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04.06.19

Links 6/4/2019: Mesa 18.3.6, Cockpit 191, KDE Applications 19.04 RC, LXD 3.12

Posted in News Roundup at 9:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • A Big Thanks to Our Subscribers

    We asked LJ subscribers to write in and tell us about themselves, so we could feature them in our 25th Anniversary Issue as a way to thank them for their loyalty through the years. The response was so overwhelming, we were able to include only a few of them in the issue, but read on to see all of the responses here and to learn more about your fellow readers. We truly enjoyed “meeting” all of you who participated and are humbled by your words of support.

  • Desktop

    • Installing Linux on a Chromebook with Crouton is (a tiny bit) tougher after security update

      Google has rolled out a security update to Chromium OS designed to prevent unexpected code running from on a Chromebook. For the most part, that’s a good thing. But it also means that some code that you may want to run may not work anymore… without some small modifications.

      Case in point: the developer of the Crouton utility that lets you download and install a GNU/Linux operating system (like Ubuntu or Debian) and run it alongside Chrome OS says the installation steps are a little different now.

      The good news is that they’re not very different. So aside from the fact that a bunch of websites with instructions for how it used to work are now incorrect, this isn’t really a big deal — you can still use Crouton on most Chromebooks, Chromeboxes, or other devices running Chrome OS.

    • Four Chromeboxes next up to get GPU acceleration for Linux, likely in Chrome OS 74

      Slowly but surely, the Chromium team is bringing GPU acceleration to Project Crostini so that Linux containers can take advantage of improved graphical frame rates and performance. The Pixelbook and Acer Chromebook Spin 13 were among the first Chromebooks to get this feature and now the team is eyeing four Chromeboxes for the next round of implementation.

    • Google Updates: TV adverts (eww), Android on Linux, Justice for the temps

      We’ve already seen Chrome OS gain support for Linux apps, and now Linux can return the favour. A new containerised system called SPURV has been released that allows users to run Android apps on Linux. It does mean you’re effectively running two operating systems at the same time, which means you’ll need to watch your CPU and RAM usage, but if there are a few things that you just can’t live without, then this is a cracking solution.

    • Why a Chromebook still cannot replace my Windows laptop
    • Google Fixes One Chrome OS Linux Problem, Introduces Another

      Google’s constant pursuit of a better Chrome OS experience has now resulted in one problem being fixed on the Linux side of things but it’s also broken aspect of the functionality, based on recent reports from Chrome Unboxed. On the more positive side of the equation, Google is now working to include audio input support for Linux, fixing another side of a previously ignored glaring problem for Chrome OS.

      Specifically, Google was already addressing the outbound side of that equation but users are still left unable to record audio. That limits the use of stronger Linux software for studio-style recording, video chatting, or capturing audio for software development purposes, just to start. Now, a new bug report has been added assigning the task for getting microphone-based captures working in the system for scheduling.

    • GPU Acceleration Headed To Latest Chromeboxes

      With Cloud Next ’19 on the horizon and Google’s annual I/O developer conference headed our way in a few weeks, the Chromium team is working hard to polish the Crostini project that brought official Linux app support to Chrome OS.

      Just this week, Robby uncovered a commit that will bring microphone support to Linux apps on Chromebooks and this is just one of many updates that include deeper file manager integration, app searches, and the extremely important GPU acceleration.

    • Librem Laptop RAM and Storage Bump, 32GB max RAM

      Technology is constantly improving, and we do get excited whenever we can add those improvements and upgrades to our products — especially when we can do so without raising prices. Recently, we announced a version 4 upgrade for our Librem 13 and Librem 15 laptops; today we are happy to announce we have upgraded the default configuration on both laptops to 8GB RAM and a 250Gb M.2 SATA disk, while keeping the same base price of $1399 and $1599 respectively.

      We know that many of our customers have high RAM requirements, whether that’s due to using a RAM-hungry OS like Qubes or to just having too many chat tabs open in your browser. The single SO-DIMM RAM slot in the Librem 13 and Librem 15 meant an upper limit of 16GB RAM on our laptops… until now. Due to constant advances in RAM density we have been able to validate 32GB SO-DIMMs in our current product line and starting today will offer 32GB RAM as a premium upgrade to both the Librem 13 and Librem 15. If you’ve been holding off on your Librem laptop order because of RAM, wait no longer!

  • Server

    • Xen 4.12 shrinks code, beefs up security, rethinks x86 support

      Open source hypervisor Xen has reached version 4.12, bringing major improvements in resource footprint and security, and revamped x86 architecture support.

      The Xen Project team has reduced the code size between 5 per cent and 22 per cent, depending on configuration, introduced a new inter-VM communications protocol, added features to protect Xen from privilege escalations in QEMU and the ability to compile PV-only or HVM/PVH-only versions of the hypervisor.

      Xen was originally developed at the University of Cambridge, with its first public release in 2003. Today, the project is managed by the Linux Foundation and has more than 10 million users.

    • Run a server with Git

      As I’ve tried to demonstrate in this series leading up to Git’s 14th anniversary on April 7, Git can do a wide range of things beyond tracking source code. Believe it or not, Git can even manage your Git server, so you can, more or less, run a Git server with Git itself.

      Of course, this involves a lot of components beyond everyday Git, not the least of which is Gitolite, the backend application managing the fiddly bits that you configure using Git. The great thing about Gitolite is that, because it uses Git as its frontend interface, it’s easy to integrate Git server administration within the rest of your Git-based workflow. Gitolite provides precise control over who can access specific repositories on your server and what permissions they have. You can manage that sort of thing yourself with the usual Linux system tools, but it takes a lot of work if you have more than just one or two repos across a half-dozen users.

      Gitolite’s developers have done the hard work to make it easy for you to provide many users with access to your Git server without giving them access to your entire environment—and you can do it all with Git.

      What Gitolite is not is a GUI admin and user panel. That sort of experience is available with the excellent Gitea project, but this article focuses on the simple elegance and comforting familiarity of Gitolite.

    • Raise some horns: Red Hat’s MetalKube aims to make Kubernetes on bare machines simple

      Open-source software developers at Red Hat are working on a tool that would simplify deployment and management of Kubernetes clusters on bare-metal servers.

      MetalKube was revealed earlier this week by Steve Hardy, Red Hat’s senior principal software engineer, at the Open Infrastructure Days UK – an event organised by the local Open Infrastructure community and supported by the OpenStack Foundation.

      The initial implementation of MetalKube is being built with Ironic – one of nearly 50 software modules used in OpenStack – to manage physical server hardware and provision images. It also involves CoreOS, and Kubernetes’ custom resource definitions that describe the bare-metal nodes.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

    • LHS Episode #279: Ham Radio Deluxe Deep Dive

      Hello and welcome to Episode 279 of Linux in the Ham Shack! In this episode, the hosts take a deep dive into the wonderful world of Ham Radio Deluxe, the self-proclaimed radio amateur’s best asset, among other things. It’s an application that puts all of amateur radio on the palm of your hand. From logging to ego stroking, there’s nothing it can’t do. And it does it all with flair. Thanks for listening and we hope you have a great week.

  • Kernel Space

    • Linus Torvalds blasts social media as ‘a disease’

      LINUX DON Linus Torvalds has spoken of his dislike of social media in an interview to mark the 25th birthday of the operating system.

      In a wide-ranging interview with Linux Journal, Torvalds blasts: “I absolutely detest modern ‘social media’ .- Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. It’s a disease. It seems to encourage bad behaviour.”

      Torvalds, who has been oft criticised for his online rants and famously stepped away from Linux to ‘learn empathy’ goes on: “I think part of it is something that email shares too, and that I’ve said before: ‘On the internet, nobody can hear you being subtle’. When you’re not talking to somebody face to face, and you miss all the normal social cues”.

      He’s not wrong. Some theorists believe that as much as 95 per cent of communication is non-verbal, and although the actual figure is probably somewhat lower, it’s actually well over 50 per cent, meaning half the message is lost instantly when you aren’t face-to-face.

    • Linux creator calls modern social media a ‘disease’

      Linus Torvalds, who gave the world Linux OS in 1994 has always been an outspoken individual. He is recognized for always being blunt and speaking his mind, and it has caused him some trouble.

      In an interview with the Linux Journal, Linus did not hold back punches when talking about modern social media sites.

    • Linux software founder calls Facebook, Instagram, Twitter a ‘disease, garbage’

      Not many people are fan of social media these days and one more person has joined the list, founder of software operating system Linux, who called social media sites a ‘disease’ and ‘garbage’.

      Linus Torvalds, founder of the free Linux software that is the basis of Android and competes against Microsoft’s Windows Apple’s MacOS to power computers recently discussed about Facebook, Instagram and Twitter suggesting them as one of the biggest issues in tech industry today.

      In an interview with Linux Journal, Torvalds was asked about what he would change about the tech world to which he expressed, “I absolutely detest modern ‘social media’ – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. It’s a disease. It seems to encourage bad behavior. The whole ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’ model is just garbage.

    • Graphics Stack

      • mesa 18.3.6

        Mesa 18.3.6 is now available.

        Note: this is the final anticipated release in the 18.3 series. Users are encouraged to migrate to the 19.0 series in order to obtain future fixes.

        The current release consists mainly of GLSL improvements. We also have a few UUID fixes in for both GL and Vulkan drivers.

        The i965 driver has been addressed to correctly advertise the extension ARB_fragment_shader_interlock – platforms prior to GEN9 lack this feature. The Vulkan RADV driver and GL softpipe one have also received some fixes.

        On the meson build side – a missing dependency tracking was fixed, while improving support when using DESTDIR.

      • Mesa 18.3.6 Released To End Out The Series

        If you are still making use of Mesa 18.3 (or older), Mesa 18.3.6 is now available as the last planned update for this quarterly release stream as users should begin considering an upgrade to Mesa 19.0.x if not wanting to ride the 19.1-devel cycle.

      • Wayland’s Current Release Manager Is Stepping Down, Following Samsung’s Open-Source Drama

        Derek Foreman, formerly of Samsung Research (Open-Source Group), who had been serving as the release manager of Wayland and the Weston compositor for the past number of release cycles is stepping down from his role.

        Derek is following the likes of Bryce Harrington (also formerly of Samsung Research) and Kristian Høgsberg (Wayland founder) in stepping aside from release management duties. In the case of Derek he simply wrote, “I no longer have as much time to dedicate to this as I used to, so I think it would be best if someone else could take over managing the releases for Weston and Wayland.”

      • ASpeed AST2500 SoC DRM Driver Coming To Linux 5.2 Kernel

        For the past few years there has been the ASpeed “AST” DRM display driver for the PCI graphics device and running on the host CPU. Coming to the next kernel cycle, Linux 5.2, is a driver for the ASpeed BMC SoC’s graphics display hardware for ARM-based BMC systems.

        The “ASpeed” DRM driver is for the AST2500 SoC display controller and amounts to over 600 lines of new code for bringing up this formal display support in the Direct Rendering Manager world.

    • Benchmarks

      • Intel Xeon Cascade Lake Running Even Faster With Clear Linux – Six Linux Operating Systems Benchmarked

        Following the initial launch benchmarks earlier this week of the Intel 2nd Gen Xeon Scalable “Cascade Lake” 8280 processors, I proceeded to run some benchmarks of different Linux distributions (operating systems) to ensure the Linux support panned out across the major platforms and while at it also comparing the performance between these different flavors of GNU/Linux. With this powerful Gigabyte Server sporting dual Xeon Platinum 8280 processors for a combined 56 cores / 112 threads, 12 x 32GB DDR4-2933MHz memory, and Samsung NVMe storage, Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS, Ubuntu 19.04 Beta, Fedora 29, CentOS 7, Debian 9.8, and Clear Linux were tested to look at the performance of the brand new Cascade Lake.

        Benchmarks looking at the performance (and compatibility) with the BSDs (namely FreeBSD and DragonFlyBSD) are being worked on for next week as well as seeing how the performance compares to Windows Server 2019, but for your viewing pleasure this Friday are some cross-Linux distribution benchmarks from these six operating systems tested this week. The Gigabyte S451-3R0 server platform has been the basis for our Cascade Lake testing thus far with this 4U chassis providing plenty of ventilation while sporting thirty-six SATA/SAS drive bays and dual 1200 Watt 80 PLUS power supplies. With all of the Linux distributions tested thus far, everything has “just worked” fine without any installation woes or other troubles.

  • Applications

    • ncmpc – Frugal Music Player Daemon client

      I’ve been spending most of this month sampling open source music including the studio albums from The Kyoto Collection. Wake Up is one of my favorite of their albums, a fusion of pop, electronic, new age, and instrumental music.

      What better way to listen to open source music than with an open source music player. Over the past few months I’ve covered bags of open source graphical music players. They’ve been a mixed bag. Some genuinely excellent, others not meeting my (fairly) modest requirements. The music players I’m reviewed include Cantata, Nulloy, Museeks, Pragha Music Player, Yarock, qoob, aux.app, MellowPlayer, Kaku, Strawberry, Headset, and Qmmp.

      In fact, it passed me by that I’ve only written about one console music player, the truly sublime musikcube. And musikcube remains one of my favorite music player by a country mile. So it would be inexcusable not to give more exposure to console based music players. I’ll try to rectify the position.

      As I covered Cantata in my last article (a graphical MPD client), it makes sense to examine a console based MPD client. There’s quite a few available, but ncmpc caught my eye.

      MPD is a free and open music player server. It plays audio files, organizes playlists and maintains a music database. In order to interact with it, a client program is needed. ncmpc is billed as a fully featured MPD client with a tiny memory footprint. It runs in the terminal, provides an intuitive to use ncurses user interface and comes with a large set of useful features, including the ability to search and browse your music library, create playlists and read song lyrics.

    • Cockpit 191

      Cockpit is the modern Linux admin interface. We release regularly. Here are the release notes from version 191.

    • Xen Project Hypervisor 4.12 Offers Smaller Code Size and Improved Security

      The Xen Project, an open source hypervisor hosted at the Linux Foundation, today announced the release of Xen Project Hypervisor 4.12. This latest release adds impressive feature improvements around security and code size, x86 architectural renewal and additional updates making the technology ideal for embedded and automotive industries.
      The leaner architecture in Xen 4.12 reduces the lines of code and in turn, reducing the potential for security vulnerabilities while making Xen an attractive option for use in mixed-criticality systems. Additionally, improving de-privileged QEMU, through defense-in-depth techniques, as well as improving VMI, reduces exposure to unknown security threats. This version of Xen will be more configurable, significantly reducing integration costs for business and organizations which customize Xen heavily. Additionally, Xen 4.12 continues to build upon previous versions regarding cleaner architecture, improved user experience, and future proofing.

    • Xen 4.12 Released With Better Security, Ability To Go HVM/PVH Or PV Only

      The Xen Project announced this week the release of Xen 4.12 as the latest feature update for this widely-used virtualization hypervisor.

      Xen 4.12 features a variety of security improvements, including the ability to limit its support to being PV-only or HVM/PVH-only depending upon your hypervisor target in order to reduce the memory footprint and limit the attack surface. Xen 4.12 also culminates with QEMU deprivilege support to limit any exploits on the QEMU front.

    • Top 20 Best Linux Application Launchers To Improve Your Productivity

      No matter whether you’re a tech professional like me or a mere hobbyist, you should have already realized the redundancy associated with heavy use of mouse clicks in everyday computing. Simply said, most tech geeks find it demoralizing to browse the app menu each time they want to invoke a different app. Thankfully, Linux, among its other convenient features, allows us to utilize a versatile set of Linux Application launchers to get rid of such monotonous tasks.

      Application launchers for Linux come at distinct flavors. From awe-inspiring vibrant launchers rich in modern-day UX trends to bare minimums, you can easily find a wide variety of Linux Application launchers for accelerating your opensource workflow. If you’re an avid user of the Linux system like me, chances are you already found the perfect fit for your use cases. Finding the best Application launchers for Linux, however, is no simple task for beginners.

    • Top 6 Linux Diary Software

      Keeping a diary of your daily life is an activity that is held dear by many people. It represents a good way of storing personal or business information on a day-to-day-basis. Keep track of notes and thoughts through the day, organize and secure memories, ideas, business transactions, emails, accounts, future plans, contact lists, and even secret information.

      This article identifies flexible and useful diary tools for the Linux desktop. With features like tag support, encryption, multiple journals, and live searches, Linux diary software makes it easier to keep track of events as they occur.

      To provide an insight into the quality of software that is available, we have compiled a list of high quality Linux diary / journal software. Hopefully, there will be something of interest for anyone who wishes to organize their daily life.

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Games

      • SuperTuxKart 0.10 RC1 Released With Working LAN/Internet Multiplayer

        If you are looking for some kid-friendly Linux gaming this weekend, SuperTuxKart 0.10 has reached release candidate maturity with its LAN/Internet multiplayer support.

        SuperTuxKart 0.10 premiered in beta back in January with initial networking support to allow WAN/LAN racing against others. After all these years of SuperTuxKart development, v0.10 is bringing the long-desired multiplayer support across networks.

        With SuperTuxKart 0.10 RC1, the networked multiplayer support has matured a lot in these past few months.

      • SuperTuxKart 0.10 Release Candidate 1 released

        The next release of SuperTuxKart is almost ready! The first release candidate is now available for testing. Now is the time to help us test the game to find any last-minutes bugs to fix.

        Since the beta-1 release, numerous bugs have been fixed. Obviously, as previously, the biggest feature is that networked multiplayer is now ready for general use, so enjoy multiplayer games over LAN or over the net!

      • SuperTuxKart has a new release candidate out for 0.10 with online support

        The SuperTuxKart team have been busy since releasing a beta back in January, with a release candidate now available.

        The biggest change for this release, as noted in this previous article, is support for playing against others online or across a LAN. It’s been a long time coming and certainly makes SuperTuxKart a lot more modern!

        Since the beta release, they’ve worked to solve numerous bugs and they now consider the online features “ready for general use”. That’s not all though, they’ve replaced the old mansion track with an upgraded Ravenbridge Mansion and the Black forest add-on is now part of the official track-set to race on.

      • The EU is going after Valve and others for “geo-blocking”, a statement from Valve

        It seems Valve and five publishers have attracted the attention of the EU, as they claim they’re breaching EU competition rules. In particular, what the EU say they’re doing goes against the “Regulation 2018/302″ introduced on December 3rd last year.

        The statement from the European Commission, available here, mentions that they’ve sent Statements of Objections to Valve and Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax.

      • The open source livestreaming and recording software OBS Studio has a new release out

        Here’s something fun for you content creators this weekend, as OBS Studio just released a fresh build for you.

        It’s worth noting though, the service integration for Twitch and others is still not available in the Linux version. This is where you can sign in, to get access to features from services directly in OBS to make things easier. Last I heard, they still needed to fix the official browser plugin to actually get the integration working. There are some pull requests open on that (like this and this) so hopefully soon!

      • Wine 4.6 To Support A Shared Wine-Mono, Reducing Disk Space & Other Benefits

        Beginning with next week’s Wine 4.6 development release, this program for running Windows games/applications on Linux/macOS will now support a shared Wine-Mono installation rather than requiring this open-source .NET implementation to be installed per-prefix. The benefit of this change is reducing the disk space if you keep around multiple Wine prefixes and likely a speedier creation of new prefixes.

      • GODOT 3.2 WILL GET PSEUDO 3D SUPPORT IN 2D ENGINE

        Godot support for 2D is already mature and most of our users enjoy working with it. There is, however a growing trend of adding 3D layers to 2D games, which can be seen in successful titles such as Hollow Knight or Rayman Origins.

        This is possible because the engines in which such games are made are actual 3D engines using 2D planes. In the end, doing this is possible but it requires understanding and being familiar with how 3D engines work.

      • Godot 3.2 Picking Up “Pseudo 3D” Support For Its 2D Engine

        With the open-source Godot game engine’s 3D engine and 2D display efforts both panning out well, the developers are working to combine the two a bit to offer “pseudo 3D” support for those using the cross-platform engine for 2D games.

      • Google Stadia Indian Launch Date Reveals Unexpected Surprise

        While the international release date of Stadia in the US, UK, Europe, and Canada was revealed to be sometime in 2019, the Google Stadia Indian launch remains a mystery.

        However, news circulating over the internet points toward a rumored release date. The Google Stadia Indian launch date is expected to be 2021, which is two years from now.

      • Be prepared to build from nothing as ‘Kingdom Two Crowns’ now has a Linux beta

        The latest game in the Kingdom series, Kingdom Two Crowns, recently had a big update which came along with a beta for Linux gamers. Building upon the gameplay from the previous games, Two Crowns adds in optional local and online co-op play.

      • Purism Partners with Private Internet Access for VPN, Mozilla Publishes Privacy Blueprint, Total War : WARHAMMER II–The Prophet & The Warlock Coming to Linux, Visual Studio Code Now Available as a Snap and Google Releases April Android Security Bulletin

        Feral Interactive announced that The Prophet & The Warlock DLC for Total War: WARHAMMER II is coming to Linux and macOS shortly after Windows. Total War: WARHAMMER II—The Prophet & The Warlock DLC originally was developed by Creative Assembly in partnership with Games Workshop and published by SEGA for Windows. See the Total War blog for more information on the game.

      • TOTAL WAR: WARHAMMER II – THE PROPHET & THE WARLOCK FAQ

        The great Serpent-God Sotek may sleep, but Tehenhauin – his most devoted prophet – does not. The time has come for the foul Skaven to pay the butcher’s bill for their plague-spreading acts, and pay they will – with their very lives! Tehenhauin marshals his fellow Red Crested Skinks: there will be sacrifice. Vast, crimson sacrifice. Only when the temple-city altars are drenched with Skaven blood will the Serpent-God become manifest and enact his divine wrath…

        But the Skaven do not sit idly by while Tehenhauin plans his crusade. Scenting great Warpstone deposits in the jungles of Lustria, the arch Warlock Engineer Ikit Claw has claimed The Star Tower in the name of Clan Skryre: a staging post from which to delve deep into the continental interior. With the Forbidden Workshop at his disposal, Ikit Claw will bend the raw stuff of chaos into his twisted designs, forging ingenious and cataclysmic weapons… and placing the Warlock Engineer on a collision course with the Prophet of Sotek!

      • Great looking comedy point & click adventure ‘Guard Duty’ releasing May 2nd

        Not long to wait for another really good looking point & click adventure game, as Guard Duty is releasing with Linux support same-day on May 2nd.

