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03.23.19

Links 23/3/2019: Falkon 3.1.0 and Tails 3.13.1

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

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Desktop

    • From Trusty to Bionic – my Ultrabook story

      I am happy with how the upgrade went, given that I’ve actually bumped the system two major releases. Apart from small issues, there was nothing cardinal in the move. No data loss, no complications, no crashes. All my stuff remains intact, and so does Windows 8, living happily together and sharing the disk with Ubuntu. Mission accomplished.

      But we ain’t done. I need to make the system as usable as possible. Which means Unity testing – and Plasma testing, of course, duh! Indeed, this remains a productivity box, and as such, it must fulfill some very stringent requirements. It must be stable, fast and elegant. It must work with me every step of the way, and it must allow me to transparently and seamlessly use various programs that I need. On this particular machine, that would be video editing with Kdenlive, that would be image processing with GIMP, the use of encryption and VPN tools, tons of writing on the superbly ergonomic Asus keyboard. But all that and more – coming soon.

      For now, thank you Trusty for five sweet, loyal years. May you ReST in ethernet peace.

  • Server

    • New features in OpenStack Neutron

      OpenStack is the open source cloud infrastructure software project that provides compute, storage, and networking services for bare-metal, container, and VM workloads. To get a sense of the core functionality and additional services, check out the OpenStack map.
      The platform has a modular architecture that works across industry segments because infrastructure operators can choose the components they need to manage their infrastructure in the way that best supports their application workloads. The modules are also pluggable to provide further flexibility and make sure they can be used with a specific storage backend or software-defined networking (SDN) controller.

      Neutron is an OpenStack project to provide a de-facto standard REST API to manage and configure networking services and make them available to other components such as Nova.

    • Kubernetes End-to-end Testing for Everyone

      More and more components that used to be part of Kubernetes are now being developed outside of Kubernetes. For example, storage drivers used to be compiled into Kubernetes binaries, then were moved into stand-alone Flexvolume binaries on the host, and now are delivered as Container Storage Interface (CSI) drivers that get deployed in pods inside the Kubernetes cluster itself.

      This poses a challenge for developers who work on such components: how can end-to-end (E2E) testing on a Kubernetes cluster be done for such external components? The E2E framework that is used for testing Kubernetes itself has all the necessary functionality. However, trying to use it outside of Kubernetes was difficult and only possible by carefully selecting the right versions of a large number of dependencies. E2E testing has become a lot simpler in Kubernetes 1.13.

    • Why Docker Containers Matter, 6 Years After the Project First Started

      Docker, the eponymous name of the container technology and the company behind it, celebrated its six-year anniversary on March 20. From its earliest days, even as just a 1-year-old effort back in 2014, there was no shortage of optimism and excitement about Docker. With the Docker model, applications are more portable and run inside of containers, which are isolated instances that provide a more agile approach for development and deployment. Docker also introduced the “dockerfile” packaging format, which defines how a container image should be built.

      The container model that Docker first introduced has evolved over the past six years and is now the cornerstone of the broader cloud-native space, which includes the open-source Kubernetes container orchestration system. In this eWEEK Data Points article, we look at some of the key facts about Docker and the cloud-native revolution it has inspired.

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux Foundation

      • DataPractices.org joins the Linux Foundation for data teamwork

        The Linux Foundation will now host DataPractices.org as one of its projects.

        DataPractices.org was initially created by data.world as a “Manifesto for Data Practices.” It was meant to include the values and principles that enable effective, modern, and ethical approaches to data teamwork.

        As part of the Linux Foundation, DataPractices.org will create a vendor-neutral community that can keep establishing best practices and increase the amount of data knowledge in the ecosystem.

    • Graphics Stack

      • vkOpenArena: The ioquake3-Powered OpenArena Game Gets Ported To Vulkan

        OpenArena, one of the most well known open-source games built atop the ioquake3 engine of what started out as id Tech 3, has now seen an independent port to the Vulkan graphics API.

        The vkOpenArena game now marks the latest vintage game seeing a port to Vulkan. Independent developer Sui Jingfeng has been working on vkOpenArena as a port of the OpenArena engine over to using the Vulkan graphics API rather than Vulkan.

      • AMDVLK Has A Small Weekly Code Push For GDC 2019 Week

        With many AMD driver developers being over in San Francisco for the Game Developers Conference, this week AMDVLK saw rather small changes for this open-source AMD Vulkan Linux driver.

      • More AMD FreeSync Patches Likely Coming To Linux 5.2

        While the Linux 5.0 kernel brought initial support for the long-awaited open-source FreeSync implementation, the Linux 5.2 kernel coming out this summer will likely have additional improvements.

        Open-source developer Mario Kleiner has been working on a set of patches this month for enabling proper vblank and page-flip time-stamping when in the FreeSync/VRR (Variable Rate Refresh) mode. This work makes the vblank timestamps as accurate as in the fixed refresh rate behavior.

      • Primus-VK: PRIME-Style GPU Offloading For Vulkan

        For those with a PRIME style notebook or just making use of dual/multiple graphics processors in your system, Primus-VK allows for using a secondary/dedicated GPU for rendering while driving the display from the alternative (often integrated graphics) GPU. Primus-VK is implemented as a Vulkan layer as a clean approach for dealing with multiple GPUs in a Vulkan world.

        Primus-VK pursues Vulkan GPU offloading by implementing this logic as a Vulkan layer for handling the rendering on one GPU and then when it comes to display-time it copies the image over to the integrated/primary GPU. This layer can be installed per-user or system-wide and has been tested on the likes of Debian. ENABLE_OPTIMUS_LAYER=1 is the environment variable used for activating the behavior. Primus-VK has also been tested with Windows games under Wine.

      • NVIDIA Releases Nsight Graphics 2019.2 With Vulkan Profiling Support

        Released for GDC/GTC week was Nsight Graphics 2019.2, the proprietary cross-platform, closed-source utility tool for debugging, profiling, and analyzing Direct3D, OpenGL, and other GPU-accelerated APIs.

        With this week’s Nsight Graphics 2019.2 release they finally have added Vulkan profiling support. This support allows inspecting GPU performance metrics under Vulkan workloads within the program’s Range Profiler. Other new additions include improvements for running Steam games on Linux, a feedback button, and enhancements to the accelerated structure viewer and API inspector.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • Ghana’s ‘Queen Fishmongers’ Face an Uncertain Future

      In Ghana’s fishing industry, women process and sell the fish caught by men. A “queen” fishmonger — known as the “Konkohemaa” — holds court as the most powerful woman in a fishing community. Elected by family heads, she draws on centuries of tradition and years of experience. When the boats land, she is the one who bargains with the fishermen, mediates conflicts over pricing and processing, and serves as the mouthpiece for local women involved in the industry.

      This tradition is now under threat. A growing number of industrial trawlers and illegal fishing operations are rapidly depleting fish stocks, making life harder for local fishers and fishmongers. Oil exploration is also disrupting the local fishing industry.

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • Allan Day: Parental Controls and Metered Data Hackfest

        This week I participated in the Parental Controls and Metered Data Hackfest, which was held at Red Hat’s London office.

        Parental controls and metered data already exist in Endless and/or elementary OS in some shape or form. The goal of the hackfest was to plan how to upstream the features to GNOME. It’s great to see this kind of activity from downstreams so I was very happy to contribute in my capacity as an upstream UX designer.

        There have been a fair few blog posts about the event already, so I’m going to try and avoid repeating what’s already been written…

      • Iain Lane: Parental controls & metered data hackfest: days 3 & 4

        Following on from the first two days, we in days 3 & 4 we moved on to talking about metered data. There’s some debate about whether this is the correct terminology to use, but that’s the title of the hackfest so I’ll stick with it for now.

        This is a set of features to handle internet connections that have limited amounts of data in some way. For example, I’ve personally got a “MiFi” mobile hotspot that provides internet over the 4G mobile network. I bought a pay-as-you-go SIM card that provides 32 GB of data, and when that’s used up I’ll have to recharge it to be able to get online.

        Philip provided a summary of the current implementation in Endless. You can also watch a YouTube video of a talk Philip gave on this topic at GUADEC in 2018. Briefly, this is an opt-in system. The system knows details of your tariff, some of which you can provide in Settings, but which may also come with the system – for example if it’s sold with a mobile network connection already provisioned. Applications ask a new component for permission to begin a large data transfer, and this component tells the application when it can begin the transfer. This could be immediately or later on.

      • Draw On Your Screen with this Neat GNOME Shell Extension

        Ever wish you could draw on the Linux desktop or write on the screen?

        Well, there’s a new GNOME Shell extension that lets you do exactly that: draw on the Linux desktop.

        You may want to point out a bug, highlight a feature, or provide some guidance to someone else by sending them an annotated screenshot.

        In this short post we’ll show you how to install the add-on and how to use it.

  • Distributions

    • Best Linux Distributions For Beginners

      Linux beginners are always confused about choosing the best Linux os to start with. As there are hundreds of Linux distributions so it might always be a confusing part. But I’ll help you choose the right Linux distro to start your Linux exploration. In this article, I’ll walk you through a list of 8 Best Linux OS for beginners.

    • Linux Desktop News: Zorin OS 15 Gets New Touch Interface, Android Sync And Native Flatpak Support

      Zorin OS hit the Linux desktop scene about 10 years ago, and has since been marketed as a fast, more powerful and more secure alternative to macOS and Windows. It also bills itself as being versatile and easy to use. Let’s see how Zorin OS 15 will support that message.

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • Planning for a Software Defined Infrastructure

        Seems you can’t pick up an IT magazine these days without hearing the term software defined infrastructure. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype. You might be thinking ‘people are talking about so it must be something that we need.” Some of you are wincing from the pain felt in trying to adopt the latest technologies without properly looking at what will work for your environment and business.

        In a software defined world, the computing infrastructure is virtualized. That is, it is delivered as a service. Management and control of the networking, storage and/or data center infrastructure is automated by intelligent software rather than by the hardware components of the infrastructure.

    • Fedora

      • Fedora 31 Preparing To Start Removing Packages Depending Upon Python 2

        Python 2 support will formally reach end-of-life on 1 January 2020 and Fedora 31 is preparing for that by working to drop packages (or parts of packages) that depend upon Python 2.

        Fedora has been pushing for a Python 2 to Python 3 migration for many cycles now — as most Linux distributions have — while with Fedora 31 they are planning a “mass Python 2 package removal” if necessary. They are planning to closely track the state of packages depending upon Python 2 to either drop the packages or allow packagers to easily abandon Python 2 parts of programs.

      • These Are The Top Reasons Why You Should Use Fedora Linux?

        Fedora is one of the most famous Linux distros. It has a lot of Amazing features and is powered by Red Hat Linux. However, many people prefer alternatives which are quite easy to operate. Those like Ubuntu is known for its simplicity and easy to use interface. Additionally, Kali Linux is known for its unique pen testing feature. On the other hand, people consider Fedora to be a difficult option because of its complicated user interface. However, we believe that Fedora is one of the most useful Linux distros with an active community. Hence, we have listed the Features And Advantages of Using Fedora Linux.

      • How to set up Fedora Silverblue as a gaming station

        This process starts with a clean Fedora 29 Silverblue installation with a user already created for you.

        First, go to https://flathub.org/home and enable the Flathub repository on your system. To do this, click the Quick setup button on the main page.

      • FPgM report: 2019-12

        Fedora 30 Beta is No-Go. Another Go/No-Go meeting will be held on Thursday. I’ve set up weekly office hours in #fedora-meeting-1. Drop by if you have any questions or comments about the schedule, Changes, elections, or anything else. The Fedora 30 Beta Go/No-Go and Release Readiness meetings are next week.

      • Not posting here means not there is nothing done

        I looking with fears to this strange ideas Mindshare has for the future of the Ambassadors. You can not write reports if you not have an event, so I telling here now how hard it is in this country to organize an event.

        Since October 2018 I search for a place which would host the next Translation Sprint. We have tons of co-working spaces or NGO’s which have space available. But is always the same I asked e.g. Open Institute, answer we can host you just on Saturday. And I had actually to write there several times and even make calls because I got no answer for the first contact. The same on The Desk, we can host you only on Saturday. This makes no sense in Cambodia, it is a regular working day, because they have 28 holidays. So most people have to work until 2pm. What sucked on this one, I was working on it since end of January. So first meeting was setup for 11th March, I went there but nobbody there to meet me. This is normal cambodian working style I dont tell I am busy and cant meet you and give you an alternative time. Well the promised mail with an alternative time never arrived, so I had to ask for it again. Second meeting was then this Monday, I spent an hour with them with the useless result of “just Saturday”. But there is light on the horizon OpenDevelopment might host us but here just on Sunday, which is for us better then just Saturday. So six months, hundreds of mails and several meetings and achieved nothing. How easy is it to setup a Fedora Womans Day in the Pune office, compared to this and then just travel around the world to visit other events and this is then called “active”

      • Fedora 30 Modularity Test Day 2019-03-26
      • Fedora 30 Beta Won’t Be Released Next Week Due To Their Arm Images Lacking A Browser
      • Fabian Affolter: Chemnitzer Linux Tage 2019

        Once again, Robert and I went to Chemnitz. We don’t wanted to break with the tradition of having a Fedora Project booth at the Chemnitzer Linux Tage. Robert is representing the Fedora Project at CLT for over a decade now.

        To show the visitors a running Fedora installation Raphael decided to take a larger screen, mounted it on a stand and placed a Raspberry Pi behind it. Pretty straight-forward setup but there is always an issue with the VESA connection on the back of the screen.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • 10 Excellent Web Project Management Software

    Project management is the application of processes, methods, knowledge, skills and experience to achieve the project objectives. Project management tools encompass many different types of software such as scheduling, resource allocation, collaboration software, quality management, and cost control / budget management. This type of software is typically used by project managers looking to plan and control resources, costs and schedules to meet the objectives of a project.

    It can be very satisfying planning and delivering projects on time. One of the methods that has always helped me is PRINCE2, a de facto process-based method for effective project management. But project management software is equally as important to the success of a project.

    There are a number of different types of project management tools. One of the industry standards is the Gantt Chart, which provides a graphical displays of all the tasks that a project is composed of. Each bar on the chart is a graphical representation of the length of time the task is planned to take. Other popular tools include PERT charts (a method for analyzing the tasks involved in completing a project), Product Breakdown Structure (a hierarchical tree structure of components that make up a project deliverable), and Work Breakdown Structure (a hierarchical tree structure of deliverables and tasks that need to be performed to complete a project).

    To provide an insight into the quality of software that is available, we have compiled a list of 10 excellent web based project management software. Hopefully, there will be something of interest for anyone who wishes to organise their projects. Here’s our rating chart.

  • New Open Source Initiative Sponsors Emphasize Diverse/Broad Industry Adoption [Ed: In fact, so diverse that even companies that attack Open Source are in the Board and are sponsors, e.g. Microsoft]

    Today the Open Source Initiative® (OSI), the global non-profit formed to educate about and advocate for the benefits of open source software and communities, is pleased to announce the corporate sponsorship of Daily Fantasy Cafe and Lineups.com. The contributions from these diverse companies underscore the broad appeal and applicability of open source software across industries.

    Over 20 years of work, the OSI has constantly found adoption of, and contributions to, open source software growing, year over year, as companies realize the benefits and value of collaborative communities of practice. No longer limited to the data centers and development shops of tech-companies, open source software is now pervasive across diverse industries, all seeking to reduce costs, drive innovation, decrease time to market, increase quality, and avoid vendor lock-in.

    “The OSI is actively engaged with organizations across government, education, manufacturing, agriculture, entertainment—everywhere. As new industries emerge, like fantasy sports, they’re choosing to be, ‘open source first,’” says Patrick Masson, General Manager of the Open Source Initiative. “Daily Fantasy Cafe and Lineups really show how broad the appeal is now, and most inspiring, how companies that benefit from open source choose to contribute back. Open source is a collaborative effort, projects need code, community, and cash.”

  • Events

    • SREcon19 Americas Talk Resources

      At SREcon19 Americas, I gave a talk called “Operating within Normal Parameters: Monitoring Kubernetes”. Here’s some links and resources related to my talk, for your reference.

    • Participating at #Scale17x

      Everytime somebody asks me about Scale I can only think of the same: Scale is the most important community lead conference in North America and it only gets better by the years. This year it celebrated its seventeenth edition and it just struck me: with me being there this year, there have been more Scales I have attended than I have not. This is my nineth conference out of 17.

