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05.07.19

Links 7/5/2019: GNU Linux-Libre 5.1, Tails 3.13.2, Sailfish OS Hossa, Firefox 66.0.4, LibreOffice 6.1.6

Posted in News Roundup at 11:08 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Desktop

    • Pine64′s 14-inch Linux laptop PineBook Pro will offer a Rockchip RK3399 SoC and 4 GB RAM for US$200

      Those in the hunt for a cheap 14-inch Linux laptop could do worse than stick around and see what Pine64 eventually delivers with the Pinebook Pro. The single-board specialist has chosen a Rockchip RK3399 SoC with an integrated Mali-T860 MP4 GPU as the key components for the laptop. The 6-core RK3399 is based on the big.LITTLE architecture and features a dual-core Cortex-A72 with a quad-core Cortex-A53.

      Along with the single-board computer heart, the Pinebook Pro will apparently come with 4 GB RAM, 64 GB of eMMC storage (upgradeable to 128 GB), a 10,000-mAh battery, stereo speakers, headphone jack, and USB 3.0, USB 2.0, and USB Type-C ports. There is a 1080p IPS display installed and the laptop’s body is made from magnesium alloy. If the final price does end up being around US$199/US$200 then customers shouldn’t feel short-changed for hardware at least.

    • 10 super sweet laptops that come with Linux pre-installed

      If you’re a Windows user, there’s tremendous choice when it comes to laptops. And sure, you can install Linux. But if you want to buy a laptop with Linux pre-installed and supported by the vendor, this is the list for you.

    • Polish the Chrome

      Using Chromebooks is a bittersweet experience; it feels as if we’re so close to using a successful Linux-based ecosystem, and yet it never comes close to feeling like a fully fledged FOSS solution. In spite (or despite?) of our misgivings about Google Chromebooks, the platform has become a hit – not just in educational circles, but businesses are also picking them up for a number of reasons. Not least their ease of maintenance, low cost, lightweight software footprint and the built-in integration with the flourishing Google ecosystem.
      There are bonuses to running the shared Linux heritage. It has enabled Google to expand the the Chromebook’s basic abilities to running not just Android apps (in a clever containerised system), but now fully fledged desktop Linux software too.

  • Server

  • Audiocasts/Shows

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux Release Roundup: Linux Kernel 5.1 Released + More

      Another week, another set of notable new Linux releases — including a brand new version of the Linux Kernel.

      Dive on down for a digestible dose of the latest happenings. Don’t forget you can read other recent Linux Release Roundups via the #LRR tag.

    • Linus Torvalds Releases Linux 5.1 With Lots Of New Features

      Linux boss Linus Torvalds has released the stable version of Linux kernel 5.1 after seven release candidates. Kernel releases generally achieve the stable status after seven or eight release candidates, so it’s great for Linux 5.1 to take shape a week early. Also, the “Shy Crocodile” codename of the latest release remains the same as the past ones.

      Compared to other releases, Linux 5.1 arrived a bit late in the day due to some last-minute pull requests. In his announcement post, Linus wrote that the requests “weren’t big enough to justify delaying things over, and hopefully the merge window timing won’t be all that painful either.”

    • GNU Linux-libre 5.1-gnu Released As The Kernel Continues To Be Deblobbed

      Hot off the release of Linux 5.1 from last night, the Free Software Foundation Latin America team has released GNU Linux-libre 5.1-gnu as their sanitized kernel that strips out support for loading binary-only microcode/firmware files, the ability to load binary-only kernel modules, and related code they deem supporting “non-free” software.

    • GNU Linux-libre 5.1-gnu

      GNU Linux-libre 5.1-gnu sources and tarballs are now available at

      http://www.fsfla.org/selibre/linux-libre/download/releases/5.1-gnu/.

      It didn’t require any deblobbing changes since -rc7-gnu. Binaries are
      on the way.

      Besides the usual assortment of firmware name updates, new drivers for
      mt7603 and goya required disabling of blob requests, wilc1000 had some
      files renamed which required adjusting the deblobbing logic, and a
      driver that we used to deblob (lantiq xrx200 firmware loader) was
      removed, so its cleaning up code is now gone.

      For up-to-the-minute news, join us on #linux-libre of irc.gnu.org
      (Freenode), or follow me (@lxoliva) on Twister http://twister.net.co/,
      Secure Scuttlebutt, GNU social at social.libreplanet.org, Diaspora* at
      pod.libreplanetbr.org or pump.io at identi.ca. Check my web page (link
      in the signature) for direct links.

      Be Free! with GNU Linux-libre.

    • GNU Linux-Libre 5.1 Kernel Officially Released for Those Seeking 100% Freedom

      Based on the recently released Linux 5.1 kernel series, the GNU Linux-Libre 5.1 kernel is now available for users who want to run Linux kernel 5.1 on their personal computers but don’t want to deal with any proprietary code. As such, the GNU Linux-Libre 5.1 kernel deblobbs and cleans up several firmware from the upstream Linux 5.1 kernel.

      “Besides the usual assortment of firmware name updates, new drivers for mt7603 and goya required disabling of blob requests, wilc1000 had some files renamed which required adjusting the deblobbing logic, and a driver that we used to deblob (lantiq xrx200 firmware loader) was removed,” said developer Alexandre Oliva in a mailing list announcement.

    • Linux kernel 5.1

      The first release of Linux kernel of the new 5.1 line just landed in Sparky “unstable” repository.

    • Linux Kernel 5.1 Released! How to Install it in Ubuntu

      Linux 5.1 brings many exciting changes including improved support for Intel Fastbook (enabled by default), Intel 22260 WiFi support, new I/O interface, new ACPI support, Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ support by mainline, and a lot of new hardware support.

    • Linux Kernel 5.1 Is Out, Red Hat Announces Winners of the 2019 Women in Open Source Awards, GNU Linux-libre 5.1-gnu Is Now Available, Lockheed Martin Worked with Red Hat to Improve F022 Raptor Fighter Jets, and Firefox 66.0.4 Released

      Linux kernel 5.1 is out. Linus Torvalds writes, “The past week has been pretty calm, and the final patch from rc6 is not all that big. The shortlog is appended, but it’s small changes all over. Networking, filesystem code, drivers, tooling, arch updates. Nothing particularly odd stands out. Of course, the shortlog below is just for that final calm week. On the whole, 5.1 looks very normal with just over 13k commits (plus another 1k+ if you count merges).” He also mentions the timing of the 5.2 merge window might be an issue for him: “I just happen to have the college graduation of my oldest happen right smack dab in the middle of the upcoming merge window, so I might be effectively offline for a few days there. If worst comes to worst, I’ll extend it to make it all work, but I don’t think it will be needed.”

    • Linux 5.1 Advances Performance and Security With New Features

      Linus Torvalds released the Linux 5.1 kernel update on May 5, providing users of the open-source operating system with new features that will help to improve performance, stability and security.

      The Linux kernel is at the core of any Linux-based operating system, providing drivers, CPU, storage, networking and memory enablement. In Linux 5.1, performance is enhanced via a new asynchronous I/O interface, as well as the ability to better use persistent memory as RAM. Security gets a boost in Linux 5.1 with the SafeSetID Linux Security Module (LSM).

      “On the whole, 5.1 looks very normal with just over 13k commits (plus another 1k+ if you count merges, which is pretty much our normal size these days,” Torvalds wrote in his 5.1 kernel release announcement. “No way to boil that down to a sane shortlog, with work all over.”

    • The Huge Linux 5.2 Kernel Merge Window Kicks Off

      Following last night’s release of Linux 5.1, the Linux 5.2 merge window is now open. There’s already been several pull requests sent in today that Linus is expected to begin acting on shortly.

      While Linux 5.1 was a nice and big upgrade, Linux 5.2 is already looking to be a much mightier kernel. There is a ton of work that will be found in Linux 5.2.

      A list of what we’ve been tracking is below and stay tuned to hear about whatever else lands over the next two weeks ahead. Sadly though it doesn’t look like WireGuard will be introduced in Linux 5.2. Other desired work on Radeon Navi support, Nouveau re-clocking for Maxwell+, Bcachefs, and other long WIP items are not coming with this kernel.

    • Linux Lite Users Are the First to Try Linux Kernel 5.1, Here’s How to Install It

      Linux Lite users are once again among the first to install the latest Linux kernel series on their personal computer, in this case the just released Linux 5.1 kernel.

      Linux kernel 5.1 arrived over the weekend as the first major update to the Linux 5.0 kernel series, adding numerous new features and a bunch of improvements. Highlights include preparations for year 2038, configurable Zstd compression levels for the Btrfs file system, as well as support for cumulative patches in live kernel patching.

      Additionally, Linux kernel 5.1 introduces the ability to use persistent memory as RAM in addition to the physical memory, support for booting a system to a device-mapper device bypassing initramfs, a new cpuidle governor called TEO (Timer Events Oriented), faster and scalable asynchronous I/O, and better file system monitorization.

    • Btrfs Gets Some Useful Fixes/Improvements With The Linux 5.2 Kernel

      There aren’t any real “features” for Btrfs in Linux 5.2 but some prominent fixes and improvements. Among the notable Btrfs changes for Linux 5.2 are more promptly catching errors before data is written to disk in order to catch potential memory corruption, a speed-up around the qgroups and metadata relocation code, a speed-up and less blocking around the FIEMAP ioctl, fsync’ing on files with many hardlinks is now faster, TRIM/Discard now skips unallocated chunks not touched since the last mount, other fixes around error handling, and a variety of other code improvements and bug fixes.

    • Intel Baytrail & Cherrytrail Systems Can Now Correctly Hibernate Again Under Linux

      Baytrail era systems have been a bit notorious on Linux but at least one recent regression is now resolved that for the past few kernel releases had broke hibernation support for Intel Baytrail and Cherrytrail SoC systems.

      Baytrail systems have seen a number of issues under Linux like random freezing on newer kernels, different peripherals not being punctually supported, some Bay Trail tablets having UEFI issues, etc. The latest Baytrail (and Cherrytrail) problem has been hibernation not working correctly since Linux 4.19~4.20.

    • Bad News! Windows 10 Will Soon Have a Real Linux Kernel

      The upcoming version of Windows 10 will feature a real Linux kernel in it as part of Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). In a way, this is a bad news for the growth of desktop Linux.

    • HID Updates Sent In To Linux 5.2 With U2F Zero Driver, Better Logitech Wireless

      The HID subsystem updates for the Linux 5.2 kernel have two changes in particular we have been eager to see merged.

      First, there is now a mainline U2F Zero driver developed by a Collabora developer. This libre hardware USB device provides two factor authentication possibilities and hardware RNG support.

    • Rewriting printk()

      The printk() function is a subject of much ongoing consternation among kernel developers. Ostensibly, it’s just an output routine for sending text to the console. But unlike a regular print routine, printk() has to be able to work even under extreme conditions, like when something horrible is going on and the system needs to utter a few last clues as it breathes its final breath.

      It’s a heroic function. And like most heroes, it has a lot of inner problems that need to be worked out over the course of many adventures. One of the entities sent down to battle those inner demons has been John Ogness, who posted a bunch of patches.

      One of the problems with printk() is that it uses a global lock to protect its buffer. But this means any parts of the kernel that can’t tolerate locks can’t use printk(). Nonmasking interrupts and recursive contexts are two areas that have to defer printk() usage until execution context returns to normal space. If the kernel dies before that happens, it simply won’t be able to say anything about what went wrong.

      There were other problems—lots! Because of deferred execution, sometimes the buffer could grow really big and take a long time to empty out, making execution time hard to predict for any code that disliked uncertainty. Also, the timestamps could be wildly inaccurate for the same reason, making debugging efforts more annoying.

      John wanted to address all this by re-implementing printk() to no longer require a lock. With analysis help from people like Peter Zijlstra, John had come up with an implementation that even could work deep in NMI context and anywhere else that couldn’t tolerate waiting.

    • Linux Foundation

      • Hyperledger Launches Hyperledger Iroha 1.0

        Hyperledger, a collaborative cross-industry effort created to advance blockchain technology, announced today the general availability of Hyperledger Iroha 1.0. Hosted by The Linux Foundation, Hyperledger Iroha is the fourth active Hyperledger project to reach 1.0, following Hyperledger Fabric, Hyperledger Sawtooth and Hyperledger Indy. Iroha is a distributed ledger project that aims to provide a development environment where C++ and mobile application developers can contribute to Hyperledger.

        [...]

        Windows support (experimental) — Hyperledger Iroha now natively runs on Windows, as well as in Linux and MacOS environments.

      • LF Networking Welcomes Loodse as Newest Member

        Linux Foundation Networking is pleased to welcome Loodse as its newest member! Loodse is focused on cloud-native technologies and Kubernetes. We spoke with Loodse CEO and Co-Founder Sebastian Scheele via email about the company’s business, its passion for open source and why they decided to join LF Networking. See below.

    • Benchmarks

      • Radeon RX 560/570/580 vs. GeForce GTX 1060/1650/1660 Linux Gaming Performance

        If you are looking to soon upgrade your graphics card for Linux gaming — especially with the increasing number of titles running well under Steam Play — but only have a budget of around $200 USD for the graphics card, this comparison is for you. In this article we’re looking at the AMD Radeon RX 560 / RX 570 / RX 580 against the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 / GTX 1650 / GTX 1660 graphics cards. Not only are we looking at the OpenGL/Vulkan Linux gaming performance both for native titles and Steam Play but also the GPU power consumption and performance-per-dollar metrics to help guide your next budget GPU purchasing decision.

      • Benchmarked: The Most Power-Efficient Ubuntu 19.04 Flavor Will Surprise You

        Many of us are using laptops as our daily driver, so a Linux desktop OS that sips power is always a blessing. Ubuntu 19.04 delivers a serious improvement in power efficiency over 18.10 (check out the benchmarks here), thanks in part to optimizations in GNOME 3.32. But what’s the most power efficient flavor of Ubuntu 19.04? After running a series of benchmarks via the Phoronix Test Suite and measuring system power consumption via the sys.power sensor, well, the answer surprised me. It’ll probably surprise you as well!

        After my experience with Xfce, I pegged that lean and lightweight desktop environment as the clear favorite. Certainly Xubuntu wins this contest, right? Or is there an underdog we should pay more attention to?

        Let’s jump into it.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Our 2019 Google Summer of Code Students

        Krita, part of KDE, takes part in the fourteenth edition of Google Summer of Code. Four students will be working on a wide variety of projects. Here’s the shortlist:

        Sharaf Zaman will be working on porting Krita to Android. In fact, he already has a port of Krita for Android that already starts on some devices! The port is still missing libraries, scripts to automate building the dependencies and Krita: the first goal of the project is have a dependable, reproducible way of building Krita for Android. Initially, we won’t do much if any work on a nice tablet GUI.

  • Distributions

    • New Releases

      • Freespire 4.8 Officially Released, Based on Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS

        The Freespire development team has announced the release of the Freespire 4.8 operating system, a free and open-source version of the controversial Linspire Linux operating system.

        Launched last year on August, the Freespire 4.x operating system series continues to be updated with new point releases, Freespire 4.8 being the latest in the series, packed with some of the latest software updates and security fixes. Freespire 4.8 is the latest version and it’s recommended for new installations.

        “Freespire is released bi-annually and showcases the best of the FOSS and KDE communities. Freespire is the best, most usable FOSS only based distribution in the world today,” said Roberto J. Dohnert. “While Freespire 4.8 is an incremental release, it has a ton of new features and enhancements that we normally reserve for a major release.”

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

    • Slackware Family

      • GCC 9.1.0_multilib for Slackware-current

        The GCC compiler suite in slackware-current got a major version bump last week in a dual update (the second update added the new ‘gcc-gdc’ package).
        GCC version went up from 8.3.0 to 9.1.0.

        I just uploaded the multilib version of the GCC packages, including that ‘gcc-gdc‘ package containing the new ‘D’ compiler.
        The set of ‘*compat32’ packages was also refreshed with the latest 32bit binaries from Slackware 14.2 and -current.

    • Fedora

      • Stories from the amazing world of release-monitoring.org #5

        The desk in the wizard tower was full of manuscripts, reports from workers and written complaints from outside entities (users). It was a long week. I waved my hand to add more light to this room. Simple spell that is helping me to concentrate.

        There was a figure in the door. “Come inside, traveler. I’m glad you are here. There are plenty of new things I want to share with you.”

        [...]

        Currently we allow only Restructured Partial Magic (RPM) way of sorting, which is not usable for every project out there.

        To prevent this in the future, we decided to teach two new ways of sorting to our workers. One is based on the time machine (calendar version scheme) and second on simple mathematics (semantic version scheme).

        First we started with the sorting based on the simple mathematics. This was really easy to do, because there is already a magic book (library) that contains everything we need. So it only took a few hours to teach the workers the spells.

        Much worse was the situation with time machine. Time machines have no strict standard, everybody can make their own. How we can work in this mess? After some thinking about this, we found a solution. We introduced the pattern for the time machine that will allow the outside entities (users) specify the configuration of the project’s time machine. To see how this works, look at the illustration bellow.

      • Lenovo Ideapad and Yoga laptops and wifi on/off switches

        Once upon a time a driver was written for the Lenovo Ideapad firmware interface for handling special keys and rfkill functionality. This driver was written on an Ideapad laptop with a slider on the side to turn wifi on/off, a so called hardware rfkill switch. Sometime later a Yoga model using the same firmware interface showed up, without a hardware rfkill switch. It turns out that in this case the firmware interface reports the non-present switch as always in the off position, causing NetworkManager to not even try to use the wifi effectively breaking wifi.

        So I added a dmi blacklist for models without a hardware rfkill switch. The same firmware interface is still used on new Ideapad and Yoga models and since most modern laptops typically do not have such a switch this dmi blacklist has been growing and growing. Just in the 5.1 kernel alone 5 new models were added. Worse as mentioned not being on the list for a model without the hardware switch leads to non working wifi, pretty much leading to any new Ideapad model not working with Linux until added to the list.

      • Fedora 30 – After install setup
    • Debian Family

      • Buster upgrade

        I upgraded my home server from Debian stretch to buster recently, which is something I normally do once we’re frozen: this is a system that was first installed in 1999 and has a lot of complicated stuff on it, and while I try to keep it as cleanly-maintained as I can it still often runs into some interesting problems. Things went largely OK this time round, although there were a few snags of various degrees of severity, some of which weren’t Debian’s fault.

        As ever, etckeeper made it much more comfortable to make non-trivial configuration file changes without fearing that I was going to lose information.

      • Debutsav Mumbai and itsfoss.com changes

        While I and a few members of Debian India has been trying to get a debutsav Mumbai happening, now we have the dates for the event as it was announced today on the mailing list. While there are definitely lot of things that would need to be done in order for a successful Debtusav to happen, at least we have got the dates so other things can get start moving.

      • Derivatives

        • Tails 3.13.2 is out

          This release is an emergency release to fix a critical security vulnerability in Tor Browser.

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Ubuntu 14.04 (Trusty Tahr) Reached End of Life, Upgrade to Ubuntu 18.04 LTS Now

            Released on April 17th, 2014, the Ubuntu 14.04 (Trusty Tahr) was an LTS (Long Term Support) version supported with security and software updates, as well as regular maintenance releases (the last one being Ubuntu 14.04.6, released on March 5th, 2019) for a total of five years, until April 25th, 2019, when Canonical announced the availability of the extended maintenance support.

            “Ubuntu 14.04 LTS basic support has ended. No more package updates will be accepted to the 14.04 primary archive, and any subsequent support will be done via Extended Security Maintenance,” said Adam Conrad in an email announcement. “Over the coming weeks, various images will be archived, and the primary archive will be copied to old-releases.”

          • Ubuntu 19.10 to Be Dubbed “Eoan Ermine,” Arrives on October 17th

            We already knew the first part of the codename of Ubuntu 19.10 as being “Eoan” when Canonical kicked off the development cycle and pushed the first daily builds, but we had no idea which animal that starts with the letter E the company decides to add to the upcoming operating system, and today is has been revealed as the “Ermine”.

            Ok, so what’s an Ermine you might ask? Well, according to the New World Encyclopedia, the Ermine is a common name given to a small, northern weasel called Mustela erminea. The Ermine is characterized by a long body with short legs, black-tipped and short tail, and a dark brown fur, but only in the summer months because it turns white in the winter.

          • Ubuntu 19.10 Is The “Eoan Ermine” Release
          • Anticipating Ubuntu 19.10 on May 2019

            Ubuntu 19.10 codenamed “Eoan” is supposed to be released next October this year. But in May we already can download the ISO image. It continues the previous names of Artful, Bionic, Cosmic, and Disco. And further we can also see the contents of that ISO without even downloading nor running it on our computer by just reading the corresponding manifest file. This short article is for new testers who want to see several information including the desktop, programs versions, and more. This way, it will be interesting for everybody to see and start test Eoan daily build ISO and further to help report issues to the developers.

          • The Fridge: Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter Issue 577
          • Web and Design team summary – 7 May 2019

            This was a fairly busy two weeks for the Web & design team at Canonical. Here are some of the highlights of our completed work.

          • Flavours and Variants

            • Linux Mint 17 Reached End of Life, Users Urged to Upgrade to Linux Mint 18 or 19

              Released on May 31st, 2014, the Linux Mint 17 operating system series was an LTS (Long Term Support) version that received security patches and software updates for five long years. It comprised of a total of four releases, including Linux Mint 17 “Qiana”, Linux Mint 17.1 “Rebecca”, Linux Mint 17.2 “Rafaela”, and Linux Mint 17.3 “Rosa”.

