Did Battistelli ‘Steal’ ~100,000,000 Euros From the EPO?

Posted in Europe, Patents at 10:18 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

97 million euros plus salaries and bonuses

Blatterstelli and FBI

Summary: While enjoying diplomatic immunity the thug from CEIPI (who is back at the EPO as a jurist) passed millions if not billions (over the long run) in liabilities; this was done with total and inexcusable impunity, no effective oversight

MANY RECENT scandals suggest that the former President of the European Patent Office (EPO) belongs behind bars. We often wonder quite genuinely, why is this man not in prison with Benalla and instead on top of a law school (CEIPI)? It’s a slap across the face to the very occupation. Remember what we wrote a year ago about toxic loans? Here’s a reminder and index:

As we pointed out only days ago, more money is being wasted by the hundreds of millions with little or no oversight and only a couple of months ago we found out about Battistelli trashing 223 millions (of stakeholders’ euros) on a system that destroyed the Office and helped fake ‘production’ by promoting illegal software patents in Europe while ruining examiners’ life (and job).

“It doesn’t take a genius to figure out where this money came from and who it is cushioning.”It was only days ago that we recalled Battistelli siphoning millions, sending them to his colleagues at his own theatre in Paris. What level of criminality will be necessary to hold criminals accountable when their crimes are committed under diplomatic immunity?

The following new post from an EPO insider (published this morning) spoke of an apparent coverup by Team António Campinos (a former banker from a notoriously corrupt Portuguese bank). Under “Zero-sum game” it says:

A few days ago, the financial status report was published. Within that report, the following gem was found:

In 2018 the Office transferred its legacy bonds portfolio to the EPO Treasury Investment Fund (EPOTIF) which holds the funds in line with the Strategic Asset Allocation approved by the BFC. As at the end of 2018 the total value of EPOTIF units was € 2 460m, which includes a revaluation loss for the year of € 97m.

Just after two days that sentence was redacted, it now reads:

In 2018 the Office transferred its legacy bonds portfolio to the EPO Treasury Investment Fund (EPOTIF) which holds the funds in line with the Strategic Asset Allocation approved by the BFC. As at the end of 2018 the total value of EPOTIF units was € 2 460m.

Märpel is confident that the readers will spot the difference. Hint: it involves 97 millions Euros.

That amount of money was lost between mai and December 2018. Or, more precisely, it was lost for the EPO. Short term speculation is usually a zero-sum game: when somebody loses, somebody else wins. Why do you think that President Battistelli absolutely had to get EPOTIF approved just one month before he left the Office?

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out where this money came from and who it is cushioning. See the series about the toxic loans in Paris and who systematically profited at taxpayers’ expense. This is truly criminal. Crime is like a sport to these people.

The Biased EPO Does Not Want to Hear From Anyone Except Those Who Pay the EPO

Posted in Europe, Patents at 9:20 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The EPO nowadays resembles the worst of cults [1, 2]

Wikileaks on Scientology

Wikileaks on Scientology and DNC

Summary: The EPO’s corruption and violations of the law are a threat to everyone in the world; the EPO only ever listens to those who pay for “access” or those who embrace the “religion” of the EPO

THE EPC does not matter to the European Patent Office (EPO); it is routinely being violated or ‘danced around’, just like 35 U.S.C. § 101 in today’s USPTO. António Campinos hasn’t blogged in months, but his most recent blog posts advocate software patents in Europe. They disguise that using familiar buzzwords. In addition, Campinos is ignoring clear directions from European politicians by allowing patents on nature and life, not just maths. It’s outrageous.

Patent quality (or scope of patenting) does not seem matter when offices knowingly grant so many patents which they know to be fake patent monopolies (not in compliance with the EPC) that merely attack the innocent and enrich lawyers. Today’s EPO has gotten so badly-behaved and so utterly out of touch with the law (it breaks many laws routinely and casually) that it is granting patents on plants, seeds (yes, it's as bad as that sounds) and algorithms.

“ZBM Patents & Trademarks” (i.e. the patent microcosm) published “EPO Plant patentability” in Lexology the other day. It’s the same old controversy:

Decisions G2/12 and G2/13 of the Enlarged Board of Appeal (EBA) of the EPO (Tomatoes II and Broccoli II) allowed the protection of plants per se…

EBA is not independent (from the Office President), unlike those other rulings that tackled this issue. Over at Mondaq, another site of patent maximalists, Matthew Handley (Venner Shipley LLP) has just spoken of the EPO “President’s decision to refer the matter to the EBA,” saying it “is highly controversial and has been widely criticised.”

By who? It’s not as controversial as patents on nature. To quote Handley’s article:

The President of the European Patent Office (EPO) has submitted questions to the Enlarged Board of Appeal (EBA) which relate to the patentability of plants exclusively obtained by essentially biological processes and to T1063/18, a Technical Board of Appeal decision of December 2018.

In T1063/18, the Appeal Board disregarded an amendment to Rule 28(2) EPC, thereby undoing what was effectively an amendment to the Implementing Regulations to the Convention on the Grant of European Patents initiated by the European Union (EU). This decision has been widely seen as underlining the independence of the EPO’s Boards of Appeal from the EU, an important and timely reminder for everyone grappling with the impact of Brexit on IP in Europe.

The President’s decision to refer the matter to the EBA is highly controversial and has been widely criticised. The referral is described by the President as being necessary to restore legal certainty, but commentators have argued that rather than alleviating uncertainty, the President is adding to it by asking the EBA to revisit a question that they have already considered.

The decision issued in T1063/18 was an appeal against an Examining Division objection under amended Rule 28(2) EPC. The amendment to Rule 28(2) EPC was deemed void and the application, relating to pepper plants with improved nutritional value, was remitted to the Examining Division for further prosecution.


Nevertheless, the decision of T1063/18 was very warmly received by applicants in this field and news of the President’s referral will be of concern to companies that filed European patent applications based on the G2/12 and G2/13 decisions, and generally to patent applicants in the European agricultural sector. In the meantime, however, the EPO has returned to granting patents in respect of plants or animals exclusively obtained by means of an essentially biological process. It is also worth emphasising that plants and plant material obtained by a technical process are unquestionably patentable.

It is not clear when the EBA will decide on the President’s referral, but in the meantime it is worth noting that the decision in T1063/18, and the President’s subsequent referral to the EPO’s Enlarged Board of Appeal, sends a clear signal that it is the EPO’s Appeal Boards that decide how to interpret the European Patent Convention for the purpose of granting patents, and not the EU or individual national governments.

Handley’s colleague, also in Mondaq, has just promoted patents on maths. Paul Misselbrook (Venner Shipley LLP) uses ridiculous buzzwords like “Smart Patents” and latches onto another buzzword/phrase, “4IR” (sometimes “Industry 4.0″ instead), which EPO made up, spread (e.g. by paying large German publishers), then exploited in order to grant illegal European patents on software. As if a “revolution” is upon us, hence we must welcome abstract patents.

To quote:

The patent system is credited as the crucial legal foundation from which the first industrial revolution was built. Milestone inventions such as the steam engine, power looms, the Cotton Gin and many more were all granted patent protection and by providing manufacturers with legal rights to prevent copying, innovation and industry flourished.

Using words like “revolution” he’s equating/associating software with things like “the steam engine”. This is the kind of propaganda the EPO likes to see.

Yesterday the EPO published this nonsense (warning: epo.org link) titled “Search Matters 2019: Insight for searchers and patent information professionals focuses on AI” (when the EPO says “AI” it typically means software patents which are not legal but are granted anyway, even in clear defiance of the laws of Europe). To quote:

The EPO has held its annual Search Matters conference at its headquarters in Munich. The three day event, which has run for 31 consecutive years, offered training to patent search professionals from around the world. The programme focussed heavily on search strategies and techniques used by the Office.

The event was multi-faceted and comprised various learning formats, including at-the-desk sessions, interactive workshops as well as plenary lectures provided by EPO examiners and external experts. For the first time in the history of Search Matters, the programme featured a panel discussion that delved deeper into artificial intelligence (AI) and its implications in searching.

This echo chamber focused on “AI” in the context of search rather than patenting, but usually — as per prior events — they intentionally conflate the two.

We have meanwhile learned that the EPO isn’t really interested in what the public has to say. And as this leak proved 4 years ago, you need to be a billionaire for the EPO to change the whole system for you.

“Trying to submit a contribution to the public consultation which ends today,” Benjamin Henrion (FFII) wrote yesterday after the EPO had stated: “It’s your last chance to give us your feedback on our draft Strategic Plan 2023. Take the opportunity to share your thoughts with us…”

“EPO’s 2023 consultation is already biased,” Henrion wrote, “simply in the list of categories, there is no space for a simple “company”, I am forced to pick the box “other”, as they maybe consider that all companies are “patent applicant: company” [] Last day to participate in the EPO public consultation, who is pushing for the extension of its toxic software patents to other parts of the globe…”

The EPO “does not want your opinion unless you’re biased,” I told him. It is literally paying people for opinions that favour its agenda and blocking critical voices. The EPO has blocked Techrights (since 2014 we believe) because it provides true, accurate information which the EPO does not want people to have access to. It’s like a cult. Scientology warns people to not even consider opinions other than its own (or be punished for it). The very act of reading/assessing/searching for refutation is treated as an offense.

“When a multiple “choice” sheet feels like you’re in the GDR,” he wrote, “it’s the @EPOorg.”

Here’s what he showed:

Biased EPO

He has meanwhile added: “It seems the “Open Source Ecology eV” is gone now from the template of EPO’s public consultation…” (a day after we mentioned it)

Team UPC Has Run Out of Arguments, So Now It’s Just Writing Anti-Brexit Rants With Testicles in the Headlines

Posted in Deception, Europe, Patents at 8:04 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The three Frenchmen

Summary: Nothing has worked for firms that crafted and lobbied hard for the Unified Patent Court (UPC); after necrophilia a new low is being reached

I MYSELF am not pro-Brexit, but this isn’t the point. Many people who oppose the UPC and oppose corruption at the European Patent Office (EPO) are pro-EU and against Brexit. It’s actually very likely that the majority of such people, typically better educated folks, won’t conflate the two matters. Last year Bristows tried to associate opposition to the UPC with the far right. It’s an old trick that won’t fool anyone.

“So they’re international litigation people — just what the UPC caters for.”In a recent article (dated 29.04.19) about Brexit a law firm speaks about the UPC very succinctly. Who wrote it? “Beverley Potts is a senior professional support lawyer and David Stone is a partner in the London office of Allen & Overy; Joachim Feldges is a partner in the Munich office; Keren Livneh is a senior associate in the New York office; and David Shen is a partner in the Shanghai office.”

So they’re international litigation people — just what the UPC caters for. Here is what they wrote: “There is continuing uncertainty about when and if the Unified Patent Court (UPC) will come into effect. Some of that uncertainty stems from Brexit but there is also a pending challenge to the legality of the system in Germany. If and when the unitary patent and the UPC come into force, there is debate about whether the UK may still qualify as a member state under the Agreement on a Unified Court. For the time being, patent owners are waiting for the further development of the UPC and, in particular, for the decision on the German constitutional complaint (judgment still pending).”

“Last year it tried fake news and fabricated/false rumours. It told politicians that the UPC would start very soon and the complaint be dismissed; their liars cited no reliable source, they just made the whole thing up.”Notice that familiar pattern with the two famous lies. Britain cannot participate in a system (that does not exist anyway) regardless of its status and the court observes a variety of factors (about 4 of them). So UPC is basically a non-starter.

We’ve meanwhile noticed a shift in the strategy of Team UPC. Last year it tried fake news and fabricated/false rumours. It told politicians that the UPC would start very soon and the complaint be dismissed; their liars cited no reliable source, they just made the whole thing up. They’re liars, not lawyers.

Failing that, half a year down the line, they’ve turned to discussions of Brexit itself. We’re supposed to think that this whole thing, which obstructs the UPC, boils down to nothing but Nigel Farage and his laughable (a domestic joke) Brexit Party.

“We’re supposed to think that this whole thing, which obstructs the UPC, boils down to nothing but Nigel Farage and his laughable (a domestic joke) Brexit Party.”IP Kat’s Team UPC (Annsley Merelle Ward, Bristows) amplifies Team UPC (AIPPI) and the colleague Alan Johnson has nothing left to say about the dead UPC, so now he’s just ranting about Brexit in a patent blog (which oughtn’t be about Brexit Party/Nigel Farage but about patents). Even the headline is immature: “Brexit Party or “Bollocks to Brexit” – will the EU Parliamentary elections make any difference?”

Watch what Kluwer Patent Blog has been reduced to by Bristows. Words like “Bollocks” in titles. Colloquially, in plural form (as above) it means testicles.

A non-Bristows author at Kluwer Patent Blog (and not Team UPC either) pointed out as recently as 4 days ago that “[a]ccording to the EPO’s Annual Report 2018, 66712 patents were granted in 2013. In 2018, the number of patent was 127625! Conversely, the number of examiners has almost exactly stayed the same (4221 in 2013, 4276 in 2018).” The context of this post is slowness of German courts, especially in nullity (of patents) procedures that are often settled outside courts and thus mask the really appalling rates of patent validity. To quote the relevant portions:

Will your response be: “Well, well, well, but is this such a big problem? Each patent has at least been thoroughly examined by either the German or the European Patent Office. So don’t these well-examined rights deserve being respected?” – Hmmm. The validity of this argument obviously depends on the quality of the patents granted by the respective offices. And here lies another serious problem. The EPO, for example, has almost doubled the number of granted patents over the past 5 years. According to the EPO’s Annual Report 2018, 66712 patents were granted in 2013. In 2018, the number of patent was 127625! Conversely, the number of examiners has almost exactly stayed the same (4221 in 2013, 4276 in 2018). This means that compared to 2013, each examiner now has half the amount of time available to examine and judge each application. And given that it is easier to comply with applicant’s wishes than to write a decision of refusal, you can guess what this trend means for the average quality of the search and examination process.

But even if the quality of the granted patents had miraculously stayed the same for the last 5 years, this does not mean that examination by the EPO or GPTO makes a patent fire-proof. On the contrary, the percentage of total or partial invalidations by the Federal Patent Court is significant.


The impression you might get from these statistics is that only a relatively small (in 2018, 24% + 16%) proportion of patents is wholly or partially revoked, whereas the rest is maintained. But this is not so. In fact, the BMJV’s statistic is – apologies for being so outspoken – quite misleading. This is because most cases before the Federal Patent Court are not “disposed” by a contentious judgment, but by withdrawal or some other sort of settlement. In particular, patentees may wish to settle a nullity action – e.g. by granting a free license – when they know their patent is of doubtful validity. Thus, while the number of “disposed cases” is somewhere from 200-250, the number of actual decisions per year is only in the order of 100. For example, in 2015 there were 93 judgments, of which 47 (50%) ended with total revocation, and 32 (34%) with partial revocation. The patent was maintained as granted only in 17 (18%) of all cases!

