs on board, but even the burdensome implications of a postponement would be preferable over a situation in which the important final two months of this year’s EU election campaign would be overshadowed by public outrage over a rubberstamping of, above all, the ill-conceived Article 13.

        But normally the vote will take place next week, and then the best thing to do would be for a majority of MEPs to vote to delete Article 13 so the process can continue. In fact, the EU Council (where the governments of the Member States cast their votes) could adopt the bill without Article 13. A new legislative process for Article 13 would be warranted. It’s not just “one little article.” Even by the narrowest definition, we’re talking about 1,200 English words, making it almost as long as the Declaration of Independence–but if you include the directly-related Article 2 and, especially, the Article-13-specific recitals 37 and 38, the total length is at a level with the original (prior to amendments) U.S. Constitution.

      • Will Copyright Directive Destroy the Open Internet?

        The participants are founder of Wikipedia Jimmy Wales, Executive Director of Estonian Human Rights Centre Kari Käsper, member of Czech Pirate Party Marcel Kolaja, Google Public Policy and Government Relations Manager Milan Zubíček, UN Special Rapporteur David Kaye and MEP Yana Toom. Moderator is Ahto Lobjakas, political analyst, columnist and radio host.

        The internet is a platform for information: it does not differentiate between “good” and “bad” and both spread at an equally fast rate. Recently there have been more calls to control content online. To ensure that creators are paid for their content online and stop exploitation by big tech companies the use of technologies is proposed. This is at stake in the Copyright Directive, a controversial law which soon will be voted in the European Parliament.

        Ahead of the vote, MEP Yana Toom is organizing a conference with experts and stakeholders to discuss what the implications of this law are. As the Directive promises to pay creators more, but there are concerns about the impact on freedom of speech. Furthermore, many claim that the law will destroy the open internet as we know it: banning memes, snippets of news and create obstacles for online creativity through upload filtering.

      • Is Transformative Use Eating the World?

        Fair use is copyright law’s most important defense to claims of copyright infringement. This defense allows courts to relax copyright law’s application when courts believe doing so will promote creativity more than harm it. As the Supreme Court has said, without the fair use defense, copyright law would often “stifle the very creativity [it] is designed to foster.”

        In today’s world, whether use of a copyrighted work is “transformative” has become a central question within the fair use test. The U.S. Supreme Court first endorsed the transformative use term in its 1994 Campbell decision. Since then, lower courts have increasingly made use of the transformative use doctrine in fair use case law. In fact, in response to the transformative use doctrine’s seeming hegemony, commentators and some courts have recently called for a scaling back of the transformative use concept. So far, the Supreme Court has yet to respond. But growing divergences in transformative use approaches may eventually attract its attention.

        But what is the actual state of the transformative use doctrine? Some previous scholars have empirically examined the fair use defense, including the transformative use doctrine’s role in fair use case law. But none has focused specifically on empirically assessing the transformative use doctrine in as much depth as is warranted. This Article does so by collecting a number of data from all district and appellate court fair use opinions between 1991, when the transformative use term first made its appearance in the case law, and 2017. These data include how frequently courts apply the doctrine, how often they deem a use transformative, and win rates for transformative users. The data also cover which types of uses courts are most likely to find transformative, what sources courts rely on in defining and applying the doctrine, and how frequently the transformative use doctrine bleeds into and influences other parts of the fair use test. Overall, the data suggest that the transformative use doctrine is, in fact, eating the world of fair use.

      • The Rise and Rise of Transformative Use

        I’m a big fan of transformative use analysis in fair use law, except when I’m not. I think that it is a helpful guide for determining if the type of use is one that we’d like to allow. But I also think that it can be overused – especially when it is applied to a different message but little else.

        The big question is whether transformative use is used too much…or not enough. Clark Asay (BYU) has done the research on this so you don’t have to. In his forthcoming article in Boston College Law Review called, Is Transformative Use Eating the World?, Asay collects and analyzes 400+ fair use decisions since 1991

      • Internet Blackout Coming To Show The EU Parliament It’s Not Just ‘Bots’ Concerned About Article 13

        Last week Glyn mentioned that the German Wikipedia had announced plans to “go dark” this Thursday to protest Articles 11 and 13 of the EU Copyright Directive. And now it appears that a whole bunch of other websites will join in the protest (including us). While we won’t go completely dark, we’ll be putting up a banner in support of the many websites that do plan to go dark — and we’ve heard that an awful lot of websites will be joining in. Supporters keep trying to dismiss these complaints as just being “bots” or the big internet companies, but lots of others will be showing that this is about the broader internet this Thursday. This is just one of many protests happening this week, with in-person protests happening all through the EU this coming weekend as well.

      • Report: In Bollywood, Movie Piracy Is Largely Carried Out By Rival Publishing Houses

        To hear it from the film industry writ large, a certain picture is painted in one’s head when film piracy is discussed. That image is of a person, typically young, perhaps living in Mom and Dad’s basement and covered in Cheetos dust, illicitly downloading film after film for their personal enjoyment, cackling evilly all the while. And, hey, personal downloading that amounts to infringement is certainly a thing.

        But it’s not the only thing. In India, where Bollywood has often put out the same old story about the evils of piracy, and where the government recently ramped up criminal penalties for recording or transmitting films and audio, one newspaper has comments from within the industry that suggest much of the film piracy in question is specifically enabled by rival publishing houses.

      • The European Copyright Directive: What Is It, and Why Has It Drawn More Controversy Than Any Other Directive In EU History?

        Not really. It’s true that filters—and even human moderators—would struggle to figure out when a meme crosses the line from “fair dealing” (a suite of European exceptions to copyright for things like parody, criticism and commentary) into infringement, but “save the memes” is mostly a catchy way of talking about all the things that filters struggle to cope with, especially incidental use. If your kid takes her first steps in your living room while music is playing in the background, the “incidental” sound could trigger a filter, meaning you couldn’t share an important family moment with your loved ones around the world. Or if a news photographer takes a picture of police violence at a demonstration, or the aftermath of a terrorist attack, and that picture captures a bus-ad with a copyrighted stock-photo, that incidental image might be enough to trigger a filter and block this incredibly newsworthy image in the days (or even weeks) following an event, while the photographer waits for a low-paid, overworked moderator at a big platform to review their appeal. It also affects independent creators whose content is used by established rightsholders. Current filters frequently block original content, uploaded by the original creator, because a news service or aggregator subsequently used that content, and then asserted copyright over it. (Funny story: MEP Axel Voss claimed that AI can distinguish memes from copyright infringement on the basis that a Google image search for “memes” displays a bunch of memes)

      • CC Search: A New Vision, Strategy & Roadmap for 2019

        At A Grand Re-Opening of the Public Domain at the Internet Archive, I teased a new product vision for CC Search that gets more specific than our ultimate goal of providing access to all 1.4 billion CC licensed and public domain works on the web. I’m pleased to present that refined vision, which is focused on building a product that promotes not just discovery, but reuse of openly-licensed and public domain works. We want your feedback in making it a reality. What kinds of images do you most need and desire to reuse when creating your own works? Along that vein, what organizational collections would you like to see us prioritizing for inclusion? Where can we make the biggest difference for you and your fellow creators?

      • YouTuber “Golden Modz” Settles Lawsuit Over Fortnite Cheats

        The popular game YouTuber “Golden Modz” has admitted to posting copyright-infringing videos that displayed Fortnite cheats and hacks. Brandon Lucas, owner of the channel, agreed to an undisclosed settlement and a permanent injunction that prevents him from promoting Fortnite cheats going forward. The “Golden Modz” channel remains online and appears to have switched focus to GTA V.

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