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05.16.19

Links 16/5/2019: Cockpit 194, VMware Acquires Bitnami, Another Wine Announcement and Krita 4.2.0 Beta

Posted in News Roundup at 1:27 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • L’école franco-danoise

    When choosing technology for education, we only use free (libre) programs, in accord with the school’s fundamental values of freedom and justice. From an IT literacy perspective we consider it essential that the children learn to identify which technological choices will make them dependent and which ones will give them autonomy. This includes explaining the privacy-related consequences of using the typical online services.

    The policy has always been very easy to apply, as free/libre solutions exist for every relevant problem we have encountered.

    Perhaps surprisingly, we have observed that children are very receptive to traditional text-based programming and don’t express any need for simplistic point-and-click interfaces. The more interested pupils participate in managing the school’s servers and infrastructure, learning valuable skills in that process. In practice this establishes an intense exchange and mentorship culture that characterizes environments where information can be shared freely.

    We regularly sponsor free (as in freedom) projects that we make use of and consider it the morally right thing to do for an institution.

    Computer games, including games on phones and tablets, are not allowed at school during the opening hours, because we have observed that they cause attention deficits and addiction. Generally speaking, screen-oriented activities may only occur if they have a well-defined pedagogical purpose.

  • Web Browsers

    • Chrome

      • Google finds ways to cover your mobile in even more advertising

        This week’s Google Marketing Live event produced several new options to make Android and iOS just that little bit more ad-heavy. For ‘little’, read ‘understatement’.

        They include ‘gallery ads’ which will allow you to swipe through images, which will become part of the search process on mobile. They’ll also form part of the ‘Discover’ option in the Google Assistant screen and on Google’s mobile home page.

    • Mozilla

      • Empowering User Privacy and Decentralizing IoT with Mozilla WebThings

        Smart home devices can make busy lives a little easier, but they also require you to give up control of your usage data to companies for the devices to function. In a recent article from the New York Times’ Privacy Project about protecting privacy online, the author recommended people to not buy Internet of Things (IoT) devices unless they’re “willing to give up a little privacy for whatever convenience they provide.”

        This is sound advice since smart home companies can not only know if you’re at home when you say you are, they’ll soon be able to listen for your sniffles through their always-listening microphones and recommend sponsored cold medicine from affiliated vendors. Moreover, by both requiring that users’ data go through their servers and by limiting interoperability between platforms, leading smart home companies are chipping away at people’s ability to make real, nuanced technology choices as consumers.

        At Mozilla, we believe that you should have control over your devices and the data that smart home devices create about you. You should own your data, you should have control over how it’s shared with others, and you should be able to contest when a data profile about you is inaccurate.

      • Mozilla VR Blog: Making ethical decisions for the immersive web

        One of the promises of immersive technologies is real time communication unrestrained by geography. This is as transformative as the internet, radio, television, and telephones—each represents a pivot in mass communications that provides new opportunities for information dissemination and creating connections between people. This raises the question, “what’s the immersive future we want?”

        We want to be able to connect without traveling. Indulge our curiosity and creativity beyond our physical limitations. Revolutionize the way we visualize and share our ideas and dreams. Enrich everyday situations. Improve access to limited resources like healthcare and education.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • Licensing/Legal

    • HMD publishes Nokia 9 PureView kernel source code

      We’ve said it before, but Android OEMs are pretty hit or miss when it comes to releasing kernel source code, as mandated under the GPL license for using the Linux kernel. HMD is the definition of hit-or-miss, having just released the source code for the two-year-old Nokia 2 a few days ago. But here we have them releasing the source for the Nokia 9 PureView, a phone still considered new.

  • Programming/Development

    • 4 years of Rust

      On May 15th, 2015, Rust was released to the world! After 5 years of open development (and a couple of years of sketching before that), we finally hit the button on making the attempt to create a new systems programming language a serious effort!

      It’s easy to look back on the pre-1.0 times and cherish them for being the wild times of language development and fun research. Features were added and cut, syntax and keywords were tried, and before 1.0, there was a big clean-up that removed a lot of the standard library. For fun, you can check Niko’s blog post on how Rust’s object system works, Marijn Haverbeke’s talk on features that never made it close to 1.0 or even the introductory slides about Servo, which present a language looking very different from today.

      Releasing Rust with stability guarantees also meant putting a stop to large visible changes. The face of Rust is still very similar to Rust 1.0. Even with the changes from last year’s 2018 Edition, Rust is still very recognizable as what it was in 2015. That steadiness hides that the time of Rust’s fastest development and growth is now.

    • Three Ways of Storing and Accessing Lots of Images in Python

      Why would you want to know more about different ways of storing and accessing images in Python? If you’re segmenting a handful of images by color or detecting faces one by one using OpenCV, then you don’t need to worry about it. Even if you’re using the Python Imaging Library (PIL) to draw on a few hundred photos, you still don’t need to. Storing images on disk, as .png or .jpg files, is both suitable and appropriate.

      Increasingly, however, the number of images required for a given task is getting larger and larger. Algorithms like convolutional neural networks, also known as convnets or CNNs, can handle enormous datasets of images and even learn from them. If you’re interested, you can read more about how convnets can be used for ranking selfies or for sentiment analysis.

      ImageNet is a well-known public image database put together for training models on tasks like object classification, detection, and segmentation, and it consists of over 14 million images.

      Think about how long it would take to load all of them into memory for training, in batches, perhaps hundreds or thousands of times. Keep reading, and you’ll be convinced that it would take quite awhile—at least long enough to leave your computer and do many other things while you wish you worked at Google or NVIDIA.

    • A Linaro Developer Has Taken Up The Effort Of Converting GCC’s SVN To Git

      The lengthy battle of converting the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) to using a Git workflow from SVN might be getting closer to finally culminating… Linaro developer Maxim Kuvyrkov has jumped on the task of converting the GCC repository from SVN to Git and did so without much fuss.

      Eric S. Raymond has been working for what feels like ages on converting GCC SVN to Git using his “Reposurgeon” tool but given the massive size of the GCC code-base and long development history, it’s been a slow process. There were roadblocks in his approach of converting the SVN history to Git that were blamed on high RAM prices and other obstacles. Most recently he was working on porting his tool to Golang but that it would take months to complete.

    • Friendlier tracebacks

      When beginners run programs that generate Python tracebacks, they are almost always confused by what the information shown and have no clue as to what this all means. More experienced programmers can sometimes extract enough information directly from tracebacks to figure out what what wrong, but they will often have to resort to inserting a few print calls and running their program again to truly figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. (A minority of programmers might eschew using print calls and use a debugger instead.)

      In order to make tracebacks more useful for them, some advanced programmers have designed tools to add more information so that simply looking at the enhanced traceback might be sufficient to diagnose properly the problem. These tools include better_exchook, infi.traceback, rich-traceback, stackprinter, as well as the beautiful better-exceptions, and many others including Python’s own cgitb module. While there is no doubt that the additional information provided by these tools is useful for advanced programmers, it would likely only add to their confusion if it were used by beginners.

    • The Price of the Hallway Track

      There are many good reasons to not go to every talk possible when attending conferences. However increasingly it became hip to boast with not going to talks at all – encouraging others to follow suit. As a speaker, that rubs me the wrong way and I’ll try to explain why.

      This article started at PyCon US 2019, the biggest Python conference in the world with roughly 3,500 attendees. Over lunch on day one, I’ve noticed tweets encouraging people to not go to talks and instead do the infamous hallway track (= socializing in the hallways) or go to open spaces, and watch the videos later on YouTube. Sometimes even claiming that it doesn’t make any sense to go to talks in the first place.

    • Data Science Dojo Blog: Network Theory and Game of Thrones – A Perfect Combination

      Game of Thrones is arguably one of the biggest pop culture phenomena to hit the public consciousness in the last decade. Since the hype for the final season’s arrival has gone down a bit, especially mine after episode three , I thought I could use this time to finally explore a side of Data Science that has always intrigued me – Network Theory, and combine it with a topic I am very invested in – Game of Thrones. Just to be clear I won’t be making any claims or predictions about the plot of the show – No Spoilers. I just want to use Game of Thrones as a hopefully relatable context for discussing the analysis techniques.

      At a high level, Network Theory is the study of relationships between objects, more specifically it is a subfield of Graph Theory with extra attributes attached to the nodes and edges. If you’re confused by these terms, don’t worry I’ll explain everything in a bit. For the rest, you might be familiar with graph theory and have not-so-fond memories associated with it, but bear with me for a while. I first learned basic graph theory in my university’s algorithms course and, I’ll be honest, I found absolutely nothing of interest in the entire topic. Sure, I could find the shortest path between two cities or find the best way to lay down routers in a computer network, but these topics never seemed fun to me. That is until I started exploring data science and learned about network analysis. That really opened my eyes to what the graph theory concepts were capable of. I encourage you to check out this video about exploring opposing factions and their effects on each other using graphs.

    • Go Baby Go

      I’m starting a new job next month and their language of choice is Go. Which means I have a good reason to finally get around to learning it (far too many years after I saw Marga talk about it at DebConf). For that I find I need a project – it’s hard to find the time to just do programming exercises, whereas if I’m working towards something it’s a bit easier. Naturally I decided to do something home automation related. In particular I bought a couple of Xiaomi Mijia Temperature/Humidity sensors a while back which also report via Bluetooth. I had a set of shell scripts polling them every so often to get the details, but it turns out they broadcast the current status every 2 seconds. Passively listening for that is a better method as it reduces power consumption on the device – no need for a 2 way handshake like with a manual poll. So, the project: passively listen for BLE advertisements, make sure they’re from the Xiaomi device and publish them via MQTT every minute.

      One thing that puts me off new languages is when they have a fast moving implementation – telling me I just need to fetch the latest nightly to get all the features I’m looking for is a sure fire way to make me hold off trying something. Go is well beyond that stage, so I grabbed the 1.11 package from Debian buster. That’s only one release behind current, so I felt reasonably confident I was using a good enough variant. For MQTT the obvious choice was the Eclipse Paho MQTT client. Bluetooth was a bit trickier – there were more options than I expected (including one by Paypal), but I settled on go-ble (sadly now in archived mode), primarily because it was the first one where I could easily figure out how to passively scan without needing to hack up any of the library code.

      With all those pieces it was fairly easy to throw together something that does the required steps in about 200 lines of code. That seems comparable to what I think it would have taken in Python, and to a large extent the process felt a lot closer to writing something in Python than in C.

    • Paul Ganssle: Time Zones In The Standard Library
    • Russell Keith-Magee: Python On Other Platforms
    • The 2019 Python Language Summit
    • What’s an Engineering Workstation, in Your Opinion?
    • AMD Ryzen Threadripper Compiler Tuning/Optimization Benchmarks With GCC 9, PGO

      For those interested in compiler optimization/tuning with AMD Ryzen Threadripper hardware, here are some follow-up benchmarks to Tuesday’s GCC 9 vs. Clang 8 C/C++ Compiler Performance On AMD Threadripper, Intel Core i9.

      The tests today are of GCC 9 at different tuning/optimization levels for reference purposes. Additionally there is a run when using Profile Guided Optimizations (PGO) for looking at the performance impact on GCC 9.

    • Inbox Zero

      Glyph has already written at length about how a full Inbox is a sign of misprioritized tasks. Saying “no” is one example (in other words, prioritizing away). But when saying “yes”, it is a good idea to know when it can be done, when should you give up, and potentially apologize, and when should you give a heads-up that it is being delayed.

      [...]

      I read e-mail “when I get around to it”. Usually several times a day. I do have notifications enabled on my phone, so I can easily see if the e-mail is urgent.

    • Signing Git Commits

      Often when people talk about GPG, they focus on encryption—GPG’s ability to protect a file or message so that only someone who has the appropriate private key can read it. Yet, one of the most important functions GPG offers is signing. Where encryption protects a file or message so that only the intended recipient can decrypt and read it, GPG signing proves that the message was sent by the sender (whomever has control over the private key used to sign) and has not been altered in any way from what the sender wrote.

      Without GPG signing, you could receive encrypted email that only you could open, but you wouldn’t be able to prove that it was from the sender. But, GPG signing has applications far beyond email. If you use a modern Linux distribution, it uses GPG signatures on all of its packages, so you can be sure that any software you install from the distribution hasn’t been altered to add malicious code after it was packaged. Some distributions even GPG-sign their ISO install files as a stronger form of MD5sum or SHA256sum to verify not only that the large ISO downloaded correctly (MD5 or SHA256 can do that), but also that the particular ISO you are downloading from some random mirror is the same ISO that the distribution created. A mirror could change the file and generate new MD5sums, and you may not notice, but it couldn’t generate valid GPG signatures, as that would require access to the distribution’s signing key.

    • Control Anything with Alexa Using Node.JS
    • Random number with a normal distribution between 1 and X
    • Modular Perl in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8
    • How to Check if String contains Substring in Java
    • Python for NLP: Working with the Gensim Library (Part 2)
    • Inheritance versus composition

      The idea of “inheritance” is something that most students learn about early on when they are studying object-oriented programming (OOP). But one of the seminal books about OOP recommends favoring “composition” over inheritance. Ariel Ortiz came to PyCon in Cleveland, Ohio to describe the composition pattern and to explain the tradeoffs between using it and inheritance.

      Ortiz is a full-time faculty member at Tecnológico de Monterrey, which is a private university in Mexico. He noted that the title of his talk, “The Perils of Inheritance”, sounded like “clickbait”; he jokingly suggested that perhaps he should have named it: “4 dangers of inheritance; you won’t believe number 3!”. That elicited a good laugh, but he said that clickbait was not his intent.

      He has been teaching computer science for more than 30 years, using many languages, including Python. He likes Python and uses it for several courses, including data structures, web development, and compiler construction. He started with Python 2.0 in 2001 or so.

Leftovers

  • Science

    • Tashkent, Uzbekistan: The City with 2200+ Years of Written History

      Visiting Central Asia had been on my bucket list for quite a while. So when I finally got the chance to head to Kazakhstan, I decided to take a pit-stop on my way there. This is how I got to Tashkent, the capital city of Uzbekistan, and also the most populous city in former-Soviet Central Asia.

      So what was Tashkent like? Considering the fact that it is a popular tourist destination, both from scenic and historical points of view, a lot has already been written about its various monuments and attractions. As such, I’d rather stick to my own observations about the city in this travelogue.

      Uzbeks, in general, are very helpful people. They’d go out of the way to help you with directions, advice and anything else that you might ask for. Ask any passerby for a direction, chances are high they won’t understand your language. But, they’d be quick to open up the translate app in their phone, and ask you to speak to its voice input.

      Compare this with the shrug and “I don’t know” behavior that’s the norm in many parts of the world.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Hospital Workers in Toledo, Ohio, Strike for Safe Patient Care

      On May 6, more than 2,000 unionized workers organized by the United Automobile Workers (UAW) marched out of Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo, Ohio, to demand safe staffing, safe working conditions for all hospital workers and the right to bargain fixed health care rates. The striking workers include registered nurses, technical unit employees and support staff.

      The workers overwhelmingly voted to go on strike with the union’s registered nurse contingent, voting 90 percent in favor on October 29, 2018, which is the same day the current contract expired. “The main reason why nurses went on strike is because of patient safety,” said Barb Mazur, a registered nurse and strike captain of UAW Local 2213 Professional Registered Nurses. Mazur is concerned about their current nurse-to-patient ratios and working long shifts that put patients in danger. “Our concern is that we’re being overworked and extended to longer hours. The major focus is patient safety. We’re standing up for our patients.”

      From the picket lines, it’s evident how much support the strikers have from the patients and community at large. Cars driving by are consistently honking in support to the point where it’s difficult to even have a conversation. Support is even coming from within the hospital. “We have a lot of patients that have verbalized that they are supporting us…. One patient walked out holding a UAW sign,” Mazur told Truthout.

      There has been an outpouring of labor support coming not only from Toledo, but from Ohio at large and other states as well. “We have the ONA [Ohio Nurses Association], the MNA [Michigan Nurses Association], AFSCME [American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees], the Ironworkers, the fire department and others,” Mazur said. “People are coming to drop off water and food; and from the bottom of our hearts, we appreciate it.”

    • We’re Suing to Block Ohio’s Abortion Ban

      Abortion is a constitutional right.

      Today we filed a lawsuit challenging Ohio’s ban on abortion starting at six weeks of pregnancy. Our lawsuit comes a day after Alabama passed a similar law and weeks after Georgia, Kentucky, and Mississippi passed similar measures.

      A ban on abortion starting at six weeks is a ban on almost all abortions. Before six weeks, most people do not even know that they are pregnant.

      Legally, this case is straightforward. A ban on abortion is blatantly unconstitutional under more than 45 years of Supreme Court precedent starting with Roe v. Wade. The Ohio law we’ve challenged today flies in the face of that precedent and of the Constitution. We’ve asked the court to block the law before it can take effect on July 10.

      The consequences of this law taking effect would be devastating. Approximately 90% of abortions in Ohio take place at and after six weeks. If this law were to go into effect, the vast majority of Ohioans will no longer be able to obtain an abortion. People of color, people struggling financially, and young people will be disproportionately affected. Black women are three times more likely than white women to die of causes related to pregnancy, and denying women access to desired abortions while failing to adequately address these disparities will only result in more bad outcomes.

    • Alabama Poised to Enact Worst-of-Its-Kind Bill to Outlaw Abortion and Punish Women and Doctors, Part of Blatant Effort to Overturn Roe v. Wade

      “Alabama just passed a law that is a total ban on abortion, criminalizing the act and punishing women and doctors. Anti-choice Republicans no longer even pretend to respect the law or the women that it protects. When this dangerous and demeaning law passed, Republicans stood up and applauded, while women wept. The Lt. Governor stated explicitly that this law is designed to overturn Roe v. Wade, as they capitalize on securing an anti-choice majority on the Supreme Court.

    • Alabama’s “Worst-of-Its-Kind” Abortion Ban an Explicit Effort to Destroy Roe, Warn Rights Groups

      In just the latest move that reproductive rights advocates warn is part of the prolonged effort to overturn Roe v. Wade, GOP state senators in Alabama sent what would be the nation’s most extreme abortion ban to Republican Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk late Tuesday.

