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04.11.19

Links 11/4/2019: Twisted 19.2.0 Released, Assange Arrested

Posted in News Roundup at 11:23 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Desktop

    • Avoid the Trash Heap: 15 Great Uses for an Old PC

      For the first time in seven years, PC sales are forecast to go up by the tiniest increment—0.3 percent—which means you probably own an aging personal computer. Now is the time to upgrade, explore a 2-in-1, or go entirely mobile with your computing. But what do you do with the old PC?

      You may be tempted to go the easy route and just junk it. But don’t do that. If that laptop or desktop was created any time in the last decade, you’d be surprised by how much life you (or others) can get out of it. I’m not talking about limping along, but of ways to bring an old PC back to useful life.

      You may need to do some light upgrades here and there; more RAM and a big new storage drive may benefit some (okay, probably all) of these projects. In many cases, the PC will require separate access to the internet and/or the ability to get software written to a USB flash drive to install on that old junker.

      Take a gander at the options. You’ll be glad you kept that old PC around.

    • Linux…Do It for the Children

      I’m probably going to regret that title. I’ve been making fun of those words, “do it for the children” for years. It’s one of those “reasons” people turn to when all else has failed in terms of getting you to sign on to whatever lifestyle, agenda, law, changes to food—you name it. Hearing those words draws the Spock eyebrow lift out of me faster than you can say, “fascinating”.

      Okay, pretend that I didn’t start this article with that comment. Let’s try this instead.

      As I write this, my youngest son is 11 years old. He has grown up in a magical world of electronics that delivers what he wants to watch when he wants to watch it. Access to the web is something he always has known. Until very recently, he never had seen television with commercials. A couple years ago, my wife and I thought it was something he should at least understand, so we turned to a live TV program for the first time in I don’t know how long. He was not impressed with the interruptions. Now, with multiple Google Home units in the house, including one in his bedroom, the on-demand magic is pretty much complete.

      He started playing video games when he was three and was scary good on my PS3 by the time he turned four. He started using a laptop when he was five, and that laptop ran Linux. I’m pretty sure he was using Kubuntu, but it might have been Linux Mint. Either way, it was a KDE Plasma desktop. In short, the world of tech is nothing new for him, and Linux is just what people run. His school has Chromebooks, and the few run-ins he’s had with Windows left him cold.

      Kids and Linux? Absolutely.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

    • FLOSS Weekly 525: Mycroft

      Mycroft is the Private and Open Voice Solution for Consumers and Enterprises. It runs anywhere – on a desktop computer, inside an automobile, or on a Raspberry Pi. This is open source software which can be freely remixed, extended, and improved. Mycroft may be used in anything from a science project to an enterprise software application.

  • Kernel Space

    • The return of the lockdown patches

      It’s been a year since we looked in on the kernel lockdown patches; that’s because things have been fairly quiet on that front since there was a loud and discordant dispute about them back then. But Matthew Garrett has been posting new versions over the last two months; it would seem that the changes that have been made might be enough to tamp down the flames and, perhaps, even allow them to be merged into the mainline.

      The idea behind kernel lockdown is to supplement secure boot mechanisms to limit the ability of the root user to cause unverified, potentially malicious code to be run. The most obvious way to do that is to use the kexec subsystem to run a new kernel that has not been vetted by the secure boot machinery, but there are lots of other ways that root can circumvent the intent of (some) secure boot users. While the support for UEFI secure boot has been in the kernel for years, providing a way to restrict the root user after that point has always run aground.

    • Working with UTF-8 in the kernel

      In the real world, text is expressed in many languages using a wide variety of character sets; those character sets can be encoded in a lot of different ways. In the kernel, life has always been simpler; file names and other string data are just opaque streams of bytes. In the few cases where the kernel must interpret text, nothing more than ASCII is required. The proposed addition of case-insensitive file-name lookups to the ext4 filesystem changes things, though; now some kernel code must deal with the full complexity of Unicode. A look at the API being provided to handle encodings illustrates nicely just how complicated this task is.
      The Unicode standard, of course, defines “code points”; to a first approximation, each code point represents a specific character in a specific language group. How those code points are represented in a stream of bytes — the encoding — is a separate question. Dealing with encodings has challenges of its own, but over the years the UTF-8 encoding has emerged as the preferred way of representing code points in many settings. UTF-8 has the advantages of representing the entire Unicode space while being compatible with ASCII — a valid ASCII string is also valid UTF-8. The developers implementing case independence in the kernel decided to limit it to the UTF-8 encoding, presumably in the hope of solving the problem without going entirely insane.

      The API that resulted has two layers: a relatively straightforward set of higher-level operations and the primitives that are used to implement them. We’ll start at the top and work our way down.

    • Improving the performance of the BFQ I/O scheduler

      BFQ is a proportional-share I/O scheduler available for block devices since the 4.12 kernel release. It associates each process or group of processes with a weight, and grants a fraction of the available I/O bandwidth proportional to that weight. BFQ also tries to maximize system responsiveness and to minimize latency for time-sensitive applications. Finally, BFQ aims at boosting throughput and at running efficiently. A new set of changes has improved BFQ’s performance with respect to all of these criteria. In particular, they increase the throughput that BFQ reaches while handling the most challenging workloads for this I/O scheduler. A notable example is DBENCH workloads, for which BFQ now provides 150% more throughput. These changes also improve BFQ’s I/O control — applications start about 80% more quickly under load — and BFQ itself now runs about 10% faster.

      Let’s start with throughput improvements and, to introduce them, let’s examine the main cause of throughput loss with BFQ.

    • Some slow progress on get_user_pages()

      One of the surest signs that the Linux Storage, Filesystem, and Memory-Management (LSFMM) Summit is approaching is the seasonal migration of memory-management developers toward the get_user_pages() problem. This core kernel primitive is necessary for high-performance I/O to user-space memory, but its interactions with filesystems have never been reliable — or even fully specified. There are currently a couple of patch sets in circulation that are attempting to improve the situation, though a full solution still seems distant.
      get_user_pages() is a way to map user-space memory into the kernel’s address space; it will ensure that all of the requested pages have been faulted into RAM (and locked there) and provide a kernel mapping that, in turn, can be used for direct access by the kernel or (more often) to set up zero-copy I/O operations. There are a number of variants of get_user_pages(), most notably get_user_pages_fast(), which trades off some flexibility for the ability to avoid acquiring the contended mmap_sem lock before doing its work. The ability to avoid copying data between kernel and user space makes get_user_pages() the key to high-performance I/O.

      If get_user_pages() is used on anonymous memory, few problems result. Things are different when, as is often the case, file-backed memory is mapped in this way. Filesystems are generally responsible for the state of file-backed pages in memory; they ensure that changes to those pages are written back to permanent storage, and they make sure that the right thing happens when a file’s layout on that storage changes. Filesystems are not designed to expect that file-backed pages can be written to without their knowledge, but that is exactly what can happen when those pages are mapped with get_user_pages().

      Most of the time, things happen to work anyway. But if an I/O operation writes to a page while the filesystem is, itself, trying to write back changes to that page, data corruption can result. In some cases, having a page unexpectedly become dirty can cause filesystem code to crash. And there is a whole new range of problems that can turn up for filesystems on nonvolatile memory devices, where writing to a page directly modifies the underlying storage. Filesystems implementing this sort of direct access (a mode called “DAX”) can avoid some problems by being careful to not move file pages around while references to them exist, but that leads to different kinds of problems if pages mapped with get_user_pages() remain mapped for long periods of time. Naturally, certain subsystems (notably the RDMA layer) do exactly that.

    • Program names and “pollution”

      A Linux user’s $PATH likely contains well over a thousand different commands that were installed by various packages. It’s not immediately obvious which package is responsible for a command with a generic name, like createuser. There are ways to figure it out, of course, but perhaps it would make sense for packages like PostgreSQL, which is responsible for createuser, to give their commands names that are less generic—and more easily disambiguated—such as pg_createuser. But renaming commands down the road has “backward compatibility problems” written all over it, as a recent discussion on the pgsql-hackers mailing list shows.

      Someone with the unlikely name of “Fred .Flintstone” started things off with a post complaining that PostgreSQL “pollutes the file system” with generic program names. The post suggested that names either be prefixed with “pg_” or that they become subcommands of a wrapper command, à la Git: postgresql createuser. It is not the first time that the topic has been raised, Andreas Karlsson pointed to this thread from 2008; Tom Lane reached further back and pointed to a discussion in 1999.

    • E8 practises scales for BeeGFS singalong

      E8, the NVMe-oF array supplier, is backing up ThinkParQ’s clustered parallel file system to deliver files faster to high performance computing customers.

      ThinkParQ’s product is called BeeGFS, an open source file system, and is an alternative to Lustre and Spectrum Scale, formerly known as GPFS. It has thousands of users worldwide.

    • Linus Torvalds offers the secret to Linux’s long-term success (the answer won’t surprise you)

      Linux has been around for 25 years and, according to its creator, Linus Torvalds, it’s likely to stay relevant for another 25 years. Why? Ironically, because there’s no particular plan to guide its future, just a development model that encourages evolution and innovation.

      [...]

      The heart of Linux’s genius isn’t code or some mastermind long-term planner: It’s the open source development model. While that model isn’t a guarantee of long-term success, it does offer a clear path for improving technology with the least amount of friction and the greatest chance for a broad-based community to steer the product where the industry, and not some single individual (no matter how talented), desires.

    • Linux Foundation

    • Graphics Stack

      • NVIDIA 418.52.03 Linux Vulkan Driver Adds Two New Extensions

        It’s been a while since NVIDIA last issued a new Windows/Linux Vulkan beta driver update but that changed today with gamers and developers on Linux today having access to the 418.52.03 driver build.

        New to the NVIDIA Linux 418.52.03 beta driver is support for VK_EXT_pipeline_creation_feedback and VK_KHR_surface_protected_capabilities.

      • RADV Driver Tacks On VK_AMD_gpu_shader_half_float Support In Mesa 19.1

        Mesa’s “RADV” Radeon Vulkan open-source driver has landed support for VK_AMD_gpu_shader_half_float.

        VK_AMD_gpu_shader_half_float is the Vulkan extension indicating support for SPIR-V’s SPV_AMD_gpu_shader_half_float extension to allow support for half-floats (16-bit floating point) support within extended instructions.

      • Trying Out The Radeon VII On Ubuntu 19.04 As Well As Linux 5.1 + Mesa 19.1

        Following yesterday’s Ubuntu 18.10 vs. 19.04 Radeon gaming/graphics benchmarks I decided to try out the Radeon VII on Ubuntu 19.04, which should be working out-of-the-box given its use of Linux 5.0 and Mesa 19.0. Unfortunately, earlier Radeon VII (Vega 20) issues I’ve been encountering are still plaguing the card.

        It’s been over a month since last running any Radeon VII Linux benchmarks due to the support having regressed since launch day, at least in my case. In particular, there has been stability issues in recent weeks and apparently not reproduced by AMD or the Valve driver developers. Basically, hangs have been common even within the standard GNOME Shell desktop but generally easily triggered once running any games.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Slimbook & Kubuntu – Combat Report 7

        When I started my Slimbook & Kubuntu journey, I didn’t know where it would end. And I still don’t. But half a dozen reports later, I am much more confident into what kind of experience awaits me day in, day out. What I really value in software are two main qualities: stability and predictability, the kind of stuff one must have for their production setup. So far, this laptop and its blob of code are delivering nicely, reliably.

        Another facet of this journey is its randomness. I typically have a very strict routine when it comes to distro reviews, but here, I’m letting the challenges surprise me. I am using the system, and if and when a use case occurs, I handle it. For better or worse. Well, you can definitely read all about that in the previous articles. Now, let’s see what happened over the last handful of moonrises.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • GNOME 3.32 “Taipei” Desktop Environment Gets First Point Release, Update Now

        Released a month ago on March 13th, GNOME 3.32 brings numerous improvements over previous versions of the open-source desktop environment used by numerous GNU/Linux distributions. Today, the first point release, GNOME 3.32.1, is here to add a stability and reliability layer by fixing bugs and updating translations.

        “GNOME 3.32.1 is now available. This is a stable release containing four weeks’ worth of bugfixes since the 3.32.0 release. Since it only contains bugfixes, all distributions shipping 3.32.0 should upgrade,” said Michael Catanzaro on behalf of the GNOME Release Team.

  • Distributions

    • New Releases

      • ArchBang Spring Release

        Am in the process of uploading ArchBang Spring release to sourceforge. Updated packages, change of theme and added in Nitrogen wallpaper manager. Major changes to note: pacman-init and dhcp service are not run at boot of live iso. This means that ArchBang boots much faster. Downside is user needs to run a script called pacman-setup (~/Desktop). This script creates pacman required keys and allow user to set up mirrorlist. Once leafpad the mirrorlist file find your nearest server to your location. Uncomment the lines and save file. On exit pacman should work as normal (given a working network connection). Note that you do not need a working network connection to install ArchBang. It is simply a way of testing out Archlinux(tm) before installing to a real device.

      • ArcoLinux 19.04.4 is out

        This month we have been perfecting Qtile. Making sure everything works and that all the ArcoLinux custom keyboard shortcuts are there. We have added a new one to our list.

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • Return of the Rodents: Xfce is back in openSUSE Tumbleweed Installer

        We are very pleased to announce that installing the lightweight and slim desktop environment Xfce in openSUSE Tumbleweed just got faster and hassle-free!

        Along with GNOME and KDE Plasma, Xfce can now be conveniently selected from the installer’s main screen, as your desktop environment from both DVD installer and net installer. All this is combined with a carefully picked selection of packages that rounds off our offered system to get you started quickly and easily.

        Our Xfce team has invested a lot of work in the past months to optimize the “cute mouse” by focusing on the desktop and the underlying rolling release of Tumbleweed. It features applications that better suit the desktop, as well as new modern themes that make the default experience refreshing and enjoyable.

      • How I fell in love in Nashville

        It was a week of firsts. You see, I’m a ‘3.5-month newbie’ to SUSE, working remote and supporting the SAP alliance within a Global capacity. Last week was my first time in Nashville, first time at SUSECON and for the most part, first time meeting employees and partners I’ve spoken to but never met yet in person. I had high hopes for a positive outcome and that’s exactly what I received, including a new love for the company I am proud to say I work for. And here’s why…

      • SUSE @ SAPPHIRE NOW 2019 – What to expect?

        We just came back from our annual conference SUSECON and the next big SUSE event is just around the corner: SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference 2019.

      • SAP Change Management Outcomes – why should you care?

        SAP IT teams are under increasing pressure to deal with faster change cycles and higher change volumes to keep pace in today’s digital economy. To adapt, organizations need to transform their SAP change management processes to achieve better business outcomes.

      • Transform with Professional Services
      • [Webinar] HPE+SUSE for SAP HANA, SQL Server, Oracle and HPC/AI
    • Fedora

      • Dbus-Broker 20 Released With Improved Logging

        For those intrigued by Dbus-Broker as a high-performance, user-space D-Bus compatible implementation, Dbus-Broker 20 has been released.

        Dbus-Broker continues serving as a user-space message bus compatible with D-Bus and being worked on by many of the BUS1/systemd developers. BUS1 isn’t ready yet as a kernel IPC implementation, but Dbus-Broker continues working quite well and is packaged for many different Linux distributions at least as an option.

      • Richard Hughes: Using a client certificate to set the attestation checksum

        For a while, fwupd has been able to verify the PCR0 checksum for the system firmware. The attestation checksum can be used to verify that the installed firmware matches that supplied by the vendor and means the end user is confident the firmware has not been modified by a 3rd party. I think this is really an important and useful thing the LVFS can provide. The PCR0 value can easily be found using tpm2_pcrlist if the TPM is in v2.0 mode, or cat /sys/class/tpm/tpm0/pcrs if the TPM is still in v1.2 mode. It is also reported in the fwupdmgr get-devices output for versions of fwupd >= 1.2.2.

        The device checksum as a PCR0 is slightly different than a device checksum for a typical firmware. For instance, a DFU device checksum can be created using sha256sum firmware.bin (assuming the image is 100% filling the device) and you don’t actually have to flash the image to the hardware to get the device checksum out. For a UEFI UpdateCapsule you need to schedule the update, reboot, then read back the PCR0 from the hardware. There must be an easier way…

    • Debian Family

      • Derivatives

        • AV Linux to Drop 32-Bit Support, Focus Its Development on Debian 10 “Buster”

          The developers of the Debian-based AV Linux multimedia oriented GNU/Linux distribution have released a new version and announced some major upcoming changes in the development of the project.

