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04.25.19

The Quality of Patents is Connected to the Quality of Life of Patent Examiners

Posted in Europe, Patents at 9:46 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Two years ago: At EPO, “Producing Stronger Patents (or Being Able to Produce Them) is Also a Matter of Professional Pride for the Examiners”

A father and son
Not your father’s EPO anymore

Summary: EPO staff is not happy (a new President has not changed things) and the problems associated with low quality of patents become more visible in courtrooms

THE CONCEPT of patents is very old and it predates the name or the word “patents”. Early monopolies on ideas covered rather fundamental things which were demonstrable, physically. Inventors used to actually present something that worked, not theoretical spaceships.

Warp speed to the 21st century only to find nature itself being patented (things which predate humans). It’s happening right here in Europe, where a bunch of bankers and politicians nowadays call computers “AI” and then use the buzzwords to justify patents on mere operations, which are all reducible to mathematics.

We’ve come across numerous software patents articles lately. Many are about the European Patent Office (EPO) because such patents are perishing in the US. Some of these articles come from the patent trolls; lobby (IAM), especially earlier this month, but they’re all behind paywall; we assume it’s so that critics cannot see and rebut without buying subscription (i.e. funding the trolls’ lobby).

What good is the job of a patent examiner if the skills required are basic or ‘feel’ basic? What if there’s insufficient time to research the area, learning in the process of working? What if wrong decisions are being made, which later lead to human agony and injustice?

Today’s EPO has lost the ability to attract talented people, but seeing that hirings aren’t even on the agenda anymore, the management probably doesn’t care. These people only care about securing as many huge salaries until the end of their term. The longterm viability of the EPO isn’t a concern of theirs.

EPO employees no longer have permanent contracts, so why would they feel loyalty to the employer? Or to the stakeholders?

R.I.P. Kat, a blog by a (likely) EPO insider, has just spoken about that EPO ‘survey’ (it lies about staff’s sentiments [1, 2]), saying that António Campinos et al should “define a career system with a clear link between achievement and reward, and not the present system where, in 2018, staff exceeded all production targets to be rewarded with an unmatched number of “below” or “far below objectives”?”

They just want to grant lots and lots of European Patents, even software patents. More from R.I.P. Kat:

Apparently, President Campinos could not understand why the results of the study were so negative and why staff complained that they were not heard when he spent so much time having breakfast with them.

[...]

Unfortunately, the latest news do not show that management is listening. In the next article.

The management may be “listening”; pets too can listen, but that doesn’t mean they understand, that they want to understand or that they will obey instructions (which they barely understand anyway).

Meanwhile, as we’ve been showing in recent months, more and more European Patents perish in courts, proving the point SUEPO has been making for years (and as recently as weeks ago).

Here is what “MaxDrei” has just said about the EPO’s problem-solution crisis or approach, PSA. It’s about the UK Supreme Court tossing out a European Patent after millions of euros were spent on lawyers:

Do I read here a unamimous Supreme Court panel putting EPO-PSA for the first time on an equal footing to Windsurfer/Pozzoli, both being seen as a “gloss” on the statutory question “Obvious Y/N?”, a “gloss” that is helpful to teaze out the correct result?

And if so, will this have as consequence that, from now on, obviousness will be pleaded in the courts of England and Wales in line with EPO-PSA, ie, the established case law of the Boards of Appeal of the EPO.

I mean, if Windsurfer leads to the same result as EPO-PSA, why bother with it any longer? Applying EPO-PSA at first instance should have the effect of cutting down the number of appeals to EWCA. After all, the tenor of this piece seems to be that if EPO-PSA had been argued from the get go the proprietor might have saved the patent.

There are lots of fake European Patents that courts toss out and there may be more on the way at the highest British court. It didn’t have to come to this, but the EPO ends up with lots of rubbish patents and not even a UPC to water down European patent law and permit patents on everything under the sun.

American Patent Courts Keep Narrowing Patent Scope, No Matter What Few Politicians Are Doing on Behalf of Litigation Firms and Patent Trolls

Posted in America, Courtroom, Patents at 8:13 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Ray Niro dies
Reference: Death of the father of patent trolling, Ray Niro

Summary: Acts of desperation in the patent microcosm of the United States, where judges now overwhelmingly reject software patents at all levels (tribunals, lower courts, higher courts)

AT THE TURN/START of the year we said we would focus on the European Patent Office (EPO), even at the expense of USPTO and American patent cases (especially the latter). But every now and then we see something important enough in the US and it is worth noting.

“The talk about Congressional intervention isn’t particularly new. Coons, for example, has been trying and failing for years. He’s trying again.”35 U.S.C. § 101 is not going away. USPTO management may try to ignore it, but SCOTUS isn’t doing anything to change it. Earlier this week we saw additional appeals from Watchtroll to compel SCOTUS to revisit the matter, but it’s just not happening. In the meantime or meanwhile the Federal Circuit rejects Iancu’s notorious guidance and inter partes reviews (IPRs), not ex, carry on as usual.

Yesterday we noticed that Steve Brachmann from Watchtroll demonises the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) by going after “big tech” (the site hates technology, but it loves lawsuits over technology). It’s the second time this week; he’s just following up his boss. Months ago he attacked Zoe Lofgren for her pro-science/technology stance. This is how desperate these people have become. They attack judges, they attack politicians who aren’t in the pockets of law firms, and somehow they expect to be taken seriously? We’ve also just noticed some of them citing Koch-funded 'research' on patents. They try anything they can to weaken § 101, but it’s not getting anywhere. In fact, they’re losing even more.

We’re already seeing these patent maximalists irked by the fact that the Federal Circuit now (belatedly) views GUI patents as abstract and thus bogus, fake, invalid — a reversal of this court’s position from about a year ago (we wrote quite a lot about it back then). We’ve included links about that in our daily links (Patently-O, Watchtroll and others). The gist of it is that courts only get tougher, not more lenient, and technology companies step in to defend the courts/caselaw. Based on this tweet, the majority of patent lawsuits still get filed by patent trolls, so any pretense that innovation is at stake should be laughed off. The patent maximalists told us that their ‘religion’ would encourage innovation, but these days — even after reforms — these systems mostly embolden those whose career involves blackmail and extortion with software patents.

The talk about Congressional intervention isn’t particularly new. Coons, for example, has been trying and failing for years. He’s trying again. This time too he will fail. It already loses momentum because nobody talks about it this week, except the EFF’s Alex Moss, who has just published “The Tillis-Coons patent bill will be a disaster for innovation” (we’ve mentioned it several times recently).

To quote:

In recent years, we’ve made major progress getting courts to give full effect to Section 101 of the U.S. Patent Act. That’s the section that defines, and limits, what can get a patent. Section 101 is critical in making sure that only inventions—technological advances attributable to human efforts—can be patented.

Now, key Senators are looking to undo all of that progress and drive the patent system into uncharted territory. Senators Tillis (R-NC) and Coons (D-DE) are pushing ahead with a proposal that will upend more than a century of case law and make the patent system far worse for small innovators and ordinary consumers in the software and health care industries.

Who will benefit most from the proposal? Companies that make money from aggressively licensing and litigating patents, especially in the fast-growing fields of artificial intelligence and medical diagnostics. And, of course, the patent lawyers and law firms who make money representing them.

Not to mention, patent trolls. With Section 101 broken, defendants will have lost a powerful tool for fighting bad patents. Most of the small businesses we profiled in our “Saved by Alice” project would have likely been pushed toward lengthy and expensive trials, rather than fast and fair resolutions, in order to defend against false infringement charges.

We find it extremely unlikely that this will get anywhere (just like the UPC, which maximalists said was “imminent” every year for about half a decade). And besides, it’s not a matter for Congress to decide on. It’s the courts’ job to interpret law.

Links 25/4/2019: Rancher Labs Releases Slim OS, OpenBSD 6.5 is Ready

Posted in News Roundup at 5:16 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Why Linux stands out amongst other OSes

    Up until recently, Elementary OS was my platform of choice. It’s an elegant, simple, and user-friendly solution for the desktop. One thing that the Elementary developers do that I believe is fairly wise is to not allow upgrades from one major release to another. In other words, if you use Elementary OS Loki, you can’t upgrade to Juno. To get the benefits of Juno, you must do a full-blown re-install of the OS.

    Why is this route wise? My latest adventures in Linux will help explain.

    A few months ago, I purchased a System76 Thelio. It’s a beast of a desktop, while at the same a masterful work of art. Preinstalled on that desktop machine was System76′s own Pop!_OS. Based on Ubuntu, it seemed like a great way for me to dive back into the GNOME desktop. So I did. It took no time to get accustomed to the new workflow with GNOME. Once my fingers understood the new keyboard shortcuts, I was good to go.

  • Desktop

    • 10 Reasons To Change Windows For Linux In 2019

      Probably many have already heard about the growing opposition of these two operating systems. The most popular Windows is gradually losing ground in the face of free software — GNU / Linux. Is this justified? Of course, I am not talking about the redistribution of the OS market, but the percentage of Linux users is growing steadily, which is only worth thousands of distributions that have appeared over these three decades. In general, today I decided to look at the situation from a certain angle, and present you ten reasons to change Windows to Linux in 2019.

  • Server

    • Kubernetes Adoption Challenges Solved

      The business wants better software, brought to market faster. Enterprise IT wants to manage cost and risk. The problem for large, complex organizations is that they need to accomplish these objectives and still maintain existing business operations. It is like changing the wheels of an F1 race car at full speed without a pit stop.

      While some see cloud as a cure-all for the digital transformation goals set by CEOs, the reality of running large systems at scale in the cloud is rife with inconsistent interfaces, and the differing topologies of multiple cloud providers.

      Cloud providers are painting themselves as the heroes that will enable digital transformation. Each one has a specific implementation of its infrastructure, and some are now offering on-premises datacenter hybrid-cloud appliances. The lack of homogeneity in their cloud technology will have a detrimental effect to those on the journey towards digital transformation, however. Developers and enterprise IT engineers have to learn the nuances of at least two clouds: public and private. Sometimes, they’re required to deal with even more. As a result, cost increases, complexity becomes common and developer productivity decreases.

    • Hardware Accelerated SSL/TLS Termination in Ingress Controllers using Kubernetes Device Plugins and RuntimeClass

      A Kubernetes Ingress is a way to connect cluster services to the world outside the cluster. In order to correctly route the traffic to service backends, the cluster needs an Ingress controller. The Ingress controller is responsible for setting the right destinations to backends based on the Ingress API objects’ information. The actual traffic is routed through a proxy server that is responsible for tasks such as load balancing and SSL/TLS (later “SSL” refers to both SSL or TLS ) termination. The SSL termination is a CPU heavy operation due to the crypto operations involved. To offload some of the CPU intensive work away from the CPU, OpenSSL based proxy servers can take the benefit of OpenSSL Engine API and dedicated crypto hardware. This frees CPU cycles for other things and improves the overall throughput of the proxy server.

      In this blog post, we will show how easy it is to make hardware accelerated crypto available for containers running the Ingress controller proxy using some of the recently created Kubernetes building blocks: Device plugin framework and RuntimeClass. At the end, a reference setup is given using an HAproxy based Ingress controller accelerated using Intel® QuickAssist Technology cards.

    • History of Container Technology Offers Lessons for Future

      Many of the issues associated with container technology are due to infrastructure decisions made long before containers, cloud and the internet even existed.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

    • FLOSS Weekly 527: Aquameta Revisited

      Aquameta is a web development environment where instead of storing code as flat files in the file system, everything is stored in PostgreSQL as relational data, including source code, HTML, CSS, Javascript, images and other resources, system configurations, database schema, permissions and more.

    • The Linux Link Tech Show Episode 806
  • Kernel Space

    • An update on compliance for containers

      So, Hohndel asked, one year later, “have we made any progress at all?” There is a new Linux Foundation (LF) project, Automated Compliance Tooling (ACT), that has two sponsors, one of which is his employer. The focus of the project is to jointly develop tools to help address these problems. The name “ACT” has “so much irony” that he is unable to even come up with a joke about it, he said.

      The fact that it is an LF project gives ACT both visibility and credibility, which is great, but there are few organizations that are working on it, which is frustrating. He highlighted three projects that are part of ACT: Tern, which he talked about a bit last year, Quartermaster (or QMSTR), and FOSSology. He spoke with various other people about them at the recently held Open Source Leadership Summit, which is misnamed, he said, since it is really the annual LF membership meeting. For the first time, though, he got traction with other open-source projects in the compliance space; there were discussions of how to integrate the tools in various ways to make them more useful for everyone.

      The container-management tooling that creates container images uses layers to build up the image. The layers are essentially tar files with some extra pieces to describe how they fit and they are designed to replace pieces from the lower layers—without users being aware that it is being done. From a usability perspective, “that is fantastic”, he said, but for compliance and security, “not so much”. People were interested and curious about the container-compliance problem, but no one seems to think it is an urgent problem that they need to immediately solve.

