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05.17.19

Links 17/5/2019: South Korea’s GNU/Linux Pivot, Linux 5.1.3

Posted in News Roundup at 4:43 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • Nitrokey joins hands with Nextcloud

    Nitrokey and Nextcloud seek to explore further collaboration in the area of end-to-end encryption and secure storage of cryptographic keys.

  • Events

    • Texas Linux Fest 2019

      Yee-haw! Calling all Southern Linux & Open Software users, Texas Linux Fest is almost here and this time it is located in Irving, Texas. The Linux Academy & Jupiter Broadcasting crew will be leaving the headquarters for the day to see you at the fest! Stop by our space in the expo to grab some official Linux Academy swag, and meet our team. We may even drop some hints on what to expect for our next content launch.

    • Schedule set for Aug. 21 Embedded Linux Conference in San Diego

      The Linux Foundation has posted a schedule for the Aug. 21-23 North American edition of the Embedded Linux Conference/Open Source Summit mash-up in San Diego. Early bird registration ends May 20.

      As we noted in our preview of this year’s Linux Foundation events, the North American versions of the Embedded Linux Conference and Open Source Summit (formerly LinuxCon + CloudOpen + ContainerCon) have followed the European ELC lead in combining the events. Meanwhile, the previously collocated Open IoT Summit track has been discontinued.

      The Linux Foundation has announced a full schedule of events, which will be held at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront on Aug. 21-23. Early bird registration for $800 (vs. $950 or $1,200) ends on May 20, and there are also cheaper academic and hobbyist discounts for $275.

    • Presentation from Red Hat Summit Community Center 2019. Highlights from oVirt 4.3
    • Digging for Bitcoin Is a Labor of Love

      It would have been reasonable for those attending Josh Bressers’ session at last month’s CypherCon — myself included — to expect a presentation by a cryptocurrency expert. It was billed as a talk about plumbing the depths of the bitcoin blockchain. When Bressers admitted that his material grew out of a hobby, I was surprised. Still, the talk was far from disappointing.

      Instead, “Spelunking the Bitcoin Blockchain” offered a glimpse of the impact that “amateurs,” in the best sense of the word, ultimately have on the development of cryptocurrencies.

      Similar to the way a lot of passion projects unfold, Bressers started out by going down a rabbit hole — one that is of interest to many working and playing with technology — out of sheer curiosity.

      “Being able to see the data and answer questions is very powerful,” he said. “Once you start to investigate something like bitcoin, every question you answer takes you down a path with more questions and new answers I can’t even imagine.”

    • Guillaume Desmottes: Rust+GNOME hackfest in Berlin

      Last week I had the chance to attend for the first time the GNOME+Rust Hackfest in Berlin. My goal was to finish the GstVideoDecoder bindings, keep learning about Rust and meet people from the GNOME/Rust community. I had some experience with gstreamer-rs as an user but never actually wrote any bindings myself. To make it even more challenging the underlying C API is unfortunatelly unsafe so we had to do some smart tricks to make it safe to use in Rust.

      I’m very happy with the work I managed to do during these 4 days. I was able to complete the bindings as well as my CDG decoder using them. The bindings are waiting for final review and the decoder should hopefully be merged soon as well.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Mozilla VR Blog: Bringing WebXR to iOS

        The first version of the WebXR Device API is close to being finalized, and browsers will start implementing the standard soon (if they haven’t already). Over the past few months we’ve been working on updating the WebXR Viewer (source on github, new version available now on the iOS App Store) to be ready when the specification is finalized, giving developers and users at least one WebXR solution on iOS. The current release is a step along this path.

        Most of the work we’ve been doing is hidden from the user; we’ve re-written parts of the app to be more modern, more robust and efficient. And we’ve removed little-used parts of the app, like video and image capture, that have been made obsolete by recent iOS capabilities.

        There are two major parts to the recent update of the Viewer that are visible to users and developers.

      • Faster smarter JavaScript debugging in Firefox DevTools [Ed: Mozilla needs to delete GitHub and other proprietary software. On several fronts they’re now in violation of their mission statement/spirit. Too many projects hosted on Microsoft servers, chats in spying firms.]

        Script debugging is one of the most powerful and complex productivity features in the web developer toolbox. Done right, it empowers developers to fix bugs quickly and efficiently. So the question for us, the Firefox DevTools team, has been, are the Firefox DevTools doing it right?

        We’ve been listening to feedback from our community. Above everything we heard the need for greater reliability and performance; especially with modern web apps. Moreover, script debugging is a hard-to-learn skill that should work in similar fashion across browsers, but isn’t consistent because of feature and UI gaps.

        With these pain points in mind, the DevTools Debugger team – with help from our tireless developer community – landed countless updates to design a more productive debugging experience. The work is ongoing, but Firefox 67 marks an important milestone, and we wanted to highlight some of the fantastic improvements and features. We invite you to open up Firefox Quantum: Developer Edition, try out the debugger on the examples below and your projects and let us know if you notice the difference.

      • A few words on main thread disk access for general audiences
      • Virtual Private Social Network: Tales of a BBM Exodus [Ed: Mozilla's Chris H-C on what happens when you rely on a single for-profit company (now a patent troll actually) and proprietary software for communications]

        On Thursday April 18, my primary mechanism for talking to friends notified me that it was going away. I’d been using BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) since I started work at Research in Motion in 2008 and had found it to be tolerably built. It messaged people instantly over any data connection I had access to, what more could I ask for?

        The most important BBM feature in my circle of contacts was its Groups feature. A bunch of people with BBM could form a Group and then messages, video, pictures, lists were all shared amongst the people in the group.

        Essentially it acted as a virtual private social network. I could talk to a broad group of friends about the next time were getting together or about some cute thing my daughter did. I could talk to the subset who lived in Waterloo about Waterloo activities, and whose turn it was for Sunday Dinner. The Beers group kept track of whose turn it was to pay, and it combined nicely with the chat for random nerdy tidbits and coordinating when each of us arrived at the pub. Even my in-laws had a group to coordinate visits, brag about child developmental milestones, and manage Christmas.

  • BSD

    • Intel Has Been Recently Ramping Up Their FreeBSD Support

      While Intel’s open-source Linux support is largely stellar and was a big focus of this week’s Open-Source Technology Summit in Washington, their FreeBSD support isn’t nearly as polished but over the past roughly year and a half they’ve been establishing a FreeBSD team and working towards feature parity and supporting critical functionality for their customers.

      As written about last year, Ben Widawsky who had long been part of their Linux graphics driver team began part of the effort on improving the FreeBSD support around Intel hardware. Ben spoke Wednesday at OSTS 2019 about this FreeBSD improvement voyage.

    • DragonFlyBSD Flips On Compiler-Based Retpoline Support For Its Kernel, Also Adds SMAP/SMEP

      In addition to DragonFlyBSD seeing MDS “Zombie Load” mitigations this week, the DragonFlyBSD kernel now has better Spectre Variant Two coverage with making use of the GCC compiler support.

      DragonFlyBSD switched to GCC 8 by default at the end of last year and that allows them now to enable -mindirect-branch=thunk-inline as part of the Spectre Variant Two mitigation strategy. Their earlier GCC5 compiler didn’t offer this support albeit it took them a while still to enable this compiler flag by default when compiling the kernel.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

  • Licensing/Legal

  • Programming/Development

    • Using Testinfra with Ansible to verify server state

      By design, Ansible expresses the desired state of a machine to ensure that the content of an Ansible playbook or role is deployed to the targeted machines. But what if you need to make sure all the infrastructure changes are in Ansible? Or verify the state of a server at any time?

      Testinfra is an infrastructure testing framework that makes it easy to write unit tests to verify the state of a server. It is a Python library and uses the powerful pytest test engine.

    • GCC 10 Lands Support For Emulating MMX With SSE Instructions

      The GCC 10 code compiler merged support to begin emulating MMX intrinsics using SSE.

      Back in February we wrote about the patches by Intel for implementing MMX intrinsics using SSE instructions. For those still relying upon MMX SIMD instructions, the benefit of implementing it using SSE is that it frees up an 8-byte vectorizer for SSE2 when MMX is disabled. Presumably, future Intel CPUs might end up retiring MMX at long last.

    • Monitoring Earthquakes Curses

      The USGS publishes a plethora of data on their website. Of interest to me are a bunch of frequently updated GeoJSON feeds which can be parsed with standard JSON libraries. I was keen to dabble in a bit of Curses programming (hey – it’s a change from HTML & CSS!). So GeoJSONWatcher was born and is at its early v0.1 stage. The app shows when run the latest update and then a running report of the largest quakes measured.

    • 2020 Presidential Tracker now live

      I’ve revamped it by creating a single score to summarize all the tests – the goal is to have some useful predictivate quality – and be easier to track over time. To predict how prepared they are for a “bump” or their “monent”, but also provide an idea of how much outside actors might be able to meddle with their campaign.

    • Tutorial: Text Analysis in Python to Test a Hypothesis

      People often complain about important subjects being covered too little in the news. One such subject is climate change. The scientific consensus is that this is an important problem, and it stands to reason that the more people are aware of it, the better our chances may be of solving it. But how can we assess how widely covered climate change is by various media outlets? We can use Python to do some text analysis!

      Specifically, in this post, we’ll try to answer some questions about which news outlets are giving climate change the most coverage. At the same time, we’ll learn some of the programming skills required to analyze text data in Python and test a hypothesis related to that data.

    • Python Modules | All You Need To Know
    • Remote Debugging in Python
    • EuroPython 2019: Sponsor brochure available
    • [Fedora] Remi Collet: PHP version 7.2.19RC1 and 7.3.6RC1
    • 8 Free Linux Learning Resources For Programmers

      Linux has gained popularity over the last several years and as we can see it has been growing exponentially. Tech giant Microsoft even announced to make a big shift to Linux as this operating system offers much more flexibility as well as configuration options. In this article, we list down top 8 Linux courses for the programmers which are free to access.

    • Top 12 Python Web Frameworks of 2019 Programmes Should Know

Leftovers

  • Supreme Court Extends Antitrust Protections to App Store Customers

    On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that consumers who buy apps through the Apple app store are direct purchasers and may seek antitrust relief under well-settled law. On the one hand, the decision carries major implications not only for Apple, but also for other companies that host app stores, and antitrust law in other contexts. On the other hand, it represents not a new jurisprudential doctrine, so much as the application of well-established law to a novel factual context presented by app stores.

    Monday’s decision affirmed the Illinois Brick framework under federal law, while announcing that consumers who purchase apps from app stores are in fact direct purchasers for the purposes of antitrust analysis, not indirect purchasers as Apple had claimed. As a result, the suit against Apple can continue.

    Since 1977, courts have deemed suits by indirect purchasers to be outside the bounds of antitrust law. In Illinois Brick Co. v. Illinois, the Supreme Court heard claims from the state of Illinois, which alleged harms from a price-fixing conspiracy among brick manufacturers who sold to masonry contractors with whom, in turn, the state government contracted for new construction projects. The Court held that only the masonry contractors enjoyed a right to challenge the alleged price-fixing conspiracy, whereas an indirect purchaser of downstream products (in that case, the state government plaintiff) did not have standing to bring a lawsuit.

  • Science

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Trump: Importing Dangerous Medicines and Food and Keeping Consumers in the Dark

      Conservatives favor consumer choice. Consumer information is vital to make that choice meaningful. Corporatists, masquerading as conservatives, do not care about informed consumer choice. Donald Trump is a corporatist, as are the vast majority of Republicans in his Cabinet and in Congress. Corporatists do not even want you to know where products are made. Today, producers and retail sellers do not have to tell you the “country of origin” for meat and pork products. Before 2015, when Congress bowed to the dictates of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Congress had enacted a law that required country of origin labels on meat products.

      People wanted to know whether the beef and pork sold in their local stores was from the U.S., or Canada, Brazil, China, Mexico, or South Africa, among other importers. But after the WTO judges in Geneva, Switzerland decided, bizarrely, that “country of origin” labeling was an impermissible non-tariff trade barrier, Congress meekly passed a bill that repealed the labeling law and President Obama signed this legislation into law.

    • 5 More States Sue Maker of Prescription Opioids

      Five more state attorneys general announced legal filings Thursday seeking to hold the company that makes OxyContin responsible for an opioid addiction crisis that has become the biggest cause of accidental deaths across the country and in many states.