          AV Linux is currently based on the stable Debian GNU/Linux 9 “Stretch” operating system series and features support for both 32-bit and 64-bit architectures, but AV Linux 2019.4.10 appears to be the last release with these features as the devs decided it’s time for a change.

          They announced that the next major release of AV Linux will be based on the upcoming Debian GNU/Linux 10 “Buster” (currently developed under the Debian Testing umbrella), and that it will drop support for 32-bit installations. However, most probably current 32-bit installations will still be supported.

        • Official Raspberry Pi OS Gets Performance Improvements and Latest Debian Updates

          The Raspberry Pi Foundation has released a new version of its Debian-based Raspbian operating system for the tiny Raspberry Pi computers with various performance improvements and latest updates.
          Powered by the Linux 4.14.98 kernel, Raspbian 2019-04-08 has been released this week and it’s packed with a bunch of updated components, among which we can mention the Chromium 72 web browser, VLC 3.0.6 media player, RealVNC Server 6.4.0, and Adobe Flash Player 32.0.0.156 plugin.

          Raspbian 2019-04-08 also includes new programs, such as the ethtool utility displaying and modifying various parameters of the network interface controllers and respective device drivers, the rng-tools utility related to random number generation in the Linux kernel.

        • MX Linux 18.2 Released with Latest Updates from Debian GNU/Linux 9.8 “Stretch”

          The MX Linux development team released a new version of their desktop-oriented, Debian-based operating system that brings latest software and security updates from Debian Stable.

          MX Linux 18.2 is now available as a maintenance update to the latest MX Linux 18 operating system series, based on the Debian GNU/Linux 9 “Stretch” stable operating system series, consisting of updated components, bug fixes, and security updates from the Debian Stable software repositories.

          MX Linux 18.2 is based on the latest Debian GNU/Linux 9.8 “Stretch” release, which means that it borrows all of its updated components. Most notable, this release ships with the Mozilla Firefox 66.0.2 web browser and VLC 3.0.6 media player, as well as many other updated apps.

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • 11 Best Ubuntu Themes

            Ubuntu is definitely a big force in the world of Linux. It’s simplistic, customizable and most of all has a huge community behind it. Since Ubuntu switched from Unity to GNOME, the scope of customization truly flourished. GNOME comes up with a larger tweaking community. Moreover, there are tons of GTK themes already out there. You can simply grab and install any of them into the system.
            With a plethora of available options, you’re sure to get lost in the wild collection of these GTK themes. I hope this list will help you out for grabbing the best GTK themes for Ubuntu.

            Note: The themes in the list comes up with the largest user-base and the most popular ones. That’s why they’re here. There are definitely more out there that might suit your need. Feel free to try out new ones. You may find just the right one for you!

          • Why the Visual Studio Code team launched a snap [Ed: Canonical continues doing Microsoft marketing… for Microsoft ]

            Microsoft’s Visual Studio Code is a popular free code editor with built-in support for debugging, task running, and version control. While available for Linux via tarball, rpm, and debian package options, the Visual Studio Code team had been seeking new options that would support seamless upgrades to match their rapid release cadence. Joao Moreno and Daniel Imms, Software Development Engineers at Microsoft, recently spoke with Canonical to explain why they decided to publish a snap.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Google challenges AWS with open-source support

    At the Google Cloud Next conference Google announced new and expanded partnerships with several open-source businesses. Interesting, several of these have changed their licenses in no small part because they felt Amazon Web Services (AWS) was strip-mining their code.

    These partners are MongoDB, Confluent, DataStax, Elastic, InfluxData, Neo4j, and Redis Labs. These new partnerships offer Google Cloud customers managed database services with efforts made to optimize performance and latency between the service and application. Customers will get a unified user interface for app management.

  • How do you contribute to open source without code?

    My earliest open source contributions date back to the mid-1980s when our organization first connected to UseNet where we discovered the contributed code and the opportunities to share in its development and support.

    Today there are endless contribution opportunities, from contributing code to making how-to videos.

    I’m going to step right over the whole issue of contributing code, other than pointing out that many of us who write code but don’t consider ourselves developers can still contribute code. Instead, I’d like to remind everyone that there are lots of non-code ways to contribute to open source and talk about three alternatives.

  • An Overview of Main Features of Augur Version 2 and What They Mean

    On Monday (April 8), the team behind Augur, “a decentralized oracle and peer to peer protocol for prediction markets”, announced that version 2 of the software is feature-complete and ready for third-party formal audits. This article provides an overview of these features.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • First photo of a black hole or cosmic cousin of the Firefox logo?

        A photo of a small, fiery circular shape floating in blackness will go down in history as the first photo of a black hole. It might not look like much, but this is the first time humans are getting a glimpse into one of nature’s greatest mysteries.

        [...]

        Like the logo, the first photo of a black hole is bursting with warm colors. You can see a fiery tail that thickens around the circle. The corona of the black hole represents incredible speed. Things move so fast that you’d have to travel faster than the speed of light to escape it past the event horizon.

        While the Firefox web browser isn’t as fast as one of the most powerful forces in the universe, it’s still pretty good. The Firefox logo represents speeds that are two times faster than before, and using 30 percent less memory than Google Chrome.

      • US House Votes to Save the Internet

        Today, the House took a firm stand on behalf of internet users across the country. By passing the Save the Internet Act, members have made it clear that Americans have a fundamental right to access the open internet. Without these protections in place, big corporations like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T could block, slow, or levy tolls on content at the expense of users and small businesses. We hope that the Senate will recognize the need for strong net neutrality protections and pass this legislation into law. In the meantime, we will continue to fight in the courts as the DC Circuit considers Mozilla v. FCC, our effort to restore essential net neutrality protections for consumers through litigation.

      • Mozilla GFX: WebRender newsletter #43

        The gfx team got together in Mozilla’s Toronto office last week. These gatherings are very valuable since the team is spread over many timezones (in no particular order, there are graphics folks in Canada, Japan, France, various parts of the US, Germany, England, Australia and New Zealand).

        It was an intense week, filled with technical discussions and planning.

      • Developer Roadshow 2019 returns with VR, IoT and all things web

        Mozilla Developer Roadshow is a meetup-style, Mozilla-focused event series for people who build the web. In 2017, the Roadshow reached more than 50 cities around the world. We shared highlights of the latest and greatest Mozilla and Firefox technologies. Now, we’re back to tell the story of how the web continues to democratize opportunities for developers and digital creators.

      • Mozilla Localization (L10N): Implementing Fluent in a localization tool

        In order to produce natural sounding translations, Fluent syntax supports gender, plurals, conjugations, and virtually any other grammatical category. The syntax is designed to be simple to read, but translators without developer background might find more complex concepts harder to deal with.

        That’s why we designed a Fluent-specific user interface in Pontoon, which unleashes Fluent powers to localizers who aren’t coders. Any other general purpose Translation Management System (TMS) with support for popular localization formats can follow the example. Let’s have a closer look at Fluent implementation in Pontoon.

      • It is your moral obligation to use Firefox

        While both Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge themselves are proprietary products they are based on the open source Chromium project utilizing Blink and V8 engines. This means that in practice the entire browser market is currently based on free and open solutions. This is obviously a wonderful thing and Google Chrome itself appears to be a good and nice to use product. Unfortunately as always the world is not as beautiful as we would like it to be.

        As the Chromium project is largely financed by Google and used by Chrome, the most popular browser in the world, Google exerts a significant political pressure over the project and de facto controls it. This control can at this point effectively be used in order to shape the web and push it in the desired direction.

      • Mozilla Future Releases Blog: Firefox Beta for Windows 10 on Qualcomm Snapdragon Always Connected PCs Now Available
  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD

    • Running FreeBSD 12.0 With Intel Xeon Scalable Cascade Lake / Gigabyte S451-3R0 Server, Benchmarks Against Linux

      Over the past week we’ve been delivering several benchmarks of the new Intel Xeon Scalable “Cascade Lake” processors under Linux with the Platinum 8280 processors. The Linux support and performance is hitting expectations, but what about on the BSDs? I spent some time this week trying out the dual Intel Xeon Platinum 8280 processors within the Gigabyte S451-3R0 Storage Server. The FreeBSD 12.0 support has been in great shape and in this article are some comparison benchmarks between various Linux distributions and FreeBSD for those curious.

      FreeBSD 12.0 installed just fine on the Gigabyte S451-3R0 with the two Xeon Platinum 8280 processors and no troubles at all were encountered during the setup process — all core functionality from the network controllers to other connectivity “just worked” for this Cascade Lake server.

  • Programming/Development

    • Emacs for Python

      Python is all the rage for data scientists and web developers alike but how do you start? The best way to learn to program is to try out functions and ideas yourself. With Python, you have a great tool available by default: the interpreter. You can actually use it as a shell for everyday tasks. In the interpreter you can try the mathematics, create your ‘Hello World!’ and even define some functions. This is an excellent way to create a specific function before you start using your editor or IDE. If you want the full REPL, use Ipython or even better a Jupyter notebook. In a Jupyter Notebook, you can mix code with comment sections and even the results from your code. There are many examples of this online.
      When you are ready to start a full project, you have a few things to consider. First, you need to know what software you need. For each project, you will probably use different libraries and levels. In Python, this has been a special point of attention after the 3.x series was introduced. Some functions from 2.x are not supported by 3.x, because of this situation virtual environments was invented. Virtual environments are useful for making sure you use the particular libraries you expect and nothing else.

      When you choose IDE, or editor, you want to support these virtual environments to make your work simpler. You also need to have an easy way to test your latest patches. Other things you want at your fingertips are documentation, code completion and a testing environment.

      In Emacs, you have support for Python code highlighting from a vanilla install. When you want more, there are packages available for these functions and a few more. The philosophy of Emacs is that you will not need to leave the editor to keep doing your work. To achieve this, there are shells, a REPL and even support to have your Jupyter notebook inside the editor. You can also start a web server and use your browser to see what your latest code has done for your web page.

    • Twisted 19.2.0 Released

      On behalf of Twisted Matrix Laboratories, I am honoured to announce the release of Twisted 19.2!

    • Bash Basics
    • Insider 2019-04: Tetris; Docker; Podman; python-fetcher
    • Speed up SystemTap scripts with statistical aggregates
    • Developers love Python and TypeScript, get paid for Clojure, and aren’t using blockchain [Ed: Microsoft Petet's slant on it]
    • nbdkit 1.12

      The new stable release of nbdkit, our flexible Network Block Device server, is out. You can read the announcement and release notes here.

      The big new features are SSH support, the linuxdisk plugin, writing plugins in Rust, and extents. Extents allows NBD clients to work out which parts of a disk are sparse or zeroes and skip reading them. It was hellishly difficult to write because of the number of obscure corner cases.

    • I’m stepping down as maintainer of auditwheel

      For the last three years I’ve been a regular contributor and core maintainer of auditwheel, a Python Packaging Authority (or “PyPA”) tool used to build portable binary/extension wheels on Linux. auditwheel’s “show” command allows developers to check if their Python wheel’s external symbol dependencies comply with the manylinux policies, and its “repair” command enables developers to more easily build policy-compliant wheels inside an appropriate environment like a manylinux Docker image without having to make significant changes to their build processes.

      Most recently, at the last Python Packaging Authority sprints in November 2018, I finished work to support the manylinux2010 platform tag in auditwheel. After extensive testing, this functionality was released in version 2.0 in January of 2019.

    • PyCharm Hosts Python Creators at Expanded PyCon Booth

      Want to meet key podcasters, authors, and teachers at PyCon? This year PyCharm has an expanded booth with space shared by many of the key “Python Creators.” Come say hi, watch short talks by them, us, and others in our mini-theater, or schedule one-on-one slots in our seating area.

      We have lots more to announce on this in the coming weeks, but let’s lead with a quick overview.

    • How to Create an Index in Django Without Downtime

      Managing database migrations is a great challenge in any software project. Luckily, as of version 1.7, Django comes with a built-in migration framework. The framework is very powerful and useful in managing change in databases. But the flexibility provided by the framework required some compromises. To understand the limitations of Django migrations, you are going to tackle a well known problem: creating an index in Django with no downtime.

    • Silver Platter

      Making changes across the open source ecosystem is very hard; software is hosted on different platforms and in many different version control repositories. Not being able to make bulk changes slows down the rate of progress. For example, instead of being able to actively run a a script that strips out an obsolete header file (say “DM-Upload-Allowed”) across all Debian packages, we make the linter warn about the deprecated header and wait as all developers manually remove the deprecated header.

    • Confessions of a Recovering Proprietary Programmer, Part XVI

      I build quite a few Linux kernels, mostly in support of my deep and abiding rcutorture habit. These builds can take some time, even on modern laptops, but they are nevertheless amazingly fast compared to the build times of the much smaller projects I worked on in decades past. Additionally, build times are way down in the noise when I am doing multi-hour rcutorture runs. So much so that I don’t bother with cut-down kernel configurations, especially given that cut-down configurations are an excellent way to fail to spot subtle RCU API problems.

      Still, faster builds do have their advantages, especially when doing a series of short tests, such as when chasing down that rarest of creatures, an RCU bug that reproduces reliably within a few minutes of boot. Which is exactly what I was doing yesterday. And during that time, a five-minute kernel build time was much more annoying than it normally would be.

  • Red Hat

    • The making of Creating ChRIS: Getting the word out – Strategy and promotion

      Justin Braun, creative strategist, and Gaby Berkman, public relations, discuss finding strategic ad placements and taking advantage of all internal and external channels for promotion. Gaby speaks to leading with the human side of the story and how it can relate to reporters and media outlets. Justin talks about working with The Washington Post on advertising placement.

    • The Ceph monitoring challenge: Prometheus, Grafana, and Ansible rise to the task

      Managing growth in applications and infrastructure is a significant challenge for many organizations as they scale. Every new application or server that’s added to the environment serves a business requirement, so keeping services usable in today’s 24x7x365 world represents both a challenge and an opportunity to meet a higher service level agreement (SLA).

Leftovers

  • Science

    • Somebody forgot to upgrade: Flights delayed, cancelled by GPS rollover

      According to reports on social media, at least one KLM flight—a Boeing 777 bound from Amsterdam to Bogota—and flights involving as many as 15 Boeing 777s and 787s in China were delayed or canceled over the weekend because of calendar-rollover errors on navigation systems aboard those aircraft. Data for some of the flights identified confirmed lengthy delays in departures, with the KLM flight leaving seven hours behind schedule.

    • First Ever Black Hole Picture Released In Space Breakthrough

      The black hole image shows a bright disc of gases and dust along with a dark center, present in the Messier 87 galaxy which is 55 million light years from Earth. The black hole has a mass of around 6.5 billion times more than that of the Sun.

      The photo of the black hole has been captured by the EHT taking up radiation from particles in the disk that are really hot.

      For the uninitiated, a black hole is a place in space from where neither light or dust or for that matter anything can escape the entrapment, due to a strong gravitational pull. Additionally, the black hole consists of millions of particles and matter, all packed in extremely small sizes.

    • Citizen Science

      Public participation in scientific research is a growing trend in our increasingly crowdsourced world. Citizen science, as it is called, typically involves data collection by members of the public who pass their information along to researchers trying to answer real-world questions.

      Volunteer monitoring has contributed for many years to diverse fields ranging from astronomy to medicine and computer science to natural resource management. Volunteers benefit from opportunities for informal education, while contributing to outreach efforts that promote public understanding of scientific issues. See how you can help!

  • Health/Nutrition

    • What Would a Post-ACA America Look Like?

      Around the world, one of the key measures used to chart the economic and political well-being of countries is life expectancy. How long people live serves as something of a proxy for how developed, and how fair, a political and economic system is. And this is why demographers have been so concerned by the declines, albeit slight, in U.S. life expectancy since 2014. It is, apparently, the first time since World War One that overall life expectancy numbers in the country have gone into reverse.

      What makes this trend especially baffling is that it is occurring despite rapid-fire advances in medical technology, the absence of large-scale war, and the lack of a single pandemic such as the Spanish Flu, or AIDS at the height of its devastating tear in the 1980s and early 1990s. It is occurring despite the trillions of dollars Americans spend each year on health care, a per person expenditure far in excess of most peer nations – and yet one that is, increasingly, not delivering bang for the buck. And this decline in life expectancy is occurring despite a considerable (though not universal) increase in access to health insurance since 2010, thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

      While germs aren’t responsible for a particularly lethal pandemic at the moment, the United States is in the grip of two deadly despair-fueled health crises: Suicides and drug overdoses are both on the increase. The suicide rate in the country is up almost 30 percent since the turn of the century. In 2017, there were 1.4 million suicide attempts in the U.S. More than 47,000 of them resulted in death. Meanwhile, so many people are now dying because of drug overdoses — 70,000 per year — that they have become the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 55.