This trend has not significantly changed over the last 5 years. One simply cannot assert that even the simple majority of patents that are seriously attacked before the FPC will withstand nullity plaintiff’s challenges

Imagine something like the UPC, connected to the EPO, being put in charge of assessment of European Patents. Will judges lose their jobs (contract not renewed) for throwing out “too many” European Patents? Therein lies some of the very substance of the UPC complaint in Germany’s FCC. Let’s hope the decision takes another couple of years to arrive (there haven't even been oral arguments yet) because the UPC was a terrible idea all along and it’s unconstitutional in many member states for reasons such as languages among others. Brexit delays also further contribute to the demise of the UPC, as we explained several times before. Bristows’ UPC blog is more or less dead, so now they ruin others’ blogs.

Making the Patent System About Productive Actors (Again), Not a Bunch of Law Firms and Trolls

Posted in America, Europe, Patents at 6:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Law firms like the one Iancu (on the left) came from, after it had worked for Donald Trump (on the right)

Trump and Iancu

Summary: The US patent system is going out of shape and out of tune, just like the EPO when Battistelli came to it, dismantling the rule of law and even judges whom he did not like

TECHRIGHTS has often focused on EPO scandals, USPTO reforms, and in recent years the new Director, whose agenda is similar to that of António Campinos. President Campinos, appointed by Battistelli (through pressure on the Council), pushes hard for software patents in Europe (under misleading buzzwords), whereas the latter, Iancu, keeps acting like Battistelli by ignoring 35 U.S.C. § 101 caselaw (similar to EPC being shunned) while pushing buzzwords. There’s a growing similarity if not overlap across the Atlantic. It got a lot worse when Trump gave Iancu this job under controversial circumstances (nepotism). He wrongly assumes that he can assert control over judges and ignore input from USPTO stakeholders, who strongly oppose his position and policies. When we say stakeholders we don’t mean law firms but actual companies and creators, engineers, designers etc. (those were, after all, the intended stakeholders of the USPTO when it was set up).

“When we say stakeholders we don’t mean law firms but actual companies and creators, engineers, designers etc. (those were, after all, the intended stakeholders of the USPTO when it was set up).”Where do we go from here? Well, we must observe and respond to the situation. The eventuality isn’t predetermined and may very well depend on what the public does. Iancu, for instance, is already coming under fire from stakeholders and even courts. As our readers certainly know, the EPO comes under weekly/daily fire even from its very own staff (salaried by the EPO).

At the moment, in 2019, the US patent office and the main European patent office, the EPO, are both controlled by clueless and dishonest people. One need only consider what events they attend and who they speak to. They don’t care about science and technology. They wrongly assume that their offices exist just to grant as many patents as possible, giving rise to as many lawsuits as possible. Just before the weekend, for instance, we saw Christian Camarce and Karen Wong-Chan (Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox P.L.L.C.) celebrating PPH, the Patent Prosecution Highway. In practice, putting patent trolls on the “highway” (PPH) so that they can blackmail more people more quickly and more efficiently isn’t what science and technology need; quite the contrary. The risk associated with rushed patent examination (and prosecution) discourages investment and causes greater uncertainty. As this law firm itself has explained:

The Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) program accelerates examination among participating patent offices. The PPH program first began as a trial program between the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the Japan Patent Office (JPO) in 2006, to avoid duplicate work efforts and expedite patentability decisions between patent offices. [1] Since then, the program has grown to include over 40 patent offices, including the European Patent Office (EPO), Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO), China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA), and Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO). This article discusses a brief overview of the PPH program and surveys PPH activity in participating patent offices.


The above discussion indicates that the patent offices with the most PPH activity are the JPO and USPTO, with the JPO being the office of earlier examination receiving the most PPH requests and the USPTO being the office of later examination receiving the most PPH requests. The EPO, KIPO, CNIPA, and CIPA also receive a significant number of PPH requests. Thus, for applicants seeking patent protection in these jurisdictions, the PPH program may be a viable vehicle to obtain patents faster than by standard examination.

But at what expense? Accuracy of course. There’s less time for appeals and objections, for instance. In the age of 35 U.S.C. § 101, moreover, American examiners are eager to also allow patents that ought not exist in the first place. Iancu is egging them on, making leeway for ignoring caselaw.

“At the moment, in 2019, the US patent office and the main European patent office, the EPO, are both controlled by clueless and dishonest people.”Just before the weekend, Josh Landau (CCIA) spoke of “working to ensure that unclear patent claims—claims which fail to serve their intended purpose of providing public notice—are considered invalid.”

Landau, like his implicit EFF allies, is growingly upset at Iancu’s lies and distortions. Here’s the context of this latest rant of his and some conclusions:

Amgen’s patent required a process with three separate steps. Sandoz’s process was a single step process that performed the same general function. But Amgen claimed that Sandoz infringed under the doctrine of equivalents, a patent law doctrine that allows a patent owner to assert infringement that goes outside of the literal scope of the claims.


Even if a patent claims one way of doing something, not just the result, if the language of the claims is unclear or impossible to understand—or even to understand easily—then members of the public are faced with the choice of either avoiding an area of technology they might well be entitled to use, or else engaging in that area and running the risk that they do infringe a valid claim.

USPTO Director Iancu often refers to “certainty” and “predictability” when discussing § 101. But those same concerns—the ability of the public to have certainty and predictability as to what a patent means—are far too often not part of the discussion. This week, the Federal Circuit again highlighted this problem. Their future case law should do the same, working to ensure that unclear patent claims—claims which fail to serve their intended purpose of providing public notice—are considered invalid.

None of the above is yet unheard of; we’re seeing more and more arguments like these and ours predate the actual appointment of Iancu (when he was only nominated and way before his attacks on 35 U.S.C. § 101 back in January). Yesterday, perhaps belatedly, Patently-O wrote about the case that we had included in daily links for quite some time, asking (in the headline) the famous old question, “What happens when Patents Are Later Invalidated?”

“Iancu is egging them on, making leeway for ignoring caselaw.”It’s about 35 U.S.C. § 101.

The huge industrial and societal cost of fake patents being granted (and there’s never justice at the end; only the lawyers benefit at everyone’s expense) is described in the context of this case, even in the words of patent maximalists:

The basic question here is whether the late-stage invalidity in T-Mobile can be used to cancel Sprint’s adjudged liability. So far, the courts have sided with Sprint, although it was important for Sprint’s case that it took pains to slow-walk its post-appeal activity (request for rehearing and petition for certiorari) so that the case still had some life by the time the T-Mobile decision was released.

June 23, 2017 – the Federal Circuit invalidated the patents in the T-Mobile decision. June 27, 2017 (two business days later) – Sprint filed a R.60(b) motion for Relief from Judgment based upon the Federal Circuit’s binding authority “that the patent claims underlying that judgment are invalid as unpatentable under 35 U.S.C. § 101.” The district court complied and set-aside its prior verdict and the Federal Circuit affirmed — finding no abuse of discretion.

As part of the Sprint timeline, it is notable that the Federal Circuit issued its mandate in May 2017 (before the T-Mobile invalidity decision). After the T-Mobile decision, Sprint unsuccessfully requested that the Federal Circuit recall the mandate. However, the court did issue a statement that recall was “unnecessary” because the “mandate does not alter how the district court should decide the preclusive effect of the T-Mobile ruling, which did not exist in May 2017.”

Another important element here a big question about whether the T-Mobile invalidity applied to all of the claims at issue in Sprint (the Federal Circuit retrospectively said yes).

Will the cost of this injustice be taken into account or only USPTO revenue? SUEPO very well grasps the idea/impact of externality and has spoken about it publicly for a number of years. We very much appreciate SUEPO (i.e. European patent examiners) for that. Why don’t USPTO examiners/patent clerks do the same?

“SUEPO very well grasps the idea/impact of externality and has spoken about it publicly for a number of years.”As pointed out by Benjamin Henrion last night, far too many patents are being granted. “China just allows patents on pretty much everything,” I responded to him. “My longstanding theory is that they flood the system of WIPO with junk so as to discredit it, making it obsolete (almost 1.5 million filings per year! More than the world COMBINED!)”

Henrion had also responded to another dumb piece from Watchtroll, titled “Independent Inventors to USPTO: We Are All Underrepresented in This Patent System”

“They labeled all software patent owners as patent trolls,” he quoted from it, adding: “Rightly so. Software developers deserve freedom of programming, not interference from the state in between them and their keyboard [] Small software patent trolls says they don’t have a voice at the USPTO: “Like many software patents post-2014, my first attempt to enforce my rights was defeated this past October.””

“Blogs sympathetic to the agenda of Iancu are running out of steam and it’s no wonder that the supposed ‘bill’ or ‘fix’ from Coons et al (against PTAB and Section 101 etc.) hasn’t been mentioned in a long time. It’s silently dying, just like in past years.”When Watchtroll’s Eileen McDermott talks of “Independent Inventors,” I’ve told him, she means not inventors but people who have a patent and want to sue someone who actually does, not says, something. The term “inventor” became wildly misused like “patriot” and other nonsense. Giving them something like PPH is only exacerbating matters.

We don’t want to link to Watchtroll. We stopped doing that about 5 months ago. We’re still adding new cases and case outcomes to daily links, without necessarily commenting (for lack of time mostly). Like we said last week, many blogs have become inactive. Remember Docket Report? It suddenly stopped completely (last summer). There are other such examples. Blogs sympathetic to the agenda of Iancu are running out of steam and it’s no wonder that the supposed ‘bill’ or ‘fix’ from Coons et al (against PTAB and Section 101 etc.) hasn’t been mentioned in a long time. It’s silently dying, just like in past years.

Links 11/5/2019: Mesa 19.0.4, “2019 the Year of GNU/Linux on the Desktop”

Posted in News Roundup at 2:48 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



Free Software/Open Source

  • 5 open source hardware products for the great outdoors

    When people think about open source hardware, they often think about the general category of electronics that can be soldered and needs batteries. While there are many fantastic open source pieces of electronics, the overall category of open source hardware is much broader. This month we take a look at open source hardware that you can take out into the world, no power outlet or batteries required.

  • Keeping an open source project alive when people leave

    Suppose you wake up one day and decide to finally use that recipe video you keep watching all over social media. You get the ingredients, organize the necessary utensils, and start to follow the recipe steps. You cut this, cut that, then start heating the oven at the same time you put butter and onions in a pan. Then, your phone reminds you: you have a dinner appointment with your boss, and you’re already late! You turn off everything and leave immediately, stopping the cooking process somewhere near the end.

  • A Fireside Chat with Red Hat CEO James Whitehurst

    “I’m trying to run this little software company and continue to organically grow at double digit rates. I spend a lot more time than average out with customers. A lot of them are IBM customers, are Red Hat customers and they want to know how this is all going to work. I probably talk to 10 customers a week.”

    “We’re not a professional services company, but because we’ve been open to open source for 25 years, people naturally come to us and ask for our help and thoughts about the cultural transformation needed to leverage the technologies [they need] to deliver at the pace that their business customers expect.”

  • Molly de Blanc: OSI Update: May 2019

    At the most recent Open Source Initiative face-to-face board meeting I was elected president of the board of directors. In the spirit of transparency, I wanted to share a bit about my goals and my vision for the organization over the next five years. These thoughts are my own, not reflecting official organization policy or plans. They do not speak to the intentions nor desires of other members of the board. I am representing my own thoughts, and where I’d like to see the future of the OSI go.


    I’ve been called an ideologue, an idealist, a true believer, a wonk, and a number of other things — flattering, embarrassing, and offensive — concerning my relationship to free and open source software. I recently said that “user freedom is the hill I will die on, and let the carrion birds feast on my remains.” While we are increasingly discussing the ethical considerations of technology we need to also raise awareness of the ways user freedom and software freedom are entwined with the ethical considerations of computing. These philosophies need to be in the foundational design of all modern technologies in order for us to build technology that is ethical.

    I have a vision for the way the OSI should fit into the future of technology, I think it’s a good vision, and I thought that being president would be a good way to help move that forward. It also gave me a very concrete and candid opportunity to share my hopes for the present and the future with my fellow board directors, to see where they agree and where they dissent, and to collaboratively build a cohesive organizational mission.

  • Quiz launched to assess public knowledge of FOSS

    The European Commission is an enthusiastic user, producer and contributor of free and open source software (FOSS). Freely licensed to use, copy, study and change in any way, open source code is publicly shared to encourage people (anyone) to voluntarily improve the design and features of the software.

    Many people already use FOSS without knowing they are benefiting from it. This is about to change. To spread the message about the benefits of FOSS, the EU-FOSSA 2 project has created a simple quiz in an effort to assess the level of understanding of FOSS among the public. In addition, the quiz covers issues such as the safety of FOSS, how often it is used, and whether European institutions use FOSS. To take part in the quiz, click here.

  • Events

    • RISC-V microconference accepted for the 2019 Linux Plumbers Conference

      The open nature of the RISC-V ecosystem has allowed contributions from both academia and industry leading to an unprecedented number of new hardware design proposals in a very short time span. Linux support is the key to enabling these new hardware options. Since last year’s Plumbers, many kernel features were added to RISC-V. To name a few, we now have out-of-box 32-bit and eBPF support, some key issues with Linux boot process have been addressed, and hypervisor support is on its way.

  • Web Browsers

  • LibreOffice

    • Bringing people together: German LibreOffice Community Meeting, May 2019

      15 people took part, from across the LibreOffice project: developers, event organisers, infrastructure maintainers, documentation editors, and TDF team and board members. We discussed many topics, which are detailed on the pad (in German), including: the structure of the German project; the various tools that we use (and how to consolidate them); and which events we should attend in the future.

      In addition, we created a list of tasks to focus on in the coming weeks and months, assigned to various members of the community. As we’re a volunteer-led project, we always appreciate help, so if you’ve seen something on the pad that piques your interest, please join our mailing list and give us a hand!

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

    • Stremio Open Source Add-on Competition offers $5,000 in Rewards [Ed: More openwashing stunts. Surveillance capitalism trying to come across as "open"]

      Last year, the team behind Stremio — a one-stop hub for video content aggregation — featured a competition that encouraged the community to develop add-ons for their open-source video streaming application. Many people participated, but only four were awarded prizes. This year, the team is trying to replicate that same success by hosting another add-on competition.


    • GNU Guix 1.0.0 released

      On May 2, the GNU Guix project announced the release of version 1.0 of the Guix software manager. Since the project’s beginnings a little more than seven years ago, nearly 300 volunteers from all over the world have contributed more than 50,000 improvements. Guix now provides a huge collection of bit-reproducible free software packages consisting of close to 10,000 applications and libraries from a wide range of categories, including gaming, music production, video editing, programming, and specialized scientific software.