      The company, Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma, blasted the claims. “The states cannot link the conduct alleged to the harm described, and so they have invented stunningly overbroad legal theories, which if adopted by courts, will undermine the bedrock legal principle of causation,” Purdue said in a statement.

      The new filings in Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, West Virginia and Wisconsin mean 45 states have now taken legal action in recent years against Purdue. Michigan announced last week that it’s looking for law firms to help it sue the industry, too.

      All the new filings but the one in Kansas also named Richard Sackler, a former company president and a member of the family that owns the Connecticut-based firm, as a defendant. Maryland named other members of the Sackler family in its administrative action.

    • I Am More Than A Vessel: The Dystopia of Alabama

      If you’re not yet filled with murderous rage at the hubris of the 25 white men in Alabama who with a covert swipe of their ignorant, entitled hands just voted to effectively ban abortion and criminalize what women in often agonizing situations choose to do with their bodies, how’s this: The cretins who argue that “every life is precious” and “every life is a gift from God” only believe that till those precious littles take their first breath, after which they’re on their own. They will be born into a state that ranks 1st or 2nd in infant mortality, depending on who you ask, and second in gun deaths, including many children. Where almost a third of kids live below the poverty line, the 5th highest rank in the country – and almost a quarter live with “food insecurity” – ie: they’re hungry. Where only half of 67 counties have an obstetrician, child care costs are exorbitant, public education ranks 50th in the nation. And where men have declared “it’s ok for a 14-year-old girl raped by her father be forced to deliver a child that will remind her of that trauma every day of her life,” thus creating the most dangerous state in the country for women of reproductive age, who are welcome to “pick up their bonnets and red dresses at one of the 144 Walmart stores in Alabama, where the average hourly wage (is) $13.89.”

    • Alabama’s Abortion Ban Doesn’t Promote Life. It Exhibits Contempt For It.

      On Tuesday, the Alabama state legislature decisively passed a bill that would criminalize all abortions in the state. It was accompanied with the usual tripe about the sanctity of life. “When God creates the miracle of life inside a woman’s womb,” one Alabama state legislator piously opined, “it is not our place as human beings to extinguish that life.”

      Less than 24 hours later, we got a chance to see just how well the United States actually does at encouraging women to give birth to children: not well at all.

      According to data released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fertility among women in the United States hit a record low. Don’t get me wrong — many of the reasons for the fall off can be considered good. The drop is most dramatic among teens and women in their early 20s, something many observers say is a result of better access to and use of birth control. The increasing number of women attending college also likely plays a role.

      But it’s also true that surveys show many women would like to have more children than they ultimately do, and that U.S. society’s family-unfriendly aspects likely share much of the blame for why they don’t. When the New York Times surveyed the issue last year, they discovered the high cost of child care was cited by almost two-thirds of their respondents when asked to explain why they didn’t have children or had fewer then they considered ideal. Half claimed economic fears stopped them, slightly more than 4 in 10 said they “can’t afford more children” and about a third cited such things as lack of paid family leave, climate change and domestic politics. (People were allowed to choose more than one answer.)

    • ‘Spoiler: Because Australia Has Universal Healthcare’: Watch Ocasio-Cortez Ask Pharma CEO Why HIV Drug Costs $8 Overseas But $1,780 in the US

      During a House hearing on Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked the CEO of one of America’s largest pharmaceutical companies a simple but crucial question: Why does a life-saving HIV drug that costs $8 a month in Australia have a $2,000 price tag in the U.S.?

      Gilead chief executive Daniel O’Day declined to comment on the low price of Truvada for PrEP in Australia, but said the reason the cost is close to $2,000—”the current list price is $1,780,” he said—in the United States is because the drug has “patent protection.”

      As the Washington Post reported in March, the development of Truvada as a treatment for HIV was “almost fully funded by U.S. taxpayers.”

    • Federal Judge to FDA: You Must Start Regulating E-Cigarettes

      District Judge Paul Grimm of the US District Court for the District of Maryland sided with several public health groups that filed a lawsuit last year alleging that the FDA has ignored its legal responsibilities by postponing review of e-cigarettes’ health and safety impacts for years, the Associated Press reported.

      The groups behind the lawsuit — including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), The American Heart Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — said that without federal oversight, an increase in underage vaping has exposed many young Americans to nicotine when they otherwise wouldn’t have been, the Associated Press reported.

      CNN reported that last year, more than 3.6 million middle and high schoolers reported using e-cigarettes within a 30-day timeframe, and that vaping had increased by nearly 80 percent among high schoolers between 2017 and 2018.

    • Judge orders FDA to speed up review of e-cigarettes
    • Missouri House expected to pass abortion ban at 8 weeks

      Missouri’s Republican-led House is expected to pass a sweeping bill to ban abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy on lawmakers’ final day in session Friday, joining Alabama and several other states that have moved recently to severely restrict the procedure.

      If enacted, the ban would be among the most restrictive in the U.S. It would include exceptions for medical emergencies, but not for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. Doctors would face five to 15 years in prison for violating the eight-week cutoff. Women who receive abortions wouldn’t be prosecuted.

      Republican Gov. Mike Parson is likely to sign the bill.

      “Until the day that we no longer have abortions in this country, I will never waver in the fight for life,” Parson said during a Wednesday rally with supporters of the legislation.

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • War’s Unanswered Questions

      “Over these last few years, given the wars it has waged and the international treaties it has arbitrarily reneged on, the U.S. government perfectly fits its own definition of a rogue state.” — Arundhati Roy

      You have the world’s largest military, you’re going to use it, right? Donald Trump and his team, led by National Insecurity Advisor John Bolton, are playing rogue right now with two countries not currently under U.S. control, Iran and Venezuela.

      For those who already know that war is not only hell but utterly futile, the raw question hovering over these potential new exercises in mass murder transcends the obvious question: How can they be stopped? The larger question begins with the word “why” and then breaks into a thousand pieces.

    • In Old Tweets, Trump Warned a President Would Attack Iran in ‘Desperate’ Attempt to Win Reelection

      Donald Trump predicted that an American president would launch a war with Iran in a “desperate” attempt to win reelection—he just didn’t think it would be him.

      As Trump and the hawks in his cabinet dangerously escalate military tensions with Iran ahead of the 2020 election, Twitter users and media outlets have uncovered a slew of old Trump tweets warning that former President Barack Obama would “attack Iran” to boost his electoral prospects.

      “Barack Obama will attack Iran in the not too distant future because it will help him win the election,” Trump tweeted on November 14, 2011—a prediction he echoed nearly a dozen times between 2011 and 2012.

    • Elizabeth Warren Unveils Plan to Radically Reform Pentagon

      Elizabeth Warren has likely heard the criticism. On Wednesday, the Massachusetts senator and 2020 Democratic hopeful issued a call for U.S. armed forces to go green—one that earned the ire of progressives like Naomi Klein for its failure to grapple with the size of America’s military industrial complex. Today, she unveiled a proposal that appears to address these concerns, at least in part.

      In a new essay posted to Medium titled “It’s Time to Reduce Corporate Influence at the Pentagon,” Warren presents a four-point plan that includes: prohibiting “giant” contractors from hiring senior officials at the Department of Defense, thereby “[slamming] shut the revolving door” between the two; banning Defense officials from owning or trading related stocks; limiting if not outright precluding national security officials from accepting jobs with foreign governments; and exposing the lobbying done on behalf of companies like Lockheed Martin, which received more than $35 billion in defense contracts in 2017.

    • Don’t Give John Bolton His War With Iran

      Once again, the United States is lunging toward war in the Middle East. A military attack against Iran appears imminent, despite the fact that the alleged “threat” is based on shoddy intelligence and is not supported by allies. Included in the mix is an easily manipulated president whose foreign policy ignorance is made more dangerous by his deliberate ignorance of his own ignorance, rank political expediency, and the bloodlust of war hawks who have been pining for this conflict for decades.

      If this all sounds like a very familiar recipe for disaster, that’s because it is, and John Bolton is once again in the kitchen wearing the apron and wielding the butcher’s knife.

      Bolton, a genuinely frightening man who helped orchestrate George W. Bush’s Iraq war debacle and has wanted war with Iran since the moon was young, became Donald Trump’s national security adviser on April 9, 2018. A month less a day later, Trump pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear deal brokered by Barack Obama with no explanation, and despite the fact that Iran was holding up its end of the bargain.

      The Trump administration followed up on this unwarranted hostile action by piling further economic sanctions on Iran, and on any nation that purchases oil from them. Two Sundays ago, the administration announced that the U.S.S Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is being deployed to the Persian Gulf, which is essentially Iran’s wet backyard. You may recall the U.S.S Abraham Lincoln as being the aircraft carrier Bush used as a prop for his “Mission Accomplished” stunt 16 years ago.

      Earlier this week, the White House presented a revised military plan for the Gulf region that would involve sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East, ostensibly to counteract Iranian aggression that nobody else can see. “The revisions,” reported The New York Times, “were ordered by hard-liners led by John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser.”

    • Green Party of the United States Statement—Venezuelan Embassy
    • US Illegally Evicts Protectors From Venezuelan Embassy

      and we consider it a violation of the Vienna Conventions,” Venezuelan Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Ron said.

      For 36 days, the protectors had lived in the embassy to shield it from a raid by U.S. authorities working in concert with opponents of Venezuela’s lawfully elected president, Nicolás Maduro. Since U.S. officers had refused to allow food into the embassy, only four of the some 50 members of the collective had stayed in order to conserve supplies.

      The Trump administration has been trying to engineer an unlawful coup and regime change in Venezuela. After U.S. puppet Juan Guaidó declared himself “interim president” of Venezuela on January 23, high Trump officials quickly ratified his declaration. The U.S. government seeks to illegally install Guaidó and a new ambassador in the D.C. embassy as part of its coup attempt.

      After cutting off electricity and refusing to allow food and water to the protectors, agents from the Secret Service, State Department and Washington, D.C., police tried to raid the embassy on May 13. They read from an unsigned piece of paper titled “Trespassing Notice,” which stated that the U.S. government recognized Guaidó as president of Venezuela and Carlos Vecchio as Venezuelan ambassador to the United States.

    • UPDATE: OPCW Confirm Leaked Report is Genuine

      The report, titled “Engineering Assessment of Two Cylinders Observed at Douma Incident”, came to public prominence a few days ago after The Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media released their analysis of the text.

      [...]

      This finding adds to the pile of evidence which makes it appear very likely the whole event was staged.

      The only question was whether or not the document could be confirmed genuine. And now it has been.

      Peter Hitchens, for a long time the only mainstream voice to express any doubts about the “official narrative” on Douma, wrote to the OPCW to ask about the leaked report.

    • Profit and the Arms Economy

      This news, relayed a few months later by the Canary, should have caused a storm in anti-war circles. In fact few noticed. Debate around Trident continued to centre on whether or not it was (a) insurance against a credible threat, (b) worth a price tag running to hundreds of billions,[1] (c) a diversion from more efficient uses of arms spend, or (d) intrinsically deranged.

      That last comes closest to the truth, to be sure, but too few of those who see nuclear weapons as monstrous are taking in the full picture. That ‘deterrence’ industries operate to a rule book written by Catch-22’s Milo Minderbinder, aka the demented laws of capital accumulation, is an aspect frequently lost sight of when discussion is confined on the one hand to pragmatics, on the other to moral absolutes.[2]

      Bear with me a moment. Back in the eighties, with the world again on the brink of realising its worst nightmare, Socialist Workers Party had the strap line, “Neither Washington nor Moscow”. Other left sects denounced this as a sop to popular sentiment created by market driven media in what Herman and Chomsky would later call the manufacture of opinion.

      Those sects were no less dismissive than SWP of a USSR leadership they saw as freeloading on the property gains of 1917 while incapable of defending said gains against a Western imperialism that would never accept – could never accept, other than as a temporary setback – the closing off of one sixth of the world’s land mass to profit.

    • Venezuelan Government Denounces US Seizure of Embassy, Arrest of Peace Activists as Violation of Vienna Convention

      Venezuelan Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Ron on Thursday urged the Trump administration not to hand over the country’s embassy in Washington, D.C. to leaders of an attempted coup after U.S. law enforcement forcibly removed peace activists who have lived there for since last month as guests of President Nicolás Maduro’s government.

      “We denounce these arrests, as the people inside were there with our permission, and we consider it a violation of the Vienna Conventions,” Ron said in statement.