              The Linux Mint 17 series was based on the Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (Trusty Tahr) operating system series, which recently reached end of life. While Canonical is continuing to support Ubuntu 14.04 installations through its commercial ESM (Extended Security Maintenance) offering, Linux Mint 17 will no longer be supported with security or software updates.

            • Switch to Xubuntu 64-bit

              The development of technology makes many electronic devices become sophisticated. One of them is a computer. In 2000 and under, we could still find many computer devices with a CRT (Cathode-ray tube) monitor. And now, the item has become old school items. Same as computer devices that use 32-bit architecture. At this time some software developers only provide various applications for 64-bit systems and have left 32-bit.

              Sometimes, when I look for alternative applications from Windows to Linux, many developers only provide 64-bit. Even though at that time I used 32-bit Ubuntu. And this is one of the difficulties that may be felt by some people who still use computers that are classified as old, like mine.

              Finally, I decided to switch to a 64-bit system. Luckily even though my computer is included in the old production, the laptop processor that I have, supports the installation of 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems. When I write this article, I have used Xubuntu 64-bit. Xubuntu is one of the Linux distributions that I like, and they have also stopped support for 32-bit, starting from Xubuntu 19.04 until next.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Open Source–It’s in the Genes

    What happens when you release 500,000 human genomes as open source? This.

    DNA is digital. The three billion chemical bases that make up the human genome encode data not in binary, but in a quaternary system, using four compounds—adenine, cytosine, guanine, thymine—to represent four genetic “digits”: A, C, G and T. Although this came as something of a surprise in 1953, when Watson and Crick proposed an A–T and C–G pairing as a “copying mechanism for genetic material” in their famous double helix paper, it’s hard to see how hereditary information could have been transmitted efficiently from generation to generation in any other way. As anyone who has made photocopies of photocopies is aware, analog systems are bad at loss-free transmission, unlike digital encodings. Evolution of progressively more complex structures over millions of years would have been much harder, perhaps impossible, had our genetic material been stored in a purely analog form.

  • Widelands, the free and open source Settlers-like strategy game has a new major release up

    Widelands now has Build 20 available, the first major release in years with the last being way back in 2016.

  • There Are A Ton Of Interesting GSoC Projects This Year: Dav1d GPU Compute, Wayland, Rust

    Google announced the list of accepted students/projects this year for their annual Summer of Code program.

    This year the long list of accepted projects has some really interesting and high profile ideas. In going through the list, some of the ones that caught my interest included:

    - A Wayland application proxy to support forwarding Wayland protocol information and local shared memory updates over a socket.

  • The state of open source in South Korea

    Open source software is growing exponentially all around the world, and South Korea is a vital part of that trend. While most South Korean open source projects don’t get the international attention that projects from the Apache Foundation, the Linux Foundation, and similar organizations receive, they are making significant contributions to mobility, artificial intelligence, web technologies, and other areas.

    Samsung may be the best-known South Korean company working in open source, but Naver, Kakao, Coupang, and others are also writing important open source software and maintaining their projects on GitHub.

    I’m a US citizen, but I was born in South Korea, and I’m very passionate about helping my fellow Koreans through the Korean American IT Association (KAITA), which I founded and lead. In this article, I’ll share some of the exciting open source projects led by South Korean companies that you may want to explore.

  • Events

    • What to look forward to on Day 1 of Red Hat Summit [Ed: Red Hat "partners ranging from Delta Air Lines (Whitehurst's ex employer), Deutsche Bank (rogue bank), ExxonMobil (climate change denier), Microsoft (don't we love them?), and Volkswagen AG (Dieselgate)."]
    • How open source expands our possibilities

      It’s fascinating to see how the world continues to change around us. And it seems like the changes are coming faster than ever. Our annual Red Hat Summit has become a forum of sorts for me to hit the pause button and reflect on how far we’ve come—and where we still want to go.

      Looking back at the themes I’ve discussed over the past few years, I now recognize how we’ve been tracking the evolution in how people work. Three years ago, for example, I discussed the power of participation—about how people working together in an open, transparent way are more capable of solving problems.

      [...]

      The more people questioned what they saw, and the better and deeper their questions became. As a result, we moved from a world where we believed what we were told by higher authorities to one where conclusions were based on observation and experimentation. As Sir Francis Bacon, who is often credited as the father of The Scientific Method, so aptly put it: “If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts. But if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.”

      At the core of The Scientific Method is an insatiable curiosity about the world we see around us. It’s a methodology for asking why things work the way they do, then learning through experimentation and trial-and-error. It’s a shift from deductive to inductive reasoning—from top-down to bottom-up thinking. It’s about freedom to explore what might be possible—beyond the limits any higher authority might try to impose.

    • My summary of the OpenStack Stein Infrastructure Summit and Train PTG aka Denver III

      My summary of the OpenStack Stein Infrastructure Summit and Train PTG aka Denver III
      This was the first re-combined event with both summit and project teams gathering happening in the same week and the third consecutive year that OpenStack has descended on Denver. This is also the first Open Infrastructure summit – the foundation is expanding to allow other non openstack projects to use the Open Infrastructure foundation for housing their projects.

      This is a brief summary with pointers of the sessions or rooms I attended in the order they happened. The full summit schedule is here and the PTG schedule is here.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Firefox 66.0.4 released

        Firefox 66.0.4 is now available as a free download for Windows, Mac OS
        X, GNU/Linux, and Android from http://www.mozilla.org/firefox/new/.

        We recommend that users keep up to date with the newest version of
        Firefox for the latest features and fixes.

        This release repaired certificate chain to re-enable web extensions

        https://blog.mozilla.org/addons/2019/05/04/update-regardi…

        that had been disabled.

      • Armagadd-on redux: Certificate expiration caused Firefox to disable all add-ons

        On Friday, the expiration of a Mozilla certificate used to check the signatures of add-on codes in Firefox desktop and Android Web browsers caused a nearly universal failure of Firefox plug-ins and extensions as browsers detected them as invalid and disabled them.

        The bug, dubbed “armagadd-on 2.0,” was addressed by a hot-fix issued over the weekend, and a new version of the browser has been pushed out to some users. But users of the Android and Extended Support Release do not yet have a fix, and the workaround may not help them.

        This isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened with Firefox. The original “armagadd-on” happened almost exactly three years ago, on May 2, 2016, when an expired certificate caused signature verification errors for add-ons.

      • Mozilla issues new Firefox update to fix add-ons problems and warns users not to try dubious workarounds

        Mozilla has pushed out Firefox 66.0.4, properly addressing a problem that prevented add-ons from working in the web browser.

        On Friday, an expired security certificate caused frustration and confusion for Firefox users as extensions were disabled and rendered unusable. Having delivered a patch through its Studies system (which did not work for everyone), Mozilla has now issued a browser update which it says will fix the problem for more people, although it warns that “there are remaining issues that we are actively working to resolve”.

      • Firefox add-ons disabled en masse after Mozilla certificate issue

        An expired certificate on the Mozilla Add-ons infrastructure is disabling Firefox add-ons for millions of users, and is also preventing users from re-activating or (re-)installing extensions.

        The issue doesn’t impact all Firefox users, but it impacted enough to trigger a massive surge of complaints on Twitter, Reddit, and other social media sites.

      • Firefox 66.0.4 Released To Address The Broken Add-Ons Issue Due To Expired Certificate

        After a long weekend, Mozilla has released Firefox 66.0.4 to address the glaring omission on Friday that led to most browser add-ons getting disabled due to an expired certificate used for signing these plug-ins.

        Firefox 66.0.4 is available this afternoon and has a new certificate in place so it should restore support for all the browser add-ons that expired at midnight on Friday. There have been workarounds to disable the signing check and Mozilla began pushing out an updated certificate on Saturday, but Firefox 66.0.4 is for those using distribution/OS packages of Firefox that don’t see automatic updates, etc.

      • Firefox users unable to use extensions due to certificate expiry

        Firefox users have had all the extensions they use in their browser disabled due to the expiry of an intermediate signing certificate a few days ago. They have also been unable to download and use any new extensions.

        And Mozilla, its parent organisation, appears to be using the situation to get Firefox users to enable an option within the Preferences that will “Allow Firefox to install and run studies”.

      • Mozilla Releases Firefox 66.0.4 for PCs and Android to Fix Major Add-Ons Issue

        Mozilla released today the fourth maintenance update to the latest Firefox 66.0 “Quantum” web browser series to address a major issue preventing all types of extensions from running or being installed.
        On May 3rd, Mozilla was made aware of a critical bug in the latest Firefox 66.0.3 release of its popular web browser for desktops and mobile platforms, which apparently prevented new and existing add-ons, themes, search engines, and language packs from being installed or run.

        Mozilla immediately took action and pushed a temporary fix via OTA (Over-the-Air) updates to all users on desktop platforms, which includes Linux, macOS, and Windows systems, for all available channels (Stable, Beta, and Nightly), urging users not to delete their installed add-ons.

        Firefox ESR and Firefox for Android users where affected too, but Mozilla couldn’t patch the issue without releasing a new version, which comes today as Firefox 66.0.4 and Firefox 60.6.2 ESR, repairing the broken certificate chain and re-enable add-ons that had been disable.

        Some users of Firefox on certain Linux-based operating system where affected as well and couldn’t receive the said patch until new versions are made available by the maintainers of their GNU/Linux distributions via the official software channels. Mozilla recommends to install Firefox 66.0.4 as soon as it’s available in your repositories.

      • The Firefox EU Elections Toolkit helps you to prevent pre-vote online manipulation

        What comes to your mind when you hear the term ‘online manipulation’? In the run-up to the EU parliamentary elections at the end of May, you probably think first and foremost of disinformation. But what about technical ways to manipulate voters on the internet? Although they are becoming more and more popular because they are so difficult to recognize and therefore particularly successful, they probably don’t come to mind first. Quite simply because they have not received much public attention so far. Firefox tackles this issue today: The ‘Firefox EU Election Toolkit’ not only provides important background knowledge and tips – designed to be easily understood by non-techies – but also tools to enable independent online research and decision-making.

      • Matthew Noorenberghe: Password Manager Improvements in Firefox 67

        There have been many improvements to the password manager in Firefox and some of them may take a while to be noticed so I thought I would highlight some of the user-facing ones in version 67…

      • Firefox 67 Beta 16 Testday Results

        As you may already know, last Friday May 3rd – we held a new Testday event, for Firefox 67 Beta 16.

        Thank you all for helping us make Mozilla a better place: Rok Žerdin, Fernando Espinoza, Kamila Kamciatek.

      • Firefox armagg-add-on: Lapsed security cert kills all browser extensions, from website password managers to ad blockers

        On Friday, Mozilla detected a great disturbance in its Firefox browser, as if millions of voices had cried out on social media in annoyance.

        Every single web extension, theme, search engine plugin, and language pack had been nuked from netizens’ Firefox installations, stripping any data and settings associated with them as they were removed.

        For example, in a post on Hacker News, Rosser Schwarz, who works with databases, lamented how the add-on annihilation lost work stored in the Firefox container add-on.

        “I did not merely ‘lose some tabs’; those, I could just re-open,” he said. “I lost work. That data, effort, and time are gone.”

        The source of the trouble was identified in a bug report as the expiration of an intermediate signing certificate, which is used to authenticate third-party Firefox add-ons, also known as extensions. With the cert’s unanticipated demise, Firefox stopped allowing these add-ons to run or be installed.

      • Firefox extensions APIs fail to completely clear browsing data

        While I was working on Clear Browsing Data I have learned about several browser bugs that may render some Firefox extensions that focus on user privacy unreliable.

        The browsingData API in Firefox does not properly remove data, enabling sites to track users that rely on extensions to clear browsing data. Removing certain data types can also lead to side effects and data loss.

  • SaaS/Back End

    • My summary of the OpenStack Train PTG aka Denver III

      This was the first re-combined event with both summit and project teams gathering happening in the same week and the third consecutive year that OpenStack has descended on Denver. This is also the first Open Infrastructure summit – the foundation is expanding to allow other non openstack projects to use the Open Infrastructure foundation for housing their projects.

      This is a brief summary with pointers of the sessions or rooms I attended in the order they happened. The full summit schedule is here and the PTG schedule is here.

    • Running networking labs over Kubernetes with Antidote

      I’ve just come across Antidote a recent project that intends at running networking-oriented labs over Kubernetes. It is developped by members of the Network Reliability Engineering community (Juniper-related, AFAIU), to power the NRE Labs platform.

      It looks very similar to other platforms that allow you to run labs remotely in consoles opened on cloud machines, alongside lab instructions.

      I find it interesting as the code is published under FLOSS license (Apache), and seems to be runable over any Kubernetes installation: you can test it with Minikube through the selfmedicate repo.

    • [SUSE] Kubernetes – the not so secret ingredient to enterprise success

      Five years ago, the word Kubernetes rang familiar to no one. Fast forward to today and it’s become one of the most well-known container management systems across the globe. Its popularity has grown so much that it’s been recently declared the leading system in the “war for container orchestration dominance” by Forrester in its 2018 cloud predictions.

      As it stands, almost 4,000 organisations across the world use Kubernetes, and CIOs within every industry consider it to be the management system of choice – especially when dealing with DevOps. It has seen such success that many of the major cloud providers, such as Microsoft and Amazon, have integrated it into their application infrastructure.

    • Configure On-Premise Cloud Environments In Minutes

      Mirantis has launched a web-based SaaS application to help users deploy a compact cloud and experience the flexibility and agility of Infrastructure-as-Code. Model Designer for Mirantis Cloud Platform (MCP) is said to help infrastructure operators build customized, curated, exclusively open source configurations for on-premise cloud environments.

  • LibreOffice

    • Release of LibreOffice 6.1.6

      The Document Foundation announces LibreOffice 6.1.6, the 6th minor release of the LibreOffice 6.1 family, targeted to users in production environments. This is a more mature version of the software which includes some months of back-ported fixes.

      LibreOffice 6.1.6’s change log pages, with a list of bug and regression fixes, are available on TDF’s wiki: https://wiki.documentfoundation.org/Releases/6.1.6/RC1 (changed in RC1) https://wiki.documentfoundation.org/Releases/6.1.6/RC2 (changed in RC2) and https://wiki.documentfoundation.org/Releases/6.1.6/RC3 (changed in RC3).

      LibreOffice users are invited to join the community at https://ask.libreoffice.org, where they can get and provide user-to-user support. While TDF can not provide commercial level support, there are guides, manuals, tutorials and HowTos on the website and the wiki.

    • LibreOffice 6.1 Reaches End of Life on May 29, Upgrade to LibreOffice 6.2 Now

      LibreOffice 6.1.6 is now available for Linux, Windows, and Mac platforms, coming three months after the release of LibreOffice 6.1.5 back in February when The Document Foundation launched the latest LibreOffice 6.2 office suite series. It’s a maintenance update that includes a total 57 bug fixes for various of LibreOffice’s components.

      “This is a more mature version of the software which includes some months of back-ported fixes,” said Italo Vignoli in a press release. “Organizations looking for an enterprise class application backed by support and service level agreements (SLA) should source a LibreOffice LTS (Long Term Supported) version from those TDF Advisory Board members.”

  • CMS

    • Enough of WordPress

      Ctrl blog have been on a month long break while I’ve been migrating the entire website away from WordPress. This has been the longest break without an update since I launched the blog six years ago. I’ve never been super-happy about using WordPress and the number of paper cuts and annoyances had finally reached my limit. I wanted to get away from WordPress before I lost the enthusiasm for blogging.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • Funding

    • Outreachy Summer 2019 Participants & Projects Announced

      In addition to Google announcing the accepted GSoC 2019 summer projects, the Outreachy organization on Monday also announced their accepted participants and projects for this internship effort that encourages women and other under-represented groups in technology to get involved in the open-source movement.

  • Licensing/Legal

    • April 2019 License-Discuss Summary

      Antoine Thomas asks whether a contributor would be able to revoke/remove their contributions from a project, and how this would affect old versions of a project.

      Kevin Fleming responds that legitimately provided open source licenses are not revocable, but that a project might honor a request out of courtesy.

      Brendan Hickey points out that copyright law may provide special revocation rights, e.g. 17 USC §203. And even without revocation, a contributor could make life difficult for users.

    • April 2019 License-Review Summary

      Van Lindberg submits his Cryptographic Autonomy License (CAL) to the review process. This is a network copyleft license, but with a broader scope than the AGPL. The CAL is motivated by ensuring user autonomy in blockchain-based applications. Lindberg has also written an in-depth blog post that serves as a rationale document. Last month, there had already been preliminary discussion about the license on the license-discuss list (see the summary).

      [...]

      Pamela Chestek provides a careful analysis of unclear language in the license.

      Henrik Ingo is concerned that the anti-DRM provision might not be effective, which leads to some comparisons with the GPLv3 [1,2,3,4].

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

  • Programming/Development

    • PyDev of the Week: Joel Grus

      This week we welcome Joel Grus (@joelgrus) as our PyDev of the Week! Joel is the author of Data Science From Scratch: First Principles with Python from O’Reilly. You can catch up with Joel on his website or on Github. Let’s take some time to get to know Joel better!

    • An Introduction to Functional Programming with Python

      Many Python developers are unaware of the extent to which you can use functional programming in Python, which is a shame: with few exceptions, functional programming allows you to write more concise and efficient code. Moreover, Python’s support for functional programming is extensive.

      Here I’d like to talk a bit about how you can actually have a functional approach to programming with our favorite language.

    • This Programming Tool Makes It Easier for Apps to Work Anywhere

      But Docker cofounder Solomon Hykes believes the technology he built the company around will soon be eclipsed by a newer technology for building portable applications known as WebAssembly, or “WASM” for short. Hykes and others think WASM is a faster and more secure alternative to traditional containers. Had WASM been around in 2008 when Hykes and company built Docker, they “wouldn’t have needed” to create Docker, Hykes tweeted in March. “That’s how important it is.”

      Hykes, who stepped down as CTO of Docker last year but is still on the company’s board, isn’t exactly a neutral party. He’s an investor in a WASM-focused startup called Wasmer. And he quickly followed his initial tweet to say Docker might someday support WASM applications. Docker did not respond to a request for comment.

    • Linux C Programming tutorial part 27 – Array of structures
    • How to swap two variables in Python
    • Top 10 Open Source Projects To Follow On GitHub [Ed: Analytics India Magazine continues its usual lunacy, which is promoting the false perception that FOSS does not exist or does not count unless or until Microsoft and the NSA control it]
    • Ensure consistency in your Python code with flake8
    • How C array sizes become part of the binary interface of a library
    • How to Empty an Array in JavaScript
    • How to Use sorted() and sort() in Python
    • Fedora 30 : Kite now works with Linux.

      The development team comes with these new features for this Linux tool named Kite:
      Code Faster in Python with Line-of-Code Completions Kite integrates with your IDE and uses machine learning to give you useful code completions for Python. Start coding faster today.
      This tool integrates with all the top Python IDEs – Atom, Pycharm, Sublime, VS Code and Vim.

    • An eBPF overview, part 4: Working with embedded systems

      In part 1 and part 2 of this series we looked at the inner-workings of the eBPF Virtual Machine, and in part 3 we studied the mainstream way of developing and using eBPF programs on top of the low-level VM mechanisms.

      In this part we’ll look at projects taking different approaches, attempting solutions to some of the unique problems faced by embedded Linux systems, like requiring very small custom OS images which can’t fit a full BCC LLVM toolchain/python install or trying to avoid maintaining both a cross-compilation (native) toolchain for host machines and a cross-compiled target compiler toolchain, together with their associated build logic which is non-trivial even when using advanced build-systems like OpenEmbedded/Yocto.

    • Collabora & GStreamer 1.16

      The much-anticipated GStreamer 1.16 release is now live. Many new features were added by the community during the year-long development cycle, and we would like to highlight some of our team’s contributions that we’re especially proud of.

      This release continues Collabora’s long-standing focus on giving embedded developers the tools they need to gain deeper insights into their pipelines and extract maximum performance from their hardware.

    • Zope Spring Cleaning: Last minute information

      As the beta permission of Earl Zope in Python 3 wonderland was extended in October 2018, gocept invites Zope developers to the upcoming sprint from 08.05. till 10.05.2019 in Halle (Saale), Germany, to continue together on the work, which is still left.

      We aim to polish the last dusty spots on Earl Zope for the final permission to Python 3 wonderland aka the final 4.0 release. As Plone and other applications based on Zope have finally found a way to migrate a ZODB Data.fs created with Python 2 to Python 3, the obstacles for this final permit are almost gone.

    • Daniel Stenberg: live-streamed curl development

      For the fun of it. I work alone from home most of the time and this is a way for me to interact with others.

      To show what’s going on in curl right now. By streaming some of my development I also show what kind of work that’s being done, showing that a lot of development and work are being put into curl and I can share my thoughts and plans with a wider community. Perhaps this will help getting more people to help out or to tickle their imagination.

    • KDAB now offers standalone on-site Git training

      KDAB’s training portfolio now includes a dedicated on-site training class about the version control system Git. The Git training material has been a supplemental chapter in our other on-site training offerings for quite a while. Given the recent rise in interest in this chapter we’ve reorganized, updated and extended the course. It now covers the latest changes in Git and most recent Git workflows out there.

      This one-day training class provides a comprehensive introduction into modern software development with the code version control system Git. Beginning with the basic concepts, all the fundamental topics to manage code bases in Git will be covered.

      Building on that, it expands into strategies for common workflows in software development life cycles and introduces options for collaboration on large scale or widely distributed projects.

    • Python Bytes: #129 Maintaining a Python Project when it’s not your job
    • Excellent Free Books to Learn about Clojure

      Clojure is a dialect of the Lisp programming language. It’s a well-rounded language. It offers broad library support and runs on multiple operating systems.

