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04.10.19

Links 10/4/2019: Microsoft’s GDPR Trouble, New Fedora 29 Images

Posted in News Roundup at 10:47 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • What the Linux desktop must have to become mainstream

    Linux runs the computing world. It is by far the most used operating system on servers and perhaps the only OS on supercomputers. It has taken over much of the mobile world thanks to Android and is on the cusp of taking a majority share in education via Chrome OS.

    The one area where it has had difficulty expanding year after year is the desktop. Not because it’s terrible at it but because it needs a few missing pieces that will stop the Year of the Linux desktop from being a running joke.

  • You’re in control

    If having a smart home isn’t your thing then we’ve got a healthy pile of smart things to do with your install of desktop Linux.

    [...]

    For project and tutorials we have more good news from getting started making music with Audacity, organising your photos in Shotwell, drawing useful diagrams with vectors, streaming games with Steam to creating stop motion animations with a Pi, exploring the new Web assembly language and troubleshooting serial connections there’s something for everyone who like tinkering with computers, so enjoy!

  • Desktop

    • The Asian Penguins

      When I was young, Apple computers dominated the schools I attended. The Apple II and, later, the Macintosh Plus were kings of the classroom in the late 1980s.

      This was a brilliant move by Apple Computer (this was back before Apple dropped the word “Computer” from its company name). Get the kids used to using Apple hardware and software, and then those kids will be more likely to use it when they grow up. Plus, the parents of the kids will become at least a little more likely to pick up Apple gear, so that any computer schoolwork can also be done at home. And, the same goes for the teachers. It’s just a fantastic strategy to encourage adoption of a computer platform.

      When it comes to Linux and, more generally, open-source software, there’s no singular company responsible for promoting the platform. Luckily, many individuals and small organizations have taken up the charge of teaching free and open-source software (like Linux) to the next generation of computer users.

      One such group is a computer club at a Hmong charter school in Minnesota known as the Asian Penguins.

    • PPT Article

      The Open Source Initiative®’s first African Affiliate, Powering Potential Inc. (PPI), is pleased to announce a pilot program expansion in Peru of their award-winning solar-powered Raspberry Pi computer labs already enhancing education throughout rural Tanzania, Africa.

      The organization has installed 29 solar-powered systems and 203 computers with servers in 29 secondary schools in Tanzania over the last 13 years. As a result, more than 23,000 students and teachers have been provided with direct access to educational materials and technology training with minimal impact to the environment.

      PPI created their Solar-Powered Access to Raspberry Computing (SPARC) installation model using Raspberry Pi computers with an abundance of open source software, such as RACHEL from WorldPossible.org, Kolibri from Learning Equality. Educational resources include Khan Academy videos, UNESCO textbooks, and Project Gutenberg literature with health and medical information.

      A basic SPARC lab installation consists of five Raspberry Pi computers, two 85-watt panels, three 108Ah batteries, a 15 amp charge controller, a 350 watt inverter, and a lightning arrester system. A SPARC+ installation includes 15 more computers, additional solar panels, six new batteries, and a new charge controller. PPI also uses local vendors to work with school districts to provide solar power and additional equipment.

    • Powering Potential Expands to Peru

      The Open Source Initiative’s first African Affiliate Member, Powering Potential Inc. (PPI), is pleased to announce the launch of their award-winning solar-powered Raspberry Pi computer labs in Peru. The pilot program builds on PPI’s successes already enhancing education throughout rural Tanzania, Africa.

      Over the past 13 years, PPI has installed 29 solar-powered systems, and 203 computers with servers, in 29 secondary schools across Tanzania. As a result, more than 23,000 students and teachers have been provided with direct access to educational materials and technology-training with minimal impact to the environment.

    • Reasons to abandon Windows for Linux

      Regardless of any preferences you think you might have, assuming you have the means to do so, it is always a good idea set some time apart every now and then and take a good look at the system you’re using, possible alternatives, and how difficult it would be to switch. This fosters the kind of thinking that prevents you from being locked into a platform or ecosystem too easily.

    • EU data regulator launches GDPR probe into Microsoft software deals

      Ultimately, claims the EDPS, the various institutions of the EU rely on Microsoft to conduct processing of large amounts of personal data. It wants to examine the nature of the contracts between the institutions and Microsoft to asses which software and services are being used, and whether the contractual arrangements are fully compliant with data protection rules.

    • BT Tower displays Windows 7 error message to Londoners

      British telecom giant BT (acronym redundant, we’re told) has been left with high-rise blushes after the BT Tower in London spent most of the weekend showing an error message.

  • Server

    • Red Hat Summit 2019 Track Guide: Integration & APIs

      As the industry increasingly embraces the idea of cloud-native and containerized workloads, finer-grained architectures like microservices are becoming a model for building these applications. This approach enables a more incremental style of development that can accelerate innovation, increase flexibility, and support digital transformation; however, one of the more profound implications of this shift is that there are many more components in the application ecosystem that need to connect and exchange data with one another at different levels.

      Integration has evolved as a way to meet this need for agile, lightweight, high performance connectivity. Red Hat Summit 2019 will feature dozens of sessions on integration, covering everything from APIs and events to messaging and streaming. The full list of sessions in the Integration & APIs track is available in the Summit session catalog.

    • Red Hat and Google Cloud: Fueling innovation in hybrid cloud

      Red Hat and Google Cloud have navigated open source skies as contributors within some of the same community projects since 2010. That common ground—fueled by a commitment to containers—has helped to evolve Red Hat’s relationship with Google Cloud into the collaboration we know today.

      In addition to our first interactions within Linux-based open source projects, Red Hat was an early supporter of Kubernetes, a Google-initiated open source project and now the de facto standard for container orchestration. The Cloud Native Computing Foundation took over management of Kubernetes upstream project in 2015. Google and Red Hat remain extensively involved in the community as first and second leading contributors, respectively, and as co-chairs of several special interest groups.

    • Managing RHEL 8 from your Mobile Device with the Web Console

      Before coming to work at Red Hat as a Technical Account Manager (TAM), I worked as a system administrator for many years. I participated in on-call rotations where I was available 24 hours a day in case any issues came up after hours.

      I would frequently get calls during the worst possible times. Perhaps I was at a theatre with a movie about to start, or at a restaurant with my family in the middle of a meal. In any case, if I had my laptop in the car, I would have to go out to the car, boot it up, log in, connect it to my phones hotspot, and start working. If my laptop wasn’t in the car, I had to drive back home.

      Although many of the calls turned out to be quick and easy (things like resetting a password or expanding a filesystem), it could be very disruptive since I either had to go out to the car to use a laptop or go back home.

      In RHEL 8 Beta, the Web Console (from the upstream project, Cockpit) brings a number of improvements. This includes features such as managing the firewall, and expanding filesystems. In addition, the Web Console is now compatible with mobile browsers. No additional application is needed on the mobile device, instead, it uses the mobile device’s web browser.

    • Adventures with Ansible: Lessons learned from real-world deployments

      Ansible is a powerful IT automation tool. Like most powerful tools, it takes time to master, and you need to learn to use it well, and safely, in your environment.

      Having used Ansible to automate deploying and managing enterprise applications, I’ve picked up a number of lessons that I consider best practices for automation with Ansible, and I would like to share them to help others. That is, after all, the open source way. Check out this Ansible beginner’s guide if you’re just getting started with the tool.

      I’ve been doing enterprise software for a long time, well before Ansible even existed. I remember the days of quarterly production deployment that took place overnight with a team of people on call to get a release working. Deployments were expensive, complex, inconsistent, and frustrating on so many levels.

      Getting away from that, and learning to automate software deployment more quickly and regularly, takes a lot of cultural and technical work. I’ll cover the cultural aspects in another post. Here I’d like to talk about a few of the practices I’ve picked up with Ansible to help make the most of its features and community.

    • Cloud Native Computing Foundation adopts Kubernetes-friendly container runtime

      A few years ago, Docker made containers popular. With the rise of Kubernetes container orchestration, Cloud Native Computing Foundation’s (CNCF) newly adopted open-source Container Runtime Interface — Orchestrator (CRI-O) runtime — CRI-O may rise to the top of container deployments.

      That’s because to run containers at scale you need an orchestration program. By the end of 2017, Kubernetes has become the most popular container orchestrator.

      You can, of course user Docker to run containers under Kubernetes. Indeed, Docker is still Kubernetes’ default container runtime. But the lightweight CRI-O runtime works hand-in-API-glove with Kubernetes.

    • OpenStack Stein Improves Cloud Identity and Orchestration

      Google is not the only vendor with cloud news this week as the open-source OpenStack cloud platform is set to announce its Stein release on April 10.

      OpenStack is comprised of a series of inter-related projects that can be put together in different combinations, to enable a complete cloud deployment. In the OpenStack Stein milestone, there are multiple projects that have integrated new and enhanced capabilities, as well as new projects that benefit cloud operators. Among the new projects is the OpenStack Placement service that enables operators to more efficiently track cloud resource inventories. The Heat orchestration project in the Stein release benefits from support to orchestrate new workload deployments across multiple OpenStack clouds.

      “OpenStack Stein comes with quite a few improvements around stability, performance and usability,” Marcin Bednarz, Product Manager at Canonical told eWEEK. “This proves how mature OpenStack has become and how it is evolving to address new use cases, such as Heat stack orchestration across multiple OpenStack clouds.”

  • Audiocasts/Shows

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux 5.2 To Enable GCC 9′s Live-Patching Option, Affecting Performance In Select Cases

      The GCC 9 compiler is due to be released in the next few weeks and among the many new and improved features is an option designed to help generate binaries that are friendly for live-patching purposes. With the Linux 5.2 kernel, this option will be used by default when building a kernel with live-patching support and that has the potential for some slight slowdowns.

      GCC 9 introduces the -flive-patching option that controls what optimizations are used in trying to ensure they don’t mess up (or yield unsafe behavior) if the binary is to potentially see live-patching for the applying of security updates against the running kernel without the need for a reboot. This is relevant for the likes of kGraft, Ksplice, and Kpatch in helping to ensure the GCC compiler doesn’t fudge their live-patching work.

    • Linux Creator Linus Torvalds Bashes Social Networks for Encouraging the Spread of Hate Speech!

      It has become quite difficult to find reliable news these days, especially on the Social Media platforms. There are multiple different versions of the same story. Linux’s Creator, Linus Torvalds heavily criticized and exposed the nature of Social Media during his interview with Robert Young, Linux Journal’s first publisher.

      According to Linus, Social Media websites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are responsible for the instigation of hatred. He also brought up how Facebook’s “liking and sharing” culture has tarnished the credibility of news. Linus said that Facebook’s clickbait content’s main purpose is to cause outrage among masses.

    • Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are ”a disease”, says the Linux creator

      Social media giants are facing a lot of criticism nowadays. There are various issues ranging from the spreading of extremist content to privacy breaches. Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux recently added a psychological angle to the story. Torvalds holds the view that social media networks are “a disease” and that they encourage bad behavior.

    • How to quickly deploy, run Linux applications as unikernels

      A unikernel is a very specialized single-address-space machine image that is similar to the kind of cloud applications that have come to dominate so much of the internet, but they are considerably smaller and are single-purpose. They are lightweight, providing only the resources needed. They load very quickly and are considerably more secure — having a very limited attack surface. Any drivers, I/O routines and support libraries that are required are included in the single executable. The resultant virtual image can then be booted and run without anything else being present. And they will often run 10 to 20 times faster than a container.

    • HermiTux: a unikernel that’s binary-compatible with Linux
    • HermiTux

      HermiTux is a unikernel: a minimal operating system with low memory/disk footprint and sub-second boot time, executing an application within a single address space on top of an hypervisor. Moreover, HermiTux is binary-compatible with Linux: it can run native Linux executables.

      Although being a proof-of-concept, HermiTux supports multiple compiled (C, C++, Fortran) and interpreted (Python, LUA) languages. It provides binary analysis and rewriting techniques to optimize system call latency and modularize a kernel in the presence of unmodified binaries. It supports statically and dynamically linked programs, different compilers and optimization levels. HermiTux also provides basic support for multithreading, debugging and profiling.

    • Linux Foundation

      • Volkswagen joins Automotive Grade Linux

        Automotive Grade Linux (AGL), described as a collaborative cross-industry effort developing an open source platform for connected car technologies, has announced that Volkswagen has joined it and the Linux Foundation, a non-profit organisation ‘enabling mass innovation through open source’.

      • Volkswagen Joins Automotive Grade Linux and the Linux Foundation to Accelerate Open Source Innovation and Shared Software Development

        Automotive Grade Linux is a collaborative open source project that is bringing together automakers, suppliers and technology companies to accelerate the development and adoption of a fully open software stack for the connected car. With Linux at its core, AGL is developing an open platform from the ground up that can serve as the de facto industry standard to enable rapid development of new features and technologies. Although initially focused on In-Vehicle-Infotainment (IVI), AGL is the only organization planning to address all software in the vehicle, including instrument cluster, heads up display, telematics, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous driving. The AGL platform is available to all, and anyone can participate in its development. Learn more: https://www.automotivelinux.org/

    • Graphics Stack

      • Intel OpenCL NEO Driver Becoming Available For Ubuntu 19.04 & Debian

        In February of 2018 Intel open-sourced their new OpenCL Linux driver dubbed “NEO” that is the replacement to their long-standing “Beignet” OpenCL driver. This modern OpenCL stack is on its way now to the repositories of Ubuntu and Debian distributions.

        OpenCL NEO is a much more capable driver than the Beignet code that now has been effectively unmaintained going back to the end of 2017. NEO relies upon LLVM as part of its compiler stack and is exposing OpenCL 2.1~2.2 functionality.

      • Intel NEO OpenCL driver for Disco

        It’s still possible these might end up in the 19.04 release, we’ll see. They’re also uploaded to Debian, though with the Buster release keeping everyone busy I’m sure it’ll take some time to get them all through the NEW queue.

    • Benchmarks

  • Applications

    • Duc – A Collection Of Tools To Inspect And Visualize Disk Usage

      Duc is a collection of tools that can be used to index, inspect and visualize disk usage on Unix-like operating systems. Don’t think of it as a simple CLI tool that merely displays a fancy graph of your disk usage. It is built to scale quite well on huge filesystems. Duc has been tested on systems that consisted of more than 500 million files and several petabytes of storage without any problems.

      Duc is quite fast and versatile tool. It stores your disk usage in an optimized database, so you can quickly find where your bytes are as soon as the index is completed. In addition, it comes with various user interfaces and back-ends to access the database and draw the graphs.

    • GStreamer support for the RIST Specification

      Over the last few months, I had the chance to work with Net Insight to implement the RIST TR-06-1 Simple Profile support in GStreamer. You may wonder what this specification is and were it comes from. RIST stands for Reliable Internet Stream Transport, and the specification is developed by the Video Services Forum, which regroups nearly all major companies producing streaming appliance for television production. Unlike other alternatives, this specification was not created from scratch but is based on already deployed streaming solutions. The Forum basically combined what each member company had been doing in order to create a variant that would allow interoperability between each others.

    • Host ‘Network Interfaces’ panel removed from virt-manager

      I released virt-manager 2.0.0 in October 2018. Since the release contained the full port to python3, it seemed like a good opportunity to drop some baggage from the app.

      The biggest piece we removed was the UI for managing host network interfaces. This is the Connection Details->Network Interfaces panel, and the ‘New Interface’ wizard for defining host network definitions for things like bridges, bonds, and vlan devices. The main screen of the old UI looked like this:

    • Best IP Address Management Tools for Linux

      If you are a network administrator, you surely know, how important it is to keep track of the leased IP addresses within your network and easily manage those addresses. For short the IP address management process is called IPAM. It is crucial to have a management tool to help you track allocation and classify your IP addresses, which can help you avoid network conflicts and outages.

      IPAM software provides you with an overview of your network, gives you the opportunity to strategically plan your network growth and gives you the ability to provide more reliable service and reduce the number of manual administration tasks.

      In this article, we are going to review some of the best IPAM software that you can use to manage IP addresses.

    • 10 Best Free Linux Document Processors

      A document processor is a document preparation system. Unlike a word processor, this type of application leads the author to concentrate on the structure of the document rather than its appearance. The author therefore focuses on what he/she wants to say, instead of fretting over page borders, font attributes, or formatting. Moreover, the author will be guided in the organization, structure, and flow within the document.

      The software featured in this article all produce high quality professional documents. The majority of them rely on LaTeX as their rendering engine. LaTeX is a distinguished typesetting system which is designed for the production of scientific and technical documentation. It employs beautifully crafted typesetting algorithms. Academic journals will often accept submission in this format.

    • 10 Best Comic Book Viewers for Linux

      We have covered several ebook and PDF readers on FossMint and while some are advanced enough to parse digital comic books, they don’t always offer users all the features that allow for a complete comic reading experience.

      Here is a list of the best applications created with viewing comic books in mind – dedicated comic book viewers for Linux.

    • 8 Best File And Disk Encryption Tools For Linux

      Let’s look into the list of the best file and disk encryption tools for Linux based operating systems.

    • Proprietary

      • Hollywood-Grade Video Editor DaVinci Resolve 16 Beta Released

        Blackmagic Design has released DaVinci Resolve 16 beta yesterday with new exciting features like neural engine with face recognition, new cut page, and more.

        DaVinci Resolve is a professional color correction and video editing application for Windows, macOS and Linux. Two versions are available: a commercial version called DaVinci Resolve Studio, and a free edition, formerly known as DaVinci Resolve Lite.

      • WPS Office Updates For Linux!

        I prefer the previous WPS interface. However, the new interface isn’t too bad. I feel like I’m using a browser when typing documents in this latest version of WPS Office.
        Based on my experience, in this version, WPS runs lighter and smoother than the previous version on the laptop that I use.How do you think? Hopefully useful, ENJOY!.