      Four members of the Embassy Protection Collective were arrested Thursday—David Paul of CodePink, Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese of Popular Resistance, and Adrienne Pine, a professor who wrote an op-ed for Common Dreams about why she participated in the effort to protect the embassy.

    • It’s Time To Stop Arms Sales To Saudi Arabia

      The Senate’s failure to override President Trump’s veto of its effort to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen is not the end of the story. A way can and must be found to stop U.S. assistance in refueling, targeting, and other activities that bolster the Saudi/United Arab Emirats (UAE) war effort, which has killed tens of thousands of civilians and left millions of Yemenis at risk of famine and fatal, war-induced diseases.

      For starters, Congress should work to close off the other main avenue of U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition—the sale of bombs, combat aircraft, armored vehicles, attack helicopters, and other equipment to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the two primary perpetrators of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. According to statistics from the Security Assistance Monitor, the United States has offered over $68 billion in weaponry to those two nations since the start of the current Yemen conflict in March 2015. As Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution has noted, these U.S.-supplied systems are the backbone of the Saudi military, and without those weapons and related maintenance and support they could not sustain their intervention in Yemen.

      The Trump administration, the U.S. arms industry, and the Saudi and UAE lobbies have made numerous arguments in favor of keeping U.S. weapons flowing to its Gulf allies, but none of them holds up to scrutiny.

    • An Academic Arrested for Protecting the Venezuela Embassy

      As an anthropologist who has researched and published on Honduras for over 20 years, I have witnessed and lived firsthand the devastating consequences of the US-based coup in that country. That coup, like the one that is being attempted in Venezuela, was plotted by a small group of wealthy elites with the principal aims of privatizing the public sector for their own financial gain, tightening their control over the thriving illegal drug trade, and deregulating and capturing for themselves and their foreign allies the profits of the lucrative extractive sector.

      In plotting the Honduran coup and ensuring its success, those wealthy elites had powerful international allies in the US, Canadian and Israeli governments, military and private sectors, as well as throughout Latin America elite circles. Key figures in the 2002 attempted coup against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, like Otto Reich and Robert Carmona, were deeply involved. So were powerful Washington allies like beltway operative Lanny Davis, who was immediately hired by the coup mongers to represent their interests on Capitol Hill. Similarly, the law firm Arnold & Porter has now been hired with money stolen from the Venezuelan government to advance the ongoing attempted coup against Venezuelan sovereignty.

      Honduran and Venezuelan coup mongers are more at home in Miami than in their respective national capitals. As such, it’s no surprise that one of their favorite songs to sing outside the windows of the Venezuela Embassy, where they have been opposing the presence of the Embassy Protection Collective, is the US national anthem. They know they could never take power through free and fair elections; their true allegiance is to empire.

    • Confidential information about Russian satellites leaks online

      Information about Russian satellites whose existence had not previously been public knowledge appeared on a public website in the .ru zone. RIA Novosti reported that a company called Saturn that produces satellite components contacted the press about the leak.

      A presentation posted to the unnamed website named a series of satellites, described their operation timelines, and named multiple companies responsible for research and development projects related to Russian satellites.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Chelsea Manning ordered to return to jail, says she’d ‘rather starve to death’ than testify

      Manning may be out of jail again when a new grand jury term starts, but Tenga may also begin imposing fines to coerce her into testifying. Those fines could start at $500 a day and increase to as much as $1,000 a day after a 60-day period, BuzzFeed reports. The cast itself is shrouded in secrecy, which is partially why Manning is refusing to testify, and is believed to be related both to Assange’s ongoing extradition to the US after being arrested by British police last month and potentially to WikiLeaks’ broader operations over the last decade.

    • Chelsea Manning Is Going Back To Jail, Saying She’d Rather “Starve To Death” Than Testify About WikiLeaks

      US District Judge Anthony Trenga ordered Manning jailed on Thursday following a two-hour hearing, half of which was sealed. During the second, public portion of the hearing, Trenga announced that he had once again found Manning in civil contempt, and decided that notwithstanding her pledge not to cooperate, he thought there was still a chance that more jail time could convince her otherwise. The government had argued that because Manning had an appeal pending during part of the previous two months she served, she spent part of her earlier jail time with some hope of release.

    • Statement from Chelsea Manning’s Lawyers Regarding Chelsea Being Remanded Into Custody

      Today, Chelsea Manning was remanded into federal custody, again, for refusing to testify before a federal Grand Jury.

      In addition to being held in confinement for the duration of the Grand Jury investigation or until she purges her contempt and testifies, District Court Judge Anthony Trenga ordered Chelsea to be fined $500 every day she is in custody after 30 days and $1,000 every day she is in custody after 60 days.

      While coercive financial penalties are commonly assessed against corporate witnesses, which cannot be jailed for contempt, it is less usual to see them used against a human witness.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • The Battle for Rights of Nature Heats Up in the Great Lakes

      In February, the voters of Toledo, Ohio, passed a ballot initiative that gives Lake Erie and those who rely on the lake’s ecosystem a bill of rights. The idea is to protect and preserve the ecosystem so that the life that depends on it — humans included — can have access to safe, fresh drinking water.

      On the surface, it seems pretty logical: Humans need water to survive, and if an ecosystem that is relied on for water—in this case, Lake Erie — is polluted (in this case, with algae), then the Lake Erie Bill of Rights (or LEBOR) would ensure the rights of humans would come before the polluters (in this case, big agriculture).

    • Thinning Five Times Faster Than Just Two Decades Ago, Study Shows Antarctic Ice Melting at Terrifying Rate

      The study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, also detailed how scientists are accustomed to observing such changes in glaciers over geological time periods—not portions of people’s lifetimes.

      “From a standing start in the 1990s, thinning has spread inland progressively over the past 25 years—that is rapid in glaciological terms,” lead author Andy Shepherd told The Guardian. “The speed of drawing down ice from an ice sheet used to be spoken of in geological timescales, but that has now been replaced by people’s lifetimes.”

      The phenomenon was described by one observer as “the shallowing of deep time” on social media.

    • Instability spreading in West Antarctic ice sheet

      (CNN)Almost a quarter of the West Antarctic ice sheet is now affected by ice thinning, according to a new study.

      It found that the ice sheet has thinned by as much as 122 meters in some places, and thinning has left glaciers unstable, according to scientists at the University of Leeds in England.
      Affected glaciers are unstable because melting and calving (the breaking off of ice chunks) is reducing their mass faster than it can be replenished by snowfall, and thinning has spread across 24% of West Antarctica since 1992.

    • Antarctica’s Ice Is Melting 5 Times Faster Than in the 90s

      The study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, comes four months after another study of the entire Antarctic continent found that it was losing ice at six times the rate it was 40 years ago. The latest study found that ice loss from both East and West Antarctica had raised global sea levels by 4.6 millimeters since 1992, according to CNN.

      The study relied on 25 years of satellite data covering 1992 to 2017. The satellites were fitted with altimeters to measure height changes to the ice sheets. Researchers then used weather models to separate seasonal variation due to snow fall from melting and ice loss caused by long term climate change, BBC News explained.

    • What Parents Need to Know About Factory Animal Farms

      You probably care a lot about how your fruits and vegetables are grown. You may not think as much about where your family’s animal protein comes from, but the conditions in which most meat, poultry and even dairy is produced may give you and your kids pause — even those most likely to clamor for yet another burger or hot dog.

      Americans eat a lot of meat and poultry — 27 billion pounds of beef were produced last year alone, most of it in “factory farms.” All those animals produce lots of manure — quite literally tons of it. The 775 animal operations in the Maumee Basin of Western Lake Erie alone produce 5.5 million tons of manure each year. The coastal plain of North Carolina has 1,500 factory farms that produce as much as 4 billion gallons of wet swine waste and 400,000 tons of dry poultry waste.

      The mountains of waste smell terrible, but the stench is far from the worst problem it creates. Bacteria, such as from hog feces, can get into the homes and lawns of neighbors and endanger their physical and mental health. And the problem is getting worse. From 2005 to 2018, the amount of manure produced in the Maumee Basin rose by more than 40 percent.

    • Inslee’s $9 Trillion Climate Plan Praised for Showing Why Rapid Mobilization a ‘Massive Economic Opportunity’

      A new climate action plan put forth by Democratic presidential candidate Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday is being praised for highlighting the enormous economic benefits that would result from a rapid shift in the U.S. to a renewable energy that centers the needs of workers and vulnerable communities.

      Inslee unveiled his “Evergreen Economy Plan” at a press conference in Washington, D.C., calling for a $9 trillion investment in green jobs over 10 years, which he said would create eight million well-paying jobs for Americans as the country mobilizes to create a carbon-neutral economy.

      The green economy plan would create “high-paying, high-skilled jobs building a stronger, healthier, more just, inclusive and sustainable future,” Inslee’s 38-page proposal reads. It would also protect collective bargaining power for unions; ensure a “just transition” and jobs for fossil fuel workers; and mandate employers follow guidelines for gender pay parity.

      “Inslee is right to recognize that moving off fossil fuels isn’t just imperative for our climate, it’s a massive economic opportunity,” said Charlie Jiang, a campaigner with Greenpeace USA. “We have the chance right now to create millions of new, family-sustaining jobs in the renewable energy economy, a chance our next president cannot afford to pass up. Most importantly, Inslee’s plan recognizes that the workers being exploited by the fossil fuel industry and those on the frontlines of climate disasters should be the first to benefit.”

      “We are never shackled to the past,” Inslee said at the press conference. “We are never shackled to the technologies of centuries ago. We always invent the future because it is in our nature to invent, to create, to build.”

    • Retired oil rigs off the California coast could find new lives as artificial reefs

      Offshore oil and gas drilling has been a contentious issue in California for 50 years, ever since a rig ruptured and spilled 80,000 to 100,000 barrels of crude oil off Santa Barbara in 1969. Today it’s spurring a new debate: whether to completely dismantle 27 oil and gas platforms scattered along the southern California coast as they end their working lives, or convert the underwater sections into permanent artificial reefs for marine life.

      We know that here and elsewhere, many thousands of fishes and millions of invertebrates use offshore rigs as marine habitat. Working with state fisheries agencies, energy companies have converted decommissioned oil and gas platforms into manmade reefs in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, Brunei and Malaysia.

      Californians prize their spectacular coastline, and there are disagreements over the rigs-to-reefs concept. Some conservation groups assert that abandoned oil rigs could release toxic chemicals into the water and create underwater hazards. In contrast, supporters say the submerged sections have become productive reefs that should be left in place.

      We are a former research scientist for the U.S. Department of the Interior and a scholar focusing on the fishes of the Pacific coast. In a recent study, we reviewed the history of rigs-to-reefs conversions and decades of published scientific research monitoring the effects of these projects. Based on this record, we conclude that reefing the habitat under decommissioned oil and gas platforms is a viable option for California. It also could serve as a model for decommissioning some of the 7,500 other offshore platforms operating around the world.

    • The World Just Took a Major Step To Curb Plastic Pollution, But the U.S. Refused to Join Effort

      Nearly every country in the world except the United States took a historic step to curb plastic waste last week, when more than 180 nations agreed to add plastic to the Basel Convention, a treaty that regulates the movement of hazardous materials between countries. The U.S. is one of just two countries that has not ratified the 30 year-old treaty. During negotiations last week in Geneva, the Environmental Protection Agency and State Department joined the plastics industry in trying to thwart the landmark, legally-binding agreement. Despite this, the United States will still be affected by the agreement, because countries will be able to block the dumping of mixed or unrecyclable plastic wastes from other nations. The amended treaty will make it much more difficult for wealthy countries to send their plastic waste to poorer nations by prohibiting countries from exporting plastic waste that is not ready for recycling. The U.N. estimates there are 100 million tons of plastic waste in the world’s oceans. We speak with Pam Miller, co-chair of the International Pollutants Elimination Network and executive director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics.

    • Here There Be Monsters (Made of Coal, Plastic and Pesticides)

      Sometimes the latest bad environmental news makes us want to scream like someone in a horror movie who’s just come face to face with Frankenstein’s monster.

      Frankenstein’s monster isn’t too happy about the news, either.

      Neither are the Creature from the Black Lagoon, King Kong, Chucky or other horror-movie monsters who appear in a recent set of paintings by artists Gary and Laura Dumm of Cleveland, Ohio.