      Clojure is a dynamic functional general purpose programming language that runs on the Java platform, combining the approachability and interactive development of a scripting language with an efficient and robust infrastructure for multi-threaded programming. Clojure features a rich set of immutable, persistent data structures, first-class functions and dynamic typing. Clojure programs are composed of expressions and written in terms of abstractions.

      By compiling into JVM bytecode, Clojure applications can be easily packaged and deployed to JVMs and application servers without added complexity. The language also provides macros which make it simple to use existing Java APIs. Clojure’s data structures all implement standard Java Interfaces, making it easy to run code implemented in Clojure from Java.

      There’s lots of other good reasons to learn Clojure. It offers a modern take on Lisp. There’s an excellent parser library, and a fully featured logic engine. In Clojure, immutability is the default. Once an object or data structure is created, it cannot be changed. There are no variables.

      Clojure currently ranks 46th in the TIOBE Index.

      Your starting point to learn Clojure is the official documentation. But here’s 8 free books that will help you master this language.

    • Check type annotations in Python with mypy

      Python is one of the most popular programming languages in use today—and for good reasons: it’s open source, it has a wide range of uses (such as web programming, business applications, games, scientific programming, and much more), and it has a vibrant and dedicated community supporting it. This community is the reason we have such a large, diverse range of software packages available in the Python Package Index (PyPI) to extend and improve Python and solve the inevitable glitches that crop up.

      In this series, we’ve looked at seven PyPI libraries that can help you solve common Python problems. Today, in the final article, we’ll look at mypy “a Python linter on steroids.”

    • Hacking The Government With The USDS

      The U.S. government has a vast quantity of software projects across the various agencies, and many of them would benefit from a modern approach to development and deployment. The U.S. Digital Services Agency has been tasked with making that happen. In this episode the current director of engineering for the USDS, David Holmes, explains how the agency operates, how they are using Python in their efforts to provide the greatest good to the largest number of people, and why you might want to get involved. Even if you don’t live in the U.S.A. this conversation is worth listening to so you can see an interesting model of how to improve government services for everyone.

    • Cavium ThunderX2 getting significant performance boost as glibc optimizations inbound

      Optimizations are coming to the GNU C Library (glibc) for Cavium’s ThunderX2 Arm-powered server CPU, as a recent commit changes the behavior of MEMMOVE in glibc 2.30, expected for release around the start of August. The commit, according to Cavium developer Steve Ellcey, provides improvements of “about 20-30% for larger cases and about 1-5% for smaller cases,” and uses “SIMD load/store instead of GPR for large overlapping forward moves.”

      Differences in how SIMD (Single Instruction, Multiple Data) instructions are handled between Intel and Arm architectures—where the instruction type is called NEON—have been a primary pain point to adopting Arm-powered processors for servers. Cloudflare, which uses (now discontinued) Qualcomm Centriq servers, has worked on optimizing open-source applications in its technology stack for Arm architectures, and has published its results (and code) publicly.

    • Solving problems with virtualenvwrapper using mismatched python versions
    • Updated Statement About Our Relationship with DataCamp

      We apologize for our poor communications about our response to the DataCamp sexual misconduct incident. We support the victims and we understand this has been a painful and ongoing struggle for them. We also recognize that for underrepresented groups, experiences of harassment and discrimination are far too common.

      We deeply regret that we did not provide enough context in our communications, and that our word choice contributed to confusion about our position. We want to correct that now.

    • Tryton Release 5.2

      We are proud to announce the 5.2 release of Tryton. This is the first minor release which means that it will be supported for 1 year only.

      As usual the migration from previous series is fully supported. Some manual operation may be required, see Migration from 5.0 to 5.2.

Leftovers

  • The Anniversary Waltz

    Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, the saying goes, but as you get older, milestone years become more significant and resonant, especially if your own memories of them remain vivid.

    Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the mindboggling and tumultuous events of 1968, from the Tet offensive in Vietnam and the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy to the tumultuous Democratic National Convention in Chicago and the election of Richard M. Nixon.

    Now we’re marking the 50th for the happenings of 1969, and while they may not all be as turbulent as those of ’68, it still was the pivotal year of Woodstock and the moon landing, Chappaquiddick and the Manson murders, the Stonewall riots – just three blocks from where I’m writing this – and the Vietnam Moratorium when hundreds of thousands marched and rallied to demand an end to a useless deadly war.

    This year also marks the 50th anniversaries of the late Kurt Vonnegut’s great antiwar novel, Slaughterhouse Five, and my college newspaper, The Georgetown Voice. Understandably, you may not see any connection between those last two, but in my own little universe there is. Read on.

    The Voice began at Georgetown in 1969 when a gang of smart, articulate, witty kids, reprobates and rebels did something unheard of – swimming against the tide of the university establishment and creating an new publication out of nothing but talent, desire, a commitment to truth and a heartfelt embrace of good times.

    Its creation was a shot across the bow of the existing campus paper, The Hoya, which the Voice founders believed had become too narrowly focused on school goings on while ignoring the issues behind the riots and demonstrations igniting in Washington just blocks from the university’s front gates. The fire was right next door and the military draft was breathing down many of our necks. The Hoya was covering intramural field hockey and cafeteria news. On the college grounds, copies of it were burned in protest.

    I wasn’t present at the creation when the Voice was born. I arrived at Georgetown a few months after the inaugural issue and had my initial Voice byline in April 1970, just after the paper’s first anniversary. The piece was an account of the very first Earth Day march and rally in DC, headlined, “Hey, Get Your Earth Day Button,” the first of a series of features and reviews I wrote for the Voice.

  • Science

    • Evil Video Games Great At Detecting Early Dementia In People

      We cover a fair amount of video game news here, with much of it revolving around either intellectual property concerns or the common claims that video games are responsible for all the world’s ills. The latter posts can be separated into two categories: one in which the violence in games is blamed for violence in the real world and one in which those who do not enjoy the medium blaming games for producing young people who those same people decide are deficient in some way.

      It’s enough to make you think there are really only two camps. One camp thinks video games are evil in all of the possible ways. The other camp thinks video games are great in all of the possible ways. But this isn’t how the real world works. Like any other artistic medium, some products are good, some are not. Some are wholesome or thought-provoking, while others are empty calories. Even the notion that video games are solely an artistic or entertainment medium is a false premise, as demonstrated by a recent use of gaming to help identify Alzheimer’s Disease before serious symptoms show up.

    • A Video Game Developed To Detect Alzheimer’s Disease Seems To Be Working

      Sea Hero Quest is a video game developed in partnership with Germany’s Deutsche Telekom, game studio Glitchers and several European universities and it is designed to identify individuals who might have early and mild symptoms of dementia that medical tests aren’t able to detect.

      When most folks think of Alzheimer’s disease they think of an illness that ruins a person’s memory. But while memory problems are very common and severe with Alzheimer’s disease, these are late-stage symptoms. Researchers and doctors want to catch the disease as early as possible, before memory loss occurs, to give future treatments the best chance at working.

  • Hardware

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Crisis-Afflicted Humanity is like an Alzheimer’s Patient Lost in the Forest

      In the historical context of colonialism, this madness takes the form of all that derives from the predatory gaze driving private accumulation in terms of the colonisation of human subjectivity, not least in terms of the poisonous effect of addiction to (and lust over) money and the power associated with great fortunes. The fact that this madness is normalised within the framework of a collective psychosis does not make it one bit less insane; mental illness is to the delusions of individuals, after all, what normality is to the delusions of groups. In the current context, this means trying to fix the terminal crisis of human civilisation created by the institutions that frame the world we live in with the institutions that frame the world we live in. In reality, however, treating madness with madness just produces greater madness, and trying to fix the terminal crisis of human civilisation created by the institutions that frame the world we live in with the institutions that frame the world we live in further entrenches the exploitative social relations that cook the world in reducing it to an infinite resource and infinite garbage dump.

      [...]

      ‘If the end is not contained within the means,’ wrote Walter Benjamin, ‘then the end becomes unattainable.’ Benjamin made this observation in light of the fact that means, not ideals real or professed, determine outcomes. Means determine outcomes for two reasons: because actions speak louder than words, and because, as Lord Acton noted in his history of the French Revolution, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The reversal of cause and effect in the colonial-driven madness that produced the conditions and social relations that underpin the climate crisis is reflected in the impossibility of treating climate change as a ‘problem’ that can be ‘fixed’ by politics-as-usual with ‘new and improved environmental sustainability’ tacked on. This approach reflects a basic confusion of causality that treats the climate crisis as the problem and politics-as-usual minus ‘environmental sustainability’ as the symptom. In reality climate crisis is the symptom and the root problem that needs addressing are the social relations that gave rise to the climate crisis in the first place. As a fact, this has always been true; as a world of Alzheimer’s sufferers wandering around in the forest of historical amnesia, we have only forgotten.

    • Bernie Sanders Takes on Monsanto, Big Ag Monopolies With Plan to ‘Revitalize Rural America’

      During a campaign stop in Iowa on Sunday, Bernie Sanders unveiled an ambitious plan to take on agriculture behemoths like Bayer-Monsanto and ensure rural communities have the necessary resources to thrive “economically and ecologically.”

      Sanders’s proposals, collectively titled “Revitalizing Rural America,” would break up agribusiness monopolies with “Roosevelt-style trust-busting laws,” reform patent laws to protect farmers from the predatory practices of agribusiness corporations, and pass national legislation to allow farmers to repair their own equipment.

    • Germany’s health minister proposes a $2,790 anti-vaxxer charge

      Germany, like the US, is facing a resurgence of measles. But the country’s health minister isn’t taking things lightly.

      Health minister Jens Spahn is proposing a blanket fine for any parents of unvaccinated children. The fine runs up to €2,500 ($2,790). He also suggests banning unvaccinated children from all kindergarten and daycare facilities to protect those who are too young to vaccinate and those with medical conditions that prevent them from being vaccinated.

      In an interview published over the weekend, Spahn explained that immunization is a “social responsibility,” adding that “measles vaccinations save human suffering. We protect ourselves and others.”

    • Tyson Recalls Almost 12 Million Pounds of Chicken Strips After 3 Injured by Metal Fragments

      Tyson Foods is recalling nearly 12 million pounds of frozen chicken strips after three people reported they were injured by metal fragments in the strips, CNN reported Saturday.

      The recall expands on a March 21 recall of 69,093 pounds of frozen, ready-to-eat chicken products, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service said in its Saturday recall announcement. The company is now recalling an additional 11,760,424 pounds over concerns they may be contaminated with pieces of metal.

    • Almost 12 million pounds of Tyson chicken strips have been recalled because they might have metal

      Tyson Foods has significantly expanded a recall of its chicken strips over concerns that some might be contaminated with pieces of metal, federal food safety officials said Friday.

      The recall now affects more than 11.8 million pounds of frozen, ready-to-eat chicken strip products that were shipped nationwide, up from more than 69,000 pounds when the recall initially was issued in March, the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said in a statement.
      The expansion comes after three of six people who complained about finding pieces of metal in certain Tyson products also said they suffered an injury in their mouth, the agency said.

    • Burger King’s ‘Impossible’ Whopper Has No Beef — Does This Make It Healthy?

      Today, Burger King, the second largest burger chain in the United States, announced it will offer an Impossible Whopper — a vegetarian version of their flagship sandwich at outlets nationwide by the end of the year.

      The new veg-friendly option uses a patty from Impossible Foods, a California-based startup that develops plant-based alternatives for meat. Despite the switcheroo and new green paper wrapper, BK wants consumers to know that the sandwich is still 100% Whopper, despite the lack of beef.

      Burger King isn’t the first fast-food chain to roll out new vegetarian options based on innovative developments in the world of plant-based alternatives to meats — but it’s by far the largest to date.

      Carl’s Jr. began offering a Beyond Famous Star in January of this year — a vegetarian version of their famous sandwich that uses a plant-based patty from Beyond Meat, an Impossible Foods competitor.

    • Sanders Calls for Breaking Up Big Agriculture Monopolies

      Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Sunday proposed a sweeping agriculture and rural investment plan to break up big agriculture monopolies and shift farm subsidies toward small family farmers.

      “I think a farmer that produces the food we eat may be almost as important as some crook on Wall Street who destroys the economy,” Sanders said during a campaign event in Osage, a town of fewer than 4,000 people. “Those of us who come from rural America have nothing to be ashamed about, and the time is long overdue for us to stand up and fight for our way of life.”

      Sanders’ plan expands on themes that have been central to his presidential campaign in Iowa since the start, including his emphasis on rural America and pledge to take on and break up big corporations.

    • ‘Equity-Centric’ Bill to Legalize Recreational Marijuana Introduced by Illinois Dems

      Illinois’s Democratic governor and state lawmakers unveiled legislation over the weekend to legalize recreational marijuana for residents aged 21 and older, expunge roughly 800,000 drug convictions, and establish a $20 million low-interest loan program to help “social equity applicants” enter the licensed cannabis industry.

      Gov. JB Pritzker detailed the bill’s provisions at an announcement event at the office of the Black United Fund of Illinois in Chicago Saturday.

      “We are taking a major step forward to legalize adult use cannabis and to celebrate the fact that Illinois is going to have the most equity-centric law in the nation,” said the governor.

    • The Birth-Tissue Profiteers

      How well-meaning donations end up fueling an unproven, virtually unregulated $2 billion stem cell industry.

      Their shoulders and backs and knees were giving out. Pills and steroid injections hadn’t eased their pain. They were scared of surgery. So, one afternoon last October, two dozen men and women, many of them white-haired, some leaning on canes, shuffled into a meeting room at Robson Ranch, a luxury retirement community in Denton, Texas. Sipping iced tea and clutching brochures that promised a pain-free tomorrow, they checked off their ailments on a questionnaire.

      They were there to see a presentation by Dr. David Greene, who was introduced as a “retired orthopedic surgeon.” Atlas Medical Center, a local clinic that specializes in pain treatment, hosted the event. Greene, a short, trim man with his hair slicked up, ignored the stage and microphone and stood close to his audience. After warming up the crowd with a joke about his inept golf skills, Greene launched into his sales pitch. A tiny vial no larger than the palm of his hand, he told the group, contains roughly 10 million live stem cells, harvested from the placenta, amniotic fluid, umbilical cord or amnion, the membrane that surrounds the fetus in the womb. Injected into a joint or spine, or delivered intravenously into the bloodstream, Greene told his listeners, those cells could ease whatever ailed them.

      On a screen behind him, Greene displayed a densely printed slide with a “small list” of conditions his stem cell product could treat: arthritis, tendinitis, psoriasis, lupus, hair loss, facial wrinkles, scarring, erectile dysfunction, heart failure, cardiomyopathy, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, emphysema, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, ALS, neuropathy, pelvic pain, diabetes, dry eye, macular degeneration, kidney failure. And that was just a sample. “I need to add a couple more slides,” Greene said with a laugh.

  • Security

    • Towards an Information Operations Kill Chain

      On a similar note, it’s time to conceptualize the “information operations kill chain.” Information attacks against democracies, whether they’re attempts to polarize political processes or to increase mistrust in social institutions, also involve a series of steps. And enumerating those steps will clarify possibilities for defense.

      I first heard of this concept from Anthony Soules, a former National Security Agency (NSA) employee who now leads cybersecurity strategy for Amgen. He used the steps from the 1980s Russian “Operation Infektion,” designed to spread the rumor that the U.S. created the HIV virus as part of a weapons research program. A 2018 New York Times opinion video series on the operation described the Russian disinformation playbook in a series of seven “commandments,” or steps. The information landscape has changed since 1980, and information operations have changed as well. I have updated, and added to, those steps to bring them into the present day: [...]

    • Reproducible Builds in April 2019

      As a quick recap, whilst anyone can inspect the source code of free software for malicious flaws, almost all software is distributed to end users pre-compiled. The motivation behind reproducible builds effort is to ensure no flaws have been introduced during this compilation process by promising identical results are always generated from a given source, thus allowing multiple third-parties to come to a consensus on whether a build was compromised.

    • 3 Opensource Tools for DAST

      DAST or Dynamic Application Security Testing is a method of black-box penetration testing. To understand why DAST is preferred over SAST, let’s take an example. Let’s assume you bought a new car, and you are ready for a test drive. You start the engine, it works, but when you try to stop the vehicle, the brake doesn’t work. You now know that you have a problem, you don’t know what it is, but there is a problem. The DAST approach will comprise of testing the brakes and related parts whereas the SAST approach will completely disassemble the car to look for a flaw. Although, SAST approach might look more precise at the same time is very overwhelming, but on the other hand, the DAST approach is more practical and real-world.

    • Security updates for Monday
    • Spectre/Meltdown Mitigations Can Now Be Toggled With Convenient “mitigations=” Option

      Beginning with the Linux 5.2 kernel, it will be easier to disable Spectre, Meltdown, and other CPU vulnerability mitigations if you prefer maximum performance out of your system instead.

      Queued up for Linux 5.2 is the easier/more convenient switches for these CPU vulnerabilities, principally Spectre/Meltdown at this point.

      Up to this point there hasn’t been a global switch for toggling the Spectre/Meltdown/L1TF workarounds but that is what’s finally materialized thanks to Red Hat’s Josh Poimboeuf.

    • New Exploits for Unsecure SAP Systems
    • Wired for Safety: Cybersecurity professionals in demand

      We desperately need more cybersecurity professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 28% increase in the need for cybersecurity professionals by 2021. In 2016, they estimated that there were 100,000 jobs open and Cyberseek suggests there were over 313,000 online job listings between 2017 and 2018.

    • How Does Ransomware Work (And Is It Still A Threat)? [Ed: All ransomware exploits or relies on inherently insecure systems, or those with back doors, like all the proprietary software operation systems (where part of the design is intentional insecurity)]

      Threats come and go, but one thing remains the same: the ability of cybercriminals to adapt to circumstances. A brief decline of interest in ransomware as criminals focused their attention on cryptojacking during the previous year appears to have come to an end, and ransomware attacks are once again escalating.

      In this post, we’ll explain what ransomware is, how it spreads, how prevalent it is and what you can do to protect yourself against it.

    • Google Releases Android Security Patch for May 2019, Includes 30 Security Fixes
    • Huawei Hypocrisy

      Theresa May almost certainly sacked Gavin Williamson not just on the basis of a telephone billing record showing he had a phone call with a Telegraph journalist, but on the basis of a recording of the conversation itself. It astonishes me that still, after Snowden and his PRISM revelations, after Wikileaks Vault 7 releases, and after numerous other sources including my own humble contribution, people still manage to avoid the cognitive dissonance that goes with really understanding how much we are surveilled and listened to. Even Cabinet Ministers manage to pretend to themselves it is not happening.

      The budget of the NSA, which does nothing else but communications intercept, is US $14.2 billion this year. Think about that enormous sum, devoted to just communications surveillance, and what it can achieve. The budget of the UK equivalent, GCHQ, is £1.2 billion, of which about 10% is paid by the NSA. Domestic surveillance in the UK has been vastly expanded and many taboos broken. But the bedrock of the system with regard to domestic intercepts is still that legal restrictions are dodged, as the USA’s NSA spies on UK citizens while the UK’s GCHQ spies on US citizens, and then the information is swapped. It was thus probably the NSA that harvested Williamson’s phone call, passing the details on. Given official US opposition to the UK employing Huawei technology, Williamson’s call would have been a “legitimate” NSA target.

      Mass surveillance works on electronic harvesting. Targeted phone numbers apart, millions of essentially random calls are listened to electronically using voice recognition technology and certain key words trigger an escalation of the call. Williamson’s call discussing Huawei, China, the intelligence services, and backdoors would certainly have triggered recording and been marked up to a human listener, even if his phone was not specifically targeted by the Americans – which it almost certainly was.

    • Georges Basile Stavracas Neto: Restricting users

      Imagine for a second that you are in an elementary school. The leadership is optimistic on exposing students to technology. They have set up big rooms with rows and rows of computers ready for their students to use.

      Would you give complete permissions to these teenagers using the computers? Would you allow them to install and uninstall programs as they wish, access any website they feel like, use for as much time they want?

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Behind the U.S. Labeling of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a Terrorist Organization

      It can be readily demonstrated that the proffered U.S. justifications for labeling Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization are no more than harebrained excuses designed to put further pressure on the Iranian people in pursuit of its long-standing policy of regime change from within. Indeed, it can reasonably be argued that, in light of the fact the U.S. has repeatedly terrorized many peoples and nations in various parts of the world, its designation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization represents an ironic case of the pot calling the kettle black.

      Considering the fact that between 25 and 30 percent of the Iranian economy is owned and/or operated by the Revolutionary Guards, sanctioning of the organization’s economic activities, especially its foreign trade, is bound to further depress Iran’s economy and, hence, its people’s living conditions. Combined with the economic mismanagement of President Rouhani’s administration, the U.S. economic war on Iran has provided fertile grounds for discontent and anger among the masses of the Iranian people who suffer from the crushing impact of U.S. sanctions, on the one hand, and the Rouhani government’s economic mismanagement, on the other.

      In pursuit of its long-standing strategy to bring Iran back into the orbit of its client states in the region, the U.S. has consistently employed two destabilizing tactics. The first is to exert enough pressure on Iran to force its rulers to submit to its will and stop resisting its geopolitical designs in the region. This is called “behavior change without regime change.” The second tactic, applied in case of the failure of the first, is to wield enough economic pressure on the Iranian people to incite them to rebellion in pursuit of regime change from inside.

    • Will the U.S. Start a War Against Iran?