      • Microsoft Say Edge May Come to Linux “Eventually”
      • ‘Snip’ Converts Math Screenshots Into LaTeX

        A new math tool called “Snip” is creating a buzz on Twitter. Thousands of netizens are sharing the tool, which is being heralded as a “life changer” for scientific writing. Researchers and students can spend hours typing mathematical equations in the technical and scientific documentation typesetting system LaTeX — a task that Snip can now complete in seconds.

      • No one, not even the Secret Service, should randomly plug in a strange USB stick [Ed: Microsoft Zack assumes everyone uses Windows, which treats insertion of a USB stick as reason to execute arbitrary programs. ISS dumped Windows for this reason.]

        The case follows a Chinese national, Yujing Zhang, who is accused of trying to sneak into President Trump’s private Florida resort Mar-a-Largo last month. She was caught by the Secret Service with four cellphones, a laptop, cash, an external hard drive, a signals detector to spot hidden cameras, and a thumb drive.

        The arrest sparked new concerns about the president’s security amid concerns that foreign governments have tried to infiltrate the resort.

        Allegations aside and notwithstanding, what sent alarm bells ringing was how the Secret Service handled the USB drive, which cannot be understated — it was not good.

      • Secret Service learns why you don’t plug strange USB drives into computers [Ed: Microsoft Windows, not "computers"]

        After collaring a woman who got past security at Mar-a-Lago (described by Chris Hayes as President Donald Trump’s “bribery palace”) the Secret Service found a USB drive in her possession. So they stuck it in a computer to see what was on it.

      • ‘She lies to everyone’: Feds say Mar-a-Lago intruder had hidden-camera detector in hotel [iophk: "Windows mindset, Windows TCO"]

        A federal prosecutor argued in court Monday that Yujing Zhang, the Chinese woman arrested trying to enter President Donald Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, “lies to everyone she encounters,” adding that a search of her hotel room uncovered more than $8,000 in cash, as well as a “signal-detector” device used to reveal hidden cameras.

      • Thumb drive carried by Mar-a-Lago intruder immediately installed files on a [Windows computer]

        The details came to light at a bond hearing on Monday in a Florida federal court. There, a Secret Service agent testified that the malware Zhang carried was capable of infecting a computer as soon as the thumb drive was plugged in. According to a report published Monday by the Miami Herald: [...]

      • Chinese Woman Arrested at Mar-a-Lago Had a Hidden Camera Detector, Prosecutors Say

        Mr. Ivanovich testified that the computer analyst who reviewed Ms. Zhang’s devices said that the thumb drive she was carrying had immediately begun installing malware.

        “He stated that he had to immediately stop the analysis and shut off his [Windows] computer to halt the corruption,” Mr. Ivanovich said.

      • Chinese Intruder at Mar-a-Lago to Stay in Jail Another Week

        Secret Service agent Samuel Ivanovich testified Monday that another agent put the USB drive into his computer and it immediately began to install files. The agent shut down the computer to prevent a possible infection, but Ivanovich couldn’t identify the malware. The device is still being analyzed, Ivanovich said.

      • Mar-a-Lago mystery Chinese malware lady to stay in jail for another week
    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Games

      • The Humble Humongous Entertainment Bundle is up and a great deal if you have children

        The Humble Humongous Entertainment Bundle just went live and honestly it’s a fantastic deal if you have children with quite a few games included.

      • Linux Game Jam 2019 is officially live, go make something cool

        Have some time free over the next 9 days? The Linux Game Jam 2019 just launched and could be a way for you to show off a little or just have some fun.

        The rules are pretty simple: it must have a Linux build, programming for the game has to be done during the Game Jam to be fair, give clear instructions on how to run the game, extra points if it’s open source, it must be submitted to their itch.io page before April 20th 2019 at 4 AM UTC.

        What’s really fun to see, is that they have managed to pull in a few experienced developers to act as mentors and give advice this year.

      • Your Future Self, a story-driven experimental text adventure has released a Linux version

        How about something a little different? Your Future Self is a somewhat short at 1-2 hours story-driven experimental text adventure and it’s now supported on Linux.

        It actually looks pretty good and the few user reviews it has make it sound quite interesting. The developer promises a “gripping, suspenseful, emotionally charged narrative” that deals with some current politically important topics such as “climate change, refugee crises, and mental illness”.

      • The MMO ‘Albion Online’ has officially gone free to play and it supports Linux

        For those who are itching to play an MMO on Linux but don’t want to pay a subscription, Albion Online just opened up the flood gates.

        Unlike a lot of MMOs Albion Online doesn’t have traditional classes, quests and it’s very much a sandbox do whatever you want experience. It’s a little odd and focused a lot on player versus player combat, although the recent Oberon update made improvements for PvE and there’s a lot of features for bigger groups of players and Guilds.

      • Dandara, a gravity-defying 2d metroidvania platformer that’s worth a look

        Have you played Dandara? It’s a 2d metroidvania platformer that’s pretty unique, as you don’t run along platforms like other similar games. Instead, you defy gravity by zipping from place to place and it’s very interesting to play.

        Dandara was originally released with Linux support back in February of last year. Sadly, I never got a response to my request for a key to take a look at it. Thankfully, Humble Store sent me a copy of their recent Humble Monthly and Dandara was one of the included games.

      • Online FPS ‘War Brokers’ updated with a friends system, spectator mode and more

        War Brokers is a pretty good online FPS that has a number of different game modes like Battle Royale, Team Deathmatch and more. It also has vehicles and a lot of other surprising features.

        Very much an indie game though and considering it’s Early Access, there’s plenty of rough edges. Promising though, one I do enjoy jumping into now and then for a few rounds.

      • GZDoom 4.0.0 released with their experimental Vulkan support

        GZDoom, the incredibly popular game engine for Doom and all sorts of mods and entirely new games has a major release now available.

        As reported by a guest post here on GamingOnLinux last month, the GZDoom team has been working on getting Vulkan support in. This is the first major step, as it’s available in the 4.0.0 release but they do very clearly note that it’s in the alpha stages and will likely crash and burn. However, it should work fine with vanilla Doom. To try it out, simply use the “+vid_backend 0″ launch code and “+vid_backend 1″ to go back to OpenGL.

      • Surviving Mars: Green Planet to introduce terraforming, releasing in Q2 this year

        Paradox just announced Surviving Mars: Green Planet, a new expansion coming later in Q2 this year and it sounds exciting.

        “Terraforming the surface of Mars is something that has captivated gamers and the human imagination for as long as we can remember. It’s something that we took special care to develop and make sure we got right,” said Gabriel Dobrev, CEO at Haemimont Games. “Terraforming has been our community’s most-requested feature since Surviving Mars launched last year and we are thrilled to finally share it with the Green Planet expansion.”

        I have to admit, this was something I was really hoping they would do. While I greatly enjoy Surviving Mars, it can be a little dull in terms of looks so giving it a good bit of colour sounds great.

      • The next release of the free and open source racer ‘Yorg’ sounds like it’s going to be great

        Yorg, a free and open source racing game currently in development that seems promising is going to get a big update soon with a number of new features and improvements.

        Coming for the 0.11 release will be local multiplayer, particle effects, gamepad support, a reimplementation of the online multiplayer UI, AI improvements, performance improvements and more. Sounds like it’s going to be a pretty huge release!

      • GRUB 2.04-rc1 Released, Mozilla Designing Better Security Messages, Back Door Discovered in Compromised Version of bootstrap-sass, Lutris 0.5.2 Released and OpenVPN3 Linux v5 Beta Now Available

        Lutris, the open-source game launcher, has a new release. According to GamingonLinux, some of the changes in version 0.5.2 include “avoid a crash if the lutris config file is corrupted”, “install Asian fonts by default on Wine prefix creation”, “add Vulkan ICD loaders in system options”, “replace joystick panel with Wine config panel” and more.

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

  • Distributions

    • Reviews

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • SUSECON – Cloud Talkin’

        With over 1,000 attendees from 45 different countries, SUSECON was a truly global affair with a uniquely country twist.

      • Karma chameleon: Reg hack takes SUSE mascot plushy right in the kisser

        Some might say we had it coming, but as newly minted SUSE Engineering boss Thomas Di Giacomo’s keynote came to an end, this Reg hack took a chameleon to the face.

        Admittedly, the plush toy didn’t do any damage, being soft and cuddly. Which is how Linux veteran SUSE likes to market itself – friendly to developers and enterprises alike.

        While the president of engineering, product and innovation at SUSE was keen to trot out the multi-cloud vision via an increasingly tortured gaming metaphor (as well as educating the audience in the pronunciation of SUSE) things got a bit more Serverless in an interview.

        Preferring the term “Function as a Service”, Di Giacomo told us that serving up the tech for developers is the next logical step for SUSE. Then he sloshed around the bucket of scorn a little: “Today there’s no good open-source function service solution that is completely agnostic.”

        Knative? “It’s good for Google, it’s good for IBM, it doesn’t run on Microsoft Azure, it doesn’t run on AWS.”

      • Why You Should Attend OpenSUSE Conference

        The openSUSE Conference begins Friday, May 24, at 10 a.m. and will finish on Sunday, May 26. The openSUSE Conference is the annual openSUSE community event that brings people from around the world together to meet and collaborate. The organized talks, workshops, and BoF sessions provide a framework around more casual meet ups and hack sessions. A party here and there provides the time to relax and have fun, making connections on a more personal level.

      • SUSE CTO of Americas talks about container adoption

        In this interview Brent Schroeder – Americas’ CTO of SUSE talks about some trends he has noticed in the industry.

      • Thomas Di Giacomo Interview at SUSECON

        In this interview Thomas Di Giacomo of SUSE and Swapnil Bhartiya of TFIR discussed a wide range of topics including the new role of Di Giacomo, what happened to SUSE’ CTO office; how digital transformation is a misleading term and games. Yes. Games!

      • Exclusive Interview with SUSE CEO, Nils Brauckmann
      • Nils Brauckmann Talks about the evolution of SUSE

        SUSE CEO Nils Brauckmann discusses the evolution of SUSE under his leadership. If you like our coverage, you can become

    • Fedora

      • F29-20190409 updated Live isos Released

        The Fedora Respins SIG is pleased to announce the latest release of Updated F29-20190409 Live ISOs, carrying the 5.0.6-200 kernel.

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

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

      • Fedora 29 : Thonny editor for python.

        This Python IDE for beginners named Thonny is a simple editor with Python 3.7 built in.
        The official webpage can be found here and the GitHub project page is this.

      • ARM laptops running Linux coming “very soon”

        Red Hat’s Peter Robinson revealed that the joint force would target the Snapdragon 850 processors initially and that means laptops like Lenovo Yoga c360 could be the target device. Needless to say, the two companies will target other flagship ARM processors including the Snapdragon 8cx, the world’s first 7-nm based processor for Windows 10 on ARM.

        Now if all the Linux distributions(or at least the popular ones) also engage in similar projects then I’d argue that it’s a potential threat to Microsoft’s Windows on ARM initiative given the fact that Linux powered ARM devices will have an edge over those running Windows when it comes to pricing. Linux is open source and it’s free.

        There isn’t any information regarding the compatibility. Whether Linux on ARM devices can run Linux programs in their current format is yet to be seen. But if it succeeds in doing so, add this one too as an advantage of using Linux on ARM over Windows.

    • Debian Family

      • Derivatives

        • MX Linux 18.2 is here — download the Debian-based operating system now

          With the Linux Mint development being severely strained, and the future of that particular operating system being in slight doubt, many Linux “haters” are seemingly taking pleasure. Hardcore fans of Microsoft Windows will point to the Mint situation as proof that Linux (and open source ideology overall) doesn’t have a future on the desktop. Thankfully, these negative people couldn’t be more wrong. Regardless of what happens with Mint, Linux still has a bright future — not only on mobile and servers, but desktop too. Maybe that success will be Chrome OS or Android. Whatever. The point is, the open source Linux kernel cannot be stopped.

          As people are concerned about Linux Mint, another distro has been gaining in popularity. While not new, the attention it gets has been growing lately. Called “MX Linux,” it is based on the excellent Debian Stable and uses the lightweight Xfce desktop environment by default. If you are intrigued by this newly en vogue distro, I have good news — a new version is available for download. While not a major release,the 18.2 ISO is chock full of changes, fixes, and of course, updated packages. If you hate systemd (as many do), I have good news — it is not enabled by default (although it is included).

        • New Raspbian Brings Performance Improvements, Updated Packages To Raspberry Pi

          The Raspberry Pi Foundation has released a new version of Raspbian, its Debian-based operating system for Raspberry Pi devices.

          Raspbian 2019-04-08 is the new release that remains based on Debian Stretch but with a number of changes on top. This is the first official update to Raspbian since last November and has upgraded to Chromium 72 and the VLC 3.0.6 media player along with a number of other updated packages.

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Mozilla Security Blog: DNS-over-HTTPS Policy Requirements for Resolvers

        Over the past few months, we’ve been experimenting with DNS-over-HTTPS (DoH), a protocol which uses encryption to protect DNS requests and responses, with the goal of deploying DoH by default for our users. Our plan is to select a set of Trusted Recursive Resolvers (TRRs) that we will use for DoH resolution in Firefox. Those resolvers will be required to conform to a specific set of policies that put privacy first.

      • Hacks.Mozilla.Org: Teaching machines to triage Firefox bugs

        Mozilla receives hundreds of bug reports and feature requests from Firefox users every day. Getting bugs to the right eyes as soon as possible is essential in order to fix them quickly. This is where bug triage comes in: until a developer knows a bug exists, they won’t be able to fix it.

        Given the large number of bugs filed, it is unworkable to make each developer look at every bug (at the time of writing, we’d reached bug number 1536796!). This is why, on Bugzilla, we group bugs by product (e.g. Firefox, Firefox for Android, Thunderbird, etc.) and component (a subset of a product, e.g. Firefox::PDF Viewer).

        Historically, the product/component assignment has been mostly done manually by volunteers and some developers. Unfortunately, this process fails to scale, and it is effort that would be better spent elsewhere.

      • Mozilla Future Releases Blog: Protections Against Fingerprinting and Cryptocurrency Mining Available in Firefox Nightly and Beta

        At Mozilla, we have been working hard to protect you from threats and annoyances on the web, so you can live your online life with less to worry about. Last year, we told you about adapting our approach to anti-tracking given the added importance of keeping people’s information on the web private in today’s climate. We talked about blocking tracking while also offering a clear set of controls to give our users more choice over what information they share with sites. One of the three key initiatives we listed was mitigating harmful practices like fingerprinting and cryptomining. We have added a feature to block fingerprinting and cryptomining in Firefox Nightly as an option for users to turn on.

      • Firefox will block sneaky cryptocurrency and tracking software

        Firefox is getting the ability to cut off two ugly parts of the web: software that uses your computer to mine cryptocurrency — not for your benefit — and that tracks you even when you don’t agree to be tracked.

        Firefox Nightly and Beta — two test versions of the open-source browser — have an option to block the crypto mining and the tracking technology, called fingerprinting. They’re switched off unless you change the setting in preferences for now, but Mozilla plans to turn it on by default, the nonprofit said.

        Mozilla, which is trying to reclaim influence lost to Google’s dominant Chrome and rid the web of some of its bad habits, announced the changes in a blog post Tuesday.

      • Mozilla Preparing To Test WebRender With “Qualified” Linux Use
      • 10 unicorn themes for Firefox to make Unicorn Day extra magical.

        Unicorn Day is a new holiday created to “celebrate these majestic creatures and help adults remember how much more fun life can be when we let a little magic in.”

        This makes sense when you consider that unicorns have been loved for thousands of years. They’ve trotted into Ancient Greek and Mesopotamian mythology. They’ve pranced into fairy tales, movies and books.

        If you own a pair of unicorn slippers, you know a little ‘corn can add a lot of wonder. So, if you’re thinking that a Unicorn Day theme is in order, you’re in luck.

      • This Week in Rust 281
  • BSD

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • GRUB 2.04 Release Candidate Brings Globs Of New Features

      With being two years in development, there is a lot of new functionality with GRUB 2.04. Among the changes for this GNU boot-loader are supporting multiple early initrd images, support for the F2FS file-system, a verifier framework, RISC-V support, UEFI Secure Boot shim support, Btrfs Zstd improvements, Btrfs RAID5/RAID6 support, Xen PVH support, UEFI TPM 1.2/2.0 support, and a lot of other work… It’s really quite a big release all around.

    • Purism at LibrePlanet 2019 – Showcasing the Librem 5 Phone

      This year’s edition of LibrePlanet went on so well, we had people stopping by to ask questions before the conference was open for the day.

      Purism’s booth was busy, and people were happy to see us. Nearly everyone we talked to had been following our progress, and everyone was excited to see things in-person. We showcased the fourth version of Librem laptops, and made regular demonstrations of both PureBoot on a Librem 13v4 and Librem Key. Above all, we drew a lot of excitement around the in-person viewing of the Librem 5 devkit. So much excitement, we really wanted to write about the commotion caused by the Librem 5 development – and specially about the devkit demonstration – not only among the audience but also within our own team members.

      The Librem 5 phone may still be months away from delivery, but the Librem 5 devkit is under very rapid development. Showcasing our progress is something we’re very proud of, so at the first day of LibrePlanet we whet the appetite of audience members by showcasing sub ten-second boot times from powered-off state to unlock-screen… and we also showed off the initial application support of calling, settings, chat/sms, and browser.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • Why I don’t care about CPU architecture: my emotional journey

        When OSNews covered the RISC V architecture recently, I was struck by my own lack of excitement. I looked into it, and the project looks intriguing, but it didn’t move me on an emotional level like a new CPU architecture development would have done many years ago. I think it’s due to a change in myself, as I have got older. When I first got into computers, in the early 80s, there was a vibrant environment of competing designs with different approaches. This tended to foster an interest, in the enthusiast, in what was inside the box, including the CPU architecture. Jump forwards to the current era, and the computer market is largely homogenized to a single approach for each class of computing device, and this means that there is less to get excited about in terms of CPU architectures in general. I want to look at what brought about this change in myself, and maybe these thoughts will resonate with some of you.