      Life expectancy numbers have historically differed sharply along racial lines, with white people overall expected to live 4.3 years longer than Black people on average, and 2.0 years longer than Indigenous people on average, as of 2009. These disparities continue to persist, but the conditions of life in the U.S. are now also starting to eat away at life expectancies for certain subsets of the white population, as well: in 2012, data showed that for white men without a high school diploma, life expectancy since 1990 had declined by three years; for white women without a high school diploma it declined by a staggering five years. In other words, Trump’s most loyal base is suffering huge consequences because of the country’s dysfunctional healthcare delivery system, as well as its addiction and suicide crises.

    • The Medicare For All Act of 2019 Would Greatly Benefit Seniors
    • To Create System That Puts ‘Patients Ahead of Profits,’ Sanders Unveils Medicare for All Act of 2019

      Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday introduced Medicare for All legislation that would virtually eliminate the private insurance industry and provide comprehensive healthcare to every American at a lower overall cost than the current for-profit system.

      “Today we say to the private health insurance companies, whether they like it or not, the United States will join every other major country on earth and guarantee healthcare to all people as a right,” the Vermont senator and 2020 presidential contender wrote in an email to supporters.

    • NYC Declares Public Health Emergency as 60 New Measles Cases Reported in One Week

      New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency in an attempt to curb a measles outbreak that continues to spread among the Orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The declaration mandates that any unvaccinated person living in certain Williamsburg zip codes receive the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine or face a violation and potential $1,000 fine.

    • Medicare For All: Accept No Substitutes

      Today, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced the Medicare for All Act of 2019. A companion bill of the same name has already been introduced in the House by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). That’s good news for the country. Unfortunately, these bills are facing opposition from what, for some people, will be an unexpected direction.

      I don’t mean Republicans. They’ve already lost the health care debate, in one sense, now that large majorities of voters support Medicare for All. The real threat may well come from its Democratic friends. They’re the people who say they support Medicare for All’s “goals,” but claim to have found a better way to achieve them.

      Intentionally or not, Medicare for All’s “frenemies” are sowing confusion about it. Among them is Ezekiel Emmanuel, who argues, “At least four different approaches to health reform could truthfully carry the Medicare for all label.”

    • Bernie Sanders Unveils His New ‘Medicare for All’ Plan

      Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont unveiled a new version of his “Medicare for All” plan on Wednesday, shaking up the 2020 presidential race by reopening the debate over his call to eliminate private health insurance.

      “It is not a radical idea to say that in the United States, every American who goes to a doctor should be able to afford the prescription drug he or she needs,” Sanders said. “Health care is a human right, not a privilege.”

      Four of Sanders’ fellow senators and rivals for the Democratic nomination are set to sign onto the updated single-payer health care proposal. The bill’s reintroduction promises to shine a light on Democratic presidential candidates’ disparate visions for the long term future of American health care.

      Under fire from President Donald Trump and Republicans for the astronomical price tag of Medicare for All, some candidates who support the plan tout it as one of several ways to achieve more affordable coverage and lower the number of uninsured people. Others who don’t back it are instead focusing on safeguarding popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act, such as the one that protects coverage of pre-existing conditions.

      “Of course, our No. 1 goal should be to make sure we keep in place those protections so people don’t get kicked off their insurance,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat who isn’t signed onto Sanders’ bill, said Tuesday. “Then we also have to see the Affordable Care Act as a beginning and not an end.”

    • ‘How Will You Pay for It?’ Bernie Sanders Tackles Key Question on Medicare for All

      In a white paper (pdf) released Wednesday alongside the 2020 contender’s updated and improved Medicare for All legislation, Sanders’ office outlined a number of possible funding mechanisms for the comprehensive bill and detailed the enormous savings the U.S. would reap by transitioning to single-payer.

      “Every major industrialized nation on Earth has made healthcare a right, provided universal coverage to all, and achieved far better health outcomes in terms of life expectancy and infant mortality rates—all while spending far less per capita than we do,” the paper states. “Please do not tell us that the United States of America, the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, cannot do the same.”

    • Amid Wave of Anti-Choice Laws, Texas GOP Holds Public Hearing on Putting Women to Death for Obtaining Abortions

      A Texas state House committee on Monday night devoted several hours to discussing potentially subjecting women to the death penalty if they obtain abortions.

      Apparently seeking to capitalize on a political moment in which states have passed some of the most restrictive anti-choice laws in the country since Roe vs. Wade passed in 1973, the state House Judiciary Committee held a public hearing that stretched into the early morning hours on House Bill 896. The proposed legislation would criminalize abortion in the state without exception and would classify the medical procedure as a homicide—making it possible for women who get abortion care to be executed by the state.

      Republican state Rep. Tony Tinderholt introduced the bill, saying it would make women more “personally responsible.”

      The proposal includes a specific attack on Roe vs. Wade, noting that state officials would be required to treat abortion as a crime “regardless of any contrary federal law, executive order, or court decision.”

      With opposition even from the anti-choice group Texans for Life and with the committee reportedly reluctant to send the bill to the full House, H.B. 896 is currently unlikely to become law in Texas. But women’s rights advocates expressed shock and outrage that the bill was given the state’s first-ever public hearing on a proposal to classify women as criminals for obtaining abortions.

    • Near-Total Abortion Bans Seek to Overturn Roe v. Wade

      Emboldened by the new conservative majority on the Supreme Court, anti-abortion lawmakers and activists in numerous states are pushing near-total bans on the procedure in a deliberate frontal attack on Roe v. Wade.

      Mississippi and Kentucky have passed laws that would ban most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected — which means as early as six weeks, when many women don’t even know they’re pregnant. Georgia could join them if Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signs a measure that has been sent to him, and a bill in Ohio is nearing final passage.

      Similar bills have been filed in at least seven other states with anti-abortion GOP majorities in their legislatures.

      Alabama may go further, with legislation introduced last week to criminalize abortion at any stage unless the mother’s health is in jeopardy.

      The chief sponsor of the Alabama bill, Rep. Terri Collins, acknowledged that the measure — like the heartbeat bills — is intended as a direct challenge to Roe, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

  • Security

    • Security updates for Wednesday
    • China slams Australia over ‘double standards’ in cyber security

      China has taken a swipe at Australia over the country’s encryption law, saying it was “baffling” how Canberra could on the one hand claim that other countries posed security threats, while on the other hand engage in acts that endangered the cyber security of other nations.

    • How to (not) fix a security flaw

      A pair of flaws in the web interface for two small-business Cisco routers make for a prime example of the wrong way to go about security fixes. These kinds of flaws are, sadly, fairly common, but the comedy of errors that resulted here is, thankfully, rather rare. Among other things, it shows that vendors may wish to await a real fix rather than to release a small, ineffective band-aid to try to close a gaping hole.

      RedTeam Pentesting GmbH found the flaws in September 2018 and notified Cisco shortly thereafter. The original disclosure date was planned for January 9, but that was postponed until January 23 at Cisco’s request. On the latter date, Cisco issued advisories for CVE-2019-1652 and CVE-2019-1653; RedTeam Pentesting released its own advisories, with lots more detail, for CVE-2019-1652 and CVE-2019-1653.

      The flaws are bog standard web-application vulnerabilities. CVE-2019-1652 is a command injection that allows authenticated users (in the web interface) to execute arbitrary Linux commands as root. CVE-2019-1653 allows anyone to request the configuration page from the router, which contains all sorts of interesting information, including user names with hashed passwords, VPN and IPsec secrets, and more. In addition, password hashes are all that is needed to log into the web interface—no cracking required.

      Beyond that, an additional information disclosure flaw, related to CVE-2019-1653, was reported; it uses a debug interface to retrieve a .tgz (gzipped tar) file, encrypted with a known, hard-coded password, from the device. That file contained even more configuration and debugging information as well as etc.tgz and var.tgz with the contents of those directories from the router. In all of the RedTeam Pentesting advisories, curl was used for the proof of concept, though there are lots of other ways to perform the same actions, of course.

      The flaws were found, reported, and fixed; so far, so good—or so it would seem. But on February 7, RedTeam Pentesting found that the fixes shipped by Cisco were, at a minimum, insufficient. Once again, the problems were reported to Cisco, with a disclosure date of March 27. Despite a last-minute request to postpone the disclosure, three new advisories (command injection, configuration information disclosure, and even more configuration information disclosure) were released by RedTeam Pentesting on March 27.

    • Wladimir Palant: Bogus security mechanisms: Encrypting localhost traffic

      Nowadays it is common for locally installed applications to also offer installing browser extensions that will take care of browser integration. Securing the communication between extensions and the application is not entirely trivial, something that Logitech had to discover recently for example. I’ve also found a bunch of applications with security issues in this area. In this context, one has to appreciate RememBear password manager going to great lengths to secure this communication channel. Unfortunately, while their approach isn’t strictly wrong, it seems to be based on a wrong threat assessment and ends up investing far more effort into this than necessary.

      The approach

      It is pretty typical for browser extensions and applications to communicate via WebSockets. In case of RememBear the application listens on port 8734, so the extension creates a connection to ws://localhost:8734. After that, messages can be exchanged in both directions. So far it’s all pretty typical. The untypical part is RememBear using TLS to communicate on top of an unencrypted connection.

      So the browser extension contains a complete TLS client implemented in JavaScript. It generates a client key, and on first connection the user has to confirm that this client key is allowed to connect to the application. It also remembers the server’s public key and will reject connecting to another server.

      Why use an own TLS implementation instead of letting the browser establish an encrypted connection? The browser would verify TLS certificates, whereas the scheme here is based on self-signed certificates. Also, browsers never managed to solve authentication via client keys without degrading user experience.

    • You May Not Be Only Person Seeing Hotel Reservation Booking Details

      Before we go any further, we need to take a look back a few decades ago and realize how much easier the Internet has made booking travel. Remember when you had to call a travel agent to book a hotel room or a flight?

      You could book a hotel if you knew of its existence, but without the Internet, you didn’t know which hotels were located on a certain beach or close to the airport, had you never traveled to the area before. And there was no other way to book flights. Not only did the Internet make booking travel easier, but it left us with so much more control to be able to research all these choices ourselves.

      But Symantec tells us that freedom has come with a price. Hundreds of hotel websites have flaws that leak sensitive information, including your name, phone number, address, confirmation email, and even your passport number. Realize that with this information hackers know your address and when you’ll be gone for an extended period of time.

      Symantec threat researcher Candid Wueest looked at more than 1,500 hotel websites in more than 50 countries. He found two-thirds of them had security issues.

      The Marriott hotel chain has been open about their cyberattacks recently, as has Sheraton, Westin, Starwood, and Wyndham hotels. Marriott admitted last November that hackers had stolen the records of up to 383 million guests. It became one of the largest personal data breaches in history.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • A Vote to Maintain Apartheid? Israel’s Netanyahu Set to Win 5th Term After Vow to Annex West Bank

      Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be on the verge of securing a record fifth term in office as votes continue to be counted in Tuesday’s election. Last night, Netanyahu and his top challenger, ex-military chief Benny Gantz, both claimed victory in the tight race. With most of the votes counted, Netanyahu’s Likud party and Gantz’s newly formed Blue and White party have both secured 35 seats in the Knesset, but Netanyahu has a clearer path to forming a coalition government with the help of his right-wing allies. Tuesday’s election came just days after Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank in defiance of international law, and more than a week after Netanyahu thanked President Trump for recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights. Netanyahu ran for re-election despite facing possible criminal indictments in three corruption cases. We speak with Israeli journalist Haggai Matar and Palestinian attorney Diana Buttu.

    • Edward Said: Remembering a Palestinian Patriot

      Edward Said was perhaps one of the most profound analysts of the situation of the Palestinians, and one of the most vocal critics of the Israeli government’s policies towards them

    • America and Russia: The Tale of the Tape

      There’s no there there. The Mueller Report is (basically) in and (gasp!) and it seems the special counsel found no evidence of overt collusion between President Trump and Russia. You could almost hear the life force being sucked out of Rachel Maddow and a mainstream liberal crew that had foolishly gone all in on Mueller and impeachment. Many of us predicted this eons ago, warned the cultivated, anti-Trump elites not to count on the Hail Mary pass of indictment or impeachment. We were ignored. Now they look foolish.

      Lord knows this author is no fan of Trump, his politics, or his “movement,” such as it is. Nonetheless, it seemed obvious from the start that then candidate Trump and his team of Keystone Cops had neither the discipline nor competence to pull off a treason so complex. Still, coast-dwelling urban “liberal” elites – unable to fathom how such a coarse character as The Donald could possibly win the election – invested almost messianic faith and confidence in Saint Mueller and his holy report. And now they’ve handed a massive political win to their nemesis just as the 2020 presidential campaign gets ready to kick off.

    • Just Like Trump, Media Outlets Rarely Label Far-Right Attacks ‘Terrorism’: Study

      A new study shows that media outlets frequently echo the instinct of political leaders like President Donald Trump when they refuse to label the violence of far-right assailants as “terrorism” while showing significantly less reluctance if an attack was carried out by an Islamic extremist.

      The British media monitoring firm Signal AI found that most news sources are quick to draw links between incidents identified as “Islamist” attacks and terrorism, but are far less likely to do the same when an attack suspect is linked to far-right ideologies like white nationalism.

      “Reporting on Islamic extremist attacks is quantifiably different to reporting on far-right attacks,” wrote Ben Moore of Signal AI.

      Suspected attackers claiming allegiance to the Muslim faith were three times as likely to be called terrorists, according to Signal AI, with 78 percent of the reports the group studied identifying them as such.

      Meanwhile, far-right attackers were only called terrorists 24 percent of the time in the 200,000 broadcast scripts and news articles the group read, all of which had been aired and published in the last two years.

      On social media, many critics were unsurprised to read Moore’s findings but took the report as a call to action for media organizations.

    • Pence: U.S. Wants Maduro Out and ‘All Options’ on Table

      U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told the Security Council on Wednesday the Trump administration is determined to remove President Nicolás Maduro from power in Venezuela, preferably through diplomatic and economic pressure, but “all options are on the table” — and Russia and others need to step aside.

      Venezuelan Ambassador Samuel Moncada said his country is threatened with war by the Trump administration, “and the ground is being laid for an invasion.” He told the council: “We must stop this war of Donald Trump.”

      The United States called the emergency meeting of the U.N.’s most powerful body, which is deeply divided over Venezuela, to focus on the worsening humanitarian situation in the South American country. But as with previous meetings, this one was dominated by U.S. efforts to oust Maduro and replace him with Juan Guaidó, head of the country’s opposition-controlled National Assembly.

      Pence also said that Trump has made clear Russia needs to get out of Venezuela, stressing that Russian aircraft landing in the country and bringing in security or advisory personnel “is just unacceptable.”

    • Pentagon Contracts Show US Army Subsidized Production Of National Geographic’s ‘Long Road Home’

      Production assistance agreements released by the Defense Department show the United States military used taxpayer money to subsidize part of the production of the National Geographic series, “The Long Road Home,” and a companion documentary.

      In January, Shadowproof revealed documents from the Army showing how they found ways to reduce the costs of their massive production assistance on the National Geographic war drama, which told a version of the story of the battle for Sadr City in 2004, a key moment in the Iraq War.

      While Pentagon guidelines state that assistance to entertainment media can only be provided “at no additional cost to the government,” the Army found “inventive” means of minimizing the amount of money the producers had to pay for military support.

      The contract for “The Long Road Home,” obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), shows the Army managed to reduce the costs of production assistance by nearly 20 percent.

    • RESURGENCE OF XENOPHOBIA IN SOUTH AFRICA

      From Johannesburg to Cape Town and other major cities, many Nigerian residents in South Africa no longer feel safe. With no fewer than six of our nationals hacked to death in the past one month in renewed xenophobic attacks on foreigners, it is clear that the South African authorities have lost the capacity to contain the violence. “No amount of frustration or anger can ever justify the attacks on foreign nationals and the looting of their shops. We condemn the violence in the strongest possible terms. The attacks violate all the values that South Africa embodies, especially the respect for human life, human rights, human dignity and Ubuntu,” said the South African acting High Commissioner to Nigeria, Bobby Moroe, last week. But his words are hollow.