    • Expedited memory reclaim from killed processes

      Running out of memory puts a Linux system into a difficult situation; in the worst cases, there is often no way out other than killing one or more processes to reclaim their memory. This killing may be done by the kernel itself or, on systems like Android, by a user-space out-of-memory (OOM) killer process. Killing a process is almost certain to make somebody unhappy; the kernel should at least try to use that process’s memory expeditiously so that, with luck, no other processes must die. That does not always happen, though, in current kernels. This patch set from Suren Baghdasaryan aims to improve the situation, but the solution that results in the end may take a different form.
      The kernel requires processes to clean up their own messes when they exit. So, before a process targeted by an OOM killer can rest in peace, it must first run (in the kernel) to free its memory resources and return them to the system. If the process is running with a low priority, or if it gets hung up waiting for a resource elsewhere in the system, this cleanup work may take a long time. Meanwhile, the system is still struggling, since the hoped-for influx of free memory has not yet happened; at some point, another process will also be killed in the hope of getting better results.

      This problem led to the development of the OOM reaper in 2015. When the kernel’s OOM killer targets a process, the OOM reaper will attempt to quickly strip that process of memory that the process will never attempt to access again. But the OOM reaper is not available to user-space OOM killers, which can only send a SIGKILL signal and hope that the target exits quickly. The user-space killer never really knows how long it will take for a killed process to exit; as Baghdasaryan pointed out, that means that it must maintain a larger reserve of free pages and kill processes sooner than might be optimal.

      Baghdasaryan’s proposal is to add a new flag (SS_EXPEDITE) to the (new in 5.1) pidfd_send_signal() system call. If that flag is present, the caller has the CAP_SYS_NICE capability, and the signal is SIGKILL, then the OOM reaper will be unleashed on the killed process. That should result in quicker and more predictable freeing of the target’s memory, regardless of anything that might slow down the target itself.

    • Avoiding page reference-count overflows

      The 5.1-rc5 announcement mentioned “changes all over” and highlighted a number of the areas that had been touched. One thing that was not mentioned there was the addition of four patches fixing a security-related issue in the core memory-management subsystem. The vulnerability is sufficiently difficult to exploit that almost nobody should feel the need to rush out a kernel update, but it is still interesting to look at as a demonstration of how things can go wrong.
      One of the many things crammed into struct page is a field called _refcount; it is an atomic_t variable that counts the number of references to the page in question. As an atomic_t, it’s a signed, 32-bit quantity. As long as this count is nonzero, references to the page exist and it cannot be reused for other purposes; once it drops to zero, the page can be freed.

    • Exporting Kernel Headers

      Christoph Hellwig was unequivocal, saying, “This seems like a pretty horrible idea and waste of kernel memory. Just add support to kbuild to store a compressed archive in initramfs and unpack it in the right place.”

      But Greg Kroah-Hartman replied, “It’s only a waste if you want it to be a waste—i.e., if you load the kernel module.” And he pointed out that there was precedent for doing something like Joel’s idea in the /proc/config.gz availability of the kernel configuration.

      Meanwhile, Daniel Colascione was doing a little jig, saying that Joel’s feature would make it much easier for him to play around with Berkeley Packet Filter. He suggested exporting the entire source tree, instead of just the kernel headers. But Joel said this would be too large to store in memory.

      H. Peter Anvin, while affirming the value of exporting the kernel headers, had some issues about the right way to go about it. In particular, he said, “I see literally *no* problem, social or technical, you are solving by actually making it a kernel ELF object.”

      Instead, H. Peter though the whole project could be simplified into a simple mountable filesystem containing the header files.

    • Graphics Stack

      • NVIDIA 430.09 Released with GTX 1650 Support (How to Install)

        NVIDIA announced the new Linux driver 430 series a day ago with GTX 1650 support. Here’s how to install it in Ubuntu 16.04, Ubuntu 18.04, and higher.

      • NVIDIA Nsight Systems Adds Vulkan Support

        Vulkan is a low-overhead, cross-platform 3D graphics and compute API targeting a wide variety of devices from cloud gaming servers, to PCs and embedded platforms. The Khronos Group manages and defines the Vulkan API.

      • NVIDIA Adds Vulkan Support To Nsight Systems

        Nsight Systems, NVIDIA’s proprietary cross-platform tool providing a timeline view of system resource analysis and other metrics while running GPU compute/graphics workloads, now can handle the Vulkan API.

        NVIDIA Nsight Systems 2019.3 introduces Vulkan support for Windows and Linux for this performance analysis tool. This allows for developers to better inspect GPU workloads, understand how a process thread is utilized on each CPU core, understand the command buffer creation, swap chain behavior, queues, and other characteristics in debugging issues and optimizing the performance of your game or GPU application.

      • It Looks Like AMD Is About To Post The Open-Source Radeon “Navi” Driver Code

        It looks like the AMD posting of the open-source Radeon driver enablement code for next-gen “Navi” GPUs is imminent. In fact, the first bits of it quietly were pushed out today.

        In my habitual monitoring of prominent Git repositories, I noticed today the AMDGPU LLVM back-end began seeing “gfx1010″ commits. Yep, GFX1010 is Navi!

        So far there’s the target definitions that includes workarounds for different architecture bugs and a few new instructions. There’s also the SGPR register changes for GFX10 though not too revealing.

    • Benchmarks

      • FreeBSD ZFS vs. ZoL Performance, Ubuntu ZFS On Linux Reference

        With iX Systems having released new images of FreeBSD reworked with their ZFS On Linux code that is in development to ultimately replace their existing FreeBSD ZFS support derived from the code originally found in the Illumos source tree, here are some fresh benchmarks looking at the FreeBSD 12 performance of ZFS vs. ZoL vs. UFS and compared to Ubuntu Linux on the same system with EXT4 and ZFS.

        Using an Intel Xeon E3-1275 v6 with ASUS P10S-M WS motherboard, 2 x 8GB DDR4-2400 ECC UDIMMs, and Samsung 970 EVO Plus 500GB NVMe solid-state drive was used for all of this round of testing. Just a single modern NVMe SSD was used for this round of ZFS testing while as the FreeBSD ZoL code matures I’ll test on multiple systems using a more diverse range of storage devices.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • 5 XFCE Terminal Themes You Should Try

      If you spend a lot of time in the terminal, you might as well spruce it up. Yes, there is the standard light gray on black option or even the green on black option. What if you’re looking for something more?

      There are numerous ways to spruce up the XFCE terminal. You can even choose each individual color yourself if you prefer. For those who’d rather spend less time on tweaking the terminal and more time getting actual work done, we’ve collected five great XFCE terminal themes to check out.

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Ultrabook & Bionic – Running Plasma

        The more you use a system, the more you detect potential problems. Mind, I haven’t come up with seven Slimbook combat reports for no good reason (so far). That said, Trusty gave me no grief at all, so I am a bit miffed that there were some glitches, both with Unity and Plasma here. Mostly isolated problems that did not recur, so these could just be the ghosts after the upgrade. Nothing major, and overall, ’twas a good test and post-upgrade experience.

        The good side of the coin is – the Plasma desktop environment is stylish, you can run it in the nostalgia mode if you like, it’s super fast, it’s super efficient, with great responsiveness and low battery usage, it works well, and offers a wealth of goodies. This is definitely a setup I’m comfortable with, and I can use it for important, real productivity tasks. Now, the ideal state of things would be Trusty Forever, but that’s not possible. Looking across the entire spectrum of operating systems, the golden days of stability and quality seem to be behind us. But while perfection may be half an asymptote away, my Vivobook running Plasma is a very sensible solution for everyday needs. In a way, Plasma has proven itself once again. And on that note, we end.

      • New Features in Elisa: part 2

        Elisa is currently a player with a strong focus on the current playlist. It is quite possible to have spent some time to compose a playlist. This is something valuable for the user.

        What if suddenly, you hit the wrong button and lose all your work ?

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • GNOME Devs Mull Making Dedicated System Info Tool

        Would you find the GNOME desktop more useful if it could tell you more about the system you’re running?

        If so, you may be interested to hear about a new app mooted by GNOME design team member Allan Day.

        Day proposes the creation of a new hardware diagnostics tool that would, in his words: “show technical details about the system and the available hardware. It would also include information about the firmware for your hardware, and allow blacklisting certain firmware versions.”

        Now, call me wrong — I usually am — but doesn’t that sounds like it would be mightily useful?

  • Distributions

    • Scientific Linux is dead, and that’s a good thing

      There are too many Linux distributions these days. While it can be argued that having too much choice is never a bad thing, the truth is, having so many distros causes resources to be spread too thinly. There is a lot of redundancy and waste, and eventually, the chickens will come home to roost — we will see Linux-based operating systems begin to drop like flies.

      Linux Mint is alive for now, but infighting and feelings of defeat have many users worried about its future. Sadly, another Linux distribution, Scientific Linux, really has died. This operating system was based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), and maintained by some significant members of the scientific community, such as The Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and CERN. While current versions (6 and 7) will continue to be supported, future development has permanently ended, with the organizations instead turning to CentOS — another distro based on RHEL.

    • Scientific Linux Will Be Discontinued After 14 Years as Fermilab Moves to CentOS

      Produced by Fermilab, CERN, ETH Zurich, and DESY, Scientific Linux is an open-source and free Linux-based operating system derived from the freely distributed sourced of Red Hat’s RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux). It was first released 14 years ago on May 10th, 2004.

      Now, almost 14 years later, those who worked hard to maintain one of the very few GNU/Linux distributions dedicated to science have decided that it’s time to rest and no longer publish new releases of Scientific Linux. Scientific Linux 8 was supposed to be the next major version, but it won’t see the light of day.

    • Scientific Linux Distro is Being Discontinued; The Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and CERN Will Move To CentOS

      Scientific Linux, a 14-year-old operating system based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and which was maintained by some significant members of the scientific community such as The Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and CERN, is being discontinued.

    • New Releases

      • Rancher Labs combined Linux with Kubernetes in new OS platform

        Rancher Labs today released a new operating system built for its k3s Kubernetes distribution to simplify administration and make k3s clusters even more secure.

        Before k3OS, users of Rancher Labs’ k3s still had to manage the underlying Linux operating system separately, Sheng LIangi, CEO and co-founder of Rancher, told SD Times leading up to the announcement. “We’re combining Kubernetes and our own Linux distribution to manage Linux through Kubernetes,” Liang said. “We treat it as a whole thing. If nodes need to be rebooted, Kubernetes can orchestrate that.” This, he added, decreases the complexity of managing k3s Kubernetes clusters.

        k3OS is based on the Ubuntu kernel with tools from Alpine Linux, LIang explained. By combining Kubernetes and Linux, organizations that haven’t been updating the OS because they’re focused on Kubernetes won’t have to worry. “Even rebooting the operating system can cause an outage” in places where Kubernetes and the operating system are decoupled, Liang said. “Kubernetes clusters are supposed to fail one at a time; they’re not meant to be taken down all at once.”

      • Rancher Labs Releases Slim OS for Its Edge-Focused K3s Platform

        Rancher Labs has developed an operating system for its recently launched edge-specific k3s Kubernetes distribution designed for resource-constrained environments and easier management when deployed within the k3s environment.

        Sheng Liang, CEO and co-founder of Rancher Labs, said the conveniently named k3OS uses the same declarative syntax as other Kubernetes resources. This allows a user to install and upgrade the k3s platform and the k3OS at the same time.

        Users can also use the k3OS platform to model infrastructure-as-a-code, which allows for repeatable cluster deployments and should make the k3s clusters more secure when running in isolated environments. It also has a reduced attack surface that further bolsters its security posture.

      • Rancher Labs Introduces Lightweight Operating System for k3s to Improve Security for Kubernetes Operations
      • ExTiX 19.4 “The Ultimate Linux System” is Based on Deepin 15.9.3 and Linux 5.0

        The biggest news about the ExTiX Deepin 19.4 release is that it’s the first GNU/Linux distribution to be based on the upcoming Deepin Linux 15.9.3 release, which is currently in beta stages of development and has not yet been officially released by Deepin Technology.

        Additionally, ExTiX Deepin 19.4 comes with the Linux 5.0.8 kernel for the best possible hardware support, making ExTiX worthy for its “The Ultimate Linux System” nickname. Latest Refracta Snapshot is included as well by default for those who want to make their own ExTiX Deepin 19.4 live systems, along with Spotify and Skype apps.

      • OSMC’s Easter update is here with Kodi v18 (Leia)

        It’s been a while since we last posted an update. Kodi v18 was released at the end of January and since then we’ve been working on readying a stable release for OSMC supported devices. The Kodi Leia (v18) update is not available for Vero 1 (late 2015) users and we now consider the device to be end of life.