        [...]

        So, this raises the question, is there any rational reason to care about the CPU architecture nowadays, and thinking about that, was there ever?

  • Programming/Development

    • Rust never sleeps: C++-alike language tops Stack Overflow survey for fourth year in a row

      It seems coders cannot get enough of Rust, according to a survey conducted by dev saviours Stack Overflow.

      The 2019 survey had almost 90,000 (a bit down on the 100,000 from 2018) developers venting their collective spleen on life, languages and loathings.

      While C++-alike Rust retained its crown as the most-beloved language by developers for the fourth year in a row, Python and TypeScript moved to second and third place respectively, sending Kotlin to fourth.

      Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) was unsurprisingly the language developers really, really didn’t want to have to keep using while Python and JavaScript topped the list of languages that developers want to start working with.

    • Protocol Buffer Definitions in Packages

      The protocol buffer compiler uses relative path names from the directory you specify with ‘-I’ to the directory where the .proto files are to guess the package names for the resulting files. So if your CI does a chdir to your .protos directory you will wind up with all of the rpc/pb2 modules as top-level modules.

    • AnacondaCON 2019 Day 3 Recap: The Need for Speed, “Delightful UX” in Dev Tools, LOTR Jokes and More.

      Everyone at Anaconda is still feeling the love AnacondaCON 2019. Day 3 wrapped up last Friday with one more day of talks and sessions, highlighted by some powerhouse keynotes.

    • Running Python Scripts

      One of the most important skills you need to build as a Python developer is to be able to run Python scripts and code. This is going to be the only way for you to know if your code works as you planned. It’s even the only way of knowing if your code works at all!

      This step-by-step course will guide you through a series of ways to run Python scripts, depending on your environment, platform, needs, and skills as a programmer.

    • Trey Hunner: The problem with inheriting from dict and list in Python
    • Self Driving Disaster | Coder Radio 352
    • PyCoder’s Weekly: Issue #363 (April 9, 2019)
    • How long does it take to learn Python?
    • Python for NLP: Topic Modeling
    • Developer Survey Results

      This year, nearly 90,000 developers told us how they learn and level up, which tools they’re using, and what they want.

    • Programming languages: Developers reveal most loved, most loathed, what pays best

      Developer knowledge-sharing site Stack Overflow has released its 2019 annual developer survey, revealing the most popular programming languages and which languages are linked to the highest salaries worldwide and in the US.

      If you’re a programmer who loves Rust, Python, and TypeScript, you’re not alone, according Stack Overflow’s 2019 survey, which asked 90,000 developers around the world what their most loved, dreaded, and wanted languages were.

    • FOSS Means Kids Can Have a Big Impact

      Working at a company that creates free and open-source software (FOSS) and hosts all of our code on GitHub, my team and I at UserLAnd Technologies are used to seeing and reviewing contributions, which are called pull requests, from users. Recently, however, we received a pull request that is very special to me. It was from an eight-year-old, and not just any eight-year-old, but my daughter.

    • Coding in Python 27 – Creating Linux instances with the Linode API
    • Eclipse Wild Web Developer adds a powerful YAML editor with built-in Kubernetes support

      YAML Ain’t Markup Language (YAML) has grown increasingly popular during the past few years. It is a human-readable text-based format for specifying configuration information and is used in many platforms, such as Kubernetes and Red Hat OpenShift.

      Eclipse Wild Web Developer is a language-based extension that provides a rich development experience for developing typical web and configuration files in the Eclipse IDE. According to the project page, “Eclipse Wild Web Developer relies on existing mainstream and maintained components to provide the language smartness, over popular configuration files like TextMate and protocols like Language Server Protocol or Debug Adapter Protocol.”

    • Next C++ workshop: Linked Lists, 11 April at 18:00 UTC

      Another workshop is coming up! Improve your C++ skills with the help of LibreOffice developers: we’re running regular workshops which focus on a specific topic, and are accompanied by a real-time IRC meeting. For the next one, the topic is Linked Lists. Start by watching this presentation:

    • What to do when Java SE 11 removes JNLP

      For about the past 15 years, an organization I work with has used the Java Network Launching Protocol (JNLP) to internally distribute a Java Swing desktop application to its users.

      To access the Java Swing application, users had to install a specific version of Java Platform, Standard Edition (Java SE) that contained support for JNLP. When they wanted to use the application, they would click on the link in the organization’s intranet, and the Java Web Start (javaws) program would download the XML at the link, interpret it, download the current version of the application if necessary, and run it, all while managing the security sandbox where the application ran. In other words, it was a nice, low-ceremony way to distribute a completely configured application to everyone’s desktop.

    • Qt sensors just got better on Android

      April was quite quiet so I decided to rewrite the Android sensors plugin (no, this is not a late April fool’s joke).

      Why on earth did I want to do that? Why try to fix something that works? After all, the current implementation faithfully served us for years!

      I decided to rewrite it after I did some performance tests that showed some surprising numbers. When I used the NDK API to get sensors data, the CPU usage dropped from over 60% to even less than 20% (it fluctuates from 15% up to 30%)! Yup, that’s a surprising performance improvement, which TBH I hadn’t expected at all!

      I expected it to be faster, as the NDK API doesn’t need to move the data to JAVA and then back to C/C++ world (via JNI) but, I never dreamed it would be that fast!

    • JavaScript Is The Most Popular Programming Language: Stack Overflow Survey

      Developers and programming enthusiasts eagerly await the results of the annual Stack Overflow survey every year. It’s the world’s largest and most comprehensive survey to involve programmers and their preferences. The 2019 edition of this survey touched about 90,000 developers and the results are finally here.

      In this article, I’ll be particularly focusing on the most popular programming languages and technologies being used today. This will be followed by a series of other articles in the upcoming days that’ll discuss other aspects of the survey.

Leftovers

  • An “Open Pay Wall”, has Medium lost its mind?

    Today’s attempt to transform Medium into a walled garden is, at best, stupid and dangerous. But it is a reminder that we should never trust a centralised place.

    When Medium started to launch a paying subscription, not knowing yet what to offer to pay members, I thought they understood it. I happily jumped on the wagon and spent $5 a month to support the platform.

    Finally, a platform was reacting to the “free ad myth”, the fantasy that ads provide money without having to return anything in exchange. Finally, someone was acknowledging that advertising was hurting our brains and transforming every content creator into a sausage salesperson. It was time for creators to be paid directly by people consuming their work.

  • Science

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Mitch McConnell’s Lie-Filled Tirade Against Medicare for All Draws Cheers From For-Profit Hospital Industry

      Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell drew applause from leaders of the hospital industry on Tuesday morning as he called on those who profit from the nation’s broken healthcare system to swarm Washington, D.C. to thwart the growing momentum of Medicare for All.

      Denouncing the program as a “radical scheme,” McConnell told the American Hospital Association (AHA) that their help is needed on Capitol Hill to defeat the increasingly popular idea.

      “This radical scheme would be serious bad news for America’s hospital industry,” McConnell told the gathering. “You should not be the guinea pigs in some far left social experiment.”

      Although Republicans continually portray Medicare for All as an untested, experimental system, universal healthcare is a well-established program in dozens of developed countries around the world.

      McConnell also referred to the program as “Medicare for None,” claiming it would “hollow out the [Medicare] program until there’s nothing left but the label.”

    • ‘Siding With Big Pharma at Expense of the American People,’ Republicans Warn CEOs Not to Cooperate With Drug Price Probe

      Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), leaders of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, sent letters (pdf) to a dozen drug company CEOs “warning that information they provide to the committee could be leaked to the public by Democratic chair Elijah Cummings in an effort to tank their stock prices,” Buzzfeed reported Monday.

      Cummings, a Democrat from Maryland, launched his investigation in January with a request for “information and communications on price increases, investments in research and development, and corporate strategies to preserve market share and pricing power” from pharmaceutical giants such as Pfizer, Novartis, Johnson & Johnson, and others.

      In their letters to the same pharmaceutical companies, Jordan and Meadows suggested that Cummings is attempting to obtain information that “would likely harm the competitiveness of your company if disclosed publicly.”

    • Decriminalizing the Drug War?

      We live in a time of change, when people are questioning old assumptions and seeking new directions. In the ongoing debate over health care, social justice, and border security, there is, however, one overlooked issue that should be at the top of everyone’s agenda, from Democratic Socialists to libertarian Republicans: America’s longest war. No, not the one in Afghanistan. I mean the drug war.

      For more than a century, the U.S. has worked through the U.N. (and its predecessor, the League of Nations) to build a harsh global drug prohibition regime — grounded in draconian laws, enforced by pervasive policing, and punished with mass incarceration. For the past half-century, the U.S. has also waged its own “war on drugs” that has complicated its foreign policy, compromised its electoral democracy, and contributed to social inequality. Perhaps the time has finally come to assess the damage that drug war has caused and consider alternatives.

      Even though I first made my mark with a 1972 book that the CIA tried to suppress on the heroin trade in Southeast Asia, it’s taken me most of my life to grasp all the complex ways this country’s drug war, from Afghanistan to Colombia, the Mexican border to inner-city Chicago, has shaped American society. Last summer, a French director doing a documentary interviewed me for seven hours about the history of illicit narcotics. As we moved from the seventeenth century to the present and from Asia to America, I found myself trying to answer the same relentless question: What had 50 years of observation actually drilled into me, beyond some random facts, about the character of the illicit traffic in drugs?

    • Profiles In Ruling Class Chutzpah

      Multimillionaire former President Barack Obama, 2017′s Kennedy prize winner, traveled all the way to Germany over the weekend in order to scold what he called American health care “purists” who have the crazy nerve to challenge the status quo. He called the current battle between Congressional centrists, like Pelosi, and progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Pramila Jayapal a “circular firing squad.”

      [...]

      Obama made his latest antisocial remarks in Germany during a fund-raising “town hall” to benefit his own philanthrocapitalist foundation, so as not to be seen as directly interfering with party politics within the confines of the contiguous United States. He had previously met behind closed doors with Congressional freshmen to warn them against Medicare for All and to confront them with the usual “how you gonna pay for it!” bullying tactics. With a reported net worth now in the $100 million range only two years after leaving office, he made it abundantly clear that he and other wealthy people do not want to be taxed one more penny for the greater public good.

    • #EndTheLies, Declare Reproductive Rights Advocates as Senate GOP Pushes 20-Week Abortion Ban

      Pro-choice advocates’ demands to #StopTheBans and #EndTheLies came in response to a 10am Senate Judiciary Committee hearing called by Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to promote the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S.160), which the senator has sponsored since 2013.

      “This hearing is a political stunt that has real consequences,” said Dr. Kristyn Brandi of Physicians for Reproductive Health (PRH).

      “Instead of listening to the expertise of medical organizations, healthcare providers, and the real-life situations of patients and families, anti-abortion politicians used this hearing to spread misinformation and stigma about abortion care,” Brandi added. “This is plain wrong.”

  • Security

    • Linux Server Hardening Using Idempotency with Ansible: Part 1

      I think it’s safe to say that the need to frequently update the packages on our machines has been firmly drilled into us. To ensure the use of latest features and also keep security bugs to a minimum, skilled engineers and even desktop users are well-versed in the need to update their software.

      Hardware, software and SaaS (Software as a Service) vendors have also firmly embedded the word “firewall” into our vocabulary for both domestic and industrial uses to protect our computers. In my experience, however, even within potentially more sensitive commercial environments, few engineers actively tweak the operating system (OS) they’re working on, to any great extent at least, to bolster security.

      Standard fare on Linux systems, for example, might mean looking at configuring a larger swap file to cope with your hungry application’s demands. Or, maybe adding a separate volume to your server for extra disk space, specifying a more performant CPU at launch time, installing a few of your favorite DevOps tools, or chucking a couple of certificates onto the filesystem for each new server you build. This isn’t quite the same thing.

    • Security updates for Tuesday
    • Optimising IoT bandwith with delta updates [Ed: Canonical is pushing proprietary software again; using Snap. These are ads in their blogs… last week a paid press releases for Microsoft.]
    • 6 Kubernetes security questions, answered

      If you’re asking questions about Kubernetes to learn more about the platform, security will be on your list. The good news: both the open source project and the commercial platforms that sit on top of it have plenty of strong security-related features baked in. Moreover, there’s a lively Kubernetes community with a shared interest in the ongoing security of the orchestration tool.

      “The Kubernetes community has had security at the forefront of their minds from the start,” says Wei Lein Dang, VP of products at StackRox.

      As with many technologies, though, the security risks tend to follow the adoption curve. So as the use of containers expands, expect Kubernetes to become an important focal point for security in containerized environments.

    • The security of dependencies

      So you’ve written some software. It’s full of open source dependencies. These days all software is full of open source, there’s no way around it at this point. I explain the background in my previous post.

      Now that we have all this open source, how do we keep up with it? If you’re using a lot of open source in your code there could be one or more updated dependencies per day!

      Step one is knowing what you have. There are a ton of ways to do this, but I’m going to bucket things into 3 areas.

    • Buffer Overflow Vulnerability in TP-Link Routers Can Allow Remote Attackers to Take Control

      Internet routers are among the most ubiquitous devices home and business users depend on every day to carry out communications, banking, shopping and commercial transactions. IBM Security researcher Grzegorz Wypych (aka h0rac) took a closer look at one of the most widespread internet routers in use by consumers nowadays, the TP-Link WR-940, and found that a zero-day buffer overflow vulnerability in the router could allow malicious third parties to take control of the device from a remote location.

    • PoC exploit for Carpe Diem Apache bug released
    • It’s raining patches, Hallelujah! Microsoft and Adobe put out their latest major fixes
    • Reproducible Builds: Weekly report #206
    • Brace yourselves: Exploit published for serious Magento bug allowing card skimming [Updated]

      Attack code was published on Friday that exploits a critical vulnerability in the Magento e-commerce platform, all but guaranteeing it will be used to plant payment card skimmers on sites that have yet to install a recently released patch.

      PRODSECBUG-2198 is a SQL injection vulnerability that attackers can exploit with no authentication required. Hackers could exploit the flaw to take administrative control of administrator accounts, assuming the hackers can download user names and password hashes and crack the hashes. From there, attackers could install the backdoors or skimming code of their choice. A researcher at Web security firm Sucuri said Thursday that company researchers reverse-engineered an official patch released Tuesday and successfully created a working proof-of-concept exploit.

    • Knock and don’t run: the tale of the relentless hackerbots
    • Mozilla Firefox 66.0.3 Now Available for Download on Linux, Windows, and Mac

      Needless to say, there are no new features in this release, as Mozilla typically uses these smaller updates for bug fixes and further performance improvements. New features are usually included in major browser updates.

      As per GHacks, Firefox 66.0.3 addresses performance issues with certain HTML5 games on Pogo.com. The browser should now work correctly when accessing this website and games should no longer run slower than expected on the platform.

    • Mozilla releases Firefox 66.0.3

      Mozilla plans to release Firefox 66.0.3, a minor upgrade to the web browser’s stable channel, later today on April 10, 2019.

      Firefox 66.0.3 is the third minor release after the release of Firefox 66.0 in March 2019. Firefox 66.0.1 was a security update to address new vulnerabilities discovered by participants of the Pwn2Own hacking contest, Firefox 66.0.2 a bug fix release that addressed an issue with certain online editors.

    • Mysterious [Attackers] Hid Their Swiss Army Spyware for 5 Years

      In a talk at the Kaspersky Security Analyst Summit in Singapore Wednesday, Kaspersky security researcher Alexey Shulmin revealed the security firm’s discovery of a new spyware framework—an adaptable, modular piece of software with a range of plugins for distinct espionage tasks—that it’s calling TajMahal. The TajMahal framework’s 80 modules, Shulmin says, comprise not only the typical keylogging and screengrabbing features of spyware, but also never-before-seen and obscure tricks. It can intercept documents in a printer queue, and keep track of “files of interest,” automatically stealing them if a USB drive is inserted into the infected machine. And that unique spyware toolkit, Kaspersky says, bears none of the fingerprints of any known nation-state [attacker] group.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • The Ghosts of Northern Ireland’s Violent Past Haunt Brexit

      Watching the Brexit vaudeville show from far away, I can’t but remember my days as Belfast correspondent of The Times. The early 1970s were among the nastiest, violent and most dangerous of years in Northern Ireland. But what struck me most was not so much the battles between the British army and the IRA, and all the innocents that both killed, but the dark, brown-shirted presence of the Protestant paramilitaries.

      It wasn’t the uniforms of the so-called Ulster Defence Association that worried me so much – not even the sadistic massacres of Catholics, with or without the assistance of the so-called British “security” forces. No, it was the creepy, outrageous way in which the educated, constitutional unionist politicians of Northern Ireland co-existed with these thugs, supporting them with talk of sectarian warfare, disowning their violence with pious horror yet all the while relying upon the fear they created to maintain their own support among the Protestant community.

      I’m not making immediate parallels with the present-day Democratic Unionist Party, although their current sectarianism and greed might make comparisons all too relevant. It is, rather, to point up the way in which elected Northern Ireland politicians were prepared, almost half a century ago, to piggyback on racist bigotry; and of how today, at Westminster, our legally elected – and often profoundly well-educated – pro-Brexit MPs ride the waves of the racist, anti-immigrant elements of the hard right.

      The Protestants of the north of Ireland perfected their stagecraft rather well in the 1970s. Some demanded an “independent Ulster” (a kind of Ulsterexit even more preposterous than the UK version we are now supposed to endure) and they flaunted the union flag, demanded to be called “loyalists” and threatened the British government with violence if it did not sever all links with the Irish republic. I recall sometimes admiring this very tiny minority of UK citizens who were prepared to hoot their derision at the almighty and largely English-public-school Westminster government which imposed a colonial direct rule upon them in 1972.