    • Alabama Passes Near Total Ban on Abortion as Part of “Stealth Campaign” to Overturn Roe v. Wade

      Alabama lawmakers voted to effectively ban abortion Tuesday, passing the most restrictive anti-choice law in the country in a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. The bill approved by the Senate Tuesday and the Alabama House last month bans abortions at all phases. Doctors could face up to 99 years in prison for performing abortions. The bill’s only exception is grave risk to the mother’s life — not cases of rape and incest. The legislation is now heading to the desk of anti-choice Republican Governor Kay Ivey, and many expect she’ll sign it. Opponents say they’ll challenge the bill in court should it become law, but this is precisely the point. Architects behind the legislation want to use it to challenge Roe v. Wade, which recognizes the constitutional right to an abortion. We speak with Jessica Mason Pieklo of Rewire.News and Monica Simpson of Sister Song.

    • Alabama Passes Attack on Roe v. Wade
    • Alabama Governor Signs Near-Total Abortion Ban Into Law

      Alabama’s Republican governor signed the most stringent abortion legislation in the nation Wednesday, making performing an abortion a felony in nearly all cases.

      “To the bill’s many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement.

      The bill’s sponsors want to give conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court a chance to gut abortion rights nationwide, but Democrats and abortion rights advocates criticized the bill as a slap in the face to female voters.

      “It just completely disregards women and the value of women and their voice. We have once again silenced women on a very personal issue,” said Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison, a Birmingham Democrat.

      The abortion ban is set to go into effect in six months, but is expected to face a lawsuit to block it from halting abortion access.

    • Alabama Ban on Nearly All Abortions in GOP Governor’s Hands

      Alabama legislators have given final approval to a ban on nearly all abortions, and if the Republican governor signs the measure, the state will have the strictest abortion law in the country.

      The legislation would make performing an abortion a felony at any stage of pregnancy with almost no exceptions. The passage Tuesday by a wide margin in the GOP-led Senate shifts the spotlight to Gov. Kay Ivey, a fixture in Alabama politics who’s long identified as anti-abortion.

      Ivey has not said whether she’ll sign the bill. Sponsor Rep. Terri Collins says she expects the governor to support the ban. And the lopsided vote suggests a veto could be easily overcome. But an Ivey spokeswoman said before Tuesday’s vote that “the governor intends to withhold comment until she has had a chance to thoroughly review the final version of the bill that passed.”

    • In Victory for Grassroots Campaign, Met Museum Will Stop Accepting Donations From Opioid Crisis-Fueling Sackler Family

      Organizers behind a campaign to pressure major art institutions into cutting ties with the Sackler family secured a major victory Wednesday when the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced it would no longer accept donations from the family, whose pharmaceutical empire helped fuel the opioid crisis.

      Fourteen months after the grassroots group P.A.I.N. Sackler held its first public action at the museum, the Met said it determined the family’s contributions—which include the $9.5 million Sackler Wing—to be counter to the New York City museum’s mission.

      “On occasion, we feel it’s necessary to step away from gifts that are not in the public interest, or in our institution’s interest,” museum president Daniel Weiss told the New York Times.

      “We would only not accept gifts from people if it in some way challenges or is counter to the core mission of the institution, in exceptional cases,” he added. “The OxyContin crisis in this country is a legitimate and full-blown crisis.”

    • ‘This Is Awesome!’: Maine on Track to Ensure More Equitable Access to Abortion With New Insurance Rules

      The Maine bill, L.D. 820, still faces procedural votes before it heads to the desk of Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, whose administration supports the measure. However, with senators’ 19-16 vote Tuesday, which followed a 79-63 vote in the Maine House last week, it is expected to become law.

      L.D. 820 would mandate that private insurers which provide coverage for prenatal care cover abortions, with exceptions for religious employers. The bill would also make Maine the 16th state to use tax dollars to cover elective abortions under MaineCare, the state Medicaid program.

    • Justice Department: If FDA Regulated Execution Drugs, They Would Ban Them

      The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel drafted an opinion that definitively argues the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may not ban or regulate drugs used to execute prisoners.

      As state governments that have yet to abolish the death penalty struggle to obtain drugs for lethal injections, a key issue is whether certain lethal injection protocols violate the Constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

      Texas sued the FDA in 2017 after the agency blocked [PDF] a shipment of lethal injection drugs. The state argued the drugs were lawful, complied with FDA standards, and the FDA was wrong to apply an import ban against sodium thiopental.

      Texas argued the “statutory and regulatory requirements” that the FDA invoked “do not apply in this law enforcement context.”

      The Justice Department’s legal opinion appears to endorse Texas’ arguments in favor of unregulated execution drugs.

    • ACTIVISM UPDATE: WaPo Editor Responds on Polio, Pakistan and the CIA

      As Baron notes, the alert dealt with an omission manifested in both Washington Post news reporting and editorializing. There’s no one who oversees both aspects of the paper—other than publisher Fred Ryan or owner Jeff Bezos, neither of whom we want to encourage to interfere in the Post‘s content—which is why we selected Baron as a contact.

      Constable (and co-author Haq Nawaz Khan) indicate—in a way that would be missed by the vast majority of readers—that they do believe that the CIA’s use of a fake vaccination campaign as a cover for a hunt for Osama bin Laden in 2011 has at least some connection to Pakistanis’ distrust of vaccines. Blaming lack of vaccination on “mistrust, born of ignorance and rumor-mongering,” the reporters write that Pakistani parents’ “fear is fanned by cultural taboos, religious propaganda and tales of foreign plots.”

    • Trump’s VA Firing Spree Falters in Court

      President Donald Trump often touts a law he signed to speed up firings at the Department of Veterans Affairs. He and other Republicans see the law as a model for weakening civil service protections across the federal government.

      The administration’s case for the new law centered on Brian Hawkins. Hawkins was the director of the VA hospital in Washington when an internal investigation discovered safety risks for patients. The VA tried to fire Hawkins but got held up on appeal. Then-Secretary David Shulkin said Hawkins showed why “we need new accountability legislation and we need that now.” Once Congress passed the legislation, the VA used it to go after Hawkins a second time.

      Now, almost two years later, the VA’s case against Hawkins has fallen apart. On Tuesday, the government said it would give Hawkins his job back rather than defend the statute in court.

      While the administration tried to make Hawkins into a symbol of why it needed the legislation, court records tell a different story: of Trump appointees so eager to score political points that they ran roughshod over legal protections for civil servants.

      “They couldn’t defend their actions in court,” Hawkins said in an interview. “The VA took away my rights, I had no say, my 25-year career was gone. It violated everything I tried to teach my family and tried to believe in myself: this country was founded on a Constitution, the Bill of Rights, equal opportunity for all.”

      Hawkins argued that his firing was unconstitutional because the VA used a standard of proof that was too low. Since the government opted not to contest that claim, it could have repercussions for thousands of other VA employees who were fired under the accountability law, according to Jason Briefel, the executive director of the Senior Executives Association, which lobbies for high-ranking career officials.

    • Bayer Investigates Its Shady PR Firm After ‘Monsanto File’ Scandal in France

      In the latest PR scandal to engulf Bayer, journalists at Le Monde reported May 9 that they obtained a “Monsanto File” created by the public relations firm FleishmanHillard listing a “multitude of information” about 200 journalists, politicians, scientists and others deemed likely to influence the debate on glyphosate in France.

      Le Monde filed a complaint with the Paris prosecutor’s office alleging that the document involved illegal collection and processing of personal data, spurring the prosecutor’s office to open a criminal probe. “This is a very important discovery because it shows there are objective strategies to silence strong voices. I can see they were trying to isolate me,” France’s former Environment Minister Segolene Royal, who is on the list, told France 24 TV. Francois Veillerette, an environmentalist named on the list, told France 24 the list included personal details such as addresses, opinions and level of engagement in relation to Monsanto. “This is a major shock in France,” he said. “We don’t think this is normal.”

      Bayer apologized and said it suspended its relationship with the firms involved, including FleishmanHillard and Publicis Consultants, pending an investigation. “Our highest priority is to create transparency,” Bayer said in response to the “Monsanto File” scandal. “We do not tolerate unethical behavior in our company.” However the PR companies Bayer relies upon, including FleishmanHillard and PR firms under the same corporate ownership, have histories of using underhanded tactics to promote and defend their clients — and they have done the same for Bayer.

    • Scientists pinpoint just how much coffee is too much coffee

      Too much coffee could precede the same punchline as leftover wine: Who’s ever heard of such a thing? But even as a person who chemically requires the stuff, I admit there is a line. Cross it, and you feel the headache-y, jangly-brain, sour stomach high that only abates with time and lots of water. And too much coffee consumption over a period of time can increase a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease, new research published in The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition finds. In that study, scientists pinpoint the precise level at which caffeine becomes detrimental rather than helpful to one’s health: Six cups per day.

      Compared to non-coffee drinkers and those who drink decaffeinated tea, drinkers of moderate amounts of coffee had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. But once coffee consumption topped six cups per day, the risk of cardiovascular disease increased 22%. Researchers drew data from a database of 347,077 individuals in the UK Biobank, an open-access database containing genetic, physical and health data from hundreds of thousands of people between 2006 and 2010. Presumably, coffee consumption was self-reported, in which case six cups is quite a bit; most people don’t realize their 16-ounce mugs constitute way more than a cup of coffee. A recent German study set the ideal coffee consumption level at four cups daily.

    • Drinking Coffee Can Be Good for You, but a New Study Suggests There’s a Limit

      Drinking six or more cups of coffee per day may increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and outweigh other benefits, researchers from the University of South Australia found in a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

      “In order to maintain a healthy heart and a healthy blood pressure, people must limit their coffees to fewer than six cups a day — based on our data six was the tipping point where caffeine started to negatively affect cardiovascular risk,” co-author Elina Hyppönen of the Australian Centre for Precision Health said in a press release.

      The study examined the health records and diets from the UK Biobank of nearly 350,000 people between 37 and 73 years old, as well as which of the participants had a gene variant, CYP1A2, which allows those who possess it to metabolize caffeine faster than those who do not. The levels of coffee consumption were likely self-reported, according to The Takeout, which noted that many people don’t consider that 16-ounce travel mugs count as more than one cup of coffee.

    • Jamie Love Responds to Criticism of Knowledge Ecology International Letter

      On May 12, Frederick Reinhart published an article titled “Knowledge Ecology International Letter Misleads on March-In Rights.”
      Reinhart is a past president of the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM), and his views echo those expressed by many in the university technology transfer field, including a frustration that not everyone acknowledges and appreciates the considerable investments and risks undertaken by the for-profit companies that license patents to inventions funded by the federal government.
      Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) recognizes the importance of the private sector in bringing therapies to the market, even when federal funding of R&D has played a role, and also that robust returns on those investments have a positive impact on innovation.
      I was surprised and disappointed, however, at the way that Reinhart deliberately downplays the importance of the public sector investments. Reinhart dismisses the federal government’s contribution to the development of enzalutamide (sold by Astellas as Xtandi), by claiming that “less than $2 million in federal money was invested in related early work at UCLA,” which he compared to $900 million by “companies like Astellas that developed it,” citing Ashley Stevens’ unpublished data.
      The original 2016 march-in petition on Xtandi did provide a fairly detailed account of both public and private sector investments in Xtandi. The $900 million figure cited by Reinhart was certainly not accurate regarding the investments to obtain the initial 2012 registration of the drug.

    • 44 U.S. states accuse big pharma of price fixing generics market

      44 U.S. states filed a lawsuit last Friday accusing Teva Pharmaceuticals USA of conspiring illegally with 19 other drug companies to inflate drug prices – sometimes by more than 1,000 percent – and stifle competition for generic drugs.

      As is set out in the complaint, ‘the Plaintiff States allege that Defendant Teva consistently and systematically, over a period of several years, along with the other Defendants named herein and other unnamed co-conspirators, engaged in contracts, combinations and conspiracies that had the effect of unreasonably restraining trade, artificially inflating and maintaining prices and reducing competition in the generic pharmaceutical industry throughout the United States, including but not limited to, the markets for well more than one-hundred (100) different generic drugs, many of which are identified herein.’

      [...]

      According to press agency Reuters, a representative of Teva USA said it will fight the lawsuit. “The allegations in this new complaint, and in the litigation more generally, are just that – allegations (…). Teva continues to review the issue internally and has not engaged in any conduct that would lead to civil or criminal liability.” Novartis told Reuters: “We believe that these claims are without merit and will vigorously contest them.”

      Asked for a reaction by LSIPR, Pfizer said: “The Company has cooperated with the Connecticut attorney general since it was contacted over a year ago. We do not believe the company or our colleagues participated in unlawful conduct and deny any wrongdoing. Greenstone [a subsidiary of Pfizer] has been a reliable and trusted supplier of affordable generic medicines for decades and intends to vigorously defend against these claims.”

  • Security

    • Beta: СloudLinux 7 and CloudLinux 6 Hybrid kernel is available with a fix for MDS vulnerability
    • Beta: CloudLinux 6 kernel is available with a fix for MDS vulnerability
    • MDS: We’re on the case
    • An MDS reading list

      We contemplated putting together an LWN article on the “microarchitectural data sampling” (MDS) vulnerabilities, as we’ve done for past speculative-execution issues. But the truth of the matter is that it’s really more of the same, and there is a lot of material out there on the net already. So, for those who would like to learn more, here’s a list of resources.

    • Video: More Details about MDS again from Red Hat
    • Video: Red Hat explains newly announced CPU bugs
    • Security updates for Wednesday
    • Technology That Could End Humanity—and How to Stop It

      WIRED: What is the vulnerable world hypothesis?

      Nick Bostrom: It’s the idea that we could picture the history of human creativity as the process of extracting balls from a giant urn. These balls represent different ideas, technologies, and methods that we have discovered throughout history. By now we have extracted a great many of these and for the most part they have been beneficial. They are white balls. Some have been mixed blessings, gray balls of various shades. But what we haven’t seen is a black ball, some technology that by default devastates the civilization that discovers it. The vulnerable world hypothesis is that there is some black ball in the urn, that there is some level of technology at which civilization gets decimated by default.

    • Huawei banned from using US components without approval

      The US has placed Chinese telecommunications equipment vendor Huawei Technologies and some 70 of its affiliates on a list that means it will have to obtain government approval in order to buy American-made components.

    • Trump declares national emergency over IT threats

      He signed an executive order which effectively bars US companies from using foreign telecoms believed to pose national security risks.

    • Huawei offers ‘no-spy’ contracts and promises to ‘shutdown’ if China forces backdoors

      Despite emphatic denials from the Chinese tech giant, there are still significant suspicions around the world about how close Huawei is to the Chinese government and whether, if expected to, it would plant back doors in its equipment to allow remote access.

    • The radio navigation planes use to land safely is insecure and can be [cracked]

      Now, researchers have devised a low-cost hack that raises questions about the security of ILS, which is used at virtually every civilian airport throughout the industrialized world. Using a $600 software defined radio, the researchers can spoof airport signals in a way that causes a pilot’s navigation instruments to falsely indicate a plane is off course. Normal training will call for the pilot to adjust the plane’s descent rate or alignment accordingly and create a potential accident as a result.

    • Why I’ve started using NoScript

      For one, NoScript’s user interface has become much better: Now, if a page isn’t working right, you simply click the NoScript icon and whitelist any domains you trust, or temporarily whitelist any domains you trust less. You can set it to automatically whitelist domains you directly visit (thereby only blocking third-party scripts).

      A more pressing change is that I’m now much less comfortable letting arbitrary third parties run code on my computer. I used to believe that my browser was fundamentally capable of keeping me safe from the scripts that it ran. Sure, tracking cookies and other tricks allowed web sites to correlate data about me, but I thought that my browser could, at least in principle, prevent scripts from reading arbitrary data on my computer. With the advent of CPU-architecture-based side channel attacks (Meltdown and Spectre are the most publicized, but it seems like new ones come out every month or so), this belief now seems quite naïve.

    • It’s Almost Impossible to Tell if Your iPhone Has Been [Cracked]

      “The simple reality is there are so many 0-day exploits for iOS,” Stefan Esser, a security researcher that specializes in iOS, wrote on Twitter. “And the only reason why just a few attacks have been caught in the wild is that iOS phones by design hinder defenders to inspect the phones.”

    • Google recalls its Bluetooth Titan Security Keys because of a security bug

      To exploit the bug, an attacker would have to within Bluetooth range (about 30 feet) and act swiftly as you press the button on the key to activate it. The attackers can then use the misconfigured protocol to connect their own device to the key before your own device connects. With that — and assuming that they already have your username and password — they could sign into your account.

      Google also notes that before you can use your key, it has to be paired to your device. An attacker could also potentially exploit this bug by using their own device and masquerading it as your security key to connect to your device when you press the button on the key. By doing this, the attackers can then change their device to look like a keyboard or mouse and remote control your laptop, for example.

    • Google Says Titan Security Keys Could Be Hacked; Offers Free Replacement

      Today Google has announced a security flaw in its Bluetooth Titan Security Key that is used for 2-factor authentication. The security flaw could allow hackers in close proximity to bypass the security mechanism and connect their own devices.

    • Google offers free 2FA Bluetooth Titan Security Key swaps after security flaw discovered

      Make that most people. In a post on its security blog, Google divulged Wednesday that it has discovered a “misconfiguration” with the Bluetooth Low Energy version of its Titan Security Key that could allow a nearby attacker to “communicate with your security key, or communicate with the device to which your key is paired.”

    • Kubernetes security: 5 mistakes to avoid

      Modern applications and infrastructure no doubt require modern security practices, but the fundamentals still apply.

      “The majority of data breaches are easily preventable with basic cybersecurity hygiene,” says Tim Buntel, VP of application security at Threat Stack.

      That should be received as good news: Fundamental issues such as access and privilege remain fundamental, even as containers, microservices, orchestration, and other evolutionary developments continue to shake up IT. In fact, one of the biggest out-of-the-gate risks that can occur as organizations adopt new technologies is that they develop amnesia around best practices like enforcing the principle of least privilege.