      The first time that I attended it was 2011, it was the edition followed by FudCon Tempe 2010 which happened to be my first Fedora conference and it was also the first time I got to meet some contributors that I had previously collaborated with, many of which I still consider my brothers.

      As for this time, I almost didn’t make it as my visa renewal was resolved on Friday’s noon, one day after the conference started. I recovered it that same day and book a flight in the night. I couldn’t find anything to LAX -as I regularly fly- so I had to fly to Tijuana and from there I borrowed a cart to Pasadena. Long story short: I arrived around 1:30 AM on Saturday.

    • Snapcraft Summit Montreal

      Snapcraft is the universal app store for Linux that reaches millions of users and devices and serves millions of app installs a month.

      The Snapcraft Summit is a forward-thinking software workshop attended by major software vendors, community contributors and Snapcraft engineers working at every level of the stack.

  • Web Browsers

    • Chrome

      • Chrome 74 beta: reducing unwanted motion, private class fields, and feature policy API

        Unless otherwise noted, changes described below apply to the newest Chrome Beta channel release for Android, Android WebView, Chrome OS, Linux, macOS, and Windows. View a complete list of the features in Chrome 74 on ChromeStatus.com. Chrome 74 is beta as of March 22, 2019.

      • Chrome 74 Beta Released With CSS Media Query To Prefer Reduced Motion/Animations

        Google engineers are ending out their work week by issuing the beta of Chrome 74.

        The Chrome 74 Beta features the CSS “prefers-reduced-motion” media query for honoring accessibility settings for those that may want to reduce/eliminate animations or other motions. Also on the developer side is ECMAScript private class fields, a JavaScript API for feature policy, CSS transition events, WebRTC additions, and other changes.

    • Mozilla

      • Mike Conley: Firefox Front-End Performance Update #15

        Firefox 66 has been released, Firefox 67 is out on the beta channel, and Firefox 68 is cooking for the folks on the Nightly channel! These trains don’t stop!

        With that, let’s take a quick peek at what the Firefox Front-end Performance team has been doing these past few weeks…

      • SUMO A/B Experiments

        This year the SUMO team is focused on learning what to improve on our site. As part of that, we spent January setting support.mozilla.org up for A/B testing and last week we ran our first test!

      • Get the tablet experience you deserve with Firefox for iPad

        We know that iPads aren’t just bigger versions of iPhones. You use them differently, you need them for different things. So rather than just make a bigger version of our browser for iOS, we made Firefox for iPad look and feel like it was custom made for a tablet. Mostly because it was.

  • Programming/Development

    • Sublime Text Editor For Debian/Ubuntu/Linux Mint

      Programmers/Developers always love rich-feature text editor, they can be more productive using such application. Sublime Text Editor has been around since 2008 and widely used by many programmers. It is written using C++ and Python programming language, the best thing about this editor is that it’s cross-platform and available for Linux, Mac and Windows.
      Sublime-Text editor natively support numerous amount of programming and markup languages, more functionality can be added using plugins, the plugins are mostly built by its community and maintained user free-software licenses.

    • RcppArmadillo 0.9.300.2.0

      A new RcppArmadillo release based on a new Armadillo upstream release arrived on CRAN and Debian today.

      Armadillo is a powerful and expressive C++ template library for linear algebra aiming towards a good balance between speed and ease of use with a syntax deliberately close to a Matlab. RcppArmadillo integrates this library with the R environment and language–and is widely used by (currently) 583 other packages on CRAN.

    • William Lachance: New ideas, old buildings

      Last week, Brendan Colloran announced Iodide, a new take on scientific collaboration and reporting that I’ve been really happy to contribute to over the past year-and-a-bit. I’ve been describing it to people I meet as kind of “glitch meets jupyter ” but that doesn’t quite do it justice. I’d recommend reading Brendan’s blog post (and taking a look at our demonstration site) to get the full picture.

      One question that I’ve heard asked (including on Brendan’s post) is why we chose a rather conventional and old technology (Django) for the server backend. Certainly, Iodide has not been shy about building with relatively new or experimental technologies for other parts (e.g. Python on WebAssembly for the notebooks, React/Redux for the frontend). Why not complete the cycle by using a new-fangled JavaScript web server like, I don’t know, NestJS? And while we’re at it, what’s with iodide’s ridiculous REST API? Don’t you know GraphQL is the only legitimate way to expose your backend to the world in 2019?

      The great urban theorist of the twentieth century, Jane Jacobs has a quote I love:

    • Setup your Raspberry Pi Model B as Google Colab (Feb ’19) to work with Tensorflow, Keras and OpenCV
    • Getting started with the updated VS Code Yeoman extension for Camel projects
    • Plot the Aroon Up and the Aroon Down lines with Python
    • Linux C Programming Tutorial Part 15 – 2′s Complement and Negative numbers
    • Using multiprocessing – a simple introduction.
    • Basic AI Concepts: A* Search Algorithm

      Artificial intelligence in its core strives to solve problems of enormous combinatorial complexity. Over the years, these problems were boiled down to search problems.

      A path search problem is a computational problem where you have to find a path from point A to point B. In our case, we’ll be mapping search problems to appropriate graphs, where the nodes represent all the possible states we can end up in and the edges representing all the possible paths that we have at our disposal.

    • Learn Python 3 Web-Bootcamp: Strings And Numbers In Python3 (Part 2)

      In the part one of this series, we showed you how to use variables in Python 3. In this tutorial, we are going to work with Strings and Numbers.

    • Configuring Django Templates

      Django is among the most recommended full stack web development frameworks at the moment. Django follows Model-Template-View (MTV) architecture. This is something similar to the traditional MVC( Model-View_Controller) architecture, but in Django, views are more like controllers, and MVC’s views are actually the template of Django.

    • Detect nudity with nudepy python module.
    • Python Bytes: #122 Give Me Back My Monolith
    • How I learned Python Programming
    • How to transition into a Developer Relations career
    • A Look at Python, Parameterized

      I’ve written A Look at Python, Parameterized on the Toptal blog — a look at how, in Python, you can replace 6+ design patterns with one concept.

Leftovers

  • The Greatest Projects I Never Madokok

    She was a terrible boss. But she was wise about work. “We are defined more by the business we refuse to take than the ones we do,” she told me. That turned out to be true. My cartoons are notable for what they don’t include: symbols like donkeys and elephants, labeled graphic metaphors, a reliance on caricature.

    Film fanatics muse about the Greatest Movies Never Made. There was talk about remaking John Carpenter’s campy, low-budget, politically brilliant 1988 movie “They Live.” Unlike Harrison Ford’s oafish 1995 do-over of “Sabrina”—first rule of Hollywood should be don’t remake a film by Billy Wilder—“They Live” with money for special effects and real actors might have been something to see.

    Projects that get dropped before completion reveal the outer limits of a creator’s interests. Ideas intriguing enough to pursue initially and fall apart in the face of financial or marketplace distribution issues or other, easier-to-finish plans present a tantalizing portrait of a career that might have been under different circumstances.

    I’ve been slogging through a midlife crisis. Court battles, career pains and my mother’s flagging health have me focused on mortality. For a poor kid from the Rust Belt I’ve lived an amazing life; if I die today I’ll feel that I scored a better deal than many others. Still, to whine is human. Closer to death than birth, I’m considering how to spend the time I have left and regretting cool things I never got to do and probably never will: work on staff inside the offices of a newspaper or magazine, study toward a master’s degree, teach, live or study overseas.

  • Science

    • US Higher Education Influence Takes a Different Turn

      The official opening of the American University of Malta (AUM) on Friday 8th March foregrounds a new trend in USA Higher Education influence in the Mediterranean and elsewhere. The term ‘American’ is being applied to universities which are not US-driven at all but which simply adopt the US university style of operation and system. The AUM is run by a Jordanian Company, the Sadeen Group.

      The Sadeen Group’s official statement says that “Through the years, the group has its reputation and had been made known to various engineering consultants, business travelers, investors and other business organizations for being committed to produce a high quality and excellence services. Today, Sadeen Group has recorded a sizable growth in the field of construction, travel and tourism services. The group is a graded class in building constructions both on commercial and industrial RCC, pre-engineered building, water treatment plant construction, correspondence and their business with the utmost secrecy and confidentiality.”

      It has been reported that it had bought the programmes on offer at AUM from De Paul University in Chicago. This is as far as ‘American’ goes with respect to the ‘for profit’ private university in question. It has been effectively operating for the last two years, while works were being carried out on the campus site, attracting few students to date.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Sugary Drinks May Boost Risk of Premature Death

      Links between excess sugar in your diet and disease have been well-documented, but new research by Harvard’s School of Public Health might make you even more wary of that next soda: it could increase your risk of an early death.

      The study, published this week in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, found that drinking one or two sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) each day — like sodas or sports drinks — increases risk of an early death by 14 percent.

    • Tyson Foods Recalls Nearly 70,000 Pounds of Chicken Strips After Customers Find ‘Fragments of Metal’

      Tyson Foods is recalling approximately 69,093 pounds of frozen chicken strips because they may have been contaminated with pieces of metal, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced Thursday.

      The affected products were fully-cooked “Buffalo Style” and “Crispy” chicken strips with a “use by” date of Nov. 30, 2019 and an establishment number of “P-7221″ on the back of the package.

      “FSIS is concerned that some product may be in consumers’ freezers,” the recall notice said. “Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.”

    • New York City Public Schools to Join ‘Meatless Mondays’ Movement

      For students in the United States’ largest school district, “Meatloaf Monday” in the cafeteria will soon be a thing of the past.

      Instead, New York City public schools will be adopting “Meatless Mondays” for the 2019-2020 school year in an effort to improve public health and reduce the city’s environmental footprint, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week.

    • New Study Confirms That Eggs are a Stroke in a Shell

      For years animal agriculture apologists have tried to convince the public that “inflammation, not cholesterol, is the cause of chronic disease.” Eat all the eggs, meat and milk you want, they cajole: you won’t die from a stroke or heart attack at age 50. We promise.

      This week a JAMA study reverses the industry-friendly hype, at least until the industry shills resume their spin. Each added 300 milligrams a day of cholesterol represented a 17 percent increase in risk of cardiovascular disease and 18 percent increased risk of all-cause premature death, concludes the study.

      This is far from the first time eggs have been definitively linked to disease and death. In 2008, the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation reported that just one egg a day increased the risk of heart failure in a group of doctors studied. And in 2010, the Canadian Journal of Cardiology lamented the, “widespread misconception…that consumption of dietary cholesterol and egg yolks is harmless,” cautioning that, “Stopping the consumption of egg yolks after a stroke or myocardial infarction would be like quitting smoking after a diagnosis of lung cancer: a necessary action, but late.”

    • Interview With Charles Gore, Medicines Patent Pool Executive Director

      Charles Gore took over the role of Executive Director at the Medicines Patent Pool in July 2018, just after its board decided to greatly expand its mandate into essential medicines. Nine months into his term, IP-Watch’s William New talked with him about his role and how the expansion is going.

      Gore took up the post last year following a career in patient representation and public health advocacy. He was diagnosed with hepatitis C in 1995 and cirrhosis in 1998. In 2000 he set up The Hepatitis C Trust in the UK which he ran for 18 years. In 2002 he was treated and cured of the virus. He helped create the European Liver Patients Association and was its first President in 2004. In 2007 he established the World Hepatitis Alliance and was President until December 2017. As a result of advocacy by the Alliance, WHO adopted successive viral hepatitis resolutions in 2010, 2014 and 2016, culminating in endorsement of the goal of eliminating hepatitis B and C by 2030.

      [...]

      GORE: We recently got the licence for AbbVie’s combination of Glecaprevir and Pibrentasvir, a key hepatitis C treatment, and are currently in the process of sublicensing it to generic companies. I would like to think that I contributed somewhat to this because of my 20 years’ experience of working in hepatitis C but the MPP’s success is down to a whole team effort. Our business development team, based in Geneva and India, work with the originator companies to obtain the licences and then manage the sublicensing, which includes helping our generic partners with development. Our policy team helps inform us which drugs we should look to licence as well as creating, together with the communications team, the environment in which originators are happy to grant us licences. Our legal team oversee our rigorous generic manufacturer selection process and negotiate the terms of both licences and sublicences to ensure they are truly public health agreements. And of course support staff make all this possible. My job is really to make it all work harmoniously; it’s not at all about ‘making my mark’. One of my key jobs is overseeing our expansion into the new areas and so one of our key current activities is the creation of a framework to guide us in the selection of new drugs to target in areas such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, antimicrobials that we are now looking at for the first time.

    • Grandson of legendary John Deere engineer defends right-to-repair and condemns Big Ag for “taxing customers”

      Willie Cade’s grandfather Theo Cade was one of John Deere’s most storied engineers, with 158 patents to his name; he invented the manure spreader and traveled the country investigating stories of how farmers were using, fixing, modifying and upgrading their equipment; today, Willie Cade is the founder of the Electronics Reuse Conference, having spent a quarter-century repairing electronics, diverting e-waste from landfills and rehabilitating it for use by low-income schools and individuals.

      In a stirring op-ed for Security Ledger, Cade the Younger takes aim at John Deere and the other businesses that have lobbied against Right-to-Repair legislation that would force them to end practices ranging from the use of software locks to prevent activation of new parts to withholding parts, documentation and service codes from the independent repair sector.

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Trump Reversing New Sanctions on North Korea

      President Donald Trump says he is reversing his administration’s decision to slap new sanctions on North Korea, ordering them withdrawn.

      White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders says Trump “likes Chairman Kim and he doesn’t think these sanctions will be necessary.”

      Trump says in a tweet that, “It was announced today by the U.S. Treasury that additional large scale Sanctions would be added to those already existing Sanctions on North Korea.”

      But he says, “I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!”

    • Greedy Boeing’s Avoidable Design and Software Time Bombs

      As internal and external pressures mount to hold Boeing responsible for its criminal negligence, the giant company is exerting its immense influence to limit both its past and future accountability. Boeing whistleblowers and outside aviation safety experts are coming forward to reveal the serial, criminal negligence of Boeing’s handling of its dangerous Boeing 737 Max airplanes, grounded in the aftermath of two deadly crashes that took 346 lives. Boeing, is used to having its way in Washington, D.C. For decades, Boeing and some of its airline allies have greased the wheels for chronic inaction related to the additional protection and comfort of airline passengers and airline workers.

      Most notoriously, the airlines, after the hijacks to Cuba in the late Sixties and early Seventies, made sure that Congress and the FAA did not require hardened cockpit doors and stronger latches on all aircraft, costing a modest $3000 per plane. Then the 9/11 massacre happened, a grisly consequence of non-regulation, pushed by right wing corporatist advocacy centers.

      Year after year, Flyers Rights – the airline passenger consumer group –proposed a real passengers bill of rights. Year after year the industry’s toadies in Congress said no. A slim version passed last year — requiring regulations creating minimum seat standards, regulations regarding prompt refunds for ancillary services not provided or on a flight not taken, and a variety of small improvements for consumers.

    • Boeing Values Profits Over Lives—By Design

      The fatal crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft on March 10 shows us in stark terms just how deadly unfettered capitalism is. Boeing has pushed the legal limits of how far a corporation can manipulate a system to maximize its profits, even if it means risking lives.

      Just a few months ago, another fatal airline crash of the same type of Boeing aircraft, operated by Lion Air, resulted in 189 lives lost. The New York Times reported that what the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air flights had in common was that both doomed planes lacked safety features linked to why the pilots were unable to recover from erratic dips after takeoff. Those safety features, rather than being built into the standard models, cost extra. Imagine being told that your car’s seat belts were an optional feature that cost more and then finding out in a deadly crash just how important those belts are.

      One expert explained that the optional features are “critical, and cost almost nothing for the airlines to install,” and that “Boeing charges for them because it can. But they’re vital for safety.” Perhaps the airlines purchasing the Max 8 aircraft from Boeing didn’t realize the safety features would make the difference between life and mass death. Perhaps, like Boeing, they were trying to cut costs and maximize profits—no matter the consequences.

    • Human Rights Attorney to Trump: “Israel Is Not Interested in the Golan Heights for Security”

      Just weeks before major elections in Israel that could determine the future of embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Trump declares the U.S. will recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, in defiance of international law and decades of U.S. policy. The announcement comes as he is set to host Netanyahu at the White House next week amid the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, where Vice President Mike Pence will speak, along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, among others. A growing number of Democrats—including at least eight presidential candidates—say they will skip the summit. We get reaction from Palestinian human rights attorney Noura Erakat, author of the new book “Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine.”