    • Trump Puts Iran in His Crosshairs as Yemen Bleeds

      President Trump is flexing his military muscles just days after lawmakers issued a historic rebuke of his relationship with the Saudi Arabian government and threatened to contain the president’s ability to wage war overseas.

      In a move that critics have denounced as a dangerous provocation, Trump announced on Monday that the U.S. would soon designate a major wing of Iran’s military as a foreign terrorist organization. The U.S. is “increasing maximum pressure” on Iran, part of a “broader effort to counter Iran’s broader campaign of terrorism,” according to the White House.

      The move against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps came just ahead of heated national elections in Israel and only days after Congress passed a historic War Powers Resolution to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen’s bloody civil war, which the Trump administration broadly sees as a proxy fight with Iran. Tehran quickly responded by designating the U.S. Central Command a terrorist group.

      “As the [Trump] administration came in to power, we’ve seen them use the Iraq War playbook to justify war with Iran as the only viable option, particularly ramping up after they violated the Iran nuclear deal,” Kate Kizer, policy director at the pro-peace advocacy group Win Without War, told Truthout.

    • A Woman of Valor

      During Argentina’s “Dirty War” (1976-1983), thousands of opponents to the military rulers were killed or “made to disappear,” a euphemism for those whose fate was unknown but who were almost certainly killed. The recent news that between 600-700 human remains are still to be identified shows the persisting echoes of a tragic period in Argentina’s history.

      One of the biggest paradoxes I’ve encountered in my life, as a physician specializing in international public health and as a human rights activist, is the behavior of some of my medical colleagues, specifically those doctors and paramedical personnel, including psychologists, who aided and participated in acts of torture during that war. Such actions can range from monitoring a prisoner’s state of health to determining how much more torture can continue without compromising the prisoner’s life or determining the most effective forms of psychological torture.

      One case that I knew closely is that of Adriana Calvo de Laborde, an Argentine physicist who in 1977 had been imprisoned by the military when she was six and a half months pregnant. At that time, Calvo was a teacher and researcher at the Faculty of Exact Sciences of La Plata, in Buenos Aires Province.

      I had a talk with her in Buenos Aires, years after she was released. We were sitting in a cafe in Palermo, on a beautiful autumn day, which contrasted remarkably with her story. Calvo told me of the role that Dr. Jorge A. Bergés, a physician in the police department, had had in her mistreatment. She told me that despite the brutality with which she had been treated, she had been luckier than most of her companions.

    • Global NATO: A 70-Year Alliance of Oppressors in Crisi

      The celebration of NATO’s 70 years of existence provides another opportunity to unearth the real history of the ideas, practices and destruction wrought by this military alliance. Even with the clear exposure of the cooperation between NATO, the CIA and the British MI6 to spread terror and psychological warfare in Europe immediately after the formation of this military alliance, the mainstream media, academics and policy makers remain silent on activities of the ‘stay behind armies’ and ‘false flag’ operations that distorted the real causes of insecurity in the world after 1945. The evidence of the manipulations of the peoples of the world to ensure the continued survival of NATO has been well documented in the fraudulent interventions and bombings in the Balkans right up the present multiple wars against the peoples of Iran.

      Vijay Prashad had identified NATO as the prime defender of the Atlantic project. This Atlantic project, he noted was, “a fairly straightforward campaign by the propertied classes to maintain or restore their position of dominance.” This Atlantic Project was anchored in the military alliance called NATO with its principal work, that of reversing the South Project; the struggles for peace bread and justice by the poorer citizens of the planet, especially those who had emerged on the world stage after the decolonization of Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean.

      The ostensive reason for the founding of NATO was to ‘thwart’ Soviet aggression, but in practice the organization was a prop for western capital and after the fall of the Berlin Wall, became the core prop for Wall Street. In this year, there will be many commentaries on the fact that the existence of NATO reflects a Cold War relic, that NATO is obsolete and lost its mandate, but very few will link the expansion of NATO to the military management of the international system. Prior to 1991, the planners of NATO could justify the existence of NATO on ideological and political grounds, but with the threat of a multi polar world and the diminution of the dollar, NATO expanded to the point where this author joined with others in labelling this organization Global NATO to reflect its current imperial mandate. The Global thrust of NATO now comprises 29 members from Europe and North America along with 41 ‘partners’ that had started off under the banner of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC) in 1991. Since that time, NATO has launched a lengthy war without end in Afghanistan, colluded in the destruction of Iraq and conspired with militarists to forge ‘Partnership for Peace’ (with most members of the former Warsaw Pact states). The core 29 members are now enmeshed with treaties and undertakings from states involved in the Mediterranean Dialog and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative: Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates. There are also the ‘partners’ from across the globe: Afghanistan, Australia, Colombia, Iraq, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand and Pakistan. This enlargement served the military purposes of encircling China and Russia who military planners in the West targeted.

    • For Military Contractors, Tax Day Is Pay Day

      In tax season, most of us think more about getting our forms in on time — and getting our refunds — than about where our tax dollars actually go.
      It’s probably no surprise that a significant portion — 24 cents out of every dollar — of your taxes go to the military. But where those dollars go from there should be a national scandal.
      Out of those 24 cents, just 5 cents go to our troops. But 12 cents go to corporate military contractors.
      For a country that claims to celebrate our troops, with holidays and yellow ribbons and patriotic displays of the flag, we sure don’t put our money where our mouth is. Every year for tax day, my organization looks at where our tax dollars go. And every year, far more money goes to Pentagon contractors than to our troops.
      All told, the average taxpayer handed over $1,704 to Pentagon contractors last year, compared to $683 for military pay, housing, and other benefits (except military health care, which has its own agency). Still, the taxes we pay for military contractors are more than twice as much as the average contribution for veterans’ health and benefits ($833).

    • Progressive Democrats Threaten to Tank $733 Billion in ‘Crazy’ Pentagon Spending If Social Programs Not Also Boosted

      Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), co-chairs of the 104-member CPC, are leading the push for an amendment that would add around $33 billion per year to domestic spending programs as part of a crucial two-year spending bill, which could receive a vote as early as Tuesday. The legislation would hike Pentagon spending to $733 billion per year.

      Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) are among the sponsors of the progressive amendment.

      While the House Democratic leadership has agreed to bring the progressives’ amendment on the floor for a vote, Politico reported late Monday that senior Democrats “privately hope it won’t pass.”

      “House Democratic leaders are whipping the budget caps bill, but as of Monday night, the measure still didn’t have enough votes to pass,” Politico reported.

      Jayapal said Tuesday that she would not vote for the underlying bill if her social spending amendment is not adopted.

    • Is Your Bank Profiting From Gun Violence?

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a figure in December that capped what felt like a particularly violent year: nearly 40,000 people died as a result of guns in the United States in 2017, more than any year since at least 1968. As activists look for new ways to end what’s always seemed like a intractable problem, one coalition suggests targeting some of the companies profiting off gun violence in the first place.

      The Is Your Bank Loaded? campaign stems from a coalition of groups, including Guns Down America, the American Federation of Teachers, and Color of Change. They’ve created a rubric to judge banks by their connections to the gun industry and its lobby, as well as the politicians that do its bidding.

      The report’s authors looked through media archives, campaign finance reports, and SEC filings from 2016 to 2018 to determine the connections of the top 15 consumer banks with the gun industry and its friends. They gave banks points based on a few different categories — whether or not they helped finance the gun industry, their ties to policy groups like the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America, and their contributions to lawmakers also backed by the NRA. The report authors also offered up points to banks that had made efforts to break ties with the gun industry.

      By those standards, six of the 15 banks judged — BB&T, Wells Fargo, US Bank, TD Bank, PNC, and Chase — received a failing grade. Each of those banks had at least $200 million in financing for the gun industry, with TD Bank topping the list at $633 million. The highest score offered was a B.

    • Bill to End Yemen Siege Passes—No Thanks to MSNBC

      Progressives—along with a handful of libertarian-leaning Republicans—finally passed a bill in both houses of Congress last week to invoke the War Powers act and end US support for the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen, an entirely one-sided war that’s killed thousands of Yemeni civilians over the last four years with assistance and direction of the US military.

      The bill’s proponents achieved this human rights victory with virtually no help from America’s leading liberal cable network.

      As activist pressure on lawmakers mounted over the past few months, the nominally liberal media powerhouse MSNBC was once again AWOL. The 24-hour cable news channel has yet to cover the war in all of 2019, repeating a similar no-show record when activists were attempting to end the war last spring; MSNBC ignored Yemen entirely from September 2016 through July 2018 (FAIR.org, 3/20/18).

      In August 2018, after almost two years of not doing a single segment on the US war on Yemen (August 31, 2016–August 9, 2018), Chris Hayes finally reported on a US-made bomb that killed over 40 children in a Yemen school bus. (A widely circulated FAIR Action Alert two weeks prior—7/23/18—pointing out MSNBC had 455 mentions of Stormy Daniels and 0 of Yemen from July 2017 to July 2018 may have contributed, but it’s impossible to know for sure.)

    • Border Chaos Forces Truckers to Wait for Hours, Sometimes Days

      To deal with a surge of migrating Central American families, the Trump administration has reassigned so many inspectors from U.S.-Mexico border crossings that truckers are waiting in line for hours and sometimes days to get shipments to the United States.

      Truckers have been sleeping in their vehicles to hold spots in line in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas. The city brought in portable toilets, and an engine oil company hired models in skin-tight clothing to hand out burritos and bottled water to idled drivers.

      “My family doesn’t recognize me at home anymore,” Jaime Monroy, a trucker who lives in Ciudad Juarez, said after sleeping overnight in his truck hauling a load of wooden furniture. “I leave at 3 in the morning and come back at 10 at night.”

      The waits are a reminder that even though President Donald Trump walked back his threat to close the border, the administration has created significant impediments for truckers and travelers with its redeployment of customs agents.

      Business leaders are starting to lose patience as they struggle to get products to American grocery stores, manufacturers and construction sites.

    • Homeland Security Purge Ushers in the Stephen Miller Administration

      Former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Director Kirstjen Nielsen will be remembered by history as the person who helped Donald Trump put children in cages. Senior White House adviser and vivid white nationalist Stephen Miller, however, believes Nielsen was too soft-hearted for the job, and that is why she is updating her resume today. The bloodletting may not be over yet at DHS: Secret Service Director Randolph D. Alles was shown the door on Monday, with no explanation forthcoming. By Tuesday morning the word was out: Miller is now fully in charge of immigration for the Trump administration, and no DHS job is safe.

      After yet another angry meeting with Trump, Nielsen was sacked via Twitter on Sunday; she sprinted to post her resignation letter and depart with a splinter of dignity intact after the meeting was concluded, but lost the footrace to the famous fingers of the Tweeter-in-Chief. She will stay on until Wednesday “to assist with an orderly transition,” she said via her own tweet — an interesting choice of words, as any “orderly transition” is fully out the window because Trump appears to have illegally named her replacement — but to all intents and purposes, she’s done right now.

      Nielsen and Alles have joined Rex Tillerson, Tom Price, David Shulkin, Jeff Sessions, Ryan Zinke, Scott Pruitt and Jim Mattis in the box of broken toys outside the White House gate. As with the others, I doubt Nielsen will miss her erstwhile post very much. According to reports, Trump would call her at home in the early hours of the morning to rant about the border. He also berated her in front of colleagues for not being totally enthusiastic about separating children from their families and demanded on multiple occasions that she break the law. If I were in her shoes, I’d be tap dancing out the door like Fred Astaire.

    • Kentucky’s Secretary of State Turns Up Heat in Fight With Elections Board

      Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes escalated her fight with the State Board of Elections this week when she removed its executive director from a national committee devoted to improving the country’s voting systems and better protecting them from cyberattacks.

      Grimes took the action against the executive director, Jared Dearing, just days before he was expected to travel to Memphis, Tennessee, to participate in a meeting dealing with upgrading the voting machines and technology used by states across the country. The meeting is being held by the federal Election Assistance Commission’s Standards Board, and is widely considered to be the most significant meeting of the EAC in years.

      Dearing has been a longtime critic of actions taken by Grimes, by law the state’s top elections official, and last year he filed a nine-page complaint with the Executive Branch Ethics Commission accusing Grimes of creating a hostile work environment and overstepping her authority. Dearing’s complaint helped prompt a number of investigations into Grimes’ performance and played a role in the state legislature’s decision last month to strip Grimes of some of her authority over state elections.

    • As Netanyahu Heads for Reelection, Palestinians Decry Vote to ‘Entrench and Expand Apartheid’

      With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly poised to win reelection by a razor-thin margin after a campaign filled with overt anti-Arab racism, voter suppression tactics, and extremist promises—such as his last-minute vow to annex the West Bank—Palestinian officials decried the election outcome as a vote to “entrench and expand apartheid.”

      [...]

      Speaking anonymously to the Associated Press, an aide to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas echoed Ashrawi’s assessment, saying the election outcome is a victory for the “extreme right-wing camp” in Israel.

      As AP reported, Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party tied his opponent Benny Gantz’s centrist Kahol Lavan party, with each winning 35 seats.

    • Miller’s Home
    • Yemen’s Fate is in Trump’s Hands

      For the first time in more than forty years, Congress has invoked the War Powers Resolution to demand that the US end its assistance to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in their war against Houthi rebels in Yemen. The US has been involved in the Saudi-led war without the authorization of Congress as mandated by the Constitution.

      The resolution went to President Donald Trump’s desk on Thursday. As I write this, Trump has not yet vetoed the resolution. Trump, however, has said that he will, and has been saying it since at least March of last year. The Administration argues that, contrary to the resolution’s language, the US is not involved in “hostilities” in Yemen because the US is not bombing the country. Nor are US troops on the ground. The US extends limited “non-combat support” by providing arms, intelligence, and targeting advice. (In November, the US announced that it would cease in-flight refueling of coalition warplanes.) Furthermore, Article II’s “Commander in Chief” power gives the president Constitutional authority for these activities.

      The UN calls Yemen the “world’s worst humanitarian disaster.” As many as 85,000 children may have died during the war from starvation and disease, according to the international NGO Save the Children. Seventeen million Yemenis are at risk of famine. A Saudi blockade keeps drastically needed food and medical aid from reaching Yemenis. US assistance makes the Saudi devastation of Yemen possible.

      Congress does not share the president’s doglike loyalty to the Saudis and to the kingdom’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (“MBS,” as he is called). Most members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, reached their limit with MBS last October when US resident and Washington Postcolumnist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered and carved up in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Anonymous sources in the CIAsay that the Agency has concluded that MBS personally ordered Khashoggi’s murder.

    • The Tragedy and Fallacy of NATO’s Balkan Experiment: 20 Years On

      March 24,1999 was an ordinary school day in Belgrademid-week (Wednesday). Suddenly, half of my high-school class quietly left for home early, citing relatives calling in from overseas saying that the NATO bombing campaign has startedin the South, including an authorisation to hit Belgrade. My friends and I (for whom the satellite TV was an unimaginable luxury!) reluctantly left our interrupted class, each one of usburied deeply in our thoughts as to what the conflictmight actually mean. We rememberedwellthe convoys of refugees pouring across Serbia’s westernborder during the Croatian and Bosnian wars, with many refugee children attending our school too and eventually blending in withthe locals. The state broadcaster RTS television was playing its usual program, heavily controlled by Milosevic’s cronies, with no sign of impaling events. Around 8.12pm, which was the time for widely popular Latin telenovelas, there was a loud bang in the neighbourhood and all of our apartment block’s windows shook. Is it firecrackers? A little while afterwards the air raid sirens began;thenow famous commentator fromtheindependent Studio B television channel Avram Izrael was about to start with his daily commentary about air raids. This was the first bomb that was dropped on Belgrade, a European capital during an offensive military operation, hitting very close to home. In our proximity there were several military facilities underneath Strazevica and Avala mountains, which became a daily target for NATO’s yet another failed Balkan experiment. The symbol of Belgrade and former Yugoslavia, the Avala Tower and a television transmitter, was destroyed during one of those raids, only six days after RTS headquarters were bombed killing a dozen journalists and which the Amnesty International declared a ‘war crime’.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Assange Should Not Be Extradited to the U.S.

      Julian Assange’s increasingly uncomfortable six-year stay at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London may be nearing an end: WikiLeaks, the organization he founded, says he may be pushed out within “hours or days.” The standoff has lasted long enough: Assange should be legally cleared or convicted — just not in the U.S.

      When Assange leaves the embassy, he will probably be arrested immediately by the U.K. police on charges of jumping bail in 2010. That year, a court had ruled that he should be extradited to Sweden to face rape and sexual assault charges. Assange, however, said he feared the accusations were just a pretext for his eventual extradition to the U.S., where he might be tried for publishing state secrets. The fear of being handed over to the U.S. drove him to seek refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy. The Swedish charges have been dropped but the fear remained, motivating Assange to stay in the embassy even after he’d worn out his welcome and his ability to communicate with the outside world was curtailed by the Ecuadorians.

      [...]

      Though most of the leaks Assange’s site published came from the U.S., a few European countries, including France and Switzerland, also were targeted. Even the U.K. could argue that some of the leaks exposed its secrets. Europe, where Assange’s publications are not as politically sensitive as in the U.S., would probably be a fairer jurisdiction for his case. An extradition request from another European country or a U.K. case against Assange could help keep him out of U.S. hands while still letting an independent court consider the evidence for and against him.

      If such a European court decides that WikiLeaks generally has worked in the public interest and not as a “non-state hostile intelligence service,” as Mike Pompeo dubbed it when he was director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, that could create an opportunity for another U.S. fugitive, Edward Snowden, to leave Russia and find refuge somewhere in the European Union. The U.S. needs to legislate better whistleblower protections before it demands that people like Assange and Snowden face its courts.