        The release date was announced yesterday and they do clearly mention Linux for the release! One I previously highlighted back in January, so it’s pleasing to see no delay for us.

      • SUPERHOT saw an update recently to show “a bit more love towards Linux players”

        SUPERHOT, a first-person shooter where time moves extremely slowly until you move, released originally way back in February 2016, just got a rather nice update for Linux gamers.

      • Use your tongue to swing in ‘Crumble’, a 3D physics platformer coming to Linux and it looks amusing

        Crumble from developer Brute Force popped up on Steam recently and honestly, it looks like it could be a really great 3D platformer.

        In Crumble, the world is literally falling apart around you and so it’s a race to finish each level without falling to your doom.

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • KDE: Applications 19.04 Release Candidate

        Today KDE released the Release Candidate of the new versions of KDE Applications. With dependency and feature freezes in place, the KDE team’s focus is now on fixing bugs and further polishing.

        Check the community release notes for information on tarballs and known issues. A more complete announcement will be available for the final release.

        The KDE Applications 19.04 releases need a thorough testing in order to maintain and improve the quality and user experience. Actual users are critical to maintaining high KDE quality, because developers simply cannot test every possible configuration. We’re counting on you to help find bugs early so they can be squashed before the final release. Please consider joining the team by installing the Release Candidate and reporting any bugs.

      • KDE Applications 19.04 Release Candidate Ships
      • KDE Cantor – Sing me some math

        It’s a song, but it needs refinement. Cantor seems like a clever piece of software, but it lacks refinement and sophistication to match its own goals. I did only test Octave, but I think my findings are pretty indicative. After all, if there were issues with one backend, whatever they are, they need to be fixed. And these weren’t trivial issues, either. Slow performance, memory and CPU noise, frozen interface, bad-looking figures.

        The configuration also needs to be improved. All in all, it’s very difficult doing what Cantor tries, so the idea is really cool. But it seems to be a complex task, and at the moment, it brings more woes than benefits. I’d like to see a smoother integration, and a clever wizard that lets you add backends. Maybe a smart clipboard to share code with other programs. I’d expect a fully HW-accelerated graphics module, so everything responds fast and looks peachy. Finally, Cantor mustn’t work any worse than the native engines it represents, because it invalidates its own purpose by doing that (or rather not doing that, hi hi). At the moment, it’s a raw product, and it needs a lot of fixes. But me likey, so I will be testing in the future. Unique software, here I go.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • Rewarding our Friends of GNOME

        After my somewhat dark post about being a Free Software maintainer, a very significant number of people got in touch and asked how can they help me, and GNOME, more actively than saying “keep up the good work, we love y’all”. And so I thought that maybe we are not advertising well enough the various ways to contribute to GNOME beyond actually getting involved with the daily activities of the project.

        The potentially most effective way to help GNOME is by donating to the GNOME Foundation and spreading the word. GNOME Foundation has two donation programs: one-time donations, and Friend of GNOME.

        Becoming a Friend of GNOME is my favorite. The Friends of GNOME donation program is a monthly subscription where you can select a community member. The selected member will send you a thank you post card. Did you know that I can be adopted as a hacker through Friends of GNOME? Not only me but various other great community members!

        I’m happy to say that many Friends of GNOME adopted me already! Naturally, I’m supposed to send thank you postcards.

      • Podman Support in Builder

        For years now, Builder has had rich abstractions for containers built right into the core of the IDE. Builder even knows the difference between build and runtime containers which naturally maps with Flatpak SDKs like org.gnome.Sdk vs org.gnome.Platform.

        With the advent of operating systems focused on immutability, like Fedora Silverblue, developers are going to be increasingly developing in containers.

        The technology underlying projects like Toolbox is podman. It provides a command-line tool to manage containers without a daemon by using the various container APIs afforded to us in modern Linux.

        Bridging Builder’s container APIs to support podman was pretty painless on my part. A couple hours to choose the right abstractions and implementing them led me to a missing piece in podman; passing FDs to the container.

        The reason that Builder requires this is that we often need to communicate across containers. An easy way to do that is over a pair of pipe() since it is anonymous. By anonymous, I mean we don’t need to share any file-system hierarchy, IPC or network namespaces, or even PTY namespace.

        The most important piece that requires this in Builder is our GDB-based debugger. We use GDB inside the container so it has native access to things like build sources, libraries, symbols, and more. This is all orchestrated using GDB’s mi2 interface over a PTY, with a second PTY for the target process. When GDB lands on a breakpoint, we know how to translate paths between Builder’s container (usually Flatpak) and the target container (in this case, podman). Doing so ensures that we open the right file and line number to the user. Fundamentals, of course.

      • [Old] Nirbheek Chauhan: GStreamer and Meson: A New Hope

        Anyone who has written a non-trivial project using Autotools has realized that (and wondered why) it requires you to be aware of 5 different languages. Once you spend enough time with the innards of the system, you begin to realize that it is nothing short of an astonishing feat of engineering. Engineering that belongs in a museum. Not as part of critical infrastructure.

        Autotools was created in the 1980s and caters to the needs of an entirely different world of software from what we have at present. Worse yet, it carries over accumulated cruft from the past 40 years — ostensibly for better “cross-platform support” but that “support” is mostly for extinct platforms that five people in the whole world remember.

        We’ve learned how to make it work for most cases that concern FOSS developers on Linux, and it can be made to limp along on other platforms that the majority of people use, but it does not inspire confidence or really anything except frustration. People will not like your project or contribute to it if the build system takes 10x longer to compile on their platform of choice, does not integrate with the preferred IDE, and requires knowledge arcane enough to be indistinguishable from cargo-cult programming.

      • Sam Thursfield: The Lesson Planalyzer

        I’ve now been working as a teacher for 8 months. There are a lot of things I like about the job. One thing I like is that every day brings a new deadline. That sounds bad right? It’s not: one day I prepare a class, the next day I deliver the class one or more times and I get instant feedback on it right there and then from the students. I’ve seen enough of the software industry, and the music industry, to know that such a quick feedback loop is a real privilege!

        Creating a lesson plan can be a slow and sometimes frustrating process, but the more plans I write the more I can draw on things I’ve done before. I’ve planned and delivered over 175 different lessons already. It’s sometimes hard to know if I’m repeating myself or not, or if I could be reusing an activity from a past lesson, so I’ve been looking for easy ways to look back at all my old lesson plans.

        Search

        GNOME’s Tracker search engine provides a good starting point for searching a setof lesson plans: I can put the plans in my ~/Documents folder, open the folder in Nautilus, and then I type a term like “present perfect” into the search bar

  • Distributions

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • SUSE poised for growth with new owner

        The newly-independent open source company is looking forward to pursuing its own strategy under a new owner, it says.

      • SUSE Advances Enterprise Cloud Efforts

        SUSE has gone through a number of transitions and ownership changes over the past two decades, and it’s now changing again, as the Linux vendor re-emerges as an independent vendor.

        At the SUSECON 2019 conference in Nashville, Tenn., which ran from April 2-4, SUSE’s management and executive teams outlined the vision for the company as it moves forward. SUSE also made a series of product and service announcements, including an updated cloud application platform and optimizations for SAP HANA as well as new Cascade Lake Intel Xeon processors.

        “SUSE is now since March 15 a fully independent stand-alone business,” Nils Brauckmann, CEO of SUSE, said during his SUSECON keynote. “In fact, we are about to be the largest independent open-source company in this industry, as the red gets slowly sucked into the blue and transcendent purple.”

    • Fedora

      • FPgM report: 2019-14

        Here’s your report of what has happened in Fedora Program Management this week. Fedora 30 Beta was released!

    • Debian Family

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Configuration Management Tool Chef Announces to go 100% Open Source

    You are here: Home / News / Configuration Management Tool Chef Announces to go 100% Open Source
    Configuration Management Tool Chef Announces to go 100% Open Source
    Last updated April 5, 2019 By Ankush Das 2 Comments
    In case you did not know, among the most popular automation software services, Chef is one of the best out there.

    Recently, it announced some new changes to its business model and the software. While we know that everyone here believes in the power of open source – and Chef supports that idea too. So, now they have decided to go 100% open source.

    It will included all of their software under the Apache 2.0 license. You can use, modify, distribute and monetize their source code as long as you respect the trademark policy.

    In addition to this, they’ve also introduced a new service for enterprises, we’ll take a look at that as you read on.

  • Top 5 Open-Source SNMP Monitoring Tools

    We’d all love to benefit from infinite network bandwidth, wouldn’t we? But the reality of very different. Most of the time, we have to do with the bare minimum as bandwidth is still quite expensive. Consequently, networks often suffer from congestion and other problems linked to insufficient bandwidth. At the same time, applications are handling more and more data and need to move it through the network. This puts an additional toll on network bandwidth. To stay out of trouble, you need to keep a close eye on your network and the evolution of its usage and one of the best ways of doing that is to use a bandwidth monitoring tool.

    We’ll begin by discussing network monitoring. We’ll briefly explain what it is and the different types of monitoring that are typically available. We’ll then dig deeper into the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) and tell you what’s important to know about it, how it works, and how monitoring tools use it to measure — or rather calculate — network bandwidth utilization. And once we’re all on the same page, we’ll get into the core of this post and review some of the best open-sou

    rce SNMP monitoring tools. While some are quite rudimentary, others are very polished and professional tools.

  • The 7 Best Free And Open-Source Ping Monitor Tools

    A typical network has so many components that it is of the utmost importance to always keep an eye on everything. But with today’s distributed and/or cloud-based data centers, monitoring is more complex than ever. This is why there is a seemingly infinite number of monitoring systems available, all geared at helping administrators stay on top of everything. Various types of monitoring exist from the simplest to the most elaborate. Today, we’re having a look at ping monitoring, one of the most elementary forms of monitoring. It consists simply of using ping to make sure that each monitored component is up and running and responding within an acceptable time frame.

    Before we begin, we’ll spend some time discussing ping, what it is and how it works. Ping is an old utility that is deceptively simple and powerful. But it is so reliable that it has not been superseded by anything yet, despite the fact that it’s bee around for ages. We’ll then have a look at ping as the basis for a monitoring tool and discuss the various common features of such systems. We’ve kept the best for last so we’ll finally review some of the best free and open-source ping monitoring tools we could find.

  • Events

    • Jonathan Dowland: Fourth Annual UK System Research Challenges Workshop

      I gave a talk on my research at the Fourth Annual UK System Research Challenges Workshop. This is the second time I’ve attended this conference. Last year I presented on some Red Hat work.

      The conference took place at Redworth Hall, a 17th Century Jacobean Manor House converted into a spa Hotel. The main presentations took place in an ornate hall with high ceilings, candelabra and long curtains (definitely not a drop you can buy at Dunelm)

    • DevSecOps Pune Meetup 4

      This I had attended almost a month back. I just didn’t have the time or the energy to blog about it. Thankfully, one of the organizers Rohan Nageskar took the time to blog about it so I don’t have to do much other than share a few of the links I had shared and some which I had forgotten to do on that date. The first one was about usage of A.I. for vulnerability assessment using twitter mentions as a source. While the idea certainly has merit and would go a long way in getting nods to fix vulnerabilities in the code during the whole cycle of development, production, deployment, scaling, maintainance till the time the code or app. or whatever needs to be retired. At the same time however, it is not known how accurate the system would be because at the end, it still relies on human input and humans per-se are bad at threat perception and evaluation as per millions of examples. All the wars that have been fought and are still being fought in whatever name is a strong example of that.

      One of the other things that I shared was the Intel Spoiler attack which was just shared just a few hours ago or something so it was pretty fresh at the time. I also shared a bit about where the hardware industry seemed to be heading and it seems at least for the near future that AMD would have the leg up. There’s the whole RISC bit for which chips are already out there and lot more being promised in the coming months and year but that’s a different topic altogether.

      Incidentally, while Rohan was sharing about using Ansible for scaling a webapp and how you would have different servers for scaling the webapp. depending on needs, I was wondering that definitely the BJP IT Team would have profited from Rohan’s presentation. While Rohan didn’t go much into specifics of things, it was more or a high-level overview of the process, it did establish some groundwork for any individual or team as to how they could go about it. For newbies they could well read up on the differences on webapp. and website . To my mind, they are one and the same as most sites nowadays are dyanmic in nature due to nature of things.

    • Open Source Stories at Red Hat Summit 2019

      When Open Source Stories first launched it was a documentary film series that showcased interesting ways to apply open source thinking, highlighting the stories behind open source technology and the people making a difference. We’ve told the stories of: a community-powered arts festival; a network of volunteers designing 3-D-printed prosthetics and giving them away for free; a high school that launched a student-run IT department; advocates for open health care records; organizations using open source to build self-driving cars; an art museum creating interactive and collaborative exhibits; and citizen scientists who are using open hardware to contribute to research.

      However since the premiere of the first film in 2015, it has morphed into much more than that. What started as a passion project for Red Hat has grown into a celebration of how community, meritocracy and a free exchange of ideas can unlock potential across a range of disciplines. Open Source Stories now spans the film series, live talks, article series, and CO.LAB, which introduces middle school students to the principles of open source.

    • The 104 in Prague

      I attended with a free one-day pass for the IETF and free hackathon registration, so more than just the draft presentation happened. During the hackathon I sat at the MAPRG table and worked on PATHspider with Mirja Kühlewind from ETH Zurich. We have the code running again with the latest libraries available in Debian testing and this may become the basis of a future Tor exit scanner (for generating exit lists, and possibly also some bad exit detection). We ran a quick measurement campaign that was reported in the hackathon presentations.

      During the hackathon I also spoke to Watson Ladd from Cloudflare about his Roughtime draft which could be interesting for Tor for a number of reasons. One would be for verifying if a consensus is fresh, another would be for Tor Browser to detect if a TLS cert is valid, and another would be providing archive signatures for Tor Metrics. (We’ve started looking at archive signatures since our recent work on modernising CollecTor).

      On the Monday, this was the first “real” day of the IETF. The day started off for me at the PEARG meeting. I presented my draft as the first presentation in that session. The feedback was all positive, it seems like having the document is both desirable and timely.

  • Web Browsers

    • Chrome

      • Google Chrome 73.0.3683.103 Released for Linux, Windows, and Mac

        Google has just released a new minor update for Chrome 73 as the company is preparing for another major update later this month.

        With today’s update, Google Chrome reaches version 73.0.3683.103 on all supported desktop platforms, including here Windows, Linux, and macOS. You can download the new version using the links below.

        Needless to say, this is just a minor update that doesn’t bring any new features, and you can check the full changelog here.

    • Mozilla

      • QMO: Firefox 67 Beta 10 Testday, April 12th

        We are happy to let you know that Friday, April 12th, we are organizing Firefox 67 Beta 10 Testday. We’ll be focusing our testing on: Graphics compatibility & support and Session Restore.

        Check out the detailed instructions via this etherpad.

        No previous testing experience is required, so feel free to join us on #qa IRC channel where our moderators will offer you guidance and answer your questions.

      • Firefox Nightly: These Weeks in Firefox: Issue 56
  • Databases

    • GDA and disable old stuff

      After hundred of commits, GDA is getting fixes for most of its bugs around SQLite, PostgreSQL and MySQL providers. Lot of modernization work has been landing in master, making GCC more and more happy avoiding warnings, some of them are present, yet.

      To have a warning free release, GDA needs to modify some internals, hope they are not too invasive in order to avoid bugs.

      Internals in GDA is a long history, started in January 2002, evolving and implementing stuff not available in GLib or GObject at that time. But the things have changed and now we have modern techniques to implement interfaces and objects, so a modernization was started since I took the maintainership.

      GDA has lot of tools, like entire applications and command line (a la psql), allowing you to access your data.

    • pgcli: Release v2.1.0

      Pgcli is a command line interface for Postgres database that does auto-completion and syntax highlighting.

  • Education

    • 5 open source tools for teaching young children to read

      Anyone who sees a child using a tablet or smartphone observes their seemingly innate ability to scroll through apps and swipe through screens, flexing those “digital native” muscles. According to Common Sense Media, the percentage of US households in which 0- to 8-year-olds have access to a smartphone has grown from 52% in 2011 to 98% in 2017. While the debates around age guidelines and screen time surge, it’s hard to deny that children are developing familiarity and skills with technology at an unprecedented rate.

      This rise in early technical literacy may be astonishing, but what about traditional literacy, the good old-fashioned ability to read? What does the intersection of early literacy development and early tech use look like? Let’s explore some open source tools for early learners that may help develop both of these critical skill sets.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

    • Facebook Opens Up Glow Compiler Back-End For Goya AI Accelerator

      In the AI races for dedicated hardware accelerators, Habana Labs is off to an early lead when it comes to having a mainline, open-source kernel driver and now is also the first AI processor having a back-end implemented within Facebook’s Glow AI open-source compiler.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • GNU Gets Gas’ed Up For Intel BFloat16 Support

      While Cascade Lake Xeon Scalable processors launched just this week, already with their successor “Cooper Lake” we are looking forward to Intel supporting the BFloat16 floating-point format designed for machine learning workloads. GNU’s Gas now has assembler/disassembler support for BF16 instructions.

      With Intel always working for punctual support for new CPU instructions in the open-source toolchain, they landed on Friday support for BF16 into the Binutils code-base for Gas, the GNU Assembler.

  • Licensing/Legal

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • First open source MIPS code is released

        As promised in December when Wave Computing made the surprising announcement that it was open sourcing its MIPS architecture with a MIPS Open Initiative, the company offered its first MIPS Open Release. The initial release includes the latest R6 (Release 6) versions of its 32- and 64-bit MIPS ISAs, as well as extensions including virtualization, multi-threading, SIMD, DSP and microMIPS compression.

        There is also an IDE for embedded Linux and RTOS development, as well as an open source FPGA stack that was not mentioned in the December announcement. This appears to relate to the free, academia-targeted MIPSfpga RTL for microAptiv cores that was released several years ago by Imagination Technologies before it sold the MIPS architecture to Wave Computing.

  • Programming/Development

    • POCL 1.3 Released For OpenCL On CPUs As The Portable Computing Language

      Just days after the most recent POCL 1.3 release candidate, the Portable Computing Language 1.3 release is now officially available for an open-source project allowing OpenCL kernels to be executed on CPUs.

      POCL 1.3 implements OpenCL 1.2 with some CL 2.0 functionality and is a portable OpenCL implementation for running on CPUs or there is also some offloading capabilities to NVIDIA GPUs via CUDA or AMD GPUs via HSA.

    • NEC Is Looking To Contribute SX-Aurora VE Accelerator Support To LLVM

      The newest compiler back-end proposed for merging into the LLVM compiler code-base is for the NEC SX-Aurora VE (Vector Engine) accelerator card.

      NEC launched the SX-Aurora a year ago as a “Vector Engine” PCI Express accelerator card supporting up to eight of these vector processors per server. The NEC SX-Aurora features eight cores clocked up to 1.6GHz and six HBM2 memory modules on a silicon interposer. The CPU double precision performance is rated up to 2.45 TFLOPS based upon the model or 4.9 single-precision TFLOPS. The six HBM2 stacks yield up to 48GB of working memory at 1.2TB/s memory bandwidth.

    • Test and Code: 71: The Ultimate Guide To Memorable Tech Talks – Nina Zackarenko

      Nina Zakharenko gives some great advice about giving tech talks.
      We talk about a blog series that Nina wrote called “The Ultimate Guide To Memorable Tech Talks”. Of course, we don’t rehash the whole blog series, but this episode is full of great help and encouragement for your own public speaking adventures.

    • Alexander Todorov: The Art of [Unit] Testing

      A month ago I held a private discussional workshop for a friend’s company in Sofia. With people at executive positions on the tech & business side we discussed some of their current problems with respect to delivering a quality product. Additionally I had a list of pre-compiled questions from members of the technical team, young developers, mostly without formal background in software testing! Some of the answers were inspired by The Art of Unit Testing by Roy Osherove hence the title!

    • Remi Collet: PHPUnit 8.1
    • An RPython JIT for LPegs

      The following is a guest post by Stefan Troost, he describes the work he did in his bachelor thesis:

      In this project we have used the RPython infrastructure to generate an RPython JIT for a less-typical use-case: string pattern matching. The work in this project is based on Parsing Expression Grammars and LPeg, an implementation of PEGs designed to be used in Lua. In this post I will showcase some of the work that went into this project, explain PEGs in general and LPeg in particular, and show some benchmarking results.

    • AvantPy needs you
    • Developer tool for i18n: “Pseudolocale”

      While browsing for some internationalisation/localisation features, I found an interesting piece of functionality in Android’s developer documentation.

    • Format your log messages in Python

      Getting log messages into the desired format can sometimes be a problem, but with syslog-ng you can use Python to get exactly the format you need. The syslog-ng Python template function allows you to write custom templates for syslog-ng in Python. It was available in syslog-ng already for almost two years, but somehow stayed under the radar for me. The Python template function can work on the whole log message (which is passed on to it automatically as an object) or on the data received as argument.

      In this blog I show you a simple use of the Python parser: resolving IP addresses to host names. I also show you a nice new feature, the logger method, which enables you to log to syslog-ng’s internal() log source instead of writing logs from Python to stdout. This way you can follow what your Python code does even if syslog-ng is running as a daemon in the background.

    • AnacondaCON 2019 Day 2 Recap: AI in Medicine, Cataloging the Contents of Stars, and More!

      We’re back with a recap of Day 2 of our annual AnacondaCON. (In case you missed it, you can read our Day 1 recap here). Things started off on an exciting note with an Opening Keynote by Scott Collison, CEO of Anaconda, announcing the new PyCharm for Anaconda.

      This new partnership will bring JetBrains’ Integrated Development Environment (IDE) and notebook capabilities into Anaconda Enterprise, empowering Python developers and data scientists with tight integration and optimized workflows.

    • Anaconda 2019.03 Release [Ed: Two falsehoods from Anaconda yesterday (in "Windows is the most popular operating system in the world"); 1) it is not popular, just widely used owing to Microsoft corruption. 2) Android is most widely used, or Linux.]

      Windows is the most popular operating system in the world and consistently has 75% or more of the worldwide desktop market. According to the JetBrains Python Developers Survey, 49% of Python developers use Windows as their desktop operating system. Previous Windows releases of Anaconda Distribution included a command shell specifically for running conda and Python scripts. The 2019.03 release features full conda integration with Windows Powershell.