    • Qatar: ‘A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing’

      “[Qatar's] English-language stations produce slick propaganda against Qatar’s enemies, dressed up in Western liberal rhetoric. Al Jazeera’s latest venture – its social media channel, AJ+ – is aimed at young, progressive Americans. Its documentaries on the evils of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the Trump administration are sandwiched between glowing coverage of transgender rights campaigns and emotional appeals for the plight of asylum seekers on America’s southern border – seemingly incongruous topics for a broadcaster controlled by a Wahhabi regime… Qatar is now the largest foreign donor to American universities.” — Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum.

    • [Older] Examining Qatar’s Influence

      Doha also seeks to influence Western educational institutions. The regime-controlled Qatar Foundation hands tens of millions of dollars to schools, colleges and other educational institutions across Europe and North America. Indeed, Qatar is now the largest foreign donor to American universities. Its funds pay for the teaching of Arabic and lessons on Middle Eastern culture and their ideological bent is at times unashamedly apparent, as in the lesson plan in American schools titled. “Express Your Loyalty to Qatar.”

    • Creeping Theo-Progressivism

      Or look at Islamist media: Al Jazeera’s social media channel AJ+ broadcasts documentaries on transgender rights and the wickedness of misogyny, homophobia and other bigotries; while its Arabic parent station broadcasts sermons by Muslim Brotherhood clerics advocating the killing of gays, and offeringhusbands permission to beat their wives.

    • Amazon-Microsoft Face-Off Set for Pentagon’s $10 Billion Cloud

      The announcement eliminates Oracle Corp. and International Business Machines Corp. from the running. Defense Department spokeswoman Elissa Smith said only Amazon and Microsoft met “the minimum requirements” for the JEDI project.

      Amazon and Microsoft have been widely viewed as front-runners in part because they have obtained higher-level federal security clearances.

    • The Politics Behind Trump’s Threats to Close the Border

      Donald Trump’s flailing on immigration and the Mexican border continue to spiral into chaos. First, he threatened to close the border with Mexico. One week later, he walked that back. He declares a national emergency about the “invasion” of people seeking asylum from Central American countries, and then says he’s stopped all aid to those countries, which can only worsen the conditions that cause people to leave. He says he’s already building a wall. That isn’t true. He torpedoes bipartisan measures that might begin to make things better.

      It’s increasingly clear Trump wants a crisis that he can use politically, not a solution that can ease human suffering.

      Two weeks ago, Trump’s threat was clear: “If Mexico doesn’t immediately stop ALL illegal immigration coming into the United States through [sic] our Southern Border,” he tweeted, “I will be CLOSING…the Border, or large sections of the Border, next week.” His aides said he was deadly serious. Trump’s leading mouthpiece, Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, told ABC News that it would take “something dramatic” to stop him from doing it.

    • Why Refusing to Label Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a Terror Organization Keeps Us Out of War

      A “Twitter-stamp” by Secretary of State Pompeo made it official. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is now designated as a foreign terrorist organization. “We must help the people of Iran get back their freedom” is a diplomatic tweet of an alternative reality. ISIS, Boko Haram, and Iran, all in one place.

      This move is not a measured foreign policy decision that should be up for debate between more diplomacy-minded versus more hawkish policy-makers. This move is a step toward war that should be condemned by all sides. Whether we like it or not, the IRGC is much more than a branch of the Iranian armed forces. It has also been a part of the Iranian governmental, industrial, economic, and social system ever since the 1979 Iranian Revolution with now potentially 11 million affiliated people.

      Fact: Labeling the IRGC as a terrorist organization is dangerous and leads us on a path to war.

      When we allow the IRGC to be viewed as a terrorist organization, we allow for the commonly known steps of dealing with terrorists to follow: Terrorists are not within our scope of morality. We don’t negotiate with them, we fight them, we destroy them until there aren’t any left. And since 9/11, the US has been in an endless global war on terror (with changing names), fought by the US military on foreign soils.

      Seriously and it bears grim repetition, the terrorist designation of the IRGC is a long step toward war with Iran.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Julian Assange Arrested at Ecuador Embassy in London

      WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was forcibly bundled out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and into a waiting British police van on Thursday, setting up a potential court battle over attempts to extradite him to the U.S. to face charges related to the publication of tens of thousands of secret government documents.

      British police arrested Assange after the South American nation decided to revoke the political asylum that had given Assange sanctuary for almost seven years. Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno said he took the action due to “repeated violations to international conventions and daily life.”

      “The discourteous and aggressive behavior of Mr. Julian Assange, the hostile and threatening declarations of its allied organization, against Ecuador, and especially the transgression of international treaties, have led the situation to a point where the asylum of Mr. Assange is unsustainable and no longer viable,” Moreno said in a video released on Twitter.

    • Spanish Police Probe Extortion Scheme Involving Surveillance on Assange

      A Spanish judge is investigating an alleged extortion scheme in which suspects in Madrid offered video and audio surveillance to the editor of WikiLeaks in exchange for €3 million, WikiLeaks said on Wednesday.

      The surveillance was taken over the past year inside the Ecuador embassy in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has legally been granted political asylum since 2012, said Kristinn Hrafnsson, the WikiLeaks editor, at a press conference in the British capital. Included in the “trove” of material was a copy of a legal document regarding Assange’s defense strategy that was briefly left behind in a conference room in the embassy, Hrafnsson said.

      “It is a grave and serious concern when legal meetings are being spied upon and legal documents are stolen,” he said. “That is something that not even prisoners have to endure.”

    • ‘A Crime Humanity Will Never Forget’: Ecuador’s Former President Rafael Correa Condemns Successor for Stripping Assange’s Asylum Status

      The former president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, on Thursday morning slammed his right-wing successor, President Lenin Moreno, as a the nation’s “greatest traitor” for stripping Julian Assange of his protected asylum status and invited U.K. police to enter the Ecuadorian embassy in London to arrest the Wikileaks publisher.

      “The greatest traitor in Ecuadorian and Latin American history, Lenin Moreno,” Correa stated in a tweet, “allowed the British police to enter our embassy in London to arrest Assange. Moreno is a corrupt man, but what he has done is a crime that humanity will never forget.”

      [...]

      “From now on and across the world,” Correa added in a subsequent tweet, “scoundrel and betrayal can be summarized in two words: Lenin Moreno.”

      It was Correa in 2012 who first granted Assange political asylum over fears that the journalist was being targeted by some of the powerful enemies he had made—including the United States and the U.K.—by publishing highly sensitive documents and other materials, including evidence of war crimes.

      When announcing the decision at the time, Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, explained that the decision was made specifically because Assange could face “political persecution” or be extradited to the U.S. where he could potentially be put to death if tried and convicted under the arcane Espionage Act.

      “The government of Ecuador, faithful to its tradition of protecting those who seek refuge in its territory or in its diplomatic missions, has decided to grant diplomatic asylum to Julian Assange,” Patiño declared in 2012.

      Since the news of Assange’s arrest broke early Thursday morning, human rights defenders and press freedom advocates have condemned the joint move of the Ecuadorian and U.K. governments.

    • WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange ‘Dragged Out’ of Ecuadorian Embassy, Arrested By UK Police

      Assange’s arrest was immediately condemned as a “direct attack on whistleblowers,” and it comes amid growing fears that the U.K. could extradite the Wikileaks founder to the United States.

      “It will be a sad day for democracy if the U.K. and Ecuadorian governments are willing to act as accomplices to the Trump administration’s determination to prosecute a publisher for publishing truthful information,” Assange’s legal team said in a statement last week.

      DiEM25, a progressive European political organization founded by former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, called Assange’s arrest “an outrageous violation of human rights and a vicious attack on freedom of speech and whistleblowers.”

      Journalist John Pilger added, “The action of the British police in literally dragging Julian Assange from the Ecuadorean embassy and the smashing of international law by the Ecuadorean regime in permitting this barbarity are crimes against the most basic natural justice. This is a warning to all journalists.”

      In a statement, Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno said “Ecuador has sovereignly decided to terminate the diplomatic asylum granted to Mr. Assange in 2012.”

      The Washington Post reported that Ecuador “said it was rescinding asylum because of his ‘discourteous and aggressive behavior’ and for violating the terms of his asylum.”

    • Goin’ Doon the Watter

      I have incidentally had a definitive reply from the Embassy of Ecuador that I am not allowed to visit Julian even though he has asked me to; definitive evidence that Assange is now being treated by Moreno as a prisoner.

    • ‘Dark Moment for Press Freedom’: Snowden Leads Global Chorus in Condemning Assange Arrest as Grave Assault on Journalism

      “Images of Ecuador’s ambassador inviting the U.K.’s secret police into the embassy to drag a publisher of—like it or not—award-winning journalism out of the building are going to end up in the history books,” Snowden tweeted.

      Assange’s arrest comes amid concerns that British authorities could be planning to extradite him to the United States.

      The U.K. police confirmed that Assange was arrested in part due to “an extradition warrant on behalf of the United States authorities.”

      Shortly after Assange’s arrest, the U.S. Justice Department unsealed charges against the WikiLeaks founder, accusing him of a “computer hacking conspiracy.”

    • Julian Assange Arrested On Behalf Of The US, For Trying To Help Manning Crack CIA Password

      Julian Assange has been arrested in the UK on behalf of the US, as Ecuador has finally tired of their overstaying asylumed house guest. We’re about to see quite a major legal battle, first in the UK and then almost certainly in the US, about Assange. The current charges seem narrowly focused on a CFAA-based “conspiracy” between Assange and Manning to try to hack a CIA computer, but if they expand to other Wikileaks activities, there should be concerns over press freedom issues.

      I am no fan of Julian Assange or Wikileaks. However, for years I’ve made it clear that prosecuting him for publishing leaked documents would be a huge mistake by the US. The DOJ spent years trying to come up with an excuse to charge Assange, but kept realizing they had no case, because while he may have had malicious intent, none of his public actions in releasing documents were any different — legally speaking — than what any investigative journalism outlet did in releasing obtained documents. The Supreme Court has made it clear that publishing classified documents is protected by the First Amendment. If he went beyond just releasing documents, as the indictment alleges, it becomes a lot trickier — but there’s a fine line here.

      It’s been clear in the last year or so, that despite years of not finding anything, the DOJ was finally moving ahead with plans to charge him. As we noted last year, everyone who believes in a free press should be concerned about what this might mean for press freedoms in the US as the case proceeds. And that’s true, even if the specific charges right now are limited to actions that are unrelated to the publishing of the documents.

      A few minutes ago, the DOJ released a fairly barebones 7-page indictment, alleging he was in a conspiracy with Chelsea Manning to hack into government computers to obtain documents. From the indictment, the charges are separate from releasing the documents that everyone knows Manning provided to Assange, and specifically revolve around Manning and Assange apparently working together to try to hack the CIA after Manning had finished handing over all of the documents we already know about. The indictment claims (and I kid you not) that Manning “used special software, namely a Linux operating system… to obtain the portion of the password provided to Assange.” What was obtained apparently was a hashed password to a CIA computer system, that Assange was allegedly going to try to crack, in order to enable Manning to get more info out of the CIA.

    • ACLU Comment on Julian Assange Arrest

      London authorities today arrested WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in relation to an extradition warrant on behalf of U.S. authorities.

      Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, issued the following comment in response:

      “Any prosecution by the United States of Mr. Assange for Wikileaks’ publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional, and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations. Moreover, prosecuting a foreign publisher for violating U.S. secrecy laws would set an especially dangerous precedent for U.S. journalists, who routinely violate foreign secrecy laws to deliver information vital to the public’s interest.”

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Watch: Ocasio-Cortez Calls Out GOP for Attacking Green New Deal as ‘Socialism’ While Supporting Billions in Big Oil Subsidies

      During a House Oversight Committee hearing on Tuesday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called out Republicans for attacking the Green New Deal as “socialism” while also supporting billions of dollars in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.

      “It is not responsible to complain about anything we dislike as ‘socialism,’ particularly when many of our colleagues across the aisle are more than happy to support millions and potentially billions of dollars in government subsidies and carve-outs for the oil and gas and fossil fuel industry,” said the New York congresswoman.

      “So the fact that subsidies for fossil fuel corporations are somehow smart but subsidies for solar panels is ‘socialist’ is just bad faith. And it’s incorrect,” she continued. “And I think it’s important to support and propose the fact that we need bold action.”

    • Will You Rise Up for Climate Justice Next Week? Don’t Let Fatalism and Cynicism Hold You Back

      This momentum to address climate change is unprecedented and impressive. But given that most of us deeply care about climate change, shouldn’t there be more people of all ages participating? Recent polls in the US and in the UK show that about two thirds of all citizens are very concerned about climate change. In addition, citizens want government to take meaningful action. Given that governments are not representing the majority of their citizens and are instead leading us toward climate catastrophe, why aren’t more people rising up to demand meaningful climate policy?

      As a social scientist, I have been looking into how social theory can help answer this question. In January, Erik Olin Wright, a renowned sociologist who studied social transformation passed away. His work represents a valuable and timely contribution, not only for scholars, but for all of us trying to understand how societies can change for the better. In his book, Envisioning Real Utopias, Wright presents a detailed theory of social transformation. Applying his work to current trends, we see that decades of growing inequality and a failure to mitigate climate change have created tensions and openings for change, movements are now increasingly demanding change, and we may be standing at the precipice of transformation. Because mitigation demands “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society,” climate change could be a critical catalyst for a transition to a more just society.

      While it is impossible to predict the future, history tells us that social transformation requires a large social movement that is sustained over time. Current climate change movements need to increase is size, scale, and global coordination. Extinction Rebellion claims that when just 3.5 % of the population demands change, governments will cave to the pressure. But why do we not see more people getting involved?

    • ‘Bomb Cyclone’ Storm Hammers Central U.S., Disrupting Travel

      Blizzard warnings were posted from Colorado to Minnesota on Wednesday and wildfires were a concern in New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma as the second so-called “bomb cyclone” storm in less than a month hit the central U.S., raising the prospect of renewed flooding in the already drenched Midwest.

      Heavy snow began disrupting ground and air travel Wednesday afternoon. Roads became impassable and visibility was down to a few feet in northeastern South Dakota due to snowfall of up to 11 inches. About half of the daily flights at Denver International Airport were canceled.

      Up to 2 ½ feet (0.61 meters) of snow was expected to fall in parts of eastern South Dakota and southwestern Minnesota, the National Weather Service said. Winds in excess of 50 mph (80.46 kph) also were expected, creating life-threatening conditions.

      “We’re calling it historic because of the widespread heavy snow. We will set some records,” said Mike Connelly, a weather service meteorologist in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

    • Wolves ‘Established’ in Netherlands for First Time in 140 Years

      For the first time in 140 years, wolves have an official home in the Netherlands.

      Ecologists told BBC Radio 4 that a female wolf they had been tracking had stayed in the country for six months and could therefore be called “established,” BBC News reported Tuesday.

      The ecologists had been tracking two females in the Hoge Veluwe nature reserve, which has now been designated as a wolf habitat, Dutch News reported. There is also evidence that a male wolf has been moving in and out of the area, and scientists told BBC that the wolves could form a pack within months.

    • 6 Pressing Questions About Beef and Climate Change, Answered

      Beef and climate change are in the news these days, from cows’ alleged high-methane farts (fact check: they’re actually mostly high-methane burps) to comparisons with cars and airplanes (fact check: the world needs to reduce emissions from fossil fuels and agriculture to sufficiently rein in global warming). And as with so many things in the public sphere lately, it’s easy for the conversation to get polarized. Animal-based foods are nutritious and especially important to livelihoods and diets in developing countries, but they are also inefficient resource users. Beef production is becoming more efficient, but forests are still being cut down for new pasture. People say they want to eat more plants, but meat consumption is still rising.

    • 300+ Groups to Congress: #GreenNewDeal ‘Must Transform Our Food System and Revitalize Rural America’

      The demand came in a letter (pdf) that more than 300 ranching, fishing, farmworker, food, agriculture, consumer, public health, and environmental organizations sent to lawmakers on behalf of their millions of members.

      In February, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced the historic Green New Deal resolution, backed by dozens of other Democratic lawmakers and a growing grassroots movement of Americans frustrated with Republican lawmakers and the Trump administration’s attacks on climate and environmental protection efforts—as well as insufficiently bold measures by Democrats to tackle the global crisis.

      “As the Green New Deal moves forward with proposals to combat the climate crisis while creating millions of jobs and ensuring a just transition to a sustainable future,” says the coalition’s letter, “America’s farmers, ranchers, fishers, and workers who feed the nation must be at the center of this policy agenda, not on the sidelines.”