        We’d like to thank those who have tested our nightly builds as well as pre-release test builds. We have now started to produce nightly builds for Kodi v19.

    • Slackware Family

      • MATE 1.22.1 Brings Sharper Icons and Security Updates

        It’s been a month since the final release of MATE 1.22.0 and the developers has pushed a new update MATE 1.22.1 which fixed some issues, including security fixes in the code that still uses unsafe functions such as strcat or strcpy.

        The new mate-icon-theme is also featuring a sharper icons for some MATE components as can be seen in the git log. The icons are now built using latest inkscape version so you will notice some differences once you upgrade your MATE components and logout from your X and login again or reboot your machine.

        For this new update, i had to patch the upstream source a bit to remove a dependency of inkscape in order to build mate-utils. It was introduced in this commit, but i revert some of the changes in the latest commit here. It won’t have any effect at all for users as inkscape is only used as a build dependency, not as runtime dependency.

    • Fedora

    • Debian Family

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Flavours and Variants

            • System76 Launch Pop OS 19.04, Based on Ubuntu 19.04

              I rarely venture an opinion on my own site, and sometimes when I do, a bunch of you will chime in to tell me I’m wrong. I don’t mind that; it’s a great way to learn.

              But in this instance, for me personally, I don’t see any appreciable value in Pop OS. Certainly nothing that would make me recommend it over regular Ubuntu 19.04 (or over something like Ubuntu MATE 19.04 now that it comes with a glut of GPU niceties onboard).

              Pop OS has a nice enough GTK theme and icon set (as most distributions do) and a couple of interesting desktop tools (like a USB flashing tool).

              But it also comes cosseted in reams cool marketing speak about “creators”, “automation”, “makers” and other fluff.

              Now, maybe if you own one of their rebranded Clevo laptops there’s some substance to the buzzwords. But for, reading it as an outsider, telling me I can use the command line to install Tensorflow is… Like, you know you can do that in Ubuntu, right?!

              Indeed, that’s the rub with most of the features touted on the Pop OS website: they are common to virtually every modern Linux distro out there!

              Don’t get me wrong: highlighting those capabilities is a great bit of marketing. Ubuntu should do it too. But, as a Linux user, I find it a bit “And?”.

              So, erm why not just ship Ubuntu, folks?

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Business models and open source

    One of the more lively sessions that was held at the 2019 Legal and Licensing Workshop (LLW) was Heather Meeker’s talk on open-source business models and alternative licensing. As a lawyer in private practice, Meeker worked on a number of the alternative licenses that were drafted and presented over the last year or so. But she is also part of a venture capital (VC) firm that is exclusively investing in companies focused on open source, so she has experience in thinking about what kinds of models actually work for those types of businesses.

    The LLW is organized annually by the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE). It is meant as a gathering for lawyers, engineers, and others interested in licensing topics. By default, sessions are run under the Chatham House Rule, which means that participants cannot be identified, either by name or affiliation. Meeker waived that rule for her talk, though those from the audience who made comments may or may not have waived the rule.

    Meeker acknowledged that her topic was controversial, but that she would be “your Beatrice [from the Divine Comedy] to the miasma of venture-backed open-source companies”. Her slides were entitled “What color are your razor blades? FOSS business models”. The title is referencing the famous What Color is Your Parachute? book for job seekers. The idea is to imagine an idea with specificity, so open-source companies need to imagine what they are selling (their “razor blades”) with specificity in order to be successful.

    Otherwise, she said, they end up with the business model of the Underpants Gnomes (“1. Collect underpants, 2. ?, 3. Profit”). For a long time, there was a tendency for open-source entrepreneurs to equate “lots of downloads” with profit, which is more or less the same thing. That is not really going to happen unless a lot of thought is put into how the business will actually function.

  • Molly de Blanc: breaking up

    FLOSS is about choice (among other things). One of the things we get from developer freedom is the ability to specialize or have specialized technology — the development of features and tools, the fixing of bugs and anti-features.

  • Apache Software Foundation Advances Enterprise App Development With Top Level Projects

    The open source Netbeans Java Integrated Developer Environment (IDE) and SkyWalking application performance monitoring (APM) project efforts move forward.

    Open source is often at the core of modern enterprise applications and few if any organizations have as much impact as the Apache Software Foundation (ASF).

    The Apache Software Foundation runs its open source projects on a hierarchy of principally three levels, top-level projects (TLPs), sub-projects and incubated projects. Achieving the TLP status is a major milestone for an open source effort. Among the projects that have recently achieved TLP status is the Apache Netbeans Java Integrated Developer Environment (IDE) and the Apache Skywalking application performance monitoring (APM) efforts.

  • Events

    • Lots of microconferences proposed for LPC

      Microconference proposals have been rolling in for the 2019 Linux Plumbers Conference, but it is not too late to submit more.

    • Get Ready to Rumble… or um, Dance?

      We just came back from our annual conference SUSECON and the next big SUSE event is just around the corner: Who’s ready for some fun under the sun in beautiful Las Vegas? Yep – it’s time for Dell Technologies World 2019!

    • [SAPPHIRE NOW + ASUG] Discuss Your Digital Transformation Project to SAP HANA, or S/4HANA on SUSE into the Cloud at Protera Technologies at Booth #1742 and SUSE Booth #2244 at the Protera kiosk
    • Why it’s Critical to Have a Tested Backup and Recovery Strategy Today

      SEP Backup and Disaster Recovery Software has been a certified solution for SUSE Enterprise Linux Server (SLES) since version 7, released in 2001. This long-lasting partnership has grown since its inception to provide the SUSE community a high-performance data protection solution for all SUSE environments, including the latest releases of SLES and SUSE Enterprise Storage (SES). Secure and recoverable backups, including bare metal recovery, are key attributes of modern data availability and no organization can survive without reliable access to their data.

    • Visit Canonical at Dell Technologies World
    • Shirish Agarwal: Women in Data Science, Pune (Wids, Pune) 2019

      I have no clue how but somehow an event called Widspune or Women in Data Science, Pune got landed in my box. The date of the event was 23rd March 2019 (a Saturday) and happening at Persistent Systems (a somewhat nearby place) hence I evinced interest and replied to the mail and was accepted. While I thought it might take some time to reach and I wanted to be a bit early, I found out I was a bit too early. Registrations hadn’t even started yet. I bided my time (about 20-30 mins.) after which I was able to tick and go to the presentation hall. What I didn’t know at that time was that this was a pretty well-funded, well organized event. They had at least 30+ sponsors to sponsor different parts of the conference. We had 30 women who spoke about Data Science and from the event perspective, it was the largest technical event done by women for women. While I can’t say whether it’s true or not it still was a pretty good effort.

    • When the Bootstrap Breaks – ODSC 2019

      I’m excited to announce that I’ll be presenting at the Open Data Science Conference in Boston next week. My colleague Saptarshi and I will be talking about When the Bootstrap Breaks.

      I’ve included the abstract below, but the high-level goal of this talk is to strip some varnish off the bootstrap. Folks often look to the bootstrap as a panacea for weird data, but all tools have their failure cases. We plan on highlighting some problems we ran into when trying to use the bootstrap for Firefox data and how we dealt with the issues, both in theory and in practice.

  • Web Browsers

  • BSD

    • OpenBSD 6.5 Released With RETGUARD, OpenRSYNC

      OpenBSD 6.5 was released today, about one week ahead of schedule for this security-minded BSD operating system. OpenBSD 6.5 is bringing several prominent new features including RETGUARD as its new stack protector and OpenRSYNC as its ISC-licensed in-progress replacement to rsync.

      OpenBSD 6.5′s new RETGUARD functionality aims to be a better stack protector on x86_64 and AArch64 with instrumenting every function return with better security properties than their traditional stack protector.

    • OpenBSD 6.5
    • OS108 Yields NetBSD Desktop Operating System Powered By MATE

      Over the past decade there’s been talks on a few occasions about either spinning NetBSD as a desktop platform or offering up various desktop usability improvements to make it easier to use this BSD as a desktop operating system. In 2019 there still isn’t a great desktop experience to NetBSD but the new “OS108″ is seeking to improve that with a NetBSD OS paired with the MATE desktop environment.

      A Phoronix reader pointing out to us the newly-released OS108 is the first time we’ve heard of this NetBSD derivative.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • GNU Shepherd 0.6.0 releases with updated translations, faster services, and much more

      Yesterday, the team behind GNU Shepherd announced the release of GNU Shepherd version 0.6.0, a service manager which is written in Guile that looks after the herd of system services. It also provides a replacement for the service-managing capabilities of SysV-init (or any other init).

      This release has been bootstrapped with few tools including, Autoconf 2.69, Automake 1.16.1, Makeinfo 6.5, Help2man 1.47.8.

  • Programming/Development

    • Node.js version 12 is now out: Let’s pop the hood and see what’s inside this JS runtime

      Node.js, the popular JavaScript runtime that relies on the Chrome V8 JavaScript engine, hit version 12 on Tuesday, bringing with a handful of potentially useful features and capabilities.

      Per the project’s release schedule, in which even numbered releases get designated for Long-Term Support – to give companies technical stability over a predictable period of time – v12 is scheduled to become an LTS release in October 2019.

      Node.js 12 inherits the improvements made to the Chrome V8 engine in March, now at v7.4, which mostly have to do with execution speed and reduced memory overhead.

      In an email to The Register, Myles Borins, Node.js technical steering committee chairman, pointed out the most significant improvements. V8 v7.4 brings with it async stack traces, which provide more extensive debugging information for Node developers without additional V8 overhead. Node.js 12 also adds TLS 1.3 support, which is more secure than its predecessor.

    • Why they use curl

      As a reader of my blog you know curl. You also most probably already know why you would use curl and if I’m right, you’re also a fan of using the right tool for the job. But do you know why others use curl and why they switch from other solutions to relying on curl for their current and future data transfers? Let me tell you the top reasons I’m told by users.

    • Python KeyError Exceptions and How to Handle Them
    • Working with PDFs in Python: Reading and Splitting
    • Paid Internship Opportunity: Build an App for the DSF
    • Google’s Python Class – another step.

Leftovers

  • Science

    • Our first InSight into the interior of Mars

      There’s talk among some space critics that we’re way too focused on Mars. We should, they say, spend more time investigating the Moon — we’ve got unfinished business there.

      Why not point a few satellites at the Moon, they ask. Or why not send people back to build a Lunar base? We’ve been there before, so we’ve a good chance at success … and once we’ve done that, then we can go in for all that “Mars Shot” bunkum.
      And they may be right — not least because the Moon is closer than Mars.

      The Moon has long been a stepping stone to other celestial things. We know, for instance, that we can use it as a gravitational slingshot in a “gravity assist” maneuver to accelerate spacecraft and save on propellant. The Moon also represents a scientific precedent. People have been there and returned intact. However some people say that so far since the Moon landings in the late 1960s and early 70s, we have failed to build on that in any significant way.

    • Scientists detect first ‘marsquake’ with InSight lander

      Mars is much less geologically active than Earth and lacks the tectonic plates that cause most earthquakes.

      InSight’s lead scientist, Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said the result was the continuation of work started by the Apollo moonwalkers nearly a half-century ago, who placed seismometers that measured thousands of moonquakes.

      For Mars, “we’ve been collecting background noise up until now, but this first event officially kicks off a new field: Martian seismology!” Banerdt said in a statement.

      The field of Martian seismology could shed light on how rocky planets formed.

    • Ahead of Week Dedicated to ‘Unplugging,’ WHO Urges Strict Limits on Screen Time for Young Children

      The World Health Organization on Wednesday released guidelines on screen time for young children, recommending no “sedentary screen time” for one-year-olds and curbed access for older kids.

      For the guidelines, the Washington Post reported, the “WHO drew on emerging—but as yet unsettled—science about the risks screens pose to the development of young minds at a time when surveys show children are spending increasing amounts of time watching smartphones and other mobile devices.”

      Children aged two, three, and four should have no more than one hour of screen time in a 24-hour period, but “less is better,” the WHO says.

      “What we are cautioning on is over-use of those electronic screen times with young children,” WHO expert Dr. Fiona Bull said at a news briefing.

      The recommendations also address sleep and physical activity.

      Infants, the WHO says, should not be restrained—whether in a stroller, high chair, or carrier—for more than an hour at a time. They should also be physically active at several points in a given day. For non-walkers, their day should include at least 30 minutes of “tummy time” spread out in the day.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • E. coli outbreak from tainted ground beef expands to 10 states

      At least 156 people in 10 states have been infected with E. coli after eating tainted ground beef at home and in restaurants, federal officials said.

      Of the people infected so far, 20 have been hospitalized, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday. No deaths have been reported.
      The cases include people who’ve eaten the beef since March 1, the agency said, but no supplier, distributor or brand of beef has been identified.
      “Traceback investigations are ongoing to determine the source of raw ground beef supplied to grocery stores and restaurant locations where ill people reported eating,” the CDC said.
      People fell ill starting March 1, the agency said. Those infected range in age from younger than 1 to 83 years old, with a median age of 19.