      What distinguishes Guix from other free software distributions is that it is designed with reproducibility in mind. It builds packages in controlled environments to ensure that the results are bit for bit the same no matter when or where packages are built. This means that users can easily deploy the very same software environment or even the very same operating system, at different points in time or on different machines. Reproducibility provides strong assurances that are of fundamental value for security, for the use of software in computational science, and for user freedom.

  • Public Services/Government

    • European Commission conference dedicated to Open Source

      On 11 June, the European Commission’s 2nd Share & Reuse conference in Bucharest will be entirely dedicated to the use of open source in public administrations across Europe. This is significant, and it shows just how far open source has come in the 15 or so years since OFE was founded. Open source, it seems, is an idea whose time has come.

  • Licensing/Legal

    • Kernel source code available for Nokia 2

      Nokia Mobile updated their “Open Source” page today, where the company provides source code obligated by the GPL, LGPL and other open source licenses. The list contains most Nokia smartphones, with the Nokia 2 being the latest addition.

  • Programming/Development

    • Best JavaScript Editors for Linux [Ed: Far too Microsoft-centric. First paragraph is all about GitHub and then Microsoft's proprietary software (MSVS) free bait... then GitHub again. Really appalling.]
    • Working With Variables – Python Programming
    • An Intro to StaticBox and StaticBoxSizers
    • Python for NLP: Working with the Gensim Library (Part 1)

      This is the 10th article in my series of articles on Python for NLP. In my previous article, I explained how the StanfordCoreNLP library can be used to perform different NLP tasks.

      In this article, we will explore the Gensim library, which is another extremely useful NLP library for Python. Gensim was primarily developed for topic modeling. However, it now supports a variety of other NLP tasks such as converting words to vectors (word2vec), document to vectors (doc2vec), finding text similarity, and text summarization.

    • What The @#$%&! (Heck) is this #! (Hash-Bang) Thingy In My Bash Script

      You’ve seen it a million times—the hash-bang (#!) line at the top of a script—whether it be Bash, Python, Perl or some other scripting language. And, I’m sure you know what its purpose is: it specifies the script interpreter that’s used to execute the script. But, do you know how it actually works? Your initial thought might be that your shell (bash) reads that line and then executes the specified interpreter, but that’s not at all how it works. How it actually works is the main focus of this post, but I also want to introduce how you can create your own version of “hash-bang” if you’re so inclined.

    • Weekly Python Exercise A2 (functions + modules for beginners) closes today

      If you are a relative beginner to Python, and want to improve your understanding of functions and modules, then there’s no better way to do so than practice.

      Weekly Python Exercise provides you with that practice, with a family of six 15-week courses. In each course, you get a question on Tuesday, the answer on Monday, discussion among your cohort in our private forum, and live, monthly office hours.

      And today’s the last day to sign up for the latest cohort for beginners, with an emphasis on functions and modules.

    • PyGrunn: testing your infrastructure code – Ruben Homs

      Servers used to be managed by proper wizards. But even wizards can be killed by a balrog. So… what happens when your sysadmin leaves?

    • PyGrunn: python as a scientist’s playground – Peter Kroon

      He’s a scientist. Quite often, he searches for python packages.

    • PyGrunn: monitoring and profiling Flask apps – Patrick Vogel & Bogdan Petre

      Patrick and Bogdan are students at Groningen University and they made the Flask Monitoring Dashboard.

    • PyGrunn: embedding the python interpreter – Mark Boer
    • PyGrunn: data processing and visualisation of tractor data – Erik-Jan Blanksma
    • PyGrunn: a day has only 24 ± 1 hours – Miroslav Šedivý

      Time zones… If you do datatime.datetime.now() you’ll get a date+time without timezone information. You can get different results on your laptop (set to local time) and a server (that might be set to UTC).

    • PyGrunn: advanced pytest – Òscar Vilaplana

      Imagine being a developer being woken up at night because your latest commit broke the website. You fix the issue, run the tests of your part of the code (which passes) and push to github. That runs all the tests and it fails in a completely unrelated piece of the code. But what is happening? Is the test wrong? Is your code wrong? “3 is not 90”: what does that mean?

    • PyGrunn: lessons from using GraphQL in production – Niek Hoekstra & Jean-Paul van Oosten

      GraphQL is a different way to create APIs. So: differently from REST. You describe what you want to recieve back, instead of having a fixed REST api. With REST you often get too much or too little. You may need to do a lot of different calls.

      REST often leads to a tight coupling between the front-end and the back-end. Changes to a REST api often break the front-end…

    • Intel’s BFloat16 Support Plumbed Into GCC 10 & LLVM Clang 9 Compilers

      Last month Intel developers began working on adding BFloat16 support to the open-source/Linux compilers for this new instruction debuting with next-generation Xeon “Cooper Lake” server processors. That support is now squared away for GCC 10, due out next year, and LLVM Clang 9, which will be released this autumn.

      BFloat16 floating-point support is intended for deep learning / machine learning workloads and will be supported by next-gen Cooper Lake processors and is also found within Nervana NNPs and FPGAs. BFloat16 has also been of interest to other companies like Google and their TPUs.

    • Rust doubly-linked list, redux

      I have declared rc-dlist-deque, my doubly-linked list library for Rust, to be 1.0.0. Little has changed, apart from the version number and some documentation updates.

      In particular, I thought I would expand on my previous comments to the effect that you don’t want a doubly linked list in Rust.

    • Celebration: Zope 4 final release

      After hard, long years of preparation Earl Zope now finally made it to get a permanent license for the Python 3 wonderland: In September 2016 almost 20 people started with the reanimation of Zope at the Zope Resurrection sprint. This marked the beginning of a wonderful journey for Earl Zope himself for the people who helped him. In August 2017 Earl Zope became aware that his Python 2 country will irreversibly be destroyed by 2020. Earl Zope was successfully applying for for a beta permission for the Python 3 wonderland in September 2017. This beta permission has been extended 9 times to give Earl Zope time to become a good citizen in his new home country.

    • Python for Data Science : Learn in 3 Days

      This tutorial helps you to learn Data Science with Python with examples. Python is an open source language and it is widely used as a high-level programming language for general-purpose programming. It has gained high popularity in data science world. As data science domain is rising these days, IBM recently predicted demand for data science professionals would rise by more than 25% by 2020. In the PyPL Popularity of Programming language index, Python scored second rank with a 14 percent share. In advanced analytics and predictive analytics market, it is ranked among top 3 programming languages for advanced analytics.

    • Introduction to Reinforcement Learning with Python


  • Science

    • Academics Raise Concerns About Predatory Journals on PubMed

      “If a predatory journal is confined on its website, which is often of low-quality, the chance that patients or scholars will read and cite these articles is very low,” says Andrea Manca, a professor of physiology at the University of Sassari in Italy. “The problem is that when they are displayed in the most popular biomedical database that we have, there are many [people] who think if a journal is on PubMed, then it is fine—which is not true, unfortunately.”

    • How to explain Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in plain English

      Rather, the “robot” in robotic process automation is software running on a physical or virtual machine.

      “RPA is a form of business process automation that allows anyone to define a set of instructions for a robot or ‘bot’ to perform,” says Aaron Bultman, director of product at Nintex. “RPA bots are capable of mimicking most human-computer interactions to carry out a ton of error-free tasks, at high volume and speed.”

      If that sounds sort of, well, boring – especially compared to the Hollywood robots – that’s by design. RPA is ultimately about automating some of the most mundane and repetitive computer-based tasks and processes in the workplace. Think copy-paste tasks and moving files from one location to another, for example.

    • A peek at artificial intelligence in action at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

      At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, we constantly assess and experiment with emerging technologies. We have identified six technology waves of the future, which together build to form one giant tsunami we call “Built-in Intelligence Everywhere.”

      This giant tsunami is comprised of Cybersecurity Challenges (e.g. blockchain); Accelerated Computing (e.g. quantum computing); Software-Defined Everything (e.g software defined networking and APIs); Ubiquitous Computing (e.g. the Internet of Things and augmented reality); New Habits (e.g. always the-connected workplace and the sharing economy); and Applied AI (e.g. machine learning and chatbots).

      This article will explore the Applied AI technology wave.

      One manifestation of this built-in intelligence is the rise of the Intelligent Digital Assistant (IDA). These will benefit us both in the near-and long-term. To be truly useful, they need to be easy and natural to interact with and get smarter over time as we add intelligence.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • If Everyone Lived Like European’s, We’d Be Out of Earth’s Resources Today

      Today is the day on which we would have exhausted Earth’s resources for the year if everyone lived like residents of the European Union (EU), according to a new report from WWF and the Global Footprint Network. The report, the first to focus on the EU specifically, calculated that if everyone consumed as much fuel, food, fiber, land and timber as Europeans, it would take 2.8 planet earths to sustain us all, The Guardian reported.

      “EU Overshoot Day is a stark reminder that EU consumption is contributing to the Earth’s looming ecological and climate collapse. This is not only irresponsible, it is outright dangerous. Urgent action is needed, and EU leaders must summon the political will to treat this situation as an emergency and set us on a path towards a sustainable future for Europe,” WWF European Policy Office Director Ester Asin said, according to The Guardian.

    • Mushrooms as Medicine? Psychedelics May Be Next Breakthrough Treatment

      Soft lighting. Comfortable furniture. Art decorating the walls.

      To the untrained eye, this setting appears to be a living room. But it’s not. It’s a research facility specially designed to evoke comfort and ease.

      A psilocybin therapy session is taking place.

    • California Lunchrooms May Soon Serve Up Organics

      When Ángel García was little, he often awoke to the smell of breakfast burritos on the stove. His mom would wake up at 4 a.m. to cook for him and pack his lunch before dropping him off with the babysitter by 6 a.m. so she could get to work. She spent her days picking fruits and vegetables on the farmland surrounding their California home. When she returned at the end of a long day, García remembers rushing to her for a hug, but she would shoo him away. She would remind him that chemicals misted down into the fields where she worked — what kind she didn’t know, but she recognized the dangers they posed to her son’s health.

    • California, Nation’s Top User of Chlorpyrifos, Announces Ban on Brain-Damaging Pesticide

      California will ban a brain-damaging pesticide that the Trump administration’s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has delayed banning at the national level, the state announced Wednesday.

      Chlorpyrifos, which is used on almonds, citrus, grapes, cotton, walnuts and other crops, has been shown to harm children’s health and neurological development.

    • Healthy Soil, Coming to a Theater Near You: 5 Lessons From ‘The Biggest Little Farm’

      An email in my inbox last month caught my attention. It was from author, environmental advocate, and Academy Award-winning film producer Laurie David (An Inconvenient Truth), and it offered a preview of The Biggest Little Farm, a new documentary film David had coming out soon. “I promise you that any person that goes to see this film will leave inspired and caring a whole lot more for the planet,” her note said. “I promise you it will help your organization achieve your goals!”

    • Draconian Georgia Law Criminalizes Abortion After Six Weeks

      On Tuesday, Georgia passed a so-called “heartbeat” bill, scheduled to take effect in January 2020, banning abortions as early as the sixth week of pregnancy, when, as anti-abortion activists argue, a fetal heartbeat can be detected. It’s a time before many women realize they are pregnant. Brian Kemp is the fourth governor to sign such a law in 2019, and the sixth overall, including the governors of Ohio, Mississippi, Kentucky, Iowa and North Dakota.

      Georgia’s law, HB481, or the Living Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act, is particularly extreme because it requires that the state “recognize unborn children as natural persons,” and that they “shall be included in population based determinations.” As Mark Joseph Stern writes in Slate, because Georgia is a death-penalty state, absent any added limitations, the law “would subject women who get illegal abortions to life imprisonment and the death penalty.”

      None of these laws have been enacted yet. The North Dakota, Arkansas, Iowa and Kentucky bills have so far been blocked in court, with the Mississippi ban also facing legal challenges. Georgia and Ohio, as Anna North writes in Vox, are also likely to face lawsuits. That doesn’t mean that women can rest easy.

    • Better Health Insurance Begets Better Life

      Last month, in a Pittsburgh parking lot following a conference on type 1 diabetes, three women stood crying. Two of them, mother and teenaged daughter, had just handed a stranger, 25-year-old Michelle, three shopping bags full of insulin pump supplies.

      Michelle was overwhelmed. She knew they were meeting that day so that the mother and daughter could give her medical provisions she needed to stay alive, but she had not realized it would be thousands of dollars’ worth until she saw those bags.

      “We didn’t know how big of a deal it was until she started crying,” the teenager, Elizabeth, said later.

      Elizabeth and her mother, Nichole, had the extra supplies partly because they have exceptional health insurance coverage. They could get for a few dollars what it had cost Michelle $6,000 to buy the year before. Increasing numbers of Americans like Michelle are confronted with fear and debts because their employers are dumping on them skyrocketing pharmaceutical, health care and insurance costs.

      The big difference between the two young women with diabetes, Elizabeth and Michelle, is that Michelle’s father, whose health insurance covers her for another few months, is not a union member and Elizabeth’s father is.

    • Nearly All National Parks Are Suffering From Air Pollution

      Ninety-six percent of America’s national parks have significant air pollution issues ranging from unhealthy breathing conditions to contaminated soils and waterways, according to a new report released by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA).

    • Drinking Water Crisis Update: Supplies in 43 States Found Contaminated With Harmful PFAS Chemicals

      Millions of people across the U.S. have been exposed to toxic PFAS chemicals in their drinking water, according to a new report from Northeastern University and the Environmental Working Group.

    • EWG: PFAS Chemicals Must Be Regulated as a Class, Not One by One

      The known extent of contamination of American communities with the toxic fluorinated compounds known as PFAS continues to grow at an alarming rate, with no end in sight. As of March 2019, at least 610 locations in 43 states are known to be contaminated, including drinking water systems serving an estimated 19 million people.

      The latest update of an interactive map by EWG and the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute, at Northeastern University, documents publicly known pollution from PFAS chemicals nationwide, including public water systems, military bases, military and civilian airports, industrial plants, dumps and firefighter training sites. The map is the most comprehensive resource available to track PFAS pollution in the U.S.

  • Security

    • Open source bug poses threat to sites running multiple CMSes

      Websites running the Drupal, Joomla, or Typo3 content-management systems are vulnerable to attacks that could possibly execute malicious code until administrators install just-released patches, developers and security researchers warned.

      The vulnerability resides in the PharStreamWrapper, a PHP component developed and open-sourced by CMS maker Typo3. Indexed as CVE-2019-11831, the flaw stems from a path-traversal bug that allows hackers to swap a site’s legitimate phar archive with a malicious one. A phar archive is used to distribute a complete PHP application or library in a single file, in much the way a Java archive file bundles many Java files into a single file.

    • Two crypto-mining groups are fighting a turf war over unsecured Linux servers [Ed: This isn't about Linux but about bad passwords etc.]