    • American Skyscrapers Kill an Estimated 600 Million Migratory Birds Each Year

      An estimated 600 million birds are killed every year from collisions with some of the country’s largest skyscrapers, according to research from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Particularly deadly are those tall buildings found in three cities in particular.

    • ‘Monumental’: Chicago Commits to 100% Renewable Energy by 2040

      Chicago made history on Wednesday by becoming the largest U.S. city to commit to 100 percent renewable energy before the middle of the century.

      It is, in the summation of Kyra Woods, Chicago organizer with the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 Action Campaign, “a monumental achievement.”

    • ‘Are You Serious?’ John Kerry Interrupts GOP Climate Denial Logic in Disbelief

      Congressional discussions over climate change have reached such a low point that during this week’s House hearing on the national security risks of climate change, former Secretary of State John Kerry, who was testifying, broke down and just asked his Republican questioner, “Are you serious?”

    • “Yet Another Handout to the Dirty Fossil Fuel Industry”: Trump’s Newest Assault on Environment Draws Anger From Green Groups

      Donald Trump’s war on the environment will continue Wednesday as the president aims to make it easier to build pipelines—angering environmental groups.

      An executive order designed to loosen regulations around pipeline construction and ensure the country continues to rely on fossil fuels for its energy needs is expected to be announced by the president during a visit to Texas Wednesday.

      The order will allow Trump—and any of his successors—to be the decider on pipeline project approvals, currently the responsibility of the secretary of state due to the cross-border nature of the infrastructure.

      Trump is also expected to announce an executive order streamlining the permitting process for infrastructure projects, a thorn in the side of energy giants that are frequently stymied by state resistance.

      “So much for the virtues of federalism,” said Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell.

    • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Sweeps Iowa’s Water Crisis Under the Rug
    • The Insect Apocalypse Is Coming: Here Are 5 Lessons We Must Learn

      In a new report, scientists warn of a precipitous drop in the world’s insect population. We need to pay close attention, as over time, this could be just as catastrophic to humans as it is to insects. Special attention must be paid to the principal drivers of this insect decline, because while climate change is adding to the problem, food production is a much larger contributor.

      The report, released by researchers at the Universities of Sydney and Queensland and the China Academy of Agricultural Sciences, concluded that 40 percent of insect species are now threatened with extinction, and the world’s insect biomass is declining at 2.5 percent a year. In 50 years, the current biomass of insects could be cut in half. Such a sharp decline could trigger a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems.”

      We have, it appears, a lot to learn to avert the looming insect apocalypse. Here are five critical lessons.

  • Finance

    • Mnuchin Puts Off Decision on Providing Trump Tax Returns

      Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the department hasn’t decided whether to comply with a demand by a key House Democrat to deliver President Donald Trump’s tax returns and won’t meet a Wednesday deadline to provide them.

      In a letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., who asked for Trump’s returns a week ago, Mnuchin said Treasury will consult with the Justice Department and “carefully” review the request further.

      “The legal implications of this request could affect protections for all Americans against politically-motivated disclosures of personal tax information, regardless of which party is in power,” Mnuchin wrote.

      He said Treasury respects lawmakers’ oversight duties and would make sure taxpayer protections would be “scrupulously observed, consistent with my statutory responsibilities” as the department reviews the request.

      Neal said in a statement that he “will consult with counsel and determine the appropriate response to the commissioner in the coming days.” Under the law, the IRS commissioner is required to provide access to any taxpayer’s returns when directed by the chairmen of the House or Senate tax-writing committees.

    • Wealth, Stealth, and Boeing

      America is “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” It is also the province of the wealthy. Regardless of administration but most especially now, wealth has been the great separator: the rich get richer, the poor stay poor, and the middle class keeps losing ground. Central to keeping matters that way is political power, and with a wealthy (not to mention corrupt and conniving) businessman in the White House, the very rich can rest easy, knowing their interests will be protected and advanced.

      In one of his many insightful essays, Robert Reich points to the “grotesque imbalance [that] is undermining American democracy”:

      Over the last four decades, the median wage has barely budged. But the incomes of the richest 0.1% have soared by more than 300% and the incomes of the top 0.001% (the 2,300 richest Americans), by more than 600%. The net worth of the wealthiest 0.1% of Americans almost equals that of the bottom 90% combined.

      The rich-poor divide in the US is central to our disunity, Reich contends. (He’s not alone: Ray Dalio, billionaire founder of the Bridgewater hedge fund, agrees). Unlike Dalio, most of the wealthiest Americans quail at the thought of imposing major new taxes on wealth and love the benefits of Trump’s “tax reform.” What an extraordinary windfall that tax bill is for them and the largest corporations: for example, $12.4 billion in tax savings for Apple, AT&T, Bank of America, Verizon, and Walmart in the first three quarters of 2018 alone. Adding insult to injury, many of these companies are using those savings to cut jobs and buy back their stocks, inflating their value, rather than (as Trump predicted) invest in creating jobs at home (The Hightower Lowdown, February 2019).

    • Predicting the Next Recession and Other Ways to Waste Your Time

      The people who completely missed the housing bubble, the collapse of which sank the economy in 2008 and gave us the Great Recession, are again busy telling us about the next recession on the way. The latest item that they want us to be very worried about is an inversion of the yield curve. There has been an inversion of the yield curve before nearly every prior recession and we have never had an inversion of the yield curve without seeing a recession in the next two years.

      If you have no idea what an inversion of the yield curve is, that probably means you’re a normal person with better things to do with your time. But for economists, and especially those who monitor financial markets closely, this can be a big deal.

      An inverted yield curve refers to the relationship between shorter- and longer-term interest rates. Typically, a longer-term interest rate, say the interest rate you would get on a 30-year bond, is higher than what you would get from lending short-term, like buying a three-month Treasury bill.

      The logic is that if you are locking up your money for a longer period of time, you have to be compensated with a higher interest rate. Therefore, it is generally true that as you get to longer durations, say a one-year bond compared to three-month bond, the interest rate rises. This relationship between interest rates and the duration of the loan is what is known as the “yield curve.”

    • The Causes of the Growth of Populism on Both Sides of the North Atlantic

      As happened in the 20th century with communism, the term “populism” in the 21st century is used by the political and media establishments to define any movement or party that questions their power, their legitimacy, and the neoliberal public policies that they have been imposing on their populations. This is happening in many countries on both sides of the North Atlantic: in Europe and in North America. The objective of this article is primarily to analyze if these movements defined as populist have something in common and to identify the main causes of their expansion and, secondly, to analyze the strategies and limitations of populism in comparison with the major anti-establishment movement (socialism) of the previous century.

    • Teachers Are the Underdogs in a Decades-Long Class War

      The teachers’ strike wave began in West Virginia and spread across several red states, and then into blue states with work stoppages in Los Angeles, Denver and Oakland.

      Leading teacher militant Gillian Russom has been a high school history teacher in Los Angeles for 18 years. She’s been an activist-member of the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) for most of that time and currently serves on the union’s board of directors. She is a contributor to the book Education and Capitalism, published by Haymarket Books.

      She continues her conversation with Truthout, discussing how teachers’ unions should engage with electoral politics. The following transcript has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

    • What is Amazon?

      In the mid-50s my father wrote a textbook, Organisation of retail distribution, with a second edition in the mid-60s. He would have been fascinated by Amazon. I’ve written about Amazon from many different viewpoints, including storage as a service, and anti-trust, so I’m fascinated with Amazon, too. Now, when you put recent posts by two different writers together, an extraordinarily interesting picture emerges, not just of Amazon but of the risks inherent to the “friction-free” nature of the Web: [...]

    • Blockchain 2.0 – Public Vs Private Blockchain Comparison

      The previous part of the Blockchain 2.0 series explored the the state of Smart contracts now. This post intends to throw some light on the different types of blockchains that can be created. Each of these are used for vastly different applications and depending on the use cases, the protocol followed by each of these differ. Now let us go ahead and learn about Public vs Private blockchain comparison with Open source and proprietary technology.

    • ‘Tax the Rich!’ Conference Brings Together Policy Experts and Progressive Millionaires Benefiting From #TrumpTaxScam

      “Tax the Rich. Save America. Yes, it really is that simple.”

      So said the organizers of the first-ever “Tax the Rich!” conference, hosted by Patriotic Millionaires and a coalition of other groups in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.

      The one-day conference aimed to explain why and how to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans to curb economic inequality and address major national issues, including “underfunded schools, inadequate healthcare, and a crumbling infrastructure.”

    • Bill to Limit IRS’ Ability to Offer Free Tax Filing Service Is Getting New Scrutiny

      There have been a number of developments since we reported Tuesday that Congress was considering barring the Internal Revenue Service from offering a free tax preparation service that would compete with products such as TurboTax.

      After our story, several freshmen Democratic members of the House said they had not previously understood that the wide-ranging bill, called the Taxpayer First Act, contained such a provision.

      Reps. Katie Hill and Katie Porter, Democrats of California, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, opposed the provision, but the bill ultimately passed the House on a voice vote Tuesday.

      “Senate Republicans fit in some bitter pills and some problematic provisions,” said Hill, who supported the bill as a whole, speaking on the House floor. “One of these is a piece that came to my attention today — which the corporate tax lobby has spent years and millions of dollars to get — which would bar the IRS from creating a simple, free filing system that would compete with their own.”

    • EU Offers to Extend Brexit Deadline to Halloween

      European Union leaders on Thursday offered Britain a delay to its EU departure date until Halloween.

      Leaders of the 27 remaining EU member states met for more than six hours before agreeing to postpone Brexit until Oct. 31, two officials said. The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door negotiations. European Council President Donald Tusk confirmed in a tweet that an extension had been agreed to, but he did not disclose the date.

      May, who had sought a delay only until June 30, still has to agree to the offer.

      EU leaders spent a long dinner meeting wrangling over whether to save Britain from a precipitous and potentially calamitous Brexit, or to give the foot-dragging departing nation a shove over the edge.

      May pleaded with them at an emergency summit to delay Britain’s exit, due on Friday, until June 30 while the U.K. sorts out the mess that Brexit has become.

    • Merkel Favors Brexit Delay of Several Months

      German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she favors granting an extension of several months to the Brexit deadline.

      Merkel told German lawmakers Wednesday that she will meet before the European Union summit later in the day with French President Emmanuel Macron, who has taken a hard line over recent weeks on Brexit.

      Pressed on what kind of extension Germany backs, Merkel replied: “I favor, if there is a broad majority for this today, possibly making it a delay of several months — but not delaying anything, so that once Britain has decided the withdrawal can happen immediately.”

      Britain is currently scheduled to leave the EU on Friday, with or without a deal. Prime Minister Theresa May has asked for a delay until June 30, and visited both Germany and France Tuesday to make her case.

    • Lawmakers Just Confronted the IRS Over Tax Audits That Target the Poor

      Over the past six months, ProPublica has detailed the myriad ways the IRS has been gutted and how that has impacted its ability to do its job. In sum: The wealthy escape scrutiny while the working poor, an easier target, are audited at high rates.

      This week, Congress, in two separate hearings, confronted IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig with the findings.

      “How can the Congress stand by a tax-enforcement system that punishes working people and gives the wealthy a green light to cheat?” asked Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, during his opening statement on Wednesday.

    • Maxine Waters Holds the Gavel as Treasury Secretary Mnuchin Has Tantrum Over Length of Oversight Hearing

      In the latest contest between Democrats and the administration, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told Rep. Maxine Waters that he wouldn’t come back to Congress if forced to stay past 5:15pm.

      The comment came as part of a testy exchange between Mnuchin and the California Democrat during Mnuchin’s testimony to the House Committee on Financial Services Tuesday.

      The secretary told Waters that he was in a time crunch and needed to be in a meeting with a high ranking Bahraini official by 5:30pm—a change to the schedule that he only informed Waters, the chair of the committee, about the day before.

      The scheduling didn’t sit well with Waters.

      “No other secretary has ever told us the day before that they were going to limit their time,” Waters said.

    • It’s Time for $15 and a Union

      Last month, McDonald’s announced a dramatic about-face in its political priorities. After years of strikes and protests from labor activists, the burger giant has decided to end its involvement in lobbying campaigns against increasing America’s paltry $7.25 federal minimum wage.

    • Russian investigators now want American investor Michael Calvey moved to house arrest

      Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee has asked a Moscow court to transfer American investor Michael Calvey and former Vostochny Bank chairman Alexey Kordichev from pretrial detention to house arrest, a spokesperson for the Basmanny District Court told the news agency Interfax. The two men have been jailed since mid-February on charges of fraudulent debt repayment. Another four suspects in the investigation are also being jailed.

    • Tax Day 2019 Finds A Tax System Skewed to the Rich and Powerful

      Tax Day, when we settle our personal accounts with Uncle Sam, is also a good day to take account of our tax system overall. That’s especially true this year, when the first tax returns prepared under the new rules of the Trump-GOP tax law are due. We should be asking whether our system is fair, whether it raises the revenue we need, whether it promotes economic growth and equality.

      The answer to all three questions is, unfortunately, no. The tax code, already full of loopholes for the wealthy and corporations, was laden with even more by the new tax law. That law will also add nearly $2 trillion to the national debt, endangering services like Medicare, Medicaid and education, as well as vital new initiatives like lowering healthcare costs and improving road and bridges.

      [...]

      Trump doesn’t just want to cut the ACA’s budget—he wants to eliminate it altogether. That would cost 20 million Americans their health insurance, while taking away the protection for 130 million people with pre-existing medical conditions who would pay more or not be able to afford insurance without the ACA.

      Big winners from the ACA repeal are the wealthy, along with prescription drug firms and health insurers, whose steadily rising prices squeeze the same families facing reduced public services. That’s because they’d no longer pay $600 billion in taxes to help people afford insurance.

    • IRS described itself as Qualcomm’s ‘silent partner’ in imposing patent tax on mobile device industry

      Standard-essential patent (SEP) holders with ambitious monetization goals and aggressive tactics notoriously refuse to extend licenses to chipset makers. There’s more than one reason for this, but besides the real reasons–the primary one of which is money–there are some cheap pretexts and excuses that they’ll present when challenged. It’s the next best thing to hypocrisy.

      I do appreciate it, however, when those companies come clean and tell it like it is. Ericsson, thankfully and boastfully, created an entire slide deck that explains it’s just about (more) money plus a reduced risk of retaliation. That was just disarmingly honest.

      Toward the end of the FTC v. Qualcomm antitrust trial in January, a transcript of a 2012 interview conducted by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) with some Qualcomm employees made it into the record over Qualcomm’s lawyer’s objections. Given how incriminating that document is from an antitrust point of view, and imagining how Judge Lucy H. Koh in the Northern District of California might view it especially in the strategically critical context of chipset-level licensing, it’s easy to see why Qualcomm wouldn’t want that transcript to be considered by any judge or jury in any dispute.

    • Venture Stories Podcast Debating Austrian Economics, Libertarianism, and Bitcoin with Noah Smith

      Kinsella on Liberty Podcast, Episode 261. This is my appearance on the Venture Stories Podcast by Village Global, April 6 episode, hosted by Erik Torenberg: A Comparison of Austrian and Keynesian Economics with Noah Smith, Parker Thompson and Stephan Kinsella. It ended up being a bit of a debate with the other guest, Noah Smith of Bloomberg.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • How Perugia (Almost) Broke My Heart

      I couldn’t decide what was more worrying – that the field has become a pay-to-play scenario, particularly on the elite frontlines of Western journalism, or the gut-wrenching fact that alongside our broken business model that is limping along in a dystopian world of authoritarian governments and unchecked tech behemoths, we have slaughtered the industry vets who might have helped to save us. It’s no wonder we’re bumbling around in the dark with our caps in hand, many tipped toward the very industry which has stripped the cash right out from under us.

      [...]

      When the speakers finished up, Megan Lucero from the United Kingdom’s Bureau Local raised her hand, asking the question that struck to the core of it all: How do we go beyond saving ourselves? she asked. How do we go about saving journalism?

    • Labor sector maintains political clout as 2020 presidential campaign heats up

      Following the 2016 presidential election, unions witnessed a barrage of attacks on the labor sector. Most notably, the Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME gave public workers the choice to opt out of unions and not pay membership dues. Many labor organizers predicted the adoption of such “right-to-work” laws would be a death call for unions, which have already seen their share of workers decline over the last 35 years.