    • World’s First Malaria Vaccine Begins Pilot Program in Malawi

      The world’s first malaria vaccine was launched in Malawi on Tuesday, NPR reported. It’s an important day in health history. Not only is it the first malaria vaccine, it’s the first vaccine to target any human parasite.

      The vaccine is the result of a more than 30-year effort by the World Health Organization (WHO), the non-profit PATH, the pharmaceutical GlaxoSmithKline and several African countries to save same of the more than 250,000 children who die of malaria on the continent each year, according to WHO. It cost more than $500 million, and is one of few vaccines launched specifically to help African children, PATH’s Deborah Atherly told NPR.

    • In “Victory for Patients and Doctors,” Federal Judge Says He Will Block Trump’s “Arrogant” Gag Rule Gutting Title X Funding

      A federal judge on Tuesday night ruled that he would block President Donald Trump’s proposed rule gutting the Title X healthcare funding program, which would limit and control the healthcare that’s available to American women.

      Judge Michael McShane of the U.S. District Court of Oregon called Trump’s proposed rule, which was set to go into effect May 3, “a ham-fisted approach to public health policy.”

      McShane’s decision to issue a preliminary injunction against the rule came in response to two lawsuits filed by Planned Parenthood, the American Medical Association (AMA), and a coalition of 20 states.

      Women’s rights advocates were outraged in February when the administration announced the rule, which would strip tens of millions of dollars from the Title X program. Title X provides federal funding to Planned Parenthood and other clinics which provide abortion care, to subsidize reproductive healthcare for low-income Americans.

      The “gag rule” would also ban Planned Parenthood and any healthcare provider which accepts federal dollars from counseling women on abortion care and making referrals for abortions.

    • Just How Many Times Are Establishment Democrats Willing to Make the Same Mistakes?

      The Confederacy of Dunces is at it again. Having failed to learn the lessons of 2016, and hell bent on ignoring the lessons from 2018, they’re doubling down on the same strategy that put Trump in office. And the confederacy runs broad and deep. It includes most of the mainstream media, the progressive think tanks, the DNC, and most of the rest of the elitist neoliberals who run the Party. At the helm of this self-sinking ship is Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Congressional leadership.

      Now, to be fair, Pelosi has been an effective Speaker. Her strength was on full display earlier this year as she held the Democrats together when Republicans attempted to kill Obamacare, and when she took on Trump in public meetings over the Wall. She’s a master of the sausage-making that is at the center of the inside-the-beltway business.

      Of course, her defense looks a little less admirable when her staff was later found to be assuring health insurance lobbyists that Medicare for All was going nowhere, and even less so when you consider that the health care industry is one of her largest campaign contributors.

    • Don’t Believe Misleading Coverage of Social Security Trustees’ Report

      The actual news in the 2019 Trustees Report was much more positive than the headlines indicate. While it’s true that the combined Social Security trust funds will become depleted in 2035 (if Congress takes no action to prevent it), that’s one year later than the trustees projected in last year’s report.

      Even in the unlikely scenario that Congress allows the trust funds to run out, Social Security still would be able to pay 80% of benefits—1% higher than projected in last year’s report. Meanwhile, the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) trust fund is now projected to last twenty years longer than previously estimated—until 2052.

    • U.S. Measles Cases Jump to Highest Level in 25 Years

      Measles in the U.S. has climbed to its highest level in 25 years, closing in on 700 cases this year in a resurgence largely attributed to misinformation that is turning parents against vaccines.

      “This is alarming,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University vaccine expert. Not only is measles dangerous in itself, but its return could mean other vaccine-preventable diseases seemingly consigned to the past may be coming back as well, he said.

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 695 cases had been reported in 22 states this year as of Wednesday afternoon. That was up from 626 reported Monday and makes this the nation’s worst year for measles since 1994, with eight months still to go in 2019. There were 963 cases in 1994.

      Roughly three-quarters of this year’s illnesses in the U.S. have been in New York state, mainly in two ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and suburban Rockland County. Most of those cases have been in unvaccinated people.

      The number of cases is likely to go even higher. Measles is highly contagious and can spread through the air when someone coughs or sneezes. And in recent days, Jewish families have been gathering for Passover meals. It can take 10 to 12 days for symptoms to develop.

      The CDC recommends the vaccine for everyone over a year old, except for people who had the disease as children. Those who have had measles are immune.

    • Swiss Supreme Court Confirms Preliminary Injunction in Kivexa case

      After the Swiss Federal Patent Court issued a preliminary injunction (PI) against Sandoz’ combination product of abacavir and lamivudine, being a generic version of ViiV’s Kivexa product for the treatment of HIV (Katpost here), the Swiss Federal Supreme Court has recently rejected Sandoz’ appeal (case 4A_575/2018 available in German).
      Before the court of first instance (the Federal Patent Court), Sandoz did not dispute that its product falls within the substantive scope of ViiV’s Swiss SPC C00817637/01, based on EP 0 817 637 B1. Rather, Sandoz disputed the validity of the SPC and the underlying patent, based both on invalid priority and lack of novelty. The Federal Patent Court sided with ViiV and prohibited the manufacture, storage, distribution, sale, import, export and possession of Sandoz’ generic product (the first instance decision is available in German).

  • Security

    • Microsoft blocks Windows 10 May 2019 Update on PCs that use USB storage or SD cards
    • Security updates for Wednesday
    • Windows Malware ‘Aggah’ Infects Your PCs Through Microsoft Word Docs

      The latest in a series of online attacks is ‘Aggah’, a global malware campaign with roots in the Middle East. The Windows Malware comprises a commodity Trojan script being spread via an infected Microsoft Word Document. The perpetrators are tricking users into downloading and activating the malicious code using RevengeRAT.

      Since RevengeRat is comprised of several open source Trojan builds, it is very difficult to pinpoint the actual spammer. The people involved in this are using the alias name ‘haggah’ to carry out their operation.

    • Ludovico de Nittis: After GNOME Security Internship – Update 7

      I received a few code reviews in the GNOME Settings Daemon MR that I’ll try to address in the next days.

      Also I’m going to widen the requirements for allowing keyboards when the screen is locked. Right now if the lock screen is active we authorize a keyboard only if it is the only available keyboard in the system. It was a good idea in theory but not that much in practice.

      For example let’s assume that you use an hardware USB switch hub between your desktop and your laptop with a mouse and a keyboard attached. If you have a “gaming” mouse with extra keys it is not only a mouse but also a keyboard. That means that when you want to switch from your laptop the the desktop, the mouse and the keyboard will be connected nearly simultaneously and if the mouse goes first the real keyboard will not the authorized. So you’ll be locked out from your system.

      The gaming mouse is also only an example. If you have a yubikey shared in this USB hub there will be the same problem explained above.

      For this reason in the next days I’ll edit the current implementation so that every USB keyboards will be authorized even if the lock screen is active. However we will still show a notification to explain that we authorized a new keyboard while the screen was locked.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • ‘Unprecedented’: UN Finds US-Backed Forces Killed More Afghan Civilians Than Taliban and ISIS Did So Far in 2019

      In an “unprecedented” revelation that highlights the consequences of the seemingly endless war in Afghanistan, the United Nations announced Wednesday that U.S.-backed forces killed more Afghan civilians than the Taliban and other armed anti-government groups did in the first three months of this year.

      A new quarterly report (pdf) from the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) shows that “pro-government forces,” including both Afghan and international troops, killed 305 civilians from January to the end of March.

      That compared with 227 civilians killed by “anti-government elements” such as the Taliban and ISIS. There were 49 unattributable deaths, which includes those caught in crossfire.

      [...]

      Both Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban, which controls nearly half the country, recently have urged their respective fighters to take care to avoid civilian casualties, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.

      After reaching a record high last year, Afghan civilian casualties declined overall in the first quarter of 2019, which the report notes was possibly influenced by harsh winter conditions in the country. The report says “it is unclear whether the decrease in civilian casualties was influenced by any measures taken by parties to the conflict to better protect civilians, or by the ongoing talks between parties to the conflict.”

      In recent months, the Taliban has engaged in talks with United States but refused to negotiate directly with Ghani’s government. But as long the war continues, civilians remain at risk.

    • Iran designates US CENTCOM Troops “Terrorists”

      Iran is responding in kind to Trump’s harassment, with the Iranian parliament having voted to declare that the US troops of the Central Command or CENTCOM (which is responsible for the Middle East) are terrorists. The move came in retaliation for Trump’s designation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Iran’s national guard, as a terrorist organization.

    • Ambassador: U.S. Had No Prior Knowledge of Sri Lanka Threat

      The U.S. had no prior knowledge of the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka that killed over 350 people, the American ambassador said Wednesday, despite local claims that foreign officials had been warned an attack was looming.

      As the investigation into Sunday’s Islamic State-claimed attack continues, FBI agents and U.S. military personnel are in Sri Lanka assisting the probe, Ambassador Alaina Teplitz said.

      While declining to say whether U.S. officials had intelligence on the local extremists and their leader who allegedly carried out the assault, Teplitz said America remained concerned over militants at large.

      She also said that “clearly there was some failure in the system” that caused Sri Lankan officials to fail to share the warnings they received prior to the attack.

    • FBI Joins Probe After Car Plows Into 8 California Pedestrians

      The FBI is assisting California officials in the investigation of a motorist who appeared to deliberately plow into a group of people, injuring eight, authorities said Wednesday.

      Prentice Danner, a spokesman for the FBI’s field office in San Francisco, said the Sunnyvale Police Department is the lead agency in the investigation but that the bureau will become more involved “if it is determined a federal crime was committed.”

      Sunnyvale Police Cpt. Jim Choi said the driver of the car was arrested and has been identified but that his name is not being made public to avoid compromising the investigation. He said the driver was not injured.

    • Infighting Over Its Mission, Financial Turmoil Roils NRA

      The National Rifle Association is used to battling forces that criticize its fiery and unbending efforts to protect gun rights. But as the group gathers for its annual convention this week, the NRA may be facing its toughest foe in decades: its own members.

      NRA insiders and longtime observers describe an organization at war with itself over a central question: Has it strayed too far from its original mission of gun safety and outdoor shooting sports and become too political?

      It is rare for the NRA to betray any hint of internal turmoil. But it erupted very publicly recently when the NRA sued its longtime public relations firm, Ackerman McQueen, accusing it of refusing to hand over financial records to account for its billings. In 2017 alone, the NRA paid the firm $40 million.

      Ackerman McQueen has been by the NRA’s side for two decades and has crafted its aggressive messaging, including the “From my cold dead hands” line uttered by actor Charlton Heston in 2000 as he vowed to resist any effort to take away his guns. The line became a rallying cry for gun owners around the country.

      Ackerman McQueen also created and operates NRATV, the online channel whose hosts not only aggressively defend the NRA and its cause but often venture into political debates not directly related to firearms, such as immigration or diversity on children’s TV. In its lawsuit, the NRA said some of its members have questioned NRATV’s weighing in on “topics far afield of the Second Amendment.”

    • Bernie and the Nuclear-capable F35s

      Fresh off what the MSM is celebrating as a surprise victory for a Bernie Town Hall on Fox News, lurking in the background is his inexplicable support over the years for basing the highly controversial F35 at the Burlington International Airport. We now know, thanks to a conscientious citizen who bothered to read the fine print, that those F35’s will be nuclear-capable and of immense explosive power.

      In September, as the fall colors begin to change in Vermont, City of Burlington residents may not be in the streets waving American flags as eighteen F35 Lightning II radar-evading stealth fighter jets land at the Burlington Airport. As part of a Pentagon plan to deploy 2,500 jets nationwide, the F35’s will join the 158th Fighter Wing, a unit of the Vermont Air National Guard, affectionately known as the Green Mountain Boys as its aging F-16 jets are replaced.

      Not just known for its foliage, cheese and maple syrup, Vermont is also host to an active aero space industry which already supplies 2,000 jobs. The jet’s bay door and GAU-22 gun system will both be produced in Vermont. With the Air Force spending $84 million per jet from Lockheed Martin, the DOD will spend $100 Million for infrastructure improvement and a new training center at Burlington where they will share one runway with commercial air traffic.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Former Obama Administration Official Justifies Trump Justice Department’s Prosecution Against Julian Assange

      President Donald Trump’s Justice Department will need the rhetorical support of liberal Democrats to succeed in prosecuting WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange.

      Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, and Tommy Vietor, former national security spokesperson and special assistant to the president, worked in President Barack Obama’s administration.

      Vietor hosts, “Pod Save the World,” one of the top 100 news and politics podcasts on iTunes. He was joined by Rhodes for their April 17 episode, where they highlighted the arrest and indictment of Assange.