      Consider the rise of Kubernetes in the enterprise: Like any tool or technology, it comes with security considerations. That’s not because Kubernetes is inherently risky or insecure – far from it. Rather, many of the risks occur because teams get caught up in the power and popularity of Kubernetes without properly considering what it will take to effectively run it in production, says Matt Wilson, chief information security advisor at BTB Security.

    • How to protect your devices against the ZombieLoad attack
    • Security updates for Thursday
    • Severe Linux kernel flaw found in RDS
    • FBI Tells The Governor Of Florida About Election Hacking, But Says He Can’t Tell Anyone Else

      I thought this was America, but whatever. Secrecy in all things government, despite the (often misheld) presumption that our public servants will be open and honest about issues that affect us.

      It’s no secret voting systems and databases are not secure. These are problems that date back 15 years, but have shown little improvement since. Election interference is just another tool in the nation-state hacking kit, and the US is far from immune from these attacks.

      Federal agencies investigating election interference are at least speaking to officials in states affected by these efforts. But those officials are apparently not allowed to pass on this information to those affected the most: voters.

    • Microsoft’s First Windows XP Patch in Years Is a Very Bad Sign

      THIS WEEK, MICROSOFT issued patches for 79 flaws across its platforms and products. One of them merits particular attention: a bug so bad that Microsoft released a fix for it on Windows XP, an operating system it officially abandoned five years ago.

    • Firms That Promised High-Tech Ransomware Solutions Almost Always Just Pay the Hackers

      FROM 2015 TO 2018, a strain of ransomware known as SamSam paralyzed computer networks across North America and the U.K. It caused more than $30 million in damage to at least 200 entities, including the cities of Atlanta and Newark, New Jersey, the Port of San Diego and Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles. It knocked out Atlanta’s online water service requests and billing systems, prompted the Colorado Department of Transportation to call in the National Guard, and delayed medical appointments and treatments for patients nationwide whose electronic records couldn’t be retrieved. In return for restoring access to the files, the cyberattackers collected at least $6 million in ransom.

      “You just have 7 days to send us the BitCoin,” read the ransom demand to Newark. “After 7 days we will remove your private keys and it’s impossible to recover your files.”
      At a press conference last November, then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced that the U.S. Department of Justice had indicted two Iranian men on fraud charges for allegedly developing the strain and orchestrating the extortion. Many SamSam targets were “public agencies with missions that involve saving lives,” and the attackers impaired their ability to “provide health care to sick and injured people,” Rosenstein said. The hackers “knew that shutting down those computer systems could cause significant harm to innocent victims.”

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Media Stenography Turns Beheaded Saudi Protesters Into ‘Terrorism’

      Time‘s headline (4/23/19) accepts the reality of the Saudi government charges against the people it executed–which weren’t even the actual charges they were convicted under.

      Saudi Arabia executed 37 men on April 23, as it announced in a press release in its official gazette. The first line of the release read, “Saudi Arabia said it executed 37 citizens last Tuesday after they were convicted of terrorism.”

      [...]

      Of the 11 convicted of being Iranian spies, they were also found guilty of farcical offenses such as “condemning the bloodshed” (in February 2012, Saudi forces in the Shia-majority Saudi governorate of Qatif had sprayed protesters with bullets) and saving images and documents of the protests (which are also available on YouTube) on their hard drives.

      Among the other four people executed, Khaled Al Tuwairji, a Sunni, was accused of killing Maj. Gen. Nasser Othman. However, all three outlets repeated that he was a “Sunni extremist,” for which we have no other evidence. Al Tuwairji was tortured into a confession (Erem News, 4/23/19). But all three outlets justified his execution and subsequent crucifixion by insisting that he was a convicted Sunni militant.

      Another of the Sunnis executed, Khaled Al Farraj, was convicted on the vague charge of being affiliated with an outlawed terrorist organization. But even according to Saudi state media, he didn’t engage in any acts of terrorism. He is the only one of the 37 people executed who seems to have been charged with a terrorism-related offense.

    • Saudi Arabia’s ‘Year of Shame’: Crackdown on Critics and Rights’ Activists Continues

      Today marks the first anniversary of the arrests of several prominent women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, after a shameful year for human rights in the Kingdom in which activists, journalists, academics, and writers were targeted, Amnesty International said today.

    • Despite Christchurch Massacre and Others, Trump Refuses to Join ‘Unprecedented’ Global Effort to Tackle Racist Extremism Online

      The White House announced Wednesday it will not join a global initiative, launched in the wake of a massacre in New Zealand two months ago, to tackle racist and extremist online content.

      “By not standing alongside other world leaders to fight hate,” said the Southern Poverty Law Center in response, “President Trump has shown once again that he doesn’t understand the importance of white supremacy in fueling terrorism.”

      The Christchurch Call—which has the backing of 17 countries plus the European Commission and eight major tech companies including Twitter, Google, and Facebook—was launched Wednesday by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron.

    • Burned Sukhoi Superjet 100 experienced partial power outage after lightning strike, source claims

      Citing a source close to the investigation surrounding the deaths of 41 people in a Moscow airplane fire, Kommersant reported that key power systems on the plane failed after a lightning strike in the air.

      According to the source, the lightning bolt left a characteristic mark on the surface of the jet. The strike caused the jet’s storm defense system to shift the plane into an emergency electricity consumption mode, leaving the plane in the full manual control of the pilots without automatic error correction.

    • Structural flaws in Sukhoi Superjet 100 airplanes under consideration in Sheremetyevo fire investigation: reports

      A source close to the investigation of the May 5 airplane fire in Moscow told RIA Novosti that structural flaws in the Russian Sukhoi Superjet 100 airplane model are being considered a possible cause of the disaster.

      Similar reports have emerged that pin at least part of the responsibility for the fire on electrical problems following a lightning strike in the air and on the actions of the pilots.

    • The Threat of War With Iran

      Just as Iraq’s full compliance with its obligations under United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding its disarmament of unconventional weapons and its allowing a comprehensive inspections regime did not save that country from invasion and a bloody foreign occupation, Iran’s full compliance with its obligations under the U.N.-ratified Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has not stopped the United States from again threatening war.

      Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has described the nuclear deal as a result of ten years of posturing and two years of intense negotiations, during which he and Secretary of State John Kerry met no fewer than fifty times to hammer out every word of the agreement. He was able to convince his government, over the objections of hardliners, to agree to destroy billions of dollars’ worth of nuclear facilities and material and a strict inspections regime in return for the lifting of debilitating sanctions. Iran has thus far honored its agreement; the United States has not.

      The idea that Iran would agree to further concessions under pressure from an unreliable negotiating partner is totally unrealistic. Hardliners, moderates, and even regime dissidents in Iran are united in their opposition to giving in to American bullying. My interviews with scores of ordinary Iranians earlier this spring made it clear that, despite widespread opposition to the Islamist regime, they would unite against any foreign threat.

    • ‘Unacceptable and Uncalled For’: Iranian Foreign Minister Denounces Trump Administration’s March to War

      “We believe that escalation by the United States is unacceptable and uncalled for,” Zarif told reporters during a meeting with Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono in Tokyo.

      Iran is exercising “maximum restraint in spite of the fact the United States withdrew from [the] JCPOA last May,” said Zarif, referring to the Iran nuclear accord.

      As Common Dreams reported last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urged diplomacy and pressured European nations to uphold their end of the nuclear accord as the Trump administration refuses to return to the negotiating table.

    • John Bolton Is the World’s Worst Nightmare

      President Donald Trump campaigned as an isolationist, criticizing foreign military entanglements. As far back as 2013, he tweeted, “Can you believe that the Afghan war is our ‘longest war’ ever -bring our troops home, rebuild the U.S., make America great again.” He has made the point repeatedly as president. In an April 2018 press conference, discussing Syria, Trump said: “I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our nation. We will have, as of three months ago, $7 trillion in the Middle East over the last 17 years. We get nothing — nothing out of it, nothing.”

      Despite his rhetoric, Trump’s every move in the Middle East now seems committed to conflict and potentially to war with Iran. John Bolton is clearly at the vanguard, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo backing him up.

      Iranian diplomat Seyed Hossein Mousavian is a former senior negotiator for Iran on the nuclear issue, and currently a research scholar at Princeton University. Mousavian expressed his concerns this week on the “Democracy Now!” news hour:

      “I expected such a situation after Ambassador John Bolton was nominated as national security adviser,” he said. Noting as well the influential roles of key Trump allies, Mousavian concluded, “The four B’s team — John Bolton, [Israeli Prime Minister] Bibi Netanyahu, [the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi] bin Salman and bin Zayed — now have excellent position at the White House to push the U.S. [into] the dream they have had for years and years and years — to drag the U.S. into a war with Iran.”

      Citing at least half a dozen unnamed Trump administration officials, The New York Times reported this week that the Pentagon has submitted plans to ship 120,000 U.S. troops to the region in response to Iranian threats. While he denied the report, Trump declared nevertheless: “Now would I do that? Absolutely. But I have not planned for that. If we did that, we’d send a hell of a lot more troops than that.” The White House has ordered an aircraft carrier strike group and bomber wing to the region, as Bolton stated, “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests … will be met with unrelenting force.”

    • U.S. Pulls Nonessential Staff From Iraq Amid Mideast Tensions

      The U.S. on Wednesday ordered all nonessential government staff to leave Iraq, and Germany and the Netherlands both suspended their military assistance programs in the country in the latest sign of tensions sweeping the Persian Gulf region over still-unspecified threats that the Trump administration says are linked to Iran.

      Recent days have seen allegations of sabotage targeting oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, a drone attack by Yemen’s Iranian-allied Houthi rebels, and the dispatch of U.S. warships and bombers to the region.

      At the root of this appears to be President Donald Trump’s decision a year ago to pull the U.S. from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, embarking on a maximalist sanctions campaign against Tehran. In response, Iran’s supreme leader issued a veiled threat Tuesday, saying it wouldn’t be difficult for the Islamic Republic to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels.

    • Trump’s Potential War With Iran Is All John Bolton’s Doing. But It Might Also Be His Undoing.

      National security adviser John Bolton has reportedly requested that administration officials draw up plans to send 120,000 U.S. troops to the Middle East to counter Iran, sending shockwaves through Washington. Bolton, a key architect of the disastrous invasion of Iraq, has long gunned for war with Iran and seems intent on escalating tensions regardless of Tehran’s policies.

      At first glance, the plans — a deployment on a scale with the force sent to Kuwait prior to the war in Iraq—suggest that Iran’s decision to respond to Donald Trump’s violations of the Iran deal by restarting elements of its nuclear program has backfired spectacularly.

    • Trump Administration Orders Diplomatic Staff Out of Iraq in Latest Move to Cement Narrative of Iranian Threat

      The alert from the department says that the evacuation order affects staff at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the U.S. Consulate in Erbil, who are instructed to “depart Iraq by commercial transportation as soon as possible.”

      The development is the latest salvo by the Trump administration hawks beating drums for war with Iran.

      President Donald Trump reportedly recently reviewed a plan from national security advisor John Bolton to threaten Iran by bending 120,000 troops to Middle East; the U.S. this week accused Iran, sans evidence, for reported attacks on Saudi and UAE oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz; and Bolton said last week that a scheduled deployment of a bomber task force was meant to send a threat of “unrelenting force” to Iran.

      The administration’s narrative that there are “identified credible threats” from Iran in Iraq and Syria is not getting global buy-in.

    • Top Ten differences between the Iraq War and Trump’s Proposed Iran War

      1. Iraq is 168,754 mi² and Iran is 636,400 mi²; that is, Iran is geographically 3.77 times bigger than Iraq, almost 4 times as big.

      [...]

      3. General Eric Shinseki testified before Congress prior to Bush’s invasion that based on the US military’s experience in the Balkans, 800,000 troops would be needed to provide security to Iraq. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld insisted on 100,000 troops, wrongly believing he could pull them out in 6 months. Bush’s viceroy in Iraq, Paul Bremer, later admitted that “we never had enough troops” in Iraq.

    • Neocons Won’t Stop Until They Get Their War With Iran

      National security adviser John Bolton, left, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders in the Oval Office in April. (Susan Walsh / AP)
      Several recent indicators strongly suggest President Donald Trump’s administration appears to be angling for a war with Iran. On Monday, The New York Times reported that the White House has been reviewing military plans against Iran. According to sources, “Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented an updated military plan that envisions sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons.”

      To no one’s surprise, it was Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton who ordered the updated plan. Bolton has made it his mission to spark a war against Iran, and he was part of the apparatus of building the false case for the disastrous 2003 U.S. war against Iraq. So hawkish is Bolton that in an interview with Foreign Policy in 2007 he said, “Once upon a time, we knew how to do clandestine regime change. We need to reacquire that capability.” As the Times pointed out, Bolton’s new review of military plans to attack Iran is reminiscent of preparations made ahead of the 2003 Iraq war. Clearly Bolton is chomping at the bit a little over a year since he accepted his position at the White House.

    • Bolton in Wonderland

      Only 70 days into his presidency, Ronald Reagan faced an assassination attempt. While he was in surgery and the vice president was mid-flight over Texas, Secretary of State Alexander Haig famously declared in front of the press, “As of now, I am in control here, in the White House.”

      Haig’s statement was a surprise to everyone else in the Reagan administration — as well as to anyone with a passing familiarity with the line of succession outlined in the Constitution.

      Haig’s presumption of power was the logical culmination of weeks of jockeying for influence within the young administration, with the secretary of state convinced that he should wield control over all aspects of foreign policy. Chief of Staff Jim Baker had this response to Haig’s early memo on the foreign policy process: “Why, what you propose here would give you control over all foreign policy matters; that does not work. The president has that authority.”

      Haig’s impromptu press conference would make him the butt of many jokes (including this brilliant parody by Dan Aykroyd on Saturday Night Live). Reagan ultimately recovered, but Haig’s reputation never did. He ultimately resigned from his position a little over a year later.

    • Baiting Iran

      Ever since Donald Trump became president, regime change in Iran has been a prominent US aim. Trump began by backing out of the nuclear deal and imposing harsh sanctions, setting the stage for a confrontational policy. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton followed Trump’s lead, repeatedly denouncing Iran’s leadership, calling for Iranians to rise up against it, and issuing vague warnings of US punishment.

      This US policy is absolutely inexcusable: It is aggressive and baseless, oblivious to diplomacy, and guaranteed to cause untold hardship and chaos for the people of the region.

      I have argued a number of times that Iran, not North Korea, is Trump’s principal national security target. Trump’s extraordinary patience with Kim Jong-un, and willingness to go to two summits with him that have gotten nowhere, can be understood as having given him time to focus on “maximum pressure” on Iran. In his mind, the North Korea “threat” has been deterred; let South Korea deal with it. US interests in the Middle East are far more important anyway, and with Iran Trump has the firm backing of two “great friends”: Saudi Arabia’s criminal crown prince and Israel’s newly reelected prime minister, who is as much a militaristic far-right hawk as Bolton and Pompeo. If war broke out, the Saudis and Israelis would be expected to provide on-the-ground personnel, permitting the US to rely on air and naval power.

      What Trump is now doing is baiting Iran with war talk and deployments of overwhelming military power. Bolton, well known for having wanted to attack Iran years ago, and defeated in his attempts to lure Trump into using force against Venezuela, is looking for a way to sucker Tehran into creating a “provocation” that would provide a pretext for a US “counterattack.” The public US position is not credible: “The president has been clear, the United States does not seek military conflict with Iran, and he is open to talks with Iranian leadership,” Garrett Marquis, a National Security Council spokesman, said Monday in an email. “However, Iran’s default option for 40 years has been violence, and we are ready to defend U.S. personnel and interests in the region.”

    • Europe is Powerless in Growing Conflict Between the US and Iran

      Brexiteers in Britain are denouncing the EU as an all-powerful behemoth from whose clutches Britain must escape, just as the organisation is demonstrating its failure to become more than a second-rate world power.

      The EU’s real status – well behind the US, Russia and China – has just been demonstrated by its inability to protect Iran from US sanctions following President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal of 2015. A year ago, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron made humiliating visits to Washington to plead vainly with Trump to stay with the agreement, but were rebuffed.

      Since then the US has successfully ratcheted up economic pressure on Iran, reducing its oil exports from 2.8 to 1.3 million barrels a day. The UK, France and Germany had promised to create a financial vehicle to circumvent US sanctions, but their efforts have been symbolic. Commercial enterprises are, in any case, too frightened of the ire of the US treasury to take advantage of such measures.

      Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday that Iran would stop complying with parts of the nuclear deal unless the Europeans provided the promised protection for the oil trade and banks. Everybody admits that Iran is in compliance but this is not going to do it any good.

    • Iran’s Man in Iraq: “America is Not the Old America. It is Weaker Than Ever.”

      Mike Pompeo went to put the thumbscrews on the Iraqi government this week. No more electrical power from Iran, he told them, and make sure those pesky Iranians don’t attack our boys in that great American base in Iraq which Trump was boasting about. The New York Times numbingly told us that his trip was “shrouded in secrecy” – if only it had been. Then at least the US secretary of state could have paid a visit to Iran’s most important supporter in the Iraqi parliament.

      I met Hadi al-Ameri in Baghdad a few days before Pompeo turned up in town. A tough, curmudgeonly, 64-year-old bearded ex-militia leader, fluent in Persian and in the Shia politics of Iraq, he is a personal friend of Qassem Suleimani – commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force and America’s latest “super-terrorist” in the Middle East – and fought alongside Iran in its eight-year war with Saddam.

      I can imagine what he might have told Pompeo, because this is what he told me over tea in his Baghdad office.

      “Pity America, because of this crazy Trump! There were 180,000 American troops here with tanks and all their equipment and we did not surrender to their intentions or wishes. Today, we want to build an Iraq depending on itself, strong and sovereign in the region and we will make good relations with all the regional countries for the interests of the people of Iraq – not for America or for Saudi Arabia or for Iran. We will not allow America to use Iraq to watch regional countries. And we will not allow Iraq to become a battlefield for other countries to clear their debts.”

    • Maximum Pressure in the Strait of Hormuz

      Hegemons are never going to sound too sensible when they lock horns or joust in spats of childish anger. Power corrupts, not merely in terms of perspective but language, and making sense about the next move, the next statement, is bound to be challenging. Otherwise justified behaviour can be read as provocative; retaliatory moves duly rattle and disturb.