      On Sunday, May 5, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton announced that the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force had begun to make their way from the Mediterranean Sea toward the coastline of Iran. Iran, Bolton said, had made “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings.” He was, characteristically, not specific. It was enough that Bolton—who has a history of making hazardous statements—had made these comments from the perch of the White House in Washington, D.C. “The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime,” he said rather incredulously. After all, what is the arrival of a massive war fleet on the coastline of a country but a declaration of war?

      On his way to Europe, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the “indications and warnings” included actions by the Lebanese political formation Hezbollah. Once more, Pompeo said he would give no evidence. “I don’t want to talk about what underlays it.”

      The journey of the USS Abraham Lincoln through the Red Sea comes as the U.S. government tries to tighten its sanctions regime against Iran. Any country that buys Iranian oil, the United States now says, will be liable to have sanctions placed against it. The five countries most vulnerable to further U.S. sanctions are China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Turkey. India, Japan, and South Korea have said that they would try and abide by the new, and harsh, U.S. sanctions. China and Turkey have made it clear that they will not follow the U.S.’ lead.

    • U.S. Rushes Ships to Middle East Over Unspecified Iran Threats

      The U.S. is rushing an aircraft carrier and other military resources to the Middle East after seeing Iranian troops and proxy forces making preparations for attacks against U.S. forces and interests in the region, a defense official told The Associated Press.

      At the White House, National Security Adviser John Bolton said Sunday night that the U.S. was deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command region, an area that includes the Middle East. In a statement, he said the move was in response to “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings,” but did not provide more details.

      The request would get the ships into the region two weeks earlier than initially planned, according to the defense official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly so spoke on the condition of anonymity.

      The Abraham Lincoln and its strike group of ships and combat aircraft have been operating in the Mediterranean Sea recently. Bolton’s reference to the Central Command area would mean the Lincoln is headed east to the Red Sea and perhaps then to the Arabian Sea or the Persian Gulf, which would take several days.

    • ‘Itching for a War,’ Bolton Threatens Iran With ‘Unrelenting Force’ as US Bombers Deployed to Middle East

      The United States, said Bolton, “is deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command region to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”

      Foreign policy analysts and international observers were quick to point out that the Lincoln Strike Group’s deployment was announced nearly a month ago—a fact critics highlighted as further evidence that Bolton is willing to use any and every opportunity to move the U.S. closer to war with Iran.

      According to The Guardian, the U.S. “withdrew its B-1 bombers from the Middle East in March for maintenance and upgrades amid concerns the bomber force was over-stretched. While such changes in global deployment are made regularly, it is rare for the announcement of such deployments to be made by a national security advisor rather than the Pentagon.”

      “Bolton wants war. He will do any provocation to get war,” tweeted Trita Parsi, founder of the National Iranian American Council.

    • How the airline, the airport, and the authorities refrained from naming the number of fatalities in Moscow’s airplane fire: A timeline

      Russia’s Investigative Committee announces that a criminal case has been opened “with regards to the emergency landing of a passenger plane.” The case was opened in accordance with a statue that applies when two or more people are killed. “At the moment, investigators are releasing information about one fatality and four people who have requested medical aid,” a press release from the Investigative Committee indicates. That clarification appears in the newsreels of Russian wire services after 8:00.

    • ‘Everyone’s trying to believe that their friends and relatives are still alive’. How passengers’ relatives coped in the hours following Sunday’s catastrophic airplane fire in Moscow

      On the evening of May 5, a Sukhoi Superjet 100 airplane bound for Murmansk from Moscow turned back and made an emergency landing: the plane, owned by the Russian airline Aeroflot, had lost its radio connection. A fire soon broke out on board, though its cause has yet to be determined: some have suggested that a lightning strike sparked the fire while the plane was still in the air, while others suspect that the fire was triggered by landing gear components that flew into the engine during an unsuccessful landing. 78 people were on board the flight. Russia’s Health Ministry announced that 38 survived; the country’s Investigative Committee put that number at 37. Meduza special correspondent Kristina Safonova spent the night in Sheremetyevo with the passengers’ relatives. Some of them waited several hours for news about their loved ones but ultimately received the information they needed only from the media.

    • Pompeo, in Finland, Calls China Claims to Arctic ‘Lawlessness’

      America is once again taking aim at China—this time in the Arctic.

      That’s according to remarks delivered by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Finland Monday. Pompeo, leading a State Department delegation in the Scandinavian country for meetings with the Arctic Council, said in a speech that the North Pole region must be protected from “lawlessness.”

      The council comprises the U.S., Russia, Finland, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. China has had an observer status since 2013.

      The secretary’s comments appeared aimed primarily at Russia and China, according to reporting from Politico, with “special emphasis on Chinese behavior.”

      “Do we want the Arctic Ocean to transform into a new South China Sea, fraught with militarization and competing territorial claims?” Pompeo asked the council.

      A defense official from U.S. European Command, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Stars and Stripes that they found the threat posed by China to American interests in the Arctic concerning. The official cited Chinese purchases of disused mines in Greenland as part of a push that appears aimed at using economic power to develop access to the North Pole.

      “Why is China buying a mine that hasn’t been productive in 30 years,” the official said. “What is the point in China purchasing that mine?”

      The motivation may be to legitimatize Chinese claims in the Arctic—claims that Pompeo flatly rejected.

      “Beijing claims to be a near-Arctic state, yet the shortest distance between China and the Arctic Circle is 900 miles,” said Pompeo. “There are only Arctic states and non-Arctic states. No third category exists; and claiming otherwise entitles China to exactly nothing.”

      The Arctic has long been a place of conflict between Russia and the U.S. And as climate change continues to open up the frozen region, military conflicts will become more likely.

    • State Duma deputy apologizes and calls press conference after shooting blanks into the air in a residential neighborhood

      Dmitry Ionin, a State Duma deputy from the Fair Russia party, fired several times into the air from a machine gun in the courtyard of a residential building in Kamyshlov, a city in Sverdlovsk Oblast. A video of the incident taken from the window of one of the surrounding buildings appeared on the Internet on May 4. At first, Ionin said “an acquaintance fired a toy gun” in his presence, but he later admitted to shooting the disarmed weapon himself.

    • Treating Gun Violence ‘As the Epidemic That It Is,’ Cory Booker Wins Praise for Sweeping Gun Control Plan

      National gun control groups and progressives offered praise on Monday for Sen. Cory Booker’s proposal “to end the gun violence epidemic,” with some advocates calling the plan the most ambitious of any gun control action plan offered by the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.

      The New Jersey Democrat detailed his plan in a Medium post, saying that meaningful gun control reform is a matter of making justice “a reality for all.”

      “My plan to address gun violence is simple—we will make it harder for people who should not have a gun to get one,” Booker said in a statement. “I am sick and tired of hearing ‘thoughts and prayers’ for the communities that have been shattered by gun violence.”

    • Cory Booker’s Gun Control Plan Calls for National Licensing Program

      Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey rolled out a broad plan on Monday that seeks to combat gun violence through measures including a gun licensing program and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

      Aspects of Mr. Booker’s 14-part plan are among the most progressive gun-control measures suggested by a candidate seeking the Democratic nomination for president and are likely to face sharp criticism from gun-rights advocates like the National Rifle Association.

    • Ex-Blackwater CEO Erik Prince Makes a Comeback Under Trump Selling Mercenary Armies Around the World

      The House Intelligence Committee has sent a criminal referral to the Justice Department for Erik Prince, founder of the mercenary firm Blackwater. House Democrats are accusing Prince of lying to Congress during his November 2017 testimony before the Committee, when he described a meeting in the Seychelles with a Russian banker before Donald Trump’s inauguration as a chance encounter. According to the Mueller report, the meeting was an attempt to establish a backchannel between the incoming Trump administration and Russia, and may have been arranged by the Trump team. The move is one of the latest actions placing Erik Prince in the spotlight after more than a decade of largely working in the shadows after Blackwater shut down. In a major new report, The Intercept looks at Prince’s latest actions, including his pitch to privatize the war in Afghanistan; his creation of a mercenary army for the United Arab Emirates; a history of mismanaged projects that have soured his relationships with leaders around the world; and his comeback, made possible with the help of the Trump administration. We speak with Matthew Cole, the investigative journalist who wrote the story. It’s titled “The Complete Mercenary: How Erik Prince Used the Rise of Trump to Make an Improbable Comeback.”

    • From Madero to Maduro in Latin America

      A little more than 100 years ago, Mexico had a very popular president who was well-loved and had been democratically-elected, named Francisco Madero.

      Determined to reduce foreign influence and the obscene profits that were extracted from the country, Madero wanted to raise the standard of living of his people.

      The financial interests of Wall Street rejected such projects by the president of a country that was within its hegemonic sphere. It then orchestrated a military coup against him and made sure that he was brutally murdered.

      Journalist and researcher Martin Sieff — in the January 21 edition Strategic Culture Foundation (Fundación de Cultura Estratégica)website– starting from the orthographic similarity of the surnames Madero and Maduro, clarifies that the president of Mexico to whom he refers is not in any way related to the Bolivarian and Chavista leader Nicolás Maduro, President of Venezuela, but the parallels and contrasts between the two men motivate consideration.

      Francisco Madero, the idealistic reformist leader who ruled Mexico as President from 1911 to 1913, did not have the political acumen and common sense shown by the Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro.

      Madero naively relied on the commander in chief of the army, General Victoriano Huerta, whom he had inherited from his predecessor, President Porfirio Diaz,. Throughout the 35 years of Diaz’s government, from 1876 to 1911, Huerta had carried out a series of genocidal campaigns against the Yaqui and Mayan natives.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Julian Assange: An Opportunity for the US and the UK to Change Direction on Press Freedom

      May 3 was World Press Freedom Day. The annual observance usually focuses on the World Press Freedom Index published each year by Reporters without Borders. Break out the champagne! The United States ranked 48th of 179 countries this year, falling three places from 2018.

      A day earlier, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared in court in London (the United Kingdom ranked 33rd on the Index this year) to contest his proposed extradition to the United States. He faces spurious US “hacking” charges framed to avoid taking official notice of the indisputable fact that his actual “crimes” consist entirely of engaging in journalism.

      Not a good World Press Freedom Day look for the UK or the US. But the plodding pace of the UK’s judicial system — his next hearing comes at the end of May, a second one is scheduled for mid-June, and the matter may drag on for months — offers an opportunity to turn things around and get them moving in the right direction.

      Reporters Without Borders postures as politically neutral, but their current ranking of the US is largely based not on a deterioration in actual press freedom, but rather on US president Donald Trump’s big mouth. He says mean things — some true, some false, some downright stupid — about the media.

      Trump could redeem himself on the press freedom front, essentially wiping the slate clean, by pardoning Assange for all alleged “crimes” committed prior to May 1st, 2019.

    • Disproportionate Sentences: Julian Assange, Bail, and Extradition

      Should journalism ever have a deity worth His, Her or Its salt, looking down upon the recent proceedings against Julian Assange will provide endless choking fits of confusion and dismay. The prosecution continues in the twisted logic that engaging a source to disclose something secret while also protecting anonymity is somehow unnatural in the world of journalism. Most prosecutions in this regard tend to be ignorant of history and its various contortions; theirs is to simply fulfil the brief of a vengeful employer, in the now, in the falsely clear present. If their reasoning could be extended, the likes of those in press land would spend far more time in prisons than out of them.

      The savagery being meted out to Assange is evident by receiving the maximum sentence for skipping bail. Fifty weeks may not seem like much in the scheme of things, but when you consider relative punishments, it smacks of a certain state vindictiveness. What the decision also ignores is the entire context of Assange’s escape to the Ecuadorean embassy in 2012. Since then, Britain has abandoned that beastly instrument known as the European Arrest Warrant, the Swedish allegations against him for sexual assault have been withdrawn and he, importantly, was found to be living in conditions of arbitrary detention by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

      The refusal to take the decision of the UN Working Group seriously has been a hallmark of British justice, one skewed in favour of handing out to Assange the worst treatment it can find. In 2016, the body, chaired by Seong-Phil Hong, found that “various forms of deprivation of liberty to which Julian Assange has been subjected to constitute a form of arbitrary detention.” The Working Group further maintained “that the arbitrary detention of Mr. Assange should be brought to an end, that his physical integrity and freedom of movement be respected, and that he should be entitled to an enforceable right to compensation.”

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Ralph Nader’s Note To the Environmental Community

      In 2003, political strategist Frank Luntz wrote a confidential Republican Party memo on what he called “the environmental communications battle.”

      In that memo, Luntz advised Republicans to change the words they used to meet their ends. “The scientific debate is closing but not yet closed,” he wrote. “There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science,” Luntz proposed using the phrase “climate change” instead of “global warming.” His reasoning: ”…while global warming has catastrophic communications attached to it, climate change sounds a more controllable and less emotional challenge.”

      Like it or not, Frank Luntz had a point. When I was growing up in New England, “climate change” meant the changing of the seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter.

      Today, in the midst of increasingly alarming scientific studies and giant storms, the necessary response has been diminished by this widely-accepted softening of the words we use to describe the dangerous reality that stands before us. Language matters!

      I recently reached out to two leading and widely respected ecologists, Paul Hawken and Bill McKibben, to get their input on the mainstream usage of the benign phrase “climate change.” McKibben now uses the far more potent phrase “climate chaos.” Hawken believes the proper term is “climate volatility.”

    • Climate Crisis Forces Us to Ask: To What Do We Devote Ourselves?

      During the times when I’m being as emotionally honest with myself as I’m capable — when I truly ponder the idea that this industrialized version of our species may well have already baked enough warming into Earth’s life-supporting biosphere that all of us may very well be on the way out — I feel at a total loss as to what to do.

      From that point of numbness, my life force begins to ask, “What next, then?” Cycling through this process for years since I’ve been reporting on the climate crisis, and most intensely during the research and field trips for my book The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption, circumstances (namely my own grief and despair) have inevitably forced me into contending with my emotions.

      I’ve learned, through a lot of pain and struggling, that the only way forward is to allow myself to deeply feel and express the fear, rage, shock, panic, sadness, anxiety and despair. Only then can I move into a place of taking some of the deep breaths which accompany acceptance of the grave situation at hand.

      [...]

      Each day I wake and begin to process the daily news of the climate catastrophe and the global political tilt into overt fascism. The associated trauma, grief, rage and despair that come from all of this draws me back to the work of Stan Rushworth, Cherokee elder, activist and scholar, who has guided much of my own thinking about how to move forward. Rushworth has reminded me that while Western colonialist culture believes in “rights,” many Indigenous cultures teach of “obligations” that we are born into: obligations to those who came before, to those who will come after, and to the Earth itself.

      Hence, when the grief and rage threaten to consume me, I now orient myself around the question, “What are my obligations?” In other words, “From this moment on, knowing what is happening to the planet, to what do I devote my life?“

      Each of us must ask ourselves this question every day, as we face down catastrophe.

    • ‘Ominous’ UN Report Warns Human Activity Has Pushed One Million Plant and Animal Species to Brink of Extinction

      Conducted by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and released Monday, the report warned that species extinction rates are “accelerating” at an “unprecedented” rate due to the human-caused climate crisis and economic activity.

      “The overwhelming evidence of the IPBES Global Assessment, from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents an ominous picture,” Sir Robert Watson, chair of the IPBES, said in a statement. “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health, and quality of life worldwide.”

      While the report’s findings—compiled by a team of hundreds of experts from 50 nations—are dire and cause for serious alarm, Watson said, there is still a window for action.

      “It is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global,” said Watson. “Through ‘transformative change,’ nature can still be conserved, restored, and used sustainably—this is also key to meeting most other global goals. By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic, and social factors, including paradigms, goals, and values.”

    • Offshore Oil Drilling Safeguards
    • Anti-Protest Legislation Is Threatening Our Climate

      We only have about a decade to reverse course on the climate crisis. Activism opposing fossil fuel pipelines is needed more than ever. But activists are facing threats to their right to protest in state legislatures across the country. Lawmakers are introducing legislation to restrict the right to protest. These bills are often modeled on resolutions drafted by companies and passed through groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the secretive group of corporate lobbyists trying to rewrite state laws to benefit corporations over people, and are usually supported by law enforcement groups. Advocates are fighting back, urging elected officials to vote against these bills. But even the mere introduction of these bills has the power to chill speech and curtail activism.

      The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law has been tracking these bills where you can see nearly 100 have been introduced, so far.

    • Orangutans, Coal, Climate and Resistance: The 13 Best Environmental Books of May

      Looking for something new to read? We’ve got you covered. Here are our picks for the best environmentally themed books of May 2019 — and it’s quite a collection, with 13 new titles about a pioneering conservationist, the history of water woes in California, the dirty legacy (and future) of coal, and even the psychology of climate change.

    • Amsterdam Plans to Ban All Non-Electric Vehicles by 2030

      The city of Amsterdam announced a plan Thursday to ban all diesel and gas cars and motorbikes by 2030 in an effort to curb air pollution, Reuters reported.

      “Pollution often is a silent killer and is one of the greatest health hazards in Amsterdam,” Amsterdam Traffic Councillor Sharon Dijksma said, explaining the decision.

    • City of Amsterdam to ban polluting cars from 2030

      Gasoline and diesel fueled cars and motorcycles will be banned from Amsterdam from 2030 in an effort to clean up the city’s air, the Dutch capital’s council said on Thursday.

      “Pollution often is a silent killer and is one of the greatest health hazards in Amsterdam,” said the city’s traffic councillor, Sharon Dijksma.

      Despite the widespread use of bicycles by many Dutch, air pollution in the Netherlands is worse than European rules permit, mainly due to heavy traffic in the cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

      The health ministry has warned that current levels of nitrogen dioxide and particle matter emissions can lead to respiratory illnesses, with chronic exposure shortening life expectancy by more than a year.

    • Cyclone Fani Kills at Least 38, Leaves Hundreds of Thousands Homeless in India and Bangladesh

      The powerful cyclone made landfall Friday morning near the Eastern Indian town of Puri with the strength of a category 3 hurricane, according to AccuWeather. The storm did major damage to the town, felling trees, blowing off roofs and destroying power lines, Reuters said. At least 38 people have died in Odisha, 25 of them in the Puri district, The Times of India reported Sunday. Another dozen people died when the storm moved on to Bangladesh as a tropical depression Saturday, AFP reported.

      “Six people died after they were hit by falling trees or collapsed walls, and six have died from lightning,” Bangladeshi disaster official Benazir Ahmed told AFP.

    • India cyclone kills at least 33, hundreds of thousands homeless

      At least 33 people were killed after cyclone Fani struck the state of Odisha on Friday but a million people emerged unscathed after they moved into storm shelter ahead of landfall.

      The death toll could have been much greater if not for the massive evacuation in the days before the storm made landfall, officials said.

      The seaside temple town of Puri, which lay directly in the path of Fani, suffered extensive damage as winds gusting up to 200 kph (124 mph) tore off tin roofs, snapped power lines, and uprooted trees on Friday.

      “The cyclone has killed 21 people in Puri and about 300 people are injured,” Brajabandhu Dash, medical officer at Puri, told Reuters. Earlier, 12 deaths were reported from other parts of the state.

    • Marine microbes may fuel ocean warming

      US scientists say marine microbes are the cause of yet another potentially positive feedback that could accelerate global warming.

      As the oceans warm, marine microbial life might start to pump yet more carbon dioxide into the air. This process would of course increase the greenhouse gas levels still further and warm the oceans to increasing temperatures.

      The finding is a reminder that the atmosphere, oceans, ice caps, rocks, algae, bacteria and forests are all intricate parts of the planetary climate machinery, and researchers still have a long way to go before they understand all the working parts in detail. But it is also a reminder that every small rise in planetary average temperatures in some way feeds back into this complex system.

      The new study, based on analysis of data gathered during a research cruise in 2013 from Peru to Tahiti, is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    • Silent Spring’s Encore

      Rachel Carson’s famous and brilliant book Silent Spring (1962), which literally ignited the environmental movement, has never been more relevant than it is today.

      [...]

      Thereafter, Silent Spring turns non-fiction as it informs its reading public, i.e., the radicalized Sixties, that 500 new chemicals “… annually find their way into actual use in the U.S. alone to which the bodies of men and animals are required somehow to adapt each year, chemicals totally outside the limits of biologic experience.”

      Thus, Carson is renown for single-handedly exposing the death throes of biota via DDT exposure, fertilizers and pesticides. She rang the biggest, loudest clarion bell ever to hit the chemical industry, post industrial revolution. To wit: Industrialization at full tilt GDP and lickety-split suburbia were dealt a thud to the head by Silent Spring’s exposé.

      In Essence, Silent Spring exposed capitalism’s thirst for unabashed growth, bringing in its wake chemicals necessary to clear, and open, pathways for unrelenting growth, but, along the way killing the proverbial golden goose, ecosystems that support life, an upshot of unchecked usage of chemicals, still true to this day, although more so.

    • When Losing Your Soil Means Losing Your Livelihood

      In Niger, where agriculture is the main source of income, the message is simple: Losing your soil means losing your livelihood. The ability to grow food is inextricably linked to the productive capacity of the soil. In the case of Niger’s soil, the picture is bleak: The soils hold poor structural stability, low nutrient holding capacity, low water retention capacity… the list goes on.

      Niger lies in one of the hottest regions in the world: The Sahel. Rainfall is short and unpredictable and Nigeriens face chronic water scarcity. In addition to the limited productive capacity of the soil, the Sahel has been plagued by soil degradation. Wind erosion, the main cause of soil loss, sees suspended soil particles travel thousands of miles in hazardous dust storms.

      Soil degradation is instigated by climatic factors and compounded by anthropogenic factors. High temperatures trigger high evaporation rates, which cause the soil to form impenetrable surface crusts that rain cannot penetrate. Extreme rainfall events thus lead to flooding and the erosion of topsoil, the only horizon (the scientific term for a soil layer) with mildly productive capacities. Human land use has further aggravated the problem of soil erosion.