      The AFSCME and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) did lose a vast majority of agency fee payers, or employees who opted out of union membership and still paid union fees before the SCOTUS ruling, according to analysis by Bloomberg Law. Overall, union membership stayed steady and financial consequences have yet to be seen. Despite recent blows, unions have dug in and continue to wield financial influence. On the political front, contributions from labor groups continue to play a significant role in elections.

      Contributions to federal candidates, parties and committees from the labor sector hit a record high in 2016 to the tune of $218 million. Since 1990, the total amount of contributions from labor increased by more than 300 percent.

    • Last suspect in Russian treason case gets six years in prison, concluding FSB’s worst scandal in recent memory

      Russia’s Moscow District Military Court has convicted former Federal Security Service (FSB) agent Dmitry Dokuchaev of treason and sentenced him to six years in prison, also stripping him of his rank as major. After agreeing to a plea bargain and testifying against his former boss, Dokuchaev received a lighter sentence than the other suspects in the case: former FSB officer Sergey Mikhailov got 22 years in prison, former Kaspersky Lab expert Ruslan Stoyanov was sentenced to 14 years, and entrepreneur Georgy Fomchenkov (who also reportedly cooperated with prosecutors) got seven years behind bars.

    • Behind the Electoral College Debate, a Flourishing Effort to Advance Democracy

      On March 18, during a CNN Town Hall, Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren called for the abolition of the Electoral College. Her response immediately went viral. Mentions of the Electoral College exploded on Twitter. Major outlets published articles detailing and editorializing on Warren’s stance and the history of the Electoral College. Soon other candidates in the race went on record in agreement.

      Pushing the nation to confront its archaic and undemocratic method of electing the President is a notable achievement. Yet an even more notable moment arrived a couple days later, on March 20, when MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, in the midst of a discussion on the Electoral College, displayed a full-screen graphic of states that had joined the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and began to explain the details of this pro-democracy policy that has achieved remarkable under-the-radar success.

      The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is a clever work-around to the Electoral College. It is an agreement between states to award Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote. The compact would only go into effect once enough states joined such that the states voting together would guarantee that the national popular vote winner would receive a majority in the Electoral College.

    • AIPAC Has Bernie Sanders in Its Crosshairs

      Bernie Sanders, who made history with his 2016 presidential campaign as the first Jewish American to win a presidential primary and receive an electoral vote for president, is bizarrely being targeted with Facebook ads by The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Certainly, it seems at best counterintuitive for the pro-Israel lobby to be working against a candidate who could become the first Jewish president in U.S. history. As The Intercept reports, the only other Democrat AIPAC is targeting with Facebook ads is Rep. Ilhan Omar, who has come under fire for being openly critical of Israel’s occupation and supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) protest movement.

      The sponsored ads about Omar and Sanders are similar in content. While AIPAC’s posts about Sanders, which are being run in California, Florida and Texas—three states with democratic primaries that will be crucial in deciding the party’s 2020 candidate—contain petitions with appeals like, “Tell Sen. Sanders: America stands with Israel,” those targeting Omar feature the somewhat stronger-worded variation, “Tell Rep. Omar: We will not be deterred.”

    • Abolish the Electoral College, Empower the People

      Senator Elizabeth Warren is hell-bent on dismantling the systems that feed inequality in this country, including the Electoral College.
      “Every vote matters,” she said at a recent CNN town hall. That’s why we should “get rid of the Electoral College” and institute “national voting.”
      Americans don’t directly elect their president — states do. In most cases, states award all of their “electoral votes” to the candidate who wins the popular vote in those states. Whoever gets 270 electoral votes wins the election.
      Because electoral votes aren’t awarded in perfect proportion to population, small states get more influence over the outcome. Which means you can win the electoral vote even while getting fewer popular votes than your opponent.
      Abolishing the Electoral College would level the playing field. It would ensure that people, not parties or mechanisms, determine who leads the country.

    • Be Careful What You Wish For: Twitter Temporarily Bans ‘Get Out The Vote’ Ads To Comply With ‘Fake News’ Law

      If there’s one consistent theme that we’ve talked about on Techdirt over the past few decades, it’s that attempts to regulate the internet based on a specifically observed “harm” almost always leads to bad outcomes. That’s because trying to regulate away a harm frequently fails to take into account context and the specifics of how such laws would be interpreted. For example, over the last few years, there’s been plenty of concern about fake news and questionable “political advertising” that is really just, let’s say, “propaganda” from parties wishing to mess up the democratic process, rather than actually encourage effective democracy. Because of this we’ve seen attempts to pass “fake news” laws and “online political ads” laws that clearly come from a place of good intentions (mostly), but the actual impact can be far reaching and lead to unintended consequences.

    • The Israeli Left’s Moment of Reckoning

      Last week, on the eve of an election that pitted neo-fascist Benjamin Netanyahu against former Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, New York Magazine’s Abraham Riesman posed a provocative question: What has become of the Israeli left?

      On Tuesday, the nation’s electorate provided an answer of sorts. While final votes are still being tallied, Netanyahu will eke out a fifth term as prime minister, with Likud securing 65 seats in the Knesset to the opposition Blue and White’s 55. Perhaps more telling, the Labor Party, which governed Israel for the first 29 years of its existence, under different names and alignments, won just 4.5 percent of the vote. Labor’s six seats represents the party’s worst showing in its history. As the New York Times’ David M. Halbfinger observes, “It’s Netanyahu’s Israel now.”

      “Benjamin Netanyahu’s apparent re-election as prime minister of Israel,” he writes, “attests to a starkly conservative vision of the Jewish state and its people about where they are and where they are headed.”

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Facebook Is Expanding Efforts to Block False Information

      The company said Wednesday that the Associated Press will expand its role as part of Facebook’s third-party fact-checking program. Facebook also will reduce the reach of Groups that repeatedly share misinformation, such as anti-vaccine views; make Group administrators more accountable for violating content standards; and allow people to remove posts and comments from Facebook Groups even after they’re no longer members.

    • Britain unveils a plan to regulate online content

      On April 8th the British government published a 102-page policy paper outlining how it thinks [Internet] regulation should work to reduce what it awkwardly calls “online harms”. It is enormous in scope and hugely ambitious, encompassing any company that allows people “to share or discover user-generated content or interact with each other online”. That would include not just big social networks but also community forums, review sites, dating apps and much else. The harms covered are similarly extensive, from terrorist material and child abuse to more subjective things such as trolling and disinformation. Some fear it opens the door to censorship of the [Internet].

    • Dubai could jail London woman for calling ex-husband’s new wife a “horse” on social media

      Shahravesh, 55, was arrested at Dubai’s airport after arriving to attend her ex-husband’s funeral. Now she’s apparently facing prosecution over comments she posted to Facebook in 2016, on photos of her ex with his new wife, at whom she directed an insult, calling her a “horse.”

    • A British woman called her ex’s new wife a ‘horse’ on Facebook three years ago. Now she faces jail in Dubai.

      The case of 55-year-old Laleh Shahravesh and the old social media posts that have come back to haunt her has gripped Britain in recent days, turning attention to the United Arab Emirates’ strict laws and the penalties those traveling there can face.

    • British Woman Arrested In Dubai Over “Horse” Comment On Ex-Husband’s Wife

      Under the cyber-crime laws in the United Arab Emirates, defamatory statements on social media can attract fine or jail term.

    • ‘Reprehensible and Cowardly’: In Reversal, Airbnb Announces It Will Not Remove Listings of Illegal West Bank Settlements

      Amnesty International was among the groups accusing A‌i‌r‌b‌n‌b‌ of enabling human rights violations on Wednesday after the company reversed its decision to ban listings of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

      Back in November the San Francisco-based company announced that it would no longer offer some 200 listings of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, viewing settlements as “at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.”

      The removal followed pressure from the Stolen Homes coalition to drop the listings and triggered lawsuits by some Jewish Americans and Israeli settlers.

      A‌i‌r‌b‌n‌b‌’s u-turn was announced in statement Tuesday, which says that the company “has always opposed the BDS movement.” The change of stance, the company said, was to bring an end to the lawsuits.

    • It’s Fun To Laugh About Congressional Reps Suing A Satirical Internet Cow, But It’s A Real Attack On Free Speech

      I originally wrote a draft of this post over the weekend, before Nunes, filed a second bullshit lawsuit against Liz Mair, but now that that has happened, it has become even more relevant. I’ve lightly updated the original text to include this new lawsuit.
      Lots of folks laughed about Rep. Devin Nunes’ crazy lawsuit against a satirical cow on Twitter that mocked him, but much of the case is no laughing matter for those on the receiving end. While it is unlikely (but not impossible) that a court will let the case get far enough to unmask who is behind the satirical Twitter accounts, those individuals will still need to lawyer up. Also, while it gets ignored in much of the reporting on the case, there was one named defendant: political strategist/communications expert Liz Mair, who seemed to get sued for tweeting criticisms of Nunes.

    • Russia’s censorship agency has threatened to block OpenVPN. At worst, that move could interfere with systems from banking to cell service.

      Roskomnadzor, Russia’s federal censorship agency, wrote to the owners of 10 VPN services in late March to request compliance with the agency’s blacklist of websites that are blocked on Russian territory. Roskomnadzor threatened to block services that refused within the second half of May, and most of the VPN companies involved have already said they will not work with the agency. One of the companies on Roskomnadzor’s list is OpenVPN Inc., which has both its own paid VPN service and a VPN protocol that companies all over the world use to enable encrypted connections among devices. Meduza has learned that blocking that protocol might lead to broader disruptions in third-party services, somewhat like the agency’s efforts to block the messaging service Telegram in 2018. If Russian censors enforce their VPN blockage plan to the letter, areas from the banking system to the cellular service industry could experience unexpected technical issues.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Court Says Virginia PD’s Use Of Automatic Plate Readers Violates State’s Data Privacy Law

      The ACLU has secured a win for privacy in Virginia after taking on the state law enforcement and their many, many automatic license plate readers.
      The state’s ALPR track record isn’t great. Law enforcement and other government agencies love the tech, even if they have a considerable amount of trouble showing that plate readers do anything more useful than catch property tax cheats. Law enforcement agencies have turned their plate readers on political rally attendees, raising First Amendment issues along with the usual privacy concerns.
      The ACLU attacked the state’s use of plate readers using one of the state’s own laws. According to the “Government Data Collection and Dissemination Act,” the long-term collection of untargeted plate data was illegal. The state’s attorney general even issued an official opinion to this end, pointing out that active collections seeking targeted plates was permissible, but passive collections with no end date and unrelated to ongoing investigations wasn’t.

    • Barr Says ‘I Think Spying Did Occur’ on Trump Campaign

      Attorney General William Barr said Wednesday he is reviewing the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation, declaring he believed the president’s campaign had been spied on and wanted to make sure proper procedures were followed.

      “I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal,” Barr told senators at a budget hearing that, like a similar House hearing Tuesday, was dominated by questions about special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

      It was not immediately clear what “spying” Barr was referring to, but President Donald Trump’s supporters have repeatedly made accusations of political bias within the FBI and seized on anti-Trump text messages sent and received by one of the lead agents involved in investigating whether the Trump campaign was colluding with Russia.

    • If You’ve Stayed in a Hotel Your Data Has Probably Been Leaked, Report Finds

      Symantec threat researcher Candid Wueest analyzed 1,500 hotel websites across 54 countries, spanning two-star to five-star-rated hotels. He discovered that two out of three hotel sites inadvertently leak personal information and booking data to third-party entities, including analytics and ad companies.

    • Google Docs, Sheets and Slides will now play nice with Dropbox

      For the duration of the beta, Docs in ‘Box is only available for G Suite customers, but Dropbox says it’ll become available to us regular freeloaders once it ends its testing period. That’s reassuring to know, given Dropbox seems to have been getting a little less generous of late, most recently limiting its free accounts to just three devices.

    • VPN – a Very Precarious Narrative

      Starting out this article, I quote a paper published from 2015. To close this, I would like to quote the same sentence once again.

      […] another worrying aspect of today’s market of VPN services is the large misinformation end users are exposed to, which makes it hard for them to properly tell apart vague and bold claims typical of product advertisement campaigns with actual facts.

      This quote was written four years ago. Nowadays, we still see popular people advertising commercial VPN services with the same marketing claims and bold promises. Even worse, I feel like these services become more and more popular. This has to stop. We have to get better.

      Making people aware of privacy and security topics is amazing. Showing them solutions to those issues is also awesome, but for that to be effective, we – as in the whole internet – have to suggest and rely on methods that actually do what we need them to do. Using a VPN does not protect you against hackers who hijack parts of the internet to read traffic. Using a VPN does not protect you against data breaches on the services you are using. Using a VPN does not automatically protect your privacy and your identity. VPNs are tools you can use to achieve those goals, but you have to know how to use them.

    • Facebook Promises To Stop Asking You To Wish Happy Birthday To Your Friend Who Died

      Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on Monday announced that the social network will use artificial intelligence to determine when someone has died, and stop sending those kinds of notifications. Sandberg didn’t explain exactly how the new artificial intelligence features will work, but a Facebook spokesperson told NPR the company will look at a variety of signals that might indicate the person is deceased. The spokesperson wouldn’t provide details on what those signals may be.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Facebook sorry for ‘disturbing’ disabled comment

      Simon spoke to a Facebook employee over the phone to find out why his page was no longer allowed to be shared.

      He told Radio 1 Newsbeat that he “could not believe what was happening” when he was told people might find it “disturbing” to see pictures of disabled people on their feeds.

    • Do Women Get to Be Experts?

      Was that sexist? Did he treat me that way because I’m a woman? Or would everything that just happened be exactly the same if I were a man?
      Those are familiar questions for women. For as many times when you can know for sure you’ve experienced sexism, there are so many more times when you can’t be sure — but you wonder.
      For me right now, most of the questions are coming from my new job. I’m in grad school for sociology, but I’m an avid hiker and backpacker when I’m not studying. I decided to take a part time job at an outdoor gear retailer.
      I am a woman, I am short, and I look a decade younger than my age.
      I’m used to all of the usual nonsense solo women backpackers get: people think we aren’t safe in the woods alone, or well-meaning men assume we can’t lift our own backpacks and offer to help, or they ask if we’re just like Cheryl Strayed, the woman who wrote about her 1,000 mile solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail in her bestselling book Wild.

    • The BE HEARD Act Will Overhaul Workplace Harassment Laws

      For more than a decade, Tarana Burke and survivors across the country have used #MeToo to share their experiences of sexual violence, raise women’s voices, and respond to the needs of survivors. In its current incarnation, #MeToo has sparked an unprecedented examination of sexual harassment, including sexual assault, in our workplaces, and illuminated the multiple manifestations of workplace discrimination.

      In the midst of this historic reckoning, the ACLU and coalition partners drafted and shared with members of Congress a blueprint— our Principles and Priorities for Legislative Action to Eliminate Workplace Harassment — for addressing the scourge of discrimination in every workplace across the country. We said it was long past time that Congress confront the reality that our current laws had not done enough to stamp out harassment and discrimination, especially for our most vulnerable workers – those in low-wage jobs (who are predominantly women of color), those facing language barriers, and undocumented workers.

      Finally, the voices of survivors and advocates reverberate in the halls of Congress this week with the introduction of a comprehensive and visionary piece of legislation: the Bringing an End to Harassment by Enhancing Accountability and Rejecting Discrimination in the Workplace Act (BE HEARD in the Workplace Act).

    • Here’s why we must impeach Donald Trump: In fact, it’s more urgent than ever

      One of the most challenging tasks Americans can undertake at the moment is to impeach the president for his myriad high crimes and misdemeanors. It’s challenging but we have no choice. It has to be done for a variety of reasons including and especially this: it’s almost impossible to simply name, much less adjudicate, every impeachment-worthy trespass by Donald Trump simply because there are so many.

      Where to begin?

      This is as good a place as any: CNN’s Jake Tapper reported this week that Trump ordered federal agents in El Paso to not only disregard asylum laws but to also defy any court-ordered injunctions against Trump’s barbaric and unconstitutional family-separation policy. Indeed, the most obvious impeachable crimes by the president involve abuses of power like this one — literal crimes against humanity inflicted upon Central Americans fleeing from drug violence and death. Yet Trump clearly believes Richard Nixon’s unitary executive creed: “When the president does it, that means that it’s not illegal.” He’s milking this political theory so vigorously you could cut glass with Dick Cheney’s erection.

      What else?

      There are his hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels, with the conspiracy reaching into the Oval Office where Trump handed over the Daniels payments to Michael Cohen.