      The Iran-US standoff is finding a surge of increments, provocations and howlers. Since the Trump administration withdrew from the 2015 Iran Nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) last year, Tehran has gnawed and scratched at the arrangements. Threats to close the Strait of Hormuz as a retaliation for frustrating Iranian oil sales have been made. President Hassan Rouhani last week made it clear that the Islamic republic would scale back on certain JCPOA commitments. Limits on building up stockpiles of low-enriched uranium and heavy water would be abandoned. A 60-day period has been stipulated in the hope that the E3 (Britain, France and Germany), China and Russia provide relief for the Iranian oil and banking sector. More suspensions of compliance orders threaten to follow if the powers do not muck in.

      Despite not being part of the JCPOA anymore, the Trump administration persists in sticking its oar in the matter. In May 3, the State Department explicitly warned it would sanction individuals and entities involved in swapping permitted uranium (enriched or natural) with Iran. Nor would excess heavy water limits be permitted.

      With such moves to strangle Iran’s economic feelers, it is little wonder that Rouhani has called on “surgery” to be performed on the JCPOA, one far more effectual than “the painkiller pills of the last year”. Such a process, he promised, was “for saving the deal, not destroying it.”

    • The United States of Aggression: War With Iran Would Spell the End of the Republic

      Who do we think we are? Truly. The latest reports that the Trump administration is considering plans for deploying 120,000 troops to the Middle East – presumably to strike Iran – demonstrates how Washington’s foreign policy has finally gone off the rails. Crazier still, the impending war with Iran isn’t even the today’s biggest news story – what with all the nonsense, soap opera hullabaloo about the Mueller Report – on mainstream media outlets. What the proposed plan constitutes is nothing less than the most important, and disturbing, global issue of the day. This is how it should be reported by a truly adversarial media: The United States is preparing for an aggressive, illegal, and unwarranted war against another sovereign power thousands of miles from its shores. Again! All true citizens should be beyond appalled and screaming dissent from the rooftops.

      The proposed plan comes on the heels of Iran’s decision – prompted by U.S. hostility – to withdraw from certain, though not all, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, better known as the Iran nuclear deal) requirements. This shouldn’t come as any surprise. In fact, it’s incredible that Iran stayed in compliance with the treaty as long as it did. After all, it was the United States that unilaterally scuttled the deal – with which its own intelligence services admitted Iran had complied with – against the advice of its European allies and even Secretary of State Tillerson. By reimposing sanctions on a compliant Iran, the US acted aggressively and actually vindicated any Iranian counteraction. Indeed, President Rouhani had some justification for his claim that Tehran’s move didn’t violate the agreement, per say, but that actually the JCPOA permitted it since reimposition of sanctions was “grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part.”

    • US Metal Sanctions Target Iran’s Working Class, Contrary to Trump Claims

      On May 8, the Trump administration celebrated the one-year anniversary of exiting the Iran nuclear deal by imposing yet another round of sanctions on the Islamic Republic, this time targeting the iron, steel, aluminum and copper sectors — about 10 percent of the country’s export revenue. In a statement unveiling the package, the White House reassured the Iranian people that the measures are designed to cut off funding to the regime. President Trump urged Tehran to “respect the rights of its people, and return in good faith to the negotiating table.”

      Iran overshadowed the rollout of the measures, however, by announcing that it would take steps toward enriching uranium at higher levels, citing U.S. violations of the nuclear deal, according to a statement posted by Iran’s Fars News Agency.

      In other words, Iran may soon start conducting the very types of activities the nuclear accord was designed to limit as the United States doubles down on the very types of measures that forced Tehran’s hand in the first place.

      This comes as The New York Times reports that Trump administration officials are considering deploying up to 120,000 troops to the region if Iran resumes its nuclear program or attacks U.S. forces.

      Of immediate concern is the impact the new measures will inflict on Iran’s already fragile situation, given that the International Monetary Fund expects Iran’s economy to shrink by 6 percent and unemployment to reach 15 percent this year.

    • Undermining Trump-Bolton War Narrative, British General Says No Evidence of ‘Increased Threat’ From Iran

      A British general threw a wrench into the Trump administration’s narrative that Iran is plotting attacks on American troops in the Middle East by telling reporters gathered at the Pentagon Tuesday that “there’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces” in the region.

      “We monitor them along with a whole range of others because that’s the environment we’re in,” said Maj. Gen. Chris Ghika, speaking via video from Baghdad. “If the threat level seems to go up then we’ll raise our force protection measures accordingly.”

      Apparently eager to squash the general’s remarks, the U.S. Central Command issued a statement just hours later disputing Ghika’s comments and repeating national security adviser John Bolton’s unsubstantiated claim that American intelligence has “identified credible threats” from “Iranian-backed forces” in Iraq and Syria.

    • Despite Threats & No Electricity, Anti-Coup Activists Remain Inside Venezuelan Embassy in D.C.

      In Washington, D.C., four activists remain in the Venezuelan embassy after police raided the building Monday night. Activists with CodePink, ANSWER Coalition and Popular Resistance have been inside the embassy since late April at the invitation of Venezuela’s government in order to prevent it from being taken over by Venezuela’s U.S.-backed opposition, led by Juan Guaidó. Last week, authorities cut off water and electricity to the embassy. We speak with CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin about the ongoing stand-off at the embassy.

    • A Criminal Affair: United States Imposes War on the Venezuelan People

      To replace Venezuela’s government with one to its liking, the United States uses special war-making tools. The plan is to make Venezuelans suffer enough so that, desperate, they will accept whatever government is presented. Troops and weapons aren’t required. That approached worked in Chile in 1973, but so far in Cuba it hasn’t – after almost 60 years.

      The process has advanced. Citing a report from Venezuela’s National Survey on Living Conditions, analysts Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs noted recently that 40,000 more Venezuelans died in 2018 than in 2017. The death rate jumped by 31 percent.

      The purpose here is to establish that the U.S. government actually intends to make Venezuelans suffer. U.S. deeds and officials’ words are revealing. Those responsible need to be called to account.

      Interviewed on October 19, 2018, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo conceded that U.S. sanctions against Venezuela “sometimes have an adverse impact on the people of Venezuela.” But on March 11, 2019 he was celebrating: “The circle is tightening, the humanitarian crisis is increasing by the hour. I talked with our senior person on the ground there in Venezuela last night … You can see the increasing pain and suffering that the Venezuelan people are suffering from.”

      Answering a reporter’s question in early 2018 about U.S. policies on Venezuela, a U.S. Embassy official in Mexico City commented that, “The economic sanctions we’ve imposed on the Venezuelan government have caused it to stop making payments as much on its sovereign debt as on PDVSA, its oil company … we are seeing a total economic collapse … Therefore, our policy is working.”

    • What 50 Countries are Backing Guaidó? Who Knows? Who Cares? If the Media Say It Enough It Must Be True

      American media still refer to Juan Guaidó, America’s hand-picked “legitimate leader” or “legitimate president” of Venezuela, as having an “administration.”

      The truth is that his “administration” — consisting of advisors and other opposition leaders — are all either arrested and being held by the government, hiding, seeking asylum in various foreign embassies (Spanish, Italian, Brazilian and Argentinian) in the capital of Caracas, or have fled to other countries like Brazil and Colombia.

      Guaidó, apparently a government of one, has so far avoided arrest probably because the elected Venezuelan President Maduro doesn’t want to give the US an excuse to try and rescue him, or to launch military actions of some kind against Venezuela as the White House keeps threatening to do.

      Clearly, in calling for US military intervention, Guaidó has both demonstrated almost his total lack of backing among the masses of Venezuelan people, as well as his desperation, given most Latin Americans’ visceral resentment of US interventions in their country, all of which have been designed to put autocrats or even military juntas in power, and many of which have openly overthrown popularly elected governments, as in Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, Nicaragua, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and elsewhere.

    • Why Many Venezuelans Are Still Chavistas
    • To Counter Trump’s Hawks, CodePink’s Medea Benjamin Says It’s Time to “Build Up an Anti-War Movement Again”

      Peace activist Medea Benjamin said Wednesday that the current political moment “is a time where we have to build up an anti-war movement again.”

      Benjamin, a co-founder of the women-led advocacy organization CODEPINK, said her call is a response to the Trump administration manufacturing a crisis to push the U.S. into war with Iran.

      The current situation, she told Democracy Now! Wednesday, has echoes of the lead-up to the war in Iraq because “lies” and “misinterpretations” are put out by the White House and echoed by corporate media.

      In the interview, Benjamin expressed concerns about “many measures just in the last year or two to move towards a war with Iran.”

      They include the U.S. “pulling out of the nuclear deal, designating the Iran Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization, trying to get the Iranian oil exports down to zero, [and] creating chaos in the Iranian economy.”

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Tulsi Gabbard Says She Would Pardon Snowden and Drop All US Charges Against Assange If Elected President in 2020

      During an appearance on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast on Monday, the congresswoman from Hawaii called Assange’s arrest and possible extradition to the United States a “great threat to our freedom of the press and to our freedom of speech.”

      “The fact that the Trump administration has chosen… to ignore how important it is that we uphold our freedoms, freedom of the press and freedom of speech, and go after [Assange], it has a very chilling effect on both journalists and publishers,” Gabbard said.

      “And you can look to those in traditional media and also those in new media, and also every one of us as Americans,” Gabbard added. “It was a kind of a warning call, saying, ‘Look what happened to this guy. It could happen to you.’ It could happen to any one of us.”

    • Why Everyone in the U.S. Who Counts Wants Julian Assange Dead

      The film also shows war crimes that implicate the entire structure of the U.S. military, as everyone involved was acting under orders, seeking permission to fire, waiting, then getting it before once more blasting away. The publication of this video, plus all the Wikileaks publications that followed, comprise the whole reason everyone in the U.S. who matters, everyone with power, wants Julian Assange dead.

      They also want him hated. Generating that hate is the process we’re watching today.

      “Everyone” in this case includes every major newspaper that published and received awards for publishing Wikileaks material; all major U.S. televised media outlets; and all “respectable” U.S. politicians — including, of course, Hillary Clinton, who was rumored (though unverifiably) to have said, “Can’t we just drone this guy?”

      Yes, Julian Assange the person can be a giant jerk even to his supporters, as this exchange reported by Intercept writer Micah Lee attests. Nevertheless, it’s not for being a jerk that the Establishment state wants him dead; that state breeds, harbors and honors the very worst criminal jerks everywhere in the world. They want him dead for publishing videos like these.

    • DC Legislators Push FOIA Amendment That Would Shield Government Emails From FOIA Requesters

      What this means is requesters seeking communications would need to know both the sender and recipient of emails they’ve never seen or the agency can reject the request entirely. The legislator pushing this says it will stop “fishing expeditions.” But requests are sometimes necessarily “fishing expeditions” because requesters are working blind. They don’t have access to these communications and have no way of knowing how many parties discussed the subject at hand. If this passes, D.C. government agencies will be pressing the “reject” button with increased frequency.

      If there’s anything transparent here, it’s the self-interest of the legislators pushing the amendment. One member of the D.C. Council — a Democrat like the councilmember who wrote the amendment — has been the subject of unflattering news coverage based on FOIA requests.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • A report claims koalas are ‘functionally extinct’ – but what does that mean?

      Today the Australian Koala Foundation announced they believe “there are no more than 80,000 koalas in Australia”, making the species “functionally extinct”.

      While this number is dramatically lower than the most recent academic estimates, there’s no doubt koala numbers in many places are in steep decline.

      It’s hard to say exactly how many koalas are still remaining in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory, but they are highly vulnerable to threats including deforestation, disease and the effects of climate change.

      Once a koala population falls below a critical point it can no longer produce the next generation, leading to extinction.

    • Koalas Become ‘Functionally Extinct’ in Australia With Just 80,000 Left

      Koala species down under are now considered “functionally extinct” as the Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) says there are no more than 80,000 individuals left on the continent. Once a population falls below a critical point, it can no longer produce the next generation, ultimately leading to the species’ extinction.

      “The AKF thinks there are no more than 80,000 Koalas in Australia. This is approximately 1% of the 8 million Koalas that were shot for fur and sent to London between 1890 and 1927,” said AKF chairman Deborah Tabart, adding that the population could be as low as 43,000.

    • Plastics Industry on Track to Burn Through 14% of World’s Remaining Carbon Budget: New Report

      The plastics industry plays a major — and growing — role in climate change, according to a report published today by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL).

      By 2050, making and disposing of plastics could be responsible for a cumulative 56 gigatons of carbon, the report found, up to 14 percent of the world’s remaining carbon budget.

      In 2019, the plastics industry is on track to release as much greenhouse gas pollution as 189 new coal-fired power plants running year-round, the report found — and the industry plans to expand so rapidly that by 2030, it will create 1.34 gigatons of climate-changing emissions a year, equal to 295 coal plants.

      It’s an expansion that, in the United States, is largely driven by the shale gas rush unleashed by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

    • German Far Right Party Attacks 16-Year-Old Greta Thunberg Ahead of EU Elections

      The far-right German party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is increasing its climate denying rhetoric as it prepares for the European elections later this month, singling out 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg for particular attack.

      AfD has long denied that climate change is caused by the burning of fossil fuels, but it has chosen to emphasize that message more and more in the past year, according to a joint investigation by Greenpeace’s Unearthed and counter-extremism group the Institute of Strategic Dialogue (ISD).

    • Can the Department of Defense Win Its Complicated Battle Against Climate Change?

      The 150 mph winds that Hurricane Michael blasted through Tyndall Air Force Base last October left a trail of destruction, ruin and exorbitant financial loss at one of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) key military bases. The damage could have been worse. Fifty-five of Tyndall’s fleet of F-22 fighter jets had been flown to safety before the hurricane hit. Nevertheless, some of the 17 remaining F-22 jets — their combined worth a reported $5.8 billion — suffered damage, along with roughly 95 percent of the buildings.

    • Brazil spurns do-it-yourself solar power

      Cheap and simple do-it-yourself solar power sounds a good way to help poor communities. But try telling that to Brazil’s customs authority.

      Since 2009, when the government of President Lula launched a national programme called Luz para Todos (Light for All), Brazil has extended electricity to almost all corners of this vast country. The extra costs of extending the grid to more distant regions has been spread among all users.

      But 47 localities, with a total population of 3 million people, still remain unconnected to the national grid, most of them in small, remote communities in the Amazon.

      They include the 300,000 or so residents of Boa Vista, capital of the northernmost state of Roraima, which gets most of its energy from a hydro-electric dam across the border in Venezuela.

    • The Green New Deal Needs an Anti-war Message

      The Green New Deal can only succeed as an internationalist campaign—and that means listening to many other, non-ecological concerns expressed by populations most impacted by global warming.

      Wars, financial crises, and transnational economic pressures weigh more heavily in the conversations of people from South of the Tropic of Cancer (including Central America and the Middle East) and those below the Tropic of Capricorn (such as Argentina, where global warming remains the last concern of a depressed, insolvent citizenry witnessing the creeping return of militarism.)

    • Trump Wants to Open Public Lands to Oil Drilling in California

      On May 9, the Trump administration finalized a controversial plan, entitled “The Proposed Resource Management Plan Amendment and Final Environmental Impact Statement for Oil and Gas Leasing and Development,” to open 725,500 acres of public lands and mineral estate across California’s Central Coast and the Bay Area to new oil and gas drilling.

      The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has selected “Alternative F” as its preferred alternative. This plan would increase by 327,000 acres the acreage in the draft proposal prepared under the Obama administration.

      The public lands selected for leasing are found in the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Fresno, Merced, Monterey, San Benito, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Stanislaus.

      “Alternative F was selected as the Preferred Alternative based on the Administration’s goal of strengthening energy independence and the BLM support of an all-of-the-above energy plan that includes oil and gas underlying America’s public lands,” according to the plan abstract.

      “Under Alternative F [BLM’s Preferred Alternative], Federal mineral estate would be open to leasing; however; NSO (No Surface Occupancy) stipulations would apply to some lands open to leasing, including: (1) Joaquin Rocks ACEC; (2) ACECs within Ciervo-Panoche Natural Area; and (3) giant kangaroo rat core population areas. Under all alternatives, areas closed under the 2007 RMP would remain closed (Wilderness, Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs), Clear Creek Serpentine Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), and Fort Ord National Monument).”

    • The Resilient Forests Act: a Trojan Horse to Accelerate Logging on Public Lands

      We live in an age of Orwellian Doublespeak. Such doublespeak is exemplified by the euphemistically named “Resilient Federal Forests Act” (RFFA) sponsored by Rep. Westerman. Like previous versions, Westerman asserts RFFA will reduce massive wildfires and smoke, and promote more “resilient” forests.

      In the name of fire reduction, RFFA is a Trojan Horse designed to expedite logging under the pretext of “reducing wildfires.” The flawed assumption behind this legislation is that fuels are driving large wildfires. However, numerous studies have found that extreme fire weather, not fuels, is mainly responsible for large blazes. The topography is also a factor: fires burn faster upslope.

    • Officials: Camp Fire, deadliest in California history, was caused by PG&E electrical transmission lines

      Cal Fire said Wednesday the catastrophic Camp Fire in November 2018 was caused by electrical transmission lines owned by Pacific Gas & Electric.

      In a statement, the state agency said it conducted “a very meticulous and thorough investigation” of the Camp Fire — the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history. The Camp Fire destroyed most of the town of Paradise, California, resulting in 85 civilian fatalities and the destruction of more than 18,800 structures.

      In February, PG&E said in a regulatory filing that it believed it’s “probable” that the company’s equipment will be found to be the source of the Camp Fire. Before that, the company also acknowledged it had problems with its transmission equipment near the site of the blaze.

    • PG&E Power Lines Sparked Deadliest Wildfire in California History, Investigation Confirms

      “Our hearts go out to those who have lost so much, and we remain focused on supporting them through the recovery and rebuilding process,” the company said in a statement reported by The Washington Post. “We also want to thank the brave first responders who worked tirelessly to save lives, contain the Camp Fire and protect citizens and communities.”

    • California Says PG&E Power Lines Caused Camp Fire That Killed 85

      Electrical transmission lines belonging to Pacific Gas & Electric caused the Camp Fire of 2018, California’s deadliest wildfire, a state agency concluded on Wednesday.