      In addition to Powershell integration, this release addresses the issue of slow uninstalls of Anaconda on Windows. Working with shared libraries in Windows can be tricky and we’re working to resolve conflicts by setting an environmental variable to gracefully handle library conflicts commonly known as DLL Hell.

      This release includes conda 4.6.11, an update from our initial release of conda 4.6.0. Features for the 4.6 release are detailed in this article. Since the release, we’ve been updating conda based on community input. Thank you and kudos to the Anaconda community for helping us continuously improve conda as a leading package manager.

    • The Power of Workflow Scripts

      Nextcloud has the ability to define some conditions under which external scripts are executed. The app which makes this possible is called “Workflow Script”. I always knew that this powerful tool exists, yet I never really had a use case for it. This changed last week.

    • API v3 of the yaml package for Go is available

      API v3 of the yaml package for Go is out, and it brings comment handling, intermediate node representations, and much more.

      The initial sketch for v3 of the yaml package for Go was first drafted almost exactly a year ago, by the end of March last year (2018). If this package doesn’t sound familiar, it’s the underlying code that reads and writes configuration files for many of the popular Go packages that we benefit from, including snaps, Kubernetes, juju, and many others.

      This time what finally broke the stability barrier was the desire of having an intermediate representation that allowed YAML to be understood and described in a structure closer to the text format. This unlocks a number of interesting features that were long time requests in the issue tracker, such as the ability to manipulate comments, surfacing line and column locations for data, better handling of style, encoding and decoding of anchors and aliases, and so on.

      The package was born in late 2010, and its v2 API was stabilized by 2014, so between then and now there were about 4 years of small paper cuts to address in its behavior. But paper cuts are rarely a good motivation to introduce a breaking change that forces people to perform manual actions.

    • Python Bytes: #124 This is not the None you’re looking for
    • First test with 3.7.3 and opencv-python module version 4.0.0 .

Leftovers

  • Hardware

    • USB4: What this future standard means for USB chaos and Thunderbolt 3

      Now that the upcoming USB4 spec promises to “adopt the Thunderbolt 3 protocol,” some hope it means an end to our international nightmare of USB confusion. You know, the one where there are:

      Two different connectors: USB-A or USB-C

      Four different active specs: USB 2.0, USB 3.0, and USB 3.1 Gen 1 and Gen 2

      Scarce Thunderbolt 3 support, despite using the same form factor as USB-C

      An upcoming USB 3.2 spec that precedes USB4 and introduces yet more confusion through clumsy rebranding

  • Health/Nutrition

    • ‘Soft, Purple Plastic’ Found in Beef Patties Leads to Recall of 20,000+ Pounds

      A Tyson Foods subsidiary is recalling more than 20,000 pounds of beef patties that may have been contaminated with plastics, USA Today reported.

      “Two consumers reported they found pieces of soft purple plastic in the product,” AdvancePierre said in a statement Wednesday. “Even though these reports involved only two items, out of an abundance of caution, the company is recalling 1,449 cases of product.”

    • Russia’s Health Ministry proposes banning public calls for vaccination avoidance

      The Russian federal Health Ministry is developing a bill that would prohibit publicly expressing encouragement for vaccine avoidance, TASS reported. The vice chair of the ministry, Tatiana Yakovleva, said groups that discourage vaccination have “decreased the effectiveness” of the country’s disease prevention efforts to “below their full potential.”

    • Cook County Judge Keeps Limit on Publication in Place in Child Welfare Case

      A highly unusual judicial order blocking ProPublica Illinois and other news organizations from publishing some information about an ongoing child welfare case will remain in place for at least several more days.

      In a hearing on Friday, Patricia Martin, presiding judge of Cook County Juvenile Court’s child protection division, said she will rule on a motion by ProPublica Illinois to lift the order within five business days of reviewing a transcript of the proceedings.

      During the 90-minute hearing, Martin questioned attorneys for ProPublica Illinois and for the children in the case about how they would balance the First Amendment right to publish with the minors’ privacy interests.

      Child protection cases involve victims “who have done absolutely nothing but be born,” Martin said. “Does that truly innocent victim have a [privacy] right?”

    • Why Single-Payer Would Improve California Health Care

      How to achieve universal health insurance in California? In our super-progressive, supermajority Democratic state, that’s the health policy question of the day. Not if we should lead the way on universal coverage, but how.

      Recently, UC Berkeley economists proposed a solution, dubbed California Dreamin’. Expand current insurance to cover the uninsured, using up to $17 billion in new taxes. That’s a 5 percent bump in health spending. Problem solved, right?

      No. While the goal is admirable, the Dreamin’ approach adds a Rube Goldberg appendage to a Rube Goldberg health care financing system. It layers cost and complexity upon cost and complexity. Our insurance system will continue to underperform.

      We need to revamp our insurance mess. We can do this with a well-known and proven solution: single-payer.

    • Even Moderate Drinking Increases Stroke Risk, Groundbreaking Genetic Study Finds

      A major genetic study has concluded that there is no healthy level of alcohol consumption, at least when it comes to stroke risk.

      The study, published in The Lancet Thursday, contradicts some previous research suggesting that drinking one to two glasses a day might protect against stroke, though other studies have said there is no safe level of alcohol consumption, BBC news reported. In Thursday’s study, a research team from the University of Oxford, Peking University and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences found that even drinking one to two glasses a day increased stroke risk by 10 to 15 percent.

    • Important Medicaid Initiatives Would End if Court Overturns ACA, as Trump Administration Seeks

      The Justice Department’s recent announcement that it now supports a district court decision that would strike down the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA) puts even more at stake for Medicaid than is commonly understood — in the unlikely event that higher courts uphold the decision. In addition to eliminating the ACA’s Medicaid expansion to low-income adults, the decision would put other Medicaid initiatives at risk and create massive disruption for state Medicaid programs, even in non-expansion states.

      To be sure, the ACA’s most significant Medicaid change is its expansion to adults with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty line, which let millions gain Medicaid coverage for the first time and produced significant benefits for them, their families, and their communities, research shows. If the ACA is struck down, almost 13 million low-income adults would lose their health insurance and, with it, access to treatment for chronic conditions, mental illness, and substance use disorders. It would also cause greater financial instability for safety net providers, such as hospitals, because they would incur greater uncompensated care costs due to the higher number of uninsured adults.

    • Unvaccinated student loses in court after suing health dept during outbreak

      From that, the Kunkels concluded that the vaccine is immoral and should be rejected absolutely. But the Catholic Church disagrees, taking a more nuanced stance. In a 2005 statement on the matter, the Vatican noted its ethical objection to the manufacturing methods of such vaccines and encouraged the use of alternatives when possible. But in the end, the church came to the practical judgement that when no alternatives are available, such vaccines are acceptable and necessary to “avoid a serious risk not only for one’s own children but also, and perhaps more specifically, for the health conditions of the population as a whole—especially for pregnant women.” The argument would seem to be further bolstered by the fact that the chickenpox can cause severe birth defects and, if it strikes late in a pregnancy, life-threatening infections in newborns.

      The National Catholic Bioethics Center spells out the church’s position further, concluding: “There would seem to be no proper grounds for refusing immunization against dangerous contagious disease, for example, rubella, especially in light of the concern that we should all have for the health of our children, public health, and the common good.”

    • Trump’s Big Lie About Health Care

      Donald Trump’s madcap presidency is now seeking to strip 20 million Americans of their health care coverage. He has instructed the Justice Department to join the lawsuit seeking to declare the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.

      He then proclaimed that Republicans would offer a far better alternative, tweeting they’ll become the “Party of Great Health Care.”

      Only there is no plan. Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, wants nothing to do with trying to develop one. Confusion reigns. This grotesque misrule might be funny were it not putting millions of people at risk.

      Trump has taken his animus against all things Obama to new heights in his obsessive drive to repeal or disembowel the Affordable Care Act. After the Republican Senate rejected repeal — feeding Trump’s disdain for Sen. John McCain, who cast the determining vote — Trump’s administration has sought to undermine the act administratively.

      Seven million fewer people now have health care coverage since Trump was elected. Now he hopes to have the courts repeal the act. That would end the expansion of Medicaid, which covers more than 10 million low-wage workers and their families. It would repeal the requirement that insurance companies cover those with pre-existing conditions — putting anyone who is ill now covered under the act at risk.

    • Complicity

      In “Opioids and the State of the Union”* I described the crisis of opioid addiction, and the failure of anyone to do anything about it until 60 Minutes and The Washington Post blew the whistle on the pharmaceutical industry, particularly McKesson, that was pushing the pills, and the failure of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to do anything about it. That article concluded with my calling out many other parties who I argued were complicit in its epidemic- proportion abuse.

      The recent crashes of two Boeing 737 Max 8 passenger jets, leading to the death of all those aboard, made me think more widely about the question of complicity, and its broader meaning for American politics and society. And that reminded me of the Challenger space shuttle catastrophe. The following is the result of these further ruminations.

    • Developing Countries’ Medical Needs Unfulfilled by Big Pharma

      The world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies have “failed to produce two-thirds of the most urgently needed treatments in developing countries,” the Guardian reported in November 2018. The Guardian’s coverage was based on a report by the Access to Medication Foundation, a nonprofit that analyzes access to essential medicines such as infant vaccines for cholera and single-dose oral treatments for syphilis. An estimated two billion people globally lack access to urgently needed medicines.

      The Access to Medication Foundation’s 2018 report monitored the availability of medications produced by twenty of the largest pharmaceutical companies to lower- and middle-income countries. 91 of 139 drugs, vaccines, and diagnostic tests identified as urgently needed by the World Health Organization have not been developed by any of the pharmaceutical firms tracked by the report.

    • NBA Mental Health Awareness Nods to an Issue Bigger than Social Media

      NBA commissioner Adam Silver made waves in the sports world by openly discussing players’ mental health, anxiety, and lack of happiness at the 13th annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in March 2019. His remarks opened the door for wider discussion of mental health issues in the US. Suicide is on the rise in the US and the topic of mental health is constantly mentioned, yet the connection between sports and mental illness is largely understated.

    • Pelosi Accused of Deploying ‘Most Dishonest Argument’ Against Medicare for All

      In an interview with the Washington Post, the Democratic leader said she is “agnostic” on Medicare for All and claimed, “A lot of people love having their employer-based insurance and the Affordable Care Act gave them better benefits.”

      Matt Bruenig, founder of the left-wing think tank People’s Policy Project, argued in a blog post that Pelosi’s statement “implies that, under our current health insurance system, people who like their employer-based insurance can hold on to it.”

      “This then is contrasted with a Medicare for All transition where people will lose their employer-based insurance as part of being shifted over to an excellent government plan,” Bruenig wrote. “But the truth is that people who love their employer-based insurance do not get to hold on to it in our current system. Instead, they lose that insurance constantly, all the time, over and over again. It is a complete nightmare.”

      To illustrate his point, Bruenig highlighted a University of Michigan study showing that among Michiganders “who had employer-sponsored insurance in 2014, only 72 percent were continuously enrolled in that insurance for the next 12 months.

  • Security

    • Kaspersky: Thousands of Android users are being tracked by stalkerware

      Russian security outfit Kaspersky Lab has discovered that more than 58,000 Android-using folks had so-called ‘stalkerware’ lurking on their devices in 2018, with 35,000 unaware they were being stalked.

      Stalkerware is software that can track a person’s gadget and by extension them, as well as snoop on their texts and get live feeds from cameras. It’s legal but is pretty damn unethical; nevertheless, it seems to get used a heck of a lot.

    • Kaspersky Lab Will Now Alert Users to ‘Stalkerware’ Used In Domestic Abuse

      Antivirus company Kaspersky Lab announced that its Android security product will now mark all stalkerware apps as malware, prompting users to delete them.

    • 150 Million Xiaomi Devices Vulnerable To A Major Security Flaw [Ed: How come we never see headlines like, "2 billion PCs vulnerable due to NSA back doors with exploits in the wild"?]

      The purpose of security apps is to protect devices and user data. However, Xiaomi’s pre-installed security app did just the opposite and made its smartphones more vulnerable to attacks.

      The app in question is Xiaomi’s security app, Guard Provider, which uses anti-virus scanners from popular developers like Avast, AVL, and Tencent to scan for the presence of malware.

    • CVE-2019-5736 runc escape vs. SELinux
    • The Best Antivirus Programs for Ubuntu

      Let’s be real here. When it comes to virus threats, Linux is the last thing on a hacker’s mind. However, that doesn’t excuse it from all attack vectors. Though Linux benefits from “security by obscurity,” you still have to worry in some ways. For example, just because Linux can’t run Windows programs (without Wine) doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be cautious.

      These viruses can still be spread, especially if you have a Samba server (Windows file share on Linux) or external devices that regularly interact with both Linux and Windows. You could be inadvertently spreading viruses – not to mention some hackers have recently (though not very frequently) started targeting Linux users directly.

      So what are some of the best antivirus programs for Ubuntu you should use?

    • Security updates for Friday
    • GoBrut Botnet ELF Variant and New C2 Discovered
    • Apache Patches Serious Privilege Escalation Flaw
    • Don’t be an April Fool: Update your Android mobes, gizmos to – hopefully – pick up critical security fixes

      Google has released the April edition of its monthly Android security updates, including fixes for three remote-code execution vulnerabilities in the mobile OS.

      This month’s batch – now out for Google-branded devices, at least: other Android device manufacturers and carriers push out updates on on their own – includes one batch of fixes for 11 CVE-listed vulnerabilities that everyone should apply, and a second batch for 44 flaws, that should be applied depending on your device’s hardware and OS.

    • Improved Spectre/Meltdown Switches Might Finally Come To The Linux Kernel [Ed: These chips are not fixed. They will never be recalled. They are still defective. These are workarounds. Many will never apply the 'fixes' because of their performance toll.]

      By the time the next Linux kernel is released it will have been roughly a year and a half since the Spectre and Meltdown CPU speculative execution vulnerabilities went public and the mitigations started appearing within the kernel. Finally now it’s being discussed again by upstream developers over improving the switches / tunable knobs for easily configuring these performance-degrading mitigations.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Facebook’s Follies

      The killing of 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15th, once again raised mea culpas from executives at Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, among other social-networking companies. They were exposed as having helped facilitate the widespread distribution of videos of the killings.

      Facebook livestreamed the gunman’s 17-minute videos and, as The Guardian reported, it kept it online for 6 hours and YouTube for 3 hours after the slaughters; it reported subsequently removing around 1.5 million videos of the killings. The company’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, said she identified 900 different variations of the Christchurch shooter’s original livestream. The Guardian also reported that some sites posted the attacker’s full 74-page manifesto.

      In the wake of mounting criticism about its role sustain on-going promotion of the attacks on the mosques, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg published an op ed in The Washington Post on March 30th that spoke to the company’s – and media-tech industries – inability to manage the social-network content that is helping foster white nationalist and separatist militancy culminating in killings.

    • The “Patriot”

      Merriam-Webster defines patriotism as: love for or devotion to one’s country.

      Sounds nice, as far as it goes. But it isn’t quite like being loving and devoted to family and friends, or even the smaller structure of your own town or city, county or state. You can’t be patriotic to them because they lack an armed force. That’s the difference.

      Cities, towns, and states don’t demand loyalty like a country does. The loyalty demand arises in conjunction with an armed force. True patriots agree in principle with the supreme authority of the state to decide who lives and who dies. That’s on both sides of the battle, good to recognize.

      Though it’s possible for dictionary patriotism to exist in the absence of armed force, in practice patriotic urges are strongest when military force is in the bargain. So closely is the military linked to patriotism that the institution registers the most positive public trust, this at a time when, save for small business and police, all other institutions register negative trust at or near historical lows.

      Not that there’s anything wrong with defending your country from attack. Self defense, even beyond its moral component, is legally justified under international law, so there’s no question here.

      Yet, in the hands of the wrong person, or group of persons, the authority to use force can result in the most grievous crimes. Some of these crimes were enunciated by the victorious Allies (us) over the defeated Axis (Nazis) at the Nuremberg Trials. Among them was Crimes against Peace, War Crimes, and Crimes against Humanity. These standard-setting crimes were articulated in the full knowledge that they would apply impartially to all future violators, importantly including us, so stated chief U.S. prosecutor Robert H. Jackson. Whether or not he meant it, it sounds good on paper.

      A pertinent question: Were the ordinary German citizens of the Third Reich patriotic? By ordinary is meant those not targeted by the state for persecution and gradual elimination, like Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and communists. Fairness would compel us to admit that many non-targeted Germans were and remained patriots. Indeed, patriotism is the default position of the citizen.

    • The UK Media Smoothed the Path to Soldiers Using Corbyn Image as Target Practice

      It is time to stop believing these infantile narratives the British political and media establishments have crafted for us. Like the one in which they tell us they care deeply about the state of political life, and that they lie awake at night worrying about the threat posed by populism to our democratic institutions.

      How do they persuade us of the depth of their concern? They express their horror at at the murder of an MP, Jo Cox, and their outrage at the abuse of another, Anna Soubry—both victims of the frenzied passions unleashed by Brexit.

      But the political and media elites don’t really care whether politicians are assaulted, vilified or threatened—at least, not if it is the kind of politician who threatens their power. They aren’t seriously worried about attacks on democracy, or about political violence, or about the rottenness at the core of state institutions. Their outrage is selective. It is rooted not in principle, but in self-interest.

      [...]

      The media have been only happy too to vilify Corbyn as a Kremlin stooge and a former Soviet spy. Senior Tory Iain Duncan Smith this week called Corbyn “a Marxist whose sole purpose in life is to do real damage to the country” – a remark that, as ever went, entirely unchallenged by the BBC interviewer giving him a platform. Just imagine a Labour MP being allowed to accuse Theresa May of being a fascist whose only goal is to destroy the country.

      But the BBC has never bothered to conceal its intense dislike of Corbyn. Its news shows have even photoshopped the Labour leader to make him look “Russian” – or “more Russian”, as the BBC and the rest of the media mischievously phrased it. Those who protested were told they were reading too much into it. They needed to lighten up and not take themselves so seriously.

      Senior Conservatives, including the former defence secretary Michael Fallon, have regularly portrayed Corbyn as a threat to national security, especially over concerns about the Trident nuclear missile system. Many senior members of Corbyn’s own party have echoed such smears – all amplified, of course, by the media.

      Those who suggested that the government and media needed to engage with Corbyn’s well-grounded doubts about the safety of nuclear weapons, or the economics and practicalities of the Trident programme, were derided – like Corbyn – as “pacifists” and “traitors”.

    • Russiagate is Not Watergate

      He was arguably our last liberal president. He transformed the political scene in countless ways; some good, some far from it. Together with Henry Kissinger, he was a geopolitical strategist of distinction who served the empire and the military industrial complex well.

      Like Kissinger, he was also no slouch when it came to war crimes, crimes against the peace, and crimes against humanity. He got a whole lot of people killed and maimed — in Vietnam and elsewhere in Southeast Asia and throughout the world.

      And while neither he nor the administration he superintended were unusually corrupt, he could boast, were he so inclined, of having many a “high crime and misdemeanor” under his belt, and of taking his oath to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States lightly or not at all.

      He was, in short, a later-day version of the sort of villainous and tormented figure that readers might encounter in a historical drama authored by William Shakespeare.

      Ironically, in light of all he deserved punishment for, Watergate, “a third rate burglary,” and the bollixed cover up it precipitated, did him and his administration in.

      To this day, in the public imagination, Nixon and Watergate are joined at the hip in ways that, for example, Nixon and his secret war in Cambodia will never be.

    • Review: Uwe Johnson’s “Anniversaries, Vol. I”

      The first volume of Anniversaries is mostly set in New York City, between August of 1967 and April of the following year, during a time when the war in Vietnam was building up or—more accurately—getting out of control…

    • “Corporate Homicide”: Ralph Nader Demands Boeing Recall Jets After Ethiopia Crash Kills His Niece

      A wrongful death case was filed against Boeing on the same day that a preliminary investigation into last month’s Ethiopian Airlines crash revealed damning details about the aircraft manufacturer and raised new questions about whether it gave pilots proper instructions for navigating new software. The findings were released Thursday in Ethiopia, based on the analysis of a team of 18 investigators, less than a month after the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash killed all 157 people on board. The report found similarities in the technical issues experienced by pilots on both the Ethiopian Airlines flight and October’s Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610, which also crashed just minutes after takeoff, killing all 189 people on board. Both flights were on a Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft. On Thursday, the first American lawsuit related to the devastating crash was filed against Boeing on behalf of the family of 24-year-old Samya Stumo, who died on the flight. Samya was the grandniece of Ralph Nader, the longtime consumer advocate, corporate critic and former presidential candidate. We speak with Nader about his calls to ground all 737 MAX 8 aircraft and the legacy of his grandniece. We also speak with Paul Hudson, the president of Flyers Rights, the largest nonprofit airline passenger rights organization in the U.S.

    • Boeing’s Homicide Will Give Way to Safety Reforms if Flyers Organize

      To understand the enormity of the Boeing 737 Max 8 crashes (Lion Air 610 and Ethiopian Airlines 302) that took a combined total of 346 lives, it is useful to look at past events and anticipate future possible problems.

      In 2011, Boeing executives wanted to start a “clean sheet” new narrow body air passenger plane to replace its old 737 design from the nineteen sixties. Shortly thereafter, Boeing’s bosses panicked when American Airlines put in a large order for the competitive Airbus A320neo. Boeing shelved the new design and rushed to put out the 737 Max that, in Business Week’s words, was “pushing an ageing design past its limits.” The company raised the 737 Max landing gear and attached larger, slightly more fuel efficient engines angled higher and more forward on the wings. Such a configuration changed the aerodynamics and made the plane more prone to stall (see attached article: https://www.aviationcv.com/aviation-blog/2019/boeing-canceling-737-max).

      This put Boeing’s management in a quandary. Their sales pitch to the airlines was that the 737 Max only received an “amended” certification from the FAA. That it did not have to be included in more pilot training, simulators, and detailed in the flight manuals. The airlines could save money and would be more likely to buy the Boeing 737 Max.

      Boeing engineers were worried. They knew better. But the managers ordered software to address the stall problem without even telling the pilots or most of the airlines. Using only one operating sensor (Airbus A320neo has three sensors), an optional warning light and indicator, Boeing set the stage for misfiring sensors that overcame pilot efforts to control the planes from their nose-down death dive.