      Both were in the Obama administration when WikiLeaks published their most high-profile disclosures from Chelsea Manning in 2010, and they displayed a fundamental misunderstanding of WikiLeaks. But that is largely owed to their bias from working for the United States government.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • 4 in 5 Parents Wish Teachers Taught Climate Change – But Most Teachers Aren’t

      Across the political aisle, a majority of American parents support teaching climate change in schools even though most teachers currently do not.

      According to a poll conducted by NPR and non-partisan research company Ipsos, nearly four-in-five Americans — children or not — support teaching climate change in schools, two-thirds of which are Republicans and 9-in-10 Democrats. Despite such support, more than half of teachers say they don’t actually cover climate change in their schools — or even talk about it, for that matter.

    • ‘We are the party for now, and for the future’ say Greens as they announce European Candidates​

      The Green Party has today announced its lead candidates in all 9 English regions and Wales to fight the European elections. The list includes: Molly Scott Cato, MEP for the South West and Brexit spokesperson, who has consistently championed a People’s Vote within the European Parliament; Magid Magid, outgoing Lord Mayor of Sheffield who banned Donald Trump from the city; Gina Dowding, Lancashire councillor and prominent anti-fracking campaigner at Preston New Road; Alex Phillips, Deputy Mayor of Brighton and Hove and Scott Ainslie, a councillor in Lambeth who made his name fighting housing demolitions.

    • Hundreds of Planned Dams Threaten Central America’s Last Free-Flowing Rivers

      If you were to somehow snorkel up the Sixaola River from the Caribbean Sea to its source in Costa Rica’s Talamanca Mountains — charging up rapids, scaling waterfalls, and gaining more than 10,000 feet of elevation in the process—you would notice an apparent paradox: The further from the ocean you ventured, the more marine fish you would encounter.

      Costa Rica’s streams are dominated by amphidromous fish and shrimp, creatures that split their curious lives between fresh water and salt. Species like river gobies (Awaous banana), mountain mullet (Agonostomus monticola) and banded shrimp (Macrobrachium heterochirus) lay their eggs in downstream reaches; once hatched, their larvae wash to the ocean, where they develop until they are large enough to reenter their natal rivers and ascend to the headwaters, maturing as they travel. Navigating these vertiginous streams requires extraordinary adaptations: Gobies in the genus Sicydium, for instance, inch up sheer rock faces using pelvic fins that evolution has modified into suction cups. The climb eventually weeds out all but the hardiest migrants, animals whose stamina would impress a salmon. The Sixaola and other Costa Rican rivers thus function as what scientists refer to as “altitudinal biological corridors” — ties that bind the mountains with the ocean, the highlands with the low.

      The Sixaola and its tributaries provide sustenance and spiritual passageways as well as ecological connections. As you travel upriver, you will pass through the valle de Talamanca, a lush, sloping bottomland whose Indigenous residents, the Bribri, cultivate bananas, plantains, cacao and yucca. The river sustains the Bribri, furnishing drinking water and edible fish like bobos and lisas, species of mullet. It’s also fundamental to cultural life: According to Jairo Sanchez, a Bribri member who lives in the valley, rivers serve as trails that guide “spiritual helpers” through the world, and thus deserve respect.

    • As Support for Extinction Rebellion Soars, Group Says London Occupations Will End But ‘International Rebellion’ Will Continue

      With a surge of political support among the broader public and a possible meeting with top government officials, the climate action group Extinction Rebellion in the U.K. on Wednesday announced it would soon end its occupation of public spaces in London even as it vowed to fight on for its demands to be met.

      Environment Secretary Michael Gove agreed Wednesday to meet with leaders, who announced shortly after that they would voluntarily leave city landmarks Thursday.

      The group said that the possible meeting with Gove was “totally unconnected” to their decision to end the London protests in the short-term. The planned wind-down of the demonstrations also followed a surge of public support, including from members of the opposition Labour Party.

      “This movement is not just about symbolic actions, but about building the necessary resilient and regenerative culture that the world needs now. The truth is out, the real work is about to begin. The international rebellion continues,” the group said in a statement.

      Surrounded by protesters in Parliament Square, lawmaker Diane Abbott, who serves as Labour’s shadow home secretary, said the U.K. and the world are facing a climate emergency.

      “You’ve done an amazing job drawing people’s attention to the climate emergency,” Abbott told the group. “In all the noise and kerfuffle of Brexit, the climate emergency is the most important issue facing us.”

    • ‘This Is Their Land’: Indigenous Activists Protest Bolsonaro’s Environmental Policies in Brazil

      The effort to stem the tide of opening the Amazon rainforest and other tribal lands to development comes as Bolsonaro faces pushback over his environmental policies from across the world.

      Earlier this month, as Common Dreams reported, an event to honor the Brazilian leader was moved from the American Museum of Natural History in large part because of Bolsonaro’s positions on the Amazon.

      The Brazilian activists hope they can add to the pressure.

      “We came here for an important cause,” said Camila Silveiro, who came to the city from the southern Brazilian state of Paraná. “It was very difficult for us, our ancestors, to win these rights and little by little they are decreasing.”

      The protest has backing from across the world.

      A petition at the site Avaaz showed signatures from six continents expressing support and solidarity.

      In Austria, Greenpeace activists held a protest outside the Brazilian Embassy in solidarity with the indigenous activists.

    • Interview With Max Ajl: What Internationalist Green New Deal Would Look Like

      If you would like to support the show and help keep us going strong, please become a subscriber on our Patreon page.
      For the “Unauthorized Disclosure” weekly podcast, hosts Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola are joined by Max Ajl, who is a doctoral student in development studies at Cornell University. He speaks to them from Tunisia, where he is conducting research on the environment and agriculture as it relates to decolonization and post-colonial development.

      Ajl discusses the Green New Deal, backed by numerous progressives, and offers a constructive critique that takes into account the impact of climate change on the global south.

      During the interview, Ajl describes the origins of the Green New Deal and the limits of what Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proposed. But Ajl notes many issues like climate debt and developmental aid for countries is missing in this America-focused plan.

      Ajl addresses how the Green New Deal fails to deal with the massive pollution from the U.S. military industrial-complex and contends that this represents a larger issue with much of the left in the United States, which can be Eurocentric in their support for global policies.

      And Ajl assesses the impact of U.S. policies that have exacted an impact on countries in the global south and then outlines the kind of considerations that need to be made so that a collective response to climate disruption is inclusive and internationalist in its goals.

      Overall, Ajl maintains we should not fight the Green New Deal. We should struggle to put issues on the table and seize an opportunity to develop a much stronger plan for dealing with global climate change.

      Listen to the show by clicking the above player or go here.

    • Wined and Dined by Energy Industry Consultant, State Utility Regulators Met With Its Client

      A consulting firm that organizes official missions abroad and conferences for state utility commissioners used the links it cultivated with these regulators to advance its own client’s interests, a DeSmog investigation has found.

      Documents obtained from several state public utility commissions through open records requests provide a glimpse into the methods employed behind the scenes by Gee Strategies Group, a veteran energy consulting company.

    • What Do We Do When the Cathedral Burns?

      When Paris’s Notre Dame caught fire on April 15, the flames threatened more than eight centuries of culture and history. The fire evoked shock, horror and grief worldwide. While the cathedral burned, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed determination to rebuild what the French regard as a sacred site.

      Beset by divisive “yellow vest” demonstrations, the French were united by the Notre Dame fire in grief and their resolve to rebuild. Within a day, wealthy donors and companies pledged a billion dollars for restoration. The first challenge will be to determine what caused the fire so a repeat can be avoided in the rebuilding.

      I wouldn’t wish to diminish in any way the profound emotional impact of the Notre Dame conflagration. I have visited the great cathedral a number of times, and each time has been a deep spiritual experience. But if we had a similar response of shock and horror at the death throes of the Great Barrier Reef, the toxic state of the Ganges River, the degradation of the Amazon rainforest or the rising levels of carbon in the atmosphere that gives us air, weather, climate and seasons, think of the responses we could develop.

    • Guy In Charge Of Oil Well Safety Gave Out His Cell Phone Number, Now Help Us Figure Out Who Called Him

      Last November, John Oliver had a fun episode of his show discussing whether or not President Trump had fulfilled his promise to “drain the swamp” (spoiler alert: he did not). Part of that episode focused on the story of Scott Angelle, who Trump appointed to run the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, an organization within the Department of the Interior, whose sole focus is supposed to be on enforcing safety standards for offshore oil drilling. The organization was created in the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon spill, after people realized that there was a conflict of interest in the existing government agency in charge of enforcing safety, the Minerals Management Service, because it was also in charge of collecting revenue from those very same oil companies. So the BSEE was set up solely to focus on safety. Except, as a NY Times profile made clear, when Scott Angelle took over, he seemed much more focused on using the position as a business opportunity for oil companies — perhaps not surprising, given that Angelle had very close ties with the industry, including getting $1 million to sit on the board of a pipeline company.

    • Nord Stream 2 threatens to take EU to court over gas rules

      The company behind the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is threatening to sue the EU if it’s not allowed to avoid new regulations that it says endanger the billions of euros that have been invested in the project.

      In a letter obtained by POLITICO, Nord Stream 2 CEO Matthias Warnig wrote to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that if the pipeline is not eligible for a derogation from the new rules, “the measure would be discriminatory against [Nord Stream 2] as an investor” and the EU may be breaking an international treaty.

      The EU’s Gas Directive was revamped earlier this year and extends the bloc’s gas liberalization rules to cover new offshore gas pipelines from non-EU countries. It’s an effort to bring the contentious Russia-backed project — opposed by the Commission and many Central European countries but supported by Germany — under the EU’s regulatory umbrella.

  • Finance

    • The Appalling Exploitation of America’s Rehab Patients

      A nationally renowned drug rehab program in Texas and Louisiana has sent patients struggling with addiction to work for free for some of the biggest companies in America, likely in violation of federal labor law.

      The Cenikor Foundation has dispatched tens of thousands of patients to work without pay at more than 300 for-profit companies over the years. In the name of rehabilitation, patients have moved boxes in a sweltering warehouse for Walmart, built an oil platform for Shell and worked at an Exxon refinery along the Mississippi River.

      “It’s like the closest thing to slavery,” said Logan Tullier, a former Cenikor participant who worked 10 hours per day at oil refineries, laying steel rebar in 115-degree heat. “We were making them all the money.”

      Cenikor’s success is built on a simple idea: that work helps people recover from addiction. All participants have to do is surrender their pay to cover the costs of the two-year program.

      But the constant work leaves little time for counseling or treatment, transforming the rehab into little more than a cheap and expendable labor pool for private companies, an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has found.

      At some job sites, participants lacked proper supervision, safety equipment and training, leading to routine injuries. Over the last decade, nearly two dozen Cenikor workers have been seriously injured or maimed on the job, according to hundreds of pages of lawsuits, workers’ compensation records and interviews with former staff. One worker died from his on-the-job injuries in 1995.

      Labor experts say Cenikor’s entire business model might be illegal under federal labor law. The Fair Labor Standards Act requires all employees to be paid minimum wage and overtime.

    • Warren’s Plan to Abolish Student Debt Came From Grassroots Pressure

      The new public higher education proposal that Sen. Elizabeth Warren released this week lifts up demands that grassroots activists have been making for years. Her plan makes public college tuition-free, cancels student loan debt for 95 percent of Americans, invests at least $50 billion in historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and stops federal loan money from flowing to for-profit colleges — all paid for by a tax on the ultra-wealthy.

      In short, Warren’s proposal seeks to reverse many of the harms wreaked on students in the aftermath of Reaganism, which deployed neoliberal reforms, anti-welfare rhetoric, and aggressive policing to crush activism on campuses, and which paved the way for decimating public investment in higher education.

      Warren is not the first presidential candidate to push for such reforms: Since his 2016 campaign, Senator Bernie Sanders has also been calling to make both four- and two-year public universities and college completely tuition free. And while centrist Democratic candidates like Senator Amy Klobouchar say that free college would require a “magic genie,” the United States has had robust, free college before. New York had extensive free college programs until the mid-1970s, as did California. But when Ronald Reagan became Governor of California, he turned the University of California (UC) system into a political boogeyman, sent in the National Guard to quash student protests, and began an ideological assault on higher education as a public good. Governor Reagan proposed creating a tuition for the UC system, which had been free since 1868, arguing that students “might think twice” about “[carrying] a picket sign” if they had to pay tuition.

      And pay they have. While Warren paid $50 a semester in tuition for her own public college education in 1983, the average college graduate in 2017 had $28,650 in student debt. Approximately 44 million Americans get student loan bills every month, and together their debt exceeds $1.5 trillion. Navigating student loans is as complicated as doing taxes, and even though servicers are paid by the Department of Education to help, their track record is so abysmal that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (another Elizabeth Warren brainchild) warned in 2015 about widespread failures. Nonprofits like Student Debt Crisis, which hold online webinars to help students navigate their loans, have more demand than they can meet. Meanwhile, 8 million borrowers are in default on their loans, with another borrower entering default every 28 seconds.