      The fire, which started on Nov. 8, killed 85 people and destroyed nearly 19,000 homes, businesses and other buildings. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said on Wednesday that, after a “very meticulous and thorough investigation,” it had determined that the Camp Fire was caused by “electrical transmission lines owned and operated” by PG&E. The company had said in February that its equipment had probably caused the fire.

      PG&E, the state’s largest electricity utility, filed for bankruptcy protection in January, saying that it faced an estimated $30 billion in wildfire liabilities. In a recent filing to securities regulators, the company estimated it would have $10.5 billion in liabilities for damage caused by the Camp Fire.

    • Scientists Create First Ever Map of ‘Wood Wide Web’

      For the first time ever, scientists have made a complete map of the “wood wide web,” the underground network of bacteria and fungi that connects trees and passes nutrients from the soil to their roots, as Science Magazine explained.

      The paper, published in Nature Thursday, draws on a database of more than 1.1 million forest inventory plots including more than 28,000 species of trees in more than 70 countries.

    • ‘Wood wide web’—the underground network of microbes that connects trees—mapped for first time

      Trees, from the mighty redwoods to slender dogwoods, would be nothing without their microbial sidekicks. Millions of species of fungi and bacteria swap nutrients between soil and the roots of trees, forming a vast, interconnected web of organisms throughout the woods. Now, for the first time, scientists have mapped this “wood wide web” on a global scale, using a database of more than 28,000 tree species living in more than 70 countries.

      “I haven’t seen anybody do anything like that before,” says Kathleen Treseder, an ecologist at the University of California, Irvine. “I wish I had thought of it.”

      Before scientists could map the forest’s underground ecosystem, they needed to know something more basic: where trees live. Ecologist Thomas Crowther, now at ETH Zurich in Switzerland, gathered vast amounts of data on this starting in 2012, from government agencies and individual scientists who had identified trees and measured their sizes around the world. In 2015, he mapped trees’ global distribution and reported that Earth has about 3 trillion trees.

    • The Roar of Military Jets Triggers a Crusade for Quiet

      On a chilly March morning, acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton and his assistant, Laura Giannone, hiked into a glade of moss-draped maples in the Hoh Rainforest of northwest Washington’s Olympic National Park. They set up a tripod topped with ultra-sensitive recording equipment to listen to the murmurings of a landscape just then awakening from winter dormancy.

      Above the low rush of the nearby Hoh River, the melodic trills of songbirds rippled through a still-leafless canopy. Then, suddenly, the low thrum of a jet aircraft built in waves until it eclipsed every other sound. Within half an hour, three more jets roared overhead.

      Hempton has spent more than a decade fighting for quiet in this forest — the traditional homeland of the Hoh Indian Tribe, who lived here before it was a national park and now have a reservation at the mouth of the Hoh River. In 2005, Hempton dubbed a spot deep in the Hoh “One Square Inch of Silence,” and created an eponymous foundation to raise awareness about noise pollution. But he couldn’t stop the sonic intrusions from ramped up commercial air traffic and the Navy’s growing fleet of “Growler” jets training over the Olympic Peninsula. “In just a few years, this has gone from one of the quietest places on Earth to an airshow,” he told me.

      As the Hoh got noisier, rather than concede defeat, Hempton broadened his effort into a global crusade. In 2018, he launched Quiet Parks International (QPI), to certify places that are relatively noise-free, in a bid to lure quiet-seeking tourists and thereby add economic leverage to preservation efforts. For Hempton, the sounds of nature are as critical to a national park as its wildlife or scenic vistas, and as the world gets louder, the importance of protecting quiet refuges as places of rejuvenation grows. “Our culture has been so impacted by noise pollution,” he said, “that we have almost lost our ability to really listen.”

    • The Third Battle for Lake Erie

      A rare, hybrid environmental campaign is underway to save a great lake – in fact, a Great Lake – Erie.

      That grand body of water, declared dead in the late 1960s experienced a textbook turnaround by the mid-80s, but is once again in critical condition every summer.

      Just as citizens of a previous generation finally held polluters accountable, they’re beginning to mobilize once again. That “Second Battle for Lake Erie” in the late ‘60s and early 70s was necessitated by massive pollution from sewage treatment plants, industrial offal and phosphates in detergents. The current “Third Battle for Lake Erie” is also about eutrophication (premature aging) from excess nutrients, but this time coming nearly 90% from agriculture, particularly hog, poultry and dairy factories.

      Using traditional street protests, picketing and public education, people are starting to demand elected officials and the EPA, created in large part because of the last Lake Erie crisis, do their jobs. But it doesn’t stop there – hence the hybrid nature of the campaign.

      Not trusting that a stripped-down, rotting-from-the-top EPA can or will do the job this time, Toledoans are also showing what the modern democracy movement can do. Envisioned by the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy (POCLAD) through the 1990’s; turned into a grassroots organizing tool by Move to Amend (MTA); and imbued with the goal to protect the rights of nature by the Community Environmental and Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), that movement, judging by press accounts, has recently literally put the world on notice.

    • “Alarming” Report Details Emissions Danger of Plastics Production and Disposal—And It’s Set to Get Worse

      A new report from a number of groups, led by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), found that the emissions created by the production of plastic are a massive and unexplored source of air pollution in the world. The report, Plastic & Climate: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet (pdf), calls for “urgent, ambitious action” to solve the problem.

      “At current levels, greenhouse gas emissions from the plastic lifecycle threaten the ability of the global community to keep global temperature rise below 1.5°C,” the report reads. “With the petrochemical and plastic industries planning a massive expansion in production, the problem is on track to get much worse.”

      Plastic is derived from a number of sources, including coal and salt, but the main base material comes from natural gas and crude oil. The gas or oil is distilled to separate out the chemical naphtha, a main component for plastic production. Then the compound is used in a complex, energy intensive process to make plastics.

      That process, CIEL president Carroll Muffett said in a statement, is a major and oft-ignored contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

      “It has long been clear that plastic threatens the global environment and puts human health at risk,” said Muffett. “This report demonstrates that plastic, like the rest of the fossil economy, is putting the climate at risk as well.”

      Priscilla Villa, a south Texas organizer with Earthworks, put the crisis in real-world terms.

      “Plastics are fueling the climate catastrophe because they’e made from oil and gas, and oil and gas pollution is the main reason climate change is rapidly accelerating,” said Villa. “Planned plastics production facilities in the Gulf Coast and Appalachia would worsen our global climate crisis while also threatening vulnerable communities with more intense storms like Hurricane Harvey.”

    • Too Many People, or Too Much Greed?

      During the dark early morning hours of a September 27 a few years after the Second World War, a passenger ship cruising calm South Atlantic waters struck a drifting forgotten mine, was violently breached, and quickly sank before any distress signal could be broadcast. Daylight found 26 survivors massed in, or floating in the sea around, a small lifeboat built for 12. This is the opening scenario to the 1957 British film Abandon Ship! (also called Seven Waves Away, or Seven Days From Now); and is succinctly presented in this brief clip.

      [...]

      The officer in charge, Alec Holmes, reluctantly comes to accept the logic of the third alternative. He ensures that he and the seamen under his command are in possession of the sole firearm on board, and sequentially set the weakest among them adrift as their voyage proceeds, as the sick and injured worsen, and as their supplies dwindle. One woman reflects on the cruelty of the powerful in their sacrificing of the weak by saying: “Why are the wicked always so strong?,” and that “an atomic scientist, a brilliant playwright, and a famous former opera singer have been sacrificed to save two ‘apemen’, a racketeer, and a devout coward.”

      We could think of this lifeboat as a microcosm of our Planet Earth, and its overcrowding with desperate survivors as representative of a world population explosion facing the combined biological and geophysical catastrophe of collapsing habitability brought on by the global warming climate emergency, and a rapidly shriveling biodiversity.

      It took over 200,000 years of human history for the world’s population to reach 1 billion, and only 200 years more to reach 7 billion; world population was estimated to be at 7.7 billion by April 2019.

    • PG&E Lines Sparked Camp Fire That Killed 85, California Says

      Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. power lines sparked a Northern California blaze that killed 85 people last year, making it the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century, state fire officials said Wednesday.

      Cal Fire said transmission lines owned and operated by the San Francisco-based utility started the Nov. 8 fire that nearly destroyed the town of Paradise in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

      The fire wiped out nearly 15,000 homes. Many of those killed were elderly or disabled. The oldest was 99.

    • Is Emergency Evacuation from Seabrook Reactor Even Possible? Public Hearings Demanded

      Ever wonder if the nuclear reactor near you has an evacuation plan that would work in an emergency? Have you ever been stuck in barely moving traffic on an interstate highway even when there was no crisis, no sirens, and no panic?

      People driving Interstate-95 near the Seabrook reactor in New Hampshire have, and they have reason to worry, especially after the nonprofit group We the People and its founder Stephen Comley produced “No Evacuation Possible,” a public service video of routine summertime traffic jams on I-95 — Seabrook’s disaster escape route, and warning of the impossibility of an evacuation in the event of an accident at Seabrook.

      One wonders how many other nuclear reactors have a single evacuation route that is frequently, even routinely, rendered nonfunctional. Commercial reactors are required by law to have a workable escape plan.

      In January 2018, the town of Merrimac, Mass. joined half a dozen other communities calling on the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission to hold a hearing on whether Seabrook’s evacuation plan can be effectively implemented.

      Reactor owner NextEra Energy Resources issued a Jan. 20, 2018 response/nonresponse in which it failed to address evacuation issues: “We have extensive emergency response systems in place,” the firm said, “including numerous back-up safety systems that provide our plants with layer upon layer of both automated and manual protection….”

    • Getting Mauled by a Monopoly Utility

      Nearly a half-century ago, the Montana Power Company was determined to turn our state into “the boiler room for the nation” with vast plans for Colstrip’s coal-fired power plants and the massive strip mines to feed them. Local ranchers, farmers, landowners and environmentalists teamed up to oppose the mega-mines and pollution-belching plants and the newly formed Northern Plains Resource Council put out a bumper sticker that asked: “Has Montana Power got you by the bulbs?” Now NorthWestern Energy, Montana Power’s successor in interest as a monopoly utility, is putting the squeeze on Montanans once again.

      The sad story of how Montana Power committed corporate suicide is well known. After building a vertically integrated utility empire entirely paid for by consumers, the utility’s less-than-brilliant leaders decided to sell off its hydroelectric dams and transmission lines and use the proceeds to become a telecom. In the process, both the utility and the telecom businesses wound up on the rocks and Montanans wound up with NorthWestern Energy, an out-of-state corporation, owning the energy sources and transmission lines that 370,000 Montanans rely on to power their homes and businesses. In the meantime, our power costs went from the cheapest in the region to some of the most expensive. What a deal!

      But apparently that wasn’t good enough for NorthWestern Energy and after its failed legislative attempt to stick Montanans with the hundreds of millions in costs to buy, run and close Colstrip’s Unit 4, the corporation has decided to target Montanans who invest in rooftop solar in an attempt to make it uneconomical while heaping vast overcharges on those customers for the exact same energy they deliver to non-solar homes and businesses.

      Montana has a Public Service Commission that is supposed to ensure that Montana’s citizens do not get ripped off by utility corporations, but the commission has not just been moribund in that regard and has actually undertaken efforts to do the opposite by passing regulatory policies aimed at crippling the state’s solar industry.

    • The Wilderness Compromisers

      Bob Marshall, Aldo Leopold, and Olaus Murie, legendary biologists and founders of The Wilderness Society (TWS), must be crying in their graves.

      When Marshall founded the Wilderness Society, he wrote: “We do not want those whose first impulse is to compromise. We want no (fence) straddlers for in the past they have surrendered too much good wilderness and primeval areas which should never have been lost.“

      Marshall would have been chagrined and dismayed to see that the Wilderness Society he founded to fight for wildlands is now among the compromisers he feared.

  • Finance

    • The PRO Act: Pathway to Power for Workers

      Abigail Disney, granddaughter of the co-founder of the Walt Disney Co., called out the family business’ current CEO last month for making what’s supposed to be the happiest place on earth pretty darn miserable for its workers.

      All of the company profits shouldn’t be going into executives’ pockets, she said in a Washington Post column. The workers whose labor makes those profits should not live in abject poverty.

      This is what labor leaders have said for two centuries. But Disney executives and bank executives and oil company executives don’t play well with others. They won’t give workers more unless workers force them to. And the only way to do that is with collective bargaining—that is, the power of concerted action.

    • Uber Drivers Are Contractors, Not Employees, Labor Board Says

      The move, outlined by the board’s general counsel in a memorandum released Tuesday, deals a blow to drivers’ efforts to band together to demand higher pay and better working conditions from Uber and its main rival in the ride-hailing business, Lyft. It is the first major policy move the board has made concerning the so-called gig economy under President Trump.

      Contractors lack the protection given to employees under federal law — and enforced by the labor board — for unionizing and other collective activity, such as protesting the policies of employers. As a practical matter, the conclusion makes it extremely difficult for Uber drivers to form a union.

    • Uber’s premium customers can now push a button to tell their drivers to be quiet

      As The Verge’s Andy Hawkins point outs, this option is only for the customers who are already paying about twice the price of Uber X and four times the price of Uber Pool. Uber Black is a luxury service that uses a fleet of fancier cars and, in some places, requires drivers to have a much higher minimum rating than other Uber drivers in order to stay in the higher-end, higher-paying program.

    • [Older] Uber loses an average of 58 cents per ride — and says it’s ready to go public

      Uber lost more than $3 billion in 2018 — or an average of 58 cents on each of its 5.2 billion rides last year.

    • How Billionaires Define Socialism

      It wasn’t surprising to hear multi-billionaires Bill Gates, Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett, interviewed on CNBC-TV on Thursday, May 9, defending capitalism. But it was indeed surprising that Gates made a positive comment about socialism, or at least about what is defined in the United States as socialism.

      Gates pointed out that the current increase in pro-socialist rhetoric in the United States does not really refer to socialism according to any conventional definition of the word. The “socialist” policies that we hear from politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) and Bernie Sanders are, to a greater extent, about capitalist policies with a strong social security contribution. And that is good!

      “Socialism used to mean that a State controlled the means of production”, and, according to Gates, “many people here who promote socialism do not define it in that classical way.”

      Gates also says that most people who favor socialism in the United States do not speak of true socialism. And they’re right!

    • Affordable Housing Should Cater to the People, Not Developers

      Curtis and Riley, with Olive in tow, join Carmen in confronting the mayor about the high cost of housing.

    • “Heady Stuff:” The Wall Street, Inflation and the CPI

      Perhaps, but it’s hardly new. Greenspan made the same observation more than a quarter-century ago. He told Congress back then that the CPI overstates inflation by at least 1.0 percentage point, and possibly as much as 2.0 percentage points. He suggested that Congress could use this alleged fact as a way to reduce the budget deficit, since Social Security payments (post-retirement) were linked to the CPI, as were income tax brackets. If the annual inflation adjustment in these measures was 1.0-2.0 percentage points lower, it would drastically reduce Social Security benefits over time and raise a great deal of tax revenue.

      Congress picked up on Greenspan’s testimony and created a commission chaired by Michael Boskin, the head of the Council of Economic Advisers under the first President Bush. The commission concluded that the CPI overstated inflation by 1.1 percentage points annually, based largely on research from the 1960s, which made the same argument that Kessler cited from Greenspan. In other words, the claim that the CPI misses the wonderful benefits of technology is more than half a century old.

      In addition to being an old argument, this is also largely an incorrect argument. While Greenspan asserts that when a new product comes onto the market it is priced very high and then the price falls sharply, but “you didn’t start to pick up the price level until well into that declining phase.”

      Greenspan may not remember, but because its own research has identified this problem, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) began to accelerate the rate at which new products are introduced into the index. It reconstructs its basket annually and important new products are likely to enter the index after just a few months.

      It’s also worth noting that insofar as this story of rapid price decline in new products leads to an overstatement in the cost of living, it is only for the rich. Take the famous example of the cell phone, which slipped through the cracks and did not enter the index until 1996, when close to 40 percent of households owned one. While this 40 percent benefited from the sharp drop in prices from well over $1000 to $200, the 60 percent who still did not own a cell phone did not benefit from the drop in prices. They were making the decision that even at a price of $200, they had better uses for their money.

      Due to changes in methods, there will not be another product like the cell phone that can achieve mass adoption before getting in the CPI, but there may still be extremely expensive new items purchased by the rich, which drop rapidly in price in the few months before they are introduced into the CPI. Insofar as this is the case, we are overstating the rate of inflation experienced by the rich, which would be an argument for a lower indexation figure for top tax brackets, thereby subjecting more of their income to a higher tax rate.

    • Trump’s “Trade War” is a War on You

      “It’s not China that pays tariffs,” Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace pointed out on May 12. “It’s the American importers, the American companies that pay what, in effect, is a tax increase and oftentimes passes it on to U.S. consumers.”

      “Fair enough,” answered Larry Kudlow, head of US president Donald Trump’s National Economic Council, before trying to explain that indisputable fact away.

      As Trump continues his “trade war” with the rest of the world (but China more so than other countries), more and more Americans are beginning to understand what’s happening here:

      Punitive tariffs on Chinese and other foreign goods are simply corporate welfare. They are a mechanism for redistribution of wealth from American consumers and workers to the most politically connected American business owners. Those businesses can charge more for their product and still remain “competitive” because their product doesn’t have that extra tax levied on it.

      In theory, some of that corporate welfare “trickles down” in the form of new jobs for Americans in those particular businesses. That effect seems to be more hype than reality, but even to the extent that it exists, it doesn’t create greater general prosperity. The “new jobs” are an artificial sugar high. Everyone else gets just a little bit poorer for each “new job” thus created.

      As the late, great Henry Hazlitt pointed out in his classic Economics in One Lesson, it’s important not to ignore the unseen in favor of the seen.

    • China-US Trade War: Hiatus or Busted Deal?

      This past week the US and China failed to reach agreement on a new trade deal, despite high level China representative Lie He meeting in Washington on Thursday-Friday, May 9-10.