      There’s Trump’s obvious fealty to Vladimir Putin, going so far as to accept Putin’s word over the findings of our intelligence community.

    • How ‘public advocates’ are disrupting Russia’s justice system

      Since 2001, Russia has operated a system of “public advocates,” allowing individuals without a law degree (often defendants’ friends or relatives) to help defense attorneys build cases, including in felony trials. Recently, civic activists have started serving as public advocates, offering assistance not only to friends, but also to total strangers. Unlike appointed attorneys, these advocates can choose their own cases, and they’re free from certain restrictions on lawyers: for example, they can declare in court that they consider a trial to be politically motivated. Meduza asked three public advocates to explain what they do, why they’ve taken up this work, and how someone without a law degree but a direct interest in a case can help a professional defense attorney.

    • Congressional Action to End the Bans—Now and Into the Future

      Trump thought he won, but Members of Congress are pushing back.
      For the first time since President Trump issued his Muslim ban, Congress proposed a legislative solution today to protect immigrant communities from discriminatory bans, immediately and permanently.

      The long-awaited NO Ban Act, introduced by Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Representative Judy Chu (D-Calif.), would immediately rescind the Muslim ban as well as President Trump’s asylum ban and refugee ban, definitively ending these discriminatory abuses of authority by the Trump administration. It would also change the standard by which presidents can invoke ban authority in the future.

      Under current law, the executive branch can bar large groups of people from entry without effective accountability or regard for other parts of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The text of the provision that President Trump has relied on in support of his bans says that the President may “suspend the entry” of groups of non-citizens based on a finding that such entry would be “detrimental to the interests of the United States.” And, in a historic failure, the Supreme Court relied on this statutory authority—and discounted the Constitution and other parts of the INA—when it allowed the Muslim ban to remain in effect.

    • Academic Freedom at Risk After Decades of Attacks and Underfunding from Right Wing

      As higher education faces an increasingly dire crisis of underfunding, we look at one of the consequences of this crisis: the growing threat to academic freedom. Academic and author Henry Reichman takes on this threat in a new book, out this week, titled “The Future of Academic Freedom.” In it, he writes, “Academic capitalism—or, as many term it, ’corporatization’—has greatly impacted academic work and the ability of the faculty to unite in defense of professional norms, including academic freedom.” Academic capitalism is just one of a number of topics Reichman tackles in the book, which starts by asking what academic freedom is, and expands to look at the loss of public funding for institutions of higher education and the harassment of faculty members for political speech.

    • 3 New Studies That Will Make You Rethink Systemic Racism

      Racism is like sewage. Whether we’re currently engaging in a national dialogue about it or not, it’s still there. It runs under our streets, our buildings, our society. Millions of tons of shit.

      A few months ago, a national dialogue about race bubbled up to the surfice in all its stinking, rancid glory. That dialogue flared up when we all found out that the governor of my home state of Virginia, Ralph Northam, appeared in his medical school yearbook photo wearing blackface beside someone in a Klan hood (or perhaps it was him in the Klan hood next to a guy in blackface—neither explanation really helps his case). And in that moment, we could all see what racism looks like. It was tangible. It was real. We could point to it and cringe.

      That kind of racism is actually rare. More often, it trickles along beneath our collective consciousness, quietly infecting everything.

      Systemic racism is not as obvious, and a lot of people try to claim it no longer exists. “It’s gone. What systemic racism? ‘Black Panther’ was one of the most popular movies ever, therefore, racism is over,” they claim.

    • Dems Introduce Bill to End Trump’s ‘UnAmerican’ Muslim Ban

      Democrats in both chambers of Congress introduced legislation to end President Donald Trump’s racist Muslim ban Wednesday, generating support from advocates and lawmakers opposed to the administration’s policy.

      The No Ban Act, which faces an uphill battle in the Senate, would end a number of policies designed to stop immigration into the U.S. from Muslim majority countries. Those policies, according to Al Jazeera, include the travel ban, the ban on asylum seekers, and so-called “extreme vetting,” a technique to slow down the immigration process for applicants.

    • Kentucky Becomes 25th State to Protect Pregnant Employees at Work

      With Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin’s signature on Tuesday, half of U.S. states now have a simple rule on the books: Employers have to make small changes so that pregnant employees can remain in their jobs while also staying healthy.

      In late March, Kentucky’s legislature overwhelmingly passed the Pregnant Workers Act, making it the 25th state in the country to pass this kind of legislation. Now that Bevin has added his signature, the state’s law will require employers to engage in conversations with pregnant employees about potential accommodations they may need to stay healthy and at work during their pregnancies, and to offer changes to them unless doing so would present an undue hardship. Some of those changes can be small, such as a stool to sit on, the ability to carry a water bottle, or more frequent breaks. Others who work in physically demanding jobs may need to be placed in light duty positions to protect their health.

      That’s what happened to Kentucky residents Lyndi Trischler and Sam Riley. Both needed relief from their duties as patrol officers to protect their pregnancies at work: Trischler’s heavy gun belt and tight bullet-proof vest were causing her pain and health issues. But at the time, their city’s policy only allowed those with on-the-job injuries to participate in the light duty program, so they were pushed off the job and onto leave. The Department of Justice eventually got involved and issued a consent decree, and the city of Florence changed its policy.

    • My Father Was Killed on 9/11 When I Was Five, But What I Experienced at Guantánamo Bay Did Not Feel Like Justice

      In Taíno, an indigenous language of the Caribbean islands, Guantánamo means “land between the rivers.” It is the name of a province in southeast Cuba and its capital city. It is also the name of the oldest overseas US naval base, established in 1903. Nearly 100 years later, in January 2002, the base became the site of an infamous detention camp. The word has come to represent a generation of violence against Muslims, of fear-driven reactionary policies, of crimes against humanity in the name of national security, of exceptionalism, and of lawlessness.

      The word Guantánamo is now synonymous with terror, torture, and detention. A mere mention of the word elicits a near-ubiquitous shudder, or a groan. It evokes images of blindfolded, handcuffed men in orange jumpsuits, people labeled “the worst of the worst,” suicide bombers and radical Islamic fundamentalism, prison bars and military personnel, the American flag.

      The realization that Guantánamo exists physically, not only as a metaphor or imagination, struck me relatively recently. Until last year, my mental image of the place was analogous to my conception of the Bermuda Triangle; bizarre, amorphous, not quite real but with grave consequences. Last summer, I visited Guantànamo and learned that it is, in fact, very real. Its remote location and shroud of secrecy do not occlude its physical presence.

    • Nipsey’s Murder Reminds Us That We Live in a Lethal Anti-Black Society

      The recent murder of Los Angeles rapper Nipsey Hussle caused heartbreak across the city and the nation. People reacted in shock that Nipsey, who was a known community activist and an outspoken artist, was murdered. His model of Black entrepreneurship and development was well documented. Nipsey owned businesses that employed Black people and he sought to create more jobs in his community. Among his efforts were ventures relating to real estate, brand investment and a co-working space. As a longtime independent artist, Nipsey rapped about and reflected his own trademark of self-sufficiency. It’s been difficult for some to understand how this tragedy could have transpired. Why would someone kill a person who was beloved by so many and who was trying to empower others around him? This question has sparked a rise in conspiracy theories, discussions of “Black-on-Black” violence and laments about the risk of trying to help your own. When carelessly handled, all three of these responses can become quite damaging and we would do well to push back against that.

    • Our Crisis of Democracy Is Taking Center Stage in the 2020 Campaign

      Will the Constitution survive these troubled times? Should it? These are the questions at the center of Heidi Schreck’s powerful new play, “What the Constitution Means to Me,” which made its Broadway debut on March 31. Raw, righteous and brimming with humor, the play has become an improbable sensation, a sign of the collective anxiety that many Americans currently are feeling. “It is not just the best play to open on Broadway so far this season, but also the most important,” wrote Jesse Green, theater critic for the New York Times, who added, “It restarts an argument many of us forgot we even needed to have.”

      That argument — about the very future of American democracy — has taken on renewed urgency in the Trump era. For years, partisan theatrics and policy clashes have obscured important debates over the impact of the electoral college, gerrymandering, money in politics and other key “democracy issues.” As a consequence, our country has gradually become less democratic. President Trump bears some of the blame, of course, but the main culprit behind this decline is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has consistently violated democratic norms to consolidate power at all costs. The latest example of McConnell’s machinations came just last week when Republicans in the Senate invoked the “nuclear option” to make it easier for Trump to pack lower-level courts with right-wing judges.

    • Trump’s Most Worrisome Legacy

      Kirstjen Nielsen’s forced resignation as US Secretary of Homeland Security is no reason to celebrate. Yes, she presided over the forced separation of families at the US border, notoriously housing young children in wire cages. But Nielsen’s departure is not likely to bring any improvement, as President Donald Trump wants to replace her with someone who will carry out his anti-immigrant policies even more ruthlessly.

      Trump’s immigration policies are appalling in almost every aspect. And yet they may not be the worst feature of his administration. Indeed, identifying its foulest aspects has become a popular American parlor game. Yes, he has called immigrants criminals, rapists, and animals. But what about his deep misogyny or his boundless vulgarity and cruelty? Or his winking support of white supremacists? Or his withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal, and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty? And, of course, there is his war on the environment, on health care, and on the rules-based international system.

    • Trump Is Tired of Hearing “You Can’t Do That.” We Should All Be Afraid.

      One of the greatest political advantages enjoyed by the modern Republican Party is the comprehensive lack of shame evinced by its leaders, elected officials and most devout supporters. This was axiomatic even before the administration of Richard Nixon. “Extremism in defense of virtue is no vice!” bellowed Barry Goldwater at the ’64 GOP convention, permanently swapping the definitions of “virtue” and “vice” in the Republican lexicon. The party, immediately debased by the sentiment and the violent cheers it inspired, has never recovered.

      Tactical shamelessness became bog standard when Reagan and his band of trickle-down hucksters elevated the practice to a sort of gruesome art form, and the stain of it has only grown in the intervening years. Nixon and George W. Bush tussled over the title of Most Shameless until Donald Trump came along, ran the table, and broke the pool cue over the bartender’s head before howling off into the night. Because of Trump, all prior metrics for the phenomenon are now dust.

      One can see it everywhere in government today, from a network broadcast out of the Oval Office to the meanest backwater congressional confab. On Tuesday, a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing ostensibly on the topic of the Justice Department’s budget became a binary tussle over the Mueller report, because Attorney General William Barr was the star witness. The hearing started poorly and ended ugly.

      Committee Democrats pressed Barr to explain the thinking behind his infamous four-page “summary” of the 300+ page report, but Barr locked his jaw like a tetanus victim and refused to answer. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-New York) specifically asked Barr if the White House had seen the report either before or after the release of his letter. “I’m not going to say anything more about it,” he replied.

    • Trump Decries Mueller Probe as ‘Attempted Coup’ Launched by ‘Dirty Cops’

      President Donald Trump said Monday that the genesis of the Mueller probe into alleged Russian election interference and obstruction of justice was “an attempted coup” that amounted to treason.

      Speaking to reporters outside the White House, Trump dismissed the report as “phony” and the result of “an illegal investigation.”

      “Everything about it was crooked,” he said. “It was an illegal investigation” launched by “dirty cops.”

      “This was an attempted coup. This was an attempted take-down of a president.”

      “This was an illegal witch hunt,” he went on to say. Apparently referring to those behind the report, he said, “what they did was treason.”

      The characterization of the investigation mirrors that recently given by Fox News host and Islamophobe Jeanine Pirro, though the president himself has used the language before.

      Last month he suggested those who helped launch the probe had done “treasonous things” and may face retribution. And, back in February, Trump agreed with right wing Fox News guest Dan Bongino’s allegation that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe were trying to carry out “an illegal coup attempt.”

    • To Survive in Texas, Black Bears Need an Open Border

      As a child Diana Doan-Crider loved hearing her grandfather’s tales of the grizzly bears and wolves he saw in the early 1900s while working to build Mexico’s railroads through the mountains. A Tepehuán Indian from Durango Mexico, he told vivid stories, and his knowledge of nature inspired her to become a wildlife biologist when she grew up and to spend decades researching black bears in northern Coahuila’s mountains, just across the Texas border.

      That was an important time for black bears, which had all but vanished from Texas in the 1950s following decades of hunting, trapping and habitat loss. The animals started to return to Texas’s Big Bend National Park in the late 1980s. At first it was just a handful of bears, but soon visitors began reporting dozens sighted a year, including females with cubs.

      Doan-Crider’s pioneering research, published in 1996, helped confirm what Texas wildlife managers long suspected: Black bears were regaining a foothold in southern Texas, not from other U.S. states but from Mexico.

    • Psychologist: Donald Trump’s “wall is a physical manifestation of global white supremacy ideology”

      In yet another cabinet shakeup, President Donald Trump forced out Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen for objecting to the President’s demand to continue the forced separation of immigrant children from their families.

      The president’s move signals that he is planning an even more hardline approach to cracking down on immigration at the border. Raw Story spoke with psychologist Kevin Washington, PhD, about how Trump’s obsession with non-white immigrants amounts to the advancement of global white supremacy.

      Kevin Washington, PhD, is the Immediate Past President of the Association of Black Psychologists and is Head of the Sociology and Psychology Department at Grambling State University. As the founder of Ubuntu Psychotherapy, he advances a culturally sensitive modality for mental health counseling. He contributed his understanding of the cultural and historical trauma of entire peoples to “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 37 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Professionals Assess a President,” edited by Bandy X. Lee and released last month alongside a major, interdisciplinary conference on presidential fitness in Washington, DC (dangerouscase.org).

    • Sudan Hits Peak Crisis After Months of Massive Protests

      Omar Hassan al-Bashir, b. 1944, has stepped down as president of Sudan in the wake of a military coup, according to Alarabiya (United Arab Emirates). Alarabiya also says that current and former government officials have been detained by the coup-makers. As I write, the state television has gone blank and is playing military marches.

      During the past week, demonstrators have rallied outside the presidential palace itself, and there have been reports of army elements siding with the demonstrators.

      On Thursday morning, tens of thousands of Sudanese poured into the streets of Khartoum. People were saying “The youth are well, God willing!” and praising the country’s revolutionary youth, in scenes reminiscent of 2011 in Egypt and Tunisia.

      Informed Comment as of early Thursday morning could not confirm Bashir’s departure.

    • Trump’s Vicious Crusade Against Asylum-Seekers Is About to Get Worse

      President Donald Trump is intensifying his vicious crusade against asylum-seekers from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Last weekend he declared, “Our country’s full.” He ousted Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen by tweet, reportedly because he thought Nielsen, who oversaw the separation of thousands of migrant children from their parents and then lied about it to Congress, was not tough enough. Tens of thousands of people are seeking asylum in the U.S., fleeing systemic violence. The desperation and fear that drive them north derives in part from decades of U.S. policy in the region that has overthrown democratically elected governments, destabilized civil society, and trained and armed repressive militaries. The U.S. cultivated this crisis for over half a century; it won’t be fixed by a wall.

      The effort to challenge Trump’s policies got a bit harder this week with the death at age 89 of Blase Bonpane, a lifelong peace activist. Based in Los Angeles, Bonpane devoted his life to social justice, and had a deep and hard-earned understanding of Central America, its people and its problems.

      The CIA overthrew Guatemala’s democratically elected President Jacobo Arbenz in 1954, largely to protect the interests of the United Fruit Company (now called Chiquita Brands). Bonpane served as a Maryknoll priest in Guatemala in the 1960s, when that country waged a bloody war on its own population that lasted into the mid-1990s. Bonpane and other Catholic missionaries were in the rural areas where violence against the indigenous population was most intense.

      At the same time, Pope John XXIII had convened the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II), which liberalized many centuries-old church practices, leading to the emergence of “liberation theology” in Latin America. Liberation theology applied a biblical, Christian analysis to the entrenched poverty and inequality that dominated Latin American society, and called for action to change the status quo. Bonpane embraced the challenge. He was lauded by the local population as a “guerrilla of peace.” By 1968, the government of Guatemala expelled Bonpane and other clergy from the country.

    • What’s Wrong With The United States?

      Isn’t this all true today? We have Ubu Roi Trump as US President and officially in control of the most awesome nuclear annihilation button on Earth. We are mostly galley slaves chained to our capitalistic economic and perceptual oars, implacably driving ourselves into the geophysical tempest of climate change. We have cracked the secrets of genetic modification and have let this incredible power be held by tight-fisted corporations only interested in their own financial gain. We have a growing infestation of measles, a disease that in 2014 was thought to be nearing extinction but which has since 2017 expanded due to a decrease in immunization, reflecting an idiotic anti-vaxxer superstition justified as a “protect-my-child” panic. Our infotainment media is a wholly-owned subsidiary of plutocracy, for the electronic diffusion of corporate propaganda against the public interest, and for the mass virtual pithing of the public mind.