    • The Middle Class Is Under Assault Across the Globe: Rising Expenses and Stagnant Incomes Squeezes Middle Class Everywhere

      A new study by the OECD shows that particularly millennials and the US middle class is being squeezed by expenses that rise faster than their incomes, but the phenomenon is taking place in all developed countries

    • Promising Signs That America Is Waking Up to the Student Debt Crisis

      The revolution to end the burden of student debt continues, with a recent proposal from presidential contender Elizabeth Warren to cancel $50,000 in loans for households making less than $100,000 a year, with lower amounts for those making up to $250,000. Following the Democratic wave, which was driven in part by a surge of youth turnout, it’s more important than ever for Democrats to embrace an ambitious progressive agenda aimed at benefiting the rising American electorate. An ideal policy would be total student debt cancellation.

      Earlier this year, Freedom to Prosper and Data for Progress fielded a nationally representative survey analyzing support for repealing Trump’s tax cuts and using the proceeds to cancel outstanding student debt. Across the full sample, 47 percent of respondents supported and 36 percent of respondents opposed the proposal. Contrary to Republicans’ hopes, not only are Trump’s corporate tax handouts unpopular generally, but they are especially so when voters are given the chance to cancel them in favor of a major national debt cancellation program.

      According to our analysis of the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) 2018 survey, a gold standard political science resource, Democrats won 65 percent of the two-party vote (excluding third-party candidates) among student debt holders, compared with only 50 percent of the vote among non-student debt holders.

      The policy is particularly popular among Democrats who support it by a 68-13 margin.

      Going into the 2020 election, the key question for Democrats is how to maintain the youthquake that delivered them the House. A war on student debt could do so.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Joe Biden Is a Fraud, Plain and Simple

      Let’s be blunt: As a supposed friend of American workers, Joe Biden is a phony. And now that he’s running for president, Biden’s huge task is to hide his phoniness.

      From the outset, with dim prospects from small donors, the Biden campaign is depending on big checks from the rich and corporate elites who greatly appreciate his services rendered. “He must rely heavily, at least at first, upon an old-fashioned network of money bundlers — political insiders, former ambassadors and business executives,” the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

      Biden has a media image that exudes down-to-earth caring and advocacy for regular folks. But his actual record is a very different story.

      During the 1970s, in his first Senate term, Biden spouted white backlash rhetoric, used tropes pandering to racism and teamed up with arch segregationists against measures like busing for school integration. He went on to be a fount of racially charged appeals and “predators on our streets” oratory on the Senate floor as he led the successful effort to pass the now-notorious 1994 crime bill.

      A gavel in Biden’s hand repeatedly proved to be dangerous. In 1991, as chair of the Judiciary Committee, Biden prevented key witnesses from testifying to corroborate Anita Hill’s accusations of sexual harassment during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court. In 2002, as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, Biden was the Senate’s most crucial supporter of the Iraq invasion.

      Meanwhile, for well over four decades — while corporate media preened his image as “Lunch Bucket Joe” fighting for the middle class — Biden continued his assist for strengthening oligarchy as a powerful champion of legalizing corporate plunder on a mind-boggling scale.

      Now, Joe Biden has arrived as a presidential candidate to rescue the Democratic Party from Bernie Sanders.

    • Do Democrats Prefer Trump in the White House?

      No matter what Donald Trump tweets, no matter how his hand-picked attorney general, William Barr, spins its findings, Robert Mueller’s report is a referral for impeachment. Mueller felt constrained by Justice Department guidelines holding that a sitting president cannot be criminally indicted. To make criminal charges against Trump that could not be aired in court, Mueller argued, would deny him his right to a sound defense and an opportunity to clear his name.

      For better or worse, Mueller accepts the Office of Legal Counsel’s determination that criminal allegations against the president must be taken up by Congress rather than the Justice Department. And in the case of Trump, Mueller decided not to make a prosecutorial judgment. Instead, he handed the matter off to the House of Representatives, along with reams of evidence that the Trump campaign had ties to the Russian government, and that the president actively attempted to obstruct justice.

      [...]

      The Democrats’ latest tack is similarly pathetic and doomed, but it’s not one for progressives to get too up in arms about. While Trump deserves the historical black mark of impeachment, obstruction of justice is likely the least of his crimes. His worst transgressions include a ramped-up war on a habitable earth (Trump is gleefully enabling the fossil fuel industry’s exterminatory campaign to turn the planet into a giant greenhouse gas chamber), his nativist war on immigrants, his championing and passage of a regressive tax cut in an already absurdly unequal society, his ongoing campaign to kick millions of vulnerable people off the health insurance rolls, and his broadly authoritarian wars on truth, democracy and the rule of law.

    • Sorry Trump, Say Experts, You Can’t Just ‘Head to the Supreme Court’ If Impeached

      President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced via Twitter that he plans to challenge any attempt at impeachment in the Supreme Court—a legal strategy that has no basis in reality, as experts pointed out.

      The president, fresh off a face-to-face meeting with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in which Trump complained about his follower count on the website, spent Wednesday morning using the social media service to rant about the possibility of congressional action against his presidency.

      “If the partisan Dems ever tried to Impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court,” tweeted Trump.

    • So I Am Done Being Wishy-Washy. Impeach Trump. Now

      A press secretary is not supposed to flat-out lie, as Sarah Huckabee Sanders admitted to Robert Mueller’s investigators that she did when she claimed “countless” members of the FBI told the White House they had lost confidence in Comey. Since the report’s release, Sanders has denied that her admission means what it means. In effect, she’s now lying about lying.

      An attorney general — the people’s lawyer — is not supposed to act as defense counsel for the president as William Barr has at every step, from the misleading summary of Mueller’s report he released in March to giving the White House a sneak peek at Mueller’s findings, to defending Trump’s behavior on the excuse that he was “frustrated and angered.”

      And a president is not supposed to ask an FBI director for personal loyalty, not supposed to pressure an FBI director to end an investigation, not supposed to fire an FBI director for refusing to do so, not supposed to intimidate witnesses, not supposed to ask aides to lie and commit dubious acts, not supposed to, in other words, behave like some low-rent Queens thug.

      Under Justice Department rules, a president can’t be indicted and the special counsel evidently thought it unfair to level a charge that could not be tested in court. But he certainly made his feelings clear: “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. … However, we are unable to reach that judgment.”

      But we have a judgment to make, too, and it misreads the moment to base it solely on issues of politics or pragmatism. House Democrats seem more worried about what is strategic than what is right, about the feelings of Trump voters than of the voters who elected them. But this moment is bigger than that. It is about who we are as Americans, and the fact that someday, we will be required to stand before the bar of history and account for what we did — and failed to do — with our country on the line.

      It is better to lose an election — to lose the country itself — than to win the one or save the other on terms that render the “victory” meaningless. This presidency is anathema to everything America is supposed to be. It is a matter of moral necessity — and country love — to say that as forcefully as possible.

    • As Treasury Stonewalls, House Dems Urged to Subpoena Trump Taxes or Hold Mnuchin in Contempt

      Tax March and Stand Up America applauded House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) for working to obtain the president’s tax returns, but said he must go further in the face of the Trump administration’s “illegal” refusal to comply.

      “He cannot let the Trump administration hide critical information that will allow both Congress and the American people to hold President Trump accountable,” the groups said in a joint statement Tuesday. “He has no choice but to subpoena the tax returns from the Treasury Department and force the IRS to comply with his request.”

      “If this stonewalling continues,” the statement continued, “House Democrats should look into holding Secretary Mnuchin in contempt of Congress.”

    • Right-Wing Border Militias Are the Troops of Trump’s Authoritarian Regime

      Last week, in New Mexico, the United Constitutional Patriots militia, a group of vigilantes led by Larry Mitchell Hopkins “detained” 300 asylum seekers from Latin and South America. United Constitutional Patriots is one of many such right-wing paramilitary groups operating along the U.S.-Mexico border. It has also been reported that these “militias” de facto coordinate with the United States Border Patrol and other law enforcement organizations in their extra judicial if not illegal behavior. Larry Mitchell Hopkins, the “commander” of the United Constitutional Patriots was arrested last Saturday by the FBI on federal firearms charges dating back to 2017.

      The United Constitutional Patriots vigilante militia and others like it are not outliers or curiosities. They embody and represent the much larger threat posed by Donald Trump and the Republican Party to America’s multiracial democracy.

      Donald Trump and his Republican allies have contempt for the rule of law and the United States Constitution. What I have described elsewhere as “trickle down” immorality and lawlessness creates a permissive environment for violence by Trump’s supporters and other members of the White Right against whatever groups and individuals they deem to be their “enemies”.

      Bernard Harcourt, who is professor of law and political science at Columbia University, and the author of “The Counterrevolution: How Our Government Went to War Against Its Own Citizens,” provides some additional context.

      He communicated to me via email how: “If this is true (that this militia is armed and detaining individuals and turning them over to Border Patrol), it would likely amount to criminal behavior. It would likely amount to kidnapping. This is on U.S. soil, so Constitutional protections apply, and the members of the militia have no way of knowing what is the asylum status of these individuals. There is nothing that gives them the right to detain or forcibly transport these individuals. Reasonable law enforcement would arrest people for engaging in these kinds of acts.”

      Donald Trump encourages violence by his supporters and other members of his political cult against liberals, progressives, “immigrants”, nonwhites, Muslims, the free press, and any other group or individual which he identifies as being an enemy of his right-wing authoritarian movement. Trump’s use of “stochastic terrorism” and “scripted violence” is not new: this has been a common strategy and tactic by conservatives and other parts of the American right-wing for several decades.

    • ALEC’s Washington State Chair Discussed Violence, Surveillance Against Constituents

      Washington State Rep. Matt Shea (R-Spokane) has found himself back in the spotlight again, this time for messages sent and received through the Signal app discussing acts of violence against and surveillance of left-wing activists, as revealed by The Guardian.

      Rep. Shea is the Washington state chair for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and has served on its Civil Justice Task Force.

      In the private chats with far-right talk show host Jack Robertson and activist Anthony Bosworth, “The men proposed to confront leftists — whom they repeatedly refer to as ‘communists’ and ‘Antifa’ — with a suite of tactics, including violence,” The Guardian reported.

      The messages were exchanged in the heated lead-up to the alt-Right’s propaganda about a an impending “Antifa revolution” on November 4, 2017 — something that in reality amounted to a handful of anti-Trump rallies.

      According to the chat history, Robertson suggested extreme violence against a Spokane resident, one of Shea’s constituents, “Fist full of hair, and face slam, to a Jersey barrier. Treat em like communist revolutionaries. Then shave her bald with a K-Bar USMC field knife.”

    • Bernie Sanders Spurs Debate on Prisoner Voting Rights, But the Idea Is “Not as Radical as It Seems”

      Presidential candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said at a town hall Monday that he believed in restoring voting rights for prisoners, sparking a national discussion about re-enfranchisement for the more than 2 million Americans behind bars. Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg has spoken out against prisoner voting rights, while Senator Elizabeth Warren said “I’m not there yet” on the issue. Senator Kamala Harris said “there has to be serious consequence for the most extreme types of crimes,” referencing her background as a prosecutor. We speak with Ari Berman, senior writer at Mother Jones, about the public debate on voting rights for imprisoned Americans. Berman notes that prisoners are currently counted in the U.S. census in the counties where they are imprisoned, despite not being allowed to vote in most states.

    • Without Impeachment, We’re Lowering Standards for All Future Presidents

      The official title of the Mueller report is “Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election.” Had the report’s authors added a subhead, it could easily have been, “It’s Not Our Place to Say Trump Must Be Impeached, but Yeah, Trump Must Be Impeached.” The time has come for House Democrats to do exactly that.

      After reading it twice, I have a crystal-clear understanding of why several of Mueller’s investigators went public with their disdain for Attorney General William Barr’s laughably porous “summary” of the report. While the report found that members of the Trump campaign did not hack the DNC’s computers themselves, leak those stolen documents to Wikileaks themselves, or undertake a massive social media disruption effort themselves, the campaign as well as the candidate were fully aware of and happily capitalized upon the pro-Trump efforts of Russian operatives. The first 60 pages of the report are so explicit about these facts that only a bot could miss the gist.