      Niger exhibits one of the world’s highest population growth rates. Between 1960 and 2018, the capital, Niamey, has grown from a population of 30,000 to one of 1.2 million. The resulting agricultural intensification has led to the conversion of natural, woody savannahs to cultivated lands. Overgrazing and the loss of vegetation cover has reduced soil fertility and spurred soil loss. The situation is bound to worsen with climate change and the intensification of the hydrological cycle.

    • Why biodiversity loss hurts humans as much as climate change

      They are the tireless stewards of the air, water and land from which we live. But the millions of species whose toil underpins our prosperity are gravely endangered by human activity, scientists say — and that imperils us in turn.
      Biodiversity loss is as big a threat to humans as climate change, said UN biodiversity chief Robert Watson last week at a conference in Paris to release a landmark report on global biodiversity and ecosystems.
      “The continuing loss of biodiversity will undermine our ability for poverty reduction, food and water security, human health and the overall goal of leaving nobody behind.”
      The report, the first of its kind since 2005 and published today by the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), warns of grave consequences to humanity from mass die-offs and degradation of nature. Drawing together the work of more than 400 experts, it paints a bleak picture of a world in which essentials such as food and drinking water are endangered through species and ecosystem decline.
      The unprecedented and accelerating deterioration of nature in the past 50 years has been driven by changes in land and sea use, exploitation of living beings, climate change, pollution and invasive species, the report found. These five drivers are, in turn, underpinned by societal behaviors ranging from consumption to governance.
      In a blow to human progress, damage to ecosystems undermines 35 of 44 UN sustainable development targets for poverty, hunger, health, water, cities climate, oceans and land, the authors found.
      Diplomats from 130 nations gathered in Paris last week to agree on the final wording of the report’s summary for policymakers.

    • Humanity Is About to Kill 1 Million Species in a Globe-Spanning Murder-Suicide

      Human beings are more prosperous and numerous than we’ve ever been, while the Earth’s other species are dying off faster than at any time in human history.

      These two conditions are related. But if the second one persists long enough, we will be following our fellow organisms into the dustbin of geological history.

      This is the primary takeaway from a new United Nations report on our planet’s rapidly diminishing biodiversity. Humanity is reshaping the natural world at such scale and rapidity, an estimated 1 million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, according to the U.N. assessment. Climate change is a major driver of all this death, but burning fossil fuels is far from our species’ only method of mass ecocide. We are also harvesting fish populations faster than they can reproduce themselves, annually dumping upward of 300 million tons of heavy metals and toxic sludge into the oceans, introducing devastating diseases and invasive species into vulnerable environments as we send people and goods hurtling across the globe, and simply taking up too much space — about 75 percent of the Earth’s land, and 85 percent of its wetlands, have been severely altered or destroyed by human development.

    • Democrats Demand White House Hand Over Documents on Trump’s “Abominable” Hurricane Response in Puerto Rico

      The letter (pdf) to the White House—led by House Oversight Committee chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.)—accuses Republicans of stonewalling Democratic requests for Puerto Rico records in 2017 and 2018, when the GOP controlled the House.

      “Republicans actively blocked all Democratic requests over the past two years while President Trump heaped scorn on the very people who lost thousands of their loved ones,” reads the letter.

      The House Democrats called on the White House to turn over all documents and communications related to hurricane assessments, preparation, and response in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

      The request was signed by every Democratic member of the House Oversight Committee, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.).

      In their letter to FEMA, Democrats requested—among other documents—”communications regarding mass graves found in Puerto Rico” in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

      A Harvard study published last year estimated that Hurricane Maria may have killed as many as 6,000 people.

    • Democratic Elite Could Care Less About the Life of the Party

      Much has been written about the effect of Donald Trump in transforming the Republican Party over the past three years. The upcoming Democratic primary will illustrate the effect he had in changing the Democratic Party over the same time period. Trump has turned Obama’s Democratic Party into one in which the ideological playing field is much wider than before the 2016 elections.

      The 2016 Republican primary proved how little credibility GOP leaders had with their rank-and-file voters. The 2020 Democratic primary will do the same for Democrats.

      Trump widened the Democrats’ ideological playing field by humiliating its establishment with his victory in 2016, when it sold the candidacy of Hillary Clinton to its base by touting her supposed electability. More importantly, Trump has transformed the party by convincing its progressive base that there is no future for centrist politics in a country whose middle class is shrinking and whose working class is being pauperized.

      What is important to understand is that the current contradictions between both sets of party leaderships and their voters is not as much about issues and ideology as it is about who has won and who has lost the economic and cultural struggles of the past 40 years. This divide is the most revealing fact of American life in our era.

      Despite the vehemence of the fight between the elites of both parties, they have a lot more in common with each other than they would ever care to admit to their respective political bases. Life for the political elites on all levels has been very good and is getting better. Their children go to the same private schools and rarely serve in the endless wars their parents keep extending, while the political elites graduate from public office and join law firms and lobbying shops that make them millions.

      At the same time, the ever-more expensive campaigns in the post-Citizens United world have made the entire election industry of consultants, pollsters and pundits on both sides very rich, no matter how reckless, incompetent or mediocre so many of them have been proved to be.

    • “The Pact for a Green New Deal”: Visionary Roadmap From Canadian Coalition Launched

      A broad Canadian coalition representing scores of groups unveiled a visionary roadmap on Monday for a Green New Deal that tackles the climate crisis as well as social and economic justice.

      The unprecedented changes in society necessary to rein in global warming, according to organizers of the new effort, are also “an unprecedented opportunity to build justice and prosperity.”

      That opportunity is laid out in The Pact for a Green New Deal.

      The effort was launched at press conferences in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver Monday—the same day a bleak report from the United Nations detailed how the human-caused climate crisis and economic activity have pushed pushed up to a million plant and animal species to the brink of extinction.

      As of Sunday, organizers say, the pact has been backed by 67 organizations, including Indigenous Climate Action, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, The Leap, and Climate Action Network – Réseau action climat Canada.

      Dozens of noted Canadian individuals are supporting the effort as well, including musicians Rufus Wainwright and Neil Young, scientists David Suzuki and Christina Hoicka, and actors Evangeline Lilly and Cobie Smulders.

    • Humans drive sixth mass extinction wave

      About one million of the world’s animal and plant species are now at risk of extinction − the largest number in human history ever to be facing the threat of oblivion, scientists say. Many species could be wiped out within decades. And their plight is caused by humans, and will inevitably affect us too.

      The warning was delivered by a British scientist, Professor Sir Robert Watson, chair of the UN’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), speaking in the French capital, Paris.

      He told an IPBES meeting held to approve the summary of its new global assessment report on the state of life on Earth that the implications for human life were grave. The overwhelming evidence gathered in the assessment presented “an ominous picture. The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever.

    • Green Party’s Amelia Womack responds to major UN warning on environmental collapse

      Responding to the major UN report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (1), just issued, which concludes that we are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide, Amelia Womack, deputy leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, said:

      “We are today pursuing policies that are trashing the planet. As the UN report highlights, the threat isn’t just climate change, we are also seeing a collapse in biodiversity and bioabundance. That’s particularly acute in Britain, where nature is in desperate straits.

    • Teaching Kids About Climate Science Leads to More Climate-Concerned Parents on Right and Left, New Study Finds

      Educating kids about climate change can help their parents learn too, a scientific study published today in the journal Nature Climate Change concludes — even when parents initially doubted that climate change was cause for concern.

      “This study tells us that we can educate children about climate change and they’re willing to learn, which is exciting because studies find that many adults are resistant to climate education, because it runs counter to their personal identities,” said Danielle Lawson, lead author and a Ph.D. student at North Carolina State University. “It also highlights that children share that information with their parents, particularly if they’re given tools to facilitate communication — and that parents are willing to listen.”

  • Finance

    • Fighting Childhood Hunger in Baltimore

      On Sunday morning, April 28, 2019, two splendid organizations, MOD Pizza and Generosity Feeds, teamed up, and with the help of hundreds of spirited volunteers, held an event to feed the hungry children in our city. It was staged in Locust Point, at the Francis Scott Key School (P.S. 76), on Fort Avenue in Baltimore, only a short distance from historic Fort McHenry.

      The energetic volunteers were able to pack “10,000 meals” for the poor within a time slot of 9:30 a.m. & 10:30 a.m. This was only the first part of the day-long program.

      Another team of volunteers would replicate their laudable efforts between 11:30 a.m and 12:30 p.m. It was an assembly line type of operation and the organizers took time to carefully prep the participates how to manage. To witness the young children engaging in this noble effort, with their family members, friends and neighbors by their sides, was, indeed, a joy to behold.

      When the food packages are collected, the final number – “20,000 meals” – will be forwarded primarily to another fine organization, “The Maryland Food Bank,” for distribution to the poor of our city, plus to other groups.

      The event’s sponsors estimate that about “60 percent of children in Baltimore struggle with food insecurity.” This is a shocking and disgraceful number in a land of plenty.

    • Capitalism Has Failed Immigrants. Can Worker Cooperatives Do Better?

      Long presumed to be dead, the once foundational ethos known as the “American Dream” is exhibiting new signs of life — except this time around it looks a little bit different. Less about the individual bootstrapping entrepreneur and more about cooperation and community, the reemerging American Dream looks remarkably anti-capitalist — and it’s springing to life in unexpected places.

      When Yuri Reyes first immigrated to the United States from El Salvador in 2009, he barely spoke a word of English. Like many newly arrived immigrants without a college education, he found himself in a cycle of precarious, low-paid work — from working in scrap metal yards to cleaning office buildings. Reyes was much more accustomed to working outdoors in more natural environments back in El Salvador, and so when a family member suggested he come work at a landscaping company in Waltham, Massachusetts, he decided to try it out. The company was called A Yard & A Half, and Reyes’s experience working there would radically transform his life in ways that he couldn’t have imagined.

    • Republican Red-Baiting Is Going to Backfire

      “Socialism,” snarled Donald Trump at a recent pep rally of far-right Republicans. The obedient crowd of Trumpistas snarled back in unison: So-sh’ll-izz-ummm!

      There you have the entire intellectual content of the GOP’s 2020 re-election strategy under Generalissimo Trump: Slap Democrats with a scurrilous campaign branding them as Lenin-Trotsky-Stalin re-incarnate.

      It’s not just Trump hissing out the socialist label in a frantic McCarthyesque attempt to make it stick by mindless repetition, but also Republican lawmakers. Unfortunately for them, they’re overplaying a weak hand and bumbling over their own ignorance.

      Texas Senator John Cornyn, for example, compared Democrats who support ideas like Medicare-for-All to Mussolini.

      Apparently, Cornyn is unaware that the brutish Italian dictator was no socialist, but a fascist. Mussolini’s ideology of ultra-nationalism, masculine authoritarianism, suppression of democratic rights, and rule by wealthy elites is the opposite of the progressive agenda. Indeed, it describes the policies of — guess who? — Trump and his acolytes, including Cornyn!

    • Why Do Colleges Hand Out Honorary Degrees?

      For those universities that continue the practice, the upside of honorary degrees is obvious. As Arthur E. Levine, former president of the Teachers College at Columbia University told The New York Times in 1999, “Sometimes they are used to reward donors who have given money; sometimes they are used to draw celebrities to make the graduation special.” Levine approved of honorary degrees, seeing them as teaching opportunities to”[show] examples of people who most represent the values the institution stands for.”

      [...]

      Open-source software pioneer Richard Stallman, himself the recipient of 16 honorary doctorate degrees but nary an earned one, also has the habit of signing his emails “Dr. Stallman,” but maybe just to mess with us.

    • Billionaires Against Funding Symphony Musicians

      Summer is a time for music festivals. Anyone living near an urban center, or even a smaller city with music programs, will likely be able to spend an evening in a park listening to music. Yet, like many workers, musicians increasingly face threats to their wages and pension plans.

      In most instances, management essentially issues an ultimatum: accept the contract offered or scheduled concert series may have to be canceled.

      Symphony orchestras in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Fort Worth, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco have each mounted strikes within the past decade.

      The Chicago Symphony Orchestra ended a strike on April 29 that lasted nearly seven weeks. Members of the Chicago Federation of Musicians garnered support from the San Francisco Symphony in March, when they were scheduled to perform in Chicago.

      Cast and crew from “Hamilton” and “A Bronx Tale,” two shows playing in Chicago, “Chicago Fire,” a television show, and Second City stood in solidarity with musicians. Several Democratic representatives in Congress, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, voiced support as well.

    • The Reality Behind the ‘Surging’ U.S. Economy

      Recent economic reports have President Donald Trump crowing.

      The big headline numbers do sound encouraging. The unemployment rate is down to 3.6%, the lowest since 1969. Average earnings are finally outpacing inflation, the stock market has been hitting record highs, and the first quarter of 2019 had the fastest annualized growth rate (3.2%) since 2015.

      And yet most of the gains from our growing economy are still going to those who least need a boost. Stock market rallies, for example, further concentrate wealth among the very richest Americans. The top 1% of Americans own more than half of stocks and mutual funds. The bottom 90% own just 7%.

      For ordinary Americans, the slight uptick in wages is not enough to make up for many years of stagnation. Average hourly pay rose just 6 cents in April 2019 and 4 cents the month before that.

      Workers need a much bigger raise if they are to receive their fair share of economic gains, especially with prices for many essentials rising much faster than wages. For example, compared to the 3.2% increase in average earnings over the past year, spending on prescription drugs is up 7.1% while the average house price rose 5.7%. Average childcare costs jumped 7.5% between 2016 and 2017.

      Such small pay increases won’t do much to chip away at the country’s $1.6 trillion in student debt — a burden leading 1 in 15 borrowers to consider suicide, according to a recent survey.

    • Senior IRS Leaders Launch Review of Agency’s Partnership With TurboTax and H&R Block

      Amid calls for investigations from members of Congress, the IRS announced late Friday that it has convened a team of senior leaders to review concerns raised about its Free File public-private partnership with the tax software industry, following a series of ProPublica stories.

      “The IRS is reviewing the concerns raised about the Free File program. We take these issues seriously, and a senior leadership team was assembled to review the current Free File program,” according to a statement. It added: “The IRS team will take fast action to ensure the integrity of the program.”

      [...]

      Separately, the IRS’ independent watchdog, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, is launching an audit of the Free File program in response to ProPublica’s reporting, the inspector general confirmed.

      The inspector general last looked at the program over a decade ago, in 2007. The title of that audit report was “Additional Action Is Needed to Expand the Use and Improve the Administration of the Free File Program.”

      Spokespeople for Intuit and H&R Block didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment but previously said the companies are proud of their role in Free File.

    • Bold Calls to Tax the Rich, But Not Enough Talk of Enforcement

      Earlier this year, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made waves when she used her appearance on 60 Minutes to call for a 70 percent marginal tax rate on incomes over $10 million. The mainstream media establishment was further blown away when polls in the following days showed that this radical proposal was wildly popular. To anyone who had been paying attention, this was hardly a shocking revelation; Americans have long supported raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Nonetheless, the renewed focus on proposals to tax the rich opens the door for a long overdue conversation about biases in our tax system and how to change them.

      Many groups are seizing this opportunity, including the Patriotic Millionaires who put on high profile conference earlier in the month around the theme “Tax the Rich!” They “hope to help catalyze a national movement to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans and begin the process of healing our nation.” The event was a launch of that effort, one that served as an introduction to the wide universe of ideas on how best to make the wealthy pay more in taxes. In the space of a mere four hours, conference attendees heard from over forty millionaires, lawmakers, economists, policy experts, and activists about how the system is broken, what we need to do to fix it, and why we should.

      That arguably starts with reframing the conversation around taxation, a topic around which numerous speakers had suggestions. Senator Jeff Merkley, for example, argued that we must not just think of corporate tax avoiders as naughty entities failing to pay their fair share, but malicious ones bleeding the system of resources by exploiting the infrastructure in which we collectively invest. Paul O’Brien, Vice President for Policy and Advocacy at Oxfam, similarly encouraged attendees to think about progressive taxation as a reclamation of power from individuals whose wealth gives them undue influence. This understanding of taxation has the potential to be particularly potent in a moment when corruption is at the forefront of Americans’ minds. While polls have already shown that taxing the rich is popular, these framings can help to further broaden and solidify support in anticipation of a moment when change will be possible.

    • Productivity Booms in First Quarter, But Will It Last?

      For the last decade, we have been bombarded with stories about how robots were going to take all of our jobs. This claim made little sense since productivity growth, which measures the rate at which technology is displacing labor, was extraordinarily low through this period.

      It averaged just 1.3 percent a year from 2005 to 2018. That compares to productivity growth rates of 3 percent in the long Golden Age from 1947 to 1973, and again from 1995 to 2005. If the robots were taking all the jobs, they were doing a good job of hiding the evidence from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which compiles the data.

      But the new data on first quarter productivity released last week tells a different story. Productivity growth rose at a 3.6 percent annual rate in the first quarter and has risen 2.4 percent since the first quarter of 2018. That’s a big change.

      Before making too much of this jump in productivity, some caution is in order. Productivity data are notoriously erratic. The data are subject to large revisions, and even post revisions we often see sharp reversals quarter to quarter that are not plausible as actual changes in the economy.

    • The Social Security Trustees Consistently Agree: The Program is Well-Funded

      This year’s Social Security and Medicare trustees’ report saw very few changes from last year’s report and showed that the Social Security retirement program’s (OASI) financial situation had improved modestly by some measures. While the report predicts that the Social Security retirement program will be able to pay 77 percent of benefits starting in 2034 (down from 79 percent that was reported in 2018), the trustees’ own rationale shows that the future of the program is secure with minor adjustments. Let’s walk through the logic.

      In the report, the trustees forecast that the trust fund will have a shortfall of 2.78 percent of payroll under their intermediate assumptions over 75 years (Table VI.G3). This is to say that to erase the shortfall throughout this period, payroll taxes will need to be increased by 2.78 percent. This calculation is an improvement when compared with the projected shortfall of 2.84 percent of payroll that was reported in the 2018 report.

      While the new projected payroll tax is less than the projected payroll tax from the previous report, it would still imply a decrease in after-tax income assuming that the payroll falls solely on employees (virtually all economists accept that the employer’s share of the payroll tax comes out of workers wages). Although Social Security taxes on the typical worker’s income is in no way inconsequential, especially for low-income workers, this increase in taxes is completely swamped by higher wages.

    • Mnuchin Denies Democrats’ Request for Trump Tax Returns

      Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has made it official: The administration won’t be turning President Donald Trump’s tax returns over to the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.

      Mnuchin told Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal in a Monday letter that the panel’s request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.”

      In making that determination, Mnuchin said he relied on the advice of the Justice Department. He concluded that the department is “not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information.”

      The move, which was expected, is sure to set in motion a legal battle over Trump’s tax returns. The chief options available to Democrats now are to subpoena the Internal Revenue Service for the returns or to file a lawsuit.

      Neal originally demanded access to Trump’s tax returns in early April under a law that says the IRS “shall furnish” the returns of any taxpayer to a handful of top lawmakers, including the chair of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.

    • It‘s Globalization, Stupid!

      The coming presidential election is not about Trump. It‘s about the nation state vs globalization.

      If the democrats don‘t get that; they will surely loose no matter who becomes their eventual candidate.

      The recent rise of populist leaders and their nationalist agendas are surely the inevitable political reaction to the Neoliberalism of the last thirty years.

      Globalization for globalization’s sake was an ideological vision of perfect markets and the alleged growth of individual freedoms mutually supporting each other.

      It didn’t turn out that way.

      Global flows of capital, technology, and to some extent, labor proved far more destabilizing for the majority of the planet who were less wealthy, less educated, and less willing to let go of regional, national, and local ties and traditions.

      Global elites, whether in the shadows or upfront in the limelight, were for far too long oblivious to the disconnect between economic and, yes, cultural liberalization and deregulation as opposed to the growing disquiet about these global trends among the traditionally situated citizenry of the nation-state.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • The Establishment Game

      In the spirit of Olympics and Elections, I propose the Establishment Game. I would style this game in the manner of soccer – the only game that still makes me fantasize.

      In my fantasy game, there would be two teams: LiberEsts (Liberal Establishment) and ConEsts (Conservative Establishment).

      Here is my dream LiberEsts team:

      The goalie would be Facebook, the institution, which specializes in catching and squashing anything that is anti-establishment.

      In the center, the defense would have great players from TV and mass media circles. I am thinking of Christiane Amanpour of CNN and Guardian’s Luke Harding or Judith Miller, formerly of NYT. These guys can spin and defend indefensible better than anyone. On the right side of the defense, I would place a star from one of the seventeen security agency teams, someone like John Brennan – who would be great in air due to his big head – or the doggedly persistent FBI agent Peter Strzok. The left side can be played by one of those ever-so-progressive lawyers from the Justice Department, like Loretta Lynch or Eric Holder. These guys are so tough that they didn’t let a single truth pass by them thanks to their amazing acrobatic tricks.

      The midfield clearly belongs to politicians: either senior liberals like Tony Blair or Pelosi would play on the right, while progressive liberals, members of the cutting edge PC community, on the Left. We are talking about the PC crowd that was traditionally excluded from licking establishment ass: young Turks like Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or Corey Booker.

    • 7 Bold Elizabeth Warren Proposals That Would Remake America

      The spotlight has escaped her thus far this election cycle, but Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has nonetheless distinguished herself in a crowded Democratic field as a woman of substance.

      Buried by student debt? She has a plan for that. Want to work but can’t afford child care? She’s got you covered. Victimized by a rigged economic system, corporate greed and income inequality? Check, check and check, Warren’s on it in a big way.