      What is wrong with the United States? It is the failure of its people to unite with the vision of “with charity — and justice — for all, and malice toward none,” but instead to debase themselves into passive entertainment-dependent robots, or into ambitious careerists “led by their materialism and instinctive worship of power.”

      The United States Of America is both classist and tribal. These are the fault lines of American greed and politics. The varieties of American bigotry arise out of envy and resentment, from within our classes and tribes. The nation itself is big and powerful, but greatness eludes it because its people are unwilling to overcome their pettiness. Internally, the classes and tribes are fragmented by ageism and sexism, as well as by racism where a class or tribe happens to be multi-racial.

      As is always true when speaking about society, all generalizations are formally wrong because one can always find individual counterexamples. However, what is wrong with the United States is that the number of such counterexamples to the sweeping criticisms made here do not count up to an overwhelming majority of the American people. If they did then everything in our society would be different, as would everybody who is now “in charge.”

      The decadent nature of our society is a mirror of our cowardly denied national consensus for a pathetic tolerance of anti-intellectualism, ignorance, superstition, moral irresponsibility within our particular class and tribe, shameless sociopathic egotism, criminality labeled as capitalism, bigotry labeled as religion, and religion practiced as hate-crime.

      There is no sociological fix that can come down to us, externally, from our political and judicial systems — whose only functions are to protect capitalism from popular democracy and to mediate capitalistic disputes — nor from organized religions, which arrogantly claim to hold the answers to ultimate questions (they don’t), and which demand to regulate and compel social morality.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • House Democrats Pass Bill to Restore Net Neutrality

      The bill passed in a 232-190 vote, with only one Republican voting in favor of the legislation.

    • ‘Victory!’ Digital Rights Groups Celebrate As House Approves Save the Internet Act to Restore Net Neutrality

      “Today’s vote is a tremendous victory for the millions of people across the country who’ve been calling, writing, tweeting and visiting their members of Congress to urge them to fight for a free and open internet,” Free Press president Craig Aaron said in a statement. “The energy behind this bill came from the grassroots, not big companies, but there were plenty of industry lobbyists trying to sink it. The overwhelming show of support for the Save the Internet Act proves how important and popular Net Neutrality has become.”

      The bill will now go to the Senate for a potential vote. Advocates warned Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell against following through on his earlier statement that the bill would be “dead on arrival in the Senate if it passed the House.

      “Senators must know by now that people across party lines support Net Neutrality protections by large majorities,” Aaron said. “Mitch McConnell and other Senate leaders need to decide whether they’re going to stand with more than 80 percent of voters in their own party or do the cable companies’ dirty work. To prevent a Senate vote on this bill would be wrong, politically short-sighted and an underestimation of the internet’s readiness to mobilize and fight for Net Neutrality.”

    • Victory! The House of Representatives Passes Net Neutrality Protections

      In a vote of 232-190, the House of Representatives passed the Save the Internet Act (H.R. 1644). This is a major step forward in the fight for net neutrality protections, and it’s because you spoke up about what you want.

      The Save the Internet Act was written to restore the strong and hard-fought protections of the 2015 Open Internet Order. Americans overwhelmingly support an Internet where Internet service providers (ISPs) have to treat all the data transmitted over their networks in a nondiscriminatory way. In other words, where ISPs don’t act as gatekeepers to the Internet and where you, the user, decide how and what you want to see online. As many Americans have no choice when it comes to their ISP, it is vital that they retain control over their online experience.

      Americans overwhelmingly support an Internet where Internet service providers (ISPs) have to treat all the data transmitted over their networks in a nondiscriminatory way.

      Famously, violations of net neutrality have included the practices of blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization. But that is not all that ISPs can do to warp your Internet experience. The Open Internet Order of 2015 prohibited these three techniques, while also including privacy and competition protections. All of these things would be restored with the Save the Internet Act. We deserve a return to the 2015 order, not a watered-down version of net neutrality.

    • Verizon’s ‘World First’ 5G Launch Was A Bit of a Dud

      We’ve noted for a while that 5G is being aggressively over-hyped. While it’s an important evolutionary step in wireless connectivity, it’s far from the revolution hardware vendors and cellular carriers are promising. Verizon, for example, insists that 5G is the “fourth industrial revolution” that will almost miraculously spur the smart cities and smarter cars of tomorrow. While 5G is important (in the sense that faster, more resilient networks are always important), the idea that 5G will fundamentally transform the broken broadband market tends to overshoot the mark.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Patent case: Pemetrexed, Austria

      3 The considerations of the person skilled in the art are oriented towards the meaning of the technical teaching protected by the patent in such a way as to ensure that the person skilled in the art will take the alternative embodiment into consideration as an equivalent solution to the patented embodiment (“equivalence” or “parity”).

    • Conference report: ‘Injunctions and flexibility in patent law’

      The sixth and final panel (David Kitchin, James Robart, Peter Picht) closed off by looking at injunctions in cases involving Standard Essential Patents (SEPs). Territoriality was again a topic of considerable debate where the panel identified a clash: Lord Kitchin defended the UK approach in Unwired Planet to set global royalty rates in SEP disputes, whereas Judge Robart explained why U.S. courts are hesitant in this regard. Are global royalty rates a pragmatic solution to a SEP-dispute, or does it invite inappropriate forum shopping? The issue of whether injunctions are appropriate is at the heart of SEP disputes and it is interesting that we already have some decisions in this area from different jurisdictions. These can be discussed and built on so as to come to a balanced and established approach through judicial cooperation.

      All in all, the conference offered a broad but thorough discussion of the many different aspects of patent injunctions. In their closing remarks, professors Leistner and Ohly summarized the debate and identified four archetypical situations in which the traditional approach may cause problems: cases involving (i) non-practicing entities or non-practiced patents, (ii) SEPs, (iii) small components in complex products and (iv) significant public interests in the technology, such as pharmaceuticals. It is expected that the number of these cases will only grow and it is right, as professor Golden wrote, that they should generate public debate: after all, patents are powerful rights the enforcement of which can have repercussions beyond the parties to the dispute. It seems that patent courts have their work cut out for them.

    • Final pretrial conference order in Apple, Foxconn et al. v. Qualcomm (Southern District of California)

      There were two developments yesterday in connection with Qualcomm’s antitrust issues.

      First, the EU General Court (which used to be call the European Court of First Instance) handed down a judgment that upholds the entirety of the European Commission’s March 31, 2017 decision that Qualcomm would incur a daily fine of 580,000 euros for non-compliance with two information requests after specified dates (May 12, 2017 for one of them, and May 26, 2017 for the other). The EU General Court already denied in July 2017 a Qualcomm motion to stay the order, as I mentioned in this post. Apparently Qualcomm then had to comply (though it still appealed the decision), and the investigation of Qualcomm’s exclusivity arrangements and predatory pricing further to a complaint by Icera, a once-European semiconductor company acquired by Nvidia (and shut down later).

    • Does a “Blocking Patent” also Block Objective Indicia of Nonobviousness

      The infringement lawsuit was triggered when Roxane (and others) filed Abbreviated New Drug Applications (ANDAs) with the FDA to start making generic versions of Acorda’s drug treatment for multiple sclerosis (Ampyra). Roxane successfully defended the lawsuit by arguing that the asserted claims were obvious.

      For the obviousness analysis, the patentee Acorda provided evidence of commercial success and long felt but unmet need that was tied to the invention at issue. However, the Federal Circuit found that those secondary factors did not apply because of a broader blocking-patent already exclusively licensed to Acorda.

      The setup here begins with the fact that Acorda is the exclusive licensee of a broad patent for treating 4-AP to treat MS (Elan patent). The Elan patent has now expired, but it was firmly in place as Acorda conducted its research and obtained FDA approval. This petition here focuses primarily on four follow-on patents obtained by Acorda covering tweaks to the treatment plan. Despite the tweaks, it appears that Elan’s broad patent still covers the drug treatment at issue here. I.e., Elan’s patent is a “blocking patent.”

    • For Obviousness, Some Things Change but the Board Statistics Remain the Same [Ed: Anticipat says so. So patents continue to be thrown out aplenty. Good. If they're not valid, bin them.]

      The Anticipat research database continues to comprehensively cover all legal grounds of rejection considered by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) for its ex parte appeals decision. This includes the more exotic like statutory subject matter Section 101 cases to the much more common issues like obviousness (Section 103).

      Since July 25, 2016 to February 28, 2019, there have been around 24,448 obviousness decisions from the 29,102 total decisions meaning that nearly 84% of all appeals involve obviousness. Our observation is that obviousness is the most common ground of rejection to be decided at the Board. In this post, the data considered excludes decisions where the outcome involved a new ground of rejection based on obviousness as these typically only form a small fraction of the cases.

      Of the 24,448 total decisions, 12,369 were affirmed, 8,386 were reversed, and 2354 were affirmed in part. Thus, the wholly reversed rate (for all claims in a case based on obviousness) was about 34%. The at least partially reversed rate (at least one claim in the case was found patentable) is about 44% (43.9%).

      What is interesting to note is the breakdown by technology center in the USPTO. The technology centers contain the various art units to which patent cases are assigned based on how the claimed technology in each patent application is classified by the USPTO. Here is the summary of obviousness cases broken down by technology center based on cases decided between July 25, 2016 to February 28, 2019.

    • Colas Solutions, Inc. v. Blacklidge Emulsions, Inc. (Fed. Cir. 2019)

      Last month, in Colas Solutions, Inc. v. Blacklidge Emulsions, Inc., the Federal Circuit affirmed determinations by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Patent Trial and Appeal Board in two inter partes reviews that certain claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 7,503,724 and 7,918,624 are not unpatentable in view of the prior art of record. In particular, the Board found that Colas Solutions, Inc. had failed to establish obviousness based on inherency, and that Colas’ alternative obviousness theory was not timely presented.

      The ’724 and ’624 patents, which are directed to a method of applying a specific asphalt emulsion coating, known as a “tack coat,” to a road surface, are assigned to Blacklidge Emulsions, Inc. The claimed invention involves a method of bonding layers of asphalt using a tack coat that has a surface that resists adhering to vehicle tires but still functions as an adhesive for subsequent layers of pavement. The claims require that the tack coat has a specific range of “softening points,” which is the temperature at which an asphalt composition becomes soft and flowable.

      Colas filed petitions for inter partes review of the ’724 and ’624 patents, arguing that the claims were obvious in view of Bardesi et al., “A Novel Generation of Tack Coat Emulsions to Avoid Adhesion to Tyres,” Third World Congress on Emulsions (“Bardesi”), which Colas contended met the “softening point” element of each claim. While Bardesi does not expressly disclose softening points for any of its asphalts, it discloses “pen values” (i.e., penetration value), which measures the distance in dmm (tenths of a millimeter) that a standard needle, under a standard loading, will penetrate a sample in a given time under known temperature conditions. Colas argued that based on the pen values disclosed in Bardesi, the reference inherently discloses the softening point limitation, supporting its argument with testimony from its expert, who opined that asphalt having a hardness of 20-pen or below, which Bardesi specifically teaches, will necessarily have a softening point greater than that recited in the claims. In reaching this conclusion, Colas’ expert relied on the Pfeifer equation to calculate potential softening points for the asphalts disclosed in Bardesi.

      [...]

      The Federal Circuit concluded by noting that “Colas jettisoned its inherency theory and introduced a brand-new theory of ‘overlapping ranges’ to explain why one of ordinary skill would find the disputed element taught by Bardesi,” finding that “[u]nder such circumstances, the Board does not abuse its discretion in declining to consider such untimely theories.” The Court therefore affirmed the Board’s final written decisions finding the challenged claims to be not obvious in view of the prior art.

    • Trademarks

      • TM: Web Page Advertisements Do not (Necessarily) Constitute Use in Commerce

        In January 2019, the Federal Circuit issued a non-precedential opinion in this trademark case. Based upon a USPTO request, the court has now reissue the decision as precedential. See Fed. Cir. R. 32.1(e).

        As part of the trademark registration process, an applicant must submit a specimen of the mark as used in commerce. Here, Siny is seeking to register the mark CASALANA for its knit wool fabric and submitted a printout from a webpage purporting to show the mark being used in commerce.

        [...]

        On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed both on the law and the factual conclusions — holding that “the Board carefully considered the Webpage Specimen’s contents and determined, on the record before it, that the specimen did not cross the line from mere advertising to an acceptable display associated with the goods.”

      • The Emmys Are Still Going After A Pet Products Company Despite All The Concessions They’ve Been Given

        Late last year, we brought you the story of how the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the organization behind the Emmy Awards, somehow decided to oppose Emmy’s Best, a pet products company named after the founder’s cancer-surviving, good, good puppy. At the time, the opposition was fresh with very little back and forth between the parties, which didn’t stop me from pointing out that this whole thing was plainly absurd. Television can only metaphorically be compared to a gnawing bone, after all, and it sure seems like there isn’t a great deal of customer confusion to be had here. Despite that, Kevin Rizer offered to drop the application entirely, but NATAS decided that wasn’t enough and has instead insisted that Emmy’s Best change its name and hand over control of its website.

      • Kobe Bryant Every Bit As Useless As His Lawyers Predicted In Trademark Opposition

        Late last year, we wrote about a fairly strange case of a trademark opposition involving Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals and its Black Mamba HYPERRUSH line of diet pills, and Kobe Bryant and his Black Mamba line of being a basketball player. The whole thing was both messy and rather pointless. Pointless because the pharma market and anything Kobe Bryant is involved in are quite divergent marketplaces, making the trademark opposition fairly pointless. And, yet, it’s been going on for years. Messy, because the timelines are not particularly in Bryant’s favor, given that Hi-Tech applied for its mark a year before Bryant applied for his, leading to Hi-Tech requesting to depose Bryant and get documents from him detailing exactly how he came up with his nickname. Bryant’s lawyers rebutted the request by suggesting that deposing Bryant would be like deposing Lil Wayne, because the present is a farce we’re all somehow forced to live through.

        Instead, Bryant’s lawyers insisted he answer only written questions, all while warning that Bryant’s answers would probably be entirely useless. They predicted that Bryant wouldn’t recall the answers to the questions Hi-Tech would want to ask, which is more than a little odd, given that this all centers around how he came up with his now-famous nickname. But, give credit where credit is due: Hi-Tech is now complaining that Bryant has been every bit as useless as his lawyers predicted.

    • Copyrights

      • Why is Twitter mysteriously linking the word ‘People’ to The New York Times?
      • Twitter Flags President Trump for Copyright Infringement, Again and Again

        Yesterday evening President Trump tweeted a video, made by a supporter, which used music from ‘The Dark Knight’ soundtrack. Warner Bros. wasn’t pleased with this unauthorized reproduction and asked Twitter to take it down, which it did. While this may seem like an isolated incident, President Trump has made similar mistakes in the past, to which rightsholders are paying extra close attention.

      • Re-imagining Marie Louise Fuller’s copyright of dance in Fuller v Bemis

        The question of copyright in dance has recently been at the center of attention for the so-called “Fortnite saga”…

        [...]

        If Ms. Fuller were to apply for the same injunction today she would have probably come out as the victorious party: her dance is fixed in a tangible medium (a textual description) and it is an expressive, abstract composition conveyed through movement. Ms. Bemis, however, would have to prove that her version of the dance is a derivative choreographic work. In order to do this, she would have to prove that her work was independently created and it contained a sufficient amount of creativity, which are not minor changes or trivial additions to the original.

      • German Publishing Giant Claims Blocking Ads Is Copyright Infringement, In Yet Another Lawsuit Against The Industry Leader

        As Eyeo’s company spokesperson pointed out to Heise Online, this claim is ridiculous. Adblocking software operates within a person’s browser; it simply changes what appears on the screen by omitting the ads. It’s no different from resizing a browser window, or modifying a Web page’s appearance using one of the hundreds of other browser plugins that are available. It’s completely under the control of the user, and doesn’t touch anything on the server side. The fact that Axel Springer is making such a technically illiterate argument shows that it is now desperately scraping the barrel of legal arguments. Maybe it’s time for the German publisher to accept that users have the right to format the Web pages they view in any way they like — and that adblocking software is perfectly legal.

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