    • Sorry, Critics Tell Warren, Greening US Empire’s “Powerful War Machine” No Answer to Climate Crisis

      Warren is an original co-sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution that was introduced in February, just two days before the Massachusetts Democrat officially kicked off her 2020 presidential campaign.

      Like several other proposals since then, Warren unveiled the Defense Climate Resiliency and Readiness Act in a Medium post Wednesday. But unlike many of her other proposals—from breaking up big tech and wiping out student debt to establishing universal childcare—this latest one was met with deep concern, not praise, from progressives.

      While broadly praising Warren’s presidential campaign, author and activist Naomi Klein tweeted Wednesday: “The most powerful war machine on the planet is never going to be ‘green.’ The outrageous military budget needs to be slashed to help pay for a Global Green New Deal.”

    • Major Victory for Climate Campaigners as NY Gov. Cuomo Rejects ‘Dangerous’ Williams Pipeline

      Grassroots climate campaigners in New York celebrated a major victory late Wednesday as Gov. Andrew Cuomo blocked the construction of a $1 billion pipeline which would have carried fracked gas from New Jersey to Long Island.

      The 24-mile Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) project, proposed by the Oklahoma-based Williams Company, has been the subject of protests by groups including 350.org and Food and Water Watch.

      The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) supported concerns brought up by opponents of the project when it ruled that construction of the pipeline would endanger marine life and release mercury and copper from sediment in the New York Bay and Raritan Bay.

      “Construction of the NESE pipeline project is projected to result in water quality violations and fails to meet New York State’s rigorous water quality standards,” the agency said in a statement.

    • Now I Am Speaking to the Whole World’: How Teen Climate Activist Greta Thunberg Got Everyone to Listen

      “Can you hear me?” Greta Thunberg asks the 150 members and advisers in the U.K. Houses of Parliament. She taps the microphone as if to check if it’s on, but the gesture is meant as a rebuke; she’s asking if they’re listening. She asks again later in her speech. “Did you hear what I just said? Is my English O.K.? Is my microphone on? Because I’m beginning to wonder.” There is laughter, but it’s unclear if it’s amused or awkward. Thunberg is not smiling. She’s here to talk climate; a catastrophe is looming, her generation will bear it, and she knows whom to blame. “You did not act in time,” she declares.

      Castigating the powerful has become routine for the 16-year-old. In December, she addressed the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Poland; in January she berated billionaires at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Her London speech was the last stop of a tour that included meeting the Pope. (“Continue to work, continue,” he told her, ending with, “Go along, go ahead.” It was an exhortation, not a dismissal.)

    • 415 ppm: We Are all Part of Exxon’s Unchartered Climate Experiment Now

      We are all now a living experiment. Never before in human history have carbon dioxide levels reached 415 parts per million.
      These levels were last seen maybe some 2.5-5 million years ago, during the Pliocene, but then the earth was much warmer than it is today and it was way before us.
      Back then, there was no Greenland and trees grew near the South Pole. Sea levels were much, much higher. Maybe 25 metres higher.
      415 ppm is a grim number. It signals we are in deep, deep trouble. And in the words of Rolling Stone magazine: “Further evidence (as if further evidence were needed) of just how hell-bent we are on cooking the planet we live on.”
      To show you how much we are changing the climate: Every year another 2-3 ppm of carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere. Before the industrial revolution it was 280 ppm. And now it is 415 ppm.
      We could have stopped the relentless rise of carbon dioxide, but we did not. In part the reason collectively we have failed to do so is the power of the oil companies and one of the most sophisticated public relations exercises ever undertaken to deny and obfuscate the truth.
      The oil companies could have acted and kickstarted the renewable revolution, but they did not. But they knew. #ExxonKnew.
      As Think Progress noted this week, one of the documents obtained by InsideClimate News into its investigation into what Exxon knew about climate science decades ago was an internal 1982 document from the Exxon Research and Engineering Company.
      In this document the oil company mapped the “growth of atmospheric CO2 and average global temperature increase” over time.
      Amazingly, as Think Progress highlights, “the company predicted that that, by 2020, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would reach roughly 400 to 420 ppm. This month’s measurement of 415 ppm is right within the expected curve Exxon projected under its “21st Century Study-High Growth scenario.”

    • 977,000 Shoes and 373,000 Toothbrushes Found Among 262 Tons of Plastic Debris on Remote Cocos Islands

      That’s the calculation of a paper published in Scientific Reports Thursday. Its findings suggest the world has “drastically underestimated” the plastic pollution problem, lead author from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) at the University of Tasmania Dr. Jennifer Lavers told BBC News.

      “Islands such as these are like canaries in a coal mine and it’s increasingly urgent that we act on the warnings they are giving us,” Dr. Lavers said in an IMAS press release.

    • Plastic pollution: Flip-flop tide engulfs ‘paradise’ island

      Close to a million plastic shoes, mainly flip flops are among the torrent of debris washed up on an “unspoilt paradise” in the Indian Ocean.
      Scientists estimated that the beaches of Australia’s Cocos (Keeling) Islands are strewn with around 414 million pieces of plastic pollution.
      They believe some 93% of it lies buried under the sand, say the researchers.

    • AUSTRALIAN ISLANDS HOME TO 414 MILLION PIECES OF PLASTIC POLLUTION

      A survey of plastic pollution on Australia’s Cocos (Keeling) Islands has revealed the territory’s beaches are littered with an estimated 414 million pieces of plastic debris.
      The study led by IMAS researcher Dr Jennifer Lavers and published in the journal Scientific Reports estimated beaches on the Indian Ocean islands are littered with 238 tonnes of plastic, including 977 000 shoes and 373 000 toothbrushes.

    • Carbon farming can slash CO2 emissions

      Soil health improvement, a technique known as carbon farming, could cut the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere by more than one-sixth, a US business group says.
      It says a concerted effort by the world’s farmers to restore and protect soil health could reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide by as much as 65 parts per million (ppm) from its current level of more than 415 ppm.
      It made the announcement at a webinar on carbon farming which it hosted here in April. A full report of the webinar appears on the website of the The Energy Mix.
      The group, the US-based Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), describes itself as “a national, nonpartisan group of business leaders, investors, and professionals from every sector of the economy who advocate … smart policies that are good for the economy and good for the environment”

    • New York Regulators Block Controversial Natural Gas Pipeline

      The so-called Williams pipeline, named for the Oklahoma-based companies that would have operated it, would carry natural gas 37 miles from Pennsylvania to New Jersey and New York. Williams said it was important to meet New York’s growing energy needs, but environmental activists said it would harm the state’s environment and tie the state to additional fossil fuel infrastructure in the face of climate change.

    • New York Rejects Keystone-Like Pipeline in Fierce Battle Over the State’s Energy Future

      In a major victory for environmental activists, New York regulators on Wednesday rejected the construction of a heavily disputed, nearly $1 billion natural gas pipeline, even as business leaders and energy companies warned that the decision could devastate the state’s economy and bring a gas moratorium to New York City and Long Island.

      The pipeline was planned to run 37 miles, connecting natural gas fields in Pennsylvania to New Jersey and New York. Its operator, the Oklahoma-based Williams Companies, pitched it as a crucial addition to the region’s energy infrastructure, one that would deliver enough fuel to satisfy New York’s booming energy needs and stave off a looming shortage.

      But environmental groups said Williams was manufacturing a crisis to justify a project that would rip apart fragile ecosystems, handcuff New York to fossil fuels and hobble the state’s march toward renewable resources.

    • Plastics Threaten Global Climate at a Massive Scale During Each Point of Lifecycle, Report Finds

      Plastic pollution across the globe is suffocating our planet and driving Earth toward catastrophic climatic conditions if not curbed significantly and immediately, according to a new report by the Center for International Environmental Law (CEIL).

  • Finance

    • The Pivot Point

      The massive economic shock following the banking collapse of 2007–8 is the direct cause of the crisis of confidence which is affecting almost all the institutions of western representative democracy. The banking collapse was not a natural event, like a tsunami. It was a direct result of man-made systems and artifices which permitted wealth to be generated and hoarded primarily through multiple financial transactions rather than by the actual production and sale of concrete goods, and which then disproportionately funnelled wealth to those engaged in the mechanics of the transactions.

      It was a rotten system, bound to collapse. But unfortunately, it was a system in which the political elite were so financially bound that the consequences of collapse threatened their place in the social order. So collapse was prevented, by the use of the systems of government to effect the largest ever single event transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich in the course of human history. Politicians bailed out the bankers by using the bankers’ own systems, and even permitted the bankers to charge the public for administering their own bailout, and charge massive interest on the money they were giving to themselves. This method meant that the ordinary people did not immediately feel all the pain, but they certainly felt it over the following decade of austerity as the massive burden of public debt that had been loaded on the populace and simply handed to the bankers, crippled the public finances.

      The mechanisms of state and corporate propaganda kicked in to ensure that the ordinary people were told that rather than having been robbed, they had been saved. In the ensuing decade the wealth disparity between rich and poor has ever widened, to the extent that this week the BBC announced the UK now has 151 billionaires, in a land where working people resort to foodbanks and millions of children are growing up in poverty.

      With the mainstream media employed entirely in diverting them from the true causes of their difficult lives, it is hardly surprising that ordinary people do not necessarily understand why a society has arisen where working hard does not enable them to work, eat and stay warm, and why the economic prospects of their children look so bleak. But they know that something has gone very wrong, they witness the vast wealth disparities of our unequal society and the deliberate dismantling of communal and altruistic public provision in favour of privatisation, and they feel contempt for their ruling classes, be they political, media or just wealthy.

    • ‘People With a Lot of Money Are Really Determining What Culture Is’

      Last month, the American Museum of Natural History decided it would not allow its Hall of Ocean Life to host a gala for fascist Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro—the institution evidently persuaded that the guy who’s opening new parts of the Amazon to mining, stealing land from indigenous communities he likens to chicken pox and aggressively defunding science was an inappropriate subject for celebration in that particular space.

      It didn’t happen out of nowhere. The outcry and its success built on work that’s been going on for years now, calling for accountability from cultural institutions. Our next guest is deeply involved in that work. Amin Husain is an artist and a core organizer with Decolonize This Place. He joins us now by phone from here in town. Welcome to CounterSpin, Amin Husain.

    • Corporate Cannibalism

      In the wake of a litany of transgressions emanating from the ranks of HR departments and leadership teams of Uber, Google, and Microsoft ranging from discrimination, abuse, gaslighting, nepotism, anti-dissent, suppression, and retaliation against their own employees, Stans inside and outside of these same companies appear to be content with this flavor of cannibalism on a corporate scale. Despite having no ethical basis while contradicting all matter of corporate media maintaining a narrative that is blatantly contrary to this sort behavior, these same Stans seem to have justified this sort of behavior and it’s outcome as a core function of HR, damage control. It almost goes without saying, but this is fundamentally flawed on several fronts.

      For starters, it’s worth highlighting that its not exactly a secret that what is good for your employees is good for business; especially when you employ them to innovate at the highest level of the industry. There isn’t a precedent or business justification for protecting incompetence and abusers at the expense of victims, dissenters, and competent employees; especially in an industry where disruption is the name of the game. There isn’t even a realm philosophy nor academic discipline that would render people wise to these tactics, let alone recommend applying them on any scale at a billion dollar technology company.

    • Like Linux, It’s Very Hard to Create the Next Bitcoin (BTC)
    • Even GOP Voters Are Applauding AOC and Sanders for Taking on Lenders

      Seven out of 10 GOP primary voters are sympathetic to the main ideas of the Loan Shark Prevention Act introduced last week by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, according to a Business Insider poll. The legislative proposal would cap the interest rates that credit card companies and payday lenders can charge consumers at 15 percent.

      The surprising show of support from GOP voters for the goals of the bill suggests that the base of support for efforts to rein in loan sharks crosses party lines in ways that leaders of the Republican Party may be reluctant to admit. In addition to the unexpected support from GOP voters, 73 percent of Democratic primary voters polled by Business Insider said they support the proposal.

      In addition to capping the interest rates that credit card companies charge, the bill would also allow the postal service to carry out certain financial functions, such as check-cashing and letting customers pay bills directly via the postal service, as a way to cut out profiteering middle-men institutions like payday lenders.