    • WikiLeaks reports spying operation against Julian Assange at Ecuador embassy in London

      WikiLeaks reported on Wednesday that it has uncovered a major spying operation against Julian Assange inside the embassy of Ecuador in London, where the founder of the whistle-blowing website has been living since 2012.

      [...]

      The case has been sent to the Spanish police, and a judicial investigation into extortion has been launched, said the editor-in-chief.

      At a Wednesday news conference, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said that much of this material came from cameras inside the embassy. Hrafnsson described it as “a total invasion of Mr Assange’s privacy.”

      “Ever since [Ecuador president] Lenín Moreno came to power, Julian Assange has been living in a Truman Show situation,” said Hrafnsson, alluding to the 1998 sci-fi movie starring Jim Carrey.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Blowing Smoke on the Colstrip Coal Plant

      The increasingly desperate efforts by politicians to “save” Colstrip’s antiquated and enormously polluting coal-fired power plants is reaching the stage that’s leaving facts, economics and the “free market” far behind. Unfortunately, Montana’s congressional Republicans, Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte, are among those blowing the most smoke about Colstrip, its climate impacts, and its future instead of facing the reality that coal power has been eclipsed in every way by solar, wind, hydro and cheap natural gas. Toss in a new ruling in favor of solar power issued by the district court last week and it’s time to bring the Colstrip debacle to a close.

      Last week Gianforte attacked Washington’s Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee personally for Colstrip’s many problems, saying there “are devastating impacts of your policy on Montana and our communities.” But of course Inslee is not personally responsible for the Washington legislature’s decision to reduce reliance on coal-fired power. Inslee is, however, a Democratic candidate for president who is running on a strong platform of addressing climate change which is having very real impacts on his home state, the nation and the planet.

    • Night Parrot Confections: on the Dangers of Discovering the Elusive

      Discoveries of natural flora, fauna and phenomena are not necessarily straightforward things. The discoverer may wish to conceal the source. The discoverer may also have various motivations. In certain grave instances, the entire claim might be fabricated. Piltdown Man, discovered in a gravel pit in England in 1912 by amateur archaeologist Charles Dawson, was celebrated as an ancestral link to humans. In 1954, with the application of dating methods, the discovery was designated a fraud. A human skull had been cleverly paired with an orang-utan’s jaw.

      The quest for the Australian Night Parrot remains one of the stranger tales of the naturalist meeting the professional researcher; the skilled amateur in battle with establishment practices; the vainglory efforts to seek a place in the birding pantheon.

      [...]

      In February, the Year in Review summary of 2018 was conspicuously silent on Young and the Night Parrot, despite extolling “delivering measurable outcomes for Australia’s wildlife” by means of delivering “ecological return”. The trumpet still sounded: “Almost 87 percent of AWC’s operational expenditure continues to be spent where it can make the greatest difference to Australia’s threatened wildlife – in the field.”

    • Indian voters demand environmental clean-up

      Candidates promising to fight for clean drinking water and a halt to pollution are likely to gain the support of millions of Indian voters.

      Environmental issues, particularly clean water and air, traffic congestion and better public transport, are among the top priorities of urban voters as they prepare to vote in the world’s largest general election.

      In India it is no longer religion or caste that tops the poll of issues that concern voters, but policies that affect their daily lives, still blighted by some of the worst pollution in the world which is also contributing to climate change and the shortage of clean water.

      Although for both rural and urban voters job opportunities and the need to make a living are the number one priority, a whole list of environmental issues are more important than terrorism or strong military defence, both of which appear to be of little concern to the electorate.

    • Logging is the Lead Driver of Carbon Emissions From US Forests

      Climate change is having a growing impact on Americans and, as the crisis escalates, communities face growing challenges. The latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change underscores that we have eleven short years to make “rapid transformation across all industrial sectors.”

      Protecting forest ecosystems is critical in the fight to limit global warming — when forests are disturbed they release carbon, but when left to grow they actively pull carbon out of the air and store it. When left standing, forests also provide optimal natural protection against extreme weather events, like flooding and droughts.

      As the Trump Administration and industry allies push for increased commercial logging of America’s forests, we feel compelled to call attention to the elephant in the room: the profound ways in which industrial logging not only decimates ecosystems but also exacerbates climate change.

      Many people are aware of the importance of protecting rainforests in Brazil to help mitigate climate change, but few realize that more logging occurs in the US, and more wood is consumed here, than in any other nation globally. The rate and scale of logging in the Southeastern US alone is four times that in South American rainforests.

    • Washington Appeals Court: Evidence May Prove Climate Action Against Tar Sands Pipeline Was Necessary

      A Washington state appeals court concluded a trial court violated the constitutional rights of climate activist Kenneth Ward, who engaged in civil disobedience against Kinder Morgan, when he was prohibited from presenting a necessity defense.

      “Ward’s past successes in effectuating change through civil disobedience in conjunction with the proposed expert witnesses and testimony about Ward’s beliefs were sufficient evidence to persuade a fair-minded, rational juror that Ward’s beliefs were reasonable,” according to the appeals court.

      Such evidence should not have been excluded from his trial and deprived him of his right under the Sixth Amendment to rebut criminal allegations.

      “I am very heartened that the appeals court recognized the validity of a necessity defense, in light of abundant evidence that the climate crisis is at a tipping point, and that our government is utterly ineffectual,” Ward declared. “I look forward to putting the true facts of my case before a jury.”

      On October 11, 2016, Ward participated in a national day of action against the transportation of tar sands oil by pipeline from Canada to the United States. Ward cut off a padlock at a Kinder Morgan pipeline facility, closed a valve on the Trans-Mountain pipeline, and placed sunflowers on the valve.

    • Supermarkets in Thailand and Vietnam Swap Plastic Packaging for Banana Leaves

      Thailand and Vietnam are two of the five countries that account for 60 percent of the plastic in the world’s oceans, according to a 2015 study. Now, Vice reported Friday that supermarkets in both countries are going back to nature to find an alternative to plastic bags: banana leaves.

    • What a Real Coal Ash Cleanup Looks Like

      The toxic mess left behind from burning coal is a growing, nationwide problem. But we’re seeing that state governments can be convinced to do the right thing and clean it up. Recently, North Carolina joined its neighboring state to become a trendsetter in the proper disposal of coal ash waste.

    • Oprah Winfrey Donates $2 Million to Help Puerto Rico’s Recovery From Hurricane Maria [Ed: A drop in the ocean. Perpetuating the myth that the super-rich will save the country, whose leader denies climate change and gives tax exemptions to the super-rich.]

      Oprah Winfrey has donated $2 million to help Puerto Rico recover from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in 2017, Reuters reported.

      The Hispanic Federation and the Flamboyan Arts Fund announced in a statement Monday that they had received $1 million each from Winfrey. The donation to Hispanic Federation’s UNIDOS Disaster Relief & Recovery Program to Support Puerto Rico will help the island meet its long term needs following the storm. The donation to Flamboyan will support arts and culture on the island.

    • ‘Radical Agents of Physical and Social Chaos’: Campaigners Target Big Banks Over Destructive Fossil Fuel Projects

      A coalition of more than 100 groups sent a letter (pdf) to Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan on Tuesday urging him “to refrain from any further financing of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and to urge other financiers to do the same.”

      If completed, the ACP would carry fracked gas 600 miles across West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. The pipeline is about two years behind schedule and $2 billion over budget, per an investor report released last month by Friends of the Earth and Oil Change International, which both signed the letter.

      “As lead arranger and bookrunner for a loan to Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC, and especially as a multinational corporation that calls North Carolina home,” the letter states, “Bank of America has a special responsibility to drop its support for this reckless project.

    • Judge Rules Valve Turner Ken Ward Must Be Allowed to Present ‘Necessity Defense’ for Climate Action

      “Kenneth Ward appeals his conviction for burglary in the second degree after he broke into a Kinder Morgan pipeline facility and turned off a valve, which stopped the flow of Canadian tar sands oil to refineries in Skagit and Whatcom Counties,” wrote Judge David Mann, who sent Ward’s case back to a lower court for a third trial.

      “Ward intended to protest the continued use of tar sands oil,” Mann added, “which he contends significantly contributes to climate change, and the inaction by governments to meaningfully address the crisis of climate change.”

      If Ward’s case goes to trial once again, he will be allowed to present the necessity defense, explained the Civil Liberties Defense Center, which represented Ward.

      In a statement, Ward celebrated the judge’s ruling and said he looks forward to “putting the true facts of my case before a jury.”

      “I am very heartened that the Appeals Court recognized the validity of a necessity defense, in light of abundant evidence that the climate crisis is at a tipping point, and that our government is utterly ineffectual,” Ward said.

    • Top 10 Single-Use Plastics Clogging European Rivers

      Most of the 8 million tons of plastic that enter the world’s oceans each year flows from rivers, but fewer studies have been done looking at plastic pollution in freshwater environments. The Plastic Rivers report released Monday by the EarthWatch Institute and Plastic Oceans UK Monday looks to correct that knowledge gap and help consumers understand the best actions they can take to keep plastic out of the world’s waterways.

      The report reviewed nine studies of pollution in European and UK rivers and lakes to find the top 10 single-use plastic items. Of the 193,238 items turned up in the studies, 37.5 percent were plastic items normally used by consumers. The rest of the litter was related to agriculture, fishing or industry.

    • Tweeting at Windmills in the Drunken Forest

      The “drunken forests” of Northern Alaska are an apt symbol for the peak Anthropocene age. Liquefying permafrost beneath the forest floor causes trees to lose their upright alignment and tilt haphazardly. The turmoil beneath the surface is finally emerging as a visible upheaval. The phenomena isn’t just limited to remote Arctic areas, but can be seen, metaphorically, at least, wherever global financiers have created the conditions for those about to lose their already slippery foothold on survival, or even reality. It’s not just trees buckling under the influence of capitalism.

      Most people are similarly becoming untethered to the ground beneath them, whether it’s the loss of security, income or just sanity. Some will fall, while others will take on a new shape to maintain balance amid an ever-shifting and hostile environment, contorting painfully to remain standing among petrified ghosts in a rising swamp. They will rationalize any atrocity committed against them, seeing their own willingness to agree to its terms as a hedge against volatility in the soylent green market. That sucking sound in Boreal hinterlands is our own futures being liquidated at bottom barrel prices on the trading floor.

      Even in warmer, urban climates, an irreversible catastrophe is roiling underfoot, and poised to upend the vertical, steel-supported edifices built by the Overlords of Planetary Destruction. It won’t take melting permafrost to weaken gravity’s hold on their permanence and power, but a financial crash that will unleash another extreme extinction event.

    • Stop Using Tax Dollars to Kill Bison

      In the last two years the Interagency Bison Management Plan has killed almost 1,200 bison in 2018 and 1,300 in 2017. That is about a quarter of the entire Yellowstone herd each year.

      All agencies involved in the slaughter know full well how unique and genetically important these bison are to the world. The impact of these killings of a quarter of all the bison in Yellowstone, two years in a row will only be known by our children.

      Of the two herds in Yellowstone, the central herd is now less than 1,000 (down from 3,500 in 2005) and that is a direct result of this management plan. The central herd are the survivors of the millions slaughtered and are our last remnant of this country’s truly wild buffalo.

      The bison that are being killed are the ones leaving the park, fulfilling their ancestral memory, which is being lost with every death. Bison have to migrated to lower elevations during winter for their survival. The bison being killed are the ones that dare to be bison and migrate out of the park. This is mad science and shows no concern for the long-term impact of the government’s actions.

      [...]

      Is this a violation of all the treaty tribes’ right to hunt the bison on land that is unclaimed (unclaimed land is state, Forest Service and Burueau of Land Management land)? Is it time for the treaty tribe to sue this management plan as a violation of their treaty rights by not allowing bison to migrate to these lands?

      It is time Montana wakes up and stops this insane practice towards bison. The world is watching and is fed up with Montana’s use of tax dollars to kill our national mammal, a keystone species and an American icon.

    • From California to Louisiana: Finding America’s Climate Heroes

      British video activist Shaun Dey was one of two members of Reel News who went to North America last year to make films about grassroots struggles around climate change, particularly around the ideas of “just transition” and “just recovery”. He reflects on his experience of travelling the region for 14 weeks.

    • Climate Catastrophe and Extinction Rebellion

      In the last years of his life, Dr. Martin Luther King spoke against what he called “the triple evils that are interrelated” – economic inequality, racism, and militarism. If King were alive today, he’d be talking about the five evils that are interrelated, adding patriarchy and Ecocide, the destruction of livable ecology. He’d also be noting the dangerous rise of a new national and global fascism linked to the presidency of a malignant racist who glories in accelerating humanity’s environmental self-destruction while the media obsesses over matters of far slighter relevance.

      I was given three questions to answer today. The first question runs as follows: “How have you as a historian mapped the trajectory of Climate Change over time? What do we have to worry about right now?”

      Let me say as politely as I can that I don’t like the phrase “Climate Change.” It’s too mild. Try Climate Catastrophe. If a giant oak tree is about to collapse on to your little house, you don’t say that you are risk of housing change. You say “holy shit we’re about to die and we better do something fast.”

      I haven’t really tracked climate change as an historian. I am an urban and labor historian, not an environmental one. The climate issue really started being noticeable to me with the often-forgotten Chicago heat wave of July 1995, when hundreds of people, very disproportionately Black, died.

    • Melting Glaciers Causing 25 to 30% of Sea Level Rise

      While previous studies had only assessed 500 glaciers, the new study looked at more than 19,000 glaciers using both satellite data and field visits, lead study author and University of Zurich glaciologist Michael Zemp told CNN. The researchers found that, between 1961 and 2016, the world’s non-polar glaciers had lost around 9,000 billion tons of ice and contributed 27 millimeters to rising ocean levels. That’s enough ice to turn the U.S. into an ice-rink four feet thick.

      “Over 30 years suddenly almost all regions started losing mass at the same time,” Zemp told the Associated Press. “That’s clearly climate change if you look at the global picture.”

    • Ice melt makes Arctic soils slip more often

      Global warming is about to change the face of the frozen polar landmass, where the Arctic soils are slipping and sliding at record speed. Once-firm ground has begun to shift.

      Researchers who closely examined landslips and slumps on Banks Island in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago have found a sixty-fold increase in ground movement in the last 30 years.

      In 1984, summer temperatures accounted for just 60 events of the kind glaciologists know as retrogressive thaw slumps or collapses of surface soil as the permafrost ice begins to melt. In 2014, there were more than 4,000 such slumps, including about 300 in an area protected as a natural park.

      And on Banks Island alone, even under a relatively conservative scenario, this number could grow to 10,000 a decade by 2075, to precipitate as many as 30,000 active landslides in any future year.

    • In Norway Electric Vehicles outsold Gasoline Cars for first Time in History and other EV Success Stories

      Electric cars are coming on like gangbusters, as ranges increase and prices fall dramatically. Here are 6 headlines pointing to the green car future:

      1. In Norway, electric vehicles in March, 2019, outsold gasoline-driven cars for the first time.

      2. Indeed, electric vehicles in Norway were responsible for 58% of all sales last month.

      3. Volkswagen not only plans a new fleet of electric cars, it plans an affordable $22,000 EV by 2023.

  • Finance

    • The Missing Millions: Some States Are Still Waiting for the Gambling Windfall

      In some ways, it’s similar to what happened during the first full year of video gambling in Illinois, when revenues lagged far behind projections.

      Through 2017, video gambling brought in $1.3 billion less than predicted by legislators, based on a ProPublica Illinois analysis. The state legalized video gambling in 2009, and the rollout lagged until the first machines appeared outside of casinos in 2012.

      More than two dozen other states, including Illinois, are considering legalizing sports betting, with proponents projecting that it would raise million of dollars in tax revenue.

    • More jails replace in-person visits with awful video chat products [iophk: "for-profit, privatized prisons"]

      These services are ludicrously expensive. Video calls cost 40¢ per minute in Newton County, 50¢ per minute in Lowndes County, and $10 per call in Allen County. Outside of prison, of course, video calls on Skype or FaceTime are free.

      These “visitation” services are also noticeably inferior to mainstream video calling apps. When I was working on a story about the video visitation trend last year, I wanted to try the technology out for myself. So I called inmate Justin Harker at the Knox County Jail in Tennessee. As I wrote at the time, the video was grainy and jerky, periodically freezing up altogether. The call cost me 19¢ per minute.

    • The two hidden intellectual moves behind the “progressive” argument against free college

      What I like about Berman’s essay is how it highlights the extent to which our thinking is hemmed in by relatively recent pieces of economic orthodoxy, the ideas that public goods need to be subjected to cost-benefit analysis, and the idea that education’s primary benefit is higher earning potential. Neoliberalism’s most devastating move can be summed up in Margaret Thatcher’s maxim, “There is no alternative” (which is really a demand framed as an observation; what Thatcher meant was, “stop trying to think of an alternative”). It’s fine to examine policies and propositions through different frames and lenses, but once you forget that you’re even using a frame or a lens, you become their prisoner.

    • SAP CEO addresses all staff after another high-profile executive exit last week

      These exits have led to questions over the future of SAP’s in-memory HANA database, but now, in what could be seen as a case of protesting too much, SAP also put out a press release outlining the future vision for HANA.

    • Why Even Investment Funds Want More Corporate Tax Transparency

      Who would dream of putting an end to the culture of secrecy, the opacity of multinational companies’ accounts and the fortunes hidden in tax havens? The usual suspects, of course, tax justice activists – academics, churches, trade unions – angered by revelations such as the Panama Papers or Paradise papers. But not only: a recent report published by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) reveals that the most vocal advocates for tax transparency are… investment fund representatives. And we are not talking about small players: those in favour of voluntary corporate tax transparency reporting standards manage the equivalent of USD $10 trillion, about 12% of global annual GDP!