      Throughout her nascent campaign, the Massachusetts senator hasn’t just presented an aspirational vision of the country but furnished a detailed roadmap how we get there. This begins with her proposed wealth tax, which 60 percent of respondents in the most recent Quinnipiac University national poll said they supported.

      Taken together, these policy ideas are revolutionary in their scope, with a particular emphasis on creating an economic playing field that benefits more than just the rich.

      As a recent (CAN’T OPEN THE LINK, BUT I’D CHANGE TO: ‘As TK recently wrote in the New York Times, put it: “Warren is trying to treat not just the symptoms but the underlying disease.” And as CNBC’s John Harwood points out, “a 2020 debate about average families’ struggles to get ahead plays to Warren’s strengths as a bankruptcy scholar, consumer advocate and second-term senator. … Warren has set the pace for the field on detailed policy ideas.”

    • The Day People Disappeared and a New Strategy for Stealing Votes

      It was a routine day in completing census enumeration for the U.S. Census in 2010. The census was great work because no one was above me in a supervisory role while I was out on the streets. I really loved the work. And then I came upon two groups of individuals that seemed to disappear after I attempted to complete the census with them.

      The first group of four people lived above a business in a community in western Massachusetts. There were three or four apartments surrounding the hallway on the second floor of the building. I entered the apartment after I showed my census credentials to the person who opened the door and invited me in. I would have rather remained at the door to the apartment to complete the census questions, but the person who answered the door insisted that I enter.

      Almost immediately, passports bearing the name of a country in South America were placed in front of me and I explained that my work had nothing to do with where the people came from who lived in the apartment. When I declined to take the passports, a kind of low-boil bedlam broke out in the place and the person who seemed in charge made a phone call. I sat down when that person explained that a relative would arrive shortly and help. I did not speak the first language spoken by people in the apartment, but we had enough of an understanding to go on with the questions.

      About a half hour later the relative arrived and a conversation took place between all the people. I explained to the newly arrived relative that I had nothing to do with checking passports. I said that I was there to complete the U.S. Census.

    • Meeting Haider al-Abadi, the Once, and Perhaps Future, Prime Minister of Iraq

      There are some Middle East politicians that have always reminded me of animals. Assad senior was always the ruthless Lion of Damascus. Even the Egyptians called Hosni Mubarak “La Vache Qui Rit” from the famous French cheese of the grinning cow.

      But it took a while before Haider al-Abadi could secure a place in my Aesop’s fables. Iraq’s previous prime minister – and quite possibly its next – came bounding from his chair, tubby, cheerful and pretty over-confident, I thought. And then I got it: he’s the family cat who has just opened the canary’s cage and eaten it – and he doesn’t care the slightest what anyone thinks about that.

      The canary is Isis or Barack Obama, or Donald Trump or Mohammed bin Salman – or any Iraqi politician. It’s oil and the economy and, I fear, it’s also Mosul.

      An imperial pussycat, perhaps, but Abadi has sharp claws and evidently thinks he will return to power when his successor, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, fails. Not a cruel cat, perhaps, but a pitiless one.

      So here he is, presciently talking to me shortly before Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi reappeared on his grim videotape to threaten the world. “Daesh finished? As a state yes, they cannot go back to that. But not as a terrorist organisation… I have to give you a warning. They are badly wounded – and they realise their dream has gone. So they will do whatever it takes to restore it. I think they are looking for some spectacular operations here or there. They are planning very hard…. The other thing is that we have not accounted for all of their leadership. We don’t know where some of their leaders are. That’s another danger. My worry as an Iraqi is that many of these leaders are Iraqis. So we have to be very, very vigilant.”

    • Fearful Democrats and the False Allure of Policy Centrism

      It wasn’t that long ago that Pelosi was supposed to epitomize the left’s radicalism, a “San Francisco liberal” who filled every heartland American with rage and disgust. Now she’s telling the Democratic Party that the path to victory is by limiting conflict with Donald Trump and offering a sedate policy centrism.

      She’s not the only one. The current front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, Joe Biden, is basing his candidacy on the proposition that he will be able to win over significant numbers of Republican voters, once they see that he’s more moderate than other Democrats and realize what a repellent human being Donald Trump is.

      The only problem with that theory is that there is no reason to believe it’s true. Trump’s approval from Republican voters is at a near-perfect 90 percent, according to Gallup, and it isn’t like they haven’t gotten a good enough look at him to realize who he is. Their elected officials have proven time and time again that there is literally nothing Trump could do that would make them turn their backs on him; the one or two who felt that they might, like former Senator Jeff Flake, did it only when they were on their way to retirement.

      But Joe Biden has faith in the GOP. “This is not the Republican Party,” he says, testifying to his bond with “my Republican friends in the House and Senate.” Once Trump is gone, they’ll revert to their old responsible selves and become reasonable again. Just like they were when Biden was vice president and they pursued a strategy of total opposition to everything Barack Obama wanted to do, capping it off by refusing to allow his nomination to a vacant Supreme Court seat to even get a hearing. Those Republicans are the ones who are supposedly going to join with President Biden in a spirit of bipartisan compromise to do what is best for the country.

      While Biden has no excuse for his absurdly deluded beliefs about how Republicans would act if he were president, at least his belief about how to win a national election has a logic to it. It says that you have to persuade voters in the middle (and across it) in order to win, showing the largest number of voters that you’re ideologically closer to them than your opponent.

      It’s called the Median Voter Theorem (since the idea is to position yourself closer to the median voter than your opponent), and though it makes a kind of intuitive sense, in practice it usually turns out to be wrong. That’s because ideology plays a minor role at most in voters’ decisions, and the electorate itself is not static. A great deal depends on which voters are excited enough to get to the polls and which voters are disengaged enough to stay home.

    • Pelosi the Appeaser

      House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tells the New York Times that the way to beat Trump is not through impeachment or championing progressive causes. To win, Democrats have to be more friendly to “centrists” – which is neoliberal-speak for the donor and corporate class which owns her organization.

      If you cower, they (the mythical center of the electorate) will come.

      Remember how well that smarmy strategy worked out when Neville Chamberlain tried to appease Hitler by granting him permission to invade neighboring countries in the belief the rest of Europe (and capitalist interests) would be spared? Even more recently, remember how well that worked out when Pelosi’s party thought it would be a great idea to run Hillary Clinton in 2016 and destroy Bernie Sanders at the same time? The polls and the pundits certainly thought she’d be a shoo-in to beat Trump.

      So let’s double down on that winning strategy. If it doesn’t work out, it will all be the fault of the Deplorables, again. If it doesn’t work out, Nancy Pelosi personally will never have to suffer. Nor will the Democratic donor class, who are flusher with cash than ever thanks to Trump’s tax cuts and their investments in his military machine and prison-industrial complex.

      It’s a toss-up as to whether Pelosi’s main problem is corruption or senility, or a combination of the two, when she posits that only a boring centrist can win in 2020. This boring individual will win by such a stupendous margin that Trump will never be able to challenge the results.

    • North Korea Tests New Missile—and Trump’s Resolve

      North Korea appears to have tested a new short-range missile — and President Donald Trump’s resolve to keep it from doing more of the same in the future.

      The test early Saturday was quickly played down by Trump and his top advisers, who noted it was not the kind of long-range missile leader Kim Jong Un has refrained from launching since 2017.

      But the sudden activity on the North’s east coast, complete with fiery photos of a purported bull’s eye out to sea, alarmed Washington’s regional allies and suggests that Kim’s missiles are improving even as the Trump administration wrestles with how to get him back to the negotiating table.

      Kim personally supervised the test of what experts believe was a short-range ballistic missile first displayed by North Korea at a military parade early last year, along with a drill involving 240 millimeter- and 300 millimeter-caliber multiple rocket launchers.

      There remains some uncertainty over what was tested.

    • Obama Fundraisers-Turned-Ambassadors Are Back to Make It Rain for Biden

      On the heels of a big-money fundraiser hosted by Comcast’s top government affairs executive, Joe Biden’s recently-made-official presidential campaign has announced another ritzy affair, hosted by former Ambassador James Costos. A slew of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton fundraisers will now raise money for Obama’s vice president, Biden, at Costos’ Los Angeles home on May 8.

      Biden’s campaign announced a huge $6.3 million fundraising haul in the first 24 hours after he announced his campaign on Thursday, topping first-day totals of presidential contenders Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.). The press release only listed the average online donation, $41, but not the average overall donation, which is definitely higher. By some calculations, Biden raised at least $3.3 million offline.

      It costs $2,800 to enter the May 8 event, and if you raise $10,000, you can become a host. Among the hosts are four major fundraisers for President Obama’s 2012 campaign who were later rewarded with ambassadorships to Denmark, Hungary, Spain, and the United Nations. The ActBlue donation page for the event is here.

    • The Atlantic Illustrates Everything That’s Wrong With Media Coverage of Venezuela Sanctions

      “Trump’s Venezuela Policy: Slow Suffocation,” an Atlantic report (4/17/19) by Uri Friedman and Kathy Gilsinan, passed up a rich opportunity to expose the humanitarian pretexts for economic intervention, and instead exhibited the worst tendencies of corporate media coverage of US policy in Latin America.

      The report focused on the Trump administration’s new sanctions on the countries National Security Adviser John Bolton branded as the “troika of tyranny” and “three stooges of socialism”: Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. The administration plans to activate provisions in the 1996 Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act to allow US citizens to sue foreign companies “trafficking” in “stolen land.”

      While the headline on its own could be read as accurately suggesting that the Trump administration’s policy was one of “slow suffocation” of the Venezuelan people, the subhead makes it clear that the Atlantic was really saying that the aim was “to tighten the noose on Nicolás Maduro”—described in the piece as Venezuela’s “authoritarian” leader. By primarily framing US sanctions against Venezuela as a “diplomatic” alternative to the “military solution,” and as a continuation of a new Cold War contest against Russia, the report continued the corporate media practice (FAIR.org, 2/6/19) of downplaying the real harm sanctions are already inflicting on Venezuelans.

      The Center for Economic and Policy Research (2/4/19) has pointed out how recognition of Juan Guaidó as president of Venezuela effectively functions as an oil embargo on Venezuela. This is devastating, since Venezuela’s economy depends almost entirely on oil export revenues for essential imports like food, medicine and medical equipment (New York Times, 2/8/19). Newer US sanctions that have caused Venezuela’s crude oil production to plummet even further are expected to reduce revenues over the coming year by $2.5 billion, almost as much as the country spent last year ($2.6 billion) to import food and medicine (CEPR, 3/25/19).

    • Are Democrats Losing Their Enthusiasm? A New Poll Gives GOP the Edge

      Democrats who are counting on the same “blue wave” of civic engagement that helped their party win a majority in the House of Representatives in 2018 may need to adjust their expectations. As NBC’s Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann report Monday, the party was propelled to victory based on two major factors: high enthusiasm among Democrats and support from independent voters. According to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, however, Democrats are losing ground when it comes to voter enthusiasm.

      President Donald Trump in the poll still trails with independents—just 34% of those surveyed have a positive view of him. However, the independents surveyed don’t share Democrats’ appetite for Trump’s impeachment, as 45% believe Congress should not impeach the president.

      Pollsters also found that “75% of Republican registered voters say they have high interest in the 2020 presidential election—registering a “9” or “10” on a 10-point scale—versus 73% of Democratic voters who say the same thing.”

      A two-percentage-point difference might not seem like a lot, but it’s a stark contrast from the 2018 midterm elections, when, as Todd, Murray and Dann point out, “Democrats held a double-digit lead on this question until the last two months before the election, when the GOP closed the gap but still trailed the Dems in enthusiasm.”

      Those results, the NBC reporters caution, “should correct any Dem thinking that assumes—‘Hey, we have Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in the bag because we won there in [the] 2018 [cycle]’—since GOP enthusiasm now is much higher.”

    • 400+ Former Federal Prosecutors: Trump Would Face Obstruction Charges If He Weren’t President

      The statement comes in response to Special Council Robert Mueller’s final report on his investigation into allegations of election meddling by Russian agents as well as potential collusion or obstruction efforts by members of the Trump campaign or administration, including the president.

      Attorney General William Barr—who could be found in contempt of Congress later this week for his refusal to hand over the unredacted version of the Mueller report to House lawmakers—released a summary in late March that critics called a “whitewash,” followed by a redacted version of the report in mid-April.

    • ‘We Want Action’: Group Disrupts Pa. Statehouse in Bid to End Legalized Bribery

      A group of activists dedicated to ending corruption in Pennsylvania politics temporarily shut down the the statehouse in Harrisburg Monday after a five-day march from Philadelphia.

      Members of the MarchOnHarrisburg group staged a rally outside the statehouse before eight activists from the organization disrupted statehouse proceedings.

    • Should I Feel Guilty That Joe Biden Speaks to Me?

      Former Vice-President Joe Biden has several clouds hanging over his candidacy, if not skeletons coming out of the closet. He’s 76 years old. If elected president, he would be the oldest elected president in U.S. history. He’s touchy-feely with women, many of whom have complained about how he made them feel uncomfortable. He can’t apologize enough for his overbearing, insensitive moderation of the Clarence Thomas hearings. He might have prevented Silent Clarence from being a conservative stalwart on the Supreme Court for 27 years. His treatment of Anita Hill was unacceptable. He supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq; his support of capital punishment and harsher anti-crime legislation have proven counter-productive if not politically out of tune.

      This is Biden’s third run for the presidency. He’s had a long career in public service, 36 years as a Senator and eight years as Vice-President. Many believe it’s time for a generational change. Like 77-year-old Bernie Sanders and 72-year-old Donald Trump, Biden has had his day in the sun.

      There are many new faces. 37-year-old Pete Buttigieg ticks many boxes; mayor of a mid-Western city, Harvard/Oxford scholar, military service in Afghanistan; Catholic and gay. What about 38-year-old Tulsi Gabbard? She was the first Samoan-American and Hindu member of Congress. She served in the military in Iraq and Kuwait, supports abortion rights, opposed the Trans Pacific Partnership, and was critical of interventions in Iraq, Libya and Syria. She also ticks many progressive boxes.

      And we could go on with other strong contenders to lead the changing of the guard: 44-year-old Julian Castro, 46-year-old Beto O’Rourke, 50-year-old Senator Cory Booker, 52-year-old Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and 54-year-old Senator Kamala Harris. When Biden was first elected to the Senate, Buttigieg, Gabbard, and Castro had not been born yet, O’Rourke was two months old.

    • Mnuchin Refusal to Hand Over Trump Tax Returns Called ‘Blatant Affront to Rule of Law’

      House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) “has no choice but to subpoena Trump’s personal and business tax returns and, if the stonewalling continues, hold Secretary Mnuchin in contempt of Congress for illegally shielding the returns,” the groups said.

      “The American people can and will hold Donald Trump and the corrupt officials in his administration accountable—no one, not even the president, is above the law,” the statement concluded.

    • What Happened to All the Jobs Trump Promised?

      President Donald Trump likes to claim credit for the American job boom. He’s not the only president to celebrate job creation under his watch, but Trump is unusual among his peers for frequently attributing specific jobs at specific companies to his own actions.

      The U.S. economy has been producing jobs at a healthy clip for years, creating 188,542 jobs a month on average in the first 24 months of Trump’s presidency, compared with 202,417 jobs a month in the last 24 months of the Obama administration.

      But how much credit does Trump deserve? We tracked the president’s tweets and speeches about job creation to try to figure out how well his claims stacked up. The answer is: Not well.

    • Rhode Island: Eco-Allied Convergence or Divided by Trumpism?

      When Gina Raimondo became Governor of Rhode Island in 2015, she formulated two major construction projects (ergo by default supported by the Building and Trades unions, a major political force within the Democratic Party she hails from) that could not have been more perfectly located. By proposing the construction of a fracked natural gas power plant in rural Burrillville by Invenergy and an LNG processing station in urban South Providence, she effectively made certain a broad coalition, which would be absolutely necessary to prevent either project, would never form.

      This is a brilliant case study of what makes Ralph Nader’s notion of “convergence” in his book Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State (Bold Type Books, 2014) so precarious. By all rights, activist-residents should have united from across the state to oppose both eco-catastrophe projects. Such a scenario is so perfect it would have been called too far-fetched had a novelist with proletarian sympathies tried creating it in fictional terms.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Content Moderation At Scale Is Impossible: Facebook Still Can’t Figure Out How To Deal With Naked Breasts

      Right. And then, just a few months later, people started protesting again, as more breastfeeding photos were taken down.

      Again in the Radiolab program, they then discuss how this gets even more confusing, as some people started posting photos of “breast feeding porn” that appeared to show breast feeding that wasn’t infants. So they modified the rule to say the breastfeeding individual had to be an infant. But how does Facebook determine who is and who is not an infant? We’re right back to the definitional problem. The original rule Facebook put in place was “does the kid look old enough to walk?” which raises other problems, since many kids breastfeed long after they can walk. Facebook has to keep amending and changing. It eventually allows one (just one) nipple/areola showing if it appears related to breastfeeding… then after some time a second one could be shown.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Google Prepares to Launch New Privacy Tools to Limit Cookies

      Google is set to launch new tools to limit the use of tracking cookies, a move that could strengthen the search giant’s advertising dominance and deal a blow to other digital-marketing companies, according to people familiar with the matter.

      After years of internal debate, Google could as soon as this week roll out a dashboard-like function in its Chrome browser that will give internet users more information about what cookies are tracking them and offer options to fend them off, the people said.

    • Chrome Will Soon Block Tracker Cookies By Third-Parties Except Google

      If a report from The Wall Street Journal is to be believed, Google is going to implement a built-in tracking blocker in Chrome browser that will block tracker cookies from all third parties, but exempt Google’s own scripts and cookies.

      Sources familiar with the matter told WSJ that Google will soon roll out a control dashboard in Chrome to block tracking cookies. But the worst part is that Google’s own tracking scripts would remain unaffected — giving Google a huge and unfair advantage over its advertising rivals.

    • California: Tell the Senate To Empower You To Protect Your Own Privacy

      Californians have a constitutional right to privacy, and 94 percent of Californians agree they should be able to take companies that violate their privacy to court.

      S.B. 561, authored by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, would provide consumers with that right and also improve existing tools for the state attorney general to enforce the California Consumer Privacy Act. This bill is the only one in the California legislature today to strengthen enforcement of the CCPA.

      California State Sen. Anthony Portantino, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, will make the decision about whether to move this bill forward next week.

      Your voice is essential to supporting this bill. Please take five minutes to call Sen. Portantino’s Sacramento or district offices to tell him that you support S.B. 561 and think people should have the right to sue companies that violate their privacy.

    • Data deal could lead to more betting in NASCAR

      Genius Sports will develop an official NASCAR gambling offering for legal sportsbooks, using NASCAR’s official data feed.

      The exclusive deal lets Genius Sports help books provide up-to-the-minute odds and a slew of traditional wagers and prop bets.

    • School Surveillance Zone

      While statistically rare, school shootings are traumatic for those directly affected, their loved ones, and society at large. A recent spate of campus shootings has led to renewed calls for gun control, often student-led. Legislatures and schools are facing mounting pressure to address the issue, but gun control appears out of reach in the current political climate. In the meantime, school officials and policymakers have turned to a broad range of surveillance technologies in an attempt to prevent attacks on schools.

      Social media monitoring is one such form of student surveillance. A number of companies, many of which have sprung up in the last five years, are selling software that can allegedly identify signs of violence or other concerning behavior by trawling children’s social media posts and other online activity.

      In an attempt to quantify expenditures on social media monitoring software by school districts, the Brennan Center examined contracts for such software using SmartProcure, a database of government purchase orders. Our review is based on self-reported procurement orders in the database, and thus likely depicts only a portion of school spending on these tools. According to these data, school spending on social media monitoring software has surged in recent years. As the graph below indicates, the database shows 63 school districts across the country purchasing social media monitoring software in 2018, up from just six in 2013 — more than a tenfold increase.

    • Schools Are Safer Than Ever, But That’s Not Stopping Schools From Buying Social Media Monitoring Software

      Students socialize via the internet more often than not… you know, just like the rest of us do. More and more frequently, they’re being surveilled by their schools. This first came to light a half-decade ago, when documents surfaced showing a California school district had purchased social media monitoring software to keep tabs on its students. Similar stories followed, including one incident where a test publisher admitted to monitoring social media posts of students taking its tests.

      In about half the country, this is now standard operating procedure for schools. The Brennan Center for Justice reports schools are purchasing social media monitoring tools with increasing frequency, allowing them to track and surveil students far past the borders of the school grounds.

    • How Does HTTPS Work to Keep Us Safe? (HTTP vs HTTPS Explained)

      How do we know what’s safe on the internet or if sites are secure when we make payments or put personal information online? Today we’ll tell you what HTTPS is and why it’s different from HTTP. We’ll also answer the question “how does HTTPS work” and how it keeps you safe.

    • Big Tech and the Rise of Surveillance Capitalism

      A few years ago after the 2008 financial crash Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone described Goldman Sachs, that great titan of financial capitalism, as a “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” Fast forward almost ten years and you could say the same, and much worse, about surveillance capitalism, according to Shoshana Zuboff author of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power.

      This time though the squid is even bigger and it is jamming its blood funnel, via smart phones, smart TVs, tablets & soon even smart homes, into every last nook and cranny of our individual & collective privacy. The very thing that was suppose to set us free and serve us, as internet creator Tim Berners Lee had hoped, has now evolved as Lee said “into an engine of inequity and division; swayed by powerful forces who use it for their own agendas.” The capture & commodification of our data, the predatory construction of user profiles and surveillance is in the DNA of surveillance capitalism. Cambridge Analytica is only the tip of the iceberg.