      These fixes or patches would not have been used were the new 737’s aerodynamics the same as the previous 737 models. Step by step, Boeing’s criminal negligence, driven by a race to make profits, worsened. Before and after the fatal crashes, Boeing did not reveal, did not warn, did not train, and did not address the basic defective aerodynamic design. It gagged everyone that it could. Boeing still insists that the 737 Max is safe and is building two a day, while pushing to end the grounding.

      Reacting to all these documented derelictions, a flurry of investigations is underway. The Department of Transportation’s Inspector General, Calvin L. Scovel III, is investigating the hapless, captive FAA that has delegated to Boeing important FAA statutory and regulatory duties. The Justice Department and FBI have opened a criminal probe, with an active grand jury. The National Transportation Safety Board, long the hair shirt of the FAA, is investigating. As are two Senate and House Committees. Foreign governments are investigating, as surely are the giant insurance companies who are on the hook. This all sounds encouraging, but we’ve seen such initiatives pull back before.

    • Iraq’s WMDs Found…In Russia

      In late 2017, actor Morgan Freeman announced in a video created by a who’s who of senior U.S. Intelligence officials that Russia had attacked the United States and that ‘we’ were at war. Freeman, whose net worth is said to be about a quarter-billion dollars, claimed that ex-Soviet ‘authoritarian’ Vladimir Putin, bitter about the dissolution of ‘his’ country, was behind the attack. The terms ‘attack’ and ‘war’ were not qualified as metaphors.

      The crudeness of the appeal— provoking naked fear of invading hordes of godless communists led by an evil dictator, had a retro quality that undid thirty years of technocratic upgrading of American agitprop Where is the Reagan-era Patrick Swayze packing a grenade launcher when you need him? Or going back a bit further in agitprop history, where is Kevin McCarthy with a panicked warning about your neighbors going to sleep as good Americans and waking up as communists stooges of the Kremlin?

      Within weeks of Donald Trump’s electoral victory the ‘true American’ press, in the form of the Washington Post, revealed that it had a list of known communists who had infiltrated the U.S. government political websites that were acting as witting or unwitting agents of the Kremlin, current company included. One could be forgiven for imagining that the ‘authoritarian’ Donald Trump was behind the smear. But no— it appears to have been Ukrainian ‘patriots’ with ties to both the Democratic Party leadership and actual European Nazis that struck this blow for freedom.

    • NATO Interrupted

      Wednesday morning an event was held in a building overlooking Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C., at an organization called the Center for European Policy Analysis, which is funded by: FireEye, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Bell Helicopters, BAE systems, the U.S. State Department, the Pentagon, National Endowment for Democracy, the U.S. Mission to NATO, and NATO’s own Public Diplomacy Division.

      Participating in the event were several foreign ministers from NATO nations, ambassadors to NATO, and U.S. Senator Chris Murphy. NATO is designed to vigilantly protect you from numerous imaginary and NATO-provoked dangers, but its events are apparently protected by magic spells, as I just walked in and took a seat.

    • Lessons for Progressives from Bob Mueller — and the Valerie Plame Affair

      In terms of ultimate consequences, this would not be altogether different than what happened under the presidency of George W. Bush. Back then, the ghoulish vice president’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby, got caught leaking the name of clandestine CIA agent Valerie Plame, an act of retaliation spurred by Plame’s ex-diplomat husband, Joseph Wilson, and his undermining the White House’s claims about Iraq with more accurate testimony of his own — the “Deep State” conspiracy of the mid-2000s. There was a special counsel and an indictment, albeit not for the underlying crime but for lying to investigators, and while everyone pretty much knew something like this wouldn’t have happened without at least a wink from up top, no one above Libby ever faced a trial.

    • You Can’t Be Pro-Life and Pro-War

      I’m a creature of sonic evolution, dearest motherfuckers. A hand grenade with Luna moth wings. It’s rather ironic for a diagnosed agoraphobic but the only thing that’s evolved more than my fluid gender identity is my equally fluid ideology. In thirty short years I’ve evolved from indentured Catholic to agnostic existentialist to Gnostic Christian witch, from juvenile anarcho-punk to Bolivarian Bolshevik tankie to panarcho-syndicalist gadfly. One thing that hasn’t changed throughout this intellectual metamorphosis however is a life long devotion to the sanctity of life.

      Being a far-left pro-lifer has always seemed like a contradiction to most of my ilk but it has always made perfect sense to me. Egalitarianism in all its dimensions has always been about the stewardship of the weak in humanity by the strong. I actually believe that my early pro-life values are largely responsible for informing my radicalism rather than contradicting it. In a strange bid of karma, the Catholic Church may have accidentally created this church-burning commie-pinko by instilling those values in me at an impressionable age. I guess you could say I did a reverse Dorothy Day, from devout do-gooder to bomb-throwing heretic, sunrise, sunset.

      This doesn’t mean that I’m on the same page with the pro-life movement at large, not by a long shot. I personally find your average pro-lifer to be a self-serving, single-minded, chauvinistic, pig-fucker with a severe penile Napoleon complex. As much as I despise the idea abortion, I’ve come to the hard conclusion that you can’t regulate someone else’s body without creating a berth for tyranny too wide for any self-respecting anarchist to tolerate. My approach to the issue has essentially become one of harm reduction. Combat abortion by making it irrelevant through the proliferation of affordable alternatives like the morning after pill. I feel that with this issue the bulk of the pro-life movement has revealed themselves to be puritanical hypocrites, more concerned with policing behavior than creating viable alternatives for desperate young women. As two thirds of a female and a feminist to boot, I find this hypocrisy to be particularly hard to swallow. You don’t have to be pro-choice to recognize that a rape victim doesn’t deserve to be polluted by a monster’s progeny, you just have to not be a dick. A tall order for too many of my fellow pro-lifers.

      But even this slut-shaming foot-shootout doesn’t rank as the greatest hypocrisy among the mainstream pro-life movement. That foul honor belongs to their blase attitude towards the mountains of dead children created by their sacred war machine. A quick glance at the voting records of the Bible Belt faithful on recent bills regarding America’s bloodbaths in Yemen and Afghanistan reveal this revolting hypocrisy in stark black and white. There are exceptions to this moral lapse, namely Rand Paul, a pro-life Republican who has been more consistent than most Democrats in his opposition to those desert holocausts. But by and large, the Republican corps of the pro-life movement in Washington has shown a totally callous indifference to our nation’s booming dead baby industry in the Middle East, provided that those tiny bodies are brown and Muslim. 50 thousand children have starved to death in Yemen in 2017 alone as a result of Saudi Arabia’s American sponsored blockade. Thousands more languish in the biggest Cholera outbreak in modern history. And where, in the name of god, is the fucking outrage?

    • What I Learned in Iran

      Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to take an unusual vacation: to Iran, as part of a 28-member peace delegation.

      Many dear friends thought it a bad idea. Wasn’t it dangerous? Aren’t they out to get us? Isn’t it run by crazy clerics? I’m not sure about the mental health of the clerics, but to the rest: basically, no, no, and no.

      Iran is a very modern place that looks in many ways like the United States. You’d recognize the horrific traffic and the overwrought advertising. You’d also recognize the friendly, accommodating people, eager to interact with foreign strangers and practice their nascent English.

      More surprising, perhaps, is its size. Tehran has 12 million people, half again larger than New York City, with much safer streets (except to cross).

      Soon, though, our delegation found profound and troubling differences between our two lands. Primarily the sanctions.

      Although Iran has lived up to its end of the nuclear deal, the United States has not, failing to lift old sanctions on Iran as promised, and recently adding more.

    • How Trump’s Call for More Military Spending by NATO Countries Benefits U.S. Weapons Manufacturers

      As President Donald Trump pushes for more defense spending from NATO countries, we speak with Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, about how Trump’s foreign policy benefits weapons manufacturers. During an Oval Office meeting Tuesday with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, President Trump demanded Germany and other NATO countries increase their military spending from 2 to 4% of GDP. But Cirincione says NATO’s biggest problem is not insufficient funding. “The biggest problem NATO faces is the president of the United States, who keeps putting in doubt U.S. commitment to the alliance, who keeps putting in doubt whether the U.S. will come to the aid of NATO allies if they’re attacked,” he says. Cirincione also calls national security adviser John Bolton a “serial arms control killer.”

    • Refuting Right-Wing Narrative, James Foley Foundation Says It Rescinded Pompeo Award Over Handling of Khashoggi Murder

      In a statement issued late Thursday, the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation said its January 11 decision to withdraw Pompeo’s award has been “mischaracterized by some media outlets.”

      “While it is accurate that our foundation intended to present our hostage freedom award to Secretary Pompeo until that date,” the foundation said, “we ultimately decided we could not present the award as planned due to the dramatic change in circumstances when the administration did not press for genuine accountability from the Saudi government for the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”

      The foundation’s statement came after conservative Washington Examiner columnist Paul Bedard claimed—citing anonymous sources—that the non-partisan organization’s media partners “promised to boycott the event if Pompeo got the award.”

      Bedard’s assertion was then picked up by other right-wing media outlets, including Newsmax and The Daily Caller.

      Pompeo himself parroted the unsubstantiated narrative in an interview on “Fox & Friends” Friday morning.

    • Pity About No Collusion, But They’ve Still Got the Cold War to Heat Up

      Donald Trump is a narcissistic boor who tells lies with a casual indifference that might be regarded with amusement (“My father is German, was German, born in a very wonderful place in Germany”) were he not a malevolent poseur with all the style and attraction of a sock full of wet spaghetti. He is a spiteful mendacious buffoon whose views and actions on international and domestic affairs are confused, erratic and dangerous.

      BUT — for once he has been proved to have been right, because he told the truth when he stoutly denied he had colluded with sinister Russians to ensure he would win the presidential election in 2016. A two-year inquiry was conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller at a cost of 25 million dollars for the first eighteen months and on 24 March the New York Times reported that “Mr Mueller and his team were unable to establish that anyone connected to the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government” in the course of the 2016 elections.

      The Times noted that Mr Mueller “is as careful and thorough an investigator as there is. His investigation lasted almost two years, issued more than 2,800 subpoenas and roughly 500 search warrants and heard from a similar number of witnesses. If he couldn’t find any links, it’s doubtful anyone could.”

      But the paper couldn’t avoid highlighting the totally unproved allegation that Russia had “interfered to help Mr. Trump in the 2016 presidential campaign” although the grudging admission that there was no collusion was a step in the right direction.

    • Thinking About Russia: Pigeonholing Doesn’t Work

      Black-and-white thinking rarely works and certainly not about Russia.

      Consider the following.

      Only days ago, about 100 Russian troops landed in Venezuela to deter a U.S. invasion.

      At home, Russian security forces continue to repress pro-democracy movements, dissidents and LGBT rights activists.

      The Russian military has long aided the Bashar al-Assad regime, which is responsible for widescale prisoners of war abuse and targeting mass civilians in aerial assaults. Yet this same assistance to Assad has helped prevent another American invasion of a MENA nation.

      In 2014, Russia took over Crimea and helped fuel a separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine, which after 5 years of fighting has killed 13,000 people and continues to take civilian lives on a daily basis. This was heavily rooted in NATO’s expansion well beyond U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s promised boundaries.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • U.N. torture expert urges Ecuador not to expel Assange from embassy

      The United Nations torture investigator called on Ecuador on Friday not to expel Wikileaks founder Julian Assange from its London embassy, voicing concern that he could be extradited to the United States and possibly face mistreatment.

    • UN expert on torture alarmed at reports Assange may soon be expelled from Ecuador embassy

      The UN Special Rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer is alarmed by reports that Julian Assange may be expelled imminently from the Embassy of Ecuador in London, saying he intended to personally investigate the case.

      “In my assessment, if Mr. Assange were to be expelled from the Embassy of Ecuador, he is likely to be arrested by British authorities and extradited to the United States,” said the UN expert. “Such a response could expose him to a real risk of serious violations of his human rights, including his freedom of expression, his right to a fair trial and the prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

      “I therefore urge the Government of Ecuador to abstain from expelling Mr. Assange from its Embassy in London, or from otherwise ceasing or suspending his political asylum until such time as the full protection of his human rights can be guaranteed.

    • As Rumors Swirl, UN Expert Warns Extraditing Julian Assange to US Would Violate Human Rights Protections

      While Ecuador denies plans to revoke Julian Assange’s political asylum, a top United Nations human rights official has vowed to investigate fresh rumors, noting that if the WikiLeaks founder is expelled from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, he likely would be arrested by British authorities and extradited to the United States.

      U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer warned in a statement Friday that “such a response could expose him to a real risk of serious violations of his human rights, including his freedom of expression, his right to a fair trial, and the prohibition of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.”

    • Terms of Asylum and Distraction: Moreno’s Assange Problem

      Political asylum is an accepted if often ignored right. It is also at the mercy of those interests that grant it. Ecuador’s repeated insistence on conditioning Julian Assange’s stay in its London abode is tantamount to corroding the idea of asylum to vacuity. You are granted asylum as a political dissident, but political dissident you shall not be, especially when it comes to exposing the secrets of your landlord.

      Assange has ventured to test the onerous limits on his conduct that have been imposed by embassy protocols, taking the matter to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. His argument has been that the strict rules applied to his stay, entailing a monitoring of visits, control of medical bills, communications, expenses and pet care were a violation of “fundamental rights and freedoms”. The Commission, as it transpired, did not bite.

      The Ecuadorean response was a crowing one, arguing that the state’s treatment of Assange was in accordance with international law, and that their guest’s situation “cannot be extended indefinitely and (Ecuador) expects it to be resolved as soon as possible.”

      Ecuador’s Attorney General Íñigo Salvador, summed it up in smug fashion. “The decision was based on the fact that the request filed by Assange did not comply with the requirements of gravity, urgency and irreparable harm provided for in Article 25 of the Rules of Procedure of the IACHR.” The peculiar twist to this, however, was that such impositions could be justified as protecting, not impairing, Assange’s rights. “With this decision [by the Commission], the Special Protocol of Visits, Communications and Medical Care remains in force, which guarantees the rights of the asylee.”

      Assange has been accused of muddying the stables throughout his stay, but the calls have become more strident over the last eighteen months. A year of muzzling and limiting Assange’s conduct has become both cruel and comical. President Lenín Moreno seems to be waiting for the moment where a final stroke of agitation will release him from any sense of restraint.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Surface Mining in the Yellowstone to Uintas Connection: What About Wildlife?

      Here at Kiesha’s Preserve near Paris, Idaho we became aware in 2011 that a 2500-acre mineral lease close to the Preserve was undergoing exploration and permitting in order to mine the phosphate ore. We were greatly concerned that the noise from blasting, mining, stockpiling and hauling of ore would adversely affect wildlife and our wildlife protection and habitat restoration effort. Our investigation of this planned mine revealed many problems and issues, not the least of which were also plans to use the main street through Paris as a route for massive haul trucks to transport ore to the rail siding at Montpelier, about 10 miles away. Based on the ore to be transported, we calculated about 55 haul trucks per hour passing through the town. That’s 110,000 trips per year. This revealed to us the significance of such an operation and we began commenting on State and Federal agency actions for phosphate mining here due to effects on the wildlife corridor we work to restore. We named this corridor the Yellowstone to Uintas Connection and established a non-profit in 2012 with the same name to draw attention to the problems for wildlife that exist here.

      Then, three years ago I visited the Blackfoot River to observe wildlife habitat conditions related to permitting of a phosphate mine, the first of four we have been addressing since. I drove through the Blackfoot River Narrows into Upper Valley where Lanes Creek and Diamond Fork merge to become the Blackfoot River. The mountain ranges fall away to the north towards the Caribou and Snake Ranges and ultimately to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. To the east lie the Webster, Salt River and Wyoming Ranges. At first glimpse, I thought of Yellowstone and its big valleys, Lamar and Hebgen. I thought of the early explorers like Kit Carson, Donald McKenzie and others who met and traded at rendezvous here in SE Idaho and near Bear Lake in the early 1800s.

    • Committee Votes to Move David Bernhardt’s Nomination as Interior Secretary to Full Senate Vote

      The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on April 4 voted 14-6 to move the nomination of Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a former Westlands Water District and oil industry lobbyist, to a full Senate vote, setting the stage for a contentious and heated debate.

      In his lobbying disclosures, Bernhardt has listed “potential legislation regarding the Bureau of Reclamation and the Endangered Species Act” under his specific lobbying areas, including trying to minimize protections for endangered salmon, Delta smelt and other fish populations.

      According to a story I broke in January, a fish survey that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) conducts every autumn turned up zero Delta smelt — the very same fish that Bernhardt is trying to strip protections for — throughout the monitoring sites in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in September, October, November and December 2018. (www.dailykos.com/…)

      “It’s no surprise that a group of Senators who owe so much to special interest lobbyists would support this choice for Interior Secretary,” said Western Values Project’s Executive Director Chris Saeger in a statement in response to the committee’s vote. “For the last two years, conflict-ridden David Bernhardt has tipped the scales in favor of former clients, likely violating his ethics pledge and responsibilities to the American people.”

    • In the Wake of Cyclone Idai, the North Has a Climate Debt to Pay

      Weeks after Cyclone Idai struck the coast of Mozambique, near Beira, the flood waters have receded to reveal a shattered landscape.

      Houses and roads were washed away; crops awaiting harvest were destroyed. Confirmed deaths number in the high hundreds across Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi, with the total still unknown. Emphasis has shifted from the rescue of survivors clinging to treetops and rooftops to provision of food, housing, and medical care for hundreds of thousands left homeless.

      Even as local and international relief efforts gear up, there is a need to also focus on broader global implications. The causal connection between climate change and extreme weather events, such as Cyclone Idai, is clear. The need for climate actions in both poor and rich countries is beyond dispute. These include making the response to crises sustainable, increasing resilience to the effects of climate change through adaptation, and rapidly accelerating action to cut greenhouse emissions from fossil fuels.

    • ‘Denial’: House Democrats Pass Law for a Fossil Fuel Future

      A little-noticed bill that sailed through the House last week ensures America’s energy future will continue to be dependent on fossil fuels, Paste Magazine’s Walker Bragman reported Thursday.

      H.R. 1616, which was passed out of the House on March 25, “would allocate roughly $580 million in federal funding over two years to public and private energy development projects in Europe and Eurasia, including natural gas infrastructure,” explained Bragman. The bill was proposed by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ala.) and netted nine cosponsors, including four Democrats.

      “This bill is yet another example of the denial of the realities of our climate crisis in practice,” David Turnbull, strategic communications director for Oil Change U.S., told Common Dreams.

      “While climate impacts challenge us with increasing regularity, and scientists implore us to turn our energy policy away from all fossil fuels,” added Turnbull, “our elected leaders are continuing with status quo energy and foreign policies that lock in the very fuels that are driving international conflict via climate disasters every day.”

    • The Privatization of Wildlife: How Ted Turner Scored Yellowstone Bison

      It is just one more battle in the century-and-a-half-old range wars, where land and wildlife have come into direct conflict with selfish, private interests. It’s also a story of privileged ethnocentrism, where a once proud indigenous culture and the wild species it depended on have been all but eviscerated.

      Welcome to the Interior West, the land of selective freedom and prosperity.

      “I love this land and the buffalo and will not part with it,” wrote the great Kiowa Chief Santana, who later killed himself while imprisoned in Texas after being tricked by General William Sherman into believing a peaceful council meeting was in his tribe’s future. ” … A long time ago this land belonged to our fathers, but when I go up to the river I see camps of soldiers on its banks. These soldiers cut down my timber, they kill my buffalo and when I see that, my heart feels like bursting.”

    • Something About Butte

      The core of the city is hollow, tunneled out. Beneath the shattered surface of the Hill, there are more than 10,000 miles of underground passages and thousands of shafts, glory holes descending deep feet into the bedrock. Every now and then, holes will open in the crust of the earth, swallowing sidewalks, garages and dogs.

      Houses, black as ravens, are sunk into mine waste heaps and slag piles, the exhumed geological guts of the billion dollar hill, once coveted and swiped by America’s dark lord, John D. Rockefeller, during the end game in the War of the Copper Kings. People still live in the hovels.

      Gallows frames prick up through the town like quills on a porcupine. Once, these steel derricks cranked the miners down into the depths in hoist cages, now they resemble the frightful gibbets that haunt the backgrounds of Bruegel’s paintings from the years of the Black Death. Indeed, many that went down never came up. The tunnels of Butte are also a catacomb, holding the bones of more than 2,500 miners.

    • CO2 Levels Are Now at a 3 Million-Year High

      There is likely more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now than at any other time in the last three million years.

      That is the conclusion reinforced by a study published in Science Advances Wednesday. Researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany succeeded for the first time in creating a computer simulation of the climate over the past three million years that matched data taken from sediment from the ocean floor.

      The model showed that carbon-dioxide levels played a major role in shaping climate during that period — but in the reverse of their impact today. Lower levels of the greenhouse gas were a major factor in the onset of ice ages.

    • Carbon Levels Are Higher Than They’ve Been in Past 3 Million Years, Scientists Reveal

      Human activity has helped cause carbon levels to rise to a rate that hasn’t been seen on planet Earth in three million years, researchers have revealed.

      A study published Wednesday by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany showed that the last time carbon dioxide was detected in the planet’s atmosphere at the level it is now was during the Pliocene epoch, which took place 2.6 to 5.3 million years ago.

    • Death by Rail: What We’re Finally Learning About Preventing Wildlife-train Collisions

      Last year a terrible accident in India made headlines around the world. Late one February night, a speeding train struck a herd of elephants crossing the tracks, instantly killing two adults and two calves. A third adult died soon after.

      It wasn’t an isolated incident. Over the past 30 years train collisions have killed more than 220 elephants in India alone.

      Most of those incidents don’t generate international headlines; nor do the deaths of thousands of additional animals killed by trains worldwide each year. In fact most wildlife-train collisions go unnoticed, their fatalities left uncounted — which has made it difficult for experts to study the problem and mitigate its impacts.

      That puts us woefully behind similar research to reduce vehicle-wildlife collisions on roads, an active field of research for the past two decades. That’s because car-animal collisions present a greater danger to human safety and property, according to a 2016 study surveying the emerging field of railway ecology. “Despite the field of road ecology rapidly expanding and the large footprint created by railways, there is a prominent lack of research related to railways and their effects on wildlife,” the study found.