      Critics were quick to argue that this would both create a credit squeeze as private companies move away from providing loans to riskier customers, and that it would also force cash-strapped credit card companies to do away with such perks as consumer loyalty rewards. But, I’d suggest, the precise limit — whether too low or too high, or simply too rigid to meet changing market conditions — is in some ways far less important than the broader principle: the idea that financial institutions are largely out of control and need to be somewhat tamed.

      Earlier this year, Ocasio-Cortez launched broadsides against the companies that determine consumers’ credit scores. Now, in proposing interest rate caps, progressive members of Congress are firmly siding with those who believe the financial industry needs to be regulated; that, left to its own devices, it cannot help but bend toward exploitation and usury. And, if the polling numbers are accurate, in going after exploitative lenders, progressives have a grand opportunity to mine a vein of public discontent on the issue.

    • America’s Illusions of Growth

      National politics in the United States has become enslaved to macroeconomic indicators that have little bearing on true wellbeing. For many commentators, the snapshot growth rate of 3.2% for the first quarter of 2019, coupled with a decline in the unemployment rate to 3.6% in April, implies that President Donald Trump’s economic policies have been vindicated, and some suggest that his re-election chances have improved as a result.

      But this interpretation overlooks what these indicators fail to measure. And what they fail to measure happens to be what really counts for the public.In defending the 2017 tax cut, to which he attributes an additional 1.1% annual GDP growth for 2018-2019, Harvard economist Robert J. Barro writes, “I take it as self-evident that faster economic growth is better than slower economic growth,” because “millions of people benefit from higher growth rates, which are typically accompanied by higher wages and lower unemployment, which especially help the worse-off.”

      Yet we should be on guard against “self-evident” truths. As a firm believer in the rationality of the public, Barro should consider what the public actually says. According to the most recent Gallup survey, 40% of the public approve of the 2017 tax cuts, while 49% disapprove – a net negative assessment confirmed by several other recent polls. The public is looking beyond any temporary boost in spending and is concerned about growing income and wealth inequality and the soaring budget deficit. Following Barro himself (via Ricardo), they most likely surmise that future tax hikes are on the way.

      Continuing opposition to the tax cuts is not the only sign of public dismay. Others are even more notable. The country is evenly divided on overall economic conditions, with half describing them as “excellent” or “good,” and half describing them as “only fair” or “poor.” Some 49% of Americans believe the economic situation is improving, while 50% feel that it is worsening or staying the same. Overall, only 31% are satisfied with the direction of the country, while 67% are dissatisfied.

      Macroeconomic indicators hide much about the quality of life. For example, even while the US economy has expanded during recent years, America’s public health crisis has continued to mount. The US has experienced two consecutive years of declining life expectancy, in 2016 and 2017 – the longest consecutive decline since World War I and the subsequent flu epidemic. Yet the current decline is caused by despair, not by illness. Suicide rates and opioid overdoses are soaring.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Senator Wyden Leads on Securing Elections Before 2020

      Sen. Ron Wyden’s new proposal to protect the integrity of U.S. elections, the Protecting American Votes and Elections (PAVE) Act of 2019, takes a much needed step forward by requiring a return to paper ballots.

      The bill forcefully addresses a grave threat to American democracy—outdated election technologies used in polling places all over the country that run the risk of recording inaccurate votes or even allowing outside actors to maliciously interfere with the votes that individuals cast.

      The simple solution: paper ballots and audits of paper ballots. EFF along with security experts have long-supported this approach—arguing that the gold standard for security of our election infrastructure is paper ballots that are backed by risk-limiting audits (an audit that statistically determines how many votes need to be recounted in order to confirm an election result). As Sen. Kamala Harris, one of the fourteen co-sponsors the bill, recently said, “Russia can’t hack a piece of paper.”

      The last two decades have shown that the touchscreen and other machines used at polling places to cast votes are not only susceptible to tampering, but also that the outdated software and poorly configured settings lead to countless problems like inaccurately recording votes or large drop-offs on down-ballot races.

    • Danish Politician Seeks Voters ‘Where They Are’: On a Porn Site

      Joachim B. Olsen, a former Olympic shot-putter and current member of the Danish Parliament, paid $450 to have his face and a lowbrow slogan plastered across Pornhub, a Canadian website. The goal was to reach voters “where they are,” he said.

      “Campaigning is about visibility, and in that sense it’s been a roaring success,” Mr. Olsen added.

    • Salon Media Announces $5 Million Sale, ‘Bankruptcy and Liquidation’ Threatened If Deal Fails

      Salon Media says they have reached an 11th hour deal to sell the company and its flagship property Salon.com for $5 million. In an SEC filing, Salon also revealed its position was dire and that it would face imminent “bankruptcy and liquidation” if the deal should fall through.

    • What have the top Trump donors been up to since 2016?

      With the 2020 election revving up, contributions have already begun pouring in for President Donald Trump’s reelection bid, including coveted cash from a loyal network of Trump megadonors. During the first quarter this year, Trump reported raising $30.3 million with a mix of large and small dollar contributions.

      Trump secured a record $107 million for his inauguration after bringing in $333 million to his campaign and receiving $102 million in outside spending support in 2016. His megadonors received special treatment in turn — swanky “leadership luncheons” topped off with appearances from the top echelons of the GOP and Trump campaign for the price of $1 million, not to mention a seat at his $8,000-a-plate inaugural dinner.

      That preferential treatment has extended into Trump’s tenure in office as an entangled web of policy proposals, cabinet appointments and budget priorities have often aligned with the interests of Trump’s most coveted donors.

    • Where Is the Democratic Alternative to Forever War?

      There sure are lots to choose from. By now, more than 20 candidates have announced a run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. And with national security adviser John “Regime Change” Bolton, along with the others in the four Bs cabal—Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates—seem poised to pull President Trump into war with Iran, now would seem the time for Democratic leaders to unveil their alternative, antiwar, foreign policy plans. It’s more likely you’ll hear crickets … or a sound bite or two.

      The truth is the Democratic Party, especially of late, has abandoned serious foreign policy analysis and ceded national security—and supposedly macho “toughness”—to hawkish Republicans. See, at least since Harry Truman “lost” China in 1949, one Democratic president after another has bent over backward to either prove his masculine mettle, or, better yet, to ignore global affairs altogether.

      Admittedly, the Democratic base is, for the most part, unconcerned with minor matters like forever war. Part of this can be explained by America’s lack of a military draft, and thus the citizenry’s lack of “skin in the game.” But it’s also the case that “kitchen table” and cultural issues—think health care, taxes, immigration, abortion, minority rights, etc.—are far more concerning for all Americans, Democrat or Republican. While this is understandable, it’s also part of the reason the U.S. has now been at war for 18 years, with no end in sight.

    • How to Lobby Washington to Death

      A springtime wedding in Northern Yemen’s Al-Raqah village took place in April 2018, a moment of reprieve from the turmoil and devastation of that war-torn country, a moment to celebrate life, love, and the birth of a new family. From the tents constructed for the event, music flooded into the village and, as at any good wedding, exuberant dancing was a central part of the festivities.

      Unbeknownst to the guests, the music masked the buzzing of a warplane overhead. Suddenly, in a horrific turn of events, Saudi-led forces launched a deadly airstrike and 20-year-old groom Yahya Ja’afar’s wedding was transformed into a scene of carnage. Deafened by the explosion, guests fearfully searched for loved ones in a sea of confusion and body parts. In a telling photo, the flowery wreaths worn by celebrants lie atop a landscape of rubble. At least 20 wedding-goers lost their lives to the Saudi-led coalition’s now four-year-old brutal campaign in that country.

      Shortly thereafter, media reports identified the bomb as American-made — a GBU-12 Paveway II linked to Raytheon, one of the Pentagon’s largest defense contractors. Tragedies like this, however, didn’t stop President Trump from exercising his veto power on April 16th to reject a resolution passed by Congress to end American involvement in the Yemeni conflict. Nor did they sway most Republicans in Congress to use their override power to kill the veto on May 2nd. After all, for many of Washington’s actors, such tragedies, while devastating, are part of a remarkably lucrative business model.

      Obviously, this is the case for the American defense companies that have been supplying weapons and equipment of all sorts to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in their ongoing war. But it’s no less so for the little-publicized lobbying groups that represent them. In 2018, more than a dozen such firms were working on behalf of the Saudis or the Emiratis, while also providing their services to defense contractors whose weapons are being used in the conflict.

    • Amid GOP Assault on Abortion Rights, DCCC-Backed Fundraiser for Anti-Choice Democrat Blasted as ‘Demeaning to Women’

      Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) is hosting a fundraiser for Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) Thursday, June 6, at the Chicago Cut Steakhouse in Chicago.

      The event has three tiers of support—plates go for $1,000, $2,800, and $5,600—and the presence of Bustos, the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is sure to send a message that the party is behind Lipinski.

    • Don’t Rebrand Corruption

      Anyone who tries to tell you that corruption is only a Republican problem or only a Democratic problem is a partisan hack. Corruption is not the exclusive province of one political party and never has been. Two recent scandals show that corruption is a bipartisan problem.

      On the Republican side, earlier this month, conservative operative David Bossie was accused of misdirecting funds he had ostensibly been raising for Trump-aligned Republican candidates. According to a Campaign Legal Center and Axios investigation into Bossie’s Presidential Coalition political organization, only about $425,000, or 3 percent, of its 2017–2018 spending went to direct political activity. The organization, which raised $13 million last year, spent most of its money on more fundraising. More than $650,000 went toward Citizens United and Citizens United Foundation, which Bossie also runs. (Citizens United was the named plaintiff in the 2010 Supreme Court case that allowed corporations to spend unlimited money on political ads.)

    • Facebook Bans Israeli Company Over Election-Disruption Campaigns

      Facebook said Thursday it banned an Israeli company that ran an influence campaign aimed at disrupting elections in various countries and has canceled dozens of accounts engaged in spreading disinformation.

      Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, told reporters that the tech giant had purged 65 Israeli accounts, 161 pages, dozens of groups and four Instagram accounts.

      Although Facebook said the individuals behind the network attempted to conceal their identities, it discovered that many were linked to the Archimedes Group, a Tel Aviv-based political consulting and lobbying firm that boasts of its social media skills and ability to “change reality.”

    • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio Enters Race for 2020 Democratic Nomination

      “There’s plenty of money in this world. There’s plenty of money in this country. It’s just in the wrong hands,” de Blasio says at the beginning of a campaign announcement video he posted Thursday to YouTube. The spot proceeds to list his progressive accomplishments as New York City mayor, including raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour; passing a bill ensuring that workers would receive paid sick leave; guaranteeing health care, including mental health; and providing free pre-K for all New Yorkers.

      After that, the spot pivots to discussing President Donald Trump, with de Blasio drawing special attention to the fact that the president is a fellow New Yorker.

      “I’m a New Yorker. I’ve known Trump’s a bully for a long time. This is not news to me — or anyone else here — and I know how to take him on,” de Blasio says in the ad. From there, he denounces Trump for separating migrant families and pulling America out of the Paris climate agreement.

      “Donald Trump must be stopped. I’ve beaten him before, and I will do it again,” de Blasio declares. He closes the ad by including his slogan — “Put Working People First” — by saying, “I’m Bill de Blasio. And I’m running for president, because it’s time we put working people first.”

    • I No Longer Believe House Democrats Will Uphold Their Constitutional Duty

      Will the Democrats ever learn a) how to message and b) that the press, no matter what conservatives say, is not their friend?

      Right now, the Republicans are moving implacably on all fronts to discredit any official account of both how the Russian ratfcking helped the president* win and also to discredit (and stop) any further investigation into how big a crook the Russians helped install in the White House. The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is advising the president*’s son to ignore congressional subpoenas and, just yesterday, in federal court, the president*’s lawyers essentially argued that Congress has no right to investigate the president* over anything. And this is the kind of dithering we get from the guy who chairs the only committee that can bring impeachment charges against a criminal presidency*? To hell with knives and gunfights. This is bringing a pea-shooter to Omaha Beach.

      I think Nadler is a decent chairman. I don’t think he has any illusion about the ferocity of the forces arrayed against him. But, dammit, he holds the majority on the House Judiciary Committee and there is power in that. Spectacularly, it gets worse.

    • Michigan lawmaker denies cash-for-vote scheme, won’t quit

      A Michigan lawmaker charged with seeking a bribe from a union said investigators got it wrong and he won’t resign.

    • Kurz’s ‘new EU treaty’ – election noise or necessity?