    • After Activist Pressure, Amazon Purges Dozens of Far-Right Books

      The overwhelming size of Amazon’s distribution sphere is known for its ability to suppress the prices of the media it sells and to crush a diversity of sellers, but the advantage for small publishers is that it sells just about everything.

      As a central purchasing hub, it is relatively easy to get books sold on Amazon, allowing tiny publishing operations to have essentially the same distribution platform as Random House, not to mention self-publishing options like CreateSpace. This has also given Amazon enormous power to determine what is available: If a book isn’t sold at Amazon, does it really even exist?

      Greg Johnson, editor-in-chief of the white nationalist publishing house Counter-Currents, was forced to ponder this on February 24, when Amazon removed his publishing house’s most-sold book, The White Nationalist Manifesto. Counter-Currents had been founded by Johnson to give legitimacy to Johnson’s white nationalist movement, as well as to give him a job when he quit as web editor for the white nationalist journal The Occidental Observer. Counter-Currents would try to mimic the success that Verso Books had on the left, and he aspired to be the fascist equivalent by publishing extreme books on philosophic, spiritual and literary subjects.

      While the removal of The White Nationalist Manifesto came with little fanfare other than Amazon saying that it violated the company’s policies (though it was unclear what policies those were), Johnson could see the writing on the wall. Two days later, Amazon banned 15 more Counter-Currents titles, including Western Civilization Bites Back by British Nationalist Party leader Jonathan Bowden and books by Nazi mystic Savitri Devi. Amazon had also banned four books by white nationalist leader Jared Taylor.

    • A Russian court has sentenced a Ukrainian teen to six years in prison for ‘abetting terrorism.’ The suspect says FSB agents abducted him in Belarus.

      On March 22, the North Caucasian District Military Court in Rostov-on-Don sentenced 19-year-old Pavel Grib to six years in prison for abetting terrorist activity. According to prosecutors, Grib tried to convince a young woman in Sochi named Tatyana E. to stage a terrorist attack at her high-school graduation ceremony. Officials also accused him of supporting the “Ukrainian National Assembly – Ukrainian People’s Self-Defense,” which is banned in Russia as an extremist organization.

      Grib maintains his innocence, and his lawyer, Marina Dubrovina, argued in court that others had access to his Skype account, which sent messages to Tatyana about bomb-making. Dubrovina told Meduza that she plans to challenge the ruling, stating that prosecutors failed to produce evidence that her client is responsible for the correspondence at the center of the case.

    • Let’s Not Restore or Mythologize Obama

      With former Vice President Joe Biden seemingly ready to join the presidential race, a Washington Post reporter wrote: “Biden and his allies picture an election that poses a choice between four more years of Trump disruption and a chance to restore the Obama administration.”

      Ah, the hope of an Obama restoration!

      But is a “return to normalcy” truly enough? After decades in which giant corporations have amassed huge political and financial control while racial and economic inequities kept widening – and with climate scientists now telling us that planetary survival requires radical reforms?

      And what about the real danger that a return to Obama-style, go-slow “corporate liberalism” would lead to the next right-wing faux-populist upsurge, this time commanded by someone smarter and slicker than Trump?

    • NATO’s Expensive Anniversaries

      2019 is a year of interesting commemorations, among them the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of D-Day, the landing of allied troops in France that, along with Russia’s Operation Bagration (which “inflicted the biggest defeat in German military history by completely destroying 28 out of 34 German divisions and completely shattered the German front line”), heralded the end of the Second World War. Then there was the anniversary of the first landing on the moon, which was fifty years ago in July.

      Additionally, on March 9 there was the sixtieth birthday of the Barbie Doll, an expensive puppet-like figurine that can adopt any number of postures.

      Which brings us to the US-NATO military alliance that celebrates two anniversaries of its own this year in its new headquarters in Brussels that cost 1.23 billion dollars. It commemorates its creation 70 years ago and the occasion when “On March 12, 1999, in the presence of their US counterpart, then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the foreign ministers of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic finally signed the protocols of NATO accession.”

    • Is It Really So Shocking?

      The first time Code Pink went on a tour of Iranian state ministries, as well as shopping in Tehran’s magnificent bazaar, I got all outraged and ended up writing up my rage. A website published it.

      Medea Benjamin emailed me with her phone number for me to call. To straighten things up, I guess. I was in Vietnam at the time, and an international phone call would take some logistical work; but quite frankly I simply didn’t want to talk to somebody who had just been led around various Iranian government ministries by a guy who had written a hatchet job on me, published by some western websites. Additionally, I was paranoid-sure her phone would be hacked by the Iranian state. Better paranoid and safe. You can never be too paranoid when you’re Iranian. So, I made up excuses and never called.

      This time around, when Code Pink went on another tour of various state ministries and shopping, I thought to myself, “Is it really so shocking that a group of westerners, feminist and peace-loving, would visit ministries of a state that jails women’s rights activists — don’t forget labor rights activists, students’ rights activists, free speech rights activists, environmental activists, minority rights activists, people dancing to Pharrell’s song, Happy, and the list goes on — a state that, to make things even sweeter, is wrapping up a successful campaign of participation in the incineration of a half a million Syrians?”

    • [Reposted in another site] White Supremacy is a Global Threat
    • Robert Dreyfuss and Diana Duarte on the Media’s Role in Iraq War

      Many in media were critical of Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for George W. Bush, who used the March anniversary of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, based on what Americans were told was the imminent threat of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, as an opportunity to launch a Twitter tirade to say, “It’s a myth that Bush lied.” He and Bush “faithfully and accurately reported” intelligence community assessments, Fleischer maintained.

      Media seemed concerned that Fleischer was insufficiently respectful of the toll of the Iraq War, including what the Washington Post modestly estimated as “thousands of dead Iraqis”—researchers would put that number at, minimally, half a million.

      But Fleischer’s revision isn’t just wrong in emphasis or in sentiment. And we didn’t have to wait 16 years to know that. In February 2004, CounterSpin spoke with investigative journalist Robert Dreyfuss about that pre-war intelligence on Iraq, and the role of a secret and largely unaccountable organization inside the Pentagon in manufacturing and publicizing it. We’ll hear that interview today.

    • Pompeo Is at Odds With Lebanese Officials Over Hezbollah

      U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday blasted Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which he vowed the U.S. would continue to pressure, and called on the Lebanese people to stand up to the Iran-backed militant group he said was “committed to spreading destruction.”

      His harsh comments in Beirut were in strong contrast to those of Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil who minutes earlier, while standing next to Pompeo, insisted that Hezbollah is “a Lebanese group that is not a terrorist organization and was elected by the people.”

      Pompeo, however, warned that “the Lebanese people face a choice: Bravely move forward or allow the dark ambitions of Iran and Hezbollah to dictate your future.”

      He added that the U.S. would continue using “all peaceful means” to curb Hezbollah and Iran’s influence.

    • The U.S. Deserves Its Own Nuremberg Trials

      Are Americans capable of committing atrocities on the same scale as Germans did under Nazi rule? That is the question that University of San Francisco ethics professor Rebecca Gordon and Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer grapple with in the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence.” Gordon, author of “Mainstreaming Torture” and “American Nuremberg,” posits that if America’s actions in the Middle East, especially in Iraq, were to be scrutinized the way Nazi Germany’s crimes were probed in the aftermath of World War II, the U.S. would likely also be found guilty of crimes against humanity.

      Gordon begins her comparison by exploring the main charge levied against Nazis during the Nuremberg trials, which was committing a crime against peace due to Germany’s breach of the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact, which, she explains, “essentially outlawed war.” American prosecutors in the mid-20th century insisted that this initial crime was the unlawful act from which all other crimes committed by the Nazis originated.

      “By comparison,” the author tells Scheer, “I look at the Bush-Cheney administration’s decision to make an unnecessary and illegal war, both in Afghanistan and especially in Iraq.

      “It’s very clear from the documentary record that exists that the main reason people were being tortured [by the U.S. before the Iraq War began] was because they wanted to get somebody somewhere to say that Saddam Hussein was in league with al-Qaida, so that there could be an excuse for invading Iraq,” Gordon says.

    • China plans to build “national logistics base” in disputed waters

      China is planning to build an “island city” on three neighbouring islands in a disputed area of the South China Sea.

      The announcement, made by Zhang Jun, the Communist Party secretary of Sansha, said the development would be a “key national strategic service and logistics base” on Woody Island (Yongxing, in Chinese) and the two nearby islets of Tree and Drummond (Zhaoshu and Jinqing).

      He said in a press statement: “We need to carefully plan the overall development of the islands and reefs based on their different functions, taking into account their complementary relationship.”

      The islands are part of the Sansha district of China’s southernmost province of Hainan. Zhang said the decision followed a speech by President Xi Jinping last year and a central government directive issued in April to mark Hainan’s 30th anniversary.

    • Veterans Demand Congress End the Forever Wars

      As politicians and pundits opined on the 16-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq this week, organizer and veteran Perry O’Brien observed that people who were born after the 9/11 attacks and the beginning of the global war on terror are now old enough to join the military and deploy to Afghanistan, where fragile peace talks between with the Taliban continue. Blood is still spilling in Kandahar, the province in Afghanistan where O’Brien served as a medic during the early years of the Afghan war.

      “In 2003, the idea of being in Afghanistan even five more years would have sounded unlikely; 15 years would have been madness,” O’Brien said in an interview with Truthout.

      Nowdays, O’Brien is a political organizer with Common Defense, a nationwide group of progressive veterans that grew out of protests against President Trump’s racist remarks on the 2016 campaign trail. Conservative political forces have long held a monopoly on the public image of military service and patriotism, O’Brien said, but the nationwide community of progressive veterans is actually “enormous.”

      “We didn’t want to be props for Trump’s campaign for hate,” O’Brien said. “We were outraged by his remarks about Muslims and immigrants, and the whole platform and were, you know, angry with … how he wraps himself in the flag and the symbols of service even though he has never served anything other than himself.”

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • What’s in the Mueller Report?

      It was the firing heard round the world. With one move, on the advice of his son-in-law Jared Kushner, Donald Trump fired James Comey on May 9, 2017. It would change the course of the Trump presidency.

      Comey, delivering a speech in California, learned of his termination when it flashed across cable news. Trump, under pressure to explain his decision, blamed a Justice Department official named Rod Rosenstein, a man Trump himself had appointed to his position. In explaining the firing, Trump released a memo Rosenstein had written, at Trump’s request, that listed Comey’s failures over the years.
      It was Trump’s second impulsive move, and it may have been his most consequential. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, much to Trump’s dismay, had recused himself from oversight of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. That meant the authority fell to Rosenstein, the next-highest ranking official in the Department of Justice. Infuriated by Trump’s attempt to pin the blame for Comey’s firing on him, Rosenstein used the power he had at his unilateral disposal to do the one thing that could cause Trump more damage than anything else: He created the position of Special Counsel, and filled it with former FBI director Robert Mueller.

    • The Mueller Report Is In. They Were Wrong. We Were Right.

      The Robert Mueller investigation which monopolized political discourse for two years has finally concluded, and his anxiously awaited report has been submitted to Attorney General William Barr. The results are in and the debate is over: those advancing the conspiracy theory that the Kremlin has infiltrated the highest levels of the US government were wrong, and those of us voicing skepticism of this were right.

    • Julian Assange refuses House request as WikiLeaks colleague slams ‘pathetic’ hunt for collusion

      WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson denied ties Friday to President Trump’s election campaign on the heels of his predecessor, Julian Assange, defying requests for related material from the House Judiciary Committee.
      “It’s rather pathetic how people are trying to connect the dots about some kind of collaboration,” said Mr. Hrafnsson, an Icelandic journalist who previously served as the spokesperson for WikiLeaks prior to succeeding Mr. Assange as the website’s editorial lead last September.

      Mr. Hrafnsson made the remarks in an interview published by the Reykjavík Grapevine shortly after it emerged that Mr. Assange and an associate, Randy Credico, would both refuse requests issued as part of the House panel’s probe into alleged obstruction, corruption and other crimes potentially committed by Mr. Trump and individuals in his inner circle.

    • Episode 20: US-Venezuelan Relations

      On this episode of Along the Line, Dr. Dreadlocks Nicholas Baham III, Dr. Nolan Higdon, and Janice Domingo discuss the history of US-Venezuelan relations.

    • Seymour Hersh’s Anonymous Sources

      Ever since 1969, when he rose to national prominence with the story of the My Lai massacre, Seymour Hersh has been one of the best-known investigative journalists in the world. His career has not been without controversy. His most recent piece, about the recently deceased George H.W. Bush’s role in the Iran-Contra affair (“The Vice President’s Men”), is a clear example of why he remains controversial.

      Hersh’s principal thesis, that the office of Vice President George H.W. Bush controlled much of President Reagan’s foreign policy, including the Iran-Contra debacle, is certainly plausible. Lawrence Walsh, the independent counsel directing the Iran-Contra investigation, found substantial evidence leading to the vice president’s office, and Bush, by then president in his own right, pardoned virtually every conspirator while misleadingly denouncing Walsh’s indictment of felonious activity as merely “the criminalization of policy differences.”

    • Tree Rings Reveal Climate Secrets of the Forest

      Neil Pederson’s introduction to tree rings came from a “sweet and kindly” college instructor, who nevertheless was “one of the most boring professors I’d ever experienced,” Pederson said. “I swore tree rings off then and there.” But they kept coming back to haunt him.

      As a future forest ecologist, he needed to learn more about the history of forests. So he read countless articles in graduate school extolling the importance of tree rings in unraveling a forest’s past. Ultimately, “I fell in love with the beauty and wealth of information found in tree rings,” he said. “Since then, tree rings have revealed to me the absolute resiliency of trees and forests. I’m hooked.”

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Exhausted by Scandal: ‘Dieselgate’ Continues to Haunt Volkswagen

      Volkswagen can’t seem to shake off its “Dieselgate” scandal, even as it has cost the company more than $30 billion in fines, penalties, restitution and settlement of lawsuits since September 2015. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last week charged Volkswagen AG, two of its subsidiaries, and its former CEO, Martin Winterkorn, “for defrauding U.S. investors, raising billions of dollars through the corporate bond and fixed income markets while making a series of deceptive claims about the environmental impact of the company’s ‘clean diesel’ fleet.”

    • Leaked Audio Exposes Oil & Gas Execs Laughing With Joy Over Cozy Access to Trump Officials

      A newly-leaked audio recording reveals that oil and gas executives in a private meeting were “giddy” with laughter in the summer of 2017 as they rejoiced over the “unprecedented access” they were being given to the highest levels of the Trump administration, boasting about their ability to have closed-door meetings with top officials and the ascendance of their own industry colleagues to some of the most powerful seats of government.

      Among the topics in the recording, reports Reveal at the Center for Investigative Reporting—which was provided the audio—the oil and gas executives who belong to the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) “are heard discussing David Bernhardt, now deputy secretary of the Interior and a former industry lobbyist.” Notably, Bernhardt—described by the executives in the recording as a close friend and industry operative—has now been nominated by President Trump to be the next Secretary of Interior, with his confirmation hearings scheduled for next week.

      Lance Williams, a senior reporter for Reveal, detailed the contents of the recorded June 2017 meeting, which took place inside a Ritz-Carlton hotel conference room in Southern California, with an extensive piece for Politico’s weekend magazine published Saturday. Williams said the “recording gives a rare look behind the curtain of an influential oil industry lobbying group” congratulating itself on their political fortunes under a friendly administration.

    • Paper Receipts Could be the Next Plastic Straws

      Paper receipts are a habitual end to retail transactions. But their usefulness is questionable — they can be tossed out within minutes of being printed, or go on to line the bottoms of our bags and wallets.

      In an increasingly digital world, it may seem that paper receipts are in decline, but new data from Grand View Research shows the opposite to be true. Every year, paper receipt use is increasing worldwide — including in the U.S., where 256,300 metric tons of paper receipts were consumed in 2018.

      These small pieces of paper can have a huge impact.

      Millions of trees and billions of gallons of water are consumed to create them, generating tons of waste and greenhouse gas emissions. Most thermal paper receipts are also coated with Bisphenol A (BPA) or S (BPS), endocrine-disrupting substances that we absorb through contact, posing exposure risks for workers and customers.

      But there may be changes coming soon.