      Here’s what we do know: Like roads, railways fragment habitat and can affect all kinds of wildlife in varying ways. Collisions are the most common cause of mortality, but some animals die from electrocution or being stuck between the rails, leaving them susceptible to predation, starvation or dehydration.

    • Paradise Lost: Reflections on the Camp Fire

      I just visited the town of Paradise located on the slopes of the Cascade Range near Chico, California. The Camp Fire burned through Paradise last November (2018) killing 87 people, mostly older residents. Plus destroying 14000 homes and another 4800 structures (like commercial buildings). Another 637 structures were “damaged” bringing the total estimate by CAL FIRE of 19,336 structures destroyed or damaged. At least five public schools were ruined, part of a hospital, several churches among other destruction.

      The Camp Fire is the deadliest wildfire in California history and one of the deadliest in the United States. By the time the fire was contained, it had burned an area of 153,336 acres.

      Before the fire, Paradise was home to 27,000 people. Within six hours of the first ignition, some 90-95% (over 18800 structures) of the buildings in Paradise and the nearby community of Concow were reduced to rubble.

      Will Paradise be rebuilt? Right now, six months later, there is still no city water available. No schools are open. Only a few gas stations and food stores which escaped the blaze are open. Additionally, the soil in many of the burned sites is loaded with toxic materials from the melted metal, plastics, and other building substances. Before one can rebuild, one must decontaminate the soils.

      Indeed, the Camp Fire is the largest hazardous material cleanup site in the state of California.

    • Visionary Study Shows How 30% of World’s Oceans Could Be Made Sanctuaries by 2030

      The climate action group Greenpeace released a report Thursday which lays out a plan for how world leaders can protect more than 30 percent of the world’s oceans in the next decade — as world governments meet at United Nations to create a historic Global Oceans Treaty aimed at strictly regulating activities which have damaged marine life.

      In the report — 30×30: A Blueprint for Ocean Protection — researchers from the Universities of York and Oxford divided the world’s oceans into 25,000 62-square mile sections, mapping out a network of “ocean sanctuaries” which could be created to help recover lost biodiversity.

    • Europe’s food imports devour rainforests

      European scientists have worked out how European consumers can reduce tropical forest loss and cut down greenhouse emissions in other countries.

      One: stop buying beef, especially from Brazil. And two: be sparing with the oil from tropical palms and soybean plantations.

      In theory, this should be news to nobody. Forests absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and slow global warming. But forests that have been felled for cattle-grazing or burned and cleared for oil plantations are net emitters of carbon into the atmosphere to accelerate global warming and precipitate yet more dangerous climate change.

    • As Trump Reportedly Scrambles to Find Climate ‘Victories’ Ahead of 2020, Green Group Says: ‘There Are None’

      After it was reported this week that President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign has ordered the EPA to find climate “victories” that he can brag about on the 2020 campaign trail, a green group on Friday said the administration can stop looking “because there simply are none.”

      In a tacit admission that voters are increasingly concerned about climate action, Trump is reportedly seeking a list of positive effects his presidency has had on the environment, according to McClatchy—even as he shows no signs of stopping his pro-fossil fuel, anti-regulatory agenda.

    • The Madness Driving Climate Catastrophe

      The Great Acceleration: This is the designation given to the last 70 years during which industrial countries and a handful of newly rich developing countries extracted and consumed fossil fuels at a reckless rate. While accurate, the metaphor might suggest progress rather than the ominous atmospheric, terrestrial and oceanic climate trends ensuing.

      The 20 hottest years on record have occurred since 1995, almost in tandem with the impotent U.N. climate negotiations begun in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and followed by the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, Copenhagen in 2009, Paris in 2015 and Poland in 2018. Yet, even with near global consensus on the necessity of reducing climate-warming emissions radically by 2030 and (nonbinding) national pledges to do so, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rose by 2.7 percent in 2018. Moreover, some analysts predict they will rise higherin 2019 due to increasing deforestation, especially in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have risen unremittingly to levels not prevailing since hundreds of thousands (and possibly more than 6 million) years ago.

      Historian and energy researcher Simon Pirani likens this collective failure to act on climate change to the “collective madness” of World War I, in which old world imperial loyalties set loose the juggernaut of a mindless, pointless bloodbath of Europe’s boys and young men, ending only from morbid exhaustion on all sides. In “Burning Up: A Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption,” Pirani sets out to plumb the political, social and economic causes of the “madness that is producing global warming.” His is a critically needed departure from much climate crisis writing (and activism) that focuses solely on technology, individual consumption and population growth as drivers of climate change.

    • An “Inconvenient Truth” that Al Gore Missed

      In a recent interview with The Real News, actor and activist John Cusack made a simple but profoundly important point: “[Y]ou can’t separate climate justice and militarism’, he said,”… because the drones are going to follow the fresh water, and the soldiers are going to protect the oil, and then if things go on as they are, game over for the planet.”

      There is ‘an inconvenient truth’ that didn’t make it into the 2006 documentaryby that name featuring Al Gore. It is something rarely mentioned by most environmental and social justice activists and their organizations. Most labor leaders who seek a just transition to a sustainable energy system that does not make workers with fossil fuel-dependent jobs bare the social cost also remain silent.

      The truth is that preventing climate change from inflicting cataclysmic damage to our ecosystem and threatening much of life on earth and civilization as we know it cannot be accomplished unless we also demilitarize our foreign policy, end interventionist wars and break the grip that both Big Carbon and the military-industrial complex have on our federal budget, foreign policy, economy and government.

    • Trump Administration Threats to the Endangered Species Act

      The Endangered Species Act—“one of the most powerful laws” designed to offer protection to species facing extinction due to human action—is “increasingly challenged by an administration that has little patience for laws and regulations that help protect our lands and wildlife, Charles Pekow wrote in a report, “On Thin Ice,” published by Earth Island Journal in Spring 2019. In the two years since Donald Trump became president, Pekow reported, “at least 80 bills seeking to undermine the ESA or remove species from the list have been introduced in Congress.”

      For a little over a decade, according to the Earth Island Journal’s story, conservationists have fought to protect Pacific walruses under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Protection for the walrus under the ESA was first proposed in 2008; in 2011, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) suggested that the Pacific walrus was threatened and endangered. The final decision on whether or not Pacific walruses would be official listed was supposed to be determined by 2017. However, in October 2017, the Trump administration determined that the Pacific walrus did not warrant listing. The Trump administration explained that “impacts of the effects of climate change on the Pacific walrus population are based on speculation, rather than reliable prediction,” Pekow reported.

    • Underwater Mudslides Heighten Risks of Oil Catastrophes

      As bad as the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill was, “the worst-case scenario” for an oil spill catastrophe is not losing control of a single well, as occurred in the BP disaster. Instead, “much more damage would be done if one or more of the thousand or so production platforms that now blanket the Gulf of Mexico were destroyed without warning by a deep-sea mudslide,” Ian R. MacDonald reported for The Conversation in March 2019. Underwater mudslides could leave “a tangled mess of pipes buried under a giant mass of sediments,” a scenario that oil company managers are simply unprepared to handle. In such a situation, the discharge could not be stopped with caps or plugs, and “oil might flow for decades.”

      As MacDonald reported, one instance of this type of catastrophe has already happened. A well owned by Taylor Energy and located off the coast of Louisiana has been leaking oil since 2004. Government regulators and energy companies, MacDonald wrote, “should be doing much more to prevent such catastrophes at other sites.”

    • Federal Government Foot-Dragging Helps Oil Industry Delay Oil-by-Rail Rules

      In an attempt to reduce the risk of fiery oil train accidents, the state of Washington is working to pass a bill that would limit the vapor pressure of oil on trains to below 9 pounds per square inch (psi). Vapor pressure is a measure of the volatility of flammable liquids and correlates to their likelihood of igniting. Higher vapor pressure means an oil is more volatile and more likely to ignite and burn when a train derails.

      “If the federal government won’t act to protect public safety and adopt a safer nationwide standard, we will adopt our own,” state Sen. Andy Billig (D-Spokane) said of the bill he sponsored. “There is just too much to lose — for people and our environment.”

      Billig’s comments point to the federal government’s repeated failure to address the volatility of the oil moving by rail in America.

    • To Stop Shell From Pulling ‘World Into the Abyss,’ Climate Groups Deliver Groundbreaking Summons

      A coalition of environmental groups issued Shell a court summons Friday demanding the company shift course from its fossil fuel business model and act on its responsibility to stop fueling the climate crisis.

      The legal fight is “not only to protect present generations but also to protect future generations,” according to the document (pdf).

      “Shell’s directors still do not want to say goodbye to oil and gas,” Donald Pols, director of Friends of the Earth Netherlands, said in a statement. “They would pull the world into the abyss. The judge can prevent this from happening.”

    • Early Forecasts Suggest ‘Quiet’ 2019 Hurricane Season

      Fallen trees from 2018′s Hurricane Michael are still a hazard in the Florida Panhandle, but that won’t stop the 2019 hurricane season from starting June 1.

      As a sign of its approach, scientists have released their first forecasts for the 2019 season, which runs from the beginning of June to Nov. 30. Their predictions do offer some hope for beleaguered residents of the Caribbean, Gulf Coast and Eastern seaboard: The season is expected to be “slightly below average,” the Colorado State University (CSU) Tropical Meteorology Project announced Thursday.

    • Researchers predicting slightly below-average 2019 Atlantic hurricane season

      Colorado State University hurricane researchers are predicting a slightly below-average Atlantic hurricane season in 2019, citing the relatively high likelihood of a weak El Niño as a primary factor.

      Tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are currently slightly below their long-term average values and are consequently considered an inhibiting factor for 2019 Atlantic hurricane activity as well.

      A weak El Niño has recently developed in the tropical Pacific. CSU anticipates that these weak El Niño conditions are likely to persist through the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season. El Niño tends to increase upper-level westerly winds across the Caribbean into the tropical Atlantic, tearing apart hurricanes as they try to form.

  • Finance

    • Elon Musk ordered to work things out with the SEC over his tweets

      Elon Musk sat stoically in a Manhattan courtroom Thursday, hands clasped in front of him, as a federal judge weighed whether to hold him in contempt of court. The proximate cause was a tweet Musk sent in February that the Securities and Exchange Commission argues violated the terms of their settlement. And when the judge ultimately punted on the decision, ordering his lawyers and the SEC to work out their differences and come back in two weeks with a resolution, he seemed relieved.

    • Blockchain 2.0 – Ongoing Projects (The State Of Smart Contracts Now)

      Continuing from our earlier post on smart contracts, this post aims to discuss the state of Smart contracts, highlight some current projects and companies currently undertaking developments in the area. Smart contracts as discussed in the previous article of the series are programs that exist and execute themselves on a blockchain network. We explored how smart contracts work and why they are superior to traditional digital platforms. Companies described here operate in a wide variety of industries however most of them deal with identity management systems, financial services, crowd funding systems etc., as these are the areas thought to be most suitable for switching to blockchain based data base systems.

    • The IRS Tried to Take on the Ultrawealthy. It Didn’t Go Well.

      On June 30, 2016, an auto-parts magnate received the kind of news anyone would dread: The Internal Revenue Service had determined he had engaged in abusive tax maneuvers. He stood accused of masking about $5 billion in income. The IRS wanted over $1.2 billion in back taxes and penalties.

      The magnate, Georg Schaeffler, was the billionaire scion of a family-owned German manufacturer and was quietly working as a corporate lawyer in Dallas. Schaeffler had extra reason to fear the IRS, it seemed. He wasn’t in the sights of just any division of the agency but the equivalent of its SEAL Team 6.

      In 2009, the IRS had formed a crack team of specialists to unravel the tax dodges of the ultrawealthy. In an age of widening inequality, with a concentration of wealth not seen since the Gilded Age, the rich were evading taxes through ever more sophisticated maneuvers. The IRS commissioner aimed to stanch the country’s losses with what he proclaimed would be “a game-changing strategy.” In short order, Charles Rettig, then a high-powered tax lawyer and today President Donald Trump’s IRS commissioner, warned that the squad was conducting “the audits from hell.” If Trump were being audited, Rettig wrote during the presidential campaign, this is the elite team that would do it.

      [...]

      Because the audits are private — IRS officials can go to prison if they divulge taxpayer information — details of the often epic paper battles between the rich and the tax collectors are sparse, with little in the public record. Attorneys are also loath to talk about their clients’ taxes, and most wealthy people strive to keep their financial affairs under wraps. Such disputes almost always settle out of court.

    • The Death of the Teacher

      The de-naturalization, or alienation, of our humanity by the enveloping darkness of technology is now even reaching into the most humane of environments, education. The current unrest in schools around the world is not only about the neoliberal drive to privatize education, it is about the survival of teaching itself.

      The most recent setback in this struggle has taken place in Ontario, Canada. The new fascist government, which refers to itself as “FordNation,” announced on March 15th, 2019 that all high school students will be required to complete four mandatory online credits. The Education Critic Marit Stiles of the Social Democratic, “New Democrat Party” in Canada (NDP), has said that the long-term goal of “FordNation” is to “shuffle teachers out of classrooms and replace them with online classes.”

      But teaching is dead once it’s setting in a human relationship is removed. From Plato to Freud educational theorists have argued that the development of rapport between student and teacher, and the management of disruptions in this relationship, is the teacher’s key “method.”

      Ironically, it is so-called “conservative” politicians who are ready to ignore such traditional wisdom, and recklessly kick the scala amoris out from under the feet of today’s student. It will build student “resiliency” exclaimed Ontario’s Education Minister Lisa Thompson, parroting the words of American Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, (if it does not crush them, one is tempted to add).

    • U.K.’s May Asks the EU to Delay Brexit Until June 30

      British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday sought to delay Brexit until June 30 to avoid a chaotic withdrawal from the European Union in one week, but a key leader of the bloc suggested an even longer pause in the difficult divorce proceedings.

      The question over timing is vital because Britain is set to leave the EU without a withdrawal deal in place on April 12 unless an agreement is reached at a Brussels summit set to take place two days earlier.

      In a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk, May asked for an extension until June 30 and agreed to make contingency plans to take part in European Parliament elections on May 23-26 if necessary.

      Tusk proposed a longer time frame. He urged the 27 remaining EU nations to offer the U.K. a flexible extension of up to a year to make sure the nation doesn’t leave the bloc in a chaotic way that could undermine commerce.

      Two EU officials said Tusk wants a one-year period, which has been dubbed a “flextension,” and hopes to get it approved at the EU summit on April 10. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to disclose information before it was made public.

    • Job Gain Points to a U.S. Economy Slowing but Hardly Stalling

      A month ago, many economists fretted that the 10-year U.S. expansion looked wobbly. But after the government reported Friday that hiring rebounded in March, the economy suddenly looks sturdy again.

      Growth has weakened since last year to something closer to the modest pace that has prevailed for most of the nearly decade-long expansion. The jolt from the Trump administration’s 2017 tax cuts and greater government spending last year has faded. And the global economy has swiveled from a driver of the U.S. economy to a headwind.

      Yet last month’s solid job gain of 196,000 may also help undercut any lingering fears that a recession might arrive over the next year or so. The economy’s slow but steady pace of growth is likely to keep inflation low and perhaps sustain the expansion, which is set to become the longest on record in July.

    • Alabama Senator to the IRS: Stop Picking on the South

      The reason, we explained, was because of an intense focus at the IRS on auditing recipients of the earned income tax credit. The EITC is one of the country’s largest antipoverty programs, in the form of a tax refund for low-income workers, especially those with children. The typical EITC recipient earns less than $20,000 per year.

      In practice, the IRS’ emphasis on EITC recipients means states with concentrations of low-income workers see the highest audit rates. One of those states is Alabama. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., wasn’t pleased.

    • “Free” Markets and the Attack on Democracy

      Many US citizens take comfort in the conviction that progress toward democracy has been steady even if stalled or even periodically reversed. History is on our side. Early in the post Revolutionary period the right to vote was extended to all white men, even those who held no property. Women achieved the same privilege early in the twentieth century, and the Civil Rights movement of the sixties completed the work Reconstruction had left undone. The arc of the universe is long, but “it bends toward justice.” I would argue, however, that SCOTUS decisions like Citizens United challenge that easy faith. Nor are they aberrations within the fabric of a generally supportive culture and polity. Our citizens are facing a broad, multifaceted attack on democracy itself. Support for this attack on democracy is also bi- partisan in the sense that some members of both parties, albeit often quietly, support and benefit from this attack.

      Confidence that there is no going back is hard to maintain in the face of political controversies today that in many ways replay issues of Reconstruction. To take just one example, the Fifteenth Amendment declares that the right to vote will not be abridged on the grounds of previous condition of servitude.

    • Capitalism or Socialism. Which Will it Be?

      We already know the most hackneyed slogan of the next election cycle: “socialism.” Utah Representative Chris Stewart has even launched and “Anti-Socialism Caucus.”

      But socialism has lost a lot of its epithetic punch since the days of the Cold War, when the world lived under a nuclear Sword of Damocles. Here are a few reasons, on both sides, why socialism doesn’t sound so scary anymore. You might want to save it to parry the lunatic ravings of your crazy uncle at the next family gathering.

    • An Edifice that Produces Beggars Needs Restructuring

      Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered in Memphis on April 4, 1968. He was in the city to lend support to the city’s sanitation workers, a mostly African-American workforce paid subpar wages and subjected to humiliating and dangerous working conditions.

    • Deflation Is Not Preventing Consumers from Buying Items in Japan

      This is a truly bizarre sort of argument. China has the largest economy in the world on a purchasing power parity basis. It is also very close to Japan geographically. It would be utterly nuts for Japan not to turn to China as a major market for its exports.

      Furthermore, most projections show that China’s economy is slowing, not going into a recession. But, even if it does fall into a recession, it is unlikely that it will last forever. If China has a growth rate of 5.0 percent annually coming out of the recession (far below its recent pace), it will be by far the fastest growing market in the world in absolute size. Japan’s businesses would surely want access to this market.

      The piece also paints a dire picture of Japans economy that is at odds with reality.

    • Macron’s party names GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple) among Europe’s largest rivals on global stage [Ed: Macron's party 'pardons' Microsoft crimes and calls GAFAM just GAFA (did the media bribes from Bill Gates work out? And the lobbying?)]

      The GAFA companies are U.S. companies, and the tech sector is a significant part of the U.S. ecoomy, so the fact that this group of companies is nevertheless additionally named listed at a level with the three global superpowers says a lot.

      What she says is that in the face of those challenges, “Europe has to make others respect it” (I purposely translated this fairly literally). It’s a rather combative statement.

      Just prior to the list of rivals she stresses that “there won’t be a strong France without a strong Europe,” and that’s the problem. Macron ran on a pro-European platform, but his vision for Europe is one of putting French interests and the French school of thought first and demanding that the rest of Europe follow because he knows, as Mrs. Loiseau does, that France alone is too weak.

    • Warren’s Plan to Rein in Tech Companies

      America’s cops on the competition beat have grown lazy. They are not enforcing antitrust laws passed during the first Gilded Age to level a playing field tilted by powerful corporations for their own benefit; that’s why America is stuck in a second Gilded Age of economic inequality.

      These officials have been lulled to sleep by decades of corporate-funded pseudo-economics. Democratic and Republican appointees alike at the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission have acted like laws passed to stop lawless corporate monstrosities like Standard Oil and the railroad trust from strong-arming competitors don’t apply in the 21st century. As a result, companies like Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google remain unchallenged while growing ever larger.

      Senator Elizabeth Warren’s technology platform reflects a common sense populist rejoinder to that failed bipartisan consensus. If big corporations elbow the little guy, there is probably a rational reason for their corporate violence and it probably isn’t to benefit consumers or the broader economy. (Unless, of course, you like having your data stolen and traded like a commodity, believe start-ups should have no aspiration other than to be absorbed by a bigger company, or think small business is un-American and passe.)

      American antitrust law is built upon the timeless insight that the ability of dominant corporations’ to sustain dominance unfairly threatens our economic and political liberty. Since unfettered corporations can entrench themselves unfairly, competition regulators should block both mergers and corporate practices that allow already powerful corporations to stifle would-be competitors.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Good Night Sweet Left

      This is first and foremost a trait of Trump supporters. Their embrace of fascism as simply the binary opposition to neoliberalism is not only perilous but reflects a mindset that remains deeply colonized by the manipulation of thought in a conversation completely dictated by the 1%. It is only this context, with a mass media and educational apparatus abandoned by both political parties an embrace of fascism primarily as a mode of opposition when in fact there is nothing oppositional about it. This is a society totally bound to militarism and colonialism as its logic. It is a society that has abandoned the material needs of its own working class. It is a society that has morally and spiritually collapsed as the public institutions necessary to hold it up have been systematically dismantled by the 1%.

      In addition, the present propaganda apparatus has so many modes of operation in the media that it is difficult to transcend the colonizing process of thought production. The propaganda, with near complete control by the 1%, bombards the citizen who consumes it and forces a response. This article will try to argue that responding strictly in opposition to this propaganda in just as problematic as believing it. In addition, this response is just as limiting, predictable and controlled because it is an elicited response.

      What the so-called opposition is doing now is fighting for a side that needs no assistance. Putin’s Russia a far cry from communism, but this fight was never really about Putin or Russia, for any of the sides involved. This was always a fight over the chief collaborator with Russia, U.S. President Donald Trump.

      Donald Trump is attacked relentlessly by the corporate press. They treat him with open disdain that has no recent historical precedent. This is certainly well-deserved, but ultimately counterproductive. The media itself is so unpopular that Trump gains popularity simply by positioning himself as Public Enemy #1. Furthermore, the amount of air time given to Trump amounts to free advertising for Trump himself. The corrupt media also gets something out of covering Trump: more profits.

    • Facebook is partnering with a big UK newspaper to publish sponsored articles downplaying ‘technofears’ and praising the company

      Sponsored native content, in which companies pay for media organizations to produce positive articles that appear similar to traditional news stories, are an increasingly popular method of monetization for many publications, including Business Insider. Some studies have been critical of the ad format, arguing they can mislead news consumers.

      [...]

      Facebook’s go-to talking points are all here

    • Facebook is paying The Daily Telegraph to publish positive stories about Facebook

      How should Facebook respond to the steady flow of news stories that reveal, again and again, how terrible it is? One way would be to stop being terrible. Instead, Facebook is keeping true to its “be terrible” motto by paying The Daily Telegraph to run a series of sponsored articles praising Facebook.