      Both groups operate mass-scanning operations that look for open or unpatched cloud services and servers to infect them with a multi-functional Linux-based malware strain.

    • Researchers in the Dark on Powerful LightNeuron Malware for Years

      LightNeuron, a backdoor specifically designed to target Microsoft Exchange mail servers, has flown under the radar since at least 2014, despite being the malware linchpin at the center of several targeted campaigns.

      A fresh analysis of the recently uncovered code shows that it’s the first publicly known malware to use a malicious Microsoft Exchange Transport Agent – but the extraordinarily clever way that LightNeuron conceals itself is the most notable aspect of the report.

    • Phishing Attacks Mostly Impersonate Microsoft, Netflix & PayPal Accounts [Ed: Microsoft itself is phishing; it is giving all your passwords to the NSA and its affiliates]

      Phishing attacks are evolving in their approach. The latest report from Trend Micro concludes that big consumer software companies like Microsoft, Netflix, and Payal were impersonated by hackers to carry out the most phishing attacks.

      Phishing attacks in 2018 utilized social engineering to steal people’s credentials. The steps involved in phishing attacks remain the same. However, these fake-warning phishing emails contain, sound more convincing than ever before.

    • Alpine Linux Docker Images Shipped for 3 Years with Root Accounts Unlocked

      Alpine Linux Docker images available via the Docker Hub contained a critical flaw allowing attackers to authenticate on systems using the root user and no password.

      For three years, some Alpine Linux Docker images have shipped with a root account and no password, opening the door for attackers to easily access vulnerable servers and workstations provisioned for the images.

    • Security updates for Friday
    • [Older] [Cr]ackers target Office 365 business accounts

      The IT security company recently analyzed account takeover attacks targeted at its customers to discover that 29 percent of organizations had their Office 365 accounts compromised by [attackers] in March of this year.

      In March alone, over 1.5m malicious and spam emails were sent from hacked Office 365 accounts highlighting the potential impact this security threat poses.

    • Symantec chief Clark makes a sudden exit as sales fall
    • [Attackers] claim to have breached top anti-virus firms in US

      Three top unnamed anti-virus companies located in the US appear to have been hacked by a collective that communicates in both Russian and English, and is offering to sell source code belonging to these firms, plus network access, for more than US$300,000.

      The security firm Advanced Intelligence (AdvIntel) said in a blog post on Thursday that Fxmsp specialised in breaching secure, protected networks to exfiltrate private corporate and government information.

      AdvIntel said Fxmsp had said in March that they had obtained top-secret information from three top anti-virus companies located in the US.

    • Cryptomining gangs go to war over unsecured Linux systems [Ed: The problem here isn't Linux but the setups or the users]
    • DevSecOps: 7 ways to address cultural challenges

      The hugely understated word in those previous two sentences is “potentially.” What prevents potentially shippable software from being real, shipped software? Sure, it may be purely a business decision. Product ownership may conclude that not enough valuable features have been included in the release to warrant shipping to users. But, often the reasons and impediments are more operational, and we enter into the tail of a “water-scrum-fall” approach struggling to get fewer, bigger releases over the line.

      Satisfying the security controller is one of those criteria often overlooked until the eleventh hour that prevents a production release of software.

      DevSecOps is a way or working to address this – a set of practices and a mindset that enables a regular flow of continuous delivery of software to production including the satisfaction of security constraints. (Some people describe DevSecOps as baking security into the development process from the start.) Of course, the phenomenon of DevSecOps has brought with it a whole host of new technology and tools to simplify the scanning and protection of software from security threats.

    • Unikernels Aren’t Dead, They’re Just Not Containers

      Per Buer is CEO of IncludeOS. He founded Varnish Software ten years ago and he has spent his life working on infrastructure-related software that has been tied to performance in some way or another.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • More US Pressure on North Korea Is Not the Path to Denuclearization

      Following North Korea’s Friday test, many were quick to chastise Trump and the limitations of his personal diplomacy with Kim. Instead of fixating on the failure of Trump’s diplomacy with Kim, we should point to the decades-long failed U.S. approach to force North Korea’s denuclearization, including Trump’s maximum pressure campaign, or its predecessor, Obama’s strategic patience.

      North Korea didn’t test missiles for over 400 days while engagement was underway with both Washington and Seoul. Weeks ahead of the Hanoi summit, U.S. Special Representative Stephen Biegun outlined the Trump administration’s pragmatic approach, a departure from his administration’s previous maximum pressure strategy, saying the president was “ready to end this war.”

      Yet in what can only be described as diplomatic whiplash, the talks in Hanoi collapsed because Trump revived Bolton’s Libyan Model, demanding that North Korea unilaterally disarm before improving relations between the two countries as promised under the Singapore Declaration, a clear nonstarter for Kim. Reuters verified that “U.S. President Donald Trump handed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a piece of paper that included a blunt call for the transfer of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and bomb fuel to the United States.”

      While the U.S. media was singularly obsessed with Pyongyang’s test, it failed to cover the Trump administration’s military provocations. Trump reneged on his promise to Kim in Singapore to cancel the war drills with South Korea: U.S.-R.O.K. joint military exercises are still underway. This time the military exercises involved the highly controversial Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery, which prompted North Korea to denounce as “destroy[ing[ peace and stability in the Korean peninsula.” On May 1, the United States tested an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile off the Vandenberg Air Force base in California. Context matters.

    • U.S. Seizes North Korean Cargo Ship for Violating Sanctions

      The U.S. said Thursday it has seized a North Korean cargo ship that was used to violate international sanctions, a first-of-its kind enforcement action that comes at a tense moment in relations between the two countries.

      The “Wise Honest,” North Korea’s second largest cargo ship, was detained during an April 2018 stop in Indonesia and will be moved to American Samoa, Justice Department officials said.

      Officials made the announcement hours after the North Korea fired two suspected short-range missiles toward the sea, a second weapons launch in five days and a possible signal that stalled talks over its nuclear weapons program are in trouble.

      Justice Department lawyers laid out the case for confiscating the ship in a complaint filed in New York, arguing that payments for maintenance and operation of the vessel were channeled through U.S. financial institutions in violation of American law.

      “This sanctions-busting ship is now out of service,” said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the Justice Department’s top national security official.

    • Trump Administration Charges Drone Whistleblower With Allegedly Violating Espionage Act

      A former language analyst for the United States Air Force, who worked for the National Security Agency, was arrested and charged with violating the Espionage Act and other offenses.

      According to the indictment filed in the Eastern District of Virginia, Daniel Hale allegedly disclosed eleven classified documents to a reporter who worked for an online news website. The documents relate to the U.S. government’s targeted assassination program involving armed drones that was expanded under President Barack Obama’s administration.

      If the allegations are true, the U.S. government is prosecuting another whistleblower in its zeal to crackdown on leaks and control the flow of information, particularly on national security matters. They are also criminalizing another source, who provided information to The Intercept.

      The timeline in the indictment aligns with the release of Intercept founding editor Jeremy Scahill’s Oscar-nominated “Dirty Wars” film, as well as his comprehensive book on U.S. drone operations with the same title.

      In October 2015, The Intercept published a “cache of secret documents detailing the inner workings of the U.S. military’s assassination program in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia.” The media organization said the documents were provided by a whistleblower and offered “unprecedented glimpse into Obama’s drone wars.” They were called “The Drone Papers.”

      The Intercept granted “the source’s request for anonymity because the materials are classified and because the U.S. government has engaged in aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers.”

      Hale also appeared in the 2016 documentary, “National Bird.” He wore a pin supporting U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning and was following CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling’s prosecution. The FBI raided his home on August 8, 2014, while the film was in production. He reached out to attorney Jesselyn Radack for legal assistance.

    • ‘Bernie Speaks’—and Politico Hears Deviations From Cold War Orthodoxy

      Politico magazine (5/3/19) was apparently “startled” by what they found in Bernie Sanders’ 1980s TV show, Bernie Speaks.

      Politico magazine (5/3/19) took a deep dig into Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “bizarre, charming and, at times, startling cable-access TV show,” Bernie Speaks With the Community—produced in the 1980s when Sanders was mayor of Burlington, Vermont. While the article and accompanying video are relatively friendly to the senator—remarking on his humor (“who knew?”) and other agreeable personality quirks—writer Holly Otterbein’s description of certain clips as “startling” was more eye-opening than anything Sanders actually said.


      That Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega “happens not to be Communist”…happens to be true. As Jim Naureckas noted in Extra! (6/05), “Nicaragua under the Sandinistas had a mixed economy, multiple opposition parties and a vocal opposition press, features that were not found in actual Communist countries.” If you actually watch the clip, Sanders’ larger point is that corporate media repeat endless lies about Nicaragua—like the claim that Ortega is a dictator, regurgitated tirelessly by corporate media from the ’80s unto the present day, despite his repeated victories in internationally recognized elections (Extra!, 10–11/87, 1–2/07; FAIR.org, 11/17/08, 8/23/18).

      The article might have flagged Sanders’ comment that “grief and suffering” could cause cancer for being a bit wacky. (Can stress cause cancer? Evidence is “weak,” says the National Cancer Institute.) But there’s also a suggestion that it’s absurd, or at least impolitic, to suggest that the US could be responsible for said grief or suffering; a similar suggestion is made elsewhere when Otterbein puts scare quotes around Sanders’ reference to the “immorality” of the US-backed Contra war. FAIR (4/11/16, 3/5/19) has previously shown how corporate media performatively frame Sanders as a red menace for defending—and refusing to denounce—leftist countries targeted by US imperialism.

      In this case, Sanders was defending the Nicaraguan people, who suffered immeasurable harm in the Contra war to oust the Sandinista government—the product of a popular revolution that overthrew the murderous US-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza. The “immorality” Sanders was talking about, and Politico calls into question, is the tens of thousands of Nicaraguans killed by US-trained, armed and financed Contra death squads. Maybe Politico has an editorial rule against referring without irony to war crimes as immoral when the perpetrators are backed by Washington.

    • How to Refuse an Honour from the Queen – to Her Face

      Scores of principled people have refused honours from the Queen. Very few have ever been called on to explain why in person.

    • Trump to Nominate Patrick Shanahan for Top Pentagon Post

      President Donald Trump on Thursday said he will nominate Patrick Shanahan to be his second secretary of defense, putting an end to months of speculation about the former Boeing executive’s standing in the administration.

      Shanahan has been leading the Pentagon as acting secretary since Jan. 1, a highly unusual arrangement for arguably the most sensitive Cabinet position. He took over after Jim Mattis resigned.

      “Acting Secretary Shanahan has proven over the last several months that he is beyond qualified to lead the Department of Defense, and he will continue to do an excellent job,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

      Moments later, Shanahan spoke to reporters outside the Pentagon, saying he was very excited about the nomination and looking forward to a job he said requires him to “spin a lot of plates.”


      The announcement comes close on the heels of an investigation by the Defense Department’s inspector general over accusations that Shanahan had shown favoritism toward Boeing during his time as deputy defense secretary, while disparaging Boeing competitors. The probe appeared to stall his nomination, but the IG wrapped up the investigation rapidly and cleared Shanahan of any wrongdoing.

    • ‘A Hellfire Missile With F***ing Swords Attached to It’: Pentagon Unveils New Weapon

      The U.S. military and the CIA reportedly have a new tool in their arsenal: a bomb that doesn’t explode, but deploys sword-like blades to kill or maim its human targets.

      The R9X Hellfire Missile, which The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday has been used at least twice—once by the Pentagon and once by the CIA—is a new weapon that is intended to reduce civilian casualties. The missile does not have an explosive warhead, but rather uses its weight and “a halo of six long blades” that deploy before impact to shred through whatever is in its path.

      “To the targeted person, it is as if a speeding anvil fell from the sky,” said the newspaper, citing an official familiar with the missile.

      Nick Waters, an award-winning journalist and researcher, noted that while previous suspected drone strikes by U.S. forces overseas had produced mysterious results, perhaps the R9X—”a Hellfire missile with fucking swords attached to it,” he said—provided a possible explanation.

    • ‘Dangerous and Appalling’: US Defenders of Venezuelan Embassy Demand Secret Service End Illegal Water and Power Shutoff

      Police in Washington, D.C. and Secret Service agents cut water and electricity to the Venezuelan embassy on Wednesday, the latest attempt by the U.S. government to oust supporters of President Nicolas Maduro who are defending the building with his government’s blessing.

      In response to the move, the activists inside—who for weeks have fended off anti-Maduro protesters outside—are demanding the water and electricity be turned back on.

      The embassy occupation began in April, after other opposition activists attempted to take over the property for opposition leader Juan Guaidó—who has been recognized as the country’s leader by the U.S., Canada, and other countries—in the wake of a failed coup in Caracas against Maduro’s government.

      “It is totally ILLEGAL and dangerous for the U.S. cut off water and electricity, deny access to food, to those of us residing lawfully inside the embassy building as guests of the Venezuelan government,” Paki Weiland, an activist with the peace and human rights group CodePink, said in a statement. “It would also be totally illegal and dangerous to hand over the keys of the embassy to an unelected opposition.”

      The embassy takeover has been as unsuccessful as the coup attempt, said CodePink’s Ariel Gold, who accused U.S. security forces of helping the pro-Guaidó protesters.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Chelsea Manning released from Virginia jail after 62 days

      Manning was released from the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center in Alexandria, Virginia, on Thursday after 62 days because the grand jury that had demanded her testimony was no longer sitting, according to the statement.

      The second subpoena would have her appear before a different grand jury next week, “but for (the) same questions,” according to a tweet posted on Manning’s Twitter account Thursday night.

    • Chelsea Manning has been released from jail, but she may be back in a week

      But according to Manning’s attorneys, today’s release is on a technicality — the grand jury’s term in the new case has expired, but she’ll be back in court (and if she refuses to testify again, possibly behind bars) as soon as next Thursday when a new grand jury arrives.

    • Chelsea Manning Has Been Released From Jail

      Chelsea Manning was released today from the Virginia jail where she spent 62 days for refusing to testify about her past ties to WikiLeaks before a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia.

      Attorneys for Manning said the release came after the grand jury’s term expired on Thursday. Her legal team has already been served another subpoena. It demands she appear before a different grand jury on May 17. Manning has vowed not to answer any questions and, therefore, could be returned to custody as early as next week.

      “Chelsea will continue to refuse to answer questions, and will use every available legal defense to prove to District Judge Trenga that she has just cause for her refusal to give testimony,” her lawyers said.

      Manning was jailed on March 8 for contempt, a process crime, for which she is not being punished; rather, her time in jail is intended to coerce her into cooperating. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a motion filed by her legal team to have her set free last month.