    • Achieving Escape Velocity

      I grew up with the idea that leaving Earth was inevitable. The Space Age had arrived and the sky was no limit. Per ardua ad astra was no longer a metaphor; it would happen, it was happening. Invisible radiation traveled through the air every afternoon to bring me indelible images of humans in space, benignly, bravely venturing out into the numinous beauty of the galaxy strung with stars, enticingly intercalated with exotic life. A chorus of ethereal voices accompanied their stalwart ship each time, as it boldly went where no man [sic] had gone before.

      What it carried with it were clean, comfortably-appointed living spaces where slim, attractive people sported glittery, form-fitting synthetics and teased and pomaded hair that was preternaturally perfect. Mutual respect, affection and humor were their mainstays. There was racial harmony – for humans had united, at last! (Often against other species, but only if they threatened us first. Otherwise, we sought to befriend them.) Artificial intelligences informed, protected and consoled us, but knew their place, like good housemaids. If they overstepped, we pulled the plug. Our marvelous cultural diversity was still intact no matter how deracinated our existence had become, speeding along in a vacuum, light-years from home among the stretched-out stars.

      Earth had figured it out. Humans had figured it out. We had solved all the challenges on our home planet, and now – on to the final frontier!

    • Following Monsanto, Exxon Could Be Next US Corporation to Face EU Lobby Ban

      ExxonMobil could soon join Monsanto as one of the only two companies not allowed to lobby European Union lawmakers.

      The oil giant, one of the world’s largest energy companies, was a no-show at a climate change denial hearing in Brussels Thursday, prompting the action.

      In a statement, ExxonMobil said that it was unable to attend because of “ongoing climate change-related litigation in the U.S.”

      That wasn’t good enough for Molly Scott Cato, a Green Party member of the European Parliament. In a statement, Green said a company which had spent millions on climate denial and then ducked responsibility for its actions didn’t deserve the right to promote itself in the EU.

      “We cannot allow the lobbyists from such corporations free access to the corridors of the European parliament,” said Cato. “We must remove their badges immediately.”

      ExxonMobil spent over €35 million on lobbying efforts in the EU since 2010. If the vote goes against the energy giant, it would lose that right in the European Parliament.

    • Nearly 50 Dead in Explosion at Chinese Chemical Plant

      The blast forced more than 3,000 people to evacuate the area, AFP reported. More than 600 are injured and 90 are in the hospital with serious injuries following one of the country’s worst industrial disasters in recent years. The blast from the explosion was so strong that it caused a minor earthquake and felled nearby factory buildings, trapping workers. It also blew out windows in houses around three miles away, according to Sky.

    • Mozambique Is Drowning. Nebraska Has Flooded. We Need a Green New Deal.

      The ocean has come for the coastal African nation of Mozambique. Tropical Cyclone Idai, a devastating storm that pummeled the country with fierce winds, was followed by a massive flood that has obliterated dams, swept away homes and bridges, erased roads, shuttered airports, and damaged 90 percent of the city of Beira, home to more than 500,000 people. There are bodies in the water and no one to collect them, making diseases like cholera an imminent threat.

      More than 1,000 are confirmed dead, a number that is sure to rise. Thousands more are homeless and seeking refuge. “Many people were waiting for food, water and medicine,” reports The New York Times, “in makeshift shelters in primary schools and other government buildings.” Satellite imagery over Mozambique shows a new flood-made inland sea that is 30 miles wide in places. “We’ve never had something of this magnitude before in Mozambique,” said non-governmental organization coordinator Emma Beatty. To the west in Zimbabwe and Malawi, more than 100 people are known dead, hundreds more are missing and the damage is extensive.

      “There are at least three major ways that the Mozambique floods are related to climate change,” reports Eric Holthaus for Grist. “First, a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor, which makes rainfall more intense. Idai produced more than two feet of rainfall in parts of the region — nearly a year’s worth in just a few days. Second, the region had been suffering from a severe drought in recent years in line with climate projections of overall drying in the region, hardening the soil and enhancing runoff. Third, sea levels are about a foot higher than a century ago, which worsens the effect of coastal flooding farther inland.”

    • “Water Is Life”: Midwestern Floods Threaten Indigenous Communities at Forefront of Climate Crisis

      As Nebraska and the U.S. Midwest recover from devastating climate change-fueled floods, we speak with Lakota historian Nick Estes on how two centuries of indigenous resistance created the movement proclaiming “Water is life.” Estes’s new book is titled “Our History Is the Future.” He is a co-founder of the indigenous resistance group The Red Nation and a citizen of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe.

    • How to Keep Conservation Policies From Backfiring in a Globally Connected World

      For many years environmentalists have urged the public to “think globally, act locally” – meaning, consider the health of the planet, then take action in your own community.

      But this approach can have unintended consequences. In a recent study, I worked with colleagues from academia, government and the nonprofit world to gather examples of fishery, forestry, agriculture and biofuel policies that appeared successful locally, but on closer inspection actually created environmental problems elsewhere, or in some cases made them worse.

      For example, in my field of fisheries ecology and management, one strategy for managing the problem of bycatch — when fishermen accidentally catch non-target species, such as sharks, sea turtles and dolphins — is to reduce local catch limits. But when the United States curtailed Pacific swordfish catch between April 2001 and March 2004 to protect sea turtles, U.S. wholesalers imported more swordfish from other countries’ fleets operating in the Western and Central Pacific.

      These fleets subsequently caught more swordfish to meet continued U.S. market demand. In the process, the number of sea turtles unintentionally hooked by fishermen increased by nearly 3,000 compared to before the closure.

      My colleagues and I see this pattern, which scholars often call leakage or slippage, as vast and growing. To help address it, we identified ways to avoid taking actions that just displace environmental harms from one place to another rather than reducing them.

    • ‘In a Just World, It Would Be Treated as Crime Against Humanity’: New Report Exposes Big Oil’s Real Agenda

      In the years since the 2015 Paris agreement, the world’s top five Big Oil firms collectively have spent more than a billion dollars on “misleading” branding and lobbying to “capture the public and political narrative” on the climate crisis while they continue expanding their fossil fuel operations.

      That’s according to Big Oil’s Real Agenda on Climate Change, a new report published late Thursday by InfluenceMap, a London-based nonprofit that tracks and analyzes how corporations influence climate policy.

    • Saving the Big Wild: Why Aren’t More Conservationists Supporting NREPA?

      The Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act or NREPA was once again introduced into Congress by Rep. Carolyn Mahony from New York last month. NREPA would protect all the remaining roadless lands in the Northern Rockies by designation under the 1964 Wilderness Act. Conservation scientists recognize Wilderness as the “Gold Standard” for land protection.

      Hell’s Canyon, a 10-mile-wide canyon located along the border of eastern Oregon, eastern Washington and western Idaho, is North America’s deepest river gorge. The bill, if passed, would also create a Hells Canyon National Park and Preserve in Oregon and protect several other iconic wild places in the Northern Rockies.

      Iconic wild places that would receive permanent protection includes Scotchman’s Peak, Meadow Creek, and Lost River Range in Idaho, the Great Burn, Big Snowies, and the Gallatin Range in Montana, the Palisades and Wyoming Range in Wyoming, and the Kettle Range in Washington. The bill, if passed, would also create a Hells Canyon National Park and Preserve in Oregon.

      In addition to protecting these wilderness areas, it would designate and protect more than 1,800 miles of rivers under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

    • ‘All Rhetoric and No Action’: Oil Giants Spent $1 Billion on Climate Lobbying and Ads Since Paris Pact, Says Report

      A new report by a British think tank estimates that since the 2015 Paris Agreement, the world’s five largest listed oil and gas companies spent more than $1 billion lobbying to prevent climate change regulations while also running public relations campaigns aimed at maintaining public support for climate action.

      Combined, the companies spend roughly $200 million a year pushing to delay or alter climate and energy rules, particularly in the U.S. — while spending $195 million a year “on branding campaigns that suggest they support an ambitious climate agenda,” according to InfluenceMap, a UK-based non-profit that researches how corporations influence climate policy.

  • Finance

    • “We Demand Food for Thought”: UIC Grad Workers On Strike for Living Wages and Respect

      In front of the historic Jane Addams Hull-House Museum on March 19, University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) graduate workers began an indefinite strike. The union is joining a national movement of higher education employees demanding livable wages and better working conditions in the often-unstable field of academia.

      The strike is the result of more than a year of negotiations between UIC Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) Local 6297 and the university administration. Since September 2018, over 1,500 teaching and graduate assistants have worked without a contract. An overwhelming 99.5 percent of UIC GEO members authorized a strike last month as part of a wave of educator work actions, from public school teachers in Los Angeles and West Virginia to faculty at Rutgers University and Wright State University. Jeff Schuhrke, co-president of the UIC GEO and labor history Ph.D. candidate, said the strike exemplifies the vital labor graduate students provide.

      “The University of Illinois system just seems to not care about its employees and is always very hostile to collective bargaining and to unions,” Schuhrke told In These Times. “They just try to lowball us and they disrespect us. We’re fed up with it, obviously.”

      UIC graduate employees make a minimum salary of $18,065 for two semesters of 20-hour work weeks, with $13,502 in fee and tuition waivers. Schuhrke said this doesn’t account for the amount and quality of labor, which can include teaching classes for up to 60 students. He said since the union was recognized by the university in 2004, “modest” raises haven’t accounted for increasing university fees, which cut into graduate employees’ salaries. Currently, UIC GEO is seeking a 24 percent pay increase over three years, with the university offering 11.5 percent.

    • New York’s Hudson Yards: The Revanchist City Lives On

      As is often the case, a spurt of media attention on one event leaves any deeper issues virtually untouched. It was just over a month ago that Amazon announced it was pulling out of its highly subsidized deal to build one of its second headquarters in New York. Three billion in city and state subsidies and goodies like its own personal heliport proved to make much of the public too curious for Jeff Bezos’ liking, rather than attempt any further negotiation and despite the spurned Governor Cuomo’s shameless and pathetic attempt at begging him to reconsider, Bezos set sail, no doubt on the lookout for brighter red carpets. Meanwhile, activists celebrating that victory ceased to realize that an even greater monstrosity was emerging just across the river from the proposed Amazon location.

      If one looks back at the three terms of former mayor Michael Bloomberg choosing their worst feature could be challenging. From ‘stop and frisk’ to the rezoned waterfronts now brimming with luxury apartments well beyond reach of the workers who used to toil there to the arrogant orchestrated overturning of term limits with massive personal spending for reelection campaigns, the choices are plentiful. Yet perhaps Bloomberg’s legacy can be best encapsulated by the recent opening of Hudson Yards on Manhattan’s Westside. Billed for over decade as the ‘largest real estate deal in American history’, built by Related Companies and Oxford Properties, two of the largest developers in the world, and with some nonunion building labor, the 28 acre complex when completed sometime in 2035 will hold 13 buildings including apartments, millions of square feet of office space, a performance arts center, a seven-story mall, a hotel, and the requisite celebrity chef-owned restaurants.

    • There’s Plenty of Wealth to Go Around, But It Doesn’t

      Get ready to hear a lot about baking this campaign season.

      When it comes to how wealth is distributed in this country, “pie” is a favorite pundit metaphor. Some politicians want to “re-divide the pie,” so everyone’s slice is more equal in size.

      But that’s “socialism,” some pundits scold. Better to trust our billionaires and millionaires to “grow the pie” so big that every American has a generous slice.

      New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman indulged a bit of this recently. Michael Bloomberg, Friedman explained, is a grow-the-pie guy. Bernie Sanders, he warned, is a re-divide-the-pie guy.

      Bloomberg has a net worth of about $50 billion. How big would he have to grow the pie so that every American household gets a slice as big as his? By my calculations, that would require about a 500,000 percent increase in the size of America’s total wealth — to over $600 quadrillion.

    • Unfair State Tax Codes Also Exacerbate Racial Inequity

      The latest edition of ITEP’s Who Pays? A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States details how most state and local tax structures contribute to income and wealth inequality by asking low- and moderate-income residents to pay a significantly higher effective tax rate than the wealthy.

      Nationwide, the lowest-income households contribute, on average, 11 percent of their income in state and local taxes while the top 1 percent of households contribute just 7 percent of their income—that’s a tax rate that is 50 percent higher for families working hard to make ends meet than for the wealthiest 1 percent. The tax systems of 45 states widen the income gap between their most affluent residents and lower- and middle-income families. State and local tax systems also worsen existing racial disparities.

      Due to a long history of racially discriminatory economic and social policies and practices, communities of color, particularly Black and Latinx households, are overrepresented in the lowest-income quintiles of taxpayers and underrepresented in the highest. These policies include wealth stripping and exclusionary housing policies, a persistent reliance on regressive revenue streams like criminal justice fees and more. A 2019 ITEP analysis found that Black and Latinx households are overrepresented in the lowest-income quintiles; while they represent about 22 percent of overall tax returns, they account for 30 percent of the poorest quintile of taxpayers.

    • How Billionaires Are Using Hate to Divide Us

      The union I lead, the United Steelworkers (USW), believes in unity, that “all working men and women, regardless of creed, color or nationality” are eligible for membership.

      That was the guiding principle of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) when it formed in 1937.

      I return to that statement in times like these, times when terrorists shoot up mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 50 worshipers; a synagogue in the USW’s hometown of Pittsburgh, killing 11; an African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine; a Sikh temple near Milwaukee, killing six; a nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 mostly young gay people.

      The USW membership eligibility statement is an assertion of inclusion. All working men and women qualify. They can all join. They can all attend local union meetings at which members call each other “brother” and “sister.” This practice creates artificial, but crucial, bonds between them. This solidarity gives the group strength when facing off against massive multinational corporations and demanding decent pay and dignified working conditions.

    • ‘Like Nominating Dr. Phil to Run CDC’: Alarm Bells as Trump Nominates Right-Wing Sycophant Stephen Moore to Federal Reserve

      “I will be nominating Mr. Moore for the Fed. You know who I’m talking about,” Trump told reporters while arriving in Florida for the weekend. “He’s going to be great on the Fed.”

      Whispers that Moore, a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation who advised Trump’s 2016 campaign, might join the central bank had been circulating online since late Thursday. In a tweet on Friday, the president called him “a very respected Economist.”

      Concerned economic and political commentators decried Moore as “a famous idiot” who “has proved deeply impervious to facts.”

      Several critics also pointed out that Moore was among the “principal architects of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s massive tax cuts, and their predictions that those tax cuts would spur an ‘immediate’ Kansas economic boom have proved strikingly inaccurate.”

      As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a progressive think tank, explained in a 2016 blog post, “the Kansas tax cut package has had a deleterious impact on the state’s financial stability and the provision of critical services.”

    • Billionaires May Pose the Single Greatest Threat to American Democracy

      The union I lead, the United Steelworkers (USW), believes in unity, that “all working men and women, regardless of creed, color or nationality” are eligible for membership.

      That was the guiding principle of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) when it formed in 1937.

      [...]

      Exclusion is self-defeating, whether workers belong to a labor union or not. Because every man and woman is needed on deck, we can’t let billionaire hate purveyors like the Mercers and Murdochs split us, in our workplaces or in our communities.

      Robert Mercer, 72, who made his billions as a hedge fund manager, is a major funder—more than $10 million—of Breitbart, the website once run by former White House aide Stephen Bannon. This is what the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization devoted to monitoring and exposing domestic hate groups and extremists, wrote about the site:

      “In April of 2016, the SPLC documented Breitbart’s embrace of extremist ideas and racist tropes such as black-on-white crime and anti-Muslim conspiracy theories. Further analyses showed how under executive chair Stephen Bannon, Breitbart’s comment section became a safe space for anti-Semitic language.”

    • HUD’s Inspection System Gets a Poor Grade in Congressional Watchdog’s Report

      The federal government’s system of inspecting taxpayer-subsidized housing is fundamentally flawed, and leaders at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development haven’t taken adequate steps to fix it, according to a congressional watchdog report released Thursday.

      The findings of the Government Accountability Office mirror those of an investigation by The Southern Illinoisan and ProPublica last year, which documented numerous cases in which substandard housing complexes received passing — and in some cases, glowing — scores from HUD. The news organizations built an online tool to allow users to look up the scores of taxpayer subsidized housing developments near them.

      The GAO faulted HUD for failing to implement critical recommendations that senior staff made over two years ago to improve the agency’s inspection protocols, which are designed to protect low-income families living in federally subsidized housing and prevent landlords from gaming the system.