      Once in office, Donald Trump serially obstructed justice by interfering with the Mueller investigation and demanding that his attorneys and advisers lie about his conduct and manufacture evidence to obscure his conduct. His attempted disruption of the investigation into then-national security adviser Michael Flynn; the firing of then-FBI director James Comey; his efforts to fire Robert Mueller and derail the investigation; his insistence that then-White House counsel Don McGahn lie about the efforts to remove or disrupt Mueller; and his efforts to disrupt the gathering of testimony from former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former Trump attorney Michael Cohen individually and collectively blow right past the constitutional standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

      These were deeply damaging bold-face crimes committed in the presence of testifying witnesses. Trump can be prosecuted, impeached or both for committing them even if no underlying crime was established in the report.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • How calling Vladimir Putin a ‘fuckwit’ became illegal

      On April 22, a court in the Novgorod region fined local resident Yuri Kartyzhev 30,000 rubles (about $470) for violating Russia’s new law against insulting state officials. The man was found guilty of sharing two posts on the social network VKontakte where he allegedly wrote “Putin is an unbelievable fuckwit.” Kartyzhev’s sentence marks the first known enforcement of this new curtailment of free speech.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Getting a little taste of the data explosion

      When people toss around the term “data explosion” they usually mean you’re facing the daunting challenge of keeping pace with the amount of data generated by internal and external customers using your technology. But what does that really mean for your business?

    • Massachusetts Court Blocks Warrantless Access to Real-Time Cell Phone Location Data

      There’s heartening news for our location privacy out of Massachusetts this week. The Supreme Judicial Court, the state’s highest court, ruled that police access to real-time cell phone location data—whether it comes from a phone company or from technology like a cell site simulator—intrudes on a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy. Absent exigent circumstances, the court held, the police must get a warrant.

      In Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Almonor, police had a phone carrier “ping” the cell phone of a suspect in a murder case—surreptitiously accessing GPS functions and causing the phone to send its coordinates back to the phone carrier and the police. This real-time location data pinpointed Mr. Almonor’s phone to a location inside a private home. The state argued it could warrantlessly get cell phone location data to find anyone, anytime, at any place as long as it was less than six hours old. A trial court disagreed and the state appealed.

      EFF filed an amicus brief in this case in partnership with the ACLU and the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. We asked the court to recognize, as the Supreme Court did in U.S. v Carpenter, that people have a constitutional right to privacy in their physical movements. We argued that, because people have their phones with them all the time, and because the location information produced by the phone can reveal our every move—where and with whom we live, socialize, visit, vacation, worship, and much more—the police must get a warrant to access this sensitive information.

    • End the NSA’s Invasive Call Detail Records Program Once and for All

      Under the CDR program, the NSA has collected information about millions of Americans’ phone calls. While these records don’t contain the actual contents of telephone calls, they do include phone numbers and call times and length—more than enough information to provide the NSA a clear picture of our social relationships, interests, and affiliations. If the NSA knows that you called a suicide hotline at 1:00 in the morning, does it matter that the agency doesn’t have the contents of that call?

      If the NSA knows that you called a suicide hotline at 1:00 in the morning, does it matter that the agency doesn’t have the contents of that call?

      Besides being an invasion of Americans’ privacy, the program is also ineffective: prior to the passage of the USA FREEDOM Act, both the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board (PDF) and the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies (PDF) concluded that the CDR program was neither essential nor effective in the government’s counterterrorism investigations.

      Ever since USA FREEDOM reformed the CDR program in 2015, the civil liberties community and members of Congress have repeatedly asked the NSA for information about how widespread the CDR program is, but the NSA has been unable or unwilling to provide that information. In May 2018, the Agency admitted that it had collected countless records that it wasn’t legally authorized to obtain, but still failed to provide meaningful information about just how widespread the program was. And in 2019, the New York Times reported that rather than modify the program in order to comply with the law going forward, the NSA had stopped using the program altogether.

    • Facebook Anticipates $5 Billion Fine Over Privacy Violations

      Facebook said it expects a fine of up to $5 billion from the Federal Trade Commission, which is investigating whether the social network violated its users’ privacy.

      The company set aside $3 billion in its quarterly earnings report Wednesday as a contingency against the possible penalty but noted that the “matter remains unresolved.”

      The one-time charge slashed Facebook’s first-quarter net income considerably, although revenue grew by 25% in the period. The FTC has been looking into whether Facebook broke its own 2011 agreement promising to protect user privacy.

      Investors shrugged off the charge and sent the company’s stock up more than 9% to almost $200 in after-hours trading. EMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson, however, called it a “significant development” and noted that any settlement is likely to go beyond a mere dollar amount.

      “(Any) settlement with the FTC may impact the ways advertisers can use the platform in the future,” she said.

    • Facebook’s Hire of Patriot Act Co-Author Raises Questions on Company’s Commitment to Privacy

      The company announced the hire by citing Newstead’s extensive work in government. Most recently, Newstead acted as the legal adviser for the State Department.

      During her time in the Bush administration, Newstead was known for being the “day to day manager of the Patriot Act in Congress,” according to torture memo author John Yoo.

      “Jennifer is a seasoned leader whose global perspective and experience will help us fulfill our mission,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said in a statement.

      Newstead referred to Facebook’s role in the public discourse in a statement released by the company.

      “Facebook’s products play an important role in societies around the world,” said Newstead. “I am looking forward to working with the team and outside experts and regulators on a range of legal issues as we seek to uphold our responsibilities and shared values.”

      Newstead’s history in government, though, triggered criticism of Facebook for putting her in a position of power—especially in light of recent comments from the company’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg that emphasized a more secure and private experience for users.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • The Palestine Marathon

      I never intended to run a marathon, but when I realized that I would be on hand for the 2019 Palestine Marathon, I registered. I did so in solidarity with the goals of the aptly named Right to Movement, the global running community founded in 2013 to organize the first annual marathon there.

      The irony was not lost on me, however: in training for a marathon meant to highlight the right to freedom of movement, I would utilize my privilege as a foreigner to access land that Palestinians themselves could not enter. I trained in the West Bank, dotted with Israeli settlements, checkpoints, and military bases; in the Gaza Strip, the Mediterranean coastal enclave under Israeli blockade since 2007; in the northern Israeli city of Haifa; and in Jerusalem, the western part of which has been part of Israel since 1948 and the eastern part of which Israel occupied in 1967.

      While I realized that there would be challenges during my training runs, what I hadn’t anticipated was the window they would provide into the lives of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.

    • An Indictment in All But Name

      Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report, released to the public in a redacted version on April 18, lays out in meticulous detail both a blatantly illegal effort by Russia to throw the 2016 presidential election to Donald Trump and repeated efforts by President Trump to end, limit, or impede Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference. Trump’s efforts included firing or attempting to fire those overseeing the investigation, directing subordinates to lie on his behalf, cajoling witnesses not to cooperate, and doctoring a public statement about a Trump Tower meeting between his son and closest advisers and a Russian lawyer offering compromising information on Hillary Clinton.

      Attorney General William Barr, who has shown himself to be exactly the kind of presidential protector Trump wanted Jeff Sessions to be, did his best to whitewash the report. Almost four weeks before it was released to the public, Barr wrote a four-page letter to Congress purporting to summarize its findings. But as The New York Times’s Charlie Savage has shown, in the letter Barr took Mueller’s words out of context and omitted all mention of the damning evidence that courses through the report.* Just before releasing the report to the public, Barr also held a press conference in which he again distorted its conclusions, stating that it found no collusion with the Russians and no obstruction of justice by the president. Both statements are profoundly misleading.

    • Putin signs order expediting Russian citizenship process for Donbas residents

      Russian president Vladimir Putin has signed an order creating an expedited path to Russian citizenship for residents of the war-torn Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. The order allows for citizenship applications from the region to be evaluated within the course of three months. It will take effect on the day that it is officially published.

    • What Is the ‘AI Agenda,’ Who’s Pushing It and Why?

      The great thing about corporate giants is that they are such amazing business innovators. Look at the Big Four airline oligopoly, for example. They’ve perfected the unique business model of the “double-squeeze”: squeezing more customers into ever-smaller seats while simultaneously squeezing more money out of customers’ pockets. What genius!

      But in the category of “wheel-spinning” innovation — i.e., trying to change a corporation’s course without actually changing anything — it’s hard to top McDonald’s. For several years, the fast-food chain has been losing customers to younger chains with healthier, more stylish offerings. So, its CEO, Steve Easterbrook, has tried again and again to recoup the losses by tinkering with the menu, calling it “healthy” and “fresh.” But McNuggets and fries are still what they are, so people have not bitten the PR bait.

      [...]

      Easterbrook adds excitedly that his innovative deployment of this artificial intelligence network will provide an “even more personalized customer experience.” Sure, Steve, nothing like more computers to add a warm personal touch to wolfing down another cookie-cutter Big Mac.

      Far from helping you, the snazzy new AI ordering system at McDonald’s will be helping the corporation by silently compiling personal information about you, ranging from your “movement patterns” to your license plate number. As Easterbrook admits, McDonald’s will use the technology to “make the most” of the data collected.

      The CEO of McDonald’s may be talking about his “digital interaction” plan, but most corporate bosses won’t talk about theirs in public. Amongst themselves — psssst — they whisper excitedly about implementing a transformative “AI agenda” across our economy.

      Not wanting to stir the preemptive rebellion by human workers who’re being targeted for displacement, corporate chieftains are carefully avoiding terms like “robotic automation,” substituting euphemisms like “digital transformation.” In their boardrooms and clubrooms, however, top executives see AI as their golden calf — a holy path to windfall profits and personal enrichment by replacing whole swaths of their workforce with an automated army of cheap machines that don’t demand raises, take time off or form unions. Kai-Fu Lee, a longtime tech exec, confided to The New York Times that AI “will eliminate 40 percent of the world’s jobs within 15 years.”

    • Why Federal Student Aid Should Be Restored for People in Prison

      Congress is thinking of lifting a longstanding ban on federal student aid for those serving time in prison.

      The “Restoring Education And Learning Act of 2019,” or the “REAL Act of 2019,” seeks to reinstate federal Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated individuals. Pell Grants are federal grants meant to help students who need money to go to college.

      If Pell Grants were reinstated for those serving time, about 463,000 people in prison would become eligible for the grants.

      As director of the University of Baltimore’s Second Chance College Program, I can attest to how such an investment will yield benefits not only for individuals behind prison walls, but for society as a whole.

      Here are four reasons to support the reinstatement of the Pell Grant for incarcerated people.

    • Protest Song Of The Week: ‘All Some Kind Of Dream’ By Josh Ritter

      The album features a few songs influenced by the current political climate. “The Torch Committee” is a pointed critique of bureaucratic corruption.

    • New Report Shows How World Bank Enables Corporate Land Grabs

      At the World Bank’s annual meeting this month, the Bank’s new president and former Trump adviser, David Malpass, ignored research that concludes the Bank’s policies are driving large-scale corporate land grabs across the Global South, with devastating consequences for the poor.

      A new report by the land rights think tank the Oakland Institute demonstrates how the World Bank’s Enabling the Business of Agriculture project — funded by the U.S. and U.K. governments, as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — pushes countries to remove “barriers” to big agribusiness, including laws that protect commons like land and seeds.

      As part of the project, the World Bank has developed a contentious new land indicator. Initiated as a pilot program in 38 countries in 2017, the indicator is expected to be expanded to 80 countries this year. The purpose of the indicator is to get countries to transform customary land tenure arrangements into formal titles, so as to render land a “transferrable asset” and therefore make it easier for corporations to acquire it from small-scale farmers.

      Countries are under enormous pressure to align with this objective, as doing so grants them preferential access to aid and foreign investment.

      Frédéric Mousseau, the policy director at the Oakland Institute and co-author of the report, said, “The Bank claims that this indicator will protect land rights and bring more freedom and equity in terms of access to land, but it is actually an unprecedented push to privatize public land and facilitate private interests’ access to the commons, to the detriment of millions around the world.”

      This project has met with fierce resistance. Ibrahima Coulibaly, president of ROPPA [the West Africa network of farmers’ and producers’ organizations] and president of the National Coordination of Peasant Organizations in Mali, says that the new indicator “risks opening the way to more land concentration and land grabbing, degradation of natural resources, and deforestation.”

    • Supreme Court Appears Set to OK Census Citizenship Question Despite Risk of Undercounting Millions

      The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case challenging the Trump administration’s plans to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census. Voting rights activists fear that adding the question will deter immigrants from participating in the census and lead to a vast undercount in states with large immigrant communities. Census officials have estimated 6.5 million people will not respond to the census if the citizenship question is added. This undercount could affect everything from the redrawing of congressional maps to the allocation of federal funding. The case centers on whether Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had the authority to add the question to the census. The American Civil Liberties Union and 17 states have sued, saying Ross’s move was aimed at deterring immigrants from participating in the census. During the oral arguments, the court’s conservative majority appeared to side with the Trump administration, while the liberal minority questioned the administration’s motives and methods. Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor said, “There’s no doubt that people will respond less. If you’re talking about prediction, this is about 100 percent that people will answer less.” We speak with Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. MALDEF is representing plaintiffs in one of the lawsuits challenging the census citizenship question. We also speak with Ari Berman, senior writer at Mother Jones. His new piece is titled “In Census Case, Supreme Court Suddenly Cares a Lot About Voting Rights Act.”