      The choice of the timing of this announcement raised some eyebrows though, as policy experts and politicians in Austria questioned why the Austrian chancellor had not made those reform proposals already last year during the Austrian EU presidency.
      Werner Kogler, the Spitzenkandidat from the Austrian Green party said that “Kurz had his chance to initiate reforms during the EU presidency but did not use it. A real reform and stronger Union is not in his interest.”

      Kurz was also rebuffed by Harald Vilimsky, secretary general of the Austrian far-right FPO, that governs in a coalition with Kurz’s conservative OVP.

      Vilimsky warned that Kurz’s plans to reform the EU treaty would lead to “an end of unanimity voting and more centralism”.

      Vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache from the FPO qualified this statement two days later on 7 May when he said that “a change of the EU treaty has always been our wish”.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Thousands of Facebook Groups Go Secret in Fear of the Great ‘Zuccing’

      “I actually had an account lost in a similar manner. My facebook account of 8 years was essentially deactivated because everything I ever posted was reported all at once,” Merkava Jones, a moderator of the Sounds Like an Elaborate Excuse to Be a Furry group said in a Facebook message. “I guess they’re going after groups now. I pray every day for a mass exodus from this hellsite.”

    • Facebook says it will restore groups infiltrated by saboteurs

      The attack on two high-profile groups, though seemingly isolated, has been felt by a substantial number of Facebook users. People complained on Facebook and Twitter about waking up to an array of notifications from various groups they belong to recognizing the status change from “private” to “secret.” Others have spoken out about their own groups asking members to be patient as they lay low. Facebook users have started calling it “The Great Zuccening of 2019” or in some cases “Groupocalypse.”

      The incident is concentrated largely among a network of popular meme pages and groups. But the fear of suspensions or bans at the hand of Facebook’s algorithmically-driven reporting system, supposedly underpinned by its ongoing AI efforts, underlines the vulernability of the social network’s s moderation approach.

    • And Now The Prime Minister Of Canada Is Threatening To Fine Social Media Companies Over ‘Fake News’

      Apparently, this all flows from the Christchurch shooting in New Zealand. On top of “eradicating terrorist and violent content… once and for all,” the Canadian government will apparently be punishing tech companies for failing to eradicate anything the Canadian government believes isn’t real. The phrase “meaningful financial consequences” was used.

      Perhaps the biggest misconception government officials hold about social media platforms is that moderation is easy. They find a few examples of stuff they think should be banned and they assume anyone can do the same thing, even when dealing with millions of uploads a minute. They also believe moderators should instinctively recognize this content immediately, no matter the context, and act to remove it before it’s seen by others.

      Something as nebulous as “fake news” is going to be a lot harder to moderate than “terrorist and violent content.” Even the latter has its own issues, as much of what’s considered “terrorist and violent” can also be newsworthy or crucial to law enforcement investigations.

      “Fake news” tends to be whatever top government officials declare it is. If that’s all it takes, tech companies will be fined as often as grandstanders open their mouths. As we’ve seen here in the US, President Trump can’t go more than a day without calling someone or something “fake news.” If that same hostility towards the press is shown in Canada — and it’s not inconceivable someone like Trump could become Prime Minister — tech companies will have two choices: pay fines constantly or subject their users to a ton of moderation collateral damage.

    • Canada Plans ‘Meaningful Financial Consequences’ for Tech Companies That Spread Disinformation

      Trudeau made the announcement during a speech in Paris at the Viva Technology conference. He said that social media companies have “failed their users” and announced the Canada will establish a new digital charter aimed at universal access, countering online extremism and misinformation, and transparency.

      Trudeau didn’t address specific details of the charter, such as the size of the fines or how they will be handed out.

    • YTMND’s Owner Says the Site’s Database Was Accidentally Deleted

      It costs him $250 out of pocket every month to keep YTMND.com functioning. It used to be a profitable venture, but Google flagged content it called offense sometime in 2012 and asked Goldberg to remove it to keep AdSense, Google’s ad platform. He pulled the URL Google wanted gone, but couldn’t get AdSense back and couldn’t get Google to respond to his emails. At that point, he pulled AdSense from all the user generated content. It made his life easier, but stopped the site from making money.

    • Online encyclopedia Wikipedia blocked in China ahead of Tiananmen anniversary

      “After closely analyzing our internal traffic reports, we can confirm Wikipedia is blocked across all language versions,” Lien said.

      Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites have long been blocked in China.

      Individual Wikipedia articles about sensitive issues, such as 1989 pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square and the Himalayan region of Tibet, have long been blocked in China, however, even while the main site is accessible.

    • White House Sets Up Echo Chamber For Complaints About Social Media Bias Against Conservatives

      After months of fact-free complaints about bias against conservatives on social media, the White House has finally decided to engage in a fact-finding mission. And by “fact-finding mission,” I mean “knock together a shitty webform to collect complaints.” Or build a mailing list for the 2020 election run. Who knows. But here it is in all of its “will this do” glory.

    • The Christchurch Call: The Good, the Not-So-Good, and the Ugly

      In the wake of the mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that killed fifty-one people and injured more than forty others, the New Zealand government has released a plan to combat terrorist and violent content online, dubbed the Christchurch Call. The Call has been endorsed by more than a dozen countries, as well as eight major tech companies.

      The massacre, committed on March 15 by a New Zealand national connected with white supremacist groups in various countries, was intentionally live-streamed and disseminated widely on social media. Although most companies acted quickly to remove the video, many New Zealanders—and others around the world—saw it by accident on their feeds.

      Just ahead of the Call’s release, the New Zealand government hosted a civil society meeting in Paris. The meeting included not only digital rights and civil liberties organizations (including EFF), but also those working on countering violent extremism (CVE) and against white supremacy. In the days prior to the meeting, members of civil society from dozens of countries worked together to create a document outlining recommendations, concerns, and points for discussion for the meeting (see PDF at bottom).

      As is too often the case, civil society was invited late to the conversation, which rather unfortunately took place during Ramadan. That said, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern attended the meeting personally and engaged directly with civil society members for several hours to understand our concerns about the Call—a rather unprecedented move, in our experience.

    • Governments And Internet Companies Agree On Questionable Voluntary Pact On Extremist Content Online

      Yesterday, there was a big process, called the Christchurch Call, in which a bunch of governments and big social media companies basically agreed to take a more proactive role in dealing with terrorist and violent extremist content online. To its credit, the effort did include voices from civil society/public interest groups that raised issues about how these efforts might negatively impact freedom of expression and other human rights issues around the globe. However, it’s not clear that the “balance” they came to is a good one.

    • Our Legal Dispute With Shiva Ayyadurai Is Now Over

      It’s possible that some of you saw the news earlier this week that the legal dispute, in which Shiva Ayyadurai sued us for defamation over 14 posts on Techdirt, has been settled. Many people — including lawyers I know — had been under the impression that this case ended a long time ago, but it has actually continued for nearly two and a half years. As you may recall, back in September of 2017, the district court dismissed the case, largely on First Amendment grounds, saying that everything we wrote about Ayyadurai was protected speech. Unfortunately, the court did not accept our argument that California’s anti-SLAPP law should apply, which would have allowed us to recover our legal fees.

      Ayyadurai appealed this dismissal, and we cross-appealed the anti-SLAPP question. For the past 18 months, we have held ongoing negotiations to settle the case, which concluded with the announcement earlier this week. The settlement is that we agreed to add links on the articles at issue, to a statement on one of Ayyadurai’s sites that he says is a response to our articles. No money exchanged hands. We found the terms of this settlement acceptable, as basically all of our posts were linking to and responding to Ayyadurai’s claims in the first place, so, if he wants to repeat those claims, he is more than free to do so. We have no interest in silencing anyone. We continue to stand by everything that we wrote about those claims, and suggest that you read our posts as well.

      You may wonder how it could possibly take 18 months to negotiate a settlement about adding links to old articles — and, indeed, I wonder that myself. The entire process has been quite a pain for us. I cannot and would not describe this result as a victory, because this has been nearly two and a half years of wasted time, effort, resources, attention and money just to defend our right to report on a public figure and explain to the world that we do not believe his claims to have invented email are correct, based on reams of evidence.

    • EFF Files Freedom of Information (FOIA) Request for Submissions to the White House’s Platform Moderation Tool

      When social media platforms enforce their content moderation rules unfairly, it affects everyone’s ability to speak out online. Unfair and inconsistent online censorship magnifies existing power imbalances, giving people who already have the least power in society fewer places where they are allowed a voice online.

      President Donald Trump and some members of Congress have complained on Twitter that the people most silenced online are those who share the President’s political views. So the White House launched this week a website inviting people to report examples of being banned online because of political bias.

      The website leads users through a series of forms seeking their names, citizenship status, email address, social media handles, and examples of the censorship they encountered. People are required to accept a user agreement that permits the U.S. government to use the information in unspecified ways and edit the submissions, raising a natural concern that any political operation will selectively disclose the results.

    • Manfred Weber backs blocking fake names on social media

      It should be compulsory for social media users to use their real names online rather than fake ones, according to Manfred Weber, the European People’s Party candidate for European Commission president.

      During a debate Thursday night with Frans Timmermans, the Party of European Socialists’ lead candidate, the pair were asked whether they would support banning fake names on social media, and Weber said yes.

    • Access Now on the Christchurch Call: rights, wrongs, and what’s next

      Today, a group of governments led by New Zealand, and major tech companies including Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Twitter, signed and published the “Christchurch Call,” a voluntary pledge with commitments aimed at eliminating terrorist and violent extremist content online.

      The Christchurch Call follows the tragic shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand in early March. In response to this and other tragic attacks where the attackers have used online platforms or services to publish and propagate abhorrent violent material, governments around the world are scrambling to enact new, far-reaching laws or policies in an effort to clamp down on speech posted or shared on social media platforms. Addressing the root causes and means of perpetuating violence against communities is a legitimate and critically important public policy objective. However, a rushed response that targets online speech but ignores the systemic issues behind it would put fundamental rights at risk while also failing to prevent attacks.

      Below is our response to the Call, including what we consider valuable, what needs work, and our recommendations for continued engagement on these critical issues for our societies.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • California Now Classifies Immigration Enforcement as “Misuse” of Statewide Law Enforcement Network

      It has taken more than a year, but the California Attorney General’s Office has implemented steps to protect immigrants from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other agencies that abuse the state’s public safety network, the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS).

      Following calls for reform from EFF and immigrant rights advocacy groups, the Attorney General issued new protocols that say if an agency accesses anything other than criminal history records on CLETS for immigration enforcement purposes, it may be treated as “system misuse,” and the agency or individual could be subject to sanctions.

      In October 2017, in response to threats of a mass deportation campaign by the Trump administration, the California legislature passed S.B. 54, also known as the California Values Act. More colloquially referred to as the “sanctuary state” law, S.B. 54 restricts state and local law enforcement from using resources to assist with immigration enforcement. Among these measures, the legislature prohibited agencies from providing personal information (such as a home or work address) for the purposes of enforcing immigration laws. The legislation also requires the Attorney General to “publish guidance, audit criteria, and training recommendations” to ensure to the “fullest extent practicable” that state and local law enforcement databases are not used to enforce immigration laws.

    • After Five-Year Legal Battle, Top Judges Rule That The UK’s Spying Activities Can Be Challenged In Ordinary Courts

      The digital rights group Privacy International has won a major victory against UK government surveillance after a five-year legal battle. One of the many shocking revelations of Edward Snowden was that the UK security and intelligence services break into computers and mobile phones on a massive scale. Privacy International challenged this “bulk” surveillance at the UK’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), the “judicial body which operates independently of government to provide a right of redress for anyone who believes they have been a victim of unlawful action by a public authority using covert investigative techniques”.

    • Federal Court Says Warrants Are Needed To Grab GPS Data From Third-Party Tracking Services

      In 2012, the Supreme Court decided that GPS tracking devices require warrants. Notably, this wasn’t because the GPS data was deserving of Fourth Amendment protections but because officers had to trespass on private property (a car parked in a driveway) to attach the device.

      That left law enforcement with a lot a gray area in which to operate. Since there was no distinct finding that GPS data was protected, it could theoretically be harvested from third-party devices without a warrant. The Supreme Court’s decision in the Carpenter case, however, appeared to extend protections to the records themselves. It declared the acquisition of cell site location info requires the use of the warrant, extending Fourth Amendment protections to third party records of people’s movements. It could be argued this decision covers GPS data pulled from third party services, since it’s basically the same thing: gathering records of a person’s movements.