    • Shireen Razack and Tawal Panyacosit Jr. on Inclusion in TV Writing

      For many of us, while we recognize that the priorities and practices of news media affect our lives, news programming isn’t where we live, so to speak. It’s creative media—dramas, comedies, even cartoons—that engage us, with their opportunity to stretch imaginations, shift perspectives, reveal often hidden experiences. Which contributes to our disenchantment when the same structural problems that plague other US institutions show up in this realm, too, as we’re reminded every time we read a report on the staffing of, for example, television shows.

      Year after year, we see people with disabilities, people of color, women and LGBTQ people un- and underrepresented in the rooms where ideas are generated. And, year after year, Hollywood pledges to “do better.” A new report on TV writers looks beyond the promises, and talks about the experiences of what it calls “diverse” writers once they get the job. The research comes from a group of working TV writers called the Think Tank for Inclusion & Equity. We’ll hear from project leaders Shireen Razack and Tawal Panyacosit Jr.

    • ‘A Network of Alternative Campaign Infrastructure’: Progressives Dismiss DCCC Threats on Primary Challengers

      As tensions escalate in an internal battle between the centrist and left wings of the Democratic Party, a group of progressives is making a move to begin a new left wing party apparatus.

      A decision by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee late last month to blacklist vendors that support primary challengers over party incumbents drew a line in the sand against the potential progressive overthrow of the party’s established order.

      In response to the new policy, 14 progressive groups Thursday announced the launch of the DCCC Blacklist—a collective of left wing vendors that are bucking the Democratic campaign arm’s directive.

      “If we want to fight for a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, free college, getting corporate money out of politics, and an end to mass incarceration and deportation then we need to help build a network of alternative campaign infrastructure to support progressive primary challengers from this DCCC sabotage,” said Waleed Shahid, communications director for the progressive group Justice Democrats, one of the groups behind the new vendor list.

    • Chicago in a Single Tweet, and News From Elections Around the State

      In Cairo, voter turnout was higher than usual — 40 percent — for a municipal election year, reports Molly Parker for The Southern Illinoisan. And the city voted for sweeping new leadership, too: Only one incumbent will return to the City Council. Cairo will soon have a new mayor, Thomas Simpson, and four new City Council members. Read more from The Southern Illinoisan.

      In Springfield, Mayor Jim Langfelder was elected to a second term with 58 percent of the vote. According to the State Journal-Register in Springfield, Langfelder said his administration will continue to focus on economic development, developing a secondary municipal water source and relocating railway traffic in an ongoing $315 million project. Read more from the State Journal-Register.

    • America Enters the Twilight Zone

      Have you noticed how much life increasingly feels like an episode of The Twilight Zone?

      Only instead of Rod Serling’s imaginary “land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas,” we’re trapped in a topsy-turvy, all-too-real land of corruption, brutality and lies, where freedom, justice and integrity play second fiddle to political ambition, corporate greed, and bureaucratic tyranny.

      It’s not merely that life in the American Police State is more brutal, or more unjust, or even more corrupt. It’s getting more idiotic, more perverse, and more outlandish by the day.

      Somewhere over the course of the past 240-plus years, democracy has given way to idiocracy, and representative government has given way to a kleptocracy (a government ruled by thieves) and a kakistocracy (a government run by unprincipled career politicians, corporations and thieves that panders to the worst vices in our nature and has little regard for the rights of American citizens).

      Examples abound.

    • Calling Racism by Its Real Name

      It should go without saying that things we don’t have names for…go without saying. For years, that’s been the deal with corporate media and racism. Actions, policies, statements and ideas that regular people have no trouble identifying as racist become, in elite media hands, “racially tinged,” “racially charged,” “race-related.” And if racism isn’t a thing our famously objective reporters can see, well, maybe it’s not really out there, right?

      [...]

      There’s something else new in the new AP guide. It says, “Deciding whether a specific statement, action, policy, etc., should be termed racist often is not clearcut. Such decisions should include discussion with colleagues and/or others from diverse backgrounds and perspectives.” That diverse people need to be in the room, that reporting involves listening to and learning from them—now there’s a radical idea.

    • Donald Trump, or the Difficulties in Bar Tendering

      Traditionally, bartending was considered a profession of low reputation. However, in more recent years, bartenders go through a process of training that makes it a key profession in the hospitality industry. As a result, bartending today is considered a profession of choice, rather than of necessity.

      In many countries, bartending includes specialized education. For example, the European Bartender School operates in 23 countries. In the United States, Kathy Sullivan, owner of Sidecar Bartending, a bartending service from Detroit, expressed the difficulties in bartending saying that, “In drinks you want balance. And you have to be balanced physically, emotionally and mentally,” to be a good bartender. If President Donald Trump were to be judged on these qualities he would fare very poorly.

      In addition, to be a good bartender, other qualities are required. A good bartender has to have good customer service skills, as a good politician has to be aware of the needs of its constituents. President Trump grievous attacks on journalists and opposition politicians show the difficulties of this task. If President Trump were to be judged on this quality he probably would fare very poorly.

      A good bartender has to be knowledgeable about his drinks, as a good politician has to be judged on his knowledge of political issues. President Trump has shown to have the least knowledge of history and political issues compared to almost any president in U.S. history. If President Trump were to be judged on this quality he would fare very poorly.

      A good bartender should be prepared to handle unusual situations. During the recent fires in California or the hurricane Maria that ravaged Puerto Rico, President Trump was unable to respond effectively to these emergencies, preferring instead to seek solace playing golf in Mar-a-Lago. If President Trump were to be judged on this quality he would fare very poorly.

    • ‘Enough With That’: Warren Backs Killing Filibuster to Push Through Progressive Reforms

      Calling on the nation to “wake up to the reality of the United States Senate,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren is set to announce Friday that she supports eliminating the filibuster.

      The 2020 presidential candidate is expected to endorse the proposal in a speech at the National Action Network Convention in New York Friday morning.

      “When Democrats next have power, we should be bold and clear: We’re done with two sets of rules—one for the Republicans and one for the Democrats,” Warren is expected to say. “And that means when Democrats have the White House again, if Mitch McConnell tries to do what he did to President Obama and puts small-minded partisanship ahead of solving the massive problems facing this country, then we should get rid of the filibuster.”

      “I’m not running for president just to talk about making real, structural change. I’m serious about getting it done,” the speech reads. “And part of getting it done means waking up to the reality of the United States Senate.”

    • ‘Stop Lying to Young Jews’: Protest by Anti-Occupation Jewish Activists Targets Birthright Tours

      Fifteen people were arrested Friday in New York when hundreds of activists from the Jewish advocacy group If Not Now blocked access to the entrance of Birthright, the Sheldon Adelson-funded organization that takes young Americans Jews on tours of Israel to instill within them support of that country’s war on the Palestinian people.

      If Not Now’s goal in Friday’s protest, the group said in a statement, was to push Birthright to include education on the occupied West Bank, Gaza, and Golan Heights territories.

      “Going to Israel in 2019 and not learning about the Occupation is like going to the Jim Crow South and not learning about segregation,” said Alyssa Rubin, a student from Boston who traveled to new York for the protest.

    • Fueled by union cash, Tim Ryan enters 2020 Democratic primary

      With a rally looming on Saturday in Youngstown, Ohio, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) announced he’s joining the crowded Democratic presidential field. Ryan’s campaign website and corresponding announcement video, released after his appearance on The View on Thursday, hit upon his blue-collar background representing “America’s heartland.” Long an outspoken advocate of union workers, he cited the closing of the Lordstown, Ohio GM factory as a motivating factor for joining the race.

      Ryan first gained national attention for his 2016 attempt to replace Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as Democratic House leader. That year Ryan challenged Pelosi for the position of House Minority Leader, a vote he lost 134 to 63. He also tried to block Pelosi from her successful return as Speaker of the House.

      A Rust Belt progressive in the vein of Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Ryan supports programs like “Medicare for all,” yet spoke in favor of the simplifying the tax code before voting against the 2017 Republican tax cuts he deemed a “tax scam.” He has been one of the leading critics of NAFTA and other trade deals which affected his working-class Ohio district.

    • Global Left Celebrates Sanders 2020 Bid as Chance to Build ‘Worldwide Progressive Movement’

      “From South America to Europe to the Middle East, leftist leaders are celebrating his candidacy, viewing him as an iconic democratic socialist with the potential to lead a worldwide progressive movement at a time when right-wing populism is on the rise across the map,” Politico’s Holly Otterbein reported Thursday.

      “In Canada, Israel, Germany and Spain, progressive politicians have also hailed the Vermont senator on social media and in interviews,” Otterbein continued, “often speaking favorably of his ‘Medicare for All’ proposal, noninterventionist foreign policy and advocacy for the ‘Green New Deal.’”

    • It’s The Vice President, Stupid

      I don’t mean that word literally – “stupid” – but that’s how the saying goes.

      This will be the most important Vice Presidential pick in US history, ever. At the very least, there has arguably never been a more important pick for US Vice President than will be the 2020 pick by the Democratic nominee. If the VP pick is not a progressive, youngish, woman of color, then there is no hope. I don’t mean that literally – “no hope” – but nearly. The pick for Vice President this election cycle provides a tremendous opportunity that the human species and the planet cannot afford to botch.

      The fate of the species and planet likely rests not totally but significantly on US Presidential and Vice Presidential successions of genuine progressives: Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, Nina Turner, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (when Constitutionally old enough), Ilhan Omar, possibly Rashida Tlaib, and others.

      Even if the 2020 Democratic nominee for President is a progressive, youngish woman of color, it is still critical that the Vice President be likewise. Why? Because youngish? because a woman? because of color? Partially, yes, but primarily because – apart from Bernie Sanders – these personal elements denote the most progressive candidates, the most prominent candidates, and also the generally best and most electable, available candidates now and for the foreseeable future.

      And so it is that the pick for Vice President in this election cycle, the importance and value of the pick, is unprecedented. The fate of people and the planet hangs in the balance of the pick for VP.

      What is the likelihood that Kamala Harris would pick such a VP? Fair, maybe? Maybe good, maybe not. (And would it matter with corporatist Harris as President?) What are the odds of Elizabeth Warren making such a pick? Fair to good, maybe? Maybe not. (And would it matter with the “capitalist to her bones” as President?) What are the odds that avowed Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders would pick such a VP? Nearly one hundred percent. As he seems to have made clear.

    • Lies our Senators Tell Us, or, Whither Congress?

      Last month, a group of student activists from various Bay Area climate justice groups visited Senator Feinstein’s office in California to deliver a letter urging her to support the Green New Deal. While the students may have held out some hope Feinstein would see the light after agreeing to meet them without a scheduled appointment, it was not to be. It took only a moment for Feinstein to voice her disapproval of the Green New Deal by bluntly telling the students, “Well, there are reasons why I can’t [support the GND resolution]. Because there’s no way to pay for it.” Upon hearing that we could cut military spending to help pay for it, Feinstein demurred by claiming that the government can’t just transfer vast sums of money allocated for one program to another because “it [the system] doesn’t work that way.”

      This observation is true enough, actually, but it undermines Feinstein’s argument in that any institution incapable of resolving the severe ecological and socioeconomic crises confronting humanity in the 21st Century is one, sooner or later, destined for the dustbin of history. In her arrogance, Feinstein likely can’t see that her justifications, or rationalizations, for continued inaction in the face of ecological catastrophe and exploding inequality speak to the urgent need for deeper, inclusive forms of democracy to replace the reckless, oligarchic rule of wealthy elites in Washington and other capital cities across the world.

    • New hints of the Mueller report: Did Trump simply get rolled by the Russians?

      Despite the fact that William Barr had made public comments denigrating the Mueller investigation and clearly auditioned for the job with a spurious memo suggesting that it was almost impossible for a president to obstruct justice, he was confirmed as Donald Trump’s new attorney general with little difficulty. After what had happened with Jeff Sessions, it was understood that Trump would never again stand for an AG recusing himself from any investigation of the president. So everyone knew that Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election would be in the hands of someone who was unlikely to be an honest broker.

      Nonetheless, most of us gave Barr the benefit of the doubt. I wrote about Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworski, who had been a conservative supporter of Richard Nixon. He was coerced into taking the job by White House chief of staff Alexander Haig, who told him, “We need you, Leon” — assuming he would be loyal to the president. When Jaworski saw the evidence against Nixon, however, he was appalled and moved forward with the investigation. I thought maybe that could happen with Barr too.

      I should have known better. Barr was a very political attorney general during George H.W. Bush’s administration, recommending pardons for all the guilty players in the Iran-Contra case, showing that he wasn’t going to be one of those weaklings who saw the Nixon pardon as setting a bad example for the country. I should have realized that this wasn’t a case of someone who’d spent too much time watching Sean Hannity and was slightly out of it. Barr’s been a rock-solid right-winger for decades.

    • Marianne Williamson: Challenging the Status Quo in 2020

      Reparations for slavery? Upending militarism and waging peace? Taking climate change seriously? Getting carbon out of the atmosphere and fossil fuel money out of the EPA? Valuing healing over punishment in our disastrous criminal justice system? Ending mass incarceration?

      Bringing all this up—and much, much more—in a presidential race?

      “Join with me for a year,” cries Marianne Williamson. “of talking about things that matter!”

      Williamson, best-selling author and long-time political activist (and a friend I’ve known and respected for many years), is, indeed, running for president of the United States, bringing into her campaign a burning commitment not so much to winning as to pushing past the consensus of know-nothingism that has long dominated American politics—and certainly the Democratic Party—at the highest level.

      “Our democracy has stage 4 cancer,” she says in her campaign video, “and all the traditional politicians are offering is a topical ointment.”

      Can this actually happen here? Can American democracy dig to the level of the national soul? Can it burrow beyond our superficial “exceptionalism” into our past and truly look at what we’ve done over the last two and a half centuries? Can the nation hold itself accountable . . . for slavery, for Native American genocide, for wasting trillions of dollars and murdering millions of people by waging endless war?

    • Silicon Valley and “communication weapons of war”

      I was in the New York Public Library recently doing research in the archives when I stumbled on a 1944 pamphlet from Western Electric, the old American techno-telephone monopolist. It’s called “Circuits for Victory” and its 40 glossy, slickly produced pages are dedicated to one thing: celebrating all the ways that the company’s telecommunication technology helps the United States government fight and win wars.

      The pamphlet is a historical document, but if you squint at it right and replace “Western Electric” with, say, “Facebook” or “Google” or “Amazon,” you actually get an accurate sense of what Silicon Valley monopolies are today: privatized extensions of American Empire.

      Since the dot com boom, Silicon Valley has been selling itself to the world as a new breed of global corporation — neutral platforms that sit on top of the world, unconcerned with and totally removed from American geopolitical and national security interests. The public believed it. Even Silicon Valley people believed it. It was the dawn of a new depoliticized corporate internationalism. It was all about a utopian technological revolution that would connect and empower people, regardless of their nationality or language. Indeed, Silicon Valley was supposed to make “the nation” obsolete.

    • Tips for a Post-Mueller Media from Nine Russiagate Skeptics – Evidence-based journalists on the mistakes media made and how to get it right moving forward

      I’ll never forget that Rachel Maddow did a segment where she called some alleged Russian trolls, interfering on Bernie Sanders’ fan club page, “international warfare against our country.” Jonathan Chait came out with a story about whether Trump was a Russian military intelligence agent, and then Chris Hayes put him on his program that night, and they discussed it as if this was a serious prospect.

      January 2017, basically right as Trump was taking office, was the last time someone who was skeptical of Russiagate from the left was allowed on MSNBC, because in December of 2016, Ari Melber interviewed Glenn Greenwald. But that was the last time for Glenn. And January 2017 was the last time Matt Taibbi was on MSNBC. That means that basically, throughout this entire affair, throughout Trump’s presidency, MSNBC has not allowed on a single dissenting voice. That’s extraordinary. And what does that say about a political media culture, that it’s somehow a fringe position to question the conspiracy between the president and Russia?

      So the only possible victory here for politics and journalism is if there’s accountability: On the journalism front, if we learn how to follow the facts, not a narrative that benefits ratings and gets us clicks; and in politics, if we actually learn to start becoming a real resistance, mounting opposition to Trump based on opposing his policies, not based on believing in this fairy tale.

    • Hyperbole and Outrage as Substitutes for Thought, Facts, Accuracy and Truth

      These days you can’t pick up a paper or tune into the news without hearing someone expressing their outrage about something or other and usually it is about as newsworthy as the sun rising in the East. The reason it gets reported is the outrage itself, not the topic. Trump is a master at faux outrage – witness his oft repeated claim that the Mueller investigation was “disgraceful,” “outrageous” or a “witch hunt.” Trying to determine whether the Russians interfered with our election and whether our President participated – given the various meetings and emails between them – was anything but outrageous. In fact, it was and is simply a prudent and necessary inquiry.

      As for hyperbole, take Congressman Bob Bishop’s (R Utah) comment that “… the ideas behind the Green New Deal are tantamount to genocide.”

      Genocide? Really? So taking steps to ward off massive draughts, heat waves, wildfires, extreme storms, social unrest and an explosion in the number of migrants and terrorists and the hundreds of millions of deaths they would collectively cause and the trillions it would cost the economy is genocide? How is it that Bishop is not laughed out of Congress? Instead, his comment got a fair amount of press.

    • Netanyahu Plays ‘Trump Card’ as Israeli Elections Near

      In a tight race for re-election, Israel’s prime minister has gotten a welcome lift from his friend in the White House.

      Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign speeches, billboards and social media videos have all heavily featured President Donald Trump’s image, statements and pro-Israel actions as endorsements of the long-seated prime minister.

      Drawing inspiration from Trump, Netanyahu has dismissed a corruption case against him as a “witch hunt” and his Likud party has launched a weekly webcast to counter what it claims is “fake news” broadcast by mainstream media.

    • Trump Sidelines Immigration Nominee for ‘Tougher Direction’

      Six government and congressional officials involved in immigration issues suggested the decision to drop Vitiello could be an impulsive staff shake-up driven by the fact that White House policies intended to stop migrants have not succeeded. Many blamed Stephen Miller, the influential West Wing aide, and saw it as part of a plan to replace longtime immigration officials with hard-liners who appealed more to allies of Trump and Miller. The officials were not authorized to discuss internal deliberations and spoke on condition of anonymity.

    • God’s Man on Earth: Trump or Pope Francis?

      It’s no one’s fault but it does pose something of a dilemma for citizens trying to impart meaning to current events.

      The dilemma presented itself shortly after Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, was interviewed on The Christian Broadcast Network. The interview took place a few days after Mr. Trump had said it was time to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. During the interview, Mr. Pompeo was asked: “Could it be that President Trump right now has been sort of raised for such a time as this. . . to help save the Jewish people from the Iranian menace?” A beaming Pompeo responded: “As a Christian, I certainly believe that’s possible,” and he continued by saying he was “confident that the Lord is at work here.”

      Although Mr. Pompeo was referring to Mr. Trump’s comments about the Golan Heights, it seems obvious that if God had raised Mr. Trump to take that action, as Mr. Pompeo suggested, he would not have cut him loose with respect to his other activities.

      And that brings us then, to the question for this week. Is God making his wishes known through Mr. Trump, or, through Pope Francis? The question is presented because both men addressed similar problems during the last week of March, and had quite different ideas as to how they should be addressed. The problem the two men confronted was immigrants crossing borders.

      On March 29, 2019, Mr. Trump announced steps he intended to take to deal with the thousands of immigrants seeking to enter the United States on its southern border. He believed it necessary to announce the new steps because of the unfavorable publicity he was receiving for his treatment of those seeking to enter the United States. Most notable, at the time of his declaration, was the fact that the United States was holding hundreds of men, women and children who were fleeing terrible conditions in their home countries, under a bridge in El Paso, Texas, an enclosure surrounded by fencing and razor wire. According to reports of conditions under the bridge, children were forced to sleep on gravel covered with trash, and they and the adults were sleeping outdoors as nighttime temperatures were as low as 40 degrees. In some instances, the detainees were deprived of sleep, access to medical care and adequate food and water. Conditions for thousands of other immigrants, though not housed under a bridge, were hardly better.

    • Identity Rules: A Report from Reddening Chicago

      Beyond the identity-politicized excitement of Chicago electing its first Black female chief executive and becoming the largest U.S. city to have a Black female mayor (and to have a gay mayor), there wasn’t all that much for a leftist to choose from between victor Lori Lightfoot and her opponent Toni Preckwinkle. Mayor-Elect Lightfoot is a longtime corporate lawyer, a partner in the venerable multinational Mayer- Brown firm, and a former federal prosecutor. She covered for the legendarily racist Chicago police (currently operating under a federal civil rights consent decree) in her role as the head of outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Police Accountability Task Force. She did the same on the Chicago Police Board under Mayor Richard M. Daley.

      A Chicago Tribune investigation of Lightfoot’s Mayer-Brown years found that “she has represented corporate clients accused of racial discrimination, as well as police and prosecutors accused of the kind of misconduct she has criticized as a candidate. Lightfoot also has made millions of dollars working at a firm whose attorneys have represented tobacco companies and other corporate clients accused of egregious wrongdoing.”

      None of this stopped Lightfoot from branding herself as an outsider “progressive” seeking to clean up the city’s corrupt practices and deliver its forgotten people and neighborhoods from oppression and neglect.

      “It’s hard,” Chicago native Matt Reichel wrote me, “not to be skeptical of a former federal prosecutor who spent most of her career siding with the cops in police misconduct cases until she recently decided to opportunistically rebrand herself a ‘reformer.’”

      There’s a reason that white police officers voted for Lightfoot. “If someone had told me in the era of Richard J. Daley (when I moved to Chicago) that cop neighborhoods such as Mount Greenwood would vote overwhelmingly for an African American woman,” longtime Chicago activist Kingsley Clark writes, “I would have said: ‘What are you smoking, man!’ The word ‘progressive’ lost meaning with the Clintons and was buried deep in this mayoral election. Those Chicagoans who cling to that illusory concept are going to be mightily disappointed.”

      Like with the silver-tongued neoliberal “from Chicago” (really from Honolulu and Harvard Law) Barack Obama? Obama must have used the word “progressive” at least a thousand times to describe himself on his path to the presidency between 2004 and 2009. We saw how that worked out.