      Those recommendations included changing the scoring system to place more emphasis on health and safety concerns facing tenants inside their units, shortening the time frame that property owners have to address emergency conditions identified during inspections, and creating a system to verify whether landlords are actually making promised repairs.

    • Potential Recession Signal: A Key ‘Yield Curve’ Has Inverted

      One of the most closely watched predictors of a potential recession just yelped even louder.

      The signal lies within the bond market, through which investors show how confident they are about the economy by their level of demand for U.S. government bonds.

      It’s called the “yield curve,” and a significant part of it flipped Friday for the first time since before the Great Recession: A Treasury bill that matures in three months is yielding 2.46 percent — 0.03 percentage points more than the yield on a Treasury that matures in 10 years.

    • Eric the Heartbroken

      It is no wonder his heart is broken. Not only have they been wonderful employees, but it’s impossible for him or anyone else to know what Eric’s daddy really wants. It all has to do with the confusing rules about legal and illegal immigrants, his daddy’s inconsistent statements, and the difficulty his daddy’s companies have had complying with the law when it comes to employing immigrant workers at their various properties.

      When it was reported, late in 2018, that the Trump organization employed many undocumented workers at its assorted properties, and in some cases had assisted them in falsifying their documents so they could remain employed, the organization vowed to change its ways. Eric Trump, a vice president of the company, explained, while simultaneously demonstrating his grammatical creativity: “We are actively engaged in uniforming this process across our properties and will institute e-verify at any property not currently utilizing this system.”

      When it became publicly known that the Trump organization employed a number of workers who were not qualified to work in the United States, even though many of them had worked for the Trump properties for many years, they were fired. Their firing took an emotional toll on Eric.

    • EU Takes Charge, Forces Brexit Deadlines on U.K.’s May

      Isolated at home and abroad, British Prime Minister Theresa May was laboring against the odds Friday to win backers in Parliament for her unloved Brexit deal — to a timetable dictated by the European Union.

      Almost three years after Britons voted to walk away from the EU, the bloc’s leaders seized control of the Brexit timetable from May to avert a chaotic departure at the end of this month that would be disruptive for the world’s biggest trading bloc and deeply damaging for Britain.

      “We are prepared for the worst but hope for the best,” said European Council President Donald Tusk. “As you know, hope dies last.”

      May’s mantra since Britain’s 2016 EU membership referendum in 2016 has always been about “taking back control” of U.K. affairs from the EU. But the process has seen her lose control — of the U.K. Parliament, which has twice rejected her Brexit deal, and now of the date of departure.

    • Getting It Right on What Stuff Costs

      I think we, as a nation, have a problem with how we discuss money and public policy. Let me compare it to household finances, since that is something everyone can relate to.

      [...]

      Right now I’m working on my PhD. I pay tuition and school fees, plus I’m spending at least six years of my life in poverty as a poorly paid graduate student. Is that a waste of money? No. Right now, it’s not a profitable decision. In the long run, however, my degree will (hopefully) allow me to earn more money in my career.

      When you can afford it, making decisions that allow you to save money or earn more down the road, even when the payoff doesn’t occur until years later, is a wise choice.

      When we talk about public spending and the national budget, we all understand the general idea that we should spend our tax dollars on useful things that will benefit all of us. We shouldn’t pay wasteful, inflated prices for what we can get for less. And we certainly shouldn’t spend money on things we don’t need at all.

    • College Scams and the Ills of Capitalist-Driven Education

      My first reaction to the recent college admissions scandal was, “Who is Lori Loughlin?” I had never heard this name and not having watched American television until 2007, I also blanked on the name of the TV show which was her claim to fame. My second reaction, however, was simply one of dismay as to the naïveté of those who were surprised by the tactics being used by parents desperate to see their children enter into elite universities.

      Coming from academia and having taught at universities around the world, I have gained a healthy skepticism for the university systems in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom where entry to these universities is generally quite expensive aside from admissions processes which often disadvantage anyone from lower class backgrounds. Or, a quick review of the Harvard admissions process trial last Fall shows us that not only can anything be bought, but standards can be skewed any which way to produce the desired “personal rating” for the intake of new students. While the Rolling Stone story on this issue outlined the facts of this case, one statement from the U.S. District Attorney for the state of Massachusetts, Andrew Lelling, unwittingly spoke volumes about the larger structural problems: “We’re not talking about donating a building so a school is more likely to taker your son or daughter….we’re talking about deception and fraud.” I cackled reading this line since Lelling clearly sees a moral and legal distinction between these two acts where most of us simply do not.

      It is this difference which serves as the paradigmatic basis for reading university admissions today: those of us who were accepted to universities for having taken prerequisite tests and having achieved certain high school grades—many despite great odds—and then the rest. And this rest not only includes the elite families who can afford to send their children to private schools and elaborate summer programs that tick all the right boxes, but failing this these parents have the means to hire someone to sit their children’s exams, create fake photos of their daughter on a rowing team and the money to purchase a building or endowment to ensure their progenitors will have easy admissions to the institution of choice.

    • The Rich Are No Smarter Than You

      Nothing makes me angrier than stupid rich people getting unfair advantages. These same entitled rich people then turn around and fight against so-called “entitlement” programs and affirmative action because they seem to think their achievements are based on merit while the rest of us who actually work for a living—or at least try to—are nothing more than lazy freeloaders or unscrupulous “welfare queens” who deserve to die if we can’t afford our hospital bill.

      Now we see some richies arrested for lying, bribing and cheating to get unfair advantages for their offspring. To hell with them and their unearned privilege. May they suffer the indignity of a second-rate college or otherwise rot in a minimum-security prison.

      The college bribery scandal is just the latest example of what anyone who’s been paying attention should already know: the United States is not a meritocracy. The biggest marker of success seems to be the zip code you are born into—regardless of how talented, intelligent, or charismatic you are. The Horatio Alger story has gone from mythical to fraudulent.

      The real tragedy is that many average people, whose parents cannot afford to spend millions to send them to Harvard, operate under the assumption that a person’s financial net worth is equivalent to actual worth. I blame this primarily on our education system and our mainstream media, both of which do the masses a grave injustice by shielding them from class-based analysis.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Only Socialist in US History of ‘With Serious Chance of Winning’: DSA Endorses Bernie Sanders for 2020

      The Democratic Socialists of America have officially endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders for president saying the self-described socialist running for the Democratic nomination is the best candidate to put forth a “class-struggle agenda” heading into the 2020 elections and the first candidate of his kind in the nation’s history with a legitimate chance of winning.

      The endorsement came in a vote by the group’s National Political Committee on Thursday night after surveys of chapters and members nationwide showed 75 percent approval for the decision.

      “Bernie Sanders is part of an incredible revival of resistance to billionaires and their corporations,” said DSA national director Maria Svart. “Democratic socialists are proud to join with Sanders, his millions of supporters, teachers and other workers on strike across the U.S., and students protesting climate change across the world in fighting for a society that puts people over profit.”

    • It’s Mueller Time: ACLU Demands DOJ ‘Swiftly’ Release Special Counsel Report to the Public

      “The American people have a right to know if President Trump and his associates coordinated with Russia to interfere in our elections, the full extent of Russian efforts to affect our elections, and any attempts to interfere with Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation.”

    • Mueller Concludes Russia Probe With No New Indictments

      Special counsel Robert Mueller on Friday turned over his long-awaited final report on the contentious Russia investigation that has cast a dark shadow over Donald Trump’s presidency, entangled Trump’s family and resulted in criminal charges against some of the president’s closest associates.

      The comprehensive report, still confidential, marks the end of Mueller’s probe but sets the stage for big public fights to come. The next steps are up to Trump’s attorney general, to Congress and, in all likelihood, federal courts.

    • Fox News viewers are convinced: Donald Trump is the greatest president ever

      President Trump stood in the White House Rose Garden this week with President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, beaming from ear to ear as this fellow right-wing demagogue parroted Trump’s favorite catchphrase, “fake news,” in front of the assembled White House press corps. Trump said he was very proud to hear Bolsonaro use the term and went off on an extended rant against social media, promising to “do something about it.”

      Trump complained again last weekend about “Saturday Night Live” mocking him, and suggested that the FEC and the FCC look into stopping them. His top henchman in the House of Representatives, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, just this week filed a $250 million lawsuit against small-time Twitter parody accounts that made fun of him (most famously, one allegedly written by a cow) and Donald Trump Jr. is writing op-eds complaining about Twitter and Facebook censorship.

    • Is the Democratic Party Finally Standing Up to the Israel Lobby?

      Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg and Julian Castro, among candidates for the Democratic Party nomination for president, have all announced that they will not attend the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)

      [...]

      MoveOn.org seems to me to have moved left over time, including on Israel/Palestine. It spearheaded the movement to get out of Iraq in the zeroes. It also protested the 2009 war on little Gaza.

      A Bernie Sanders spokesperson told NBC News that the senator is “concerned about the platform AIPAC is providing for leaders who have expressed bigotry and oppose a two-state solution.” Sanders did not go to AIPAC in 2016, but Hillary Clinton has been a frequent guest and is close to the Israel lobbies and the Netanyahu government. She hasn’t given any sign of caring what happens to the Palestinians one way or another since about 1996. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer will be headliners at AIPAC this year. The organization says it isn’t disturbed by the exodus of presidential candidates, insisting that it focuses on Congress. Hmm. I wonder what it does for the congressional representatives?

    • As 2020 Democrats Steer Clear, Progressive Groups Urge Pelosi and Schumer to #SkipAIPAC

      A diverse coalition of progressive advocacy groups representing Jewish and Muslim Americans is pressuring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and other top Democrats to cancel planned speeches at AIPAC’s annual conference as a growing number of the party’s presidential candidates are vowing to skip the event.

    • The Masculinity of the Future

      “I hope you’ve got enough cojones!” George Bush snapped at Tony Blair. The American president then outlined his planned bombardment of Iraq to the British Prime Minister: “I’m gonna kick ass!”

      Over the last two decades, much of the world has witnessed a wave of masculinization. Ideas about how strong men are an attractive future ideal have taken hold in many people’s minds. The #MeToo movement is facing a serious attack, fueled by the resentment and aggressiveness of large numbers of men.

      Autocratic, populist right-wing leaders are an example of this new, unbridled masculinity. Donald Trump mocks disabled people, treats women as if they were sex dolls, and boasts about touching them up. Vladimir Putin has a habit of stripping to the waist so he can show off his muscles while being photographed in the snow. In recent years, his government has decreed that domestic violence is not against the law and the Russian state encourages cruelty towards homosexuals and people with different ethnic backgrounds. To the extent that in Russia things have got to the stage where the murders of the dissident journalist Anna Politkovskaya and dozens of other intellectuals, are regarded as little more than peccadillos. Much of Russian society became fed up with democracy and gave the green light to the so-called siloviki, the tough guys. Many Russians support the rule of force as a state policy. One of the most popular Russian rock songs is dedicated to Putin and his tough guys: “I love a guy like Putin, he’s as tough as they come’, sing the teenage stars Larissa, Natasha and Ira.

    • Think Dishonest Politics and Dark Money Elections Bad Now? Court Ruling Opens Floodgates for ‘Scam PACs’

      A federal judge on Thursday struck down FEC regulations barring unauthorized political action committees from using a candidate’s name to mislead voters and attract donations, a ruling critics warned could lead to the proliferation of “scam PACs.”

      Paul S. Ryan, vice president for policy and litigation with Common Cause, said the ruling “will embolden scam PACs to trade on the names of candidates to raise money for their own ends from unknowing citizens.”

      “The Federal Election Commission (FEC) can and should still be enforcing the ban—and opening a rulemaking to establish new disclaimer requirements for non-candidate websites that use a candidate’s name in the URL,” Ryan added.

      In a series of tweets, FEC chair Ellen Weintraub explained that political action committees are still barred from using candidates’ names in their formal titles.

      But, Weintraub continued, the judge’s ruling will allow PACs to use candidates’ names in their “solicitations, other communications, and special projects.”

    • The Zionist Smear Campaign Against Bernie Sanders Is Just Beginning

      A United States plagued by inequality, corruption, racism, and war is gearing up for a polarizing and potentially explosive election season in 2020.

      Most likely, President Trump will be the Republican nominee, while Sen. Bernie Sanders leads the pack of (declared) contenders with his democratic socialist challenge to the status quo.

      Senator Sanders, however, is facing an opposition coalition that has found common cause in his destruction: Republicans, liberal Democrats and their common ally — Zionists.

      Trump is in trouble. His term bursts at the seams with controversy, beleaguered with the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, a transparent and so-far failed coup attempt in Venezuela, a long list of more than two-dozen White House officials who were either fired or quit, hush payments to porn stars, major breaches in national security, support for unsavory racists and authoritarians, Mafioso-style appointments, and questionable security clearances for friends and family members. What’s more, recent polling show he has the lowest approval rating for this period of his presidency of any U.S. president in recent history. Yet in spite of Trump’s failed presidency and record of gross dishonesty, Republicans continue to back him. His is the true face of the capitalism they seek — unapologetically white supremacist, misogynistic, imperialist, corporate-friendly and xenophobic.

      With nearly two-dozen declared and potential challengers to Trump, Democratic hopefuls are attempting to present themselves as alternatives to the president’s divisive, reactionary agenda.

    • Who will be on stage in the Democratic debates? It depends on how you measure popularity

      The DNC rules for entry into the Democratic debates in June and July are like a presidential primary Hunger Games. To earn a place on the stage, candidates must have at least one percent support in selected polls or raise money from 65,000 unique donors in 20 states with 200 donors per state. The DNC indicated the latter option would allow lesser-known candidates to participate in the debates.

      With 14 high profile candidates already in the running, a maximum of 20 candidates will be selected to participate in the debates. Rather than have them all on stage at once, 10 candidates will appear over two consecutive nights on NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo.

      It’s easy to find out who is ahead in the polls with an internet search. But the number of donors a candidate has is not a matter of public record.

      Mandatory financial disclosures to the FEC for the quarter ending on March 31 aren’t due until April 15. Before that date, information candidates release about their donors is voluntary and many candidates are not offering a full picture of what they’ve raised.

      Not so for Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. His campaign told the New York Times he raised $10 million from 360,000 donors during the first week, with $5.9 million coming in the first 24 hours. Sanders, who ran for reelection to the Senate in 2018, already had $9 million cash on hand from previous campaign fundraising. Sanders can use that $9 million to help fuel his presidential run.

    • Progressives Refuse to Back Down as DCCC Moves to Kneecap Primary Challengers

      Progressives made clear they have no intention of backing down to the party establishment after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Friday threatened to cut off funds to firms and strategists that support primary challengers against incumbents.

      “The DCCC can do anything it wants to try to prevent the next generation of Democrats from taking power. They will not succeed,” Sean McElwee—co-founder of Data for Progress, which is recruiting progressives to oust conservative Democrats—said in a statement.

    • Anti-Brexit Marchers Swarm London Streets, Demand New Vote

      Anti-Brexit protesters swarmed the streets of central London by the tens of thousands on Saturday, demanding that Britain’s Conservative-led government hold a new referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union.

      The “People’s Vote March” kicked off shortly after noon and snaked from Park Lane and other locations to converge on the U.K. Parliament, where the fate of Brexit will be decided in the coming weeks.

      Many marchers carried European Union flags and signs praising the longstanding ties between Britain and continental Europe.

      Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable, invited to help lead the march, called the crowd impressive and unified.

      “There is a huge turnout of people here from all walks of life, of all ages and from all over the country,” he tweeted. “We are a Remain country now with 60 percent wanting to stop the Brexit mess.”

      More than 4 million people endorsed an electronic petition this week in favor of revoking Article 50, the act that formally triggered the Brexit process.

      The march comes as British Prime Minister Theresa May, who opposes a second referendum on Britain’s EU membership, is easing away from plans to hold a third vote on her troubled Brexit withdrawal plan, which has been strongly rejected twice by Parliament.

    • The Real Parallels Between Donald Trump and George Orwell

      It takes close to zero genius, imagination or insight to write a dystopian novel. They are released now like junk mail. One can hardly get through a week without being bombarded by the latest book telling you the world is going to end. Strangely enough such books are not just met with critical acclaim, but with excitement. It is the liberal’s version of the Book of Revelation. Many people don’t seem to mind the world ending—as long as they predicted it.