      In a recent federal case [PDF], both of these Supreme Court decisions are in play. It appears law enforcement thought it had found a way to route around the Jones decision. Investigating a robbery, detectives approached the dealership that had sold the vehicle spotted at the scene of the crime. The dealership had installed a tracking device to make the car easier to find in case of a repo. This was the data detectives obtained without a warrant.

    • Will Facebook’s Latest Algorithm Change Make You Happier? Probably Not.

      A part of me thinks that as I said, these changes would remove less relevant posts and friends from my News Feed. But a part of me is also not comfortable with the fact that Facebook’s AI will now get to know even more about my friends and me. Especially now, because it’s asking people straightaway that, “Hey, tell me who your real friends are.”

      Also, it might be unrelated, but all of this comes a week after we heard that Facebook hired a big team of humans to manually look into people’s status updates and photos without their consent. These people were assigned the task of sorting that data into different categories, which were then used to train Facebook’s AI.

    • Facebook has struggled to hire talent since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, according to recruiters who worked there

      Facebook is still reeling from the fallout from its Cambridge Analytica scandal more than a year ago, as multiple former recruiters say candidates are turning down job offers from what was once considered the best place to work in the United States.

      More than half a dozen recruiters who left Facebook in recent months told CNBC that the tech company experienced a significant decrease in job offer acceptance rates after the March 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which a data firm improperly accessed the data of 87 million Facebook users and used it to target ads for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

      This impact to Facebook’s recruiting efforts is important as the company adds thousands of employees each year. These new workers are key to the company’s ability to innovate and improve its existing products. The company faces cutthroat competition for talent from other top tech companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and countless start-ups.

      Most notably, Facebook saw a sharp increase in students at top universities who are declining the company’s job offers.

    • Programmers Aren’t Super Excited About Working At Facebook Anymore

      In December 2018, the career website Glassdoor released its annual list of the best places to work. On the list, Facebook ranked in seventh place and got a 4.5 award score out of 5. In the previous iteration of the list, the social media company ranked 1st. The report didn’t surprise anyone, thanks to the constant public scrutiny and criticism from privacy advocates.

      A recent report from CNBC highlights the further reverberations of this trend. The report claims that more than 12 recruiters who left Facebook recently told reporters that the company has been continuously witnessing a steep decline in job offer acceptance rate. The decline was significant in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data breach that leaked the data of millions of Facebook users.

    • City Of San Francisco Bans Use Of Facial Recognition Tech By Government Agencies

      The ban doesn’t affect federal agencies so the borders and airports will be just as protected as they ever were by software known mostly for its false positive rates. And in San Francisco, the use of facial recognition tech by law enforcement is — and apparently will remain — theoretical. To date, no local law enforcement agency has deployed facial recognition tech in San Francisco.

      But the ban [PDF] also prevents local cops from pulling info from outside databases compiled using facial recognition tech, which means there won’t be any backdoor searches for faces. This whole package of preemptives isn’t popular with local cops… or at least not with their union representation.

    • California: Speak Out for the Right to Take Companies That Violate Your Privacy to Court

      California: Tell The Senate to Empower You To Stand Up For Your Privacy

      This bill is the only one in the California legislature today to strengthen enforcement of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), an important privacy law passed last year and slated to go into effect in January.

      The CCPA established important rights, but lacks the bite it needs to back up its bark. Empowering consumers to be able to sue companies directly, also known as a private right of action, is one of EFF’s highest priorities in any data privacy legislation.

      A private right of action means that every person can act as their own privacy enforcer. Many privacy statutes allow people to sue companies directly, including federal laws on wiretaps, stored electronic communications, video rentals, driver’s licenses, and, yes, cable subscriptions.

      The CCPA gives Californians a limited right to do this—just in cases of data breach. But failing to protect against data breaches is not the only way that companies violate our privacy and abuse our trust.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Kickstarter CEO Says Management Won’t Voluntarily Recognize Employee Union
    • Yekaterinburg mayor’s office agrees to independent survey on cathedral construction following mass protests

      The mayor’s office of Yekaterinburg, where thousands of residents have protested against plans to replace a park with a new cathedral in recent days, has agreed to arrange for an independent survey to gauge public opinion on the construction project, Govorit Moskva reported.

    • Yekaterinburg mayor suspends construction of cathedral, pending local survey

      Yekaterinburg Mayor Alexander Vysokinsky has suspended the construction of a cathedral in October Square Park, delivering a surprising, if temporary, victory for demonstrators who have protested the project for four consecutive days. Vysokinsky says construction work will not resume unless the project wins the approval of local residents in a sociological survey.

    • What Yekaterinburg and its musicians are singing and saying about the fight against a new cathedral

      Days of protests against the planned construction of St. Catherine’s Cathedral have not only put the social tensions of Yekaterinburg on display; they have served as a reminder that the city is one of the most musical places in Russia. Many of the locals protesting at the cathedral’s planned construction site have brought musical instruments along with them or blasted their favorite songs through Bluetooth speakers to get the crowd to sing along. Local musicians have also begun speaking out about plans to build the cathedral in place of a central square. Meduza collected the opinions of several of the city’s major artists alongside the songs they have dedicated to their hometown.

    • How We Tallied Alaska Villages Without Local Law Enforcement

      The Alaska agency that certifies police officers does not track how many cops work in remote villages or the identities of many of those law enforcement officers. We set out to find which communities have no police protection as well as to identify officers with criminal records who, under state law, are not qualified to wear a badge.

      To do this, we used several databases to create a master list of Alaska communities and local organizations that might employ police officers. We reached out to every employer, in some cases up to a dozen times, in a multitude of ways.

    • Lawless

      Village Police Officer Annie Reed heard her VHF radio crackle to life in the spring of 2018 with the familiar voice of an elder. I need help at my house, the woman said.

      Reed, who doesn’t wear a uniform because everyone in this Arctic Circle village of 421 can spot her ambling gait and bell of salt-and-pepper hair at a distance, steered her four-wheeler across town. There had been a home invasion, she learned. One of the local sex offenders, who outnumber Reed 7-to-1, had pried open a window and crawled inside, she said. The man then tore the clothes from the elder’s daughter, who had been sleeping, gripped her throat and raped her, according to the charges filed against him in state court.

      [...]

      Rather than raise pay or boost recruitment, Gov. Mike Dunleavy this year proposed a state budget that would cut $3 million in funding for vacant village-based police officer jobs. The reductions are a small part of a proposed $1.8 billion reduction in state spending as cash-strapped Alaska struggles to live within its means while avoiding an income tax and continuing to pay annual Permanent Fund dividend checks to all eligible residents.

      Dunleavy, a Republican, campaigned on promoting public safety, but he also promised Alaskans that they wouldn’t have to give up the annual oil wealth checks, and that those checks might increase. Under his proposed budget, each Alaskan would receive a more than $4,000 payment in October, the largest ever. (State lawmakers are working on a competing spending plan with fewer cuts, which would maintain VPSO funding at current levels and provide potentially smaller dividends.) Dunleavy has said growth in state spending is the problem, not annual checks to residents.

      Whether each Alaskan also receives basic public safety protection — the ability to dial 911 and have a police officer or trooper show up at the door — depends largely on whether they live in cities like Anchorage and Fairbanks, or off the road system.

      Martha Whitman-Kassock, who oversees self-governance programs for the Bethel-based Association of Village Council Presidents, grew up in rural Alaska and said the state appears to have no strategy for adding cops in villages.

      “Public safety infrastructure and service in our region is a crisis,” she said.

    • Why We’re Investigating Sexual Violence in Alaska

      Life in Kotzebue came to a standstill last fall when a 10-year-old girl vanished from a playground in the center of this northwest arctic town. After searchers found her body hidden in the tundra, police charged a local man with kidnapping, sexual abuse and murder.

      As one of the reporters covering the case, I tried to learn as much as possible about the 42-year-old suspect. He was a lifelong Alaskan and was not a registered sex offender. Yet two family members soon told me he had raped them decades earlier when they were girls, beginning a pattern of abuse. (He has pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the Kotzebue homicide and has not responded to his relatives’ claims.)

    • Author of Flattering Trump Biography Gets Pardon From President

      President Donald Trump on Wednesday granted a full pardon to Conrad Black, a former newspaper publisher who has written a flattering political biography of Trump.

      Black’s media empire once included the Chicago Sun-Times and The Daily Telegraph of London. He was convicted of fraud in 2007 and spent three and a half years in prison. An appeals court reversed two convictions, but left two others in place.

      White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Black “has made tremendous contributions to business, and to political and historical thought.”

      In 2018, Black published “Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other.” He wrote a column Wednesday in Canada’s National Post describing how Trump called him and revealed the pardon.

    • Arizona Officials Say It’s Unsafe for Prisoners to Read About Race and Criminal Justice. They’re Wrong.

      For many people behind bars, books can be a lifeline to the outside world. In the words of poet, attorney, and former prisoner Reginald Dwayne Betts, “Books weren’t really magic when I was a child, they were just something that I [enjoyed] reading. I thought it was important, but when I got locked up it became magic, it became a means to an end.”

      Prisons are not, and should not be, just punitive institutions. They should also be rehabilitative, which becomes especially clear when you consider that 95 percent of incarcerated people will return to their communities. If prisons and jails take rehabilitation seriously—and people behind bars are to have genuine opportunities to build a foundation for when they leave—access to educational material is critical. Books provide one of the few opportunities for self-directed education, entertainment, and self-improvement at virtually no expense to the government.

      That’s why the Arizona Department of Corrections’ (ADC) recent ban on Paul Butler’s book, “Chokehold: Policing Black Men,” is so misguided. The ADC claims that allowing prisoners to read the book would be “detrimental to the safe, secure, and orderly operation” of its prisons, but that is absurd.

      Butler, a former federal prosecutor, uses the chokehold — a deadly tactic used by police officers to force people into submission — as a metaphor to explore the history and practical implications of racial oppression within the U.S. criminal justice system. “Chokehold” provides a guide for Black men who may encounter the criminal justice system, evaluates tactics used in social movements to promote reform, and charts a path for a safer and more just society. Prison, Butler argues, is not the answer.

    • Just 13 Percent of Child Care Assistance Goes to Parents in School

      If you live in Vermont or Tennessee and have young children, you might want to consider pursuing a new degree or additional training. Student parents in these states are just as likely to receive child care assistance as their peers who are working low-wage jobs and need help covering the cost of care. That’s not true in most states, according to a new report by the Urban Institute, a public policy research institute.

      Nationally, just 13.2 percent of federal child care assistance dollars go to families who were either working and pursuing education or training (7 percent) or solely pursuing education or training (6 percent), according to the report.

      Parents pursuing an education are “usually the lowest priority” both for child care assistance programs and for workforce development programs, said Gina Adams, a co-author of the report and senior fellow at the Urban Institute with a focus on early childhood issues.

      The additional earning capacity that comes from having a post-secondary degree could make a big difference for a lot of families. Of the 13.7 million children living in poverty in 2016, 82 percent lived with parents who held a high school credential or less, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Research has shown that better educated parents have better educated children. But it’s difficult to both support a child and afford a return to school.

      “If we’re not creating mechanisms where families trying to get ahead can do it, we’re limiting economic growth for ourselves as a country,” Adams said.

    • Our Government Has Failed to Defend the Sixth Amendment

      There is a crisis in our nation of disregard for protecting the right to counsel for people accused of crimes.

      On May 8, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) elevated the crisis of federal and state governments’ disregard for protecting the right to counsel for people charged with crimes. She did so by introducing the Ensuring Quality Access to Legal Defense Act (EQUAL Defense Act) a bill that uses federal money – $250 million dollars annually for five years – to incentivize pay parity between public defenders and prosecutors, ensure manageable defender caseloads, and reauthorize the student loan repayment program benefitting public defenders. That such a bill is necessary speaks to the deleterious state of public defense in our country, which is underfunded and creates an unlevel playing field for public defenders against prosecutors.

      Therefore the EQUAL Defense Act would be a step forward in our nation living up to the Constitution’s principles of fairness and integrity in which the Sixth Amendment’s affirmative guarantee of the right to counsel is rooted. More than 50 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the importance of ensuring counsel for people accused of crimes regardless of wealth. The Court held that, “in our adversary system of criminal justice, any person [haled] into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for [them].” Twenty years after that, the Court said that not just any counsel would do, but that counsel must be “effective.”