      The 44th president called to congratulate Lightfoot, one rich fake-progressive identity-cloaked corporatist talking to another.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • After Christchurch shooting, Australia doubles down on being stampeded into catastrophically stupid tech laws

      But if we think the platforms suck at moderation now, just wait until they can lose 10% of gross revenues for not having a sufficiently itchy trigger finger when it comes to censorship. We’ve already seen how platforms routinely block and censor the victims of crimes who are seeking justice. We’ve also seen that trolls are happy to expend the time and energy needed to master the policies of platforms and skate right up to them, while goading their opponents into crossing them so they can get them censored.

    • Australia Criminalizes Failure To Remove Violent Content From Internet Platforms

      Under the new legislation, social media executives — among other online content or hosting providers — could be imprisoned for up to three years and companies could face penalties of up to 10% of their annual revenue if they do not remove violent content in an “expeditious” manner.

      The bill passed on Thursday local time with cross party support but faced criticism, including that it could cause increased censorship and that the process was rushed.

    • Russia’s federal censor blocks a thousand websites that mention a prominent banker

      Russia’s federal censor, Roskomnadzor, has blocked roughly 1,000 hyperlinks to different Internet resources mentioning VTB Bank, the bank’s president, Andrey Kostin, and TV news anchor Nailya Asker-Zade.

      A source at the Internet freedom project “Roskomsvoboda” told Vedomosti that Roskomnadzor is enforcing two court rulings handed down last fall. According to legal records, VTB Bank demanded in multiple lawsuits the deletion of Internet content that mentions Kostin and Asker-Zade at least four times.

    • Chad Has Blocked Internet Access Since March 2018

      Since March 2018, people in the Republic of Chad have been systematically cut off from Internet by the nation’s government. The Internet shutdown continues despite a 2016 UN resolution condemning governments that intentionally prevent or disrupt online access. Chadian service providers claim that the extended lack of service is due to technical issues, but “it appears that the government is attempting to muzzle citizens’ freedom of expression and to prevent the free circulation of information,” according to a March 2019 report by Global Voices.

      On multiple occasions prior to March 2018 the government ordered Internet and social media outages, frequently in tandem with political protests and demonstrations by social movement organizations, particularly those challenging the nationalistic president, Idriss Déby.

      The Chadian government claims these outages maintain safety and order, but they are a threat to journalists, activists, and civilians alike. Internet Without Borders, an organization at the front of the fight to restore Internet access in Chad, have launched global campaigns to support this effort.

    • Aussie Senate Rushes Thru Bill That Would Fine Social Media Companies For Not Taking Down ‘Abhorrent’ Content Fast Enough

      Following the Christchurch mosque shooting, the New Zealand government swiftly declared footage and photos of the shooting illegal and started rounding up citizens who violated the censorship body’s new declaration. The government of its closest neighbor has responded to the tragedy in a similar fashion, outlawing the sharing of “abhorrent violent material.”

      Tragedies make for bad laws. And Australia — while relatively short on tragedy — has been crafting some supremely bad laws lately. The national security flag was waved around a bit to justify encryption-breaking mandates. Now, the government has rushed through a bill targeting content like the Christchurch shooter’s livestream of his violent act.

    • The Case Against the CIA’s Censors

      I have joined in a lawsuit with four former federal employees to end the government’s censorship of our writings on national security issues. The current publications review system of our military and intelligence agencies is dysfunctional, inhibiting our ability to participate in national security debates. The government has a legitimate interest in protecting bona fide secrets, but the review system is opaque, exceeding legitimate national security boundaries and compromising free speech.

      Former CIA director Michael Hayden has acknowledged the problem, stating that “although the public cannot be briefed on everything, there has to be enough out there so that the majority of the population believes what they [i.e., intelligence agencies] are doing is acceptable.”

      My experience with the Central Intelligence Agency’s review system exemplifies the obstacles that keep legitimate information from policymakers and the public. In last year’s congressional discussions of the confirmation for CIA director Gina Haspel, senior agency officials such as former acting director Mike Morell were permitted to defend her role in the unconscionable practice of torture and abuse in secret prisons during the War on Terror. The CIA’s publications review board, however, redacted my writings describing her extensive role in these activities. Her involvement was effectively covered up! For a forthcoming book, the reviewers ordered me to remove a reference to an article in the New York Times that referred to these activities because they claimed the “title” of that article was classified.

      My last book, Whistleblower at the CIA, was critical of the CIA’s politicization of intelligence in the 1980s as well as in the run up to the Iraq War in 2003. The book was held up for 11 months, violating the 30-day time period for review that was part of my original agreement with the CIA; that time frame was affirmed in a 1972 circuit court decision. My analysis of U.S. drone activities, including a reference to civilian casualties, was redacted, although I was citing the public remarks of U.S. officials, including the president of the United States.

    • The CIA: Surprise, Kill, Vanish

      The International Criminal Court (ICC) which prosecutes crimes against humanity is under attack again by the Trump Administration for pursuing Americans. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama supported it. George W. Bush tried to close it down but then decided to cooperate with it. Donald Trump is against it and encouraged John Bolton, his National Security Advisor, to publically savage it earlier this month.

      To be published in May is a first-rate book on the CIA, its paramilitary armies, operators and assassins. The book is still under wraps so I can’t break the embargo by telling you its title and author. All I can say is that it’s meat for the ICC.

      The CIA crosses the moral lines all the time: Surprise your target, torture or kill your enemy, vanish without a trace. Then deny it. That was and is its intent – as described in riveting, well-researched detail.

      The whole book should be read by prosecutors everywhere, not least those on the ICC. It should propel them into more regular prosecutions of Americans. The book tells the awful story in accessible detail.

      This kind of systematically organized secret activity was begun by the British during World War 2, the Special Operations Executive, (SOE), which evolved into James Bond’s MI6. It crossed the Atlantic to become the OSS and later the CIA, although President Harry Truman thought, “soldiers of democracy do not fight guerrilla wars. Gentlemen do not slit throats”, as the author puts it. He closed down the OSS.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Oversight Report Says DEA Ran Multiple Bulk Data Collection Programs With Zero Legal Clearance

      he NSA isn’t the only collector of bulk phone records. The NSA may not even be doing this anymore, but for a long time, it was not only the NSA’s bread-and-butter, but the DEA’s as well.

      The DEA has run multiple bulk records collections for more than 20 years, given the green light by our current Attorney General, William Barr, who also ran the DOJ back in 1992. These not only targeted calls placed to “drug nexus” countries, but purchase records as well. “Nexus” is a slippery word — one the NSA takes advantage of as well. US law enforcement considers almost anywhere in or out of the country to be a “drug nexus,” which gives it the suspicion it needs to pull over drivers on interstate highways or rifle through their belongings at airports looking for drugs cash.

      Using this flimsy connective tissue and a bunch of subpoenas, the DEA approached private companies and demanded vast amounts of third party records. Some of these details were exposed when the DEA’s “Hemisphere” documents were published. Six years after Ed Snowden let the world know the NSA was collecting phone records in bulk, the Inspector General of the DOJ has finally released a report [PDF] on the DEA’s bulk collections.

      According to the IG report, the DEA ran three bulk collection programs. Program A collected bulk telephone records on calls from the US to “drug nexus” countries. These were obtained with “non-target-specific” subpoenas directly from the service provider. Like the NSA, the DEA wanted metadata about these calls, like date, time, and duration.

    • State Data Law Heightens Privacy Protection for Virginians

      Powerful new technologies make mass surveillance easier than ever for law enforcement. One such technology, automatic license plate readers (ALPRs), capture location data that can reveal people’s religious, political, sexual, medical, and social activities. For years, law enforcement agencies across the country have collected and stored this data with very little oversight and few legal constraints.

      For the ACLU of Virginia, taking on this major privacy issue has been a four-year fight that began with efforts in 2015 to work across both aisles to propose legislation that would have prohibited mass data collection by law enforcement. After police succeeded in lobbying against it, a lawsuit was initiated that same year under the state’s Government Data Collection and Dissemination Act on behalf of Fairfax resident Harrison Neal challenging the Fairfax County Police Department’s (FCPD) collection of ALPR data where there was no suspicion of criminal activity.

    • Russian court fines Twitter 3,000 rubles for storing Russian users’ data outside Russia

      A Moscow judge ruled Friday that Twitter must pay a fine of 3,000 rubles ($45.90) for storing data about its Russian users outside Russia’s borders, Mediazona reported. A law requiring such data to be stored in Russia has been in effect since September 2015, and a wave of heightened enforcement one year later resulted in the blockage of LinkedIn within Russian borders.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Pioneer in Field Warns Dangers Posed by Artificial Intelligence ‘Very Real’

      A pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence warned that “dangers of abuse” of AI “are very real.”

      The warning from Canadian computer science professor and leading AI researcher Yoshua Bengio came in a Q&A with the journal Nature published Thursday.

      The interview was conducted back in January, before Bengio was named along with two others the latest recipients of the Turing Award, a prize dubbed the “Nobel Prize of Computing.”

      Bengio told Nature that “we have to raise flags before bad things happen” in terms of irresponsible use of AI.

      Unfortunately, “what is most concerning is not happening in broad daylight” but “in military labs, in security organizations, in private companies providing services to governments or the police,” he said.

    • Co-founder of feminist coworking space in St. Petersburg writes that prosecutors asked to question her about ‘discrimination against men’

      Leda Garina, a co-founder of the St. Petersburg feminist coworking space Simona, wrote on Facebook that she had been called into a prosecutor’s office for questioning regarding “discrimination against men.” The local outlet Sobaka reported that prosecutors asked whether Garina could meet on April 4, but she declined to be questioned without a warrant.

    • California Court Ruling Provides “Blueprint” to Reform Overpolicing in Schools

      It is no wonder that school districts feel pressure to protect children. Between January 2015 and March 2019, there were 90 school shootings in 29 states that ended in the deaths of 92 people. But in January 2019, a state court in California ordered the Stockton Unified School District to rein in the “school resource officers” used to keep kids safe. The order was the result of a three-year investigation that revealed “widespread abuses” by police in Stockton schools including “use of excessive force, unconstitutional and ‘random and suspicionless’ search and seizure procedures using dogs and pat-downs, and frequent arrests targeting even the youngest students. The procedures often resulted in students being treated like criminals for misconduct typical of schoolchildren, especially those with disabilities.”

    • Calling for End of US Asylum System, Trump Adds, ‘And, Frankly We Should Get Rid of Judges’

      President Donald Trump called for the end of the U.S. system that processes those seeking political asylum and refugee status on Friday and then added that it would also be good to “get rid of judges.”

      “Congress has to act,” Trump told reporters outside the White House, referring to the asylum claim process and the broader immigration system. “They have to get rid of catch-and-release, chain migration, visa lottery, they have to get rid of the whole asylum system because it doesn’t work.”

      “And frankly,” the president then added, “we should get rid of judges. You can’t have a court case every time sets their foot on our ground.” Trump was on his way to visit the U.S.-Mexico border in California and then to a campaign fundraiser event in posh Beverly Hills later on Friday.

    • Putin’s press secretary claimed a “far greater” portion of Americans than Russians want to emigrate from their home country. He’s wrong.

      On April 5, Russia’s presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov was asked to comment on a Gallup report that showed one in five adult Russians would like to emigrate elsewhere. The figure was the highest recorded since 2007. Peskov responded as follows:

      “These surveys are carried out by various companies in various countries, and that figure is far from the highest. For example, the number of Americans who want to emigrate from America is far greater than one fifth. Far greater. It’s a typical process. Some people prefer a more mobile way of life, and some people prefer a less mobile one. That makes this an absolutely standard topic for sociological research.”

    • New Student ‘Safety’ Principles Place Students At Risk

      When you place police and surveillance technologies in schools, the only thing you can assure is student harm.
      Of all the ACLU’s advocacy efforts, few have as ironic a sounding mission as our fight to keep students safe from certain school safety measures.

      Unfortunately, a recently released document entitled “Principles for School Safety, Privacy, & Equity,” which bears the signatures of 40 organizations, is likely to make our ongoing efforts all the more challenging.

      While the document sets forth some valuable standards, it also inadvertently provides cover for lawmakers and school officials to adopt student surveillance and policing measures that — contrary to the title of the document — undermine student safety, privacy, and equity.

      Study after study confirms that deploying surveillance and police in schools hurts kids, especially students of color and with disabilities. And likewise, these organizations’ well-intentioned document will hurt kids, especially students of color and with disabilities.

    • Willie McCoy Should Be Alive Today

      We need use of force bills to pass in California and nationwide to change police standards.

      [...]

      After several minutes of shining their flashlights in his face while they deliberated how to resolve the situation, and an unsuccessful effort to open his locked car door, McCoy began to stir from his slumber and scratched his left shoulder. Second later, the officers fired a fusillade of approximately 25 bullets into him. Officers allege they fired because McCoy moved his arm toward his lap (and, presumably, the gun) as he continued to wake up.

      Willie McCoy’s murder is a textbook example of police killing someone as a predictable result of their risky tactics, which created the very danger they then used to justify the use of lethal force

      Although McCoy had a pistol in his lap, the officers knew he was unconscious. It is not clear whether they considered the possibility that he needed medical assistance. Furthermore, they made no effort to use tactics that would have preserved both his safety and theirs. The logical decision in this circumstance would have been to create some distance between them and Willie McCoy, position themselves behind cover, and use lights and sound to wake him up. Instead, the officers stayed directly in what would have been his line of fire if he chose to shoot, with no cover.

      In effect, the officers’ decision of whether Mr. McCoy would live or die depended purely on whether a groggy, half-asleep man moved his hands while waking up.

      But they should have expected that McCoy would be confused or startled by being woken up with multiple flashlights shining on his face and no indication of who was shining them. Indeed, the officers made no effort to announce themselves or tell Willie McCoy who they were.

    • ‘Disorder by Design’: Aid Group Details How Trump Has Manufactured Crisis at the US-Mexico Border

      Following recent outrage over President Donald Trump’s decision to slash aid to Central American countries, a new report out Friday details how his administration has “manufactured” a crisis at the southern border and offers policy solutions for how the U.S. can better address the flood of asylum-seekers from the region.

      The report—titled Disorder by Design: A Manufactured U.S. Emergency and the Real Crisis in Central America (pdf)—was published by the New York-based International Rescue Committee (IRC) and relies on first-hand accounts from beneficiaries, partners, and staff on the ground in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

      It comes after Trump’s threats to completely close the U.S.-Mexico border and the State Department’s confirmation that the administration is cutting hundreds of millions dollars in aid to the three Northern Triangle countries—which critics warn will “only foster the same instability that is making people flee in the first place.”

      “The administration’s policy toward the Northern Triangle is both inhumane and illogical,” declared IRC president and CEO David Miliband. “Cutting aid, closing borders, and returning thousands to unsafe and unstable countries is bad policy and bad strategy—putting lives and American interests at risk.”

    • The Only Way White Supremacy Is Defeated

      The election of Donald Trump has emboldened white supremacists across the country. Hate crimes have been on the rise for several years now and racism, ingrained in U.S. institutions since the nation’s founding, has become glaringly apparent even to those who had believed the election of a black president had made it a thing of the past.

      “Trump’s election has allowed [white supremacists] to completely go buck wild,” scholar and Black Lives Matter co-founder Melina Abdullah tells Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer in the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence.”

      Abdullah takes the fight for social justice everywhere, from our streets to our courtrooms and classrooms. Not only is she a professor of black studies, an academic discipline that is turning half a century old, but she is also an impassioned activist who is often openly critical of the Los Angeles Police Department and was arrested during a May 2018 protest.

    • Democrats File Suit Against Border Wall Spending

      House Democrats have filed a lawsuit aimed at preventing President Donald Trump from spending more money than Congress has approved to erect barriers along the southwestern border.

      Democrats say Trump’s attempt to transfer billions of dollars from several programs to wall construction violates the Constitution, which gives Congress control over spending. The 45-page complaint was filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

      House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls Trump’s act a “brazen assault” on the Constitution.

      Congress approved just under $1.4 billion for work on border barricades. Trump has asserted he can use his powers as chief executive to transfer another $6.7 billion to wall construction.

    • Weaponized Social Media Is Driving the Explosion of Fascism

      I was blindsided a few weeks ago by a video of the New Zealand mosque massacre showing up on my screen — courtesy of Facebook. I really don’t have language to succinctly describe what it is, filmed by a self-described “fascist” hoping to pull viewers into his deranged hate-ravaged point-of-view, immortalizing the captured images of terror on his victims’ faces at the second their stolen lives flashed before them. The murderer also captured images of his victims and used them as a weaponized meme, which is now forever preserved as a cultural artifact. Making it was likely a driving force behind the massacre. This visual meme brought a white supremacist’s horrific battlefield into my home and the homes of millions of others who either willingly or unwittingly watched this horror. Welcome to World War F.

    • Thank You, Bernie For Mainstreaming Democratic Socialism

      Bernie Sanders deserves credit for successfully separating in our national consciousness American capitalism from American patriotism by exposing our brand of capitalism as a badly flawed economic philosophy that has favored the wealthy to the detriment of the majority of Americans and our American democracy.

      I do not mean to overlook the contributions of the many progressive intellectuals and activists who also heralded the flaws of capitalism and the virtues of democratic socialism, many before Bernie entered politics. Bernie stands with them and on the shoulders of those who came before him. However, Bernie deserves credit for successfully bringing democratic socialism into our American political discourse and our lawmaking arena. Thanks to Bernie’s extraordinarily successful efforts, democratic socialists are no longer automatically considered insane dreamers who detest America and seek to rob the well-off of their wealth to create an equal society. Today, Bernie has everyday Americans beyond academia and elite think tanks openly discussing the flaws of American shareholder capitalism and entertaining progressive measures to fix them that were not too long ago widely considered unacceptable if not treasonous.

      As Democrats ponder which candidate to choose among a large and quite impressive field of presidential candidates, they must seriously consider the politician most responsible for setting the table of agenda items all candidates will be forced to either embrace or craft credible alternatives for. This is no small achievement as all politicians seek to be transformational figures, such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan, two presidents widely considered by historians to be among our most influential. But today, we are seriously talking about a $15 minimum wage, Medicare-for-all, a Green New Deal to respond to climate change, and free tuition at public colleges, among other major issues, largely because of Sanders’s sincere, courageous, and competent activism.

    • From French Revolution to Gaullist Weekend

      The Gilles-Jaunes are a potent symbol. America is missing out.

      Since every car in France requires one- they are artifacts of the state’s commitment to public safety. Plus, they’re work uniforms, everywhere. Here a proliferating number wear them at Amazon (as veneer for its horrid OSHA rating).

      When they gather, their name and look remind us of hornets protecting their nest. Which is poetic, since (in part) a tax on fuel -to combat global warming- spurned them. -Unlike the productive honey-bees, who are in decline, yellow-jackets are one of few creatures expected to grow in number as Earth warms and dries.

      I hope they migrate here.

      Also, they’re a bit more than three weeks in the making…

      Last year, on the centennial of WWI, Macron likened its causes to Trump’s current nationalism. In retort, Trump called France the most nationalist country in the world. Both were in form. Macron playing world-healer, and Trump playing fool, as if Macron planned to govern France as a nation, and not as a hand-out to the rich, like Trump governs the US.

      Prior, Macron’s show of force made Trump swoon. – I mean the parade. I doubt Trump speaks to his wife or therapist, so only he knows how their handshake made him feel. (I digress.)

    • Appeals Court Says It’s OK For Cops To Steal Stuff From Citizens

      Qualified immunity isn’t a codified defense. Congress never passed a law granting public employees this exception to Constitutional protections. This exception — one that allows public servants to avoid being directly sued by the public whose rights they’ve violated — was crafted by the Supreme Court. The theory is it’s too hard for the government to fully comprehend the rights it’s supposed to be guaranteeing, so there needs to be an escape hatch for government employees.

      This escape hatch has allowed an amazing amount of abuse to go unpunished. As long as the government employees were the first to engage in egregious Constitutional violations, they’re given a free pass. The free pass runs indefinitely if courts refuse to draw a bright line in published opinions. It doesn’t seem like it would be that difficult to comply with the Constitution, but here we are.

      Qualified immunity has again been extended in a case where the behavior the government engaged in was not only unconstitutional, but criminal.

    • FBI Surveilled Peaceful Climate Change Protesters, Violating Its Own Policies

      The FBI tracked three peaceful protesters who participated in the Indiana-based Break Free from Fossil Fuels protest in May 2016, according to documents obtained by the Guardian. Although FBI policy forbids the tracking of people on the basis of their political alignment, the files were categorized as “Sensitive Investigative Matter,” the designation often used for cases of a political nature that receive more attention and surveillance by the Bureau.

      One of the revealed FBI documents made mention of the climate change organization 350.org and its founder, Bill McKibben. The FBI filed the report in an attempt to assess 350.org as a potential threat after the Break Free from Fossil Fuels campaign, which took place on six continents and involved more than 30,000 participants in peaceful protests during a two-week period in May 2016. Regarded by its organizers as “the largest coordinated act of civil disobedience in the fight against climate change,” it also included the march on BP that took place in Whiting, Indiana.

    • I Was Arrested and Detained for Passing Out Fliers Near a Courthouse

      The government has no business criminalizing political speech just because it happens outside a courthouse.

      In the land of the free, people still get arrested for speaking out about what they believe in.

      A little over a year ago, I was arrested and detained for 10 hours in New York City because I was handing out leaflets advocating jury nullification. I was arrested under a state law that makes it a crime to talk about judicial proceedings within 200 feet of a courthouse. I filed a First Amendment lawsuit because political speech shouldn’t be a crime, no matter where it takes place.

      Jury nullification is a power that the jury has to acquit a defendant, despite the law, if they believe a law to be unjust. It has been used for centuries to squash government overreach. In the 1800s, juries refused to convict those who helped African-Americans escape from slavery. Juries also refused to convict those who had been charged with violating alcohol prohibition laws during the 1930s.

      In recent years, juries have used the power of jury nullification to acquit people facing petty drug charges, which disproportionately affect people of color. Juries have repeatedly refused to convict those who have been charged with breaking unjust laws.

    • ‘I Don’t Know, Man’: Joe Biden Cracks #MeToo Joke to Room Full of Union Workers

      “I just want you to know,” Biden told the members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), and referring to the union’s (male) president who had just introduced him, “I had permission to hug Lonnie [Stephenson].”

      While the crowd responded with laughter and applause, Biden also laughed and shook his head, “I don’t know, man.”