      Zuboff points out in her brilliant book that all pervasive, stealthy and omnipresent surveillance capitalism has exploited human experience to collect free raw material for translation into behavorial data. The behavorial surplus-our emotions, fears, our voices and our personalities-is then fed into thinking ‘machine intelligence’, and then reconfigured into predictive products. Products specifically designed to anticipate what you will do today, tomorrow, and next week by means of behavorial modification. But not only does surveillance capitalism predict it also nudges us, influencing our behaviour through personalised and intrusive targeted advertising.

      As she memorably puts it: once we searched Google, now Google (and the rest) searches us. We have been digitally dispossessed by the remorseless logic of big tech’s profit imperative. Whereas before it was the social and natural world that was subordinated to the market dynamic now, as she puts it, it is our very human experience that is ripe for extractive profit.

    • Facebook ‘labels’ posts by hand, posing privacy questions

      Over the past year, a team of as many as 260 contract workers in Hyderabad, India has ploughed through millions of Facebook Inc photos, status updates and other content posted since 2014.

      [...]

      Details of the effort were provided by multiple employees at outsourcing firm Wipro Ltd over several months. The workers spoke on condition of anonymity due to fear of retaliation by the Indian firm. Facebook later confirmed many details of the project. Wipro declined to comment and referred all questions to Facebook.

      The Wipro work is among about 200 content labeling projects that Facebook has at any time, employing thousands of people globally, company officials told Reuters. Many projects are aimed at “training” the software that determines what appears in users’ news feeds and powers the artificial intelligence underlying many other features.

      The labeling efforts have not previously been reported.

    • Facebook Employees Are Peeking At Your Private Posts Without Your Consent

      recent report by Reuters suggests that Facebook has hired a team of contract workers in Hyderabad, India, whose job is to comb through millions of Facebook users’ photos, status updates and other content they have posted since 2014.

      Facebook employees ‘label’ items into five different “dimensions,” or categories, and feed this data to the AI to further enhance its capabilities. Manual labeling of content, also known as “data annotation,” is something that companies seek to harness for AI training and other purposes.

    • Facebook Faces a Big Penalty, but Regulators Are Split Over How Big

      But the settlement probably won’t include limits on Facebook’s ability to track users and share data with its partners, mandates that privacy advocates have raised as important for regulation in the United States, and that Facebook has fought. Mr. Simons has argued that the settlement proposal sets a new bar for enforcement of privacy violations and wants to avoid litigation that risks losing that opportunity.

    • Scrap ‘digital strip search’ say police bosses

      If victims do not comply, prosecutions may not go ahead.

      But the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners say the forms should be withdrawn.

      The forms – which have been introduced in all 43 police forces in England and Wales – ask for permission to view data including messages, photographs, emails and social media accounts.

    • [Older] Rape victims among those to be asked to hand phones to police

      Victims of crimes, including those alleging rape, are to be asked to hand their phones over to police – or risk prosecutions not going ahead.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Pulitzer prize-winning Chris Hedges: Creeping Toward Tyranny

      The destruction of the rule of law, an action essential to establishing an authoritarian or totalitarian state, began long before the arrival of the Trump administration. The George W. Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq and implementation of a doctrine of pre-emptive war were war crimes under international law. The federal government’s ongoing wholesale surveillance of the citizenry, another legacy of the Bush administration, mocks our constitutional right to privacy. Assassinating a U.S. citizen under order of the executive branch, as the Obama administration did when it murdered the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, revokes due process. The steady nullification of constitutional rights by judicial fiat—a legal trick that has enabled corporations to buy the electoral system in the name of free speech—has turned politicians from the two ruling parties into amoral tools of corporate power. Lobbyists in Washington and the state capitals write legislation to legalize tax boycotts, destroy regulations and government oversight, pump staggering sums of money into the war machine and accelerate the largest upward transfer of wealth in American history, one that has involved looting the U.S. Treasury of trillions of dollars in the wake of the massive financial fraud that set off the 2008 economic collapse. The ruling elites, by slavishly serving corporate interests, created a system of government that effectively denied the citizen the use of state power. This decades-long disregard by the two major political parties for the rule of law and their distortion of government into a handmaiden for corporations set the stage for Donald Trump’s naked contempt for legality and accountability. It made inevitable our kakistocracy, rule by the worst or most unscrupulous (“kakistocracy” is derived from the Greek words kakistos, meaning worst, and kratos, meaning rule).

      Those in the parade of imbeciles, grifters, con artists, conspiracy theorists, racists, Trump family members, charlatans, generals and Christian fascists, all of whom often see power as a way to enrich themselves at the expense of the taxpayer, are too many to list here. They include former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Vice President Mike Pence, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (who blamed “environmental terrorist groups” for the 2018 California wildfires, hired private jets to fly himself around the country and opened public lands for mineral and gas exploitation), former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt (who held lavish dinners with the coal-mining and chemical executives whose companies he then deregulated) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. This moral swamp also contains bizarre, Svengali-like figures darting in and out of the shadows, such as Stephen Miller, Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci and Omarosa Manigault Newman, not to mention paid-off porn stars and mistresses, sleazy lawyers and bungling and corrupt campaign managers.

      [...]

      Despotic regimes are uninterested in, and often incapable of understanding, nuance, complexity and difference. They perpetuate themselves through constant drama and never-ending crusades against internal and external enemies that are presented as existential threats to the nation. When real enemies cannot be found, they are invented. The persecution of “undesirables” starts with the demonized—immigrants, the undocumented, poor people of color and Muslims, along with those under occupation in the Middle East or socialists in Venezuela—but these “undesirables” are only the beginning. Soon everyone is suspect.

    • Protest Song Of The Week: ‘Gaia’ By Calina Lawerence (With Sylvie Karina And Francesca Rivera)

      alina Lawrence is an indigenous vocalist and activist from the Suquamish Nation. She effectively fuses traditional native music with elements of hip-hop, soul, and spoken word. Lawrence uses her art to draw attention to social justice issues.

      She recently released a video and new version of “Gaia,” a track off her 2018 debut album, “EPICENTER.” This rendition features vocals from the song’s composer Sylvie Karina and percussion from Francesca Rivera.

      The song opens with the lyrics, “No one man has power over me / got this fool in the right house says he wants to grab me.” She makes it clear that “society fails when you dis-empower women.”

      It goes on to urge men to be supportive allies with the poignant line, “Brother will you stand with me? / I need you to stand with me / Don’t wait until it’s too late so that I can’t breathe.”

    • All I Want for Mother’s Day Is Equality for My Child

      What mother on earth doesn’t want equality and health for her child? I certainly do.

      I gave birth nearly two decades ago to a healthy, beautiful, intelligent child, who cried more than I thought she would and whose tutu-wearing terrible twos persisted into her tiara-wearing terrible threes. This willful nature turned out to be both her most challenging and her finest quality.

      She skipped kindergarten because her mind was so sharp. She built fairy houses during recess and enlisted the whole school in creating a moss-covered, magical twig town. She wrote poems about springtime and belted out preteen pops songs about cute boys. She was popular among her girlfriends.

      But she wasn’t allowed to use the girls’ bathroom. She had shoes thrown at her head when she wore leggings and lacy tops. She endured public school teachers making the sign of the cross and running off when she walked between classes.

    • Federal Judge Says Flashing Headlights To Warn Drivers Of Hidden Cops MIGHT Be Protected Speech

      Law enforcement officers tend to frown on citizens interfering with their revenue generation. This has led to a number of First Amendment lawsuits from people arrested for warning others about [check notes] the existence of police officers in the vicinity.

      One citizen was told as much when he was arrested for holding up a sign reading “Cops Ahead.” One cop kept on script, referring to the man’s actions as “interfering with an investigation.” It wasn’t an investigation. It was a distracted driving sting. The cop actually hauling him to the station was more to the point, telling the man he was arresting him for “interfering with our livelihood.” First Amendment violation or felony interference with a business model? Why not both?

      A lawsuit was filed in 2018 seeking a declaration that honking a car’s horn is protected expression. And, all the way back in 2011, a class action lawsuit was filed over citations and arrests for flashing headlights to warn drivers of unseen officers.

    • National Liberation in an International Context

      As autobiography, Navigating the Zeitgeist is a fascinating account of events and personalities with whom Sheehan was deeply involved. Each episode is given a critical and self-critical exposition, including evaluations of well-known political figures as well as some who were lesser known but equally important. Traversing Cold War America, Catholicism, the Sixties New Left, Sinn Fein and the IRA, the Communist Party of Ireland and the International Communist movement, Navigating the Zeitgeist is as much a sweeping overview as it is personal narrative, but in both senses, it’s an insightful and informative read.

      In this book review, however, I concentrate on certain questions Sheehan raises in the course of telling her story. When, for example, Sheehan grapples with “Marxism in power,” she’s referring to debates which erupted with some of her hosts while doing philosophical research in the Soviet Union, German Democratic Republic, Czechoslovakia and Poland. While she encountered many imaginative, critical thinkers in all these countries she was nonetheless confronted by the ossification of thought, the recitation of a catechism and the marginalization of serious inquiry for which socialism had long been condemned in the capitalist west. The struggle to remain loyal to the cause of international communism while maintaining one’s integrity are not only matters for the committed Marxist Sheehan was and remains. They are serious questions for philosophy as a discipline, as indeed they are for anyone seeking to change the world.

      Her opening pages warn us that we are entering a battlefield. Mocking postmodernist tropes anointing the “decentered subject,” or declaring the “grand narrative” passé, Sheehan uses both her life experience and her philosophical training to dismantle an edifice erected, in the first place, to lend an aura of irreverence to old-fashioned anti-communism. Many have no doubt been duped by such “theory” making this intervention more timely than ever. The challenge is not only to expose the fraud but to examine the deeper perplexities thereby obscured. To interrogate the failures of revolutionaries, in and out of power, while maintaining a commitment to revolutionary change is a task too few intellectuals have been willing or able to undertake.

      Compounding the problem is an unwillingness or inability, on the part of revolutionaries themselves, to squarely confront such failures as if doing so were tantamount to betraying the cause.

    • Slave labor found at second Starbucks-certified Brazilian coffee farm

      This story was produced via a co-publishing partnership between Mongabay and Repórter Brasil; a version in Portuguese can be read here.

      Eight months after slave labor was discovered at the Cedro II farm in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, Starbucks and Nestlé-controlled brand Nespresso — both of whom had quality certified the farm — said they would stop sourcing coffee there.

      The decision by the two transnational companies came after the publication of the government’s April “Dirty List” of employers — those caught with labor conditions analogous to slavery. The Dirty List is released biannually by what was previously the Ministry of Labor, now part of the Ministry of Economy, and the the first update under President Jair Bolsonaro.

      The April Dirty List includes 48 new employers. One of them is coffee producer Helvécio Sebastião Batista, who had been certified with Nespresso and Starbucks quality seals and used to provide coffee for both brands.

      Nespresso responded: “In the light of the last report of the Ministry of Labor, we immediately suspended business with the producer in question and we will investigate the case. Farms providing coffee to the company are rigorously evaluated and inspected every year to meet the program’s criteria. We will not accept otherwise and there will be no exception.”

      Starbucks responded, saying it will look into the incident and that it has suspended the farm from its supplier list because of the charges. The company, which boasts the world’s largest chain of coffee shops, says the farm’s practices previously complied with the C.A.F.E. certification seal, which follows “ethical and sustainable standards” developed in partnership with Conservation International and overseen by SCS Global Services. The next evaluation of the farm included in the Dirty List is expected to take place in September 2019.

    • You Apparently Can’t Win A Drug War Without Sexually Abusing Kids And Murdering Parents

      And that’s the end of the story. The lower court granted qualified immunity to the DEA agents, stating no policy or guideline or action/inaction could have foreseeably led to this tragic turn of events. It also allowed the US government to duck the federal court claims, finding the complaint failed to state a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act.

      None of these rulings were appealed so that leaves the Appeals Court with the plaintiff’s last-ditch Rule 59(e) motion to consider. This appeal route asks the court to reconsider the lower court’s ruling in total to find reversible errors and/or consider new evidence. The court finds no errors and no new evidence, so JGE and his relatives all just have to live with the sacrifice his father apparently made for this country and its war on drugs. The lower court’s ruling is affirmed.

      Maybe there really is no clear path to holding the government accountable for the damage done by its war on drugs. All we can do, for the most part, is count the costs: the trillions of dollars and the thousands of lives. Some of this is lost in massive chunks — abstract amounts relegated to spreadsheets and yearly reporting. Some of it is lost individually, with enough detail we’re all able to see the blood on our hands. This is one of those cases. And like the Drug War itself, there’s no closure to be had.

    • Liberty Is Crumbling

      Talk about the sands of time. The winner of Texas Sandfest 2019 created this astounding image of Abraham Lincoln lamenting the state of the republic under the exquisitely apt rubric, “Liberty Is Crumbling.” Begun in 1997 as part of the Port Aransas Art Center, the Sandfest has evolved into a three-day, low-tide, tourist-drawing, event; in 2006, it became its own nonprofit but continues to raise money for the nonprofit Port Aransas Community Theater. The distraught Honest Abe was made by master sculptor Damon Langlois of Victoria British Columbia, who owns a design studio when he’s not covertly working as “SandyMan.” “Born on the planet Earth,” he writes in his bio,” he is almost invulnerable…Only the question ‘what happens when it rains’ can weaken the Man of Sand (so) long as he is under Earth’s yellow sun.” His face-palming Lincoln, he says, highlights the alarming reality of the times: “Our liberties are slowly eroding – we should realize that and stand up and fight for (them).”

    • Missing school is a given for children of migrant farmworkers

      In the summer of his junior year, Luis Miguel was struggling to stay in high school. He and his family of four – who work various agricultural jobs from picking blueberries and cherries to pruning grapes and canning tomatoes – live in one of California’s 24 migrant family housing centers.

      As a documentary filmmaker, I have been studying these housing centers and the rhythms of life for families who reside in them since I first arrived in a center in 2014 during fieldwork for an oral history project with former bracero farmworkers.

      Tucked in the shadows of county jails and water treatment plants, these centers provide tile-floored apartments at subsidized rents to migratory farmworkers and their families during peak harvest season. The centers house as many as 1,890 farmworking families, mostly from Mexico.

      Given California’s affordable housing shortage, these housing centers are a coveted option for farmworking families. Outside the housing centers, migrant farmworkers might reside in less-favorable conditions – sleeping in cars, garages, old motels or under tarps in the fields.

      But while the centers resolve the affordable housing problem, they create another: second-class citizenship.

    • In wake of 77-year-old human rights icon’s December jail sentence, his third nonprofit faces fines for failure to register as ‘foreign agent’

      Moscow’s Meshchansky Court has assigned a fine of 300,000 rubles (almost $4,600) to “In Defense of Prisoners’ Rights,” a nonprofit run by the human rights activist Lev Ponomarev. The court accused the foundation of failing to enter its identifying information in the Russian government’s registry of so-called foreign agents.

    • Once Defiant, All Four White Supremacists Charged in Charlottesville Violence Plead Guilty

      Last year, when federal authorities arrested and charged four members or associates of a white supremacist gang for their roles in the infamous 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the men and their supporters struck a defiant tone.

      The men proclaimed their innocence, and their backers described them in social media posts as “patriots” and “political prisoners.” The gang, known as the Rise Above Movement and based in Southern California, set up an anonymous tip line for people to share evidence that might exonerate the imprisoned members, and it established a legal defense fund, with donations taken via PayPal and bitcoin.

      But in the following months, the men, one after the other, have pleaded guilty. Last Friday saw the final two guilty pleas, including one from Ben Daley, 26, one of the group’s leaders. He was joined by Michael Miselis, 30, a former Northrop Grumman aerospace engineer. The men pleaded guilty to conspiracy to riot.

      “These avowed white supremacists traveled to Charlottesville to incite and commit acts of violence, not to engage in peaceful First Amendment expression,” U.S. Attorney Thomas T. Cullen said in announcing the guilty pleas. “Although the First Amendment protects an organization’s right to express abhorrent political views, it does not authorize senseless violence in furtherance of a political agenda.”

    • #NotInvisible: Groundbreaking Legislation Tackles Epidemic of Violence Against Indigenous Women

      Newly-proposed federal legislation tackles a silent crisis—the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

      Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) introduced H.R. 2438—the Not Invisible Act of 2019—on Wednesday, just ahead of the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Last month, a bipartisan group of senators introduced similar legislation in the upper chamber.

      “Women are disappearing and dying in Indian country. We must act,” Haaland said Sunday.

    • The Other Slavery – With Andres Resendez

      Author and history professor Andres Resendez speaks about “the other slavery” — the enslavement of millions of Native Americans from the time of Columbus to the 1900s, a subject often overlooked in history curricula. Resendez spoke in Berkeley, CA in April 2017; Mickey Huff was the host of that event. This program includes Resendez’ speech, and part of the question-and-answer period that followed.

    • The Trump Administration Won’t Stop Destroying Migrant Families

      When they arrived at the U.S. border June 1 seeking asylum, 5-year-old Esdras and the woman he called his “mamita” were split up by immigration officers.

      “I cried so much,” Marta Alicia Mejia said. “I thought, ‘My God, why would they separate me from the boy?’ ”

      Three weeks later, a federal judge ruled that the government must reunify the migrant families it separated at the border under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy between April and June 2018.

      Mejia watched for weeks at a Texas detention center as parents were released while she stayed behind. That’s because only parents were being reunited with children. Even though Mejia has raised Esdras since he was born, she isn’t his mother. Esdras’ mother, court records state, became pregnant after she was raped at 18 and decided to give her son to Mejia, his great-grandmother.

      The government isn’t reunifying all separated children because it’s treating legal guardians different from parents. The federal court case that forced the Trump administration to reunite families, Ms. L v. ICE, excludes legal guardians such as Mejia. It applies only to adoptive or biological parents.

      More than 2,800 children were separated from parents last summer, and hundreds of family separations have been reported since then. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw recently expanded the Ms. L ruling to include any migrant parents and children torn apart in the past two years after a government report concluded that thousands more children were separated well before April 2018.

    • The Use of Solitary Confinement in Virginia is Inhumane and Unlawful

      Instead of keeping its word to Virgnia’s courts and reforming its use of solitary, the Dept. of Corrections built two massive super maximum-security p
      William Thorpe has spent nearly 24 straight years in solitary confinement in Virginia prisons stuck in a cell about half of the size of a parking space for more than 22 hours a day, every day, with no outside light and almost no human contact.

      In his nearly two and a half decades in solitary, Thorpe has seen changes in leadership at the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) and attempts to reform how solitary confinement is used in our state prisons.

      The most recent, change to VDOC’s solitary practices was creation in 2011 of its so-called Segregation Reduction Step-Down Program. This program is a behavior modification system VDOC officials have repeatedly touted as an evidence-based approach to corrections that provides a pathway out of solitary for those who follow the program’s rules. But for Thorpe and others, there is nothing new or special about the program. Instead, it’s a resurrection of a failed strategy that was discredited and discarded 35 years ago at another now-closed Virginia prison. Built in 1977, the Mecklenburg Correctional Center was a maximum-security prison supposedly built to house the most dangerous, disruptive people held in solitary confinement by VDOC under close supervision with minimal privileges.

      But when it came time to fill the prison’s 360 beds, VDOC found there weren’t enough people in Virginia who were such a security risk that they needed the kind of restrictive supervision Mecklenburg provided.

      A 1984 state Board of Corrections investigation revealed VDOC had solved the problem by filling Mecklenburg’s many empty beds using relaxed, inconsistent criteria. VDOC officials even had cold-called other Virginia prisons seeking referrals to keep Mecklenburg full so they could justify its massive operating costs.

    • Ending the Death Penalty Is One Step Toward Ending Mass Incarceration

      When historians assess the ultimate demise of the death penalty in the United States, California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s moratorium will be a key turning point. His sweeping move halting executions for 737 people — more than a quarter of the death row population nationwide — reflects just how deeply this practice has failed.

      The significance of the moratorium was clear from the moment the news leaked. Every major media outlet covered the story. Elected officials scrambled to announce their verdicts. Leading thinkers in the criminal legal reform movement praised the action, offering analysis on what exactly has disappeared and why.

      What is missing to date is a broader conversation around the opportunities we will have when we finally rid ourselves of the death penalty. No longer will we waste immense resources to center our system around the notion that killing is justice. Freed from that polarizing policy that has sucked all the air out of the room, we can reimagine responses to violence that break cycles of harm, build safety and healing for all, and put us on the road to ending mass incarceration.

      We know so much more today about the toxic impacts of our criminal legal system. Mass incarceration and over-policing have compounded centuries of racism and chronic poverty in communities of color, fueling a poisonous cycle of trauma, violence and legal system overreach.

      The death penalty is one of the most visible symbols of that cycle, fostering a national culture of violence that normalizes the idea of killing our most vulnerable in the name of justice. This reality lies in plain sight when you look at the lives of those executed. The Death Penalty Information Center compiled information on the 25 men executed in 2018, and it’s horrifying. Seventy-two percent suffered from serious mental illness, some type of brain disability, substantial childhood trauma, or some combination of the three.

    • Asylum Officers Are Being Replaced By CBP Agents

      Having a CBP officer conduct a credible fear interview is like having an arresting police officer also sit as the judge.
      Last week, President Trump issued a memorandum outlining his latest wishlist of ways to undermine the integrity of our nation’s asylum system. Among them was a direction to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to change how it conducts credible fear interviews, the threshold screening interview given to thousands of asylum seekers every year. DHS is reportedly now planning to deploy Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers – enforcement agents whose mission is to “secure the border” – to conduct credible fear interviews with asylum seekers instead of using professional asylum officers from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). By replacing neutral asylum officers with law enforcement officers, this proposal is a blatant effort to rig the system against asylum seekers and drive down the number of people who pass their screening interviews.