      In the wake of the meeting, Trump and his administration mouthpieces attempt to put a positive spin on the collapsed talks, while placing blame on China for the break up. The ‘spin’ at first was that China had reneged on a prior agreement and changed its terms when they arrived in Washington. China had caused the breakdown, not the US. The stock markets swooned. Trump quickly jumped in and said he got a nice letter from China president, Xi, and that it wasn’t all that bad.

      But make no mistake, a trade negotiations ‘rubicon’ has been reached. The real trade war may be starting. Or, it may all be theater to make it look like both sides are acting tough and that an agreement will be reached this summer. But that scenario may now be fading. Trade wars—like hot wars—have their own dynamic. Once launched, they drive their adversaries in directions they may not have initially sought.

      So who’s actually responsible for last week’s trade breakdown?

    • The Country That Exiled McKinsey

      In 2010, amid a historic commodities boom fueled by the explosion of China’s economy, international companies began turning their attention to Mongolia as it opened its vast deposits of coal and copper to commercial exploitation. Mongolia, which is located on China’s northern border, stood to make prodigious sums of money if it could sell that copper and coal to its resource-hungry neighbor.

      To make that happen, Mongolia concluded that it needed to lay thousands of miles of railroad tracks. Such a project would cost billions of dollars and throw off hefty fees for construction companies, banks, law firms and consultants of various stripes. The consulting contracts alone could be worth tens of millions over a decade. And if the railroad expansion worked out, there’d be even more opportunities after that.

    • ‘Corporate Greed, Plain and Simple’: Sanders Leads Senate Letter Pressuring Delta to End ‘Demeaning’ Anti-Union Campaign

      As the union attempting to organize Delta employees filed a federal complaint accusing the company of unlawful and far-reaching interference—which has included literature encouraging workers to spend their pay on video games instead of union dues—Sen. Bernie Sanders and eight of his colleagues sent a letter to the airline giant’s CEO on Wednesday calling for an end to the “insulting and demeaning” campaign.

      “Your attempts to deny the right of Delta workers to form a union is corporate greed, plain and simple,” reads the letter to Delta CEO Ed Bastian, which was led by Sanders and signed by Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Robert Casey (Penn.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Ed Markey (Mass.), and Jeff Merkley (Ore).

    • Cleaning Out the Anti-China Nutters

      Inimitable to a fault, former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating had been fairly quiet on his party’s policies till an impromptu press intervention last week. Catching two journalists of the ABC off-guard, Keating took little time to land a few blows against Australia’s foreign and domestic intelligence security officers. They had, in Keating’s view, “lost their strategic bearings”. The security agencies were effectively “running foreign policy”; when such matters eventuate, only one conclusion can be reached: “the nutters are in charge.”

      For the former Labor prime minister, the China Syndrome had clotted the grey cells of the security wonks, blocking perception and clarity. Security chiefs were knocking on the doors of Parliamentarians; prejudices were doing the rounds. Australia, the United States and other likeminded powers had been in denial about the Middle Kingdom and its aspirations, seeing them as defence and security threats in various guises. They had to “recognise the legitimacy of China”; it had to be respected for rising from poverty even if that particular story did not sit well with the United States.

      Keating took a particularly sharp interest in John Garnaut, foreign correspondent and former national security advisor to former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. That particular China hand written in August 2018 that any spirit of democratisation worth its salt died with the protestors at Tiananmen Square in 1989. “Belatedly, and quite suddenly, political leaders, policy makers and civil society actors in a dozen nations around the world are scrambling to come to terms with a form of China’s extraterritorial influence described variously as ‘sharp power’, ‘United Front work’ and ‘influence operations’.” In Garnaut’s view, the world’s many eyes were upon Australia to set an example.

    • Turns Out “Spooky ‘Socialist’ Proposals” Are Popular, Says AOC, As Poll Shows 70% of GOP Voters Back Plan to Cap Credit Card Rates

      A survey released Tuesday found that nearly 70 percent of Republican primary voters support a proposal by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders to cap credit card interest rates at 15 percent.

      Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders introduced the bicameral Loan Shark Prevention Act last week, vowing to tackle the greed of credit card companies that are turning a major profit by hitting Americans with exorbitant interest rates.

      According to the Business Insider survey, 68 percent of respondents overall, and 73 percent of Democratic primary voters, said they either support or strongly support the legislation.

    • Intuit CEO in Internal Video: Hiding Free TurboTax Was In “Best Interest of Taxpayers”

      Sasan Goodarzi, the CEO of Intuit, says the company’s efforts to make its free tax-filing software harder to find on Google were part of the software giant’s commitment to educating taxpayers.

      In an 11-minute video sent to Intuit employees, Goodarzi said the company was trying to help consumers by steering them to “educational content” instead of TurboTax’s free filing website.

      The company promised the IRS it would offer a free option to tens of millions of taxpayers earning less than $34,000.

      Responding to our reporting, which shows that Intuit, H&R Block and other for-profit tax software companies were steering low-income customers to their paid products, Goodarzi said the company’s marketing practices “had been misinterpreted to signal that we were trying to hide the product we offer in the IRS program. That is inaccurate.”

      “Our choice around search was intended to be [in] the best interest of taxpayers so they were more fully informed about their options and could choose what they felt was best for them,” Goodarzi said in the video, which was marked “Intuit Confidential” and was sent to staff on May 3.

    • ‘Stinks to High Heaven’: Calls to Investigate Trump Labor Board’s Gift to Uber Amid Stock Market Struggles

      In addition to denouncing the substance of the ruling—which could make it virtually impossible for Uber drivers to form a union and bargain for better pay—labor rights advocates raised questions about the NLRB’s decision to release its memorandum amid Uber’s stock market struggles, particularly given that the document was dated April 16.

      The advisory memo (pdf) was made public by the office of NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb, a Trump appointee, just days after Uber drivers throughout the United States and across the globe went on strike for better pay and job security.

      The American Prospect’s Harold Meyerson wrote in a column Tuesday that it is “hardly surprising” that Trump’s NLRB “has now consigned Uber drivers to worker hell.”

      “What does raise eyebrows is the timing of the release of the counsel’s memo—a timing so egregious that it almost makes you wonder if Trump’s appointees to the NLRB have shares in Uber that they’re frantically trying to unload,” Meyerson wrote. “In the Anything-Goes presidential administration of Donald Trump, the egregious has become so normalized and stupidity so commonplace that the board’s action not only stinks to high heaven but should be investigated by House Democrats.”

      Author and former New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse echoed Meyerson’s concerns, tweeting on Tuesday that the NLRB’s memo “seems aimed at pushing up Uber’s stock price after its disappointing [initial public offering].”

    • ‘Good,’ Says Warren, After Trump Bank Regulator Calls Her Tough Questioning on Wells Fargo ‘Insulting’

      “Good,” responded Warren, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, after Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) chief Joseph Otting objected to the Massachusetts senator’s criticism of the Trump administration’s bank-friendly regulatory practices and lack of transparency.

      The Massachusetts senator pushed Otting on his plan to keep secret the Trump administration’s assessment of the successor to former Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan, whose scandal-plagued tenure ended with his abrupt resignation in March.

      Warren—who frequently called for Sloan’s ouster and applauded when he stepped down—asked Otting to commit to “publicly disclosing the OCC’s evaluation of the ‘competence, experience, character, or integrity’ of the next Wells CEO.”

      When Otting refused—citing his “prerogative”—and claimed “no one has been more tougher [sic]” on Wells Fargo than himself, Warren said, “At the OCC? That’s a low bar.”

      “I find that insulting that you would make that comment,” said Otting, to which Warren replied, “Good.”

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • CNN & MSNBC Caught Meddling in US Democracy

      Now, the parties truly “meddling in America’s democracy” should be very clear, although I can only scratch the surface here concerning the long history of media corruption and outright lies broadcast all the time.

    • For Democrats, So-Called ‘Purity Tests’ Can Be a Good Thing

      The Democratic primaries are heating up. One notable feature of the race is the strong presence of progressive candidates — which has many in the establishment wing of the party worried.

      Former president Barack Obama, whose moderate vice president Joe Biden is now in the race, recently decried the alleged “purity tests” he saw on the left. Obama worried that an “obsessive” ideological fanaticism was setting the party up for failure.

      Indeed, in the political world, the term “purity test” is largely used by the establishment to chastise and attack the left.

      For instance, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have refused to accept corporate donations for their presidential campaigns. Many outlets — The Atlantic, Politico, The Hill — described these pledges as a new Democratic “purity test” to establish progressive credentials.

      Hillary Clinton scorned the idea, claiming that “under [Sanders’] “definition, President Obama is not a progressive because he took donations from Wall Street!” (Some might argue that’s accurate, as Obama has described himself as a 1980s-style “moderate Republican.”)

    • Why Is Everyone Running for President? It’s a Billion-Dollar Industry.

      Because this is the future, running for president of the United States is now a fantastic way to rake in the bucks, whether or not you’ve got that name recognition thing going for you. If you don’t, whatever, CNN and MSNBC need to fill all 24 hours with programming because Andy Warhol was right. If you hold an elected office — or have lots of money already — and declare your candidacy, fear not: Wolf Blitzer’s hair will be calling you for an interview before the echo fades.

      Montana’s conservative Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock just announced his entry into the 2020 presidential race. He is the 22nd Democrat (yes, including Bernie) to do so with more than a month to go before the first debates, nine months to go before the Iowa caucus, and 77 weeks to go before the general election, which means there is plenty of time for more doomed challengers to jump in. Outside of Helena and Butte, the national reaction to Bullock’s candidacy was two words: “Who?” followed almost immediately by “Why?!”

      The second question is fairly asked. If Bullock should stumble on his path to glory, the Democratic Party’s center-right contingent will still be championed by (in alphabetical order) Sen. Michael Bennet (Colorado), former Senator and Vice President Joe Biden (Delaware), Mayor Pete Buttigieg (Indiana), former Rep. John Delaney (Maryland), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (New York), former Gov. John Hickenlooper (Colorado), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota), Rep. Seth Moulton (Massachusetts), former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Texas), and Rep. Tim Ryan (Ohio).

    • Timidity and Palliatives While the Planet Burns

      The best conditions for genuine discussion, for me at least, is during a feast of good food and drink. Ancient Greeks called that symposium.

      The wisdom behind the tradition of symposium – millennia ago and today — is simple. Friends and guests eating food and drinking wine feel good about themselves. Organic food well-cooked and excellent wine do that. They are medicines. In such euphoria, symposiasts are very likely to be honest, even eloquent, in their expression of their views or opinions.

      This is the reason Plato chose the dialogue for the spreading of his ideas. The dialogue comes from intimate symposium discussions.

      Today I often hear Americans speaking in radio or television saying this and that must be part of a “national conversation.” I wonder what they have in mind.

    • The Threat of Political Climate Change

      In the Americas, the Trump tsunami has swept across both continents and the “pink tide” of progressivism has all but disappeared from the southern half of the hemisphere. In Europe, with the recent exception of Spain, the left has been banished to the political margins. In Africa and Asia, socialism has devolved into nationalism, authoritarianism, or just plain corruption. And forget about the Middle East.

      In this planet-wide rising tide of right-wing populism, the liberal left commands only a few disconnected islands — Iceland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Korea, Spain, Uruguay. In so many other places, increasingly illiberal leaders are in charge. Add up the numbers and significantly more than half the world’s population currently lives under some form of right-wing populist or authoritarian rule, courtesy of Donald Trump in the United States, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Narendra Modi in India, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, Vladimir Putin in Russia, and Xi Jinping in China, among others.

      Optimists cling to the pendulum theory of politics: conservatives are now basking in the limelight, but the day will come when the right inevitably falls on its face and the left swings back into action; witness the results of the 2018 mid-term elections in the United States.

    • At Chicago’s City Council, Committees Are Used to Reward Political Favors and Fund Patronage

      The Chicago City Council’s Transportation Committee has an annual budget of more than $467,000 to cover expenses related to its work on legislation and government oversight.

      But little of that work was on display during the committee’s March 6 meeting.

      “Fairly quick agenda this morning,” the committee chair, Anthony Beale, said at the start. He and the six other aldermen then ran through its 70-page agenda in about 23 minutes, approving dozens of ordinances that dealt with hyperlocal administrative matters such as signs, awnings, light fixtures or sidewalk cafes for particular addresses.

      That was typical for Beale’s committee. While it rarely does in-depth legislative work, the committee and its budget have been far more valuable for Beale as perks.

    • Indonesia’s Two Presidents

      In Indonesia, both presidential candidates have declared victory, just a few days after the elections that were held on 17th April, 2019. Both of them are pro-business, both Muslim, and both insist that the Communist Party should continue to be banned. Neither of them is even thinking about stopping their country from committing one of the bloodiest genocides on earth, that in West Papua; or ending the unbridled plunder and environmental disaster on the third largest island in the world, Borneo (in Indonesia known as Kalimantan).

      The country is tense. The final results will be announced on May the 22nd, but anything could happen before that, including violence and clashes between the two camps.

      If both candidates are pro-business and anti-Communist, then what is the fuss about, really? What makes these elections so different from the previous ones, and what makes the situation so volatile?

    • Israel/America or Netanyahu/Trump?

      The late Uri Avnery (1923-2018), the doughty Israeli seeker of peace with the Palestinian people, posted almost weekly on CounterPunch.

      Avnery was savvy enough to know that the Zionist failure to achieve peace with the Palestinians meant that Israel could never be a “normal” state, no matter how much it pretended, hypocritically, to be a “democracy” adhering to “Western values”.

      Avnery would have been aghast, but not surprised, at the turn of events taking place shortly before or after his death– Trump recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital (both Palestine and Israel claim Jerusalem as their capital, and it will take a peace deal, and not unilateral action on Israel’s part, in order resolve this dispute); closing down the Palestine Liberation Organisation office in Washington; reducing direct aid and aid to the UN agency aiding Palestinian refugees; recognizing Israel’s illegal annexation of the Golan Heights; and supporting Netanyahu in his recent pledge to begin annexing Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank.

    • As Palestinians Mark 71st Anniversary of Mass Eviction, Trump’s Ambassador to Israel Claims Country Is ‘On the Side of God’

      Further solidifying human rights advocates’ fears that the Trump administration’s policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is solely focused on satisfying the Israeli government, a top U.S. diplomat in the region suggested Tuesday that Israel’s authority in the Middle East is God-ordained.

      At an event marking the first anniversary of the U.S. embassy’s move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, U.S. Ambassdor to Israel David Friedman remarked that the relationship between the two countries is growing stronger because “Israel has one secret weapon that no other country has: Israel is on the side of God.”

    • ‘We Will Do No Such Thing’: Nadler Rejects White House Demand to Call Off Obstruction of Justice Inquiry

      Rep. Jerry Nadler said Wednesday that the House Judiciary Committee’s investigations into President Donald Trump’s possible obstruction of justice and other abuses of power will continue after the White House “made the extraordinary demand” that Democrats stop their inquiries.

      “We will do no such thing,” Nadler, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. “The White House position appears to be that the Justice Department cannot hold the president accountable, since it purportedly cannot indict him.”

    • Through the Crosshairs: A Film by Roger Stahl, Produced by the Media Education Foundation (MEF)

      On TV news, games and movies, stories of war now feature weapons as the technological heroes of the battle, with imagery acquired from an official military PR outfit called DVIDs—Defense Video and Imagery Distribution Service. This is the new frontier of propaganda, currently referred to as perception management and public relations. It’s clear to the military that looking down through the weapons point of view serves the geostrategic goals of NATO and the United States, but when constructing a critical lens in Through the Cross Hairs, what becomes even more clear, is that the weapon’s gaze hides the human costs of war. We all become less compassionate, and a little less human.

    • Unionists Defrock Ulster

      The recent gunning down of 29 year old Lyra McKee in the northern Irish city of Derry once again focused widespread attention on that province of the British state. Few would be impressed by her killers’ claim; sorry, we really wanted to shoot a police officer and not her. Lyra was a journalist, writer and LGBT activist.

      Northern Ireland was already in the news over issues emanating from the British state’s protracted maneuverings to leave the European Union (EU). When Britain leaves the EU, the border between the Republic of Ireland and Britain will be its only land frontier with the EU.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Section 230 Keeps The Internet Open For Innovation

      Sex-trafficking victims in California are suing Salesforce, claiming the company helped the now-defunct website Backpage, a classified ads website, in enabling prostitution. Whatever your view on the harm to the plaintiffs, this suit could hurt American innovation. By holding Salesforce accountable for the actions of its customer, the suit opens the door for other innovators to be held responsible when users post illegal content – a dangerous precedent in today’s internet era.

      The question of who is responsible for online content is a difficult issue. Intermediary liability protection is the common-sense idea that internet platforms are not responsible for content posted by users. Enshrined in Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, this law allowed American companies to be the innovators of the internet. In fact, the internet as we know it functions because of Section 230. Without Section 230, any site hosting user-generated content would have to screen every submission to avoid lawsuits.

      On a practical basis, doing this in real time would be impossible due to the sheer amount of content created: Twitter alone hosts 350,000 tweets per minute; 200 billion tweets per year. Similarly, YouTube would be liable for any of the content its 1.9 billion monthly users might upload. If any single user post could lead to legal action against the social media platform, that platform would shut down.

      Today’s internet experience would be virtually impossible.

    • Russian censorship agency plans to create public registry of fake news sites

      During a media forum on “Truth and Fairness” in Sochi, the leader of Roskomnadzor, Russia’s regulatory agency for communications, said the agency intends to publish a registry of unreliable or fake news sources on its website.

    • Russian authorities may charge man with disrespecting the government for posting ‘Putin is an actual fuckwit, not an unbelievable one’

      An administrative protocol has been submitted against Vologda Oblast resident Yury Shadrin under Russia’s recently passed administrative law on disrespecting the government online. Pavel Chikov, who leads the human rights group representing Shadrin, wrote about the case on Telegram.

      The protocol was triggered by a post Shadrin made on the social media network VKontakte that read, “Putin is an actual fuckwit, not an unbelievable one.” In April, another Russian man, Yuri Kartyzhev, was fined $470 for a post calling Putin “an unbelievable fuckwit.”