    • Zionist Campaign Drives Black Jewish Activist Out of UK’s Labour Party

      Anti-racist activist Jackie Walker was expelled from the U.K. Labour Party on March 26, after two-and-a-half years of suspension for allegedly “bringing the party into disrepute.”

      Walker, a pro-Palestinian, Black Jewish woman and supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, contested the definition of “anti-Semitism” at a training session in 2016 conducted by the Jewish Labour Movement, which conflated anti-Semitism with criticism of Zionism. Further, several decontextualized comments she made on Facebook were used against her in what became a long and abusive smear campaign.

      Walker’s experience and consequent expulsion show direct parallels to the recent defamation of Rep. Ilhan Omar. Further, the use of Walker by Zionists and their allies to incriminate Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is reminiscent of the targeting in the United States of Representative Omar, leaders of the women’s march and those close to Sen. Bernie Sanders.

      Walker co-wrote and has performed a one-woman play, “The Lynching,” as a means of communicating her viewpoint in an otherwise complete media bias and/or boycott against her. Meanwhile a new documentary film, WitchHunt, details her account. Walker has received the endorsement of multiple Labour Party grassroots groups and prominent intellectuals, including Noam Chomsky and others.

    • The Anti-Semitic Con

      With the Putin/Russia Collusion Fairytale debunked, the undeniable cancer of real foreign interference in our government demands an honest airing.

      Since American politics is mortally corrupt, one might wonder why bother to expose one prime cause of its ethical degeneracy. If the beast is dead, what use is determining what killed it? Well, it isn’t quite dead and we have to live with it. If the public knew one country has done more to subvert our government than all others combined it might raise enough hell to stop it.

      In terms of influence, there can be no serious denial that Israel exerts by far the most powerful suasion of any foreign power on America. Influence exerted by a foreign power’s registered lobby is legitimate per our toothless protocol. Israel’s is not so registered, but… details, details. So, when Republicans invite Bibi to smarmily insult a sitting President in a joint session of Congress, that’s influence, not interference. When, besides financing most Senators and Representatives elections, Israel takes them on cushy, free PR junkets to Tel Aviv, that’s influence, not interference.

      Conversely, when Clintonista subversion of the Sanders campaign appears on Wikileaks and is instantly imputed to Russia and Putin–without proof and against expert technical evidence–that’s not influence, it’s Russki interference. More absurdly, when–again, without proof–the same Dem CFOs howl that Putin Trolls bought chump change worth of dingy ads on Facebook that swung the election to Trump that’s… but you get the picture.

      What is obvious and has long been so–and has been emphasized by two years of fraud and insanity regarding imagined Russian collusion–is that influence is what your friends have; interference is what your enemies do.

      Why, when it is so blatantly obvious as to be a source of outspoken pride for them, is the fact that Israel’s right-wing ruling clique brazenly and continually interferes in American government in the most aggressive and offensive way, universally denied? You want flagrant foreign collusion with high officials in U.S. government? Open your eyes. And your mind…

    • Joe Bryan Denied Parole for Seventh Time

      The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Joe Bryan parole for a seventh time on Friday, citing the brutal nature of the crime he stands convicted of — the 1985 shooting death of his wife, Mickey — in concluding that the 78-year-old “poses a continuing threat to public safety.”

      Bryan has twice been convicted of Mickey’s murder, which took place in their Clifton, Texas, home. Bryan, then a beloved high school principal, had been attending an education conference in Austin, 120 miles away, in the days surrounding the murder. He has always maintained that he was asleep in his hotel room at the time of the crime. His conviction, for which Bryan has spent 31 years in prison, rested largely on bloodstain-pattern analysis, a technique still in use throughout the criminal justice system, despite concerns about its reliability.

      At an evidentiary hearing last year in Comanche, Texas, Bryan’s attorneys presented new evidence that jurors who convicted him never heard — most notably, that the forensic testimony used to convict him was erroneous. “My conclusions were wrong,” retired police Detective Robert Thorman, who performed the bloodstain-pattern analysis in the case, wrote in a sworn affidavit submitted to the court. “Some of the techniques and methodology were incorrect. Therefore, some of my testimony was not correct.”

      Last July, before the hearing, the Texas Forensic Science Commission — which investigates complaints about the misuse of forensic testimony and evidence in criminal cases — announced that the blood-spatter analysis used to convict Bryan was “not accurate or scientifically supported.”

    • VAWA and the NRA

      That Congress has not already reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is abhorrent.

      [...]

      Federal law also seems to allow ERPOs. 18 U.S. Code § 922 (g) prohibits individuals who are under court order “for harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner” from possessing a firearm. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which was established in 1993 to collect more detail about criminal incidents, provides information on state-level domestic violence convictions to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, although it is only on a state-by-state basis. The VAWA reauthorization would mandate that states provide relevant legal information to the federal government. In early 2019, New York became the 14th state, along with Washington, D.C., to pass ERPO measures while 29 other states already have similar restrictions for individuals convicted of domestic violence.

      Data indicates that ERPOs are effective. A 2006 study found that states that adopted laws authorizing the confiscation of firearms from individuals subject to a domestic violence-related restraining order saw intimate partner homicides drop by seven percent, while another study led by researchers at Duke University’s School of Medicine Center found that the EPRO measure enacted by Connecticut in 1998 averted up to 100 suicides, as well as likely dozens of violent homicides. Research is very clear that guns escalate abusive situations. A gun makes it at least five times more likely a woman will be killed.

    • ‘Worker Power Wins’: Google Scraps Controversial AI Ethics Board After Widespread Outrage

      The decision, first reported late Thursday by Vox, came about a week after Google announced the formation of its Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC) to help the tech giant pursue “responsible development” of artificial intelligence, or AI.

      In the days after the ATEAC was unveiled, nearly 2,500 Google employees and more than 300 outside experts and advocates signed a worker-led petition calling on Google to remove board member Kay Coles James, president of The Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank with close ties to the Trump administration.

      The petition, launched by Googlers Against Transphobia, denounced James as “vocally anti-trans, anti-LGBTQ, and anti-immigrant.” It charged that “not only are James’ views counter to Google’s stated values, but they are directly counter to the project of ensuring that the development and application of AI prioritizes justice over profit.”

    • Monsters Inc: They Treated Us Like We Were Animals

      The evil clown-in chief just visited his fabled border, where he spewed the usual rancid mix of lies, threats, insults and incoherence “unmoored from operational reality.” In a brief visit to Calexico, California before jetting off to raise funds for more atrocities, he warned coincidentally brown-skinned immigrants they should turn around because “our country is full,” whined we should “get rid of the whole asylum system” and judges who don’t agree with him, claimed “asylum people” are gang members – “It’s a scam, it’s a hoax – I know about hoaxes,” FYI also wind – and boasted about a two-mile section of his “new wall” – “It’s called anti-climb, so it’s a great wall” – that is in fact a restored barrier authorized by Obama, even though it now bears a comically fraudulent plaque reading, “The first section of President Trump’s border wall.” His lies largely hit their own wall of derision: The Southern Border Communities Coalition called his visit “trite political theater,” and Gov. Gavin Newsom blasted his cruelty with, “Since our founding, this country has been a place of refuge. His words show a total disregard of the Constitution, our justice system, and what it means to be an American.”

      [...]

      Meanwhile, the abuses continue. They are led in large part by Homeland Security ghoul Kirstjen “Adolf Eichmann” Nielson, who once declared “they’re not cages – there are places to sit” and has now called for deporting children and detaining their families to solve the border’s “growing crisis.” The real crisis, many say, is the medical neglect at border facilities and immigration jails that has led to at least 22 deaths, all preventable, including Jakelin, Felipe, and 19-month-old Mariee Juarez. Doctors at those facilities report horrific conditions “unsafe for adults and deadly for children,” from not enough food or water to freezing temps to no medical care to human rights abuses. Most recently, photos and reports of migrants crowded into concentration camp tents and under an El Paso bridge have brought ACLU complaints of cold, dust, verbal abuse and sleep deprivation at the hands of out-of-control border patrol agents. “They treated us like we were animals,” said one victim. “They call us bodies.” The unthinkable images of those families huddled behind barbed wire disturbed many, not least Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “When you’re looking at this photo, you’re looking at a mirror,” she tweeted in response to images by Nick Miroff. “This is America. This is Texas. This is our course of action, the one we chose. I cannot and will not accept it.” Nor should any of us.

    • After confessing to criminal negligence, a former orphanage director avoids further prosecution for ignoring reports about sexual assault foster children. The statute of limitations saved her.

      A St. Petersburg court has closed the criminal case against Natalia Fedorova, the former director of Children’s Home Number 10, which spent more than a decade ignoring reports from children about sexual assault by different adults, including the facility’s deputy director. Fedorova confessed to criminal negligence, but the charges’ statute of limitations has now expired. To learn more about the case, Meduza spoke to Dmitry Geradimov, the defense attorney for some of the abuse victims.

    • #UnapologeticallyFeministScientist: Tucker Carlson Twitter Shamed After Wondering How ‘Feminists Do Science’ in US

      “How did we wind up with a country in which feminists do science?”

      That comment from Fox News host Tucker Carlson Thursday inspired blowback from scientists.

      The right-wing host’s remark came after he pointed to a recent study pointing to “toxic masculinity” hampering eco-friendly actions.

      On Friday morning, the grassroots group 500 Women Scientists called for a direct response to Carlson.

      “Friends and allies,” the group tweeted, “Let’s show @TuckerCarlson how many of us feminist scientists there really are. Tweet your name, your science, a photo of your science and the hashtag #unapologeticallyfeministscientist.”

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Medium is Bad and You Should Stop Using It.

      Medium is very slow (compare). Medium’s paywall is an insult to good journalism by forcing specific users to pay for content of often questionable quality. The Medium membership model doesn’t work for several folks (likely you too). But, most importantly Medium dilutes your brand and negatively impacts essential metrics.

      Please stop using Medium

    • [Old] Why we transitioned from Medium back to our own blog

      This is our story of how we’ve used Medium, what worked, what didn’t and what our strategy is now, after kicking the proverbial tires for a couple of years.

      [...]

      By making ourselves the original, authoritative source, we’re able to control the whole experience for the long term and to our benefit instead of potential short term wins to Medium’s benefit.

    • Just $6,790 Of $208 Million In Robocall Fines Have Been Collected By The FCC

      Despite endless government initiatives and countless promises from the telecom sector, our national robocall hell continues. Robocalls from telemarketers continue to be the subject the FCC receives the most complaints about (200,000 complaints annually, making up 60% of all FCC complaints), and recent data from the Robocall Index indicates that the problem is only getting worse. Consumers continue to be hammered by mortgage interest rate scams, credit card scams, student loan scams, business loan scams, and IRS scams. 4.9 billion such calls were placed in February alone.

      And while the FCC does routinely fine companies and scammers for robocalling, these aren’t the kind of outfits that tend to leave a forwarding address. In fact of the $208 million in fines doled out by the FCC for robocall related fraud, the FCC has only been able to collect around $6,790 in actual penalties. That includes the recent, headline-grabbing record $120 million fine the FCC levied against a robocaller who had made up to 98 million robocalls during one three-month period. The FTC has similarly collected $121 million out of $1.5 billion penalties doled out to stop the annoying spam calls.

  • DRM

    • Anti-Piracy Outfit MUSO Comes Out Against The Use Of DRM

      When it comes to the record of anti-piracy outfit MUSO, based in the UK, you get a mixed-bag. On the one hand, the organization was caught patting itself on the back for the number of takedowns of infringing content it had achieved, when the number it was touting was made up in some sizable percentage of the number of takedown requests it had issued. The focus at all on takedowns as a method for combating piracy, rather than the development of better business models that take advantage of the internet, is itself a problem. On the other hand, MUSO has also been willing to tell content publishers that piracy is by and large their fault, with a lack of convenient legal alternatives being the biggest barrier to ending copyright infringement. So, a little bad, a little good.

      Well, we can add another item to the good column, as MUSO recently came out on its own site with a piece that essentially argues that DRM should be abandoned completely. And, while the alternative on offer in the post is more takedown efforts, MUSO is at least trying to frame this as an argument for better treatment of consumers.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Blueprint IP patent added to PATROLL!

      On April 5, 2019, Unified added a $1,000 contest to PATROLL seeking prior art for US 8,089,980 owned and asserted by Blueprint IP Solutions, LLC, an NPE. The ’980 patent generally relates to a method for protecting switching between geographically separate server systems, and has been asserted in district court litigation against various companies.

    • Ryujin LLC (J. Szarzynski) patent added to PATROLL!

      On April 5, 2019, Unified added a $1,000 contest to PATROLL seeking prior art for US 7,577,559 owned by and asserted by Ryujin LLC, a J. Szarzynski entity and well-known NPE. The ’559 patent generally relates to a system and method for delivering media content to a user, and has been asserted in district court against Plex Inc., a client-server media player company.

    • Judge Robart watching Qualcomm antitrust cases from far up north, finds rebates tied to antitrust gag order “an interesting case”

      Of the two-day Munich conference on patent injunctions that just ended, I was primarily curious about what certain judges had to say. Yesterday it was interesting enough to witness a clash of legal cultures with respect to injunctive relief and the proportionality requirement under EU law.

      Today’s superstar speaker was Judge James L. Robart of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, famous in patent circles for his antisuit injunction and FRAND determination in the Microsoft v. Motorola FRAND enforcement case–and known to a wider audience for being (now quoting President Trump) “that so-called judge” who enjoined the federal government from enforcing Trump’s original travel ban, though it turned out the Supreme Court viewed the law completely differently, and Rush Limbaugh highlighted how Judge Robart got even basic facts about the connection between migration and terrorism wrong (what’s actually worse–being criticized by talk radio or by a blogger?). I really thought the attorney who argued for the Department of Justice in that latter case (the related TRO hearing was broadcast) did a great job, and the points she made there were essentially the ones that a different attorney later made in the Supreme Court, but with a better outcome.

      Judge Robart is a great speaker with a sense of humor everyone appeared to like. Despite my fundamental disagreement with his handling of the travel ban case, I must say his speech far exceeded my expectations–even the ones I’d have had exclusively based on the groundbreaking antisuit injunction.

      The title of Judge Robart’s presentation was “The view from the corner of competition law and patents.” He started with an explanation of U.S. rules governing patent injunctions, particularly eBay v. MercExchange. When he explained that non-practicing entities suing companies like Microsoft (because they’re headquarted in his district) with multifunctional products, they’ll hardly be able to show irreparable harm. And he jokingly noted that Germany wasn’t the place to outline this take on patent injunctions. But unlike Justice Arnold from the UK, who clashed with Judge Dr. Grabinski of the Federal Court of Justice of Germany yesterday, Judge Robart presented the perspective of another jurisdiction and didn’t insinuate that Germany is in breach of EU law because of its courts’ approach to patent injunctions.

    • Trademarks

      • Women’s March Inc. Quietly Abandons Its Attempt To Trademark ‘Women’s March’

        Because American politics is a hellscape, you may not recall that thousands of women marched in D.C. back in 2017 shortly after our current President was sworn in. So much has happened since then that perhaps this was pushed out of your memory banks. At the time, however, the movement sparked marches among women’s groups throughout the country, and led in part to a women’s movement around the 2018 midterms. Along the way, however, four activist organizers started Women’s March Inc. to formalize the organization of future marches. In addition to that, the group, for some reason, thought it was a good idea to try to trademark the term “Women’s March” and to issue threats to other organizers to not use the term in their names.

    • Copyrights

      • Trending hashtag proves IP policy nowadays has potential to weaken a government party for many years, if not decades

        Long gone are the days when intellectual property policy was shaped by a few experts in backroom meetings–experts who spoke the same language, wore the same kinds of clothes, and had largely congruent ideas for the future. That has changed. The EU software patent debate, from which my allies and I emerged victorious, was a first in political history: all of a sudden, there was public debate and an absolutely unprecedented level of voter engagement. (That was already the case before I joined the fray; I just brought a commercial perspective and incremental tactical flexibility to the table.)

        The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) was the next example (I wasn’t involved), and the most recent–and still ongoing–one is the EU Copyright reform process (I only helped out in some limited areas toward the very end of the multi-year process).

        The recent vote that went awry in the European Parliament (a dozen MEPs later declared in writing they had pressed the wrong button) was described by the proponents of Internet upload filters and similar anti-innovative measures as the de facto closure of the process. But the fire is still raging, and the opera isn’t over until the fat lady sings: the EU Council has yet to make its formal decision. A mere formality, say the proponents. But that formality is costing the German government coalition parties dearly, and while Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) used to bear the brunt of people’s well-founded outrage, the junior coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), is now in serious trouble as the SPD totally fell out of favor with young German voters yesterday evening.

        #NieMehrSPD, a vow never to vote for the SPD again in one’s lifetime, became the #2 trending hashtag on Twitter’s German-language service yesterday, second only to the wildly popular Germany’s Next Top Model casting show.

      • Access to Copyright Protected Works by Persons with Disabilities – Thoughts on the WIPO SCCR Scoping Study

        The Report acknowledges the contribution of the Marrakesh Treaty to the discourse on access to copyright-protected works by persons with disabilities but goes beyond the Treaty. It takes a “human rights” based conception of disability by defining several distinct, broad categories of disability in order to recognize common needs of persons with disabilities. See page 12. The study identified the following categories of disabilities: aural (deaf or hard of hearing); visual (“deafblind” or otherwise blind and hard of hearing); cognitive (e.g. dyslexics, autistic persons etc.); physical (persons with physical or motor disabilities that prevent physical interaction with protected material); multiple (several disabilities including those specifically mentioned categories).

        In addition to identifying several categories of disabilities, the Report also considers that what would be an accessible format depends on the category of protected works and nature of disability.

      • Oracle files an opposition in its final (?) duel with Google

        It is not clear whether EPO president Campinos has already submitted the referral of case T 1063/18 to the Enlarged Board of Appeal and when the EBA will decide about it. But considering the reactions in just one week’s time, one can conclude that the referral will unlikely lead to Campinos’ proclaimed aim of restoring ‘legal certainty fully and speedily in the interest of the users of the European patent system and the general public.’ And it is a reason for concern that the Administrative Council, which has often been criticized in the last years for not controlling the president (for instance in the deep social conflicts, which unfortunately are far from over at the EPO) has given this obviously legally very questionable measure its ‘overwhelming support’.

      • Ironically, Too Many Video Streaming Choices May Drive Users Back To Piracy

        To be very clear the rise in streaming video competitors is a very good thing. It’s providing users with more choice, lower prices, and better customer service than consumers traditionally received from entrenched vanilla cable TV companies. It’s the perfect example of how disruption and innovation are supposed to work. And given the abysmal customer satisfaction ratings of most big cable TV providers, this was an industry that’s been absolutely begging for a disruptive kick in the ass since the 1980s.

        But we’ve also noted that, ironically, the glut of video choices–more specifically the glut of streaming exclusivity silos–risks driving users back to piracy. Studies predict that every broadcaster and their uncle will have launched their own direct-to-consumer streaming platform by 2022. Most of these companies are understandably keen on locking their own content behind exclusivity paywalls, whether that’s HBO Now’s Game of Thrones, or CBS All Access’s Stark Trek: Discovery.

        But as consumers are forced to pay for more and more subscriptions to get all of the content they’re looking for, they’re not only getting frustrated by the growing costs (defeating the whole point of cutting the cord), they’re frustrated by the experience of having to hunt and peck through an endlessly shifting sea of exclusivity arrangements and licensing deals that make it difficult to track where your favorite show or film resides this month.

        In response, there’s some early anecdotal data to suggest this is already happening. But because these companies are fixated on building market share, and this will likely be an industry-wide issue, most aren’t seeing the problem yet.

      • The European Parliament Introduces Radical Changes To Copyright Laws In The Internet Against The Advice Of Experts

        The European Parliament has passed the revised legislation governing copyright laws on the internet. The directive was passed after the original draft had been amended.

        The new law will require Google to obtain licences for the privilege of linking with publishers and that internet platforms self-police their sites for infringement of copyright, an onerous task given the amount of content uploaded.

        There was considerable objection to the reforms, mainly due to the belief that they would impinge on freedom of speech online. Over 200 academics from at least 25 research centres have lent their names to open letters opposing the new laws, particularly Articles 11, and 13 saying: “While the Proposed Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (COM(2016) 593 final) contains a number of reasonable, common sense measures (…), there are two provisions that are fundamentally flawed. They do not serve the public interest (…)There have been improvements to the initial drafts, but on balance, Articles 11 and 13 will do more harm than good. They should be deleted”.

      • Copyright Enforcement Service Claims $600 Billion-Worth Of Images Are ‘Stolen’ Every Day

        Ok then. Maybe next time, try to perform some of that “sufficient diligence” before hitting the “publish” button. Here’s a more likely explanation why so much infringement appears to be coming from Arizona: domain registrar GoDaddy is headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona and private registrations default to GoDaddy’s home address. This logic failure is especially ridiculous considering Copytrack suggested it was private domain registrations driving the surprisingly high amount of alleged infringement in Panama City, Panama — which leads the world in infringement percentage according to this report.

        Given Copytrack’s inability to rein in its statistical leaps of faith or its bizarre theories about mass infringement in the Arizona real estate industry, perhaps it shouldn’t have applied its… um… prowess to minutia no one cares about. But it did and so there’s a whole page dedicated to breaking down the resolutions most commonly “stolen.” This, unsurprisingly, turns out to be 1920×1080, followed by sizes commonly used by online publications to ensure viewability across a wide variety of platforms and devices (600×400). Basically, the most popular sizes for infringement are also the most popular sizes for non-infringing use.

      • Internet Archive rescues 450,000 of the songs that MySpace lost

        The “MySpace Dragon Hoard” contains 450,000 songs uploaded between 2008 and 2010, all presented as MP3 files with a search function and online player.

        It’s a drop in the ocean in relative terms – the lost hoard totals 53 million songs from 14 million artists, but given the ineptitude shown by MySpace (which is still a thing), this is an act of heroism by the Internet Archive.

      • German Court: If Parents Cover For Their Kid’s Piracy [sic], They Become Liable

        Parents who knowingly cover for their kid’s file-sharing offenses become liable for their actions, Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court has ruled. The decision brings to an end a case dating back to 2011, that involved the unlicensed distribution of the Rihanna album ‘Loud’ and a lengthy trip through lower courts.

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