    • Siding With Corporate Power Over Worker Rights, Supreme Court Supports Company That Sought to Block Class Action Lawsuit

      The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday sided with corporate interests by ruling against a worker who had sought to band together with other employees to bring forth a class action lawsuit against a company.

      It was a 5-4 decision (pdf), with conservatives in the majority.

      The case, Lamps Plus, Inc. v. Varela, “hinged on whether courts can allow arbitration as a group even if an agreement does not explicitly provide for the collective arbitration of claims,” Reuters reported.

      The company argued that the ambiguous arbitration agreement in Frank Varela’s employment contract meant he could not file a class action suit on behalf of employees whose personal information was exposed in a data breach.

      The court “has held that courts may not infer consent to participate in class arbitration absent an affirmative ‘contractual basis for concluding that the party agreed to do so,’” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts for the majority. “Silence is not enough.”

    • The Most Dangerous Time for Women’s Rights in Decades

      We’re living in the most perilous time for abortion rights and reproductive freedom since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973.

      While some erosion of abortion rights has occurred over the decades — parental consent laws, waiting periods, procedure curtailment — the fundamental right has largely been by ruled by the courts, and viewed by the public, as guaranteed under Roe. Around 60 percent of Americans support a legal right to the procedure.

      Now state legislatures are escalating their assault on that right — and on the women who attempt to exercise it.

      Since President Trump succeeded in elevating Brett Kavanaugh — an abortion foe, alleged sexual assailant, and mean drunk to boot — to the Supreme Court, his right-wing lynch mob has launched a laser-focused attack on reproductive freedom. They’ve been flooding the states with anti-abortion legislation in hopes of getting a case to the Supreme Court that will overturn Roe.

      Republicans paved the way for Trump’s conservative hijack of the judiciary during Obama’s tenure. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell held the Supreme Court seat created by Justice Scalia’s death vacant for more than a year until the next election, along with 108 other federal judgeships that require only Senate approval. Trump is wasting no time filling the vacancies.

      To grease the wheels, the Judiciary Committee has ended the decades-old practice of seeking advice from the American Bar Association on nominee qualifications and started holding hearings during congressional recesses. Recently the Senate voted to shortcut the process even more by reducing the time between final confirmation votes on district court judges from 30 hours to just two.

    • The trials of Open Russia. How the Russian government uses laws against ‘undesirable organizations’ to target activists from a single human rights group

      In early April, Russian investigators opened three new criminal cases against members of the nonprofit organization Open Russia, which is associated with exiled opposition politician and former oil company executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The defendants were charged with participating in an “undesirable organization.” Although Open Russia was officially liquidated in Russia, security forces have continued to write up the group’s activists, and at least five more people are at risk of facing criminal charges. In the meantime, the organization has attempted to reorganize and regain legal status in the country it is named for. We asked Mediazona journalist Maxim Litavrin to analyze recent persecution against Open Russia’s members.

    • Boy Scouts Could Be Hit With More Sex Abuse Claims

      The lawyers’ ads on the internet aggressively seeking clients to file sexual abuse lawsuits give a taste of what lies ahead this year for the Boy Scouts of America: potentially the most fateful chapter in its 109-year history.

      Sexual abuse settlements have already strained the Boy Scouts’ finances to the point where the organization is exploring “all available options,” including Chapter 11 bankruptcy. But now the financial threats have intensified.

      The reason: States have been moving in recent months to adjust their statute-of-limitations laws so that victims of long-ago sexual abuse can sue for damages. New York state has passed a law that will allow such lawsuits starting in August. A similar bill in New Jersey has reached the governor’s desk. Bills also are pending in Pennsylvania and California.

      In New York and elsewhere, lawyers are hard at work recruiting clients to sue the Boy Scouts, alleging they were molested as youths by scoutmasters or other volunteers.

      Plaintiffs’ lawyers “recognize that this is a very unique and lucrative opportunity,” said attorney Karen Bitar, who formerly handled sex-crime cases as a prosecutor in Brooklyn before going into private practice.

    • Marcus Hutchins — The Guy Who Stopped Wannacry — Pleads Guilty To Conspiracy Charges

      Almost two years after Marcus Hutchins, a.k.a. MalwareTech, was detained by the FBI at the airport as he left a security conference in Las Vegas, the government finally has finally gotten its man.

      Charges were stacked and restacked over the past couple of years, as the government brought pressure to bear on Hutchins, who maintained his innocence right up to the point he signed the plea agreement [PDF]. Faced with possibility of spending several years in jail — and evidence of his past, somewhat shadier exploits continuing to surface — the man who saved the world from the Wannacry ransomware has pleaded guilty to two conspiracy charges. This means the government will be dropping the other eight charges against Hutchins, which will hopefully keep the researcher from spending several years in jail.

    • Federal Agent: Using A Taped Box To Send Stuff Overnight Via FedEx Is Suspicious Behavior

      Here’s how we’re fighting the War on Drugs. Lots of stuff going on, but not much seems to be happening in terms of actually, you know, keeping drugs from ending up in buyers’ hands. The byproduct of the problem — the cash — is all anyone seems interested in.

      As Brad Heath points out in his tweets referencing this in rem complaint, federal agents camp out at major air traffic hubs looking for nothing but cash. As we’ve covered here earlier, the DEA is actually paying TSA agents to search for cash and alert officers if any amount worth seizing rolls through checkpoints.

      The same thing is happening in FedEx hubs. In this case, officers from the DHS, Indiana State Police, Indiana Metro PD all combined to stop some cash from traversing the country from Ohio to Arizona.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Why The Hell Are States Still Passing ISP-Written Laws Banning Community Broadband?

      We’ve long talked about the more than 750 towns, cities, and counties that have responded to US broadband market failure by building their own broadband networks. We’ve also talked at length about how data has shown these networks often offer better service at lower, more transparent prices than their purely private sector counterparts (usually natural monopolies), whose apathy and political power has only grown in the wake of limited competition.

      We’ve also talked at great length about how instead of derailing these efforts by offering better, cheaper service (aka competition), industry giants like AT&T and Comcast have found a cheaper solution: they’ve quite literally paid state lawmakers to pass protectionist laws in dozens of states that ban or hinder towns and cities from even exploring the option. These bills are widely opposed by the public, but a new study says the phenomenon is growing all the same:

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Lack of Technical Solution in Patent Claims Justifies CBM Review and Alice Ineligibility

      Finding that claims of patents directed “to a graphical user interface (‘GUI’) for electronic trading” lacked a technical solution to a technical problem, the Federal Circuit affirmed a Patent Trial and Appeal Board decision holding the claims ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101 and the Mayo/Alice test. Trading Technologies International, Inc. v. IBG, LLC, No. 2018-1063 (Fed. Cir. April 18, 2018) (opinion by Judge Moore, joined by Judges Mayer and Linn) (precedential). Interestingly, the court found that the patents’ lack of a technical solution supported both the institution of Covered Business Method (CBM) review, as well as the conclusion that the patent claims were ineligible.

      The CBM had addressed U.S. Patent Nos. 7,533,056, 7,212,999, and 7,904,374. The patent owner argued that the patents were directed to “technological inventions” within the meaning of America Invents Act § 18(d)(1), and that therefore the CBM had been improperly instituted. Addressing first the ’056 and ’999 patents, their invention was an “intuitive graphical user interface” that “makes the trader faster and more efficient, not the computer,” which was “not a technical solution to a technical problem.” (Emphasis in original.) And the court agreed with the PTAB that the ’374 patent did not solve the problem of preventing traders from entering unintended prices because the claim at issue did not mention prices.

    • Federal Circuit Affirms PTAB Ruling Finding Graphical User Interface Claims Patent Ineligible [Ed: This is pretty significant and good as it can override an old travesty]
    • Non-traditional trademarks and other amendments to the Mexican IP Law (First Part)

      The Mexican Industrial Property Law was significantly modified last year through two batches of amendments. The first batch modified provisions regarding patents, designs, utility models, trademarks and appellations of origin (AOs). Geographical indications (GIs) are also now regulated under the Mexican IP Law and a registry of foreign GIs and AOs lodged the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI) will be created. Read this Kat’s review on the first batch here.

    • PTAB rejects eBay Search Navigation Patent Application

      Don’t give the PTAB an easy way to side step issue by arguing claims as a group when their limitations are different.

      [...]

      A recent PTAB decision on an eBay application illustrates some of these issues (SN 13/706,071). The invention relates to generating a search results page that allows a user to access a data item stored in an external system without navigating away from the search results page. A key limitation at issue was related to identifying an action that a portion users typically performed with respect to the plurality of listings at the web site after navigating away from the search results pages to the web site. The Examiner relied on obviousness of this limitation, essentially combining two references and then further modifying them to reach the missing element. eBay argued that it was wrong to combine the references to reach the claimed element since the secondary reference navigates between content sources, in contrast to the claim where “the action can be done without navigating away from the search results page.” (emphasis added). Of course, as can be seen above, the actual limitation does not state “without navigating away” but rather “after navigating away.” As such, this argument was not commensurate in scope with the claimed elements.

    • Does § 101 Apply to Design Patents?

      So Section 101 is the statutory subject matter provision for utility patents. Section 171 is the statutory subject matter provision for design patents. Or, as the CCPA (sort of) put it in Finch, § 171 is the § 101 of design patents.

      Because these are independent subject-matter provisions, any change to § 101 should not affect design patents. But if § 101 does get revised, I would suggest changing any reference to “a patent” to “a utility patent”—just to make things perfectly clear.

    • Copyrights

      • Universal And Warner Block Time Live Streaming Its Time 100 Event Because Copyright Censors

        You know how supporters of Article 13 in the EU keep insisting that just because Article 13 (now Article 17) says not to take down non-infringing content that any worries about taking down non-infringing content are misplaced? About that… This week there’s been a lot of fuss about the whole “Time 100″ thing that purports to highlight the 100 most influential people in the world. This bit of backslapping among the famous starts off with glowing magazine profiles, followed by a big party, the Time 100 Gala and the Time 100 Summit, which is the conference version of the backslapping. Time Magazine livestreamed the Summit yesterday via YouTube.

        As Manish Singh pointed out, it appears that both Warner Music and Universal Music Group got the video pulled on copyright grounds.

      • Mercedes Goes To Court To Get Background Use Of Public Murals In Promotional Pics Deemed Fair Use

        The unsettled nature of how copyright law applies to public works of art like murals continues to be frustrating in the extreme. We’ve already seen examples of how this becomes an issue with mural artists whose work briefly appears in unrelated works, such as music videos, as those works are filmed in public. You guys remember public, right? It’s that place we all get to coexist and enjoy together without constantly stomping on each other’s necks over intellectual property rights. Except we don’t anymore, as far too many artists believe that they can imprint their art in full view of the public and then disallow any commercial depiction of that public space.

        And if that doesn’t sound idiotic to you, you need psychological care.

        This is once again at issue, as Mercedes has asked a court to make it clear that murals appearing on public walls in the background of a few promotional photos of their vehicles is fair use. This is in response to the very threatening noises made by four mural artists to their murals appearing in the background of some Instagram images. To be clear, Mercedes is suing only to ask for a court to declare images, like the following, fair use, not to attack the artists themselves.

      • Fair licensing terms for content to be focal point in transposition and application of EU Copyright Directive: statement by German government

        On Monday of last week (April 15), the EU Council–the decision-making body in which the governments of the 28 EU member states cast their votes–adopted the arguably most controversial piece of EU legislation ever, the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, commonly referred to as the EU Copyright Directive. To do so about six weeks prior to EU Parliament elections was as arrorgant as it was unwise. While skepticism of the EU was traditionally more of a right-wing concern, the mostly left-leaning and mostly young people who opposed Article 13 (which became Article 17 and is generally known as the “upload filter” paragraph) could not have been more disappointed. They still say and write that they believe in “Europe,” mostly because they fail to understand economic and other issues (see this Wall Street Journal article entitled “Incredible Shrinking Europe” on the EU’s miserable economic failure), but they’ve lost a lot of their faith in the EU institutions.

        If there had been a similar level of public debate and street protests across the EU as in Germany, Article 17 wouldn’t have secured a qualified majority in the Council or a simple majority in the European Parliament. But for a mix of reasons I can’t claim to have fully understood yet, concerns about overblocking of legitimate user-generated content were more of a luxury problem of the North than an issue that would also have mobilized people in the economically and technologically weaker South. Smartphone usage isn’t lower in the South, but there are some discrepanices such as with respect to digital startup activity. Even France is far behind; Macron’s “Startup Nation” is a case of all hat and no cattle, like pretty much everything he does and wants. He’s a walking, talking failure, and the more he fails, the more he walks and talks. But he did get the Merkel administration to engage in a horse trade that also involved the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

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