      However, people of modest means – disproportionately Black or Brown – are sold short in jurisdictions where public defender systems are chronically underfunded. This failure t leads to crushing caseloads, scarce investigatory and expert resources, and insufficient time to meet with clients, review evidence, file motions, or prepare for trial. Such neglect in turn causes an array of harms, including wrongful conviction and incarceration, needless pretrial detention, coerced pleas, harsh sentences, and lifelong collateral consequences. Without proper resources, public defense is no defense at all.

    • Trump Proposal Would Change Priorities of Green Card System

      After years of setbacks and stalemates, President Donald Trump will lay out yet another immigration plan as he tries to convince the American public and lawmakers that the nation’s legal immigration system should be overhauled.

      The latest effort, spearheaded by Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, focuses on beefing up border security and rethinking the green card system so that it would favor people with high-level skills, degrees and job offers instead of relatives of those already in the country.

      A shift to a more merit-based system prioritizing high-skilled workers would mark a dramatic departure from the nation’s largely family-based approach, which officials said gives roughly 66% of green cards to those with family ties and only 12% based on skills.

    • “Inside Syria’s Secret Prisons”: A Harrowing Account of How Assad’s Torture Machine Crushed Dissent

      A shocking exposé by the New York Times looks at how Bashar al-Assad’s government has jailed and tortured tens of thousands of Syrians since the uprising began in 2011. According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, nearly 128,000 people have disappeared. They are presumed to be either dead or still in custody. The group estimates almost 14,000 individuals have died under torture. The detentions are continuing even as the fighting winds down. More than 5,600 Syrians were reportedly arbitrarily detained last year in a 25 percent jump from the previous year. While the Syrian government has denied running a secret torture and detention program, more evidence — including internal Syrian government documents — has emerged showing the extent of the torture program. A United Nations panel has said the conditions in the prison —including the paucity of toilet facilities, rampant illness, minimal and rotten food, and the absence of medical treatment — are tantamount to “extermination.” We speak with the report’s author Anne Barnard. She’s a reporter at The New York Times and a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

    • Police arrest retired army major seven times in two weeks for protesting outside Russia’s Presidential Administration Building

      On May 11, police arrested a retired soldier picketing outside the Presidential Administration Building. Vladimir Skubak, a former major who served in the Glukhov Rocket Division in Novosibirsk, demonstrated with a sign that read, “Putin cheated me. Hunger strike.” The website OVD-Info first reported the incident.

      In March 2014, without his commanding officer’s permission, Skubak traveled to Ukraine to bring home his ex-wife’s son, who’d ended up in an orphanage. The major lost his security clearance the following year, after the unauthorized trip and after complaining that he hadn’t been paid his stipend while on a four-month sabbatical. Without his security clearance, Skubak submitted his resignation, citing health reasons. The army subsequently discharged him, but Skubak says the military withheld the housing subsidies to which he was entitled. He took the matter to court and to military prosecutors, but he says he was “turned away every time.”

    • FSB colonel charged with taking $850,000 bribe

      Federal Security Service (FSB) colonel Kirill Cherkalin, who leads the second branch of the agency’s K division, has been charged with taking a bribe in the amount of $850,000.

    • Maine Becomes First State to Ban Native American Mascots at Public Schools and Universities

      Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill into law Thursday banning public schools or universities in the state from using Native American mascots, names or imagery. Mills’ action will make Maine the first state in the nation with such a ban once it goes into effect later this year, The Bangor Daily News reported.

      Penobscot Nation Ambassador Maulian Dana told The Associated Press that the law was “a huge step toward trust and respect.”

    • Maine governor signs bill to ban Native American mascots

      Democratic Gov. Janet Mills’ office says the bill she signed Thursday will become effective 90 days after the Legislature adjourns.

      Penobscot Nation Ambassador Maulian Dana says the law is “a huge step toward trust and respect” for indigenous people. Democratic Rep. Benjamin Collings said members of tribal communities are people, not mascots.

    • Mills signs bill to make Maine the first state to ban Native American school mascots

      Gov. Janet Mills on Thursday signed into law a controversial bill banning the use of Native American mascots in all state public schools.

      When the bill takes effect later this year, Maine will become the first U.S. state with such a ban.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Opponents Waive Half of Responses in 2019

      In 2019, so far 15 entities have waived or ignored their right to respond to Unified petitions prior to institution. In total, 50% of patent owners have failed to file their patent owner’s preliminary response (POPR), a steep decline from previous activity. For instance, in 2018, almost 70% of patent owners filed preliminary responses.

      On the merits, Unified has seen our success rates rise. Indeed, 75% of Unified’s 2018 petitions have been instituted or settled this far. While it is too early to measure ultimate outcomes for 2018, our 2017 filings have been successful in the end 83% of the time.

    • Wireless Communications Mobile patent added to PATROLL

      On May 8, 2019, Unified added a $1,000 contest to PATROLL seeking prior art for US Patent No. 9125079 which has been asserted on multiple occasions by Wireless Communications Mobile (an NPE). The ’079 patent, generally related to technical data monitoring devices, has been asserted in three district court cases to date (all cases filed within a two week period).

    • Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. v. West-Ward Pharmaceuticals Int’l (Fed. Cir. 2019)

      The Federal Circuit affirmed in an opinion by Judge Stoll joined by Judges Plager and Clevenger. Although finding that the District Court had erred in finding there was no motivation to combine the asserted prior art, the Federal Circuit found no clear error regarding the District Court’s finding that the skilled worker would not have had a reasonable expectation of success in using everolimus to treat RCC. Regarding the District Court’s motivation to combine analysis, the panel considered the District Court’s finding that a person of ordinary skill would have been “motivated to pursue everolimus as one of several potential treatment options for advanced solid tumors, including advanced RCC” sufficient for West-Ward to have established the requisite motivation to combine. The opinion further states that the District Court had improperly applied a heightened standard that required West-Ward “to prove that a person of ordinary skill would have selected everolimus over other prior art treatment methods.” The panel rejected Novartis’s assertion of Takeda Chemical Industries, Ltd. v. Alphapharm Pty., Ltd., 492 F.3d 1350 (Fed. Cir. 2007), as contrary precedent, on the ground that Takeda was a “lead compound” case and thus inapposite to this situation. “Lead compound” cases require a showing by clear and convincing evidence “that a person of ordinary skill ‘would have had a reason to select a proposed lead compound or compounds over other compounds in the prior art,’” citing Daiichi Sankyo Co. v. Matrix Labs., Ltd., 619 F.3d 1346, 1354 (Fed. Cir. 2010) (emphasis added in opinion). The panel recognized other circumstances where the Court has determined whether there was a motivation to select a compound from a group, e.g., where the prior art discloses a range and the issue is whether there was a motivation to select a particular compound within the range; see Allergan, Inc. v. Sandoz Inc., 796 F.3d 1293, 1305 (Fed. Cir. 2015); Galderma Labs., L.P. v. Tolmar, Inc., 737 F.3d 731, 737–38 (Fed. Cir. 2013). None of these circumstances applied here, where Novartis asserted claims to methods of treating RCC with everolimus. Under these circumstances, the panel held that “[t]o the extent the district court required a showing that a person of ordinary skill would have selected everolimus over other prior art compounds, it erred.” Indeed, the District Court’s finding that the person of ordinary skill “would have been motivated to pursue everolimus as one of several potential treatment options for advanced solid tumors, including advanced RCC” was enough to satisfy the requirement that the cited art provided the needed motivation to combine.

      [...]

      In addition to these deficiencies, the opinion notes the pharmacological differences between everolimus and temsirolimus, supported by expert testimony; that the prior art did not evince a full understanding of the relationship between mTOR inhibitors, HIF-1 expression, and tumor growth suppression, supported by unasserted prior art references before the District Court; and evidence that mTOR inhibition did not “necessarily result in tumor growth inhibition.” On the totality of this evidence, the Federal Circuit found no evidence that the District Court erred in finding that West-Ward failed to establish that the art would have provided the skilled artisan with a reasonable expectation of success that everolimus could be used to treat RCC as claimed in the ’131 patent, and thus affirmed the District Court’s judgment.

    • Chief judge Boalick: PTAB to update trial practice guide “pretty soon”

      The PTAB’s chief judge tells practitioners to “keep an eye out” for a new trial practice guide that will take into account recent procedural changes

    • More Monkey Business in IP Law

      This case is fairly silly – The claims at issue cover a hooded blanket and stuffed toy combination — found invalid reexamination. On appeal, the patentee argued that the PTAB had conducted an improper claim construction that “equated a monkey with the claimed hood.”

      [...]

      Yes, I am aware that this case – especially as whimsically presented here – pushes against my call for the Federal Circuit to actually write opinions. The PTAB decision is based upon anticipation, and the patentee provided a series of explanations regarding the distinction between its claims and the single prior art reference. I suspect that the Federal Circuit would actually have a difficult time penning the anticipation case even here.

    • Copyrights

      • Canadian Committee Publishes Ludicrous Fantasy Pretending To Be Copyright Reform Analysis

        Oh Canada. Not satisfied with a ridiculous plan to fine social media companies for ill-defined “fake news,” a Canadian Parliamentary Committee has come out with one of the most laughable copyright reform papers I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen some crazy ones. I’d post the whole report here, but the report itself warns that doing so might violate its copyright, and really, how could the Parliament be incentivized to create fantasy stories masquerading as copyright reform proposals without copyright?

      • Disney Wins ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’ Copyright Suit As Court Declares You Cannot Copyright Pirate Life

        It’s no secret that Disney is almost solely responsible for the wild expansion of copyright law that has occurred over the course of decades. In addition to the near constant lobbying for longer copyright term lengths and a heavy-handed approach to enforcement, Disney has also found itself attempting to assert copyright in areas of broad ideas rather than literal copying. Perhaps to some, then, it was a shot of schadenfreude to watch Disney face its own lawsuit brought by screenwriters over its Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Way back in 2000, two writers and a producer pitched a script about pirate Davy Jones to Disney, which the company ultimate rejected. In 2004, Disney released the first of its own Pirates movies starring Johnny Depp.

        But no amount of just desserts ought to change the legal principles in copyright law, so it’s still a good thing to see that the court has struck down the copyright suit on the grounds that the scripts aren’t actually similar, aside from some non-protectable ideas, rather than explicit expression. We can start with the purported similarities brought by producer Tova Laiter, which should immediately stand out to you as not protected by copyright law.

      • The Subtle Economics Of Private World Of Warcraft Servers: Anarchy, Order And Who Gets The Loot

        “I got a recording. I got a recording of this idiot.” A Scandinavian-accented voice declares over voice chat. “Can someone tell the people from [the other player's guild] what he just did?”

        That was the subject of a Reddit post giving a “daily reminder that Sharphealz is a ninja.” Instead of shuriken-wielding shadow warriors, “ninja” is here slang for a thief of valuable in-game items. The above video was taken from a private World of Warcaft (WoW) server, emulating the 2006 iteration of the popular online game, soon to be officially re-released by Blizzard as World of Warcraft Classic.

        Yet, the bootleg version of the massively-multiplayer icon is a special beast beyond just game mechanics. Some of its core social dynamics serve as excellent – if accidental – microcosms of real-world phenomena.

        These servers are third-party clones of proprietary software, and hence are of questionable legality. Taking advantage of spotty IP protections, most are hosted overseas – in Russia, for example. They are typically organized into non-profit “projects,” or amateur initiatives to create versions of the 2006 iteration of the game. Each private server project hosts at least a couple of “realms” or instances of the game world in which players can interact.

      • Canadian Parliamentary Report Proposes Tough Copyright Measures

        Canada’s Heritage Committee has released the results of its study on artists remuneration. In a new report, it recommends that the Government takes a series of measures to strengthen the position of creators. The far-reaching proposals include an extension of the copyright term, limiting fair dealing rights for educational purposes, holding ISPs accountable, and increasing anti-piracy efforts.

      • Aussie Music Industry Wins First Ever Stream-Ripping Site Blocks

        Sony, Universal, and Warner, with assistance from Music Rights Australia and the Australasian Performing Right Association, have obtained a blocking injunction against four major stream-ripping sites. Australia’s ISPs will now prevent their subscribers from accessing 2conv, Flv2mp3, FLVto and Convert2mp3.

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