    • Chelsea Manning Released from Alexandria Detention Center After Grand Jury Lapses

      Earlier today Chelsea Manning was released from the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center in Alexandria, VA. Chelsea’s release follows the expiration of the term of the EDVA Grand Jury that previously demanded her testimony. Chelsea was in jail for 62 days, after she was found in contempt of court for her refusal to give testimony. The following is a statement from Chelsea’s legal team:

      “Today marked the expiration of the term of the grand jury, and so, after 62 days of confinement, Chelsea was released from the Alexandria Detention Center earlier today.

      “Unfortunately, even prior to her release, Chelsea was served with another subpoena. This means she is expected to appear before a different grand jury, on Thursday, May 16, 2019, just one week from her release today.

    • Chelsea Manning Released From Jail But Received Another Subpoena To Testify Before WikiLeaks Grand Jury

      Chelsea Manning was released from a jail in Alexandria, Virginia, on May 9, but according to her defense attorneys, she received another subpoena to testify before the grand jury investigating WikiLeaks prior to her release.

      “Today marked the expiration of the term of the grand jury, and so, after 62 days of confinement, Chelsea was released from the Alexandria Detention Center,” Manning’s defense team stated.

      However, the grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia was empaneled again for another term. Manning is expected to appear before this latest iteration of the grand jury on May 16, 2019.

      Manning’s legal defense declared, “It is therefore conceivable that she will once again be held in contempt of court, and be returned to the custody of the Alexandria Detention Center, possibly as soon as next Thursday, May 16.”

      She wrote a declaration that was filed in a federal court in Alexandria on May 6. It made it abundantly clear that Manning would never ever testify before the grand jury.

    • Chelsea Manning Freed After Refusing to Testify in WikiLeaks Case

      Former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning was released from a northern Virginia jail Thursday after a two-month stay for refusing to testify to a grand jury.

      Manning spent 62 days at the Alexandria Detention Center on civil contempt charges after she refused to answer questions to a federal grand jury investigating WikiLeaks.

      Her lawyers fear her freedom may be short-lived, though. She was released only because the grand jury’s term expired. Before she left the jail, she received another subpoena demanding her testimony on May 16 to a new grand jury.

      Her lawyers say she will again refuse to answer questions and could again face another term of incarceration.

    • Chemical Torture of Julian Assange

      There is great evil being perpetrated by Washington D.C. here and around the world.

      A persistent terrible hate for life, liberty and humanity arrived on little cat feet and has taken over our country. This did not begin with Trump, but sadly it also is not going to end with him either.

      Trump promised to drain the swamp, implying change, transparency and accountability.

      Instead he brought in neoconservative king-makers and warmongers, and allowed their influence to grow disproportionately, while his co-dependents in the other party facilitate the agenda of death.

      The criminal pursuit and indictment of Wikileak founder, Julian Assange is the proof in the pudding. The 40 page criminal complaint contains a lot of detail but not much crime. In fact, the “crimes” are more like descriptions of how journalism is done in the information age, if it is true that the job of journalism is to tell the stories, name the names, and state the facts that governments don’t want told, named or stated.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • How Trump Could Make the Extinction Crisis Even Worse

      Despite an alarming UN report that warns one million plant and animal species face extinction due to human activity, the Trump administration is poised to hasten species on their path to extinction by eroding critical wildlife protections. The UN’s landmark 1,500-page study, announced this week, warns that if we continue to destroy natural landscapes at rates “unprecedented in human history,” massive biodiversity loss will undermine food security, access to clean water and sources of modern medicine by 2050.

    • Harry Brown: North Carolina’s anti-wind lawmaker is backed by Koch money

      Harry Brown, the state senator who wants to ban new wind power farms in eastern North Carolina, has received thousands of dollars in campaign money from Koch Industries and other fossil fuel interests.

      Brown, who serves as the Republican Majority Leader in the North Carolina Senate, received a $4,000 contribution for his reelection campaign from the Koch Industries Political Action Committee (KochPAC) in August of 2018.

      At the time, Brown was busy defending North Carolina’s controversial 18-month moratorium on new wind farms, which only became law after Brown snuck it into a bipartisan 2017 solar bill signed by Governor Roy Cooper. Brown’s moratorium was premised on overblown claims about the impacts of wind turbines on military operations.

    • Just One-Third of the World’s Longest Rivers Remain Free-Flowing

      Only a little more than one-third of the world’s 246 longest rivers remain free-flowing, drastically reducing the diverse benefits that healthy rivers provide to people and nature everywhere, according to a new study by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and partners.

      A team of researchers from WWF, McGill University, and other institutions studied about 7.5 million miles of rivers worldwide to determine whether they’re well connected. They found that only 37 percent are free-flowing — meaning they’re largely unaffected by human-made changes to its flow and connectivity. Dams built in the wrong place and climate change are impacting river health worldwide, and the planet’s remaining free-flowing rivers are largely restricted to remote regions of the Arctic, the Amazon Basin and the Congo Basin.

    • Trump Finalizes Plan to Open 725,500 Acres of California’s Central Coast to Drilling, Fracking
    • 200+ Groups Demand Senate Kill Bill That Would Pour ‘Fuel on Fire of Climate Crisis’

      More than 200 national climate action groups on Thursday demanded that the Senate stop the passage of a bill that would serve to keep both Europe and the U.S. dependent on fossil fuels for decades to come—as millions around the world have marched in recent months to demand that governments rapidly shift away from carbon-emitting energy sources.

      Passed by the House in March, the European Energy Security and Diversification Act of 2019 (S. 704) would provide billions of dollars in support for natural gas infrastructure projects, propping up fossil fuel industries and leading to fracking projects in the U.S.—undercutting the goals of climate campaigners who are demanding that all industrialized countries move toward renewable energy systems.

      S. 704 would lock “both the United States and Europe into decades of continued fossil fuel dependence under the guise of national security,” said Food and Water Watch, which organized the letter signed by groups including the Sunrise Movement, 350.org, Greenpeace, Oil Change U.S., and Friends of the Earth.

    • Climate Policy Can Recreate Prosperity of the New Deal

      President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed an executive order in 1935 launching the Works Progress Administration, creating millions of jobs at a time of unprecedented economic collapse, deep poverty and an environmental crisis that turned much of America into a dustbowl. With strikes and protests roiling the country, FDR turbocharged the New Deal, with the help of Henry A. Wallace, his most trusted cabinet member, his future vice president — and our grandfather and great-grandfather respectively.

      Climate change presents an even more daunting challenge to our society — and time is running out. The last five years have been the hottest five years in recorded history. The polar ice caps are melting like popsicles in the summer sun and the oceans are rising at unprecedented rates. Flooding will devastate cities and farmland. Wildfires and food scarcity will proliferate. Migration will accelerate, and with it, the potential for violent conflict as more people compete for fewer resources. This is why the UN and 13 agencies of our own federal government have recently found climate change to be the major threat to global peace and the U.S. economy.

    • U.S. Solar Installations Hit 2 Million Mark

      California contributed less to the second million than the first because the industry is diversifying as the residential sector grows. Indeed, residential solar installations accounted for 96 percent of the total count, Union of Concerned Scientists Senior Energy Analyst John Rogers wrote in a blog post. Large installations still account for most of the total megawatts generated.

      Wood Mackenzie expects the sector to continue to grow for the foreseeable future.

    • U.S. solar hits 2 mln installations, will double in 4 years

      There are now more than 2 million solar installations in the United States, a milestone reached just three years after hitting the 1 million mark, an industry trade group said on Thursday.

      U.S. solar installations now produce enough electricity to power more than 12 million homes, the Solar Energy Industries Association said in a joint statement with energy research firm Wood Mackenzie.

      The number of installations in the United States is forecast to double to 4 million in 2023, Wood Mackenzie said.

    • To Better Save the Planet, Show Yourself

      I’ve spent the past two years deeply examining the art and effectiveness of science communication — especially in wildlife television — and I’ve come to a surprising conclusion.

      Many wildlife series are well made and educational, but also…lacking. They show the animals and their struggles, but I consistently felt as though something important was missing.

      But what? For months, the answer eluded me.

      Oddly enough it revealed itself in the work a different type of television communicator, the late chef, writer and traveler Anthony Bourdain.

      Bourdain was one of my heroes. Following his tragic and unexpected suicide last year, I found myself obsessively re-watching episodes of his television series Parts Unknown and No Reservations in an attempt to find closure. In doing so I realized they contained a vital ingredient for science and environmental communication: the importance of human connection.

      What made Bourdain’s series so special? Quite simply, he made the most elite culinary titans seem relatable. Bourdain showed his guests being themselves. He gave them time to tell their personal stories and asked questions that drew out their heartfelt emotions.

      In other words, Bourdain encouraged his guests to be “real.”

    • Ireland Becomes Second Country to Declare Climate Emergency

      The Republic of Ireland became the second country in the world to declare a climate emergency Thursday, The Independent Ireland reported. The declaration was passed Thursday evening when both the government and opposition parties agreed to an amendment to a climate action report.

    • Ireland declares climate emergency: ‘Things will deteriorate rapidly unless we move very swiftly’

      Ireland has become the second country in the world to declare a climate emergency.
      The decision was made on Thursday evening after an amendment to a parliamentary climate action report was agreed by both the Government and the opposition parties.

      It comes as EU leaders put action on climate change at the top of the agenda in the next five years.

      Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton said climate change has been “rightly” described as the greatest challenge facing humanity.

      “We’re reaching a tipping point in respect of climate deterioration,” he said.

      “Things will deteriorate very rapidly unless we move very swiftly and the window of opportunity to do that is fast closing.”

    • Irish schools fail to teach climate change

      There’s a yawning gap in Irish schools, say the country’s legislators: they’re just not telling the new generation what it needs to know about climate change, although young people in many countries are on the march, protesting against governments’ inaction on the mounting problems associated with the issue.

      Inspired in part by the actions of people like Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl who has very publicly challenged world leaders to act to prevent climate meltdown, the young around the world are demanding urgent action.

      This movement has come about almost entirely on young peoples’ own initiative; in many countries there is still a serious lack in the education system of any information on climate change.

    • Koch-Funded Groups Still Begging Congress to Kill the Electric Car Tax Credit

      A coalition of free market advocacy groups, led by a former Koch Industries lobbyist, urged Congress on Thursday not to extend the electric vehicle (EV) tax credit. In a letter rife with easily discredited and false statements, sent to the leaders of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee.

      Most of the 34 groups are funded by the Koch brothers’ donor network or have ties to Koch Industries. And most of the references cited in the letter have clear, demonstrable ties to Koch Industries and Koch funding.

      The episode echoes a similar sequence from last September, when many of the same groups sent a similar letter after Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) and others introduced the The Electric Cars Act of 2018.

      The letter is further evidence of this network of Koch-affiliated groups ramping up their opposition to the EV tax credit.

    • As Oregon Sends Jordan Cove LNG Back to Drawing Board, Gulf Coast Projects Press Forward

      On Monday, Oregon state regulators dealt a blow to the proposed Jordan Cove Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project, refusing to issue a state water quality certificate required by the Army Corps of Engineers, citing unresolved concerns about water pollution and the company’s failure to answer information requests from the state in a timely manner.

      “This is a huge victory for clean water and healthy ecosystems in Oregon, and it will help protect our climate from dangerous fossil fuel projects,” Jared Margolis, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “The state water quality standards are intended to protect people and species from harm, and it’s clear Jordan Cove would cause incredible damage to Oregon’s waterways.”

      The state decision was made without prejudice, meaning that the company can reapply.

  • Finance

    • Peterborough By-Election – Green Party Statement

      The Green Party, the Liberal Democrats, Change UK, and Renew have been working hard these last few days on a joint approach to the Peterborough by-election, recognising that we need to put the country’s interests first, securing a People’s Vote and remaining in the European Union.

    • The New Gold Rush: Illinois Lawmakers Are Growing Worried as Neighbors Move to Expand Gambling

      Illinois has watched as several neighboring states have passed legislation to expand gambling. Now, as the end of the legislative session approaches on May 31, municipal officials keen to bring gambling to their cities and towns worry Illinois could lose business to its neighbors if a gambling package doesn’t pass soon. It could leave a nearly $300 million gap in Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s budget proposal.

    • What We’ve Learned From Trump’s Tax Transcripts — “Trump, Inc.” Podcast

      President Donald Trump has refused to release his tax returns. He has sued his former accountants and Deutsche Bank to keep them from releasing his returns after they were subpoenaed to do so. And his treasury secretary has refused to provide the returns to Congress.

      But bit by bit, The New York Times’ Susanne Craig and Russ Buettner have been gathering returns and tax data from Trump’s earlier years. In the latest installment, they show how Trump claimed over a billion dollars in business losses from 1985 to 1994. In some years, he lost more than any other taxpayer.

      In this “Trump, Inc.” podcast extra, we speak to Craig about how she got the story, what she found and what to look for if and when the president’s tax returns are released. “You don’t lose this much money unless you’re a really bad businessman,” Craig told us.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Disney put more than $400 million into Vice Media. Now it says that investment is worthless.

      Here are the Disney/Vice particulars: Disney told investors Wednesday that it had wiped out $353 million of the money it had previously put into Vice. That followed an announcement last fall that Disney had knocked down the value of its Vice investment by $157 million.

      Disney declined to comment. But one bit of language in Disney’s quarterly filing Wednesday is telling: Disney describes the $353 million “impairment charge” it took on Vice as a “write-off” — which in accounting-speak means there’s nothing left to get rid of after this. It’s all gone.

      Per Investopedia: “A write-down becomes a write-off if the entire balance of the asset is eliminated and removed from the books altogether.”

    • Robert Owen, Worker Cooperatives, and Democratic Socialism

      Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) – and its two predecessor organizations, the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC) and the New American Movement (NAM) – had their origins in the early 1970s, at the beginning of a long-term rightward shift of United States and global politics. This shift to the right – from the 1980s of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher – to the 2016 Donald Trump charade – overshadowed the central role these organizations played in the movements of resistance to corporate domination, as well as in today’s ongoing project: organizing an ideological and organizational socialist presence among trade union, community, feminist and people of color and other activists.

      DSA made an ethical contribution to the broader American Left by being one of the few radical organizations born out of a merger rather than a split. DSA also helped popularize the vision of a democratic, ecumenical, multi-tendency socialist organization, an ethos that enabled it to incorporate many thousands of new members, mostly out of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. Nevertheless, it was under the leadership of DSA Michael Harrington and his groundbreaking The Other America (1963) that catalyzed the civil rights movement, its leaders and the Kennedy Administrations to prioritize not only issues of race but equal attention to domestic poverty and inequality. This set the stage for Martin Luther King’s “Poor People’s Campaign.”

      The foundations of democratic socialism have its origins in the eighteenth century and the breakdown of feudal Europe, specifically England, where the medieval guilds and the protection of workers’ rights was subsequently replaced as a commodity. The emergence of capitalism during this period further reinforced the subordination of labor under the domain of capital and the nightmarish results of this priority in the Industrial Revolution. Confronting this crisis were religious leaders, philosophers, and economic reformers arguing that labor creates profit, not capital which is the hallmark of democratic socialism and today the DSA. The origins of this position can be traced to such reformers as Robert Owen. I argue that Owen’s model represents the initial development of what today has become known as “democratic socialism.”