      Investment fund managers know that the lack of tax transparency from multinationals often disguises underlying business failures. While it might help deliver executive bonuses, it exposes investors to unforeseen risks and may hide profits that should be returned as dividends. “Complex or opaque ownership and organisational structures hamper transparency and may compromise investors’ fundamental financial analysis”, said Norges Bank, one of the heavyweights in the sector, in a letter to the GRI.

    • The Crippling of Britain in the Age of Brexit

      Future historians will look back at Britain in the age of Brexit and seek to explain why its people reduced their power and influence in the world in the belief that they were doing the exact opposite.

      But historians will have to move quickly if they are to have a say because the most important consequences of Brexit are already with us. People do not see this because UK membership of the EU is wrongly discussed as an economic issue when it is primarily a political one.

      This is a traditional mistake by the British who have been making it with varying degrees of intensity ever since the French politician Robert Schumann put forward his plan for the French-German Coal and Steel Community on 9 May 1950 – a pact that eventually turned into the EU. Enhancing the political power of European states, particularly France and Germany, was always the chief objective.

      The misperception has meant that the outcome of the Brexit crisis is talked about with alarm or enthusiasm, depending on the views of the speaker, but generally on the supposition on all sides that this is something good or bad that lies in the future. There is ceaseless discussion about custom unions and single markets which masks the devastating loss of UK power and influence that has already occurred in three crucial areas.

      There is greater political division in Britain than at any time since the 17th century and this is not going to go away. Even if parliament is finally forced to swallow Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement at least half the population is going to feel that they have been betrayed or, at best, are the victims of an act of self-destructive idiocy. Theresa May has systematically made these divisions deeper by pretending that there was national unanimity about the referendum decision.

    • Congress Is About to Ban the Government From Offering Free Online Tax Filing. Thank TurboTax.

      Just in time for Tax Day, the for-profit tax preparation industry is about to realize one of its long-sought goals. Congressional Democrats and Republicans are moving to permanently bar the IRS from creating a free electronic tax filing system.

      Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee, led by Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., passed the Taxpayer First Act, a wide-ranging bill making several administrative changes to the IRS that is sponsored by Reps. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Mike Kelly, R-Pa.

      In one of its provisions, the bill makes it illegal for the IRS to create its own online system of tax filing. Companies like Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, and H&R Block have lobbied for years to block the IRS from creating such a system. If the tax agency created its own program, which would be similar to programs other developed countries have, it would threaten the industry’s profits.

      “This could be a disaster. It could be the final nail in the coffin of the idea of the IRS ever being able to create its own program,” said Mandi Matlock, a tax attorney who does work for the National Consumer Law Center.

      Experts have long argued that the IRS has failed to make filing taxes as easy and cheap as it could be. In addition to a free system of online tax preparation and filing, the agency could provide people with pre-filled tax forms containing the salary data the agency already has, as ProPublica first reported on in 2013.

    • Solidarity Without Erasure: Responding to Trump on Puerto Rico

      The debate about Puerto Rico, between President Donald Trump and American liberals and progressives has an ironic twist, from which we cannot derive much merriment.

      In the process of attacking Puerto Rico and of denying us sorely needed support to recover from Hurricane María, Trump implies that Puerto Ricans are not Americans and that Puerto Rico is not the United States or is not in the United States.

      Many American liberals and progressives, justly appalled by Trump’s behavior toward Puerto Rico, respond that Puerto Ricans are Americans and that Puerto Rico is in the United States.

      Trying to hurt us, Trump recognizes our identity. Liberals and progressives, in solidarity with us, inadvertently, erase it.

      Of the evil nature of Trump’s agenda there can be no doubt. Nor do we doubt the generous intention of the liberal and progressive response mentioned above. But what we in Puerto Rico need in the struggle against Trump is solidarity, yes, but solidarity without erasure.

      What would that response to Trump look like? Roughly as follows:

      Indeed, Puerto Ricans are not Americans; they are a people with their own identity and culture, as valuable and rich as any other.

    • Sacramento Teacher Strike Is a Warning to #RedForEd Movement Everywhere

      Much like other teacher actions that have occurred across the nation, Sacramento teachers are demanding changes to their salaries, reduced class sizes, and increases in school support staff including more nurses, psychologists, librarians, and program specialists. But unlike other teacher walkouts, what’s happening in Sacramento is a replay of what they thought they had already won.

      “We thought we had an agreement when we threatened to strike last year,” David Fisher tells me in a phone conversation. Fisher is the president of the Sacramento City Teachers Association (SCTA), which threatened a walkout in November 2017 of the previous school year.

      “We were motivated by what was happening in RedForEd movements elsewhere,” he recalls. “We had everything lined up [in preparation for the strike] including having parents organized and having meals ready for the kids” who were going to miss school lunches.

      The strike was averted when the union and district administration came to an agreement and signed a new contract in December 2017. Specifically, the three-year contract included an across-the-board pay increase for teachers. Salaries for the district’s teachers are below state averages and rank fourth from the bottom when compared to 14 other comparable districts in the state, according the Sacramento Bee.

    • Conservatives Don’t Hate Socialism, They Hate Equality

      “They want to take away your hamburgers,” former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka declared in February. “This is what Stalin dreamt about … America will never be a socialist country!” The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) audience cheered. The video played on my phone as I waved at Danny, the homeless man who begs for food every morning at the Newark Penn Station, where scores of poor people sleep in wheelchairs or lean on crutches or stand by the delis to ask for change.

      These folks need more than “hamburgers.” They need jobs and homes. Yet, as the 2020 election season starts, Trump has branded progressives as “socialists” who will steal property and bring tyranny. The president’s fearmongering contrasts with the actual Green New Deal that some Democrats support but failed to pass in the GOP-controlled Senate. It’s a fear driven by ideology. Republicans paint the poor as undeserving, marked by cultural or personal character flaws. Whereas Democratic Socialists believe people have the ability to run the economy and society to meet their needs. Why this difference in perception? It is because Republicans aren’t afraid of socialism — they are afraid of equality with people they see as inferior.

    • Socialism for the Rich, Capitalism for the Rest

      “We renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country,” Donald Trump said recently.

      Someone should alert him that America is now a hotbed of socialism. But it’s socialism for the rich. Everyone else is treated to harsh capitalism.

      In the conservative mind, socialism means getting something for doing nothing. This pretty much describes General Motors’ receipt of $600 million in federal contracts, plus $500 million in tax breaks, since Trump took office.

      Some of this corporate welfare has gone into the pockets of GM executives. Chairman and CEO Mary Barra raked in almost $22 million in total compensation in 2017 alone.

      But GM employees are subject to harsh capitalism. GM is planning to lay off more than 14,000 workers and close three assembly plants and two component factories in North America by the end of 2019.

    • A Colossal 21st Century Kleptocracy

      They may be dead, but in the memories of many will be Mobutu Sese Seko (1930-1997) of Zaire (now reverted to its former name of the Congo), Ferdinand Marcos (1917-1989) of the Philippines, and Suharto (1921-2008) of Indonesia.

      These individuals treated as absolutely coextensive their country’s treasury and their own bank accounts.

      Certainly, there are others, not typically regarded in the west as kleptocrats, who do not likewise observe any distinction between their personal coffers and the nation’s wealth—cases in point would be the Saudi and Gulf sheikhdoms, as well as the Sultan of Brunei, the latter much in the news for his decree mandating the stoning to death of anyone allegedly engaging in homosexual activity.

      The dividing line between the two sets of cases (Mobutu et al. vs the Arab sheikhs and the Sultan of Brunei) seems opaque and difficult to define—the mega-kleptocrats a la Mobutu “stole foreign aid” among other things, but what if the foreign money is deposited directly into the personal coffers of a despot, as is the case with the several Arab sheikhdoms (19 of 21 Arab states scored below 50 in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2017, which surveys levels of corruption in the public sector).

      You are a kleptocrat if you syphon-off foreign monies donated as “development aid”, or loot your country’s treasury, but seemingly aren’t if those foreign monies, purpose unknown, are deposited directly into your personal Swiss bank accounts? Some will say there is a distinction between money destined for a national treasury and one intended for a personal banking account, but in countries where rulers don’t differentiate between the two, this distinction is moot.

      But nearly all the sums putatively involved in these cases pale in comparison to those concerning Najib Razak, prime minister and finance minister of Malaysia between 2009 and 2018.

      Najib appeared in court last week, facing 7 corruption charges over his role in the looting of Malaysia’s 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) $4.5bn sovereign wealth fund. There will be 3 other 1MDB-related trials later this year, involving a further 42 charges– in total Najib is accused of fleecing $681m from 1MDB, which he founded in 2009, saying at that time it would be used to “prime the pump” of Malaysia’s economy.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Today, Michigan regulators vote on conservative education “reform” plan to purge the word “democracy” from curriculum

      More disturbingly (and more tellingly), the plan pushes for the removal of the words “democracy” and “democratic” to describe America’s system of governance, on the grounds that they are not “politically neutral and accurate.” Instead, Colbeck and his allies advocate for the meaningless, ambiguous temrs “American government” and “Constitutional government.”

    • History gets a conservative twist in Michigan social studies standards

      Another example Colbeck cited of his influence in shaping of the new standards is the deletion of the word “democratic” from the phrase “core democratic values.”

    • Michigan Conservatives Don’t Want to Teach Students That America Is a Democracy

      This is more or less standard fare for conservative education advocates: altering lesson plans or textbooks to make them more friendly to small-government ideas, or less critical of the country’s most egregious human rights violations.

    • Did William Barr Cover Up Mueller’s Report?

      I trust Attorney General William Barr to handle the final report of special counsel Robert Mueller almost as much as I trusted James Clapper to handle national intelligence during the Obama years. Which is to say, I do not, and neither should you. This is the same man, after all, who supported pardons during his previous tenure as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush for those involved in the Iran-Contra affair, dismissing the scandal at the time as a “witch hunt.” (Sound familiar?)

      It’s been over two weeks since Mueller submitted his written assessment of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election to Barr, and we still haven’t caught a glimpse of the actual document. And unless the courts intervene, we are unlikely to see anything approaching the full report anytime soon.

    • Barr to Release Redacted Mueller Report Within the Week

      Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday he expects to release a redacted version of the special counsel’s Trump-Russia investigation report “within a week.”

      Barr told members of Congress at his first public appearance since receiving special counsel Robert Mueller’s report that his earlier projection of releasing a version by mid-April still stood. The report, which is nearly 400 pages long, is being scoured now to remove grand jury information and details that relate to pending investigations.

      Democrats scolded Barr over his handling of the report, telling him they were concerned that a summary of its main conclusions he released last month portrayed the investigation’s findings in an overly favorable way for President Donald Trump.

    • Attorney General Barr Says Mueller Report to Made Public ‘Within the Week’

      U.S. Attorney General William Barr told a House subcommittee on Tuesday morning that the report submitted to the Justice Department by Special Counsel Robert Mueller would likely be made available to both Congress and the public “within the week.”

      Testifying before the House Appropriations Subcommittee, Barr said, “Within a week I will be in position to release that report to the public and then I will engage with the chairmen of both judiciary committees about that report, about any further requests that they have.”

    • Vladimir Putin says Mueller’s Russia report is a ‘mouse’ not a ‘mountain’

      President Vladimir Putin has finally weighed in on the finished U.S. Justice Department investigation into Russian election meddling and collusion in America’s 2016 presidential race, telling reporters on Tuesday, “The mountain gave birth to a mouse,” referring to one of Aesop’s Fables.

      “We said from the start that Mr. Mueller’s notorious commission wouldn’t find anything. [...] So the fact that it’s concluded like this is like ‘the mountain giving birth to a mouse,’ as it were. It was clear to us well in advance,” the president said, repeating again that the Russian government didn’t interfere in the U.S. presidential election and never colluded with Donald Trump’s campaign. Putin also called the Mueller investigation “total nonsense,” describing it as a domestic political attack on the Trump administration.

    • The Sheer Weirdness of an Illegal Inaugural

      I’ve been working on campaign finance issues for fourteen years. I’ve never seen an illegal inaugural. Until now, potentially.

      Presidential inaugurations are at the very edge of campaign finance regulations. That means most of the typical campaign finance restrictions during an election, including on the size and sources of donations, simply don’t apply to an inaugural committee.

      For example, during an election, a U.S. citizen can give $2,800 to a candidate running for president. But once that candidate wins, a U.S. citizen can give an unlimited amount to an inaugural committee to celebrate their candidate’s assumption of power. Here’s another example: Corporations cannot give directly to a federal candidate during an election, but they can give an unlimited amount to an inaugural committee.

      Plenty of wealthy people and corporations took advantage of this increased ability to spend in 2017. NBC News found that 14 individual donors to the inaugural, who gave around $350,000 on average, were nominated to be Ambassadors by President Trump. Many companies gave at the $1 million mark to the Trump 2017 inaugural. Many of the same companies also gave to Obama’s inaugural. Corporations with regulatory matters pending before the federal government often use such donations to butter up the new guy in charge. It’s a little unnerving from the outside since it looks like currying favor, but generally it’s perfectly legal.

      Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York are looking into what was going on in the Trump inaugural committee, including asking one of the vendors, a friend of Melania Trump named Stephanie Wolkoff, about the committee’s expenditures according to press reports.

    • Middle America: The Democrats’ Dilemma

      “Power to the People!” blared over the speakers at Navy Pier Festival Hall in Chicago in early March, as U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders walked onstage in front of roughly 12,500 cheering supporters and declared, “We are gathered here tonight to complete the political revolution that we started three years ago.”

      With rocking campaign kickoff rallies in Brooklyn and Chicago, more than a million volunteers signed up, and $10 million raised in small-dollar donations within a week of his announcement, Sanders is making a serious bid to be the Democratic candidate who faces Donald Trump in 2020.

      After all, he says, his 2016 campaign has already had a lasting impact on the Democratic Party.

    • Netanyahu claims ‘tremendous victory’ as results point to his fifth win as prime minister

      A jubilant Benjamin Netanyahu took to the stage at Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv late Tuesday night, flanked by his wife Sara, as final results pointing to his victory in the Knesset elections began to trickle in.

    • Israeli Exit Polls Show Netanyahu, Main Rival in Tight Race

      Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main challenger, former military chief Benny Gantz, were locked in a neck and neck race Tuesday as exit polls showed no clear winner in an election that was seen as a referendum on the long-serving leader.

      With final results hours away, the early indications were that Netanyahu suffered a setback by failing to score a decisive victory. The 69-year-old prime minister’s fate is clouded by a series of corruption investigations.

      Two Israeli TV stations showed Gantz’s Blue and White Party with a narrow lead over the Likud. Channel 12 TV had Blue and White with 37 seats to Likud’s 33 seats, while Kan TV put Blue and White ahead 37-36. Channel 13 had the two parties deadlocked with 36 seats apiece.

      With both parties far short of a majority in the 120-seat parliament, they would have to search for smaller ideological allies to cobble together a majority.

    • So Much for Democrats’ Pledge to Reject Corporate PACs

      Before the 2018 midterm elections, and now, in the 2020 presidential campaign, multiple Democratic presidential and congressional candidates have publicly sworn off taking money from corporate political action committees. For Beto O’Rourke, denouncing PAC money didn’t hurt his fundraising bottom line. In fact, it may have been an advantage—he raised more money in the first 24 hours after his announcement than any other candidate in the race. But similar anti-PAC pronouncements may have been less beneficial for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, whom The New York Times suggests potentially lost funding.

      Some Democratic House members seem to have found a strategy for having it both ways, rejecting money from corporate PACs but accepting checks from corporate lobbyists, Politico reported Tuesday.

      Gil Cisneros, D-Calif., made an anti-PAC money promise during his 2018 campaign, which Politico writer Theodoric Meyer called “a clear way to distinguish himself from his Republican rival,” Young Kim, who took donations from Chevron, ExxonMobil and Koch Industries.

      But six months after Cisneros won the election, Meyer reports that he’s not quite honoring his pledge:

      Four lobbyists — who represent major corporate clients including AT&T, Comcast, Microsoft, Pfizer, Verizon and Wells Fargo — hosted a fundraiser for Cisneros late last month at a townhouse on Capitol Hill, according to a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee list of fundraisers obtained by POLITICO.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • The Chinafication of the internet continues as the UK proposes blocking any service that hosts “illegal” or “harmful” material

      And now, the British Parliament, in a bid to cement its status as the decade’s most dysfunctional of all legislatures, is considering legislation that would create a Chinese-style internet censorship ministry that would instruct the country’s ISPs and online services about which subjects are and are not permissible, and force them to monitor all user communication in order to prevent any “illegal content” from appearing online. Domestic services that do not comply will face fines or shutdown, and noncompliant foreign services will be stopped at the border with the Great Firewall of Cameron — the national, secret, unaccountable, unappealable blacklist created in 2015 under the rubric of preventing children from seeing (otherwise legal) pornography.

    • The UK’s Tech Backlash Could Change the Internet

      Companies that allow users to post or share content online will be required to proactively police content that the UK government deems illegal—like child sexual exploitation and abuse, the sale of illegal goods, or terrorist activity—as well as legal activity that the government has categorized as harmful, such as disinformation, promotion of serious violence, harassment, and hateful extremist content, among many others.

      An as-yet-undefined [Internet] regulator would be created to enforce the rules, with tools that go beyond the typical fines. The regulator could block offending sites from being accessed in the UK, and force other companies—like app stores, social media sites, and search engines—to stop doing business with offenders. The regulator could even hold executives personally accountable for offenses, which could mean civil fines or criminal liability.

    • Progressive professors want a blacklist of Quillette writers

      Using social pressure to stigmatize is a hallmark of witch hunts throughout history, and this tactic hides in plain sight on social media. But one wonders what the point is of declaring a publication dedicated to free speech and open discourse off limits? It appears that this mob is fearful of what could be gained by engaging in an honest exploration of ideas.