      In 1996, Congress established a process called “expedited removal” through which immigration officers can summarily order the deportation of certain noncitizens without a proper court hearing or a judge’s review. To ensure that no one with a potentially meritorious asylum claim would be sent back to danger, though, Congress required that any person who requests asylum or indicates a fear of return to their home country first receive a credible fear interview with an asylum officer. Because of the life or death stakes involved, Congress deliberately made the credible fear standard a low, threshold one: the asylum seeker need only show a “significant possibility” that there is a ten percent chance they would be persecuted in their home country. If they pass their credible fear interview, they get a chance to show they are eligible for asylum in a full deportation hearing with evidence, witnesses, and appeals. If they don’t, then they are quickly deported.

    • Ex-State Trooper Convicted Of Involuntary Manslaughter For Tasing A Teen Riding An ATV At 35 MPH

      If this is the only writeup someone sees regarding this incident, they’re going to come away with a lot of wrong impressions.

      First, Bessner fired his Taser from his moving patrol car at Damon Grimes. Both vehicles were traveling at 35 mph when this happened. Earbuds were recovered from the scene, bringing into the question the assumed fact that Grimes knew he was being pursued by the troopers.

      At the point the pursuit was initiated, Grimes had only committed a traffic infraction. Trooper Bessner decided to punish this with an inadvertent — but foreseeable — death sentence. The pursuit was unnecessary. Bessner’s decision to tase a person riding an ATV at 35 mph by firing out the passenger window of his moving vehicle was beyond idiotic. It was psychopathic.

    • The Furor Over the Cambridge Slave Trade Inquiry Proves Why It is Needed

      The outrage expressed by various establishment figures and institutions at the decision by Cambridge University to hold a two-year inquiry into its historic links to the slave trade demonstrates the continuing sensitivity and relevance of the topic.

      Critics of the inquiry claim that such focus on slavery is simply bowing to a trend, the suggestion being that there is little to be regretted and to apologise for. The Times has a leader with the flippant title “Slave to Fashion”, quoting with approval the conservative historian Elie Kedourie as saying that a common fault of the great powers is “imaginary guilt”.

      A clutch of letters in the same newspaper make similar claims about the inquiry, one writer wondering if the issue is being raised “at a time when western mistreatment of the ‘colonised’ is news”. Others believe that much can be excused because racist opinions were common in the past, citing Charles Darwin as an example.

      The very volume and venom of the abuse of Cambridge over its inquiry is proof, if such were needed, that the British role in the slave trade remains a highly contentious topic which stirs deep feelings. Of course, it is splendidly, if absurdly, self-contradictory for commentators who accuse Cambridge of unnecessarily raising a dead issue to then write thousands of furious words arguing why Britain’s role in the slave trade has no significance in the modern world. An explanation for the near-hysterical reaction is probably that the critics view Britain’s past role in the world as benign and respond with hostility to anybody they see as besmirching it. A fallback position for them is to say that, bad though slavery may have been, it all happened a long time ago so why rake up dead embers of the past?

    • Getting It Right on Immigration

      As the 2020 presidential campaign intensifies in the coming weeks and months, we’ll see candidates and pundits airing a wide variety of proposals on immigration policy. We’ll get recommendations on border security, asylum, detention, the status of the Dreamers, the status of the 11 million people living in the U.S. without documentation, and the role of ICE, to name just a few issues. But will the recommendations be grounded in reality? Will candidates and commentators represent what’s truly going on?

      Author and columnist Thomas L. Friedman’s recent forayinto border security issues is worth considering in light of these questions. Describing himself as “pro-immigration,” Friedman strongly criticizes Donald Trump’s immigration policies, and he makes some suggestions that are reasonable on face value. But because he fails to present a broader vision of the real issues at stake – issues bearing on the future of our democracy – he ultimately subverts his own argument. The failure is significant because the kind of argument Friedman offers is one that many people will consider realistic and sensible.

      In early April, Friedman visited the San Ysidro Port of Entry at California’s border with Tijuana, Mexico. Accompanied by Border Patrol agents, he gained a first-hand look at the enormous pressures being placed on our southern border, where 190,000 “family units” were apprehended since this past October, up from 40,000 a year ago. (A family unit, in the government’s lexicon, consists of a parent or guardian accompanying a child under 18).

      As a result of his border experience, Friedman came away “more certain than ever that we have a real immigration crisis and the solution is a “high wall with a big gate – but a smart gate.” In making this statement, he essentially argued that we should accept immigrants “at a rate at which they can be properly absorbed into our society,” and that we should favor visa seekers who bring skills, knowledge, and talents that benefit the nation. Being firm and selective in this way, Friedman maintained, will steer us away from the “unstrategic, far-too random, chaotic immigration ‘system’ we have now.”

    • THE DIVIDER-IN-CHIEF

      Donald Trump’s goal is, and has always been, division and disunion. It’s how he keeps himself the center of attention, fuels his base and ensures that no matter what facts are revealed, his followers will stick by him.

      But there’s another reason Trump aims to divide—and why he pours salt into the nation’s deepest wounds over ethnicity, immigration, race and gender.

      He wants to distract attention from the biggest and most threatening divide of all: the widening imbalance of wealth and power between the vast majority, who have little or none, and a tiny minority at the top who are accumulating just about all.

      “Divide and conquer” is one of the oldest strategies in the demagogic playbook: keep the public angry at each other so they don’t unite against those who are running off with the goods.

    • Making Progressives the Enemy

      Up until recently, many Jews allied themselves with progressive causes. By progressive I mean causes that seek to improve the human condition: racial and ethnic equality, economic well-being, education and health care for all, and the like. This made (and still makes) perfectly good sense for the Jews. As a religious minority that suffered discrimination and periodic persecution, they could only benefit from the popularization of values inherent in tolerance, equalitarianism and human rights. Such values, reflected in the law, created opportunities for everyone within a safe public space. This was focusing on the “big picture.”

      This dedication to progressive causes as a part of modern Jewish history is well documented, particularly in the United States. Take for instance the roughly 2,200 articles written on this subject by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA). Through these we learn that after World War II the American Jewish Congress (AJC), among other Jewish organizations, “made common cause with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).” It is also true that the JTA coverage shows that support for the struggle for civil rights in the U.S. was not unanimous among American Jews. Some actually believed that civil rights was not a “Jewish issue.” This position ignored the importance of societal values and simply relied on an alliance with the power structure (the old idea of the “court Jew” exercising influence) as a more reliable route to Jewish community welfare. This was disregarding the “big picture.” Nonetheless, according to the JTA, “from the late 1940s … and continuing to the mid-1960s, the larger cause of civil rights was absolutely regnant on the American Jewish communal agenda.”

      Unfortunately, identification with the progressive cause of civil rights, as logical as it was for the Jews, did not last. The turning point came in 1967 and the years immediately following. The “Six Day War” (June 5-10, 1967) was popularly, and uncritically, seen as a near disaster for Israel that miraculously turned into a great victory. Israel expanded out into Gaza and the West Bank and consequently came to rule over millions of additional Palestinians through the imposition of a harsh military regime.

      The

    • Antisemitism and Relating to Others: Why Tolerance Isn’t Enough

      Although the focus of this essay is on Jewish experiences and Jewish responses, other religious and secular readers concerned about responding to so much hatred, bigotry, racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression, exploitation, and injustice today can easily transform my wordings into their own contextualized terms. Most of our responses to hatred, bigotry, antisemitism (also spelled anti-Semitism, anti-semitism), racism, sexism, Islamophobia, and other forms of intolerance toward others consists in strong affirmations of the need for greater tolerance. Why is this not enough?

      [...]

      German-American Bunds existed throughout the United States and often held gatherings in which members identified with traditional German clothes, recreation, and ritualized behavior; were sometimes sympathetic to the rise of Hitler and the Nazis and supported the rise of fascism in the U.S.; sometimes embraced the view that the true cultural, racial, and political ally of the U.S. was fascist Germany; and embraced America First isolationism and lobbied against the U.S entering the war against Nazism and other forms of fascism.

      Of course, many of the characteristics of the German-American Bund existed before 1936 and continued long after the end of World War II. In alarming ways, they continue in the present.

      [...]

      Antisemitism, a term that gained widespread usage in Germany in the 19thcentury mainly as an anti-Jewish racial term, can be a vague word. Some claim that it expresses an attitude directed at all “Semites,” including Arabs and others. Some claim that it is a linguistic term referring to a language group that includes Hebrew, but also Arabic and other languages. As I use the term, “antisemitism” has religious, racial, political, cultural, and other ideological meanings and refers to hostility, hatred, prejudice, and discrimination directed toward Jews. In current contexts, the frequent attacks that any criticisms of several powerful Jewish lobbying groups, of Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israeli policies toward Palestinians, and of Trump, Kushner, and others in their approaches to Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East are necessarily antisemitic are overwhelmingly false.

    • Worst Practice Leadership Amongst the Political Classes

      Britain is beset by contradictory tendencies. Its parliament refuses to attend to the voices of the 17.4 million that, by a decent margin, voted for Brexit while a handful of remarkable organisations take the art of listening to new heights. The results?

      At a macro level, GDP in the three months to November 2018 slowed from growth of 0.4% to 0.3%, with a further drop to growth of 0.2% in the three months to January 2019 (by way of comparison, American GDP grew by 3.1% in 2018). What is more, the GfK Consumer confidence reached a low of -13 in March 2019, 8 points lower than at the time of the Brexit vote with consumer fears over global trading prospects. Moreover, the CBI Business Optimism Indicator for the UK fell to -13 in the second quarter of 2019, from a high of nearly 20 following Brexit.

      [...]

      In the video that accompanies the book, the former director of Sales of the Royal Mail Group and now Chair of the Association of Professional Sales, Graham Davis, states that Inclusive Leadership is about listening and that ‘once you’ve listened, because you haven’t got all the good ideas, you need to demonstrate that you’ve listened by changing things. People need to feel that they’re included’. It follows that Parliament’s failure to listen to the views of the 17.4 people who wanted a clean break from the EU not only puts a stop on change, producing stagnation, but also excludes over half the adult voting public from the so-called democratic process.

      According to the MD of PageGroup, Sandra Hill, female Leader of the Year at the 2015 Women in Business awards and also featuring in the video, a 360 degree feedback process at PageGroup ensures that leaders are measured against inclusive leadership competencies. So where, you might ask, are these checks on MPs’ behaviour? Should they not be accountable to their constituencies as also senior leaders of public sector bodies such as local authorities, schools, universities, the police and the NHS? Doing this would merely be to follow Best Practice Human Resource Management.

      If there were any doubts as to the perils of autocratic or transactional leadership, then the examples in the book should put pay to that. There is the case of Lord Greenbury of Marks and Spencer, the first retailer to top the £1bn profit mark but at the expense of valued staff and tacit know-how, precipitating the dramatic drop in the company’s profits from £1.15billion to £0.14bn over the period 1998-2001. Ironically, the words embroidered on a cushion in his office read ‘I have many faults, but being wrong is not one of them’.

      At about the same time, in France, Jean-Marie Messier was turning French utility company General des Eaux into a media empire through the acquisition in 2000 of Canal Plus and Seagram at a cost of £100bn and it was not long before the French multi-media giant Vivendi experienced massive losses. Only time will tell where finally the riots in France will lead, a reaction in part to Macron’s autocratic style and protesters’ exclusion from the political process.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • The FCC Hasn’t Done A Damn Thing To Seriously Police Wireless Location Data Scandals

      While Facebook (usually justly) gets the lion’s share of privacy criticism, wireless carriers haven’t been too far behind. In the last few years we’ve learned that they’re frequently hoovering up your daily location data and then selling it to a long chain of often dubious companies. More recently they’ve been busted even selling access to E-911 location data, which is increasingly even more accurate in tracking users than traditional GPS. We’ve noted repeatedly that lax ethical standards result in this data often being abused by dubious third parties, or used illegally by law enforcement or those pretending to be law enforcement.

      Throughout these evolving scandals, the Pai FCC hasn’t done much of anything to ensure the public this is being adequately looked into. There’s been no critical statement about this practice issued by the FCC, and no meaningful investigation launched (at least publicly). And while wireless carriers have insisted they’ve stopped collecting and selling this data (which they’ve been doing for the better part of the last decade without anybody in either party much caring), their promises historically haven’t been worth all that much when it comes to the subject of privacy.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • USPTO Seeks Information on Participation of Women, Minorities, and Veterans in Patent System [Ed: USPTO promotes patent maximalism (more and more patents, which for the office means more profits) under the guise of diversity -- their same old stunt]

      The SUCCESS Act (Public Law No. 115-273), which was enacted on October 31, 2018, directs the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, in consultation with the Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), to study and report to Congress on the number of patents applied for and obtained: (1) by women, minorities, and veterans; and (2) by small businesses owned by women, minorities, and veterans, as well as provide legislative recommendations to increase the number of women, minorities, and veterans who participate in entrepreneurship activities and apply for patents. The USPTO’s report must be submitted to Congress no later than October 31, 2019. (The SUCCESS Act also amended the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act to extend the authority of the USPTO to set and adjust patent fees by eight years.)

    • Finding STEM’s ‘gone girls’: Why women innovators need a New Deal [Ed: Using diversity and feminism in a cynical plot to double or quadruple the number of patent monopolies. Corporations look at it only as profit and monopoly opportunities.]
    • Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc. v. Actavis LLC (Fed. Cir 2019)

      Last Friday, the Federal Circuit affirmed a decision by the District Court that Defendants Actavis LLC and Teva Pharmaceuticals did not show by clear and convincing evidence that the claims asserted by Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Mallinckrodt LLC were obvious, in Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc. v. Actavis LLC, over a strong dissent by Circuit Judge Stoll.

      [...]

      The Federal Circuit affirmed, in an opinion by Judge Wallach joined by Judge Clevenger over Judge Stoll’s dissent. The majority first addressed the District Court’s claim construction regarding the claim term “14-hydroxymorphinone” which Defendants argued was error, and then their argument that the District Court erred in its nonobviousness determination. The District Court in this case relied on both intrinsic evidence (here, the claim language and specification) and extrinsic evidence (expert testimony from both plaintiff and defendants experts) in construing the term “14-hydroxymorphinone” to mean “14-hydroxymorphinone hydrochloride,” i.e., the salt form of the drug. Actavis and the other Defendants argued that the District Court should have interpreted the term using its plain meaning; the Federal Circuit majority disagreed. According to the opinion, claims 1 and 2 expressly recite the hydrochloride salt of the drug, and claim 3 (dependent on claim 1) sets forth the structure instead of using the term “14-hydroxy-morphinone”; the remaining claims are consistent with the interpretation that the asserted claims only recite “14-hydroxy-morphinone” “as part of the salt-, or hydrochloride-, form of the claimed compounds” (emphasis in opinion). Accordingly, the plain meaning of the claim language is consistent with the District Court’s interpretation of the term “14-hydroxymorphinone” to mean “14-hydroxymorphinone hydrochloride.”

      [...]

      Judge Stoll dissented, based on the FDA’s regulatory requirements which, in her view, set forth “every limitation of claim 1″ of the ’779 patent. The District Court further erred in her opinion by “imposing a requirement that a reference must teach how to solve a problem to provide a motivation to combine, conflating enablement and reasonable expectation of success requirements with motivation” (emphasis in opinion). And finally, Judge Stoll found error in the District Court “appl[ying] an erroneously heightened standard for reasonable expectation of success by requiring a ‘definitive solution’ and proof of actual success.”

    • CAFC Affirms Exceptional Case and Maybe Encourages Sand-Bagging

      Thermolife Int’l LLC v. GNC Corp. (Fed. Cir. May 1, 2019) (here) is pretty interesting. Plaintiffs (Stanford University was one of them) filed about 80 lawsuits, settling many for nuisance value. Among the 80 defendants were Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Vital Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (“Hi-Tech”). The defendants moved for and lost summary judgment on invalidity, but then the parties agreed to bifurcate further proceedings, with invalidity being determined first.

      The trial court held after a bench trial that the asserted claims were invalid under 102 and 103. A month after that, Hi-Tech moved for an exceptional case finding, but based upon lack of adequate pre-suit investigation into (wait for it) infringement. The accused products had been publicly available and their labels indicated no infringement (insufficient amounts of one ingredient).

      The court allowed plaintiff’s counsel to explain what pre-suit investigation had been done, but the trial court struck the declaration as belated. Beyond that, the response did not fully address the claims and issues Hi-Tech had raised. The court then found the case exceptional, essentially reasoning that because the labels indicated no infringement and the products were publicly available, the lawyers should have tested them, but did not.

      The panel affirmed (Taranto, Bryson, Stoll). Calling the determination unusual, the court nonetheless found no abuse of discretion. It noted that Hi-Tech had not “give early notice of the defects in plaintiffs’ infringement assertions that later became he basis for the fee award,” but concluded that because of the numerous suits and need to consolidate this “reasonably led not only to coordination among numerous defendants but to the agreement of all parties, for efficiency, to give priority to the common issue fo validity so that even discovery as to party-specific issues like infringement could be postponed.” In addition, the court found no abuse of discretion that the pre-suit investigation had been inadequate given the labels and publicly-available products.

    • Trademarks

      • UMG Fails To Get Trademark For ‘As Heard On TV’ In A Remarkably Sane Ruling From The TTAB

        Much of the time we bring up the Trademark Office and the trademarks it approves or denies, our focus tends to be on how the general posture seems to be one geared towards approval and the often laughable approved marks that come out of that. The only example I’m going to continue to cite of this ridiculousness in these trademark posts is going to be that of the San Diego Comic-Con, which somehow has an approved trademark on “comic-con” and its variants, despite that being a plainly descriptive mark. The chaos that has caused has resulted in ongoing coverage here, but it is hardly the only example.

        Making it all the more frustrating are the occasions when the Trademark Office gets things right. One will occasionally catch glimpses of the USPTO doing nuanced analysis and actually applying the standards of trademark law and public confusion, and denying a trademark application. For instance, Universal Music Group attempted to get a trademark for the phrase “As Heard On TV” for its music catalog of tracks designed to be used in television. That application was denied.

    • Copyrights

      • The CASE Act: Copyright Small Claims Court

        Few patent litigators would file a lawsuit if the potential payout is less than $1,000,000 — that amount ordinarily does not cover the expected cost of litigation and risk of loss. Except in the most simple cases, copyright litigation can be similarly expensive. What this means is that it can be difficult to earn a regular ‘living’ independently creating and licensing intellectual property.

        A bipartisan group of legislatures are working on a small claims solution and have proposed the CASE Act: Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019.

      • Things come in threes – Paris Tribunal guts Facebook’s T&C’s

        Before going any further, it is worth noting that Facebook modified these documents between the start of the proceedings and the publication of the decision by the Paris Tribunal. The edited and current version of Facebook’s terms is reported to address some of the issues raised in Tribunal’s decision (here). In fact, the European Commission praised Facebook for editing its terms and conditions on the very day the decision of the Paris Tribunal came out (here). However, and as discussed below, these changes do not affect clauses related to copyright. Unless Facebook appeals the decision and wins on appeal, this Paris Tribunal decision will send Facebook back to the drawing board for a second rewrite of its T&C’s. Read on.

        [...]

        As in the Twitter and Google cases, the proceedings were brought by the French consumer association “UFC Que Choisir?” (UFC). UFC applied to the Paris Tribunal that Facebook’s terms be declared unlawful under French privacy law, data protection regulation, contract and copyright law.

        In total, the Paris Tribunal reviewed 436 clauses, 430 of which were declared unlawful. These 436 clauses span three different versions of Facebook’s terms and conditions (dated 15 November 2013, 30 January 2015 and 9 December 2016, respectively). Facebook’s terms are contained in four different documents : the “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities” (SSR)(“déclaration des droits et responsabilités”),the “Data policy” (“politique des données”), the “Community standards” (“standards de la communauté Facebook”) and the “Cookies policy” (“Cookies, pixels et technologies similaires”). The transfer of copyright for user-generated content is covered in Clause 2.1 of Facebook’s SRR document.

      • Peer-to-Peer: A Commons Manifesto

        The P2P Foundation is announcing a new book that represents a summary of almost 15 years of vision and research. During this time we have studied the economic and governance systems evolving around digital commons of knowledge, urban commons, and productive commons where physical material production takes place. Studying these seed forms leads to discovering a potential pathway for a future society that is both more equitable, but can also produce for human needs without destroying our planet. If you are curious how the current political economy around capital, state and nation could be transformed to one based on

      • Intellectual property registries

        The only goal of this entry is to collect some links to registration services for IP useful for any digital creator in Internet, particularly for open culture works.

      • Verify your open licensing prowess with Creative Commons certification

        Creative Commons (CC) licenses are built on copyright and designed to give more options to creators who want to share their content; for example, Opensource.com’s content has a CC license. In July 2018, Creative Commons launched a CC Certificate program—an in-depth course about CC licenses, open practices, and the ethos of the Commons. It is composed of readings, quizzes, discussions, and practical exercises to develop learners’ open skills.

        The Certificate is a digital document that recognizes an individual’s understanding of open licensing and the Commons and their ability to aid others in understanding and implementing open licenses. The course units include what Creative Commons is, an introduction to copyright, and using CC licenses. Learners can complete the certificate online in 10 weeks for $500, and week-long boot camps can be arranged on request. The fees cover operational costs and annual updates to course materials. Future plans include investing in new certificate types, scholarships, and translating the curriculum into different languages.

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