      Climate change aside, people have been predicting that the world will end throughout the history of imperialist civilizations. Every society built on the destruction of another society naturally anticipates their own demise by some greater force whether that be the government, God, or something in between. The United States of America is especially prone to this thesis because of our ruthless genocide of Native Americans. Now it is the same class of people guilty of genocide that are gleefully predicting the end of the world.

      Climate change may finally bring the world to its knees. But this by no means ends the world. New species will grow and eventually the earth will recover. Humans may be extinct by then, although populations as of now are still growing. Regardless, if the world is going to end, it will not be by any human “government” policy. It will be by climate change which was caused by the heartless greed of a handful of people. Climate change is also unique because it is an event that will supersede politics. The devastation it causes sends entire civilized countries into war, famine and desperate poverty. Of course, so do even the least imperialist U.S. politicians, but in general, one has to admit climate change is a rather unique phenomenon.

      Either way pre-climate change dystopians have even less excuse for their lazy works than present-day ones. The most celebrated dystopian is George Orwell, who put together the book 1984, as well as several other paranoid and underdeveloped pieces of literature. Donald Trump must be stopped. But celebrating dystopia will only reinforce Trumpism even when it is in the name of anti-Trump.

    • Kazakh capital renamed after ex-leader

      Astana becomes Nursultan just one day after Nursultan Nazarbayev’s surprise resignation.

    • The Crux of the Accusations Against David Sirota From the Atlantic’s Edward-Isaac Dovere Is False

      he Atlantic on Tuesday published a sensationalistic series of accusations by reporter Edward-Isaac Dovere aimed at long-time journalist David Sirota, whose hiring by the Sanders 2020 presidential campaign as a speechwriter and adviser had just been announced earlier that day. The Atlantic article predictably and quickly went viral, cited by major media outlets and Democratic Party operatives as proof that Sirota had acted unethically by critically reporting on rival presidential candidates in the prior months while dishonestly concealing his work as an operative or adviser for the Sanders campaign.

      In his viral tweet promoting what he hyped as his “SCOOP,” Dovere was even more explicitly accusatory, claiming that “Sirota, just hired as Bernie Sanders’ speechwriter and senior adviser, has been quietly writing speeches and advising him for months without disclosing it but while bashing pretty much every candidate in the field.”

    • Foreign-Owned Corporations Funnel Millions Into US Elections

      After the Federal Election Commission hit the Jeb Bush-affiliated Right to Rise super PAC with a record fine for illegally soliciting donations from foreign donors, focus has shifted to how many foreign-owned companies actually participate in American elections. The answer? Quite a few.

      Foreign-based corporations or U.S. subsidiaries of foreign-based corporations have contributed millions of dollars to super PACs and hybrid PACs following Citizens United v. FEC, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that opened up federal elections to direct corporate contributions.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • US Cloud platforms potentially incompatible with GDPR

      It’s common knowledge that Cloud platforms come with benefits but also with known risks. Compliance with various regulations, being an ever changing landscape, is generally not seen as a major risk as it’s built into the sometimes tedious but necessary tasks.

      In some cases your organisation’s compliance with directives, regulations and international agreements is dependent on third parties and you have to make sure those third parties follow the same rules.

      Over the last year it has become more and more clear that non-EU Cloud services, including those from large US providers like Microsoft, Dropbox, Google, etc…, are not compliant with EU privacy regulations like the GDPR. The Dutch government recently concluded this and the Swedish National Procurement Service published, just last month, a pre-study report about Cloud based office platforms.

      In short: if your organisation uses Cloud services controlled by US companies to store European citizens Personally Identifiable Information (PII) your organisation may not be GDPR compliant any more as those services are in breach of Articles 44 – 50 in many ways.

      The risk for your organisation is to be sued by any EU citizen that hasn’t provided consent for their data to be transferred and naturally by the local Data Protection Authority for non compliance.

      Since the publication of Sweden’s pre-study the situation worsened as The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), an independent agency of the US Government, published a set of statements made by the members of the board during the forum titled “Countering Terrorism While Protecting Privacy and Civil Liberties: Where Do We Stand in 2019?”.

    • To Search Through Millions of License Plates, Police Should Get a Warrant

      Earlier this week, EFF filed a brief in one of the first cases to consider whether the use of automated license plate reader (ALPR) technology implicates the Fourth Amendment. Our amicus brief, filed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in United States v. Yang, argues that when a U.S. Postal Service inspector used a commercial ALPR database to locate a suspected mail thief, it was a Fourth Amendment search that required a warrant.

      ALPRs are high-speed, computer-controlled camera systems. Some models can photograph up to 1,800 license plates every minute, and every week, law enforcement agencies across the country use these cameras to collect data on millions of license plates. The plate numbers, together with location, date, and time information, are uploaded to a central server, and made instantly available to other agencies. The data include photographs of the vehicle, and sometimes of its drivers and passengers. ALPRs are typically attached to vehicles, such as police cars, or can be mounted on street poles, highway overpasses, or mobile trailers.

      One leading commercial database operated by DRN advertises that it contains 6.5 billion plates. DRN is owned by the same company as Vigilant Solutions, and according to testimony from a Vigilant executive in the Yang case, the Vigilant LEARN database used by the Postal Service to locate the defendant includes all of DRN’s records as well as a wealth of data available only to law enforcement agencies.

      If police want to search through ALPR data, we believe they should get a warrant.

      In recent years, EFF, the ACLU, and others have called attention to ALPR’s invasive tracking capabilities and its proliferation across the country. We won a major victory when the California Supreme Court agreed with us that the public has a right to know how police use this technology. Starting with Yang, we will be arguing that government use of ALPRs is a search that implicates the Fourth Amendment, and it should require a warrant in routine investigations.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Pigs (A Million Different Ones)

      Some years ago, the summer after college – and this was right at the start of the Great Recession, which may be relevant – I had a job working at a small airport, shuttling rental cars. It paid $10 an hour and was mostly outdoors – you’d pick up the cars in the drop-off garage, run them back to our garage, clean and vacuum the interior, run it through the carwash, then park them for the next customer. I liked it.

      One of my co-workers was a guy my age. He was one of the friendlier guys, instinctively called me “Danny” in the way I’ve found New Englanders like to do. Wore a jean jacket, smoked, and seemed sensible and level-headed in the way quiet people often tend to seem. Basically, a nice, modest guy with whom I preferred processing the cars.

      One morning, we were the first guys in our garage, and for some reason had no cars to pick up. We sat around in the auto bay – or leaned against the cinder-block wall actually, there was nothing to sit on – and just shot the shit.

      “Danny,” he asked, “you heard about this Amero thing?”

      [...]

      But what he was talking about was nuts, a far-right conspiracy theory circulated by the lunatics who claimed the United Nations was going to invade any day now, and that Obama was a secret Muslim born in Kenya. How did he not know that?

    • FBI’s ‘Clothing Match’ Expert Changed Testimony To Better Serve Prosecutors, Co-Chairs Nat’l Forensic Committee

      A little more than a month ago, we covered the ultra-weird offshoot of FBI forensics spearheaded by Richard Vorder Bruegge. Vorder Bruegge claimed mass-produced clothing like jeans were as unique as fingerprints and DNA. According to his forensic “expertise,” a match could be made using only low-res CCTV screengrabs and whole lot of arrows.

      [...]

      The entire report is a fascinating, if disheartening, read. Jurors and judges are easily swayed by FBI experts, even after cross examination exposes mathematically-impossible levels of certainty or, in at least one case, Vorder Brugge’s admission he worked backward from the conclusion prosecutors wanted him to reach.

      Work like Vorder Bruegge’s is exactly why a prominent federal judge resigned from a forensic committee in 2015. Judge Jed Rakoff recognized the DOJ did not want to fix its forensic problems. It only wanted to give the appearance it cared for as long as it took to sweep the embarrassment under the rug. The DOJ has too much invested in half-baked science and self-made experts to actually clean house and add more actual science to its forensic methods.

    • In Boston, People Are Charged With Crimes That Waste Taxpayers’ Money and Prosecutors’ Time

      When people in Boston are charged with certain low-level crimes and misdemeanors, prosecutors dismiss the charges nearly 60 percent of the time.
      America’s growing awareness of mass incarceration and the over-incarceration of people of color has sparked something nationwide: From Birmingham to Boston, voters are electing progressive, reform-minded prosecutors.

      Suffolk County District Attorney candidate Rachael Rollins last year announced that, if elected, her office would decline to prosecute 15 misdemeanors and low-level felonies in Boston and surrounding municipalities. The list included breaking and entering when it is for the purpose of sleeping or seeking refuge from the cold and there is no property damage, minor in possession of alcohol, drug possession, resisting arrest as a standalone charge, and minor driving offenses.

      “I believe that we are spending too much time on petty crimes that are clogging up our system and costing us more money,” she told Fox’s Tucker Carlson last September. “They’re more social problems than they are crimes.”

    • It’s March Madness, Unionize the NCAA!

      When Zion Williamson’s foot broke through the sole of his Nike shoe on February 20th, the sporting world stood still.

      The consensus number one player in college basketball was playing in the biggest game of the season — North Carolina versus Duke — and suffered his startling injury in the opening minute. Williamson’s sprained knee cost Nike $1.1 billion in stock market valuation the next day.

      The injury came on the doorstep of March Madness, the NCAA’s most profitable event of the year — to the tune of $900 million in revenue.

      Despite the billions riding on his performance, the NCAA insists that athletes like Williamson are “amateurs” — student-athletes there only for the love of the game. It forbids them to make money off their performance, even as they support an industry worth billions. Duke alone makes $31 million off its basketball program.

    • Beyond Prisons: Taylar Nuevelle On Knitting In Prison

      Taylar Nuevelle joins the Beyond Prisons podcast to talk about her experiences with knitting while incarcerated. In particular, we talk about her love of knitting, the space it created for her in prison, as well as how it was used to punish her.

      Ms. Nuevelle is a writer and advocate for justice-involved women. In 2017 she created a writing program at the Central Treatment Facility (CTF), the women’s jail in DC, “Sharing Our Stories to Reclaim Our Lives.” She is credited for creating the concept of the “Trauma-to-Prison Pipeline” for women and girls.

    • Intersectionalities of Gender and Politics in Indian-Administered Kashmir

      In my work, previous and current, I attempt to foreground the radical potential of voices that are considered marginalized. In doing so, I neither attempt to neglect the adverse effects of domination or displacement, nor do I associate the authoritarian qualities of writing and pedagogy exclusively with the West. How did Kashmiri women navigate the often impenetrable terrain of formal spaces of political power created not just by elites but by insurgent movements as well, which are often striving for forms of nationalism that are similar to the exclusionary and patriarchal nationalisms of neocolonial elites? Did Kashmiri women create new forms of subjectivity that were radically different from the essentialist and dichotomous state-nationalist subject? Do these new forms of subjectivity enable the construction of resistance feminisms? Does this subject provide “a constant critique of nationalist and even insurgent agendas, of power relations that structure global economic flows, and will never be complete” (Grewal 1997: 234)?

      I briefly examine the oppositional and nonessentialist narratives of Kashmiri women that forge new niches in Kashmiri society through the pathways of multilayered identities and inclusiveness. The multiple narratives of Kashmiri women, including my own, disrupt the voicelessness of women placed on the altar of cultural iconicism.

      The renowned Kashmiri scholar Prem Nath Bazaz assesses the scintillating role that Kashmiri women of ancient times played in the social and cultural life of Kashmir (Bazaz [1967] 2005: 12), but these women were cushioned by their royal lineage in a monarchical regime, untormented by the lack of wherewithal that women of other socioeconomic classes were had to contend with. How did Kashmiri women, from different walks of life, express their political agency during the nationalist awakening in the 1930s; during the Quit Kashmir movement in the 1940s; during the invasion by raiders from the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan in 1947; during the period preceding and succeeding the accession of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir to the Indian dominion; at the onset of the militant movement in the late 1980s; and during the era of gross human rights violations by the Indian army, paramilitary forces, Pakistani-trained militants, mercenaries, and state-sponsored organizations in the 1990s and 2000s? Does the insurgent movement in Kashmir create parameters for women that are just as restrictive as those created by the politics of the nation-state? Have Kashmiri women signified a reconciliatory presence and been harbingers of peace?

    • Citizenship in the Age of Trump: Death by a Thousand Cuts

      This past month, for instance, claims of ISIS’s near total defeat in Syria have continued to mount. As a result, numerous foreigners who had traveled there to fight for, or support, the caliphate have appealed to their home countries to take them back, presumably to stand trial for their support of terrorism. Germany, Great Britain, New Zealand, and other nations have crafted responses that vary from lukewarm acceptance to outright denial of their citizenship status.

      On that score, Donald Trump’s White House hasn’t just led the way, but has used the occasion to put yet more concrete and steel into the great wall his administration has been constructing around the very idea of what it is to be an American. Here in the United States, where the Statue of Liberty has been a welcoming beacon for more than a century, the Trump administration’s response has not just been a fierce aversion to the return of such people, but the use of one of them to help redefine ever more narrowly the very idea of citizenship, of who belongs to this country. In the rejection of the citizenship of a former ISIS bride with child, the president and his advisors have, in an unprecedented way, refused to uphold the rights of U.S.-born citizens, let alone naturalized ones.

    • CBP Detains 9-Year-Old US Citizen For 36 Hours, Accuses Her 14-Year-Old Brother Of Sex Trafficking

      This debacle started the way something like this usually does: with US citizens engaged in activity they engage in every day. In this case, mother Thelma Galaxia’s children were being driven from Tijuana to the border crossing in order to attend school in San Ysidro, California. This was the normal state of affairs for her 9-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son.

      Traffic was heavy at the crossing so her friend told them to walk across the border to make sure they got to school on time. Both children were questioned by CBP officers. These officers decided 9-year-old Isabel Medina didn’t resemble her passport photo. They accused her of actually being her cousin, Melanie.

      That wasn’t enough for the CBP. It also decided to terrorize her 14-year-old brother, Oscar, by accusing him of being a criminal.

    • ‘We Have Roughly 12 Years’: Progressives Demand Urgency as Centrist Dems Push Bipartisan Incrementalism

      Centrist House Democrats continue to argue for incrementalism and bipartisan solutions to address the climate crisis—even as progressives are doubling down on their demand for urgent and visionary action.

      A resolution put forward in the House February by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proposes a Green New Deal that would take drastic action over the next decade, but not all members of the caucus are on board for what the global scientific community has said is necessary.

      The New Democrat Coalition, a moderate group within the Democratic caucus, announced last week that it would pursue what the group defined as “tangible, achievable” approaches to the climate crisis through “gradual” action.

      “We’re not going to do 100 percent [renewable energy] over 10 years,” the coalition’s Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) in an interview with The Hill published on Friday.

      The New Democrats have a climate task force in place to develop plans to tackle the crisis, but not to go so far as the “aspirational” ideas of the Green New Deal, said Luria.

      “The entire plan of the task force is to find ways to attack this incrementally,” Luria said.

    • Two Indiana Police Officers Face Federal Charges in Videotaped Beating of Handcuffed Man

      A federal grand jury has indicted two Elkhart, Indiana, police officers on civil rights charges for repeatedly punching a handcuffed man last year, U.S. prosecutors announced Friday.

      Elkhart County prosecutors had originally charged the two officers, Cory Newland and Joshua Titus, with misdemeanor battery in November, after the South Bend Tribune and ProPublica learned of the incident and requested video.

    • The Growing Epidemic of Cops Shooting Family Dogs

      The absurd cruelties of the American police state keep reaching newer heights.

      Consider that if you kill a police dog, you could face a longer prison sentence than if you’d murdered someone or abused a child.

      If a cop kills your dog, however, there will be little to no consequences for that officer.

      Not even a slap on the wrist.

      In this, as in so many instances of official misconduct by government officials, the courts have ruled that the cops have qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that incentivizes government officials to engage in lawless behavior without fear of repercussions.

      This is the heartless, heartbreaking, hypocritical injustice that passes for law and order in America today.

      It is estimated that a dog is shot by a police officer “every 98 minutes.”

    • Supreme Court Approves Indefinite Detention of Immigrants

      President Trump has faced significant criticism for his immigration policy, yet the administration has managed to find a friend on this issue in the Supreme Court. The nation’s highest court decided that ICE may detain immigrants indefinitely while awaiting deportation proceedings.

      As a consequence, ICE can continue putting any immigrant — legal or undocumented — into a detention center for perhaps years at a time if the individual has ever committed a crime. Not only is there no timeline for how long immigrants can be held in these centers, but immigrants can also be apprehended years after the crimes — even relatively minor ones — without warning.