    • The Rot of American Journalism Runs Deep

      In the latest episode of “On Contact,” host and Truthdig contributor Chris Hedges sits down with Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone for the first of a two-part series on American media, which Hedges calls a “purveyor of hate.” Together they explore the ways in which Fox News has reshaped the industry in its own image, and how networks like MSNBC have come to tell viewers exactly what they want to hear. Hedges also devotes a portion of his segment to Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky’s seminal book, “Manufacturing Consent,” which remains no less essential several decades after it was first published. Watch a video of their conversation above.

    • ‘How Does the US Compensate the World for the Damage It Has Done?’

      When Donald Trump declared he’d pulled the country out of the Paris accord in 2017, US news media decried what was called an “irresponsible abdication of American leadership.” In 2018, one headline had it that, “A year on since Trump left the Paris accord, the world still craves US leadership.”

      As with other issues, corporate media seem to see a bright line between Trump’s stance on international climate agreements and that of Barack Obama. As with other such demarcations, that’s not quite right, and in some ways unhelpful. For those less interested in partisan scorekeeping than in planetary change, the touchstone is what must happen, as opposed to what any of various elites deem “politically feasible,” virtual code for preserving existing relationships.

      What’s called for, our next guest says, is nothing less than to chart an entirely new path on international climate policy. Basav Sen is the Climate Justice project director at the Institute for Policy Studies. His article, headlined, “How Trade Agreements Stand in the Way of an International Green New Deal,” appears in the April 22 Getting to Zero issue of In These Times. He joins us now by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome to CounterSpin, Basav Sen.

    • Where Has Our Love Gone? It’s Missing From Progressive Politics

      When George W. Bush coined the term “compassionate conservatism,” it sounded like an oxymoron to many of us who had lived through the harsh and unforgiving conservatism of the ’80s and ’90s. It sounded disingenuous. Ideas like compassion, forgiveness and redemption were more typically associated with progressives and liberals. Their rhetoric was very much influenced and informed by the faithful inspiration of the civil rights movement, and these ideas were abundant.

      Interestingly, one of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s political challenges was to marry the love or compassion expressed by many Christian civil rights supporters to the necessary political action and power required to actually advance civil rights legislation. He said, “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

      But some time over the last 30 years, love began to disappear from the progressive narrative, rhetoric and language—maybe even its worldview. In the professional progressive ecosystem today, you will hear about building power, but you will scarcely, if ever, hear about the power of love.

      Maybe it’s because we have been lured into an economic narrative of scarcity and austerity, and when there is too little to go around, the generosity love inspires goes underground.

    • Crisis Point? High Stakes in Trump’s Showdown With Congress

      Democrats call it a “constitutional crisis.” But is it?

      Stunned by the extent of the White House’s blanket refusal to comply with oversight by Congress, the Democrats warn that the Trump administration is shattering historic norms and testing the nation’s system of checks and balances in new and alarming ways.

      It’s not just the House’s fight with the Justice Department over the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. The standoff involves President Donald Trump’s unwillingness to engage with dozens of Capitol Hill probes of his tax returns, potential business conflicts and the running of the administration — from security clearances for his family to actions he’s taken on his own on immigration.

      It’s a confrontation that’s only expected to deepen now that Mueller’s work is finished and the investigation focus shifts to Capitol Hill.

      Trump derides the probes as “presidential harassment.” Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell tries to declare it all “case closed.” But Democrats warn that without the legislative branch staying on the case, keeping watch, any executive becomes more like a “monarchy” — or “tyranny” — that doesn’t have to answer to the representatives of all Americans.

      “Will the administration violate the Constitution and not abide by the requests of Congress in its legitimate oversight responsibilities?” asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday.

    • Ha Ha Good One: Trump’s Vile Words and Viler Insinuations on Murdering Innocent Brown People

      Trump held another deranged Nazi rally Wednesday, this time in Panama City Beach in the Florida Panhandle, which helped him win in 2016 but which this week sported over 100 plastic yard signs reading “Pres. Trump Help Tyndall Now” along his motorcade route because seven months after Hurricane Michael the area remains devastated, proving he can’t even get it together to help white people who like him, never mind brown people who don’t. During his usual lying, racist, ugly verbosity, Trump triumphantly riled up his “psychopathic baying hogs” on the need for his idiotic wall, ranting about the secretly funded “invasion” of aliens at the border and the threat they pose.

      “When you have 15,000 people marching up, and you have hundreds and hundreds of people, and you have two or three border security people that are brave and great…And don’t forget, we don’t let them and we can’t let them use weapons…Other countries do. We can’t. I would never do that. But how do you stop these people?” he coyly queried the rabble. One fan dutifully, gleefully shouted, “Shoot them!” Our fine human being of a leader chortled, and the crowd roared. “Only in the Panhandle can you get away with that statement,” he happily noted. “Only in the Panhandle!” The Pied Piper had done his evil work. Good one!

    • ‘We Are in a Constitutional Crisis’: Groups Deliver 10 Million Petitions to Congress Demanding Trump Impeachment

      The petition delivery—which one organizer described as “likely the biggest” in U.S. history—came just hours after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the country is in the midst of a “constitutional crisis” due to the Trump administration’s refusal to comply with congressional oversight.

      During a rally on Capitol Hill Thursday, Jane Slusser—organizing director for Need to Impeach—urged Pelosi to take action in line with the gravity of her words.

      “On behalf of a growing movement of 10 million, we ask Democratic leadership to be bold in standing up for democracy,” Slusser said. “We agree with Speaker Pelosi: We are in a constitutional crisis. And there is a remedy: Start impeachment hearings now.”

    • Google’s Ad API is Better Than Facebook’s, But…

      Last month, Mozilla released an analysis of Facebook’s ad archive API, a tool that allows researchers to understand how political ads are being targeted to Facebook users. Our goal: To determine if Facebook had fulfilled its promise to make political advertising more transparent. (It did not.)

      Today, we’re releasing an analysis of Google’s ad archive API. Google also promised the European Union it would release an ad transparency tool ahead of the 2019 EU Parliament elections.


      Overall: While the company gets a passing grade, Google doesn’t sufficiently allow researchers to study disinformation on its platform. The company also significantly delayed the release of their API, unveiling it only weeks before the upcoming EU elections and nearly two months after the originally promised deadline.

      With the EU elections fewer than two weeks away, we hope Google (and Facebook) take action swiftly to improve their ad APIs — action that should have been taken months ago.

    • ‘Russia Today’ said foreign news outlets and Navalny’s team spread a fake video about Sunday’s deadly aircraft fire. Two days later, the network retracted the story.

      On May 7, the Russian state television network RT (formerly Russia Today) published an online article (read the original version here) that was titled: “Fake News: Sheremetyevo ‘Dispatcher’ Video Spread by Ukrainian Bloggers and Navalny Supporters.” The report accuses “accounts from Alexey Navalny’s media network” and other “public opinion leaders,” like Radio Svoboda, Golos Ameriki, Deutsche Welle, and the bloggers Rustem Adagamov and Andrey Malgin, of spreading footage that allegedly shows Moscow airport staff laughing at Sunday’s deadly fire aboard an SSJ100 aircraft.

    • Sergey Dorenko, journalist who criticized Putin on state TV, dies at 59

      Sergey Dorenko, who served as the editor-in-chief of the radio station Govorit Moskva until 2014, died on May 9. Most Russians know Dorenko as the host of the TV show Vremya and then of his own program on Public Russian Television (ORT), which became Channel One in the late 1990s. Dorenko was fired from his state TV job in September of 2000 after he released a segment on the Kursk submarine disaster, which killed all 118 of the vessel’s crewmembers. In the segment, Dorenko sharply criticized the Russian government’s response as well as Vladimir Putin’s individual actions during the rescue mission. Russian speakers can watch the segment and English speakers can read about its context below.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Tech Companies Are Deleting Evidence of War Crimes

      But some of what governments ask tech companies to do, such as suppressing violent content, cuts against other legitimate goals, such as bringing warlords and dictators to justice. Balancing these priorities is hard enough when humans are making judgments in accordance with established legal norms. In contrast, tech giants operate largely in the dark. They are governed by opaque terms-of-service policies that, more and more, are enforced by artificial-intelligence tools developed in-house with little to no input from the public. “We don’t even know what goes into the algorithms, what kind of in-built biases and structures there are,” Ní Aoláin said in an interview.


      Those statistics are deeply troubling to open-source investigators, who complain that the machine-learning tools are black boxes. Few people, if any, in the human-rights world know how they’re programmed. Are these AI-powered vacuum cleaners able to discern that a video from Syria, Yemen, or Libya might be a valuable piece of evidence, something someone risked his or her life to post, and therefore worth preserving? YouTube, for one, says it’s working with human-rights experts to fine-tune its take-down procedures. But deeper discussions about the technology involved are rare.

    • While Trump Complains About Facebook Takedowns, Facebook Is Helping Trump Take Down Content He Doesn’t Like

      Of course, “FREEDOM OF SPEECH” in the American context only applies to the government interfering with the rights of people to express themselves, and has no bearing on companies choosing to kick off people who it finds problematic. Indeed, part of the 1st Amendment is that it provides the platforms — as private entities — the right to determine who they associate with and who they don’t.

      But a new Wired article suggests that there’s a striking contrast here, in that Facebook has someone who is quick to respond and to shut down the accounts of those designated by Trump’s government as undesirable. It’s difficult not to read this as somewhat hypocritical. The issue relates to another story we discussed last month, in which the Trump White House declared Iran’s IRGC a “foreign terrorist organization.” The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, is basically Iran’s military/security/law enforcement wing — and this is the first time that a governmental organization has been declared a foreign terrorist organization in the US.

    • Congress, Laws Suppressing Boycotts of Israel Are Unconstitutional. Sincerely, Three Federal Courts.

      Congress has a constitutional duty to protect the rights of the American people, including the First Amendment right to participate in boycotts.
      Congress just got yet another reminder that the First Amendment right to political boycotts is alive and well in the United States, and any legislative attempt to infringe on that right puts them squarely against the Constitution.

      Last week a federal district court in Texas blocked as unconstitutional a state law that required government contractors to certify that they did not boycott Israel and would not do so over the course of their contract. With courts in Arizona and Kansas issuing similar rulings last year, that’s now three federal courts that have protected the right to engage in First Amendment-protected political boycotts—including boycotts of Israel and Israeli settlements.

      The continued reminders by the courts that the right to boycott is protected under the First Amendment is a stinging rebuke of state legislators and members of Congress who have repeatedly attempted to strip the American people of that very right.

      More than two dozen states have adopted laws and policies restricting boycotts of Israel in the past four years. Their target is boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), a global collection of boycott campaigns that seek to apply economic and political pressure on Israel to comply with international law. Human Rights Watch estimates that over 250 million Americans now live in states with such anti-boycott laws and policies. And if Congress gets its way, soon every American could.

      Members of House Appropriations Committee voted today on an amendment proposed by Rep. Graves to a routine government funding bill that would allow federal agencies to compel contractors to promise not to boycott Israel as a requirement of maintaining their relationship with the government.

    • Trump Administration Initiates Purge of White House Reporters

      A number of journalists are expressing alarm over new White House rules limiting access to the Trump administration, but concern is being raised that the trade organization that represents those reporters has so far been silent on the matter.

      Under the new rules, concocted by press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders after a review of reporters’ credentials, journalists will be required to work at the White House for 90 out of 180 days in order to hold “hard passes,” which allow easy access to the building for reporters who regularly cover the administration.

      As Politico reported, the new guidelines don’t “consider that reporters are often out for weekends, vacations, campaign-trail reporting, or presidential trips abroad.”

      Yet, as one critic noted on social media, the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA)—which claims to “ensure a strong free press and robust coverage of the presidency”—released no statement denouncing the administration for curtailing the free press’s right to report on Trump’s presidency. The group’s silence contrasted with its condemnation of comedian Michelle Wolf in 2018 when she delivered a blistering critique of Trump and other administration officials.

    • Social Media Councils: A Better Way Forward, Window Dressing, or Global Speech Police?

      Social media platforms routinely make arbitrary and contradictory decisions about what speech to block or penalize. No one is happy with the status quo: not people who want more censorship, nor people who want less censorship, nor people who simply want platforms to make different choices so that already-marginalized groups won’t bear the brunt of their censorship policies. So many are looking for a better way forward. EFF offered a few thoughts on this last week, but we’ve also been looking at another persistent and intriguing idea, spearheaded largely by our friends at Article 19: the creation of social media council (SMC) to review content moderation decisions. Ever since Facebook announced a plan to create its own version, there’s been a surge of interest in this approach. Can it work?

      At root, the concept is relatively simple: we can’t trust the platforms to do moderation well, so maybe we need an independent council to advise them on ways to do it better, and call them out when they blow it. A council might also provide an independent appeal mechanism for content removal decisions.

      There are many different models for these councils. An appeals court is one. Or we might look to the international arbitration structure that handles domain name disputes. Or European press councils which administer codes of practice for journalists, investigate complaints about editorial content, and defend press freedom. They are funded by the media themselves, but aim to be independent.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • EFF Supports Unnamed Company in Bringing an End to Endless NSL Gag Orders

      EFF and ACLU filed an amicus brief last week in a case that may finally force the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to resolve one of the most serious problems with National Security Letters: NSL gag orders that have no fixed end date.

      Similar to subpoenas, NSLs are information requests issued by the FBI and often sent to communication companies seeking customer data. But NSLs have a serious problem: they almost always include gag orders, making the entire process secret.

      These secret government orders are ripe for abuse—especially when they don’t end. Under the First Amendment, the government cannot permanently silence speech in the name of national security. That’s because every threat to national security must end at some point, just as every secret must at some point shed the need for secrecy. But the NSL law allows just such indefinite gag orders. And in the last NSL case that came before the Ninth Circuit—brought by EFF on behalf of the providers CREDO and Cloudflare—the court dodged this issue.

      The new case involves an unnamed company that received three NSLs from the FBI in 2011 requiring the company to turn over information about its customers. As with nearly all of the hundreds of thousands of NSLs issued since 2001, these NSLs were accompanied by gag orders that prevented the company from saying anything about the NSLs, including the fact that it had received them, unless and until the FBI told it otherwise. In 2018, the company asked the FBI to have a court review the need for the gags, but the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California upheld this “unless and until” standard. Now, the company has appealed that decision to the Ninth Circuit, arguing that indefinite gag orders violate the First Amendment.