      What’s frightening about the ease with which these comments are made is that I highly doubt any of these educators have actually read Quillette.

    • The government has decided it’s time to regulate social media firms

      The government on Monday published a white paper which outlines plans to punish social media companies if they don’t do a better job of keeping harmful content off their platforms. Harmful content refers to terrorist content, encouragement of self-harm or suicide, the spread of fake news and cyberbullying amongst other things. Alas, it doesn’t cover humblebragging or twee inspirational quotes set against scenic photography, but one step at a time.

    • UK to unleash internet safety czar on Google, Facebook, Twitter

      The UK government is trying to decide whether to appoint an existing regulator to the job or to create a brand-new regulator position purely for this purpose. Initially the position will be funded by the tech industry, and the government is debating a levy for social media companies.

    • UK government proposes sweeping new regulations of online content

      The British government is considering sweeping new laws to regulate problematic content online, ranging from terrorist propaganda to fake news. A new proposal unveiled on Monday would impose a new “duty of care” on websites hosting user-submitted content. Under the plan, a new UK agency would develop codes of practice outlining how sites should deal with various types of harmful content.

    • ‘Blatant Violation of the First Amendment’: Public Citizen Sues Betsy DeVos for Censoring Its Website

      Public Citizen filed its complaint (pdf) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of David Halperin, a Public Citizen board member who frequently attends meetings at the Department of Education and uses its Wi-Fi network.

      The organization’s filing alleges that the Department of Education is violating both the First Amendment and the Administrative Procedure Act by blocking access to its website.

      “The department and DeVos have no legitimate justification for blocking access to Public Citizen’s website,” the group said in a press release. “Public Citizen’s website includes material on a wide range of issues, including information critical of the department and DeVos… Public Citizen also uses its website to inform the public about litigation, including litigation involving DeVos and the department.”

      Public Citizen is seeking “a court order declaring the department’s and DeVos’s action unlawful and enjoining them from blocking access” to its site.

    • Devin Nunes Has Filed A Second Bullshit Defamation Lawsuit Telling You All About A News Article He Doesn’t Want You To Read

      It appears that Devin Nunes wants to become the new poster-child for filing bullshit SLAPP suits to silence and intimidate his critics. Just a few weeks after filing an obvious SLAPP suit against two satirical Twitter accounts, Republican strategist Liz Mair, and Twitter itself, Nunes is back in court again, suing news giant McClatchy and Liz Mair again. The first lawsuit was for $250 million. This one is for $150 million. Both are SLAPP suits that seemed designed to shut up his critics — especially Mair. Nunes is represented by the same lawyer, Steven Biss, in both cases (Biss has, well, a colorful history).

    • Media Watchdog Debunks Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories With Study Showing Facebook Is ‘Not Censoring Conservatives’

      Reaffirming earlier findings, the media watchdog group Media Matters for America released a study Tuesday showing that contrary to Republican claims, Facebook is not censoring right-wing users or messages.

      The group studied nearly 400 accounts focused on political news between July 2018 and March 2019, including pages reporting from a right-wing viewpoint, left-leaning pages, and pages purporting to deliver “non-partisan” news.

      The research clearly showed, MMFA external affairs director Rebecca Lenn wrote on Twitter, that “Facebook is still not censoring conservatives.”

    • Platform Liability Doesn’t – And Shouldn’t – Depend on Content Moderation Practices
    • UK Now Proposes Ridiculous Plan To Fine Internet Companies For Vaguely Defined ‘Harmful Content’

      If you watch that video, she literally pulls out a “but think of the children” argument, insisting that social media must be tamed into stopping “harmful” content. Of course, what she leaves out is that most of the “harmful” content she’s upset about is perfectly legal. And, much of it is available not just via social media. But, don’t worry about that: this is all about a moral panic around social media.

      The plan would result in massive, widespread, totally unnecessary censorship solely for the sake of pretending to do something about the fact that some people sometimes do not so nice things online. And it will place all of the blame on the internet companies for the (vaguely defined) not so nice things that those companies’ users might do online.

      The basic plan is the kind of nonsense people come up with when they don’t have the slightest clue how the internet (or human beings) actually work. It would establish a new regulator who would come up with a “code of practice” for internet companies (broadly defined) requiring them to have a “duty of care” to magically stop basically any (ill-defined) bad behavior online. The regulator could then massively fine any internet company that breaks its nonsense rules. The rules appear to be totally vague and would require blocking “harmful content” even if it’s perfectly legal just because someone says its bad. Failure by companies (after being fined) to wave a magic wand and stop bad stuff online could lead to full site blocking by ISPs to access such sites.

    • Tennessee Senate Unanimously Passes Actual Anti-SLAPP Bill

      Some good news is one the way for Tennesseans. Attorney Daniel Horwitz — who knows his way around stupid libel lawsuits — sends word that a revamp of the state’s mostly-useless anti-SLAPP law is a step or two away from landing on the governor’s desk.

      The current law does nothing to shield citizens from bogus lawsuits clearly intended to silence criticism. This lack of protection has resulted in a number of merit-less lawsuits being filed. One of the most ridiculous — a former university program head suing his replacement for things a journalist said — managed to make its way all the way up to the state’s appeal court. In the end, the defendant was awarded $10,000 in legal fees, but none of that was guaranteed when the plaintiff started wasting everyone’s time and money.

    • European Parliament Moves Forward With ‘Terrorist Content’ Regulation That Will Lead To Massive Internet Censorship

      Last week we wrote (not for the first time) about the really dreadful Terrorist Content Regulation making its way through the EU regulatory process. As we noted, this is Article 13 on steroids. Everything that’s bad about Article 13 is worse in the Terrorist Content Regulation, even though it’s getting much less attention.

      Perhaps because it’s getting so little attention it just sailed through an EU Parliament committee’s approval process. This was in the LIBE Committee, which is supposedly in charge of protecting civil liberties. And yet here, it seems to be stamping them out.

    • Singapore Government Pushes Fake News Law Which Will Give It More Options To Shut Down Critics

      Fake news laws aren’t harmless. They don’t protect the public. They’re useless. And they lend themselves to censorship. Given these factors, it’s tough to believe any of the proponents of fake news laws are proceeding in good faith but blinded by good intentions and fuzzy logic.

      Anywhere they’ve been put in place, they’ve lead directly to governments taking action against political opponents, dissidents, and activists. Excuses are made about national security and protecting the public, but in the end, it’s the public that ends up short on protection.

      Singapore’s new fake news bill is no exception. Legislators began pushing this bill last year, using their own fake news to claim the proposal had widespread support from the country’s residents. The committee behind the legislation heavily editorialized the feedback it received at a public hearing, presenting a vocal opponent’s comments as being supportive of instituting a fake news law.

    • Mozilla Open Policy & Advocacy Blog: What we think about the UK government’s ‘Online Harms’ white paper

      The UK government has just outlined its plans for sweeping new laws aimed at tackling illegal and harmful content and activity online, described by the government as ‘the toughest internet laws in the world’. While the UK proposal has some promising ideas for what the next generation of content regulation should look like, there are several aspects that would have a worrying impact on individuals’ rights and the competitive ecosystem. Here we provide our preliminary assessment of the proposal, and offer some guidance on how it could be improved.

      According to the UK white paper, companies of all sizes would be under a ‘duty of care’ to protect their users from a broad class of so-called ‘online harms’, and a new independent regulator would be established to police them. The proposal responds to legitimate public policy concerns around how platforms deal with illegal and harmful content online, as well as the general public demand for tech companies to ‘do more’. We understand that in many respects the current regulatory paradigm is not fit for purpose, and we support an exploration of what codified content ‘responsibility’ might look like.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • The Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s Ride Tracking Pilot is Out of Control

      The Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) is about to make a bad privacy situation worse, and it’s urgent that Los Angeles residents contact their city council representatives today to demand they put the brakes on LADOT’s irresponsible data collection. The agency plans to scoop up trip data on every single e-bike and scooter ride taken within the city and, left unchecked, it will do so in the absence of responsible and transparent policies to mitigate the privacy risks to Los Angeles riders.

    • New FCC Commissioner: Hey, Maybe Somebody In Government Could Address These Wireless Location Data Scandals?

      We’ve noted a few times now that while Facebook gets a lot of justified heat for its privacy scandals, the stuff going on in the cellular data and app market in regards to location data makes many of Facebook’s privacy issues seem like a grade-school picnic. That’s something that was pretty well highlighted by the recent Securus and LocationSmart scandals, which showcased perfectly how cellular carriers and location data brokers routinely buy and sell your daily travel habits with only a fleeting effort to ensure all of the subsequent buyers and sellers of that data adhere to basic privacy and security standards.

      That was again exemplified by reports on how this data often winds up in the hands of bounty hunters, and can often include 911 location data that’s supposed to be protected by law.

    • Facebook still tracks you after you deactivate account

      On the site, Facebook explains that deactivating is a half-step to complete deletion. But it says little about how data collection works during the period. In its data policy, Facebook suggests deactivation to manage your privacy but doesn’t mention that it still collects data during that period.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • The Death of an Adjunct

      To be a perennial adjunct professor is to hear the constant tone of higher education’s death knell. The story is well known—the long hours, the heavy workload, the insufficient pay—as academia relies on adjunct professors, non-tenured faculty members, who are often paid pennies on the dollar to do the same work required of their tenured colleagues.

      The position is often inaccurately described as akin to a form of slavery. Thea, a scholar of rights, slavery, and freedom, would have been the first to say that is not the case. It is more like the lowest rung in a caste system, the one that underrepresented minorities tend to call home.

    • Two former ‘United Russia’ lawmakers in Astrakhan are sentenced to decades in prison for sex crimes against minors

      A court in Astrakhan has sentenced Vitaly Kurskov and Igor Poplevko, two former regional lawmakers from United Russia, to 24 years and 16 years in prison, respectively, for sexual crimes against minors. The two ex regional Duma deputies were convicted of committing rape and sexual abuse against minors and producing child pornography.

    • ‘Clear Breach of His Oath of Office’: Trump Reportedly Told Border Patrol to Refuse to Let Migrants in the US

      During a visit to Calexico, California last Friday, President Donald Trump reportedly told Border Patrol agents to defy U.S. law and refuse to allow migrants into the country.

      “Behind the scenes,” CNN reported Monday, citing two anonymous sources, “the president told border agents to not let migrants in. Tell them we don’t have the capacity, he said. If judges give you trouble, say, ‘Sorry, judge, I can’t do it. We don’t have the room.’”

      “After the president left the room, agents sought further advice from their leaders, who told them they were not giving them that direction and if they did what the president said they would take on personal liability,” according to CNN. “You have to follow the law, they were told.”

    • Lethal Fluctuations: The Death Penalty in Asia

      The Malaysian government last year expressed a surprise change of heart on a policy long held dear; it would reconsider the death penalty. The case of Muhammad Lukman, sentenced to death in August for the purchase and sharing of medicinal marijuana, did much to stimulate outrage. On October 10th, law minister Liew Vui Keong announced that it would be abolished. Doing so would leave such last bastions as Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia.

      In other parts, capital punishment is either continuing its grim dance (in Singapore, usage is on the rise; in Vietnam, it remains consistently high) or getting back in business, singing its deadly siren song. Killing people in the name of state vengeance is becoming vogue even as it retreats in other contexts. The Kingdom of Brunei, despite having it on the books since the days of being a British protectorate, is only now contemplating, in all seriousness, putting people to death who have a liking, or find themselves, committing sodomy. (Lesbian reverie will see a penalty of 40 lashes and a potential prison sentence of 10 years.)

      In the Philippines, an aggressive, insistent President Rodrigo Duterte has proven something of a trail blazer, scorching his way through human rights quibbles and filling the morgues. In July 2017, he explained the rationale for using capital punishment without mercy in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA). “It is time for us to fulfil our mandate to protect our people. Tapos na’yan. For so long we have to act decisively on this contentious issue. Capital punishment is not only about deterrence, it’s also about retribution.”

      Duterte’s view of the penal code is stripped of ornate reasoning. It is one of vengeance and pessimism, marshalled against any hope of restorative justice or therapeutic reform. The law, a legacy of the Spaniards and then translated into English, with revisions, “is the essence of retribution.” The attitude there involved “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. You took life, you must pay with it. That is the only way to even. You can’t place a premium on the human mind that he will go straight.”

      The result has been one of carnage: over 5,000 deaths between July 1, 2016 and November 30, 2018, if you believe the official figures, or the greater number of 12,000, if you believe in activist assessments. This pool drew on a total of 164,265 arrests (“drug personalities”, no less) as part of 115,435 anti-drugs operations.

    • Legislator Irritated By A Journalist Decides State’s Government Should Start Regulating Journalism

      The bill, which Welch announced along with his resignation from the General Assembly, would create an “independent” ethics board for journalists, which would then decide how journalists should behave. The board — consisting of a handful of journalists from different fields and a “retired professor of journalism who preferably taught journalism ethics” — would hand out sanctions, issue opinions, and possibly offer some form of journalism license (which would be voluntary, not mandatory).

      The independence of the board would apparently be assured by the requirement that those assembling the board, as well as those sitting on the board, “shall not be employed by any federal government entity, any state government entity, or any local government entity during such member’s term of service on the board.”

      Independent or not, the ethics board would be created by government mandate, which already poses Constitutional issues. It gets worse when other aspects of the proposed law are examined.

    • ‘Meduza’ reports from the ground on Ingushetia’s remarkable months-long protest movement

      Since the fall of 2018, residents of Ingushetia have held ongoing protests against a newly proposed border with Chechnya. On paper, there has been no formal border since the Chechen-Ingush ASSR split into two Russian federal subjects in 1991. On an objective level, a legal demarcation is necessary, but the border bill that the governments of both republics approved in the fall gave Chechnya more than seven percent of Ingushetia’s territory. As Ingush citizens protested, first against the deal itself and then against the government’s attempt to eliminate the need for a popular vote on it, both the region’s intelligentsia and Islamic fundamentalists took part. By April, that struggle against municipal, regional, and federal government forces had become a war of entrenchment: law enforcement agencies began searching and arresting opposition activists en masse. Meduza asked journalist Vladimir Sevrinovsky to speak with members of the Ingush protest movement in Magas and Nazran.

    • Kirstjen Nielsen’s Cruel Legacy: Outgoing DHS Secretary Proudly Separated Families & Caged Children

      Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has been forced out of her role at the helm of President Trump’s immigration policy after reportedly resisting a move by the president to revive his family separation policy at the U.S. border. We look at Nielsen’s legacy with Renée Feltz, a Democracy Now! correspondent and producer who has long reported on the criminalization of immigrants, family detention and the business of detention. Nielsen oversaw Trump’s “zero tolerance” family separation policy last year and came under fire by Democrats for lying to Congress about the policy, as well as for withholding information on children who died in U.S. custody. At least two children died under Nielsen’s leadership: 8-year-old Felipe Alonzo Gómez and 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquín.

    • Stephen Miller’s Uncle: Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Comments Demonize Asylum Seekers & Stir Racist Hatred

      As his administration intensifies anti-immigrant policies at the border, President Trump has reportedly put adviser Stephen Miller in charge of the administration’s immigration policy. The Wall Street Journal reports Miller has backed the reinstatement of Trump’s family separation policy and has been pushing officials at the Homeland Security and Justice Departments to “get in line” with a more hard-line immigration approach. This news comes as Trump told the Republican Jewish Coalition leadership Saturday, “Our country’s full. What can you do? We can’t handle any more. Our country is full.” We speak with Stephen Miller’s uncle, Dr. David Glosser, who says Trump’s comments echo the rhetoric of Nazi Germany. Glosser is a retired neuropsychologist and former faculty member at Boston University School of Medicine and Jefferson Medical College. Last year, he wrote a piece for Politico magazine headlined “Stephen Miller Is an Immigration Hypocrite. I Know Because I’m His Uncle.”

    • Trump Picks Family Separation Advocate Kevin McAleenan to Be Acting Secretary of Homeland Security

      With his selection of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Kevin McAleenan to serve as acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), President Trump has once again shown that he has no regrets over his administration’s disastrous policy of separating families.

      McAleenan was one of the three DHS officials to recommend the cruel and inhumane policy to outgoing Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, writing that the department’s best option to “increase the consequences for dangerous illegal crossings” was to “direct the separation of parents or legal guardians and minors held in immigration detention so that the parent or legal guardian can be prosecuted.”

      Despite signing the family separation memo and overseeing the very agency that implemented the policy, McAleenan stated in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that “we do not have a policy of administrative separation.” He later made the absurd claim that family separation was meant to “protect families and children,” even though child welfare experts had warned that “separating children from their mothers or fathers leads to serious, negative consequences to children’s health and development.”

      Alarmingly, the president may bring back an expanded version of his administration’s family separation policy. According to NBC News, McAleenan has already indicated that he would be open to resuming large-scale family separation, and CNN reported that Trump “wanted families separated even if they came in at a legal port of entry and were legal asylum seekers” and “wanted families separated even if they were apprehended within the U.S. He thinks the separations work to deter migrants from coming.” While the president has denied this, he also defended family separation by saying that “once you don’t have it,” migrants will be coming to the country “like it’s a picnic.”

    • Utah Passed a Law to Protect Noncitizens From Automatic Deportation

      By reducing the maximum penalty for a misdemeanor by one day, lawmakers reduced the harm of an unfair federal immigration law

      Utah is known for its red rock canyons, steep ski slopes, and a mega-majority Republican legislature. And now it can be recognized as one of just a handful of states to pass legislation that helps noncitizens avoid deportation if they are convicted of a misdemeanor.