      Traditionally, if the government feels an immigrant warrants deportation after serving a criminal sentence, U.S. officials almost immediately set that process in motion. The Trump administration, however, has contested that the law only stipulates “when the alien is released” – presumably with the intent to kick out immigrants remaining in the country under previous administrations.

      While the five conservative justices thought this was a fair interpretation, the four liberal justices dissented pretty strongly. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the court’s decision “runs the gravest risk of depriving those whom the government has detained of the oldest and most important of our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.”

    • Why School Psychologists Are Worried About the Mental Health of America’s Students

      A new ACLU report shows that millions of kids are in schools that have no mental health staff. One of the report’s authors discusses the implications.
      Earlier this month, thousands of school psychologists met in Atlanta at the annual convention of the National Association of School Psychologists. One of the hottest topics among attendees was exhaustion — a consequence of having to serve more students who are experiencing more trauma and other mental health problems without more help in carrying the load.

      It’s not just school psychologists who are concerned about being short-staffed. I know of far too many school counselors, social workers, and nurses who are serving more students than any practitioner can reasonably handle. Their impossible caseloads result in not only work overload and the risk of burnout but also an alarming number of young people not getting the help they need.

      For the past several years, members of the school psychologist community have been raising concerns about the detrimental under-investments in school-employed mental health staff — and a new report from the ACLU adds further data to the extent of the problem. “Cops and No Counselors,” co-authored by me and six other experts, analyzed data that the U.S. Department of Education collected from every school district in the nation. We found that the majority of K-12 schools are ill-equipped to address the mental health needs of children who are experiencing record levels of anxiety and depression during their formative years.

    • Small Businesses Like Mine Need Paid Family and Medical Leave

      Ten years ago, my husband and I opened a specialty oil and vinegar shop. Early on, we learned that our store would be only as good as the people who work in it. To invest in our employees is to invest in our business.

      Now we employ five people. One of our most valued long-term employees, Linda, worked at the phone company for 27 years before coming to us. She left the phone company as a retiree but didn’t have enough money from her pension to retire.

      When Linda fell and broke both of her arms last year, my husband and I told her to take the time she needed to recover. When payroll came around, I went to her apartment with her paycheck. She was sitting with the TV tray in front of her, deciding how to figure out rent with her leasing agent, what food to cut, and whether to sell her car.

      I gave her a full check, including pay for the time she’d been out recovering. She was incredibly relieved, and my husband and I were honored to be able to cover her time, which we continued to do through her recovery.

      But this took a toll on our family, our finances, and our business. I have three children and scrambled to pay for child care to cover my employee’s shifts. My husband and I missed a mortgage payment on our house, and we were late on a commercial rent payment.

    • Speaking the Unspoken

      Julie Delporte’s raw and devastating graphic memoir, “This Woman’s Work,” chronicles the 35-year-old author’s struggle to decipher what befell her as a small child. She often seems to be still swallowed whole by grief.

      [...]

      She is fearful about marriage and motherhood and how it will infringe on her ability to produce art.

    • Gripped by ALS, Social Justice Activist Ady Barkan Inspires With Story of ‘The Best Hug I’ve Ever Had’

      Healthcare and social justice campaigner Ady Barkan, who rose to national prominence as as an outspoken critic of the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress even as he suffered from the debilitating disease known as ALS, answered that question late Friday night with an eloquent, heartbreaking, and very personal thread on Twitter that also served as a reminder to other progressives about the human side of the political battles waged in Washington, DC and far beyond.

      The topic: the best hug ever from his young child.

    • The 1942 Internment of Japanese-Americans Holds Lessons for Today

      With detention camps along the U.S. Southern border and the president’s revised Muslim ban upheld by the Supreme Court, Karen Korematsu thinks it’s important for people to know the history of 120,000 Japanese-Americans, two thirds of them native-born citizens, who were incarcerated during World War II without due process. Korematsu, director of the Fred Korematsu Foundation, a civil rights educational organization, travels the country to talk to students about her father, Fred Korematsu, who refused to go to the camps. His case went to the Supreme Court, which ruled against it 6-3.

      Korematsu wants people to know how Japanese-Americans were treated after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. She hopes that by teaching history, a similar fate for others can be prevented.

      Korematsu was an adviser for an exhibit titled “Then They Came For Me.” Currently on display in San Francisco until the end of May, the exhibit next moves to Chicago and New York. It features photos of the internment camps, including some by Dorothea Lange, work by incarcerated Japanese-American artists and historical documents. The exhibit includes such artifacts as Fred Korematsu’s letter thanking his American Civil Liberties Union attorney for taking his case; trunks the prisoners took to the camps; and a jacket given to a man sent to a prison camp marked with “E.A.,” for “Enemy Alien.”

    • ‘You Go Through It Alone’: New Bill Would Keep Incarcerated Pregnant Women From Being Put in Medical Isolation

      Angela was eight months pregnant when she entered the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup, Maryland.

      One day after her arrival, she was brought to the prison’s medical infirmary and placed in a cell, where she was locked behind a steel door nearly 24 hours each day—which prison officials call “restrictive housing,” and prisoner rights’ advocates call “solitary confinement.”

      Regardless of the terminology, Angela was miserable. “There was no rec time to go outside. They barely let you out to use the phone,” she told Rewire.News. At times, she had to decide between waiting to use one of the unit’s two phones to call her three children or taking a shower during the 30 minutes she was allowed out of her cell.

      She was in the process of appealing her conviction and four-year prison sentence. But while she waited for the courts to decide, this was how she’d be forced to spend the last month of her pregnancy.

    • Trump administration losing 94 percent of lawsuits over illegal policy changes

      The Trump administration is losing court battles at an unprecedented rate, with many losses coming because officials failed to follow basic rules in changing policy.

      Federal judges have ruled against the administration at least 63 times since Trump took office, The Washington Post reported. Two-thirds of those cases involved complaints that the administration violated the Administrative Procedure Act, a 1946 law that set procedural requirements that federal agencies must follow when unilaterally changing policies or regulations.

      The normal “win rate” for the government in such cases is about 70 percent, the Post reported, but according to the Institute for Policy Integrity at the New York University School of Law, the Trump administration’s win rate in these cases in just 6 percent.

    • Commemorating 40 Years of “Injustice for All”
    • One out of 20 domestic abuse victims in Malaysia are men

      Sexual dysfunction, jealousy and asking for a divorce were among the factors that led to cases of domestic violence recorded by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.

      Its Deputy Minister Hannah Yeoh, also expressed worry that many more cases go unreported – including husbands who are abused by their wives.

      “Of the 1,037 domestic violence cases reported between 2017 and June 2018, 56 cases, or 5.4 per cent involved husbands who were the victims,” she said when answering a question raised by Datuk Halimah Mohamed Sadique (BN-Kota Tinggi) in Parliament on Thursday (March 21).

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • The U.S. Desperately Needs a “Fiber for All” Plan

      We have a real, coming broadband access crisis in the United States. Data from the government and independent analysis show that we are falling behind the world. This crisis comes from the fact that fiber-to-the-home deployment, the alternative to your gigabit cable monopoly (if you even have that choice), is languishing and slowing down across the board.

      In contrast to the United States, countries around the world are aggressively modernizing their telecommunications infrastructure. They are actively pushing fiber across the board, with advanced Asian markets like South Korea and Japan already finished, and countries in the EU heading towards universal access. China is predicted to have more than five times (around 80 percent of households totaling at 193.5 million homes) the U.S. number of fiber gigabit connections by 2023.

      The big difference between the United States and the rest of the advanced economies around the world is that the U.S. is the only country that believes having no plan will solve this issue. We are the only country to completely abandon federal oversight of an uncompetitive, highly concentrated market that sells critical services to all people, yet we expect widely available, affordable, ultra-fast services. But if you live in a low-income neighborhood or in a rural market today, you know very well this is not working and the status quo is going to cement in your local broadband options to either one choice or no choice.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Federal Appeals Court Cautions Against Overapplication of Alice in Biotechnology

      In Natural Alternatives Intl. v. Creative Compounds, LLC, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed a decision by a lower court finding claims directed to dietary supplements containing beta-alanine subject-matter ineligible under § 101. The claims were found to be subject-matter ineligible in a motion for judgment on the pleadings by Judge Huff of the District of Southern California. The District Court held that, because beta-alanine is a naturally occurring substance, the claims were directed to the natural law that, “ingesting certain levels of beta-alanine, a natural substance, will increase the carnosine concentration in human tissue and, thereby, increase the anaerobic working capacity in a human.”

      In reversing the District Court, Judge Moore and Judge Wallach (over a dissent by Judge Reyna) offered some helpful analysis of the Supreme Court’s Alice decision (and subject-matter eligibility) in the context of life sciences. For patent applicants in life sciences spaces, this decision provides a great tool for avoiding a rejection under Alice or Mayo as it supports the notion that an application that deals with natural law is not necessarily susceptible to a rejection under § 101. The case is also notable for patent litigants as it reinforces prior decisions (in Berkheimer v. HP Inc. and Aatrix Software, Inc. v. Green Shades Software, Inc.) that make it challenging for defendants to prevail on a motion on the pleadings under § 101, because plaintiffs can create factual disputes through their complaints and claim construction arguments and defeat a motion on the pleadings.

    • Patent case: No inter partes patent invalidity in arbitration, Portugal

      The Supreme Court held that the mandatory arbitration court provided for litigation between patent holders and applicants for generic medicines does not have jurisdiction to decide, inter partes and incidenter tantum, the validity of a patent. The right of defence of the generic applicant is not disproportionally restricted because they can challenge the validity of the patent before the Court of Intellectual Property.

    • IP Australia’s CDO on mission to ‘reimagine digital experience’

      He said a key piece of work is the rollout of the ‘transactional digital services program,’ that covers customer transactions – for example, when a customer files an IP trademark or a patent. He said it involves transforming IP Australia’s digital business model.
      “There’s some very legacy outdated ways and systems that we manage to do that – so part of what I’m focusing on is moving to a modern API-based platform and reengineering, rearchitecting and reimagining our digital experience for customers.
      “Thinking of it less as a place where everyone has to come to do business, but opening up some of our digital assets, through APIs and through API marketplaces, in enabling software developers and customers to actually innovate off of our services.”
      This large piece of work will then lead to IP Australia’s modernisation of the web experience and the digital experience of the customer, who come in all shapes and sizes, he noted.

    • Supreme Court Asks SG for Views on Another Section 101 Case [Ed: This is potentially dangerous as SCOTUS could either bring back software patents to the US or nail another long nail into their coffin]

      For the second time this term, the U.S. Supreme Court has asked for the solicitor general’s views on a case involving Section 101 patent eligibility.

    • Qualcomm sees South Korean antitrust fine lowered to $200M

      South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission on Thursday reduced damages in a decade-old antitrust case involving Qualcomm, with the U.S. chipmaker now facing penalties that amount to roughly $200 million.

    • Inventor’s Problem-Identification Carries No Patentable Weight (When Alternative Motivation Exists)

      The decision here offers a reminder of the objective nature of the obviousness analysis.

      Conrad’s invention is a urine-deflector — especially useful when toilet-training low-accuracy children. The main idea is to block the opening between the toilet seat and the toilet bowl with a bendable deflector that “lacks a folding seam” — a design element added to avoid incidental urine collection and resulting malodor.

      [...]

      In its non-precedential decision, the Federal Circuit has sided with the USPTO – confirming that the claim is obvious — and holding that the inventor’s identification of the problem need not be considered in the obviousness analysis.

      [...]

      The problem/solution approach to obviousness could be interesting to consider in parallel to eligibility analysis — noting that the non-obvious problem identification can – at times – lend patentable weight.

    • Prior art found for GTX Corp patent

      Unified is pleased to announce the PATROLL crowdsourcing contest winner, Sachin Srivastava, who received a cash prize of $2,000 for his prior art submission for U.S. Patent 7,177,838, owned by GTX Corp., an NPE. The ’838 patent, directed toward electronic commerce using electronic tokens, has been asserted against dozens of companies in district court litigation. To help the industry fight bad patents, we have published the winning prior art below.

    • Unified files amicus brief defending the constitutionality of PTAB judges [Ed: Koch-funded efforts to scuttle PTAB]

      On March 11 Unified, joined by HP Inc. and Engine Advocacy, filed an amicus brief with the Federal Circuit in Affinity Labs of Texas, LLC v. Netflix to defend the constitutionality of the appointment of all PTAB administrative patent judges. Affinity Labs of Texas, who has sued more than 20 diverse companies such as Ford, Blackberry, the NHL, and Nike and has unsuccessfully appealed other patents canceled under 35 U.S.C. § 101, brought the constitutional argument up for the first time on appeal. Unified’s brief demonstrates the history of PTAB appointments, from the “Duffy fix” to the current broad power of the USPTO Director to oversee the proceedings and the APJs. The U.S. Government intervened, and Unified’s brief supports their position.

    • CCIA Letter to Senate Judiciary IP Subcommittee Members On Questionable Studies [Ed: CCIA Letter to Senate Judiciary IP Subcommittee Members On Koch-funded lies]

      At last week’s Senate Judiciary IP Subcommittee hearing, questioners referenced two studies. The first, on multiple IPR petitions, was conducted by Steve Carlson and Ryan Schultz of Robins Kaplan. The second, on venture capital and § 101, was conducted by Prof. David Taylor of SMU.

      But, as Twain said in a somewhat more colorful form, it’s important to get your numbers right. Data can be misinterpreted and these two studies have some significant flaws. Below is a letter from the Computer & Communications Industry Association to the members of the Subcommittee, explaining CCIA’s concerns with the referenced studies.

    • Japan antitrust case: FTC cancels exclusion order to Qualcomm

      On March 13 2019, Japan’s Fair Trade Commission (FTC) made a decision to cancel the exclusion order against Qualcomm which had been issued on September 28 2009 and appealed by Qualcomm on November 24 of that year. It took almost a decade! It’s too long, but Qualcomm has finally got an expected result.

      The main issue was whether or not the Qualcomm’s license agreement on intellectual properties for CDMA mobile wireless communication, which includes the following provisions, possibly restrains the business activities of Japanese mobile device manufacturers and disrupts fair competition.

    • Copyrights

      • The proposed fair use exception under South Africa’s Copyright Amendment Bill

        In December 2018, South Africa’s National Assembly approved the redrafted version of the Copyright Amendment Bill, opening the way for the Bill to be sent to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for concurrence and, subsequently, for Presidential assent. See here for all the versions of the Bill.

        Since coming up before the NCOP, the bill was considered in February and earlier this month with the Committee of the NCOP resolving to adopt the final report by 20th March.

        The Bill provides inter alia for accreditation of Collecting Societies; fair use of copyright works; and exceptions for educational and academic activities, libraries, archives, museums and galleries. As with almost every copyright legislative reform, the Bill has attracted both strong support and criticisms. One of the most debated provisions in the Bill is Clause 13 – relating to “fair use”.

      • This Could Be It: Key Polish Political Party Comes Out Against Article 13

        With only days to go before the final EU debate and vote on the new Copyright Directive (we’re told the debate will be at 0900h CET on Tuesday, 27 March, and the vote will happen at 1200h CET), things could not be more urgent and fraught. That’s why today’s announcement by Poland’s Platformy Obywatelska—the second-largest party in the European People’s Party (EPP) bloc—is so important.

        Platformy Obywatelska has said that it will vote to block the entire Copyright Directive unless Article 13—a ground-breakingly terrible Internet law that will lead to widespread filtering of all Europeans’ Internet speech, images, and videos—is stricken from the final draft.

        EPP, a coalition of European national political parties, is the key backer of Article 13 and the largest party in the European Parliament. Without its support, Article 13 is very unlikely to make it through the final vote.

        The EPP is deeply split on the issue. EPP parties from Luxembourg, Sweden and the Czech Republic all oppose the measure, so Poland is in good company.

        The other blocs that strongly back Article 13 are the S&D (socialist) and ALDE (liberal) MEPs.

      • Sites Warn EU Users Of Just How Bad Article 13 Will Be

        As we mentioned, a bunch of websites started protesting yesterday in the lead up to next week’s vote on Article 11 and Article 13 that will fundamentally change the nature of the internet. The main ones were various European Wikipedia editions, which completely blacked out and posted a warning message.

      • La Quadrature du Net calls for the European Parliament to reject the Copyright Directive!