      EFF is supportive of the unnamed company’s arguments. In fact, we have been waiting for our opportunity to make a nearly identical case on behalf of our own clients. For years, EFF has represented the service providers CREDO and Cloudflare in their own challenges to the NSL law. Along the way, we had the statute declared unconstitutional, only to have it amended by Congress and then upheld in 2017 by the Ninth Circuit. In response to our arguments that indefinite gag orders were unconstitutional, the appeals court wrote that lower courts reviewing these “nondisclosure requirements” are constitutionally “bound to ensure that the nondisclosure requirement does not remain in place longer than is necessary to serve the government’s compelling interest.”

    • EU Quietly Ramps Up Preparations To Re-introduce Blanket Data Retention After Top Court Threw It Out In 2014

      One of the biggest wins for the general public in recent years was when the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU), the region’s highest court, ruled in 2014 that the 2006 Data Retention Directive was “invalid”. That naturally didn’t go down too well with many of the governments in the EU, who were keen to keep it for surveillance of their populations. Almost immediately, the European Commission began to “examine the best options for the way forward as regards the retention of telecommunications data”, as Erich Möchel reported in 2015. More recently, Statewatch published a draft of an internal document from the Council of the EU (pdf), outlining the EU’s plans to re-instate obligatory data retention, while an updated version was obtained and released by ORF.at (pdf). The differences between the two versions give a hint of how the EU might try to play this.

    • ‘Alexa, Stop Spying on My Kids’: FTC Complaint Charges Amazon’s Echo Dot Violates Child Privacy Law

      A coalition of consumer and public health groups demanded Thursday that federal regulators investigate and sanction Amazon for its Echo Dot Kids Edition, arguing that the device illegally collects and retains children’s personal data.

      The brightly colored, always-on listening device “will play music, answer questions, read stories, tell jokes, and more—all with younger ears in mind,” according to Amazon. “The included one year of FreeTime Unlimited gives your kids access to thousands of hours of fun and educational content, including ad-free radio stations and playlists, Audible books, and a growing list of premium kids skills.”

    • A Slack director is in hot water with the SEC for saying the company, which just filed to go public, ‘will be one of the most important tech companies in the world’

      Slack, which filed to go public last month, disclosed in an SEC filing on Monday that director Chamath Palihapitiya’s remarks in a television interview with CNBC were not endorsed by the company.

      His comments appeared to violate “quiet period” rules that govern companies that have filed to go public.

    • Opinion | It’s Time to Break Up Facebook

      The last time I saw Mark Zuckerberg was in the summer of 2017, several months before the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke. We met at Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif., office and drove to his house, in a quiet, leafy neighborhood. We spent an hour or two together while his toddler daughter cruised around. We talked politics mostly, a little about Facebook, a bit about our families. When the shadows grew long, I had to head out. I hugged his wife, Priscilla, and said goodbye to Mark.

      Since then, Mark’s personal reputation and the reputation of Facebook have taken a nose-dive. The company’s mistakes — the sloppy privacy practices that dropped tens of millions of users’ data into a political consulting firm’s lap; the slow response to Russian agents, violent rhetoric and fake news; and the unbounded drive to capture ever more of our time and attention — dominate the headlines. It’s been 15 years since I co-founded Facebook at Harvard, and I haven’t worked at the company in a decade. But I feel a sense of anger and responsibility.


      Mark’s influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government. He controls three core communications platforms — Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — that billions of people use every day. Facebook’s board works more like an advisory committee than an overseer, because Mark controls around 60 percent of voting shares. Mark alone can decide how to configure Facebook’s algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use and even which messages get delivered. He sets the rules for how to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive, and he can choose to shut down a competitor by acquiring, blocking or copying it.

    • Citing ‘Unprecedented’ Power of Zuckerberg, Facebook Co-Founder Says: ‘Time to Break It Up’

      Zuckerberg doesn’t just dominate Facebook—he also wields nearly unparalleled influence across the media and digital landscapes more broadly. In Hughes’s mind, the “biggest mistake” of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was allowing Facebook to acquire Instagram and WhatsApp in recent years. The FTC is expected to soon fine Facebook up to $5 billion for privacy violations—which Hughes, like others, framed as “a slap on the wrist” for a company that earned $55 billion in revenue last year.

      “When it hasn’t acquired its way to dominance, Facebook has used its monopoly position to shut out competing companies or has copied their technology,” Hughes explained, outlining how the company has interacted with competitors such as YouTube or Snapchat.

      “We are a nation with a tradition of reining in monopolies, no matter how well intentioned the leaders of these companies may be. Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American. It is time to break up Facebook,” wrote Hughes. “Mark Zuckerberg cannot fix Facebook, but our government can.”

      Specifically, Hughes urged the FTC, Justice Department, and Congress to check Zuckerberg’s power by forcing Facebook to splinter into several companies, blocking future acquisitions, and creating new federal agency that will regulate tech companies to make them “more accountable to the American people” through privacy protections and speech guidelines.

    • A Facebook cofounder says that Mark Zuckerberg’s master plan has always boiled down to one word: ‘Domination’

      “From our earliest days, Mark used the word ‘domination’ to describe our ambitions, with no hint of irony or humility,” Hughes wrote in the New York Times. “[Facebook] is a powerful monopoly, eclipsing all of its rivals and erasing competition from the social networking category.”

      In his op-ed, Hughes says that this quest for success has driven Facebook to “staggering” influence over the spread of information, users’ personal data, and the way that people talk to each other. He calls for the breakup of Facebook, and increased oversight of the company and its CEO.

    • Facebook Co-Founder Chris Hughes Calls For Facebook’s Breakup… But Seems Confused About All The Details

      Lots of folks are talking about a new opinion piece in the New York Times by Chris Hughes, one of the small group of college buddies of Mark Zuckerberg who are often called “co-founders” of the company. Hughes left pretty early, and has dabbled (unsuccessfully) in politics and (unsuccessfully) in media. The key point of the opinion piece is obvious from the title: It’s Time to Break Up Facebook.

      It is absolutely worth reading and thinking about. It’s also does not make a very compelling argument. It does seem to be having people who already think Facebook should be broken up declaring that it’s a compelling argument, but that’s because it’s confirming their prior feelings, not because of anything in the article. To be clear: I’m actually on the fence about the idea of breaking up Facebook. I’ve previously discussed why I think Elizabeth Warren’s plans to break up all of the big internet companies doesn’t make sense, but as a short version, my main issue is that I’m not sure any of these plans actually solve the problems people think they will solve (for a debate on this, listen to my podcast with Cory Doctorow where he and I disagreed over this point).

      Facebook’s value comes from the fact that it’s a global service in which everyone can reach everyone. So you couldn’t break up “Facebook” in a way that separates the company into, say, geographic regions or that limits the overall reach of the company. Instead, most of the focus is on splitting off some of its big acquisitions, mainly Instagram and Whatsapp, to create “competing” social media and messaging platforms. Again, I’m not totally against this idea — it’s the cleanest possible setup and at the very least would create some greater competition — but I’m not convinced that it actually solves any of the “problems” people are really concerned about, such as the company’s sucking up lots of data on everyone and (sometimes) exposing some of that data to those who shouldn’t have it. It is possible that a broken up Facebook faces more competitive pressure to be a better actor in the space, but I’m not really sure how true that is. For all the claims of people being concerned about privacy, their own actions don’t show that in practice. If people were truly concerned about these issues, we’d see more movement to other kinds of platforms, but we haven’t yet seen that.

    • Facebook co-founder wants Zuckerberg held to account, company split up

      The US Government must hold Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg accountable for all the problems that the social media site has visited upon its users, Chris Hughes, a co-founder of the company, says in an op-ed, in which he also called for the company to be broken up.

    • Facebook’s co-founder is making a terrible argument about online speech

      Hughes is primarily calling on the US regulators to split up Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram. Toward the end of the piece, though, he also suggests a new agency that would regulate tech companies. (So far, so good.) Then, he suggests that this agency establish “guidelines for acceptable speech on social media.” [...]

    • Advertisers have stuck with Facebook through years of scandals. Here are 6 things that would need to change for them to abandon it.

      Facebook’s advertising, as well as its user and stock-price growth, has continued unabated despite years of scandal and problems specific to advertisers (measurement snafus and a walled-garden approach to data). Facebook beat Wall Street’s revenue expectations for the first quarter and shrugged off news it was expecting to settle an unprecedented $3 billion to $5 billion Federal Trade Commission fine over privacy issues.

      With advertising continuing to enable Facebook’s growth, is there anything that would cause advertisers to tap the brakes?

    • Calls for “Lightweight” Encryption are Short-Sighted and Dangerous

      There are two problematic assumptions that I see with this competition and the overall concept of lightweight cryptography. One is the concept of a “barely safe” margin of safety and a the second is that hardware advancements are eliminating the need for lightweight cryptography altogether.

    • Amazon Flunks Children’s Privacy, Advocacy Groups Charge

      On Thursday, the two groups — the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy — joined more than a dozen others in lodging a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. The groups say that Amazon’s practices violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, a federal law protecting the personal information of people under 13.

      Among other things, the complaint said that Amazon had failed to obtain verified consent from parents before collecting their children’s voice recordings and had kept such records unnecessarily after extracting the data to respond to children. The groups also complained that Amazon had not sufficiently disclosed how it collected and used children’s data.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Selling Fear? There’s An App For That

      Fear has always sold. It has sold wars to the public, both real and imagined. It has propelled the endless funding of the War on Drugs and the War on Terror. It has sold the killing of unarmed citizens by police officers to courts. It has sold the diminishment of our Constitutional rights, most notably at our borders. It has sold surveillance creep — the steady encroachment of cameras in public areas, increasingly coupled with tech that makes anonymity a historical relic.

      It has sold newspapers and brought eyeballs to newscasts. As the public has shifted its news consumption to the web, the fear salesmen have followed, ensuring what bleeds still leads, even online.

      The public still buys it, even when the facts don’t back up the narrative. A decade of historically low crime levels has made little dent in the public perception that we live in a country overrun by drug cartels, sex traffickers, and assorted lowlifes hellbent on separating us from our possessions and lives.

      All of this information is a Google search away, but it’s ignored in favor of what still brings viewers to websites and funding to government agencies. This would all be sad enough if it weren’t for a new wave of tech companies behaving like newspapers riding the fine line between information and sensationalism.

    • Court Says No One’s Responsible For Detainee Who Committed Suicide While Jailers Crafted ‘Punisher’ Posters

      Via the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals comes a depressing tale about how cheap life is in jail, even for those who haven’t been convicted of a crime.

      It starts with a family argument. Jose Luis Garza was intoxicated and arguing with his brother. His mother expressed her fear for his safety to the Donna police officers she had called, stating she “feared for his life” and was “afraid he would hurt himself.” The officers provided the only assistance they knew how to give: they arrested Garza, charging him with “assault by threat.”

      Garza was taken to the PD’s holding facility — not a prison or jail but somewhere for cops to stash arrestees until they were moved to an actual prison/jail. Garza was placed in a cell with a camera, but soon after being put there, he blocked the camera. The person monitoring the cameras did not notice it had been blocked. This DPD employee claimed watching the cameras wasn’t her job once the jailers started their shifts.

      The jailers started their shift at 8 a.m. They were required to check on detainees every hour. These officers — Esteban Garza and Nathan Coronado — may or may not have heard Jose Garza banging on his cell door to get their attention. The record simply doesn’t show. The jail log shows a cell check was performed at 8:10 a.m., but there’s reason to doubt this check was ever performed. More on that in a bit.

    • No One Should be Forced to Give Birth Alone in a Jail Cell

      A mentally ill woman gave birth in a county jail in Florida. Incredibly, she is not the first.
      At 3 a.m., inside her solitary jail cell in Broward County, Florida, Tammy Jackson began having contractions. It took hours for corrections officers to reach a doctor, who said he’d check on Jackson when he came into work later that morning. By the time he arrived at 10 a.m., Jackson had delivered the baby alone in her jail cell.

      Not only was Jackson incarcerated and isolated without medical care while giving birth, she was also doing so while living with serious mental illness. A few months before her arrest, she had been so acutely ill she was involuntarily committed to a local psychiatric facility. And furthermore, she was not even in jail because she had been convicted of a crime. Jackson was a pretrial detainee.

      She was being held in the jail under supposed medical monitoring in a unit for high-needs detainees. Still, she had to suffer through the physical and emotional trauma of labor and delivery alone, ignored by officers who heard but failed to heed her cries for help.

      Her suffering is egregious. And we must ask a broader question about the Broward County Jail and the criminal legal system that feeds it: Why was Jackson even there?

      People with mental illness make up close to 70 percent of those detained in women’s facilities. They are often arrested for behavior that is a product of living with mental illness and, due to mental illness or because they are disproportionately low income and homeless, they frequently are unable to afford bail or comply with pretrial release requirements. Then, once in jail, they often decompensate due to the harsh conditions they endure, including traumatic strip searches and long-term isolation in cells roughly the size of a parking space.

      As we know from Jackson’s story, the callousness with which incarcerated women are treated extends to pregnancy care.

    • Red Sox’ Trip to White House Fraught With Political, Racial Tensions

      For decades, championship teams have visited the White House in a moment of ritual and tradition. Athletic excellence is celebrated, lame jokes are told and the president is given yet another jersey bearing his name. Under President Donald Trump, though, the visits often have become politicized, featuring athlete protests and, in the case of the Boston Red Sox, raising questions about a racial divide.

      The Red Sox, who steamrolled to a World Series crown last October, are poised to visit the White House on Thursday. Team manager Alex Cora announced last week he would not attend, citing his frustration with the administration’s efforts to help his native Puerto Rico recover from a devastating hurricane. Nearly a dozen players, including American League MVP Mookie Betts, have said they will also skip the ceremony.

      All those bypassing the White House are players of color. Every white player on the team — as well as J.D. Martinez, who is of Cuban descent — was expected to attend.

      The Red Sox have stressed that the clubhouse has not been divided on the issue; no player or coach was pressured to go, and players who have chosen not to attend have stressed there is no ill will toward those who will shake Trump’s hand.

      Pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, a Venezuelan native, offered his perspective before the team’s game Wednesday in Baltimore: “For me, it’s not a big deal. It’s your decision. Make a choice. I’ll respect it. I don’t think that’s a big deal. If you want to go or you don’t want to go, that’s your decision.”

    • Electronic Warrants And Roadside Blood Draws Are The New Normal For DUI Checkpoints

      A few years ago, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration brought down the heat on itself by teaming with local law enforcement to set up roadside blood/saliva draws. The plan was to compile data on impaired driving, but the “voluntary” sample stations were staffed by cops who flagged motorists down, leading many to believe this was just another DUI checkpoint.

      Now that the NHTSA is out of the picture, local law enforcement is taking care of this itself. Only it very definitely is mandatory and any data-gathering would be incidental to the real purpose of these checkpoints: arresting impaired drivers. It’s 2019 in America and we can only now proudly say we’re the Home of the Roadside Blood Draw.