      The bill, which was signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert on March 25, clarifies that misdemeanor convictions in Utah can no longer be interpreted as aggravated felonies for immigration purposes, avoiding automatic deportation for a crime as simple as shop-lifting. To make this happen, the bill reduces the maximum possible sentence for misdemeanors in Utah by a single day — from 365 days to 364 days. In an era when lawmakers often pass splashy message bills that create little impact, the new law is just the opposite — a nuanced piece of legislation that spans the twin chasms of criminal justice and immigration reform, while improving the lives of thousands of Utah residents.

      Utah is by no means the first state to enact this sensible policy change. We now join states such as Nevada, California, and Washington that have passed so-called 364-day laws, with the goal of reducing the immigration consequences of convictions for noncitizens. But Utah is one of the few Republican-led states to make this change. Utah also surprisingly reached the finish line ahead of both Colorado and New York, two states that adopted similar protections in March.

      Should your state try to follow Utah’s lead? It’s only necessary if your state defines the maximum penalty for a misdemeanor as 365 days or longer.

    • Emboldened by Mueller Report, Trump Stages Border Drama

      Trump hands even more aggressive border policy to Stephen Miller, and uses border controversy to bury more aggressive action against Iran

    • Let Freedom Ring

      It was 80 years ago today, on April 9, 1939, that acclaimed contralto Marian Anderson took the resolute stage before 75,000 people on the National Mall, overseen by a brooding Abraham Lincoln, in a free open-air Easter concert now deemed a seminal moment in the civil rights movement. At 42, Anderson had risen from poverty in South Philadelphia to become famous across Europe and the U.S. for what Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini called a voice that “comes around once in a hundred years.” That blustery April day, Anderson had originally been invited to sing at D.C.’s Constitution Hall by Howard University as part of its concert series. But the Daughters of the American Revolution, who owned the hall and had a white-artist-only clause in every contract, banned her because she was black. The act outraged First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who resigned from the group to protest the “unfortunate” decision, and many others.

    • “We Woke Up and You Will Pay!” Algeria in Revolt

      What is happening in Algeria is truly historic. The people won the first battle in their struggle to radically overhaul the system. Abdelaziz Bouteflika, president for the past twenty years, was forced to abdicate after more than six weeks of street protests and a re-configuration of alliances within the ruling classes.

      Since Friday, February 22, millions of people, young and old, men and women from different social classes have taken to the streets in a momentous uprising, re-appropriating long-confiscated public space. Historic Friday marches followed by protests in several sectors (education, health, petrochemical industry, students, etc) united people in their rejection of the ruling system and their demands of radical democratic change.

      The two emblematic slogans of this peaceful uprising — “They must all go!” and “The country is ours and we’ll do what we wish” — symbolize the radical evolution of this popular movement that was triggered by the octogenarian president’s announcement to run for a fifth term despite dealing with serious health issues; Bouteflika has not addressed the nation for nearly six years.

    • The Trump Era as an Occasion for Truth Telling

      Irony, paradox, contradiction, consternation — these define the times in which we live. On the one hand, the 45th president of the United States is a shameless liar. On the other hand, his presidency offers an open invitation to Americans to confront myths about the way their country actually works. Donald Trump is a bullshit artist of the first order. Yet all art reflects the time in which it’s produced and Trump’s art is no exception. Within all the excrement lie nuggets of truth.

      Well before Trump rode the down escalator to the center of American politics, there were indicators aplenty that things had gone fundamentally awry. Yet only with the presidential election of 2016 did the chickens come home to roost. And with their arrival, it became apparent that more than a few propositions hitherto accepted as true are anything but.

      Let me offer seven illustrative examples of myths that the Trump presidency has once-and-for-all demolished.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Research analyst predicts Snapchat’s user base in the US will decrease in 2019

      The research firm eMarketer is forecasting that Snapchat’s user base will drop to 77.5 million monthly users this year, a decrease of 2.8% from 2018′s numbers.

      This projection is significantly lower than the research firm expected for 2019 back in last year’s third-quarter – eMarketer initially predicted Snapchat would grow its US user base to 90.4 million monthly users.

    • Google AMP lowered our page speed, and there’s no choice but to use it

      We here at unlike kinds decided that we had to implement Google AMP. We have to be in the Top Stories section because otherwise we’re punted down the page and away from potential readers. We didn’t really want to; our site is already fast because we made it fast, largely with a combination of clever caching and minimal code. But hey, maybe AMP would speed things up. Maybe Google’s new future is bright.

      It isn’t. According to Google’s own Page Speed Insights audit (which Google recommends to check your performance), the AMP version of articles got a performance score of 80. The non-AMP versions? 86. Mind you, the AMP versions are hobbled – unauthorised javascript interaction is forbidden by Google, so you can’t vote or comment in place – it’ll kick you to the full version of the page. This is the fruit of weeks of labour converting the site: a slower, less interactive, more clunky site.

    • McConnell: Net neutrality bill ‘dead on arrival’ in Senate

      The new legislation has long odds of passing the GOP-controlled Senate. Democrats now hold 47 seats in the chamber, after Republicans netted two additional seats during the November midterm election. And the 60-day window for forcing a vote on the bill under the Congressional Review Act lapsed last year.

    • The White House is using fuzzy math to justify net neutrality veto

      In a statement on Monday, the White House promised to veto the Save the Internet Act — a bill designed to restore net neutrality protections and undo the FCC’s extremely unpopular 2017 decision to repeal them. To justify the veto, the statement painted a picture of surging broadband investment and robust new networks, free to flourish now that Title II was out of the way.

    • Tens of Thousands of Net Neutrality Defenders Tune In as House Votes on Save the Internet Act

      Ahead of the vote—which could be pushed back to Wednesday—Fight for the Future urged Americans to contact their representatives and urge them to pass a clean version of the Save the Internet Act.

      “Tell your reps to vote YES on HR 1644, the Save the Net Act, and NO on bad amendments and the ‘Motion to Recommit,’” the group tweeted.

    • White House threatens to veto Democrat-led net neutrality bill

      The Save the Internet Act is expected to easily make its way out of the Democrat-controlled House, but the legislation faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Senate. For many Republican senators, net neutrality simply isn’t a priority for the majority this congressional session, particularly for Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) who chairs the powerful Commerce Committee.

      If the bill “were presented to the President,” the White House statement said, “his advisors would recommend that he veto it.”

    • A Brief History of Porn on the Internet

      The furor over [Internet] pornography had started with the publication of a study, “Marketing Pornography on the Information Superhighway,” in The Georgetown Law Journal. The authoritative-sounding study, written by a Carnegie Mellon undergraduate, Marty Rimm, claimed to be “a Survey of 917,410 Images, Description, Short Stories and Animations Downloaded 8.5 Million Times by Consumers in Over 2000 Cities in Forty Countries, Provinces and Territories.” Rimm asserted that 80 percent of images on newsgroups, the primary repository of pictures online, were porn.

  • DRM

    • Do we really own our digital possessions?

      My research has found that many consumers do not consider these possibilities, because they make sense of their digital possessions based on their previous experiences of possessing tangible, physical objects. If our local bookstore closed down, the owner wouldn’t knock on our door demanding to remove previously purchased books from our shelves. So we do not anticipate this scenario in the context of our eBooks. Yet the digital realm presents new threats to ownership that our physical possessions haven’t prepared us for.

      Consumers need to become more sensitised to the restrictions on digital ownership. They must be made aware that the “full ownership” they have experienced over most of their physical possessions cannot be taken for granted when purchasing digital products. However, companies also have a responsibility to make these fragmented ownership forms more transparent.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Patent case: G.D. Searle v. Sandoz B.V., Netherlands

      The Court concluded that the compound darunavir was not protected by a patent within the sense of Art. 3 of the SPC directive because, following the CJEU decision in Teva v Gilead, it is necessary that the compound for which the SPC is granted can be specifically identified in the patent.

    • All challenged claims for another Dominion Harbor patent cancelled by PTAB

      On April 5, 2019, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) issued a final written decision in Unified Patents Inc. v. Blue Sky Networks, LLC, IPR2018-00069 holding as unpatentable claims 1-4, 7-14, and 17-20 of U.S. Patent 8,265,691 owned and asserted by Blue Sky Networks, LLC, a Dominion Harbor subsidiary and well-known NPE.

    • Multiple claims of Sound View patent held unpatentable by PTAB

      On April 9, 2019, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) issued a final written decision in Unified Patents Inc. v. Sound View Innovations, LLC, IPR2018-00096 holding as unpatentable claims 1-3 and 8-10 of U.S. Patent 6,125,371 owned and asserted by Sound View Innovations, LLC, a well known NPE.

    • In-house spill secrets on trade secret management

      In-house counsel share practical tips on managing trade secrets in the aftermath of the America Invents Act and the Defend Trade Secrets Act

    • Patent case: TEK Global S.R.L. v. Sealant Systems International Inc., USA

      A new trial was granted so a manufacturer accused of infringing the patent can challenge its validity by presenting additional obviousness theories that the district court should not have disallowed.

    • Copyrights

      • DSM Directive Series #3: How far does Article 14 go?

        As IPKat readers know, a few days ago the European Parliament adopted the latest version of the draft Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (‘DSM Directive’). In a few days’ time, the Council will cast the last vote on it and, after that, it will be published on the EU Official Journal. Individual Member States will then have 24 months to transpose this new piece of EU legislation into their own laws.

      • Copyright’s L Curve Problem

        No one ever argues for copyright on the grounds that superstar artists and authors need more money, but what if that is all, or mostly all, that copyright does? This article presents newly available data on the distribution of players across the PC videogame market. This data reveals an L-shaped distribution of demand. A relative handful of games are extremely popular. The vast majority are not. In the face of an L curve, copyright overpays superstars, but does very little for the average author and for works at the margins of profitability. This makes copyright difficult to justify on either efficiency or fairness grounds. To remedy this, I propose two approaches. First, we should incorporate cost recoupment into the fourth fair use factor. Once a work has recouped its costs, any further use, whether for follow-on creativity or mere duplication, would be fair and non-infringing. Through such an interpretation of fair use, copyright would ensure every socially valuable work a reasonable opportunity to recoup its costs without lavishing socially costly excess incentives on the most popular. Second and alternatively, Congress can make copyright short, narrow, and relatively ineffective at preventing unauthorized copying. If we refuse to use fair use or other doctrines to tailor copyright’s protection on a work-by-work basis and insist that copyright provide generally uniform protection, then efficiency and fairness both require that that uniform protection be far shorter, much narrower, and generally less effective than it presently is.

        [...]

        I’m troubled by this analysis and analogy in a couple of ways. Primarily, it mixes the apples of price per unit and the oranges of total demand. Sheeran and noname song both earn the same cost: Spotify pays them exactly the same per play. Sheeran makes more money not because the price of his song is higher, but because more people want it. There are no rents in his individual demand/supply curve; indeed, if he knew the popularity, he probably would have charged more (see Taylor Swift refusing to go on Spotify). Now, Lunney is saying that if too many people want the song, then it’s not efficient because there are others who could copy it for free and that’s a welfare loss because the gain in incentives to create music is outweighed by the joy we would all get if we could just listen to the music for free once Sheeran got enough to make the music in the first place. But if that’s the argument he wants to make, he should own it, rather than claiming that somehow Sheeran is selling something at other than the cost of making it. Because if you take this argument to the extreme, it means that even though the heart surgeon has now exceeded the cost of running the practice by June (it was an unexpectedly cholesterol filled year), then the incentives for people to become heart surgeons are outweighed by the value we’d all get if we just forced the surgeon to operate for free after July 1. Maybe it’s ok for copyright because of “promote the progress” in the constitution and all, but it’s a pretty unsettling way to look at the world, in my view.

        I’m also troubled because this treats music (and other copyrighted works) as fungible goods, as you would in a market. Sheeran and noname – either one is the same, so if they are priced similarly then they should make similar profits. But that’s not how even efficient markets work. In an efficient market, a better product has a larger demand, and thus garners more revenue because more people will buy it. Even with a flat marginal cost (and it’s not actually flat, even with music), if the demand curve shifts out, more people will buy the product at the same price. And so cutting off the revenues in fact distorts the market. It’s a wealth transfer. It may be justified in the name of welfare maximization (though I’m not convinced), but again, Prof. Lunney should own that. He proposes taking an otherwise efficiently behaving market, in which everyone sells the similar but slightly differentiated goods for the same price, and putting a thumb on the scale to cap demand at the competitive price before it is sated, so that consumers and have all of the welfare associated with not having to pay for a product they prefer to another product they could just as easily buy for the exact same cost but do not prefer. This is not an efficient market proposal, in my view. (On a side note, it’s not even clear that Spotify is the way to measure this, as customers pay a fixed price, and can consume as much of the product as they want, detaching demand analysis from pricing).

        To recap this very long rant post, I agree with Prof. Lunney that we likely don’t need more copyright protection to get more video games, or music, or books, or whatever. Indeed, we likely would be fine with a lot less of it. But I just cannot get to that conclusion from the data presented here, except to say that a lot of people seem to make video games on Steam without the expectation of huge profits.

      • Making Sense of Unequal Returns to Copyright

        Typically, describing an article as polarizing refers to two different groups having very different views of an article. But I read an article this week that had a polarizing effect within myself. Indeed, it took me so long to get my thoughts together, I couldn’t even get a post up last week. That article is Glynn Lunney’s draft Copyright’s L Curve Problem, which is now on SSRN. The article is a study of user distribution on the video game platform Steam, and the results are really interesting.

        The part that has me torn is the takeaway. I agree with Prof. Lunney’s view that copyright need not be extended, and that current protection (especially duration) is overkill for what is needed in the industry. I disagree with his view that you could probably dial back copyright protection all the way with little welfare loss. And I’m scratching my head over whether the data in his paper actually supports one argument or the other.

      • Copyright rules will turn the EU into a French digital colony

        The EU copyright reform has not resulted in the modernized framework for culture and internet that the EU needs, in spite of the European Commission’s promises in 2014. Instead, it has turned into a competition between those who seek to find innovative ways of insulting young Europeans who, in spite of France, have tried to make their vision of a connected, common future known.

      • Canadian ISPs Call For Standardization And Fines For Copyright Trolls Ignoring Changes To Copyright Law

        Sometimes stories that appear to have good outcomes end up with unsatisfying ends. Such appears to be the case with the recent changes to Canada’s copyright laws. After ISPs in Canada began making a great deal of noise about the plague that is settlement threat letters, which ISPs are required to pass through to their customers under threat of fines, the government did the unthinkable and changed the law. The changes made it so that copyright trolls could not force ISPs to pass these letters to ISP customers if the letters contained the usual tactics: offers to settle the claim of infringement, requests for payment or personal information, a reference or link to any such demands, etc. This should have been the end, in other words, of copyright troll fishing expeditions as facilitated by ISPs.

      • EU Court Asked to Rule on ‘Piracy Liability’ of Usenet Provider

        After more than a decade in court, the legal dispute between anti-piracy group BREIN and Usenet provider News-Service.com has landed on the desk of the European Court of Justice. The Dutch Supreme Court referred questions to the EU court seeking clarification on several piracy liability related issues.

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  16. Guest Post: António Campinos' European Patent Office Redefines Modern Slavery in the Heart of Europe in 2019

    The European Patent Office’s (EPO) President António Campinos — like his predecessor Battistelli — emulates Chinese labour practices



  17. Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: There is More Than One Iceberg Ahead

    "This strategy is not far from when Microsoft talked about "de-commoditizing protocols" in the late 90s, as part of their plans to control, dominate, and end Open Source and Free software."



  18. EPO Cannot Handle Patent Justice With a Backlog of About 10,000 Cases at the Boards of Appeal

    The EPO's long war on judges and on the law has proven to be costly; it's difficult to pretend that the EPO functions like a first-world legal framework



  19. The European Patent Office Increases Surveillance: Can't Get Food Without Being Spied on

    The infamous "War on Cash" has been 'won' at Europe's second-largest institution, where people's diet can now be monitored and indefinitely retained on the system



  20. To GNU/Linux, the Operating System, GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft) is Not the Threat. Microsoft is.

    Don't let Microsoft get away with its bogus narration; GNU/Linux is primarily under attack from Microsoft, whereas Software Freedom in general is under attack from many directions



  21. The Free Software Foundation (FSF) Has the Full Support of Techrights

    Our support for the FSF is strong enough that we want to occasionally suggest improvements; there are growing frictions designed to isolate the FSF and cause self-restraint/censorship



  22. Why We Support Phoronix (Whereas Some Others Do Not)

    Some people try to characterise Michael Larabel as the 'bad boy' of Linux even though Michael is probably the hardest working Linux journalist out there



  23. Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: The Simplest Ways that AI will Change Computing

    "AI is already used to help kill people. We should be cautious, and know that the best rules we come up with (like no doing magic outside the school grounds) won't be followed all the time."



  24. Links 20/8/2019: DragonFlyBSD Developing DSynth

    Links for the day



  25. Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Narcissism in The Community

    "Narcissists are drawn to intelligent people. They take great pleasure in attacking, controlling and defeating intelligent people because it makes them feel smarter and more important."



  26. Breaking the Law Has Become the Norm at the European Patent Office

    The European Patent Office’s ongoing practice of destroying critics/whistleblowers and crushing unions, judges, examiners etc. — as well as threats and bribery of the media — ultimately mean a perpetual state of lawlessness that, if it prevails, will let patent trolls raid the European economy and stall innovation



  27. Links 20/8/2019: KMyMoney 5.0.6, Kdenlive 19.08

    Links for the day



  28. Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Free Software in Education

    "If everyone learns to code, then everyone gains some understanding of how to code in other languages."



  29. Links 19/8/2019: Another Linux 5.3 RC, OpenSUSE's Richard Brown Steps Down, Slackware Creates Patreon Page, Qt 6 Initiated

    Links for the day



  30. Speaking Truth to Monopolies (or How to Write Guest Posts in Techrights)

    We need to have more articles tackling the passage of all power — especially when it comes to software — to few large monopolies that disregard human rights or actively participate in their abolishment in the digital realm


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