        Next week, the European Parliament will have to take a stance with a last vote on the fate of the Copyright Directive, which has been discussed for several years. La Quadrature du Net calls for the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to throw out this bill that would induce severe restrictions to the freedom of speech and the access to information. Far from re-balancing the equilibrium with the Internet’s Majors, this bill would lead to devolve a worrying automated censorship ability to them. This bill is not the copyright reform the EU needs and it contains no tangible element that would improve the situation for creators.

        The bill following the negotiations that were carried by the European institutions over the last months did not fix a single one of the issues that led us to call to already reject the bill many times in 2018. Our analysis remains the same: cultural industries and big rights holder companies are actually seeking to loot crumbs left behind by the Internet’s Majors thanks to the mass surveillance they are pursuing through targeted advertising. Under the guise of carrying out a “redistribution of wealth”, this directive would constitute a serious renunciation for the EU, as it would tie creation and press funding to a systematic violation of the rights of individuals.

        This will all happen on the back of fundamental liberties, because of the directive’s articles 11 & 13, which spark the opposition of a great amount of civil society’s members. Even if the scope of the article 13 in its final form does not affect what La Quadrature considers as an open and free Internet—namely decentralised or federalised services such as Mastodon or Peertube —it will enforce on centralised and profitable platforms an obligation to preemptively filter contents that our association has always opposed. The exercise of such processes is evidently disproportionate and the directive adds no satisfying guaranty protecting freedom of speech. The Copyright Directive was thereby used as a laboratory for the automated censorship algorithms that can be found in other bills, such as the anti-terrorist regulation against which La Quadrature has stood.

      • MEPs Realizing How Bad Article 13 Could Be, Begin To Back Away From EU Copyright Directive

        The online protests around the terrible Article 11 and Article 13 only began yesterday. This weekend there are expected to be significant in-person protests as well, leading up to the big vote next week. Already the protests are having an impact. MEP Julia Reda passes on the news from Polish MEP Michal Boni that the major Polish political party, Civic Platform (or Platforma) has said they will not vote for the EU Copyright Directive if it contains Article 13…

      • Independent Musician Dan Bull’s New Song, Robocopyright, Warns Of The Dangers Of Article 13

        The key message: Article 13 and its requirement for filters (and, yes, it requires filters) will mean more gatekeepers, more censorship, and less freedom for creators. Algorithmic policing of content does not work as it cannot take into account context. It fails in both directions in blocking legit content and failing to block infringing content (which will only open up platforms to even greater liability). In short, to anyone who understands technology, it will be a huge mess.

      • EU Commission Refuses To Explain Why It Published Medium Article Mocking The Public’s Concerns Over Article 13

        As you may recall, last month, the EU Commission published — and then unpublished — a bit of horrifically misleading propaganda, in favor of Article 13, mocking those who criticized it as a “mob” whose strings were being pulled by an evil dragon (apparently Google) to “slay a knight” (apparently valiant copyright). The article can still be found via the Internet Archive. This wasn’t from a politician or bureaucrat who had officially come out in support, but from the EU Commission’s very own Medium account. It was certainly an insult to the European public. After some outcry, the article was removed, but the “apology” that was put up instead was similarly insulting, saying that it was removed because “it has been understood in a way that doesn’t reflect the Commission’s position.” Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight. It was just that crazy mob who “misunderstood” you calling them a “mob” for pointing out that the poorly drafted law might create all sorts of problems.

        Anyway, some in the EU Parliarment were reasonably concerned about the EU Commission acting this way, and sent some questions. European Parliament Member Tiemo Wolken has tweeted out that they’ve finally received some “answers” even though it took way longer than normal and the “answers” don’t actually answer the question. Also of note, is that Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the EU Commission himself was the one who sent these non-answers. As Wolken notes, it’s “very rare” that Juncker himself would answer such questions. Wolken posted the questions and answers as a screenshot, but I am doing my best to translate them via typing them all into Google Translate.

The Unified Patent Court is Dead, But Doubts Remain Over the EPO’s Appeal Boards’ Ability to Rule Independently Against Patents on Nature and Code

Posted in Europe, Patents at 11:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

SCOTUS has handed down Alice/Mayo (now in 35 U.S.C. § 101), but European judges (internal to the EPO) lack the independence US Justices have (lifelong tenures)

Harley day in Arnhem

Summary: Patents used to cover physical inventions (such as engines); nowadays this just isn’t the case anymore and judges who can clarify these questions lack the freedom to think outside the box (and disobey patent maximalists’ dogma)

“WHAT is a patent?”

I’ve asked some people that question, seeking to find out/understand their perception of this concept. Many got it totally wrong and false analogies contribute to misunderstandings, misconceptions, miscomprehended goals.

To a patent attorney or lawyer, patents mean money. The more, the merrier. They can never have “enough!” Moreover, patent lawsuits are the best ‘products’ to sell. No wonder many of them still drool over the UPC and they generally hate Alice/Mayo .

“The UPC is unconstitutional in a lot of nations, but almost none even bothered assessing the matter.”In the United States, as we've just mentioned, courts don’t agree with the patent office. They in fact disagree quite a lot. The situation in the European Union is similar (increasingly so over time). Courts are not tolerating software patents, but the European Patent Office (EPO) allows these and the Commission keeps promoting FRAND agenda together with the EPO. It’s a gross attempt to let these patents creep in from the back door, bypassing actual courts. The same goes for the UPC, which is an attempt to replace the existing courts. The UPC is dead however. As noted yesterday, even “Nokia inhouse litigator just voiced skepticism of the Unified Patent Court materializing anytime soon in light of Brexit, German constitutional challenge, political climate in various countries for re-ratification.”

Hungary has already ruled that unconstitutional anyway. Hungarian courts rather than politicians looked into it. The UPC is unconstitutional in a lot of nations, but almost none even bothered assessing the matter.

“So the EPO disregards the law and grants patents in defiance of the EPO. Who can stop it? The Boards of Appeal? Not likely.”The lawlessness of the EPO is a really serious problem. EPO judges do not feel free to judge as they see fit. António Campinos can take them out of their job if he wishes; a colleague was already tortured after he had rejected a European software patent disguised as “medical” (but punished for allegedly passing around what many other people did too).

Yesterday, maybe for the dozenth time, the EPO spoke of “MedTech” as a semi-synonym for software patents when it published this tweet: “Businesses and commercialisation experts in the field of #MedTech should join this event” (we covered this before).

Aaron Gin and Bryan Helwig, messing around with buzzwords like “AI”, have just said there “there has been substantial growth in AI-based medical device patent applications over the last decade…”

AI-based? They mean software-based.

Here’s the New York Law Journal (“Alexa, Will I Be Able to Patent My Artificial Intelligence Technology This Year?”) — quite frankly as usual and as expected — calling such patents “AI” as recently as yesterday.

The EPO loves and adores the term “AI”; it reveres anything that gets labeled “AI” as though it’s revolutionary.

The EPO didn’t stop there. They then (also yesterday) used "blockchain" patents (i.e. bogus software patents that should not be granted) as follows (calling it a “revolution”): “Talking about a new revolution: #blockchain. We report on our recent conference on the topic here…”

So the EPO disregards the law and grants patents in defiance of the EPC. Who can stop it? The Boards of Appeal? Not likely. As we recently noted, they lack the independence they need to stop software patents.

Rose Hughes from IP Kat has just spoken about the decision/referral that can potentially end these patents once and for all. In her own words:

Article 52 EPC specifies that methods for performing mental acts and computer programs are not considered inventions. They are excluded from patentability in so far as a claim relates to excluded subject matter “as such”. Therefore, a claim directed to a computer implemented invention is considered patentable insofar as the claim causes “a further technical effect” (T 1173/97, Computer program product/IBM, Headnote). The question of the patentability of the claims is then shifted from an analysis of whether the claim is directed to excluded subject matter, to one of whether the claimed technical feature is novel and inventive (as established in T 154/04).

The EBA have previously considered a referral from the EPO President on the subject of computer implemented inventions (G 3/08, Programs for computers). Under Article 112(1)(b) EPC the EPO President may refer a question to the EBA where two Boards of Appeal have given different decisions on that question. The President at the time was Alison Brimelow. The EBA declined to hand down a decision, ruling that the President’s referral was inadmissible because the EBA found no divergence in the Boards of Appeal case law justifying the referral (Headnote 7) (IPKat post here).

In G 3/08 the EBA nonetheless reiterated the previous view of the TBA in T 1173/97, Computer program product/IBM, that computer implemented inventions are patenable insofar as they claim “a further technical effect”. This approach has been followed by subsequent TBAs and is outlined in the EPO Guidelines for Examination 2018. The Guidelines also provides examples of what is considered a “further technical effects”. Programs for processing code at low level, such as builders or compilers, for example, “may well have a technical character”.

An assessment of the patentability of a computer implemented invention is therefore dependent on a separation of the “technical” and “non-technical” features of the claim. However, making the distinction between the technical and non-technical features is not always straightforward, given the potentially complex interaction between such features.

Over at Managing Intellectual Property, Jakob Pade Frederiksen has meanwhile spoken about “[t]wo issues [that] have arisen recently causing the Technical Boards of Appeal to refer questions to the Enlarged Board of Appeal (EBA).”

“Are patents on cooking recipes next? The USPTO has some notorious patents on the making of sandwiches.”One of these issues is the independence of the Boards. In his own words: “by decision T 831/17 of February 25, an Appeal Board referred questions relating to (1) the right for oral proceedings, (2) a third party’s possible right to appeal, and (3) the venue of oral proceedings in appeal. In relation to the third issue, in particular the EBA is to consider if the president or the Administrative Council of the EPO had the powers to move the Boards of Appeals’ premises to Munich suburb Haar in 2017. In late 2016 the chairmen of the Boards of Appeal of the EPO adopted a resolution objecting to the relocation of the Boards of Appeal to Haar. At that time the issue appeared to be of a purely political nature, but now the matter is clearly becoming a legal one.”

Nicolas Marro and Bérengère Boudeau have meanwhile written about European Patents on life, noting that “the EPO practice concerning Mab sequence identity appears rather variable, all the more so given that there is no official guideline in this area. A journey through Board of Appeal decisions and examination files nonetheless enables certain conclusions to be drawn in order for applicants to be in a better position to handle examination proceedings.”

Hughes expanded on the same day, taking note of the EPO’s practice of granting patents on nature and life itself, specifically in relation to the CRISPR case. In her words:

A year ago, IPKat reported on the decision by the opposition division (OD) of the European Patent Office (EPO) to revoke the Broad Institute’s EP patent for CRISPR/Cas-9 technology (IPKat post here). Given the undeniable commercial importance of CRISPR, the Broad appealed the OD decision (T0844/18).The Broad’s Statement of Grounds of Appeal (and the Opponents’ responses) are a thought-provoking read for anyone with an interest in the concept of priority in Europe.

For a full background of the case and the EPO’s established approach to priority, see IPKat here. In brief, the OD decision for the CRISPR case was in line with the large body of EPO case law on priority. The case law states that the right to claim priority from an earlier application according to Article 87 EPC is afforded to the applicant of the earlier application and to no other party. The Broad’s CRISPR EP patent (EP2771468) was based on a PCT filing (WO 2014204729) claiming priority from a number of US provisional applications. One of the US provisionals named an inventor-applicant who was not named on the PCT application. The EP patent was thus revoked in view of an invalid priority claim.

In that same blog, a comment has meanwhile appeared which bemoans examination. “Ron” wrote:

You might be surprised at the number of unclear patents that exist! When I was a trainee UK examiner under the last days of the 1949-Act my trainer showed us a number of “Friday afternoon” patents as things to watch out for, such as claims not supported by the description, and one such was is this situation in a real infringement action I was involved in. Unfortunately, if the point is not raised in examination, it is not a ground of revocation, a lacuna in my view. This sort of thing is all the more likely nowadays. Under the 1949 Act, it was an essential part of an examiner’s duties to read the entire description to ensure it made sense. Come the 1977 Act, such detailed examination was deemed unnecessary as examiners no longer had to write detailed abridgments of the total disclosure. When patents became more “sexy”, and higher management positions in the Patent Office became progressively occupied by DTI generalists rather than examiners who had progressed up from the coal face, “efficiency” (disposing of the maximum cases in the minimum time, with salary progression determined by achieving disposal targets, regardless of quality) has become more important, meaning that policy has been to reduce the amount of intellectual examination work done by examiners. This is evident from the Manual of Patent Practice. There was even a proposal a few years ago (not adopted, at least officially) that examiners would no longer examine the description at all, but just search the claims. The post-Batistelli EPO, which used to have rigourous examination, now seems to operate on similar lines.

Thus it can be expected that practitioners will meet more unclear patents in the future.

Hughes wrote again some hours ago about another kind of ridiculous European Patents. First we saw patents on beer (this is actually being done, in relation to underlying seeds, thanks to the EPO’s greed) and now “bakers [are] seeking to protect bread-related inventions.” [sic]

Here are some jaw-dropping cases:

The broad definition of bread, and the consequent broad range of prior art, presents challenges to innovative bakers seeking to protect bread-related inventions. In the Board of Appeals decision T 1296/04, the patentee argued that their claim directed to a method for making bread, was not invalidated by prior art relating to pizza dough. Claim 1 of the granted patent (EP 0883348) in question specified a method including the steps of preparing the dough, rolling out the dough into a flat strip, cutting the strip of dough into pieces, baking the flat pieces of dough in an oven for 2-8 minutes at 250-270ºC and cooling.

The Board of Appeal found that the claim lacked novelty in view of prior art describing pizza dough. Pizza dough was considered bread despite the addition of a small amount of oil. The only difference between the claimed method and that of the prior art was therefore identified as the specified temperature range. However, the claimed sub-range was found not to be sufficiently narrow compared to the prior art range of 204-316º C.

[...]

The smell of bread, or more precisely “bread aroma” was the subject matter of granted patent EP0413368, bringing to mind the Peruvian fable The Theft of Smell. The claims of EP0413368are directed towards a method for preparing bread flour extract, particularly rye-bread extract, characterized by use of an organic solvent as an extracting agent. The description indicates that the rye-bread aroma can be used to flavour beer and other products. Thankfully, unlike in the fable, the patentee seeks to protect a process of making bread aroma, as opposed to the smell of bread itself.

Are patents on cooking recipes next? The USPTO has some notorious patents on the making of sandwiches.

These patents represent not an invention. They’re bogus patents. Also abstract ones. Since when is nature an invention? Or mathematics (laws of nature)?

Patent Law Firms Still Desperate to Find New Ways to Resurrect Dead Software Patents in the United States

Posted in America, Australia, Europe, Patents at 11:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Resurrected

Summary: There’s no rebound and no profound changes that favour software patents; in fact, judging by caselaw, there’s nothing even remotely like that

THIS morning and afternoon we took a look at US affairs, seeing that 35 U.S.C. § 101 remains unchallenged and even if the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) grants a software patent (or patents) — as happens a lot — courts will likely reject it (or these). The Federal Circuit follows Alice (SCOTUS) and so does the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) when assessing inter partes reviews (IPRs). We’ve hardly seen any exception to the rule lately (patent maximalists have stooped as low as to cherry-pick mere applications, e.g. yesterday, or revisit rather old cases); it is possible that, as per this report and another from Patently-O, § 101 will be revisited in SCOTUS. And even if it does happen, it will not necessarily bring back software patents to the US; it may as well force another long(er) nail into their coffin of software patents. Suffice to say, law firms and law students casually spread propaganda about software patents, even as recently as days ago. They want people to believe that software patents are both desirable and attainable (maybe at the Office, but courts are another matter). Here’s another new example. The patent microcosm (“Attorney Julie Reed is a member of Miller Nash Graham & Dunn’s patent team”) keeps lobbying the USPTO and American courts for software patents even though this microcosm never writes any code.

“There’s a similar problem in Europe. Voices are being hijacked and software developers are routinely spoken ‘for’ (without their consent).”The patent microcosm of Australia (Ken Simpson and David Webber of Davies Collison Cave in this case) is still looking at one very old decision in an attempt to sell bogus software patents that Australian courts would likely reject. Maybe the office would reject that one too (if there was a lawsuit over it). There’s this new article about IP Australia at IDG, but it does not deal with this subject.

There’s a similar problem in Europe. Voices are being hijacked and software developers are routinely spoken ‘for’ (without their consent). Patent law firms pretend to care about them, even though all they care about is themselves. But the European Patent Office (EPO) will be the subject of our next post.

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