    • Coalition Of Rights Activists And Journalists Wants To Know Why DHS, CBP, And ICE Are Spying On Activists And Journalists

      Early this March, documents obtained by NBC San Diego showed the DHS was targeting journalists. activists, and immigration lawyers for enhanced screenings and device searches by the CBP. The previously-secret database held dossiers on people suspected of doing nothing more than participating in Constitutionally-protected activity.

      The DHS provided no explanation for this collection of dossiers. The CBP attempted to explain its participation in rights violations by first claiming it was necessary to secure the border. Then it said every one of the 59 journalists, lawyers, and activists in the leaked documents were “present” during “violence” that “broke out at the border” last November. That these people would be present at such an event is unsurprising, given the amount of attention being paid to our southern border and immigration in recent months. That the CPB would decide this justifies dossiers, enhanced screenings, and invasive device searches is a bit more disturbing, as it has the potential to negatively affect a number of Constitutional rights.

      The Center for Democracy and Technology — along with dozens of humans rights activists and journalist entities — have sent a letter to the head of the DHS, demanding this surveillance stop immediately and that an investigation be opened to determine this effort’s origins, as well as its extent. It also demands DHS and CBP hand over all policies, guidelines, and documents detailing what information the agencies collected during this possibly-unlawful surveillance.

    • Delta Airlines Crosses One Line Too Far in Union Busting

      We create, develop, document and collaborate as users of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) from around the globe, usually by working remotely on the Internet. However, human beings have many millennia of evolution that makes us predisposed to communicate most effectively via in-person interaction. We don’t just rely on the content of communication, but its manner of expression, the body language of the communicator, and thousands of different non-verbal cues and subtle communication mechanisms. In fact, I believe something that’s quite radical for a software freedom activist to believe: meeting in person to discuss something is always better than some form of online communication. And this belief is why I attend so many FOSS events, and encourage (and work in my day job to support) programs and policies that financially assist others in FOSS to attend such events.

      When I travel, Delta Airlines often works out to be the best option for my travel: they have many international flights from my home airport (PDX), including a daily one to AMS in Europe — and since many FOSS events are in Europe, this has worked out well.

      Admittedly, most for-profit companies that I patronize regularly engage in some activity that I find abhorrent. One of the biggest challenges of modern middle-class life in an industrialized soceity is figuring out (absent becoming a Thoreau-inspired recluse) how to navigate one’s comfort level with patronizing companies that engage in bad behaviors. We all have to pick our own boycotts and what vendors we’re going to avoid.

      I realize that all the commercial airlines are some of the worst environmental polluters in the world. I realize that they all hire union-busting law firms to help them mistreat their workers. But, Delta Airlines recent PR campaign to frighten their workers about unions was one dirty trick too far.


      Overall, there is one positive outcome of this for me personally: I am renewed in my appreciation for having spent most of my career working for charities. Charities in the software freedom community have our problems, but nearly everyone I’ve worked with at software freedom charities (including management) have always been staunchly pro-union. Workers have a right to negotiate on equal terms with their employers and be treated as equals to come to equitable arrangements about working conditions and workplace issues. Unions aren’t perfect, but they are the only way to effectively do that when a workforce is larger than a few people.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • The Pai FCC Sits On Its Hands While Phone Companies Rip Off American Taxpayers

      We’ve talked often about how the nation’s phone companies, now fixated on video and online advertising, have effectively just been letting their DSL and phone networks fall apart while still charging exorbitant rates. Not only did these companies take billions in taxpayer dollars to build these older copper-based networks, they took billions more in subsidies for fiber upgrades they never fully deployed. Yet increasingly we’ve watched as they’ve refused to upgrade or even repair their networks across countless states, leaving customers trapped with expensive service that often doesn’t even meet the FCC’s standard definition of broadband (25 Mbps).

      This problem has often been exemplified by Frontier Communications in West Virginia, where local Charleston Gazette reporter Eric Eyre has quietly done an amazing job the last few years chronicling the state’s immense corruption and dysfunction, from the state’s use of broadband stimulus subsidies on unused, overpowered routers and overpaid, redundant consultants, to state leaders’ attempts to bury reports supporting allegations that Frontier engaged in systemic, statewide fraud on the taxpayer dime.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Amarin Pharma, Inc. v. ITC (Fed. Cir. 2019)

      The Federal Circuit affirmed, in an opinion by Chief Judge Prost and Judge Hughes; Judge Wallach dissented. Chief Judge Prost’s opinion begins with the panel majority’s conclusion that the Court had appellate jurisdiction over this dispute (a position disputed by both the Intervenors and the ITC and the source of Judge Wallach’s dissent). Under the Court’s jurisdictional statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(6), the Federal Circuit has “exclusive jurisdiction ‘to review the final determinations of the United States International Trade Commission relating to unfair practices in import trade, made under section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. [§] 1337).’” The jurisdiction question thus devolved to whether a decision not to institute an investigation satisfies the requirement under the statute for a “final determination,” which has statutory support under 19 U.S.C. § 1337(c). According to the Intervenors and the ITC, a final determination requires an investigation to have been instigated by the Commission.


      The panel majority also distinguished the Supreme Court’s holding in POM Wonderful, saying that “[t]he allegations underlying the Lanham Act claim in POM Wonderful did not require proving a violation of the FDCA itself,” unlike here, and that distinction was enough to reach the opposite outcome. And the panel majority also set forth the legal difference between a case involving preemption (typically between a state law or regulation and a supervening Federal statute) and preclusion (where the question is which Federal statute controls, which was the question in this case).

      Judge Wallach dissented on the jurisdictional question. His argument is purely textual: the Tariff Act states that “[a]ny person adversely affected by a final determination of the [ITC] under subsection (d), (e), (f), or (g) of [§ 1337] may appeal such determination . . . to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit” under § 1337(c); this excludes on its face decisions not to institute under § 1337(b) (as is the circumstance here and thus the Federal Circuit is without jurisdiction to consider Amarin’s appeal). Other case law, and legislative history, supports Judge Wallach’s conclusion under his reasoning, and while he agrees with the majority that Amarin is not entitled to relief, he would base this outcome on Amarin’s failure to establish it was entitled to the “extraordinary relief” of a writ of mandamus (for which the All Writs Act properly bestows jurisdiction on the Court).

    • Illinois and New Jersey district judges agree to disagree

      From granting stays and summary judgments to providing opportunities for young litigators, US district court judges emphasise the importance of local rules and personal policies in patent litigation, and share tips for practising in their districts

    • FTC calls DOJ statement in Qualcomm antitrust case “untimely,” says it “misconstrues applicable law and the record”: inter-institutional quarrel

      On Thursday, one week after the Department of Justice submitted its puzzling Statement of Interest in the FTC v. Qualcomm antitrust case awaiting Judge Lucy H. Koh’s judgment in the Northern District of California, the Federal Trade Commission filed a response that is as concise as it is informative at different levels (this post continues below the document):


      There’s no question that the DOJ’s Antitrust Division is trying to help Qualcomm against the FTC (and, by extension, Apple, whose credibility the DOJ’s statement calls into question), but this effort is unlikely to bear any weight whatsoever with Judge Koh and, with respect to the FTC, may even have been counterproductive. The FTC is a government agency, but it’s independent: the President appoints the commissioners, but he can’t fire them during their term. The DOJ’s Antitrust Division, by contrast, reports to the Attorney General, whom the President can replace whenever he wants. The FTC cherishes its independence, and by interfering with its case, the DOJ may actually just have created a situation in which it’s institutionally important for the FTC to show its independence by statements such as the one filed yesterday and whatever statements, decisions or actions may follow. There comes a point where even a commissioner inclined or prepared to settle the case with Qualcomm on a certain set of terms may have to worry about institutional implications.

    • Trademarks

      • Apples Only For Apple: Apple Opposes A German Bicycle Path

        Apple, the company, has long made it known that it believes that only it can use an apple, the fruit, in a corporate logo. This rather incorrect belief has led the company down some rather silly trademark roads, including disputes with all kinds of companies in unrelated industries, as well as disputes with some political parties for some reason. It’s all been delightfully insane and all led by Apple’s insistence that it has trademark rights that are far more broad than is the reality.

        But just when you think it can’t get more absurd, Apple goes ahead and files an opposition and sends out cease and desist notices…over a German bicycle path. I fear some explanation may be necessary.

      • Court of Justice: use of figurative signs may constitute unlawful evocation of a PDO

        Must the concept of the average consumer, whose perception the national court has to refer in order to assess whether there is ‘evocation’ within the meaning of Article 13(1)(b) of Regulation No 510/2006, be understood as covering European consumers or only consumers of the Member State in which the product giving rise to evocation of the protected name is made or with which that name is geographically associated and in which the product is mainly consumed?

        The Court pointed out that the concept must be interpreted in a way that guarantees effective and uniform protection of registered names against any evocation throughout the territory of the Union.

        Accordingly, the concept must be understood as covering European consumers, including consumers of the Member State in which the product giving rise to evocation of the protected name is made or with which that name is geographically associated and in which the product is mainly consumed. The Court concluded that it is for the national court to assess whether both the figurative and word elements relating to the product at issue in the main proceedings, which is made or mainly consumed in Spain, evoke the image of a registered name in the mind of the consumers of that Member State, which must, if that is the case, be protected against evocation wherever that may occur throughout the territory of the European Union.

      • Guess guesses wrong regarding a common inverted triangle device

        It submitted that the inverted triangle device was the dominant and distinctive component of these marks as the device had no relation to the claimed goods. Guess thus proposed that the Registered Marks had a high level of technical distinctiveness and enjoyed a high threshold before a competing sign will be considered dissimilar.

        Technical distinctiveness refers to the capacity of a mark to function as a badge of origin; e.g. invented words have a high level of technical distinctiveness. See here for a previous report on technical distinctiveness under Singapore law.

        The Hearing Officer disagreed and cautioned that while some device marks that say nothing about the goods may be distinctive, the device could instead be seen as a decorative element rather than a badge of origin. The Hearing Officer applied the Court of Appeal’s guidelines in Hai Tong Co (Pte) Ltd v Ventree Singapore Pte Ltd [2013] SGCA 26 at [62] when comparing the composite trademarks.

    • Copyrights

      • Best Pirate Bay Alternatives Working When TPB Is Down

        What do the fans do when The Pirate Bay is down due to an error or federal action? They have to accept the hard truth and look for some alternatives to The Pirate Bay or ripoffs like thepiratebay3.org.

        Commonly known as TPB, the popular torrent site has been around for almost 15 years currently running on thepiratebay.org domain. When its founders were arrested back in 2013, The Pirate Bay was outperformed by KickAss Torrents which itself had to bite the dust later (here are some KAT alternatives). Eventually, TPB was able to regain its throne and currently tops the list of the best torrent sites for 2019.

      • Strike 3 Gets Another Judge To Remind It That IP Addresses Aren’t Infringers

        While copyright trolling has continued to be a scourge across many countries, America included, there have finally been signs of the courts beginning to push back against them. One of the more nefarious trolls, Strike 3 Holdings, masquerades as a pornography company while it actually does the far dirtier work of bilking internet service account holders based on non-evidence. Armed typically with nothing more than IP addresses, the whole trolling enterprise relies on using those IP addresses to have ISPs unmask they’re own customers, under the theory that those customers are the most likely infringers of Strike 3 content. The courts have finally begun catching on to how faulty the very premise is, with more than one judge pushing back on IP addresses even being actual evidence.


        Exactly. And the rules of evidence aren’t there just for the sake of letting porn-watchers go free on technicalities. They matter. If we were to allow copyright trolls to substitute the kind of shoddy facts like IP addresses for actual evidence, and if courts were to accept that substitute, then what we’re really all allowing for is a substitute for justice. The public doesn’t want that.

        And, it would appear, more and more judges are finally realizing that they don’t want that either.

      • Conan O’Brien Explains The Insanity Of Fighting Bogus Joke Stealing Lawsuit For Years

        As we pointed out almost a decade ago, especially when you’re talking about quick, topical one-liners, it’s not surprising that lots of people come up with the same exact joke. It’s certainly not “stealing.” And most of the time it’s not copying.


        The whole thing should never have gotten this far. Simple jokes like that — like many other things — probably don’t deserve copyright at all in the first place. As we wrote over a decade ago, jokes have a long history of not needing copyright protection. Old time comedians would tell others jokes all the time, and there are tons of books that have collected jokes from all over. Most of the time, the really funny bits are in the telling of the joke — the presentation, the timing, etc. It may be a bit different online, but again, there is no need for copyright as incentive to tell jokes on Twitter of all places.

        On top of that, while the system may not be perfect, social pressure has done a pretty good job in “outing” and shaming those who actually appear to be doing more nefarious things, such as directly copying others without credit. Copyright is rarely needed for such things as social shaming is effective. But, here, it seems quite obvious that there was no copying at all. It was pure independent creation.

      • Higbee Tries To Shake Down Forum For Deep Linked Photograph

        We’ve written a few times now about copyright troll Higbee and Associates, which has a long track record of sending highly questionable (to outright bullshit) copyright demands to various people on the internet. Many of the demands are absurd. Frequently the images don’t have a registered copyright. Sometimes, it’s not even clear if the “client” holds any copyright at all. The demand letters usually come with misleading and threatening language — often demanding way more than any license would ever bring in.

        Public Citizen’s Paul Levy has been tracking Higbee for quite some time now, and representing a few people who have been hit by Higbee letters. And now he (along with Stanford’s law clinic) are taking Higbee to court for declaratory judgment of non-infringement on yet another bogus and exaggerated Higbee threat. The background is quite interesting. Kevin Schlossberg runs a forum website about knives called Blade Forums. Way back in 2007, a user of Blade Forums wrote about the use of wood burls for knife handles — and in the process deeplinked a photograph taken by Quang-Tuan Luong, and posted on Luong’s own website, Terra Galleria.

        Schlossberg did not host the image. Schlossberg actually had no idea about the deeplinked image at all until Higbee showed up demanding $2,500. In response, he did change the hotlinked image into just a URL, but Higbee still demanded $2,500. Schlossberg did a bit of internet sleuthing and pointed out that this clearly wasn’t infringement since he wasn’t hosting the image, and pointed to the various Perfect 10 cases. In response, Higbee doubled down, and insisted that the Perfect 10 rulings had been narrowed recently (they have not), that fair use doesn’t matter, and that since Schlossberg had only just registered a DMCA agent, that he was not at all protected by the DMCA’s safe harbors.

    • Fancy a Job in Covert Anti-Piracy? Only Experts Need Apply

      Anti-piracy work by its very nature is usually conducted in the shadows, with only the results visible to the public. However, a job listing posted by the BPI recently gives more insight, with the right candidate managing everything from investigations through to covert credit cards, covert drop addresses, and covert social media accounts. Even working with the police.

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