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • European telcos want the right to perform “deep packet inspection” on our data

      Europe’s current net neutrality rules contain a clear ban on any Deep Packet Inspection technology that examines specific user information for the purpose of treating traffic differently. Yet, a mapping of zero-rating offers in Europe identified 186 such products which potentially make use of DPI technology. Most regulators have so far turned a blind eye to these net neutrality violations and instead of fulfilling their enforcement duties now want to water down the rules to cover their inactivity. The negotiations are expected to continue in private and will culminate to a public consultation in autumn with Europe’s net neutrality rules expected to be decided in March 2020.

    • NGOs and academics warn against Deep Packet Inspection

      Today, on 15 May 2019, European Digital Rights, together with 42 NGOs, academics and companies from 15 countries sent an open letter to European policymakers and regulators warning against the widespread use of privacy-invasive Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technology in the EU. The letter addresses the ongoing negotiations of Europe’s new net neutrality rules, in which some telecom regulators appear to be pushing for the legalisation of DPI technology.

      Deep Packet Inspection allows telecom companies to examine the content of our communications. Information about which apps we use, which videos we watch, and which news articles we read should be off limits for the telecom industry. Yet, with the proliferation of zero-rating in all but two European countries, the industry has started to deploy DPI equipment on a large scale in order to charge certain data packages differently or to throttle services and cram more [Internet] subscribers in a network already running over capacity.

    • Why Play a Music CD? ‘No Ads, No Privacy Terrors, No Algorithms’

      To be honest, my preferred way to listen to music is on CD, as unfashionable as that might be. You push a button, the music plays, and then it’s over — no ads, no privacy terrors, no algorithms!

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • The Dream in Retreat: Brown vs. Board of Education, 65 Years Later

      This week marks the 65th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the unanimous Supreme Court decision that outlawed apartheid in America, declaring segregated schools “inherently unequal” and unconstitutional.

      Today, the common sense of the Brown decision is under attack. For nearly three decades, our schools have been re-segregating, reversing the progress made under Brown, reflecting the deep racial and economic segregation of our communities. Worse, several of Donald Trump’s nominees to the federal courts refuse even to endorse Brown as unassailable law.

    • Two West Papuan people tortured to death by Indonesian prison guards

      Nine others were in critical condition. They were taken to the Bhayangkara hospital where Selyus Logo tragically died from his injuries on 3rd May. Tabloid WANI is reporting that the Abepura Prison authorities are tying to cover up the incident and may have paid local media to do the same.

    • Indonesia jails Polish tourist in Papua for treason

      Andreas Harsono, Indonesian representative for Human Rights Watch, said: “The Skrzypski-Magal case is another example that the Indonesian government keeps blocking media access and deters independent reporting about Papua.”

    • Former senator denounced for suggesting connection between Muslim hijab and mutilation, forced marriages

      After the hearing, Hervieux-Payette seemed undaunted by Bachand’s appeal for caution. “When a wife is no longer needed, she is put in the fire and it’s over,” she told reporters. “I’m just saying that religions do not always have just a good side, and in this case, when one has a symbol and wants to keep it, it’s because there is something else behind it, and I would like us to talk about it.”

    • 2 Canadian women freed from Somaliland prison say they endured extreme abuse

      Shirley Gillett, project co-ordinator of I Do! Project in Toronto, said she believes the charge of consuming alcohol was trumped up. The project works with survivors of forced marriage and those at risk of forced marriage.

    • Islamic State claims ‘province’ in India for first time after clash in Kashmir

      Nuclear powers India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir, and came to the brink of a third earlier this year after a suicide attack by a Pakistan-based militant group killed at least 40 paramilitary police in Pulwama.

    • Girl Kills Herself After Instagram Followers Choose Death In Poll

      uring the F8 developer conference, Mark Zuckerberg declared that he plans to make the Facebook experience more private and give people more space to express themselves more freely. He tried to paint a picture of change due to the ever-increasing, 360-degree pressure on the social network. In such conversations regarding Facebook’s critique, Instagram often ends up avoiding the flak by painting a happy picture full of colorful stories and pictures.

    • Renewed autopsy of journalist Sergey Dorenko reveals no signs of poisoning

      Experts found no trace of any toxic substances in the blood and tissues of Sergey Dorenko, a well-known Russian journalist who died on May 9. Interfax, RBC, and Baza reported on the results of the autopsy. Interfax’s source said natural causes remain the primary explanation for Dorenko’s death.

    • Let Prison Inmates Vote

      Should Americans caught up in the justice system be stripped of their right to vote?

      Senator Bernie Sanders catapulted the issue into the spotlight when he declared his unequivocal support for the voting rights of prison inmates at a recent town hall.

      “I think the right to vote is inherent to our democracy,” he said. “Once you start chipping away and you say, that person committed a terrible crime, not gonna let him vote… you’re running down a slippery slope.”

      Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren were more cautious, but didn’t explicitly disagree. Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke said he was in favor of allowing “non-violent” offenders to vote while incarcerated.

      South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, alone among Democrats, was a hard no on any inmate voting.

      Republicans, by contrast, have raised the idea of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev or white supremacist murderer Dylan Roof voting as a way of shooting down the entire discussion.

      Of course, Tsarnaev and Roof are but two of the over 2.3 million prisoners locked up in “the land of the free.” Using one or two examples to justify condemning over 2 million people is always unsound. But it’s especially repulsive in this instance.

      In all, 14 states and D.C. bar prisoners from voting. Twenty-two other states, to varying degrees, restrict voting during parole or probation.

    • New Homeland Security Secretary, Same Anti-Immigrant Agenda

      Beware of walls, money grabs, and other sham solutions as DHS leadership shifts.
      Kevin McAleenan, the new acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, abruptly assumed office in April because his predecessor reportedly wasn’t tough enough for President Trump. Ironically, McAleenan claims that “you can be tough and compassionate at the same time.” But actions speak louder than words.

      Don’t be fooled, McAleenan does not represent a new leaf. He is deeply implicated in many horrors over the last two and a half years. He recommended, and refuses to apologize for, family separations. He led Customs and Border Protection during the Muslim ban and oversaw the agency when two children died in its custody, toddlers were teargassed, and families were held for days in the dirt under a bridge. He stayed silent when Border Patrol abetted militias. No matter his job title, he serves and leads in an administration ideologically committed to dehumanizing immigrants — and that regrettably remains unchanged.

      McAleenan and the rest of the administration are doubling down on an overarching deterrence through cruelty approach. At a time when Trump is misappropriating funds from defense and other accounts for his wall, they have asked Congress for billions more in “emergency” detention and enforcement money. The facts at our border require humanitarian, not draconian, responses. A wall, even with a “large gate,” is nothing but a political facade to capitalize on racism and fear while hurting border communities.

    • Anti-cathedral protesters arrested in Yekaterinburg charged with hooliganism as two are jailed

      Police have filed charges against 29 individuals who participated in protests against the planned construction of a new cathedral in Yekaterinburg. According to Yekaterinburg Online, 26 people were charged with small-time hooliganism, which is punishable by a fine or up to 15 days in jail. Three more people face charges of violating traffic laws and may receive fines of up to 500 rubles (about $8.00).

    • The ‘Ural Hulk’ and friends: We identified the trained fighters trying to break up protests in Yekaterinburg

      Protests against the destruction of a city square in central Yekaterinburg have entered their third day. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of the city’s residents have taken to the streets to oppose the planned construction of a cathedral in place of the square. Protesters began their first day of protests on May 13 by knocking down the fence surrounding the proposed construction site. Several hours later, groups of young men wearing athletic clothing pushed them out of the square. Although the men acted aggressively, the police officers present did not interfere. Meduza asked journalist Grigory Leiba to find out who the young men were. The bands of ‘cathedral defenders’ turned out to include champion martial arts fighters, members of the recently founded RMK Martial Arts Academy, and regulars at local gyms. The latter group, sources told Meduza, were offered money in exchange for dispersing protesters.

    • Demonstrators illuminate public square in Yekaterinburg in protest against cathedral construction

      On May 15, crews in a Yekaterinburg public park started replacing the fence around a controversial construction site with a wall. The stronger barrier guards an area that will host a new cathedral. On May 13 and 14, thousands of protesters against the construction project repeatedly toppled the chain link fence, leading to dozens of arrests for disorderly conduct. Despite the demonstrations, city officials have refused to suspend the cathedral’s construction.

    • Sverdlovsk’s governor spends two hours in negotiations with protesters, and here’s how that turned out

      On the evening of May 13, Yekaterinburg witnessed the start of mass, unplanned protests against the construction of a new cathedral in one of the city’s central parks. Demonstrators toppled a chain link fence that appeared around the site earlier that morning, before a group of men identifying themselves as “church supporters” forced the protesters back to the perimeter and restored the fence. The next day, Sverdlovsk Governor Yevgeny Kuivashev sat down together with representatives on both sides of the issue to hear their arguments. The meeting lasted more than two hours. Meduza presents a summary of the opposing positions.

    • Protesters in Yekaterinburg kept toppling a fence, so now it’s been replaced with this wall

      On May 15, crews in a Yekaterinburg public park started replacing the fence around a controversial construction site with a wall. The stronger barrier guards an area that will host a new cathedral. On May 13 and 14, thousands of protesters against the construction project repeatedly toppled the chain link fence, leading to roughly 30 arrests for disorderly conduct. Despite the demonstrations, city officials have refused to suspend the cathedral’s construction.

    • Two billionaires are bankrolling a controversial construction project in Yekaterinburg, and just wait until you see the multifunctional center they’ve got planned for across the street

      Supporters of a project in Yekaterinburg to build a new cathedral over one of the city’s few public parks have denied any commercial motivations. “We’re not talking about another shopping mall here,” one spokesman told a group of protesters this week at a meeting assembled by Sverdlovsk Governor Yevgeny Kuivashev. “An Orthodox cathedral would add both spiritually and aesthetically to the city,” the man explained. Based on a new report by Irina Pankratova at The Bell and earlier investigative work by other media outlets, however, St. Catherine’s Cathedral was in fact developed as part of a sweeping redesign of the entire October Square area. The church will join a colossal multifunctional center with housing, office space, a gym, and a shared underground parking lot, as well as several other new buildings.

    • Police Unions Should Never Undermine Constitutional Policing

      Seattle’s consent decree was meant to bolster accountability and transparency by law enforcement; it needs to have teeth to be effectuated properly.
      In 2017, the Seattle City Council adopted an ordinance establishing a number of progressive police reforms aimed at strengthening community trust in police and ensuring police accountability. Fast forward to today and these reforms are under fire by a familiar opponent: Police unions.

      The comprehensive reforms in Seattle took great strides toward creating a fair and just policing system and positioned Seattle as a nationwide leader for police reform. The fact and manner in which the reforms are coming under fire will come as no surprise to those familiar with police unions and how they use the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) process to tilt policies in favor of problem officers and against the public interest.

      Time and again, we witness transformative advances on use of force and biased police and civilian oversight, just to have them undermined behind the closed doors of collective bargaining with police unions. Indeed, historically in the U.S., police union contract negotiations have been used as vehicles for rolling back accountability, transparency, and civilian oversight. In doing so they have further damaged relationships with community members, whom the police are meant to serve.

      What police unions may not be able to achieve in the public sphere, they can accomplish through employment contract provisions that shield police officers from accountability and ensure disciplinary processes favor officers over community members. Subtle shifts in the processes and standards used for such appeals are a key goal of police unions in contract negotiations. Police union victories in contract negotiations are central to how many departments struggle to hold their officers accountable. The Washington Post found that since 2006, the nation’s largest police departments have fired at least 1,881 officers for misconduct but that more than 450 of those officers were reinstated after they appealed and were able to make use of the overly generous disciplinary review procedures required by union contracts.

    • Cuba’s Earthy Traditions and Jean Vanier

      It’s what Vanier explained. He left a life of privilege to live with disabled folk, saying it made him more human. It was about truth, not morality. He identified a paradox: We seek community to avoid loneliness. But loneliness is the natural state of reflective human beings, aware of vulnerability.

      We escape our condition through community, but loneliness, being universally shared, provides grounds for humancommunity: between people as people. “Reality is the first principle of truth”, and the reality of human existence is insecurity. Loneliness “can only be covered over, it can never actually go away”.

      His point is how to discovercommunity. It was Guevara’s point, but it goes back further in Cuba. It was raised by priests who wanted independence from Spain, the US, the UK and slavery. It was a time when ideas from Europe persuaded young people “it’s all good”, if it feels right.

    • Shariah police in Kano to arrest adults who eat in public during Ramadan

      Speaking to the British Broadcasting Corporation about the development, the Shariah police boss said arrested persons would be released with a warning not to eat in public anymore upon provision of evidence.

    • Pakistan turns to science, infuriating moon-sighting mullahs

      “The journey ahead has to be undertaken by the youth, not mullahs, and only technology can take the nation forward.”

    • Burkina Faso church leader killed by Islamists: ‘I’d rather die than leave my community’

      Burkina Faso is long known for its peaceful co-existence among religious communities, unlike neighbouring Mali. But over the past two years, attacks by Islamist militants, military operations, and waves of inter-communal violence have left hundreds dead and 135,000 displaced, triggering an “unprecedented” humanitarian crisis that has caught many by surprise, says New Humanitarian News.

    • The Real Face of the Muslim American Society

      As part of the United States Coalition of Muslim Organizations (USCMO) visiting Washington on April 1st and 2nd, MAS delegates speciously presented themselves as the moderate representatives of American Muslims. However, the veil was once again lifted last month when MAS invited a hardline coterie of Islamist clerics, professors, and polemicists to address its annual Milwaukee convention.

    • The House Now Has A Constitutional Duty to Impeach Trump

      Donald Trump is causing a constitutional crisis with his blanket refusal to respond to any subpoenas.

      So what happens now? An impeachment inquiry in the House won’t send him packing before election day 2020 because Senate Republicans won’t convict him of impeachment.

      So the practical political question is whether a House impeachment inquiry helps send him packing after election day. That seems unlikely.

      Probably no more than a relative handful of Americans are still unsure of how they’ll vote on Nov. 3, 2020. An impeachment is unlikely to reveal so many more revolting details about Trump that these swing voters would be swayed to vote against him, and their votes wouldn’t make much of a difference anyway.

      Besides, the inquiry probably wouldn’t reveal much that’s not already known, because House subpoenas will get tangled up in the courts for the remainder of Trump’s term (even though courts give more deference to subpoenas in an impeachment inquiry).

      Worse yet is the chance that an impeachment inquiry plays into Trump’s hands by convincing some wavering voters that Democrats and the “deep state” are out to get Trump, thereby giving him more votes than he’d otherwise get.

    • Why the “Most Egregious” Ethics Case in Louisiana Remains Open Nine Years Later

      It’s been nine years since the Louisiana Ethics Board first took up what its former chairman called “the most egregious case” to ever come before him.

      In 2010, the board accused former state Sen. Robert Marionneaux Jr. of failing to disclose to the board that he was being paid to represent a company in a lawsuit against Louisiana State University. The lack of transparency was only part of the problem. Marionneaux offered to get the Legislature to steer public money toward a settlement, according to charges the Ethics Board later filed against him. The money would also help pay off his contingency fee, which an LSU lawyer pegged at more than $1 million.

      Marionneaux, a Democrat from Maringouin, outside Baton Rouge, has denied wrongdoing and has filed multiple lawsuits saying the board lacked the authority to target him.

    • Trump Attacks Western Civilization Itself

      Donald Trump’s stonewalling of Congress is not simply a political dodge to avoid accountability. It is an attack on western civilization itself. A reading of the deep history of constitutionalism shows why.

      The western institution of constitutionalism began with the Magna Carta, signed in 1215 A.D. King John had tried to force new taxes on his people, but had not obtained the consent of the English Barons. They wrote a list of 61 rights that they demanded he honor if he wished to retain their loyalty. He signed it.

      It included ideas we recognize and take for granted today. No taxation without representation. The idea that the ruler could not simply rule according to whim, but had to have the consent of his people to be governed. Both were central issues in the American Revolution, 560 years later.

      Most importantly, Magna Carta established the implicit foundation for the separation of powers (which is structural), and checks and balances (which are operational). Those elements became inextricable with the western constitutional order.

      For example, in the 1600s, Charles I of the Stuart family pretended he was wealthier than he actually was. He didn’t rent out Stuart Tower, but to cover his expenses, he tried to pawn the Crown Jewels. When that failed, he extorted forced loans from noblemen, putting 76 of them in jail when they refused to pay.

      Parliament responded with another landmark of constitutional law, the 1628 Petition of Right. It invoked Magna Carta on the point of no taxation without representation. But it went further, stating that nobody could be imprisoned without the due process of law: Habeas Corpus. The King needed money, so had to sign. It proved a fateful decision.

    • European Social Partner’s Statement on the Rule of Law

      On 3 April 2019, the European Commission launched its Communication on “Further strengthening the Rule of Law within the Union. State of Play and possible next steps” (COM(2019) 163 final). It thereby invited the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council and the public at large to reflect on how strengthening the enforcement of the rule of law can make an essential contribution to the future of the European Union.

      The European Social Partners fully agree that our democracies must be safeguarded and call on EU leaders to include the upholding of the rule of law in the Strategic Agenda 2019-2024. They also stress their full commitment to supporting the rule of law as one of the foundations on which the European project and the democratic values it stands for are built.

      The Rule of Law is essential for the proper functioning of the European Union, its institutions, its Single Market, labour market and society. It is an important guarantee for European citizens, employers and workers. The attractiveness of Europe as one of the best places to live, work and do business is highly dependent on a coherent and reliable application and enforcement of our common set of rules and values.

    • Australians accepting of migrants but negative towards Islam, poll finds

      51% of Australians had unfavourable sentiments towards Islam, and only 10% looked upon the religion positively, making Australia more negative than 17 of the other 22 countries surveyed.

      In fact, 37% of people said they were “very unfavourable”– the most negative response available. This was far higher than the milder option of “fairly unfavourable” (14%), and made it the single most common response to the religion. 23% of people were neutral.

    • Government removes all mention of ‘Sunni’ and ‘Shia’ extremism from terrorism threat report

      The government has again revised a report that is supposed to update Canadians on the major terrorist threats they face, removing all references to Islamist extremism.

    • Sudan army chief says Sharia law must be legislation source

      Protest leaders had handed them a list of proposals for an interim government, following the ousting of President Omar al-Bashir in April.

      But the 10-member military council said it had “many reservations” about their suggestions – including the protesters’ conspicuous silence on Islamic law.

      Talks between the military and opposition remain deadlocked.

    • Feminism’s Blind Spot: the Abuse of Women by Non-White Men, Particularly Muslims

      The news has recently started filtering through to the Western media, but thus far prominent feminists have been noticeably silent. At the time of writing, there has been no mention of Nusrat’s murder in the major third wave feminist websites Jezebel, Feministing, and Everyday Feminism. Notably, the radical feminist platform Feminist Current has reported on the case—this is the site edited by Canadian journalist Meghan Murphy, considered so reprehensible by Twitter that she has been banned. Although there have been reports on the murder in the international sections of most newspapers, Nusrat’s name has not appeared on the comment pages of any of the major Left-leaning anglophone newspapers: the New York Times, the Guardian, the Huffington Post, the Independent, or the Sydney Morning Herald.

    • Muslim Antisemitism Increases the Threat to European Jews

      Remarkably, clear statistics for Germany are difficult to obtain. While 41 percent of German Jews questioned for an EU-wide report published by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) stated they’d been subjected to antisemitic speech or attacks by fundamentalist Muslims, German police report that 94 percent of all attacks were perpetrated by right-wing extremists, and only five percent by Muslims. One possible reason for the discrepancy is the reluctance of many Jews to report attacks to the police, while they may be willing to include mention of them in a survey.

      Either way, it is clear to German authorities that Islamism is taking a toll on the country’s Jews, only deepening the dangers posed by right- and left-wing extremists. [...]

    • Mohammed: Celebrating ‘burkini’ is betrayal, not benevolence

      Instead, I find myself in a world where the very things I escaped from are being fetishized by western corporations like Gap, Mattel, Nike and now, most recently, on Sports Illustrated.

      Why are we suddenly celebrating religious modesty culture? Isn’t that the very thing feminists have been fighting against for centuries? How is it now suddenly something positive?

      There is a general lunacy in the free western world celebrating religiously prescribed clothing, but a specific lunacy in the Swimsuit Edition of Sports Illustrated doing it.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Why Has San Francisco Allowed Comcast and AT&T to Dictate Its Broadband Future (Or Lack Thereof)?

      American cities across the country face the same problem: major private Internet providers, facing little in the way of competition, refusing to invest and upgrade their networks to all residents. But not every city has gone through the trouble to analyze the problem, come up with a solution, and still done nothing like San Francisco.

      For over a year, the city has sat on a fully vetted and ready to implement strategy to bring affordable high-speed broadband competition to all of its residents. According to the city’s own analysis, private providers will never address some of the most serious problems with the community’s infrastructure—such as the fact that 100,000 residents lack access to broadband, and 50,000 residents only have access to dial up speeds. Of the city’s public school students, 15 percent do not have access to the Internet, with that number rising to 30 percent for communities of color.

    • Disney Takes Full Control Of Hulu, Ending Years Of Managerial Schizophrenia

      For years we’ve noted how as a product of the cable and broadcast industry, Hulu spent many years going out of its way to avoid being truly disruptive. Past owners 21st Century Fox, AT&T, Disney and Comcast/NBC spent a lot of time ensuring the service wasn’t too interesting — lest it cannibalize the company’s legacy cable TV cash cow. As a result, Hulu spent a good chunk of the last decade stuck in a sort of existential purgatory, with a rotating crop of execs trying to skirt the line between giving consumers what they actually want, and being a glorified ad for traditional cable television.

      As cable and broadcast executives slowly realized that cord cutting was a threat that wasn’t going away, things began to shift. More recently, owners like 21st Century Fox and AT&T have headed to the exits to focus on their own streaming efforts. That exodus continued this week with Comcast announcing it would be giving up full operational control of Hulu to Disney effective immediately.

      You might recall that Comcast was banned from meddling in Hulu management as a condition of its 2011 merger with NBC/Universal, with regulators worried that the company would attempt to undermine Hulu to protect its traditional cable TV revenues. Comcast being Comcast, the company largely ignored those conditions, one of several reasons regulators balked at its attempted acquisition of Time Warner Cable years later.

    • 5G likely to mess with weather forecasts, but FCC auctions spectrum anyway

      A US Navy memo warns that 5G mobile networks are likely to interfere with weather satellites, and senators are urging the Federal Communications Commission to avoid issuing new spectrum licenses to wireless carriers until changes are made to prevent harms to weather forecasting.

      The FCC has already begun an auction of 24GHz spectrum that would be used in 5G networks. But Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) today wrote a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, asking him to avoid issuing licenses to winning bidders “until the FCC approves the passive band protection limits that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) determine are necessary to protect critical satellite‐based measurements of atmospheric water vapor needed to forecast the weather.”

      Wyden and Cantwell said that the “ongoing sale of wireless airwaves could damage the effectiveness of US weather satellites and harm forecasts and predictions relied on to protect safety, property, and national security.” They chided the FCC for beginning the auction “over the objections of NASA, NOAA, and members of the American Meteorological Society (AMS). These entities all argued that out-of-band emissions from future commercial broadband transmissions in the 24GHz band would disrupt the ability to collect water-vapor data measured in a neighboring frequency band (23.6 to 24GHZ) that meteorologists rely on to forecast the weather.”

      The internal Navy memo on the topic, written on March 27 by Capt. Marc Eckardt, a Naval oceanographer, was made public by Wyden and Cantwell today.

    • Consensus Quietly Builds That 5G Was Overhyped, Rushed To Market

      Buried underneath the blistering hype surrounding fifth-generation (5G) wireless is a quiet but growing consensus: the technology is being over-hyped, and early incarnations were rushed to market in a way that prioritized marketing over substance. That’s not to say that 5G won’t be a good thing when it arrives at scale several years from now, but early offerings have been almost comical in their shortcomings. AT&T has repeatedly lied about 5G availability by pretending its 4G network is 5G. Verizon has repeatedly hyped early non-standard launches that, when reviewers actually got to take a look, were found to be barely available.

      If you looked past press releases you’d notice that Verizon’s early launches required the use of $200 battery add on mod because we still haven’t really figured out the battery drain issues presented by 5G’s power demands. You’d also notice the growing awareness that the long-hyped millimeter wave spectrum being used for many deployments have notable distance and line of sight issues, meaning that rural and much of suburban America will not likely see the speeds you’ll frequently see bandied about in marketing issues, and many of the same coverage gap issues you see with current-gen broadband are likely to persist.

    • 5G Was Rushed to Market – It Shows

      Verizon, for its part, was so desperate for 5G that it created its own 5G standard, 5GTF, so it could launch fixed wireless services to a handful of customers last year. Much of that equipment is going to be replaced with 3GPP-compliant equipment when Verizon restarts its fixed wireless buildout later this year.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • New USPTO Procedures PTA Under Supernus

      The USPTO has announced new procedures patent holders can follow to obtain additional Patent Term Adjustment (PTA) under the Federal Circuit’s January 2019 decision in Supernus Pharm., Inc. v. Iancu. According to the May 9, 2019, Federal Register Notice, patent owners can request reconsideration of PTA awards that are based on a deduction for “applicant delay” during a period of time when “there was no identifiable effort” the patentee could have taken to avoid the delay. The USPTO is not providing a new window for requesting reconsideration of PTA on this basis, but a request for reconsideration still could be filed for patents granted within the past seven months.

      [...]

      As set forth in the Federal Register Notice, because the availability of additional PTA under Supernus may depend on events that are not in the USPTO Patent Application Locating and Monitoring (PALM) system for the patent at issue, the USPTO will not apply Supernus in its initial PTA determinations. Instead, the USPTO is requiring that patent owners file a request for reconsideration of PTA awards to benefit from the Supernus decision.

      According to the Notice, “the request for reconsideration must provide any relevant information, including factual support, which is not recorded in the USPTO’s PALM system to show that there was no identifiable effort the patentee could have undertaken to conclude prosecution” during the time period at issue. The Notice draws a distinction between the new “no identifiable effort” standard and situations involving a justified failure to engage in efforts that could have been taken, which are encompassed by 35 USC § 154(b)(3)(C) and 37 CFR § 1.705(c), and submitting a showing before the patent is granted.

    • Federal Circuit has No Opinion; Senju Asks the Supreme Court for Its

      Back in 2017, I published an article condemning Federal Circuit’s ramped-up practice of issuing R. 36 judgments in cases on appeal from the USPTO. Rather than simply arguing about policy, I looked at the statute and concluded that Section 144 of the Patent Act requires the Federal Circuit to issue its opinion, not just judgments. Dennis Crouch, Wrongly Affirmed Without Opinion, 52 Wake Forest L. Rev. 561 (2017). Over the past two years many petitioners have raised this argument to both the Federal Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court. However, neither court has responded (denying those petitions without opinion).

    • Lycra owner gets in a tight spot on costs: Unjust Part 36 offers, ex employees, breach of confidence & more

      Legal costs are not always seen as the sexiest topic for a blogpost (anyone with colleagues who cycle into the office may have similar views about Lycra). However, the approach that the courts take toward costs is of huge practical importance and sometimes there is a decision which is sufficiently “wait, what?” that it deserves to be shared with a wider audience.

    • Communications System Patent Falls Under § 101

      In Uniloc USA Inc. v. LG Electronics USA Inc. the district court found claims directed to “primary station for use in a communications system” in U.S. Patent 6,993,049 (“the ‘049 patent”) to be invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101 for not claiming patentable subject matter. The invalidly determination for the ‘049 patent was arrived at by the court after analysis under the Alice framework, the court ultimately determining that the claims were directed to an abstract idea.

    • Webpage Tutorial Software Patent Invalidated

      Pendo.io, Inc. obtained a dismissal of Walkme Ltd.’s patent infringement suit in the Southern District of New York (Case No. 18cv7654), in a ruling that invalidated Walkme’s US Patent No. 9,922,008 under 35 U.S.C. § 101.

      Walkme’s patent describes and claims a method of creating tutorial software to walk users through a webpage, where the software dynamically adapts to edits in the page or different formatting of the page. The Court ruled that the patent was directed to a patent-ineligible abstract idea under the Alice test, because it claimed no more than the goal of the software (dynamic adaptation) with general computing components.

      [...]

      Walkme’s arguments addressed by the Court on this first step of the Alice test appear to have been detrimental, if anything. Walkme argued that the benefits of making tutorial programming and maintenance less burdensome and less technically demanding supported eligibility. But the Court found these arguments consistent with the idea that the claim was merely directed to use of a computer as a tool.

      As to the second part of the Alice test, the Court found that none of the features of the claim constituted enough to elevate the subject matter to more than a patent-ineligible abstract idea. The descriptions of general computing components were insufficient, as was efficiencies from automating the tutorial creation and maintenance tasks. Additionally, the Court found that the claimed benefits were not limited to a computing environment – that, e.g., updating a user manual for a new version of a consumer product presented the same problem as that addressed in the ‘008 Patent.

    • Markman Ruling Finds Preamble Limiting, Claim Term Indefinite

      The Southern District of Texas issued an interesting Markman ruling in ConocoPhillips v. In-Depth Geophysical. While the court construed most of the claim terms in ConocoPhillips’s favor, In-Depth managed to secure rulings that the preamble of a claim was limiting and that a claim term was indefinite.

      This conflict began with ConocoPhillips suing In-Depth Geophysical over four patents: U.S. Patent Nos. 8,897,094; 9,632,193; 9,823,372; and 9,846,248. ConocoPhillips, which you’ve likely heard of, is a large multinational oil and gas company. In-Depth Geophysical, which you’re less likely to have heard of, is a consulting company focusing on, in its words, the “toughest subsurface challenges.” The patents all relate to seismic imaging, sending sound waves into the ground and mapping rock formations based on the returning sound waves.

    • Alice Finally ‘Swallowed’ Patent Law, Full Fed. Circ. Told

      The Federal Circuit allowed the U.S. Supreme Court’s Alice v. CLS Bank decision to “swallow all of patent law” when it declared four electric vehicle charging station technology patents were abstract…

    • AVX Corp. v. Presidio Components, Inc. (Fed. Cir. 2019)

      AVX argued that the Federal Circuit should exercise jurisdiction over its appeal because it would otherwise be estopped from asserting the invalidity of the surviving claims in later infringement litigation (which it foresaw because of the animosity between the parties). Section 315(e) of the Patent Act estops a petitioner who receives an unfavorable Final Written Decision from bringing another U.S. Patent and Trademark Office proceeding or asserting invalidity in Federal Court or the U.S. International Trade Commission based on any ground that the petitioner “raised or reasonably could have raised” during the IPR. AVX read that provision as establishing that it would be barred from raising invalidity in any future litigation despite having no right to appeal. As prior panels had done several times over the years, the Federal Circuit found that § 315(e) did not itself create an injury in fact if AVX was “not engaged in any activity that would give rise to a possible infringement suit.”[2]

      [...]

      Finally, the panel rejected any argument that the continued existence of patent claims would inherently provide AVX with a competitive disadvantage. The claims did not permit Presidio to come to market with a product, they only allowed Presidio to seek to prevent others from entering the market with products within the scope of those claims. And the chilling of other competitors would not harm AVX; to the contrary, it would tend to help it by reducing competition. Thus, the panel found that there was no basis for standing and therefore no jurisdiction to hear the appeal.

    • Trademarks

    • Copyrights

      • Ariana Grande, thank you, next: copyright infringement on Instagram

        Pop star Ariana Grande is the latest celebrity to be sued for posting a picture of herself on her Instagram page; (including Jenifer Lopez, Jessica Simpson, Khloe Kardashian, Gigi Hadid, designer Jonathan Simkhai and American footballer Odell Backham).

        In August 2018, Grande posted a picture of herself oh her Instagram account, where she has 154 million followers, carrying a see-through bag that displayed the word “Sweetener”, the name as her fourth studio album. The caption on the post read: “Happy Sweetener Day.” The post received more than three million likes before it was removed.

        [...]

        adid is also putting forward other arguments; that her re-use of the image falls under fair use and in any event the photograph may not be subject to copyright protection since it was simply a quick shot, in a public setting, with no attempt to convey ideas, emotions, or in an way influence pose, expression or clothing. This is an interesting argument that this Kat ponders often about the threshold for originality in photographs in the digital age and on social media. The skill, labour and effort / intellectual creation involved in taking a photograph is different now that technology can assist in the capturing and editing of the image, coupled with the rise in sharing images on social media and ownership of enabling devices, photographs are more common and the purpose of the image has shifted, in certain circumstances, from capturing a moment to a form of communication (e.g. here’s what I had for dinner on a Snapchat story). In light of technology-enabled-creativity is the threshold for an original copyright photo too low? [Such as in the Renckhoff case for example].

        In a letter to Judge Chen of the US District Court, dated 1st April 2019, Hadid’s counsel also appeal to the moral arguments and issues of personality rights stating: “It is an unfortunate reality of Ms. Hadid’s day-to-day life that paparazzi make a living by exploiting her image and selling it for profit” and that the case demonstrates a rising trend in photographer/agencies seeking monetary damages from celebrities after they re-post images of themselves that they find already available online. The problem with this argument is, of course, that just because something is online doesn’t mean it is freely available to use. Although I do sympathise with the inconsistency of it all – since Hadid screen-grabbed the image from a fan page who the copyright holder is unlikely to pursue. [In which case, should it be an issue of secondary liability anyway?]

      • Book review: Public rights – Copyright’s Public Domains

        What is the public domain? We know “of” it, but do we know exactly what it is made of or where to find it in the law? We certainly could not define it as simply (if at all) as we could list, off the top of our heads, the main exclusive rights of copyright. Yet we tend to agree that a healthy public domain is necessary. We also tend to agree that the public domain is the ‘other side of the coin’ that holds the copyright framework together. So why is the public domain underrepresented in statutes or in textbooks? Why not give it the attention it deserves with a book? This is the task that Graham Greenleaf and David Lindsay have set for themselves in their book, Public rights – Copyright’s Public Domains.

        Instead of describing where copyright ends, Greenleaf and Lindsay describe where public domains begin. They do so by referring to what they call “public rights”, i.e. all the rights according to which users can use and enjoy copyright content freely, which they argue form the substance of public domains in law. This approach goes against traditional accounts of copyright law, which let the readers work out for themselves what rights users enjoy on the basis of what protected authors can and cannot enforce by law.

      • The Press Finally Realizing Jerry Nadler Is In Bed With The RIAA While In Charge Of Copyright Reform

        Back in December, we wrote about how Rep. Jerry Nadler, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, which is in charge of any copyright reform proposals, was hosting a party for music industry lobbyists at the Grammy’s this year (along with Chair of the Democratic Caucus, Hakeem Jeffries). To party with Nadler and Jeffries at the Grammys — the recording industry’s biggest event of the year — you “only” had to pay $5,000 per ticket. A bargain.

        Whether or not you believe this is outright corruption, it certainly meets Larry Lessig’s definition of “soft corruption.” That is activity that may be perfectly legal, but to the vast majority of the public certainly feels corrupt, and raises questions about who’s influencing our elected officials. Nadler, of course, has long been deeply in the bag for the recording industry. Years back, he pushed a bill that was little more than a bailout for the RIAA, and he’s attacked the idea that if people buy something, they then own it as “an extreme digital view.”

        But it appears that the more mainstream media is beginning to notice Nadler’s conflicts. His hometown NY Daily News has a whole article that talks about Nadler’s money grab at the Grammys as well as much, much more.

      • RIAA Obtains Subpoena to Unmask YouTube-Ripping Site Operator

        The RIAA is attempting to unmask the operator of YouTube ripping site YouTubNow. The popular platform receives around 15 million visits per month but now stands accused of infringing RIAA members’ copyrights by offering content by Gloria Estefan, Robert Palmer and Nu Shooz, among others.

      • Supreme Court Refuses Eminem Publisher’s Case Over Copyright Damages

        The legal battle between Eminem’s publisher and New Zealand’s National Party will not go to the Supreme Court. While it is clear that the political party’s use of an Eminem knockoff track wasn’t permitted, the Court doesn’t believe the publisher’s appeal to increase the $225,000 damages